#Zesty Ingredients: Fierce Egalitarianism & The History of Human Sexuality

Rubens_Painting_Adam_EveOne of my new favorite podcasts is comedian Moshe Kasher’s “Hound Tall Discussion Series,” where three comedians interview an academic expert (Warning: it’s not a show for those with sensitive ears!). It’s the best combination of intellectual satisfaction and hilarious non-sense on the internet, next to TNT of course :-)

In episode two, the expert featured was psychologist and expert on the history of human sexuality, Christopher Ryan. I’d never heard of him before, but apparently Ryan has been around for a while, writing the NYT best-seller Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships, with his partner, and being featured in various TV interviews as well as a TED talk.

Ryan’s radical thesis is this: we didn’t just descend from apes, we are apes. Granted, we’re a special kind of ape, but we still are part of nature.

Radical! I know. Well…not really.

But—and here’s where it gets really interesting—Ryan suggests that, when it comes to how we engage in sex, humans are closer relatives to Bonobo monkeys (dubbed the “make love not war” monkeys) than standard Chimps. At one point in the podcast Ryan sums up the difference between Bonobos and Chimps this way: Chimps fight over sex, Bonobos use sex to avoid fighting. Human sexuality, Ryan points out, is naturally promiscuous for men AND women. Sexuality evolved, according to Ryan, first and foremost as a bonding function, reproduction was secondary. Sex, for early humans definitely played a major social function.

What’s more, unlike the tribal, territorial Chimps, Bonobo monkeys are intensely communal and engage in “fierce egalitarianism,” i.e. they share everything: possessions, food, as well as sex partners (homo and hetero). Ryan speculates that early humans lived this way as well and, sexually speaking, followed suite with their close primate relatives.

The “fierce egalitarianism” part really caught my attention.

Ryan correctly, I think, rejects the common assumed narrative of human sexuality that men bargained for women’s sexual functions by being providers/hunters, and that women graciously complied out of gratitude for this manly protection. Instead, it’s more likely that women played just as large a role as men (if not more so) in early human societies. Again, this idea of fierce egalitarianism suggests that if one didn’t share they were simply kicked out of the group.

This happy communal-ism all seemed to stop when agriculture and private property came on the scene. I think we all know where the story goes from here…Women of course, along with animals and the land, become property of men. In order to properly identify heirs, Men all of a sudden needed to know who’s kid was who’s–no more raising children as a community. Monogomy, in this sense then, can indeed be seen as a patriarchal myth.

Anyway, I see at least two more takeaways here for the theological/spiritually/religiously inclined:

  1. We modern, monogamous humans shouldn’t be too surprised when we  find ourselves struggling with those old “sinful” sexual urges (e.g. lust, masturbation etc…). An evolutionary understanding really helps put these things into context, I would think, which is definitely needed because, as we’re all aware, too often in Christian culture shame and guilt have been unjustly attached to sex.
  2. Ryan’s work all fits in nicely with environmental and political theologies like that of Ched Myers for example, whose work really focuses on (among other things) environmental/social justice and the “conviction that there was some sort of epochal ‘rupture’ that signaled the beginning of the end of the widely dispersed, clan-based hunter-gatherer culture that had likely prevailed since ‘the beginning’ of human life on earth. The implications of this rupture have been devastating not only for the natural world, but also for human social life and spiritual competence.” Myers (and others) reads the Bible as a testimony to this epochal “rupture.”

So there you have it, yet another tasty ingredient to add to your #zesty faith.

Painting: Peter Paul Rubens, “Adam and Eve”

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It’s Not Miley That I Am Worried About

If you saw the VMA award’s show on Sunday night you will know what I am writing about. Miley Cyrus stages her best impression of Madonna  – who (by the way) was the top earning female performer last year over Gaga and Katy Perry – for the broadcast. Miley VMA

But that is not the point … at least not initially.

My concern is about my pre-teen and teenaged girls who watch her and imitate what she does.

 

There is plenty of conversation out there about the effect that her antics might have on emerging generations. I get that.

My concern is not generated from a holiness, pietistic or modesty-oriented perspective. I am under the impression that we need to address female sexuality with a 21st century ethic that is free from the bonds of “who gives this women to married this day” morality standards of patriarchal repressive ‘Leave It To Beaver’ era domesticity.

