Heaven – we have a problem! (with sexuality)

This was a week of controversy in the Blogosphere – at least in my neck of the woods.

The topic of gender, femininity, and sexuality were the touch points.  I am going to highlight 3 controversial blogs from this week … but first I want to acknowledge that it mirrored (albeit in a much smaller way) something happening in the larger culture that we are embedded in.

This was also a week that saw the Penn State football sexual abuse scandal rock the nation, the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations, and several other national news story related to discrimination, abuse, and harassment.

These three christian conversations that follow are not happening in a vacuum – perhaps that is why they illicit such a heated response and so much attention. It impacts all of us.

Post 1:  from Stuff that Christians Like – a post called ‘Girls with a Past’ was a little test (written by a man) that women could take to see if one qualified as intriguing or not.  It was satire (which not everyone gets or likes) and it pointed out a real problem. Now, some people were offended and took it out on the author. I just want to say that the situation is infuriating but we can’t take it out on the person who illustrates the problem, Jon was articulating a severe inconsistency between what we say and what we do in the ‘church’.

Here is his post: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2011/11/stuff-christians-guys-like-girls-that-have-a-past/ let me know what you think.  It got over 500 responses.

Post 2: Rachel Held Evans (one of my favorite bloggers) put up a post called “13 things that make me a bad feminist”. It is part of a series that she does from time to time – she has also admitted to being a bad ‘evangelical’ and ‘progressive’.  This post went over like a lead-balloon . This led to a guest-post the following day.

Here is the post: http://rachelheldevans.com/13-things-lousy-feminist . It got 149 responses.

Post 3: my co-host Tripp Fuller came out of the closet as not being ‘open and affirming’ on a video from Two Friars and a Fool. His contention was that affirming letters – whether L, B, G, Q, T, I or any other dash or asterisk – is an inherently limited response. It has two great dangers:

  1. it makes us feel like what have really done something, when all we have really done is 
  2. conceded the initial ground rules to the entrenched system.

The problem is that the system is capitalism and that means that ‘acceptance’ is becoming both something to market and a new group to be marketed to.

Tripp’s point of contention is that the gospel of Jesus calls the whole system into account. We can’t concede the rules of the game and then think that we are going to bring about the best-of-all-possibilities. The structure itself must be contested. The system can not be catered to – it must be undermined and subverted. People are too valuable to God to be classified by their genitalia or the genitalia of who they are attracted to. This was not received too well for the most part.

Here is the post: http://twofriarsandafool.com/2011/11/identity-politics-are-not-the-gospel/ it got 84 responses.


My take:

  • The 3,000 year old gender roles in the oldest parts of the Bible merely reflect that culture’s understanding and are not the last word on ‘natural’ design.
  • The 2,000 year old gender roles in the New Testament were written in context where women were basically property. They need to be revisited and revised.
  • The idea of ‘original sin’ is a constructed idea and not biblical. What it is addressing, however, is real and I think we all acknowledge that. It needs to be addressed in better ways without pre-modern understandings imposed upon it.  
  • Until we address these three subject the conversation will always circle around and around in endless and unhelpful loops of misunderstanding: 1) social conditioning 2) constructed reality 3) biological implications of being mammals.

I would be very excited to enter into this conversation if we did not live in such a contentious and acidic ‘Argument Culture‘.  Thoughts? 

“Burn after Reading”—Some Thoughts on the Coens’ Madness

I recently watched the Coen Brother’s movie, “Burn after Reading” and was surprised to find out just how funny and quirky people thought this movie was. I did not. I got so depressed after watching the movie that I had to immediately walk to the nearest ice-cream parlor with my wife and buy us a couple scoops. I swore at the time, in fact, that it was the worst movie I’d ever seen. I’m not so sure about that judgment any longer. Here’s why.

(Semi-spoiler alert.) The movie started out as a series of semi-separate, boring stories that, out of nowhere, converge into a chaotic mess of (quirky) murder and mayhem. Amidst this mayhem, literally no one is in control and no one can take control. The CIA operatives in the movie don’t even know what to take from the chaos. Accordingly, a bunch of people die and no one has much to say about why.

I soon realized, however, that the reason the movie depressed me so much was because this “phenomenon” is far closer to real life and how we experience life than it’s often comfortable to admit. Not that people are constantly dying violent deaths in my world, but there are certainly places where this threat is very real even. More importantly, the movie drew out through its somewhat lighthearted approach to this chaos the blithely uncaring nature and meaninglessness of life itself when viewed in this manner. The Coen Brothers, in other words, would really make great French existentialists!

