Christians and Interracial Marriage

Guys, what is this world coming to? Aljezeera America recently used the parable of the talents to explain current events. Christianity Today, the flagship publication of conservative, Evangelical Christianity, is promoting interracial marriage. And discussing racism. And even relying on the voice of a black women to explain the theology of the whole thing. The world’s going all off kilter here.  I know the rest … Continue reading Christians and Interracial Marriage

Worst Clobber Verse EVER – Christian Patriarchy Edition

In a more perfect world, the title of this post would be complete jibberish to all of my lovely readers. But alas, we live in a world which is in the process of being redeemed, so some of you know all too well about Christian Patriarchy and clobber verses. However – joy of joys! – we live in a world which is in the process of being redeemed and I know that some of you have no idea what Christian Patriarchy or clobber verses are. So, for the blissfully uninitiated, allow I to explain a bit.

At its simplest, Christian Patriarchy is the teaching that there is a God ordained hierarchy in which men are over women and children. A daughter is under her father’s headship until she marries and responsibility for her is transfered to her husband. Ideally in this arrangement, the man is responsible for protecting his wife and daughter from other men as well as providing for her and overseeing her spiritual, moral and personal development. In exchange for this protection and leadership, a female treats her father/husband with respect, obedience and deference. Although this arrangement has been propagated around the world and throughout time irregardless of religion, Christian Patriarchy proponents insist that this is a Christian arrangement rather than just something people have had a tendency to do. Like going to war or practicing dietary restrictions.

A clobber verse is a verse of scripture which is used to provide definitive proof – in the mind of the person using it – that a particular idea or teaching is true, biblical and theologically unassailable. Now I have a few verses which I will use this way all day, everyday. “God is love” for example. What makes a clobber verse a clobber verse is that inevitably, they are pulled completely out of the context they were spoken into. Nearly always, on closer examination the verse in question doesn’t even say what the person using it seems to think it is saying.

Continue reading “Worst Clobber Verse EVER – Christian Patriarchy Edition”

“If Any Man Come to Me and Hates Not . . .”

Yup. I'm about as intimidating as this guy here.
Yup. I’m about as intimidating as this guy here.

Back when I was 18, I had two different guys I dated break up with me and give me the exact same reason: I was intimidating. That’s the word they both used. Which is really weird. I’m about as intimidating as a tree sloth. Which is to say not in the least. Now if they had said I was sloppy or spent too much time sleeping or wasn’t ambitious enough, that I could have understood. (See – like a tree sloth!) But intimidating? Hardly.

Interestingly enough, it turned out that both of these young men felt intimidated by me for the same reasons. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t view making money as the most important goal I could have for my life. And they did. Now, I had never criticized either of them for these things. Not even obliquely. They drank. I didn’t. No big deal. I never asked them to stop, never said I didn’t want to be around them when they did, never spoke poorly about people who drank. Nothing. The same with smoking for the one who smoked. The same with money. But both of them were intimidated by me because of this.

What was really going on was that by not sharing in their behaviors and priorities, I wasn’t affirming them. If I had been critical, they could have just blown me off as a stick-in-the-mud. If I had tried to get them to change their behavior or priorities, they could have told me to mind my own business and leave if I didn’t like it. So when I also didn’t criticize or judge them for the ways they were different than me, they didn’t have anything to react against in order to self-affirm. But I didn’t do those things. Instead I was content to let them be them and me be me and just enjoy each other’s company. Which meant all they had was themselves. And there was something in both of them that wasn’t entirely comfortable with their own choices and priorities. Being around me made that discomfort harder to ignore. It made them feel less confident and sure about themselves which was why they experienced me as intimidating. Continue reading ““If Any Man Come to Me and Hates Not . . .””

First Sunday of Advent – Waiting

I’ve said before that the events which lead to my husband and my separation last year was so intense and sordid that it would have made a great episode of Dateline Special Edition. If only we had no shame and one of us were a homicidal maniac. But, since we enjoy healthy levels of shame and we didn’t devolve into poisoning one another (not that such a thing was never contemplated), it’s a story which will have to wait ’til the great by and by to be widely disseminated. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t really anything either of us did that pushed us over the edge. Rather, it was the way the response to events unfolded which undid us.

In his book, Passionate Marriage, Dr. David Schnarch says that couples are pretty much always working at about the same emotional level. It’s why they are able to bond to each other. Couples who are a mismatch in terms of emotional depth, maturity and functioning who somehow marry each other nearly always end up with a failed marriage within the first two years. What happened with us, and what I believe happens to many couple facing an intensely traumatic experience, was that as we coped (or didn’t cope) with what was going on, we were jolted into wildly different places emotionally speaking. Instead of being matched and basically moving forward and growing up emotionally in the normal push and pull ways that couples do, we were suddenly completely out-of-sync. And within two years, our marriage was kaput.

Of course, we’re back together now although I can’t begin to say that everything is fixed. Instead, we seem to have stumbled into a way forward which is familiar to any serious Christian: waiting. We’re just waiting. Waiting for the other to work through their issues. Waiting for greater empathy and understanding to form. Waiting for time to take away the sting of the past. Waiting.