My concern is much deeper. I am concerned with young women – who I know by name – and what they picture when they think of ‘female’ and ‘sexuality’. 

Unfortunately, none of them have read Baudrillard. More telling, none of them probably know who Andy Warhol is. Which is a shame because even more than ‘Reviving Ophelia’ (of which they also have no awareness) they are impacted so deeply by the issues that Baudrillard addresses.

In Baudrillard’s view “identity is increasingly dependant upon images” and this leads to replication, imitation and simulation.  This is marked off in four stages:

  1. the first is faithful copies
  2. the second is a perversion of reality
  3. the third is an absence of profound reality (but where there is a pretension to a faithful copy)
  4. and the final stage is pure simulation.

This is the concept of simulacra - which is composed of all “references with no referents, a hyperreality.”

Simulacra and Simulation explains:

Simulation, Baudrillard claims, is the current stage of the simulacrum: All is composed of references with no referents, a hyperreality. Progressing historically from the Renaissance, in which the dominant simulacrum was in the form of the counterfeit—mostly people or objects appearing to stand for a real referent (for instance, royalty, nobility, holiness, etc.) that does not exist, in other words, in the spirit of pretense, in dissimulating others that a person or a thing does not really “have it”—to the industrial revolution, in which the dominant simulacrum is the product, the series, which can be propagated on an endless production line; and finally to current times, in which the dominant simulacrum is the model, which by its nature already stands for endless reproducibility, and is itself already reproduced.

In other words – the original has been reproduced so many times (simulation) that the concept itself has been corrupted and the reproductions are increasingly corrupted to the point that the original is almost unrecognizable.

And the further this continues, the less reality is contained in the imitations. They become references to references and, at some point, become copies of copies which have no intrinsic value within themselves.

Miley Cyrus’ performance is, therefore, not the end of the line.

It is the penultimate in a long line of reproductions. 

 

I am not concerned with Miley’s performance Sunday night. It was simply a poor imitation of a real mold. What I am concerned with is those who might imitate her poor impression. This is the clear cross-over from simulation to Simulacra and hyper-reality.

I’m not concerned with Miley’s performance or her fame (even a simulation of  a Madonna-like performance in order to access her level of fame).  I am concerned with those pre-teen and teenage girls who want to be famous (first and foremost) and who think they need to be imitate that behavior (simulate) in order to do so (stimulate).

I am not concerned with Miley’s or Madonna’s sexuality. That is what it is.  I will even say that the latter is specimen and the former is a simulation. What I am concerned with the Simulacra that is to follow.

 

2 quick notes:  

1) I know that some people hate Wikipedia links but for the audience I am most concerned with, it is the accessible.
2) I know that there is a whole conversation to be had about reproduction in art. We will do that some other time. 

 

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Beauty, Bodies and Blunders

President Obama got in some hot water for a compliment he paid California Attorney General Kamala Harris. He said:

You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you’d want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here. (Applause.) It’s true. Come on. (Laughter.) And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years. [via The Los Angeles Times]

A remark like that is never going to go over well. It was just one sentence but we could talk for days about it!

I know that I am an odd bird in that I often see the silver lining in things that other people think are really bad – like taking the Lord’s name in vain. I like that people do it. It means that the name of God still carries some gravity. No one is cursing Thor when they smash their thumb with a hammer. No one is blaspheming Zeus when they get cut off in traffic. Anyway …

I was happy to see the outrage and level of outcry over the President’s remarks. I love when stuff like this happens outside the walls of the church and I think to myself “Ok, it’s not just us that are sensitive, reactive and protest-ant. Good, I was starting to worry”.

You have to forgive me. I come from a very muscular – testosterone – ‘Wild at Heart’ brand of Christianity. In the last decade I have migrated to a progressive – critical theory – ‘She Who Is’ brand of faith.

The thing that has been most difficult for me is to figure out what to do with the body. 

As a contextual theologian and an Ancient-Future practitioner, I am deeply concerned with issues of incarnation and embodiment of the gospel. Our faith can not be merely intellectual, super-natural or institutional. Our faith must embodied, or in-bodied and lived-out. 