Having given the movie a couple days to sink in, what it has solidified in my mind is something very important: that, whether they mean to be or not, the Coen Brothers are two of the greatest modern interpreters of sin that I can think of. The reason I say this is because they constantly show, it seems, in each movie that they make that the conditions of the world are such that what I want to call “sin” is inevitable, built into our being, and lightheartedly uncaring about our involvement with it. Sin, in this regard, is not found in individual acts—though it is there, too—but in the very conditions of the world that allow us to act or force us to act. We can’t get out of it, around it, or through it because the conditions of the world are fundamentally skewed.  Of course, I have no clue whether they would or could express the insight as such (sin is, after all, an inherently religious concept), but certainly this is the interpretive possibility I take from it.

If I left the story here, I would need to go get some more ice-cream. However, I still think that Luther was correct when he posited that the recognition of sin also allows for the recognition of the Gospel: that, actually, things need not be how they currently are—no matter how strong the grips of sin in the world currently seem—and that, though we are powerless against the corrupting conditions of sin, God is not and does not stand idly by allowing sin a full rule of the world. God, rather, plunges into sin, taking up the chaos and nothingness of death into God’s self on the cross. So there’s that, too.

The main point, however, is that I still think “Burn after Reading” is one of the least enjoyable films I’ve ever seen. Then again, most philosophy and theology books are completely un-enjoyable, too, but I’ve learned to enjoy the fruits that come from reflecting on them. So it is with “Burn after Reading.” I never want to step near the film again, but the Coen Brothers, in this movie, pushed me into a series of thoughts that, while difficult, have allowed me to re-appropriate myself and my world in what I believe is a more fruitful mann

Stuff Liberal Christians Like: #2 Coexist Stickers

Very few would argue that Liberal Christians have the upper hand when it comes to religious merchandise. Those other Christians have the most sales in bumper stickers and T-shirts. There’s a lot of money in “putting a God-spin on popular secular ideas.”

The formula is fairly simple for youth ministers in this group … take a hit TV show like LOST, make it the theme for X-treme Summer Camp 2010, throw an evangelistic Bible verse like Acts 4:12 after it, and there it is … a T-shirt is printed that’s all the rage. This approach might look cheesy to some, but it’s key for maintaining that crucial relevant-but-not-worldly balance.

God is not a Republican

Cut off the red part.

For the most part, Liberal Christians are content with letting the other Christians have the corner on the cheesy merchandise market. But a few notable exceptions exist. One is the ‘God is not a Republican…or a Democrat’ sticker … although Liberal Christians often think they’re supposed to circle one or cut part of it off prior to application.

Then, there are the ‘Coexist’ stickers, which are very popular among Liberal Christians and their spiritual-but-not-religious friends. Liberal Christians like these stickers because they like the idea of diversity, and really like counting how many friends they can possess from the other religions represented (possible future posts).

You might find yourself looking to play a good joke on a Liberal Christian. Your desire is not surprising, because they make good targets. They … along with their conservative counterparts … like being offended (possible future post).

You already know how to identify one. All you need to do now is obtain an evangelistic version of the sticker, which puts a God-spin on the popular ‘Coexist’ decal. The evangelistic version says, ‘Convert,’ rather than, ‘Coexist,’ and comes complete with ‘Acts 4:12’ across the top.

  1. Approach the Liberal Christian’s car when he’s not around.
  2. Carefully apply the sticker over the original.
  3. Then, just wait days … or sometimes weeks … for him to notice.

You might even get to be there to see the look of horror when someone asks him about it.

Thanks to Pastor Mack for suggesting this post. Leave any suggestions you have for future SLCL posts in the comments. What’s your favorite Liberal Christian merchandise?

If you like this kind of stuff, grab a copy of the book, Stuff Christians Like, by Jon Acuff.

…And speaking of stickers…Get a free Homebrewed Christianity sticker!

Stuff Liberal Christians Like: #1 Saying, “I’m Not One of Those Christians.”

A Dinner Party

Liberal Christians get nervous when outing themselves as Christians. They choose their words carefully, since often it occurs at a dinner party with their spiritual-but-not-religious friends.

With this crowd, the conversation can accelerate from sushi to spirituality in 5 seconds. That’s fast for a Liberal Christian. If you ask her whether she practices Buddhism or Kabbalism, you’ll catch her off-guard, and she’ll answer, “Christianity.” But then, apologetically, she’ll add, “But…I’m not one of those Christians.”

By “those Christians,” she means that she’s not about to tell you, ‘If you died tonight, and you’ve ever broken one of The Ten, you’ll go to hell for eternity, unless you say some magic words.’

In order to make the situation less awkward and the Liberal Christian feel comfortable, you should say, “Yeah, Jesus was a liberal…”