Waiting on God and for God is a theme found all throughout scripture. Abram waited. Joseph waited. Moses waited. The psalmists waited. The prophets waited. Jesus waited. The women and the disciples waited. We still wait today through dry times and unanswered prayers and silence that as a psalmist said is like a dark cloud God wears about him. As Christians, these waiting times are frustrating. We know that somehow this waiting is for a reason. Usually. Maybe it’s for our benefit. Or maybe it’s because there’s a problem elsewhere that needs to be worked out. Which is part of the frustration – we don’t really know. Continue reading “First Sunday of Advent – Waiting”

When My Beloveds Talk Together

I’m going to tell you strange things today. Like about the times early in my marriage when I prayed to God, telling him about the pain of being married to another broken human being. I brought to God things I had never said to my husband because I knew he wouldn’t be able to receive them. And it happened more that once that my husband came home from working so hard to take care of us and said, “today, I really felt like God was telling me . . . ” And nearly word-for-word what I had said to God came out of his mouth. It turns out that the man who God provided for me has an uncanny ability to listen and hear God. It wasn’t the last time he would tell me things he had no way of knowing.

But one of the strange things about this life is that as much as we might want and seek after God as a way of protecting ourselves from the chaos and pain of life, it just doesn’t work that way. In time when the blows of life finally overtook us, this marriage of ours fell apart. I’d always said that we’d either end up as one of the world’s great love stories or self-destruct in a truly spectacular fashion. For a long time, it has seemed that the latter was our fate. It wasn’t that we stopped trying – far from it. In fact, in the middle of our worst arguments, my husband began to stop to pray and listen to God. I followed his lead and began doing it as well.  We became the only couple in all of creation perhaps that would actually stop to seek God in between throwing accusations and curses and venom at each other. And yet, even with both of us seeking after God, our marriage continued to devolve.

Only I’ve discovered that hearing God isn’t enough. In communication there is what is said, what is heard and what it understood. And it turns out that one must know God better than we humans actually know him to understand what he is saying. I learned this when one day my husband told me, “be careful – God told me that there are two voices you are hearing.” The way he said it made it clear that he thought I was being deceived. This was his own belief – that I was wrong and refusing to deal with reality. He thought God was confirming this. Only unbeknownst to him, I had been praying regularly to God complaining that I was no longer sure if I was listening to Him or just hearing what I wanted to hear – talking to myself. Over and over again, I had asked, “how do I know that when I think I hear you, I’m not just hearing what I want to hear?” And he answered me – “you’re hearing two voices.” I knew what it meant – you’re not just talking to yourself. But my husband, working with a different set of assumptions and knowledge, took away something totally different. As we can see perfectly well with all the people who know God’s word yet know little of love, simply hearing God is quite different from understanding Him. Continue reading “When My Beloveds Talk Together”

Allow Me to Screw Up Your Sex Life a Bit

“We monks do not try to repress our sexual passions . . . Woe to those monks and nuns, who shovel into their subconscious their sexual passions. . . There is no spirituality in that. What happens, and what we aim at, is the transmutation of erotic energy from earthly attractions to God.” – Father Maximos quoted in The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides

In the old pagan world, sex and religion were all tied up together. Temple prostitutes and depictions of group sex on ancient Hindu temple walls and all that. Christianity has too often taken the opposite tact – sex as being so unholy that for a while it was considered a sin even in the context of marriage by the Roman church. Which led to possibly the most dysfunctional set-up ever; putatively and sometimes actually celibate priests being told each time a parishioner had sex with their spouse. What could be the problem with that, eh? Although the actual rejection of sex by the Christian church has varied wildly from place to place and time to time, the reality is that a lot of people continue to see sex and God as inevitably belonging in two separate spheres of our lives. To the extent that God and sex intersect, it is in the parsing out of rules for sexual conduct. But when actual sex takes place, well if our guardian angels could please exit the room, that would be great. And surely God has the good manners to turn his head for a few minutes. Wouldn’t want to be caught in flagrante delicto by the creator of the universe. That would be too weird. Continue reading “Allow Me to Screw Up Your Sex Life a Bit”

I Need an Editor. Or Something. . . Forgiving. For Real.

A few years ago, I was writing an obituary for a friend’s father who had passed away suddenly.  As many of you may have noticed, I do alright with the writing part of things most of the time, but I’m not quite so skilled as an editor*.  So, you shouldn’t be too surprised at the fact that I accidentally put the word “believed” where “beloved” was supposed to go.  So the first line read: “Mr. Bob Kennedy, believed father of Teddy and Linda Kennedy. . .”  Suddenly it seemed like not such a bad thing that Mr. Kennedy’s ex-wife hadn’t shown up to help her children handle the arrangements. 

(I spent the weekend with Mr. Kennedy a couple of years earlier when his son Teddy got married.  We were both just-outside-the-inner-circle participants in the wedding.  My ex was the best man and Mr. Kennedy was the now sober  and present father.  I am quite certain that Mr. Kennedy absolutely laughed his ass off over the whole thing.  I mean, he valued his children more than men who never went without them sometimes do.  But the whole thing was pretty rich.  He would have seen the humor.)  

I keep thinking about that story, because I keep thinking about her – the former Mrs. Kennedy.  Continue reading “I Need an Editor. Or Something. . . Forgiving. For Real.”

Being right is not the most important thing

Shortly after I got married, a girlfriend passed on this advice: “Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you would rather be right or you’d rather be married.  Because you can be right all the way to divorce court.”  The is the best advice for life I have ever heard. We humans have a strange obsession with being right.  Not only do we tend to … Continue reading Being right is not the most important thing