I have figured out, through 6 years of blogging, how to talk with conservative, evangelical, and charismatic Christians about almost everything  related to faith and practice in ways that they can hear. The issues of sexuality remain the most illusive.

The problem seems to relate to a giant pot-hole in the road to understanding that is so treacherous it almost doesn’t leave enough room to move without careening into the pit of ‘natural design’.

What complicates matter all the more is that there is a serious ditch on the other side of the road – one that was dug by Augustine’s legacy  (I hate Augustine’s influence on church history) regarding the badness of the body, a specifically sexuality.

Here then is the issue: If I am talking about somebody and I’m listing all of that they bring to the table in areas of smarts, relationship, experience, and capacity … am I to act like they don’t have a flesh container? It asks me to act like they have no body.

Yes. That is what we want you to do.  Jonathan Chait at New York explains:

For those who don’t see the problem here, the degree to which women are judged by their appearance remains an important hurdle to gender equality in the workforce. Women have a hard time being judged purely on their merits. Discussing their appearance in the context of evaluating their job performance makes it worse. It’s not a compliment. And for a president who has become a cultural model for many of his supporters in so many other ways, the example he’s setting here is disgraceful. [New York]

Even while I write this I can hear my more conservative Christian brothers saying “That is ridiculous! This is the sissy-fication of our culture.”  To which I can only reply,”Yes. It is the leveling of a historically unequal playing field.” obamakamala1_1365167806

I get why culturally, we don’t want the President even acknowledging her flesh container at all. We don’t want pastors commenting on congregant’s looks. I get it.

But as thinking christians, is anyone else worried about the implications for this kind of willful charade? Do we think that President Obama doesn’t see her? Are we under the impression that he doesn’t notice her beauty? Do we think that she, in her private moments, doesn’t want to be found attractive? Do we think that she doesn’t invest time and energy in her looks?

“It doesn’t matter! Just don’t say it. Not ever ever ever.”  And I get that. What I am asking about is the ramifications for the embodied practices of the life of faith. What we have learned from church history  (and reality TV)- from fundamentalist pastor’s daughters to celibate priests – is that repression of desires in one place (public) is bound to cause pressure which bubbles up some place else (private).

We have to break the ‘old boys network’ mentality. I get that. I am worried about the secondary effect of perpetuating a deadly dualism between body and mind/soul.

I clearly need help thinking this through. Anyone want to chime in on this? 

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The Silent White Guy and Invisible Black Women

A record number of people read the post yesterday “Beyonce and the Bigger Question”. I want to thank everyone who commented on the blog, FaceBook and Twitter for making the conversation so fruitful and constructive.  It is a difficult question and we certainly have an issue with race in our society. beyonce-super-bowl1

I am also glad that people seemed to like the idea of Critical Theory and the structure of the questions that I put forward.

 I did notice 2 places where the conversation trickled to an drip. 

  • One is the issue of what white guys are allowed to talk about.
  • Two is the way to talk about the role of black women in our society without picking on Beyonce.

Let me give those some background:

My friend Hollie Baker-Lutz tweeted yesterday a sentiment that I hear quite frequently

“Uh oh, overheard in the university cafe: “and I can’t say anything in that class cuz I’m a white male, which is the worst thing u can be.”

I get this all the time from guys young and old alike.  I think something may be missing from that equation however.
Here are two things it would be helpful to add to the mix:

  1. an acknowledgement that the world is changing.
  2. a familiarity of the word hegemony.

If you add those 2 things, it has been my experience that people are generally open to hear what you have to say. People are quite interested.

What they are not interested in is the hegemonic refrain.  See, here is the problem: because that is the dominant cultural narrative … they have already heard it. They know it well. They may know it better than you because they have had to deal with it –  whereas you have only assumed it and benefited uncritically from it.

 

The second issue came from my friend Janisha when she wrote in response to yesterday’s post:

I appreciate your article and your attempt to think deeply. I don’t think anyone except for black women can truly determine what are primary and secondary issues.
The place of black women in society as a primary issue has with it endless complications, including “taking back one’s physicality in the face of generations of oppression and marginalization.”
My place in this culture is directly linked to taking back my physicality, because my black womanhood is my physicality. They aren’t different. they cannot be separated. I will argue again, that this conversation is difficult to have unless you are a black woman, because who else can fully understand the implications of Beyonce?

MP responded: 

I get what you (Janisha) are saying about the black woman conversation and I don’t want to butt into it, white man that I am. But that conversation would be about actual black womanhood, whereas this one is about public spectacle, one created and much enjoyed by white men. So there’s a white man conversation to be had about why we (white men) have created a category of “black women” who occupy this particular place in our spectacle. 

… Bo, I wonder how to tackle the issue of “what place black women hold in our culture” without picking apart actual cases like Beyonce’s half-time show??

 

MP makes 2 excellent points!  

The first situation I would compare to ‘reader response’ approaches to text. We have the author-text-reader.
In this case we have Beyonce-Performance-Viewer.

So each of us viewers is related to the performance differently so ‘white men’ and ‘black women’ may be relating to the performance differently.

In the second I just think that we need to be VERY clear the difference between an example and an anecdote.  Focusing in one example can be illustrative or it can be problematic.

I would hesitate to use this performance by Beyonce as an example – she is not the only one who dances like this. Lots of performers do. Also white women (like Christina and Britney) do.   So it is not unprecedented.

NFL Cheerleading squads do many of the same moves in much the same outfits … the difference is that
A) they don’t have a microphone  and
B) we don’t know their name.

Which is a HUGE difference.
If we want to talk about male sexuality and football we should have the Cheerleader conversation. That is every team – every week.  Women walking

If we want to have the ‘place that black women hold in our society’ conversation, then we would ask a different set of questions. Like ‘where were the other black women during the 5 hour broadcast of America’s largest TV event of the year?’  Since it is a commercial event … maybe we would even take a look at the commercials and ask how black women were represented.

Either way – isolating the one performance by Beyonce is not our best starting point.

 

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Waiting for Superman: the problem with Christopher Reeve

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine about Christopher Reeve. As you may remember the rich movie star, famous for his role as Superman, was tossed from his show horse and broke his neck resulting in paralysis. He soon began a campaign to bring awareness for the cause of such things as paralysis.

I was talking to this friend of mine who subscribes to the idea that everything is in God’s hands and everything happens for a reason (since God is in control). I was making the point that since Mr. Reeve did not care about such things as paralysis before he fell off a horse, it calls into question whether he is doing his now benevolent work for an ego-centric reason since he is campaigning for the very condition from which he suffers. ?
My point was that it would have been remarkable if some superstar or famous person cared about something before it impacted them personally. It intrigues me to see someone standing up for something that wasn’t just their back yard.
My friend thought that this was ridiculous. And said that there is a divine plan in such matters and that the proud will be humbled so that they can do this kind of work. I think that there is a great danger in the kind of thinking.

1. We are not only to care about things that directly impact us. One of the major points of Jesus‘ teaching was to care for those who couldn’t or didn’t return the favor. If we only love those who love us, what have we done? Everyone does that. If we invite to dinner only those who will reciprocate, what good is that? Even the pharisees do that. If we keep our energy and influence within a circle of economy that ultimately benefits us and ours, what value is there? Even the pagans do that.

We are supposed to be a people who look outside ourselves. Who reach out to those just beyond our natural reach. To work for those who don’t (and maybe can’t) pay us back. To folks who circles of economy don’t immediately overlap with our wealth of influence and credibility.

2. Unless we are going to adopt (or wholesale buy into) a form of divine ordination of things like the myth of progressive society, manifest destiny, social darwinism or historic inevitability – then we are on thin ice with this kind of thinking.

When I was a Sr. Pastor my wife was the director of Rape Crisis for the county which was a part of the Domestic Violence hotline. I have heard so many times over the past 20 years of being in ministry some configuration of ‘God allowed this to happen so that the victim can now help other victims/ work on the problem’. This both terrifies me (about our view of God) and infuriates me (double wounding the victim).

I get wanting to say that God was not absent from care in the situation. I do. But because we concede the omnipotence idea initially we run into that overly simple binary that if God is loving why didn’t then ‘he’ is not all-powerful and if God is all-powerful then ‘he’ is not loving. This will never get us anywhere.
We need to have a real theology of sin and a real anthropology. It is not enough to simply quote watered down clichés of something Europeans held to in the 17th and 18th centuries.

3. We are fools if we don’t think that things outside our backyard don’t effect us. There is no such thing as an individual. Every time we say ‘individual’ we must say ‘an individual in community’. There is no individual. It is an enlightenment fraud. You were born into a family, socialized into a society, you don’t speak a private language and you are intimately tied to those around you and the earth that upholds you.

So much of our short-sighted thinking acts as if we are not inter-connected in a web of relationships. Communities, cultures, economies, environments, and families are both related and in some way impacted by each other. To think otherwise is not simply foolish but sheer fantasy. What happens over there impacts us over here.

In fact, I would expand it one ring further: I need the other. I am missing something that they can supply and God has designed-called us into a mutuality and partnership that strengthens us all. I am in as much need of what they have as they are of what I bring. We need each other.

The old saying is lacking. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is impossible – it can’t be done. You can not have someone else’s experience. The best we can do is to build a friendship of trust, where someone tells me their story – shares with me the truth of their experience and I believe them.

When it comes to matters of race, gender and sexuality I think that we should admit that we all have something at stake in the conversation. Matters of race and color are not only important to non-whites. Gender isn’t something that only women should care about. Sexuality is not just a conversation about same-sex attraction. By not addressing issues of privilege and the fantasy of individualism we are stunting the conversation and the scope of our impact.

To summarize:

  • Jesus both modeled and taught that we are to care about more than just things that impact us directly.
  • Unless we think that this world is how God wants it to be, we need to revisit some really bad ideas we have inherited.
  • We are fooling ourselves if we think that what happens over there does not impact us over here. We are all in this together – and in fact, we need each other. God designed it that way.

Let me give you three examples:

  1. In the documentary ‘Waiting for Superman’, public education and problems with our school systems are detailed. It is a heartbreaking situation. If you don’t think that in our lifetime, that will not impact everyone of us …
  2. We have a problem in our prisons. What some call the Prison Industrial Complex and what Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow is at epidemic proportions. We have a higher percentage of black men in prison in the US than South Africa had during apartheid. Half of all inmates are black. One-quarter of all African American males in their 20’s are in prison, on probation, on parole, or awaiting trial. You think that doesn’t affect us all?
  3. Domestic violence against women is the leading cause of injury – resulting in more emergency room visits than car crashes, muggings and rapes combined. What is said from our pulpits about this?

Here is why I bring this up:  if the christian gospel is supposed to be the solution – the antidote to the sin-sickness that ails us – but it continues to conceptualize the issues the way it does and participate in the culture wars the way it is … then we have a problem. The thing that is supposed to help make us well is actually contributing to the disease of ‘me and mine’. If that is the case, then what hope is there? At that point, we would no longer have the power of the gospel, we would have some odd mutation or amalgamation of some civil religion with vaguely christian veneer.

May it never be. What happens over there impacts us over here. We need each other. God designed us this way and Jesus both taught and modeled this way for us. If I only care about those things that impact me or only reach out to those who can profit me – what have I really done. Even the pharisees do that. We are to have an eye toward a kin-dom that doesn’t work the way this world does.

 

[tomorrow in part 2 I'll explain why fundamentalism is pornography] 

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Defending Diana Butler Bass and those non-human animals

Two weeks ago I got to sit down with Diana Butler Bass and ask her about everything from her new book’s title Christianity After Religion to the Methodist tradition and why Evangelical young people are 30 years behind.

It was a blast! [you can hear the audio here]

At the end of the hour, the last question was put forward by Darcy who asked about something Diana had alluded to in the Methodist question. Butler Bass had said that the early Methodist had historically A) ministered to the fringes and B) gone to the frontiers.

It was the fringes and the frontiers that Darcy wanted to know about. Only, she was not asking about the past. She wanted to know about the present.

 Who are on the fringes today and where is the frontier for us?

This is possibly the best question I have heard asked at one of our live events. 

Diana didn’t flinch. She outlined three such scenarios that would qualify:

The first was in the realm of sexuality.
The second was in the realm of pluralism.
The third dealt with our environment.

  •  In sexuality she articulated issues related to the transgendered community. This did not surprise me. In the LGBT formulation, T (transgendered) is the the one the raises eyebrows. Now, because I am came to this conversation through a friend who was doing Queer theology, I had initially taken the LGBTQ as a 5-part alliance. I did not realize how difficult the T can be (not to mention the Q) until I starting asking question and listening to stories. I quickly became aware of the complexities and complications involved.

In the two weeks since Diana’s answer I have had several conversation about her take and I have realized how much conversation has yet to be had. May God give us grace as we learn from each other.

  •  In religion she mentioned learning from Hindu friends. As a student at Claremont School of Theology I am very invested in and more than on board with the idea of inter-religious learning. Yesterday was my day off and so I (as Christian) headed to a Jewish bakery to  sit and listen to an audio recording I had about diversity within Islam.

I am always shocked at how much I don’t know and how much beauty there is within each tradition. May God give us grace as we learn from each other.

  •  In issues of environment and ecology, I like to think of myself as up to speed. This is a subject I have really investigated and as someone mentored by Randy Woodley (his new book Shalom and the Kingdom of Creation was just released and he will be on the podcast next week) I was tracking with her when she talked about non-human animals [I often allude to Nipples & Belly Buttons in this regard].

It should not have been surprising to me that with the release of the video of our conversation that she came under some suspicion by a group called IRB  (Institute on Religion and Democracy) as well as others for  her views on non-human animals.

From the blog Juicy Ecumenism here is the end of Diana’s answer and their commentary:

“Non-human animals and their experience of our environment of the divine are a place that human animals need to listen in order to create more full understanding of God’s creation. […] They don’t have voices like humans do, but isn’t that part of my prejudice?”

I don’t like to bring up the slippery slope, but the mud’s looking pretty slick from here.

What IS surprising to me is that – of her three answers about the fringes and frontiers – that seemed to be the least inflammatory of the three answers!

In my humble opinion, her pluralism answer and her sexuality answer were FAR more daring – and challenging! The only thing that I can figure is that some Christians have so bought into the Cartesian dualism regarding humans that both Transgendered and Hindu folks are completely off their radar screen … but don’t you DARE say what you said about listening to non-human animals.

I was prepared to defend Diana Butler Bass after our show – she said some daring things –  I just didn’t think that it would be on the issue of creation-care over sexuality and pluralism.

This contemporary religious environment will never cease to surprise me.

 

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Diana Butler Bass in 3-D!

A podcast legend visits LA live! Listen in as Bo gets to ask the famed author about her new book Christianity After Religion, why Christianity isn’t a religion, the decline of the Mainline, the Methodist tradition as well as topics ranging from sexuality to other religions.

This event was hosted by a group getting ready to launch new conversation this Fall (visit theLoftLA.org for more) and Diana steps up for the Q&R to take on all comers! She doesn’t flinch at a single question that is thrown her way.

* SUPPORT the podcast by just getting anything on AMAZON through THIS LINK or you can get some Homespun Craftianity. We really appreciate your assistance in covering all the hosting fees which went up 30 bucks a month due to the growing Deaconate!

Protect Your Table. Buy a Coaster.

One Click to the Homebrewed Hotline!

 

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Extremely White Male & Incredibly Homophobic

The news is wild these days! Its almost as if there is a cultural shift underway!
Let me just highlight 4 news stories from the past week:

1) The Pope: Gay marriage threatens humanity’s future

2) Pastor Joel Osteen to Oprah: Homosexuality Is Sin — But Gay People Will Get Into Heaven

3) Rick Santorum: A Straight Dad In Prison Is Better Than Two Gay Dads Who Aren’t

4) Pastor Mark Driscoll’s book on Marriage hits the shelves

It is interesting that all four of these stories have come to my attention in the past week. What most people will focus on is whether there is a Bible verse to back up what they are saying or not.

What needs to be stated before that is two-fold:

  • All four are white males. Somebody may ask “are you implying that their gender or race somehow diminishes their right to speak with authority?” and I would answer “No – I just think that it is worth pointing it out in case later we wanted to examine how people come to power and in what ways authority is constructed, bestowed, or recognized.”
  • When you have the leader of all the world’s catholics, a guy who is renowned for not speaking up about anything or coming down on anyone, a presidential candidate, and one of the most influential evangelical pastors in America saying the same thing… one of a couple of things has to cross your mind.

Either
a) they are all sticking up for the truth or
b) they are all sticking up for an antiquated perspective of the past

The reason that this issue has grabbed my attention is that many are calling it ‘The Last Taboo”. In the past 2 centuries, the issues of race (civil rights) and gender (women’s lib) have advanced to the point the if anyone held an opinion from a century ago about either issue – the people around them would say “what is wrong with you?” or “wake up man, its the 21st century.”

I asked Tony Jones, Lauren Winner and Phyllis Tickle about this issues last year.  Only Phyllis was willing to tackle it.

No matter which side of this thing you are on, it is worth noting that the ‘last taboo’ is predicted to be the worst and most vicious. The problem with the last of anything is that when it is over … it is really over.  We tackled the race issue, we overcame the gender barrier, and now the sexuality issue is front and center.  We can’t go back. This is the last taboo. Once we have dealt with this, there are no more big ones to fall. This is kinda it.* 

I just think that it is worth noting A) who is framing the conversation and B) who is charge of the information and how the process is to be handled.  There might be more going on here than simply the rightness or the wrongness of any given issue or the interpretation of 6 bible verses. 

This will most likely be decided in our lifetime. Denominations will split over it. The future of the faith will be challenged because of it. Like race and gender before it, history will evaluate how we participate in it.  

 

* somebody might say ‘economics’ or some form of disparity, but that is not really in the same category as it is not inherently value laden .

 

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Femininity, Image, and Identity: the role of youth pastors and movies

Hey Julie Clawson !  I could use some help thinking through a couple of things. 

 For those of you who don’t know her, Julie Clawson is the author of Everyday Justice, a pastor, blogger, Emergent leader and former podcast guest. She is one of the conversation partners at the upcoming Emergent Village Theological Conversation at the end of January. (www.ProcessTheology.org). Her blog is in my top 10. 

 

Background: I love going to the movies. As a student, I usually only go the theatre on Summer break (blockbuster action films + air-conditioning = awesome) and on Winter break (tired brain + Christmas money = fantastic).

Last week I saw two movies and was quite intrigued by a pattern that I noticed during the trailers: women being tough guys. The three trailers were for Underword: Awakening with Kate Beckinsdale, Haywire with Gina Carano (both action films) and The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher.

I have read enough feminist literature to know that there is a principle (which Thatcher made famous) that “In a man’s world …” a women often has to out ‘man’ the guys in order to break into the boys club and be taken seriously.

In a system where we have been socially conditioned to see certain behaviors and attributes as ‘leadership’ or ‘strength’ – or in the church as ‘anointing’ – then women must over-do it in order to overcome the intrinsic biases and gain credibility in a system geared to evaluate by masculine expectations. (people point to Joyce Meyer as a Christian example)

This is a real problem.

THEN I was reading your blog this week and you bring up the Lego Ads making their way around Facebook and tie it into both modesty and obesity. As a youth pastor I have read everything from Reviving Ophelia to Queen Bees and Wannabes ,that explains why girls treat each other the way that they do, and I recognize that there are deep underlying issues. Let’s be honest, these deep issues will not be solved by quoting some Bible verses or ‘going back to the way things were in the Bible’.

 

So here are my questions: 

1. What do we do with the karate-chopping drop-kicking gun-shooting heroines of violence on the silver screen these days? On one hand, it is nice to women getting these big-deal leading roles in major films… on the other hand, are they real portrayals of women-ness or is it the bad kind of mimicry –  like ‘Girls Gone Wild’ as a picture of sexual liberation or power.

2. Are there any resources that you can point me to for Image and Identity? Your blog post on the Lego issue is really sticking with me.

3. As a youth pastor, how would you suggest I navigate the (rapidly) developing sexuality without repression while steering clear of moral permissiveness?  Any thoughts?

 

Thank you ahead of time.
Any help would be much appreciated.
I sure am glad that I mature sisters in faith as conversation partners.

 

anxiously awaiting your response    -Bo

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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? 

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