Do Not Judge Lest Ye Be Judged

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About 2/3rds of the way through the best sermon ever preached (the Sermon on the Mount) right after a wonderfully poetic and tiny bit judgmental section about not worrying, Jesus drops this bombshell on us, “Do not judge or you too will be judged!”

That verse peaked in popularity about a decade ago after a crazy 30 year run built off of the Jesus movement.  As the newly baptized hippies were inducted into the membership of the church they reacted strongly against the crazy legalism of their parents and grandparents and held up high the “do not judge” banner.

As evidence of this verse’s crazy popularity, note that it is one of few bible verses where people still quote the King James English (see title above).  I also offer as evidence a remark my awesome adult Sunday School teacher made a few weeks back, “Oh, that verse hasn’t come up in a month or two.  Before that it came up at least once a week for years.”

That was ironic because although that verse saturated my youth I hadn’t thought of it in years.  I had kind of forgot it existed.  But one of the joys of being a pastor is that no matter how deep your intellect takes you into the faith, there will always be that baby Christian ready to pull you back up to the surface with kindergarten questions about who we really should judge and under what circumstances.

That last sentence was not as sarcastic as it probably sounded.  In fact, after my Sunday School teacher reminded me of that verse’s existence, I realized that I did not have an easy answer to the questions and concerns about the tension between judging and tolerating.  It is true that Jesus’ command leaves little room for interpretation.  Studying the grammar of the sentence and the meaning of the words leads one to conclude that Jesus really meant we should not judge each other.  Looking at the context of the passage and the history of 1st century Palestine eliminates even more nuance to the verse.  It literally reads and literally means, “Do not judge or you will be judged!”

However, Jesus said some pretty judgmental things here and there and not just to the religious elite but his own disciples.  After all, it was Peter that he called Satan and 9 of his disciples that he accused of having little faith.  In the actual Sermon on the Mount and only sentences after the “do not judge” command, he calls his entire audience evil (see Matthew 7:11).

Then the apostle Paul, addressing a serious issue in the Corinthian church, offers, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Cor. 5:12).

And don’t get me started about the cranky prophets of the Old Testament who were extremely judgmental, as was the Old Testament God they spoke for.  Though Jesus’ actual sentence and context gives little room for nuance, the rest of Scripture does.

Therefore, while comparing Jesus’ simple statement to the nuances in all of Scripture and the complications in our own contexts, I confess that I really don’t know when it is appropriate to tell someone that they are doing Christianity wrong or when I should just keep my mouth shut and “tolerate” their sinfulness.  In practice, I don’t do it well at all.

However, I do know this, judging people is messy.  It gets really sloppy really fast.  Take for example the church gossip who accuses a young couple of being lousy parents.  Or consider the politician who neglects their children for months on the campaign trail while promoting “family values” and accusing the opponents of being “against family!”  Or look at the Christian celebrity who uses Facebook, which is run by a very liberal executive team, to denounce Starbucks for being “liberal.” If you really were going to boycott the liberals, shouldn’t you start with Facebook?  Or take for one last example the pastor who accuses his church leadership of not praying enough while struggling to carve out adequate prayer time in any given day.  Yes, that pastor has been me.

And yes it is true that Starbucks donates money to causes that make some Christians feel very uncomfortable.  It is also true that the church leaders need to be spending hours a week in prayer and, yes, most young parents I know need all the help they can get and our country needs to relearn some old family values anew.

Yet the people pointing these things out have huge planks in their own eyes.  By opening their mouths they are opening up a very messy can of worms because immediately their life gets the spotlight and that spotlight reveals all kinds of nasty viruses and germs lying under their focus group polished exteriors.  Then the argument becomes, “if they can’t live up to the standards they are promoting, that obviously means I can’t!”  So we all continue our destructive lifestyles, but feeling a little more arrogant about it.

In turns out that Jesus is right.  Judging others is the quickest way to get judged, and not just by God but by every one else.  And when we judge others for being judgmental, like all the hippies did, it makes the mess worse.  Now we are all going around pointing out planks in each other’s eyes and playing a game of “Whose speck is it anyway?”

I have played that game and it is really messy and not all that much fun.

But there is an alternative that isn’t messy.   It is neither judging or tolerating.  Instead it is personal repentance.  Personal repentance is the act of judging yourself.  It is the step of faith that says, “I am the lousy one.  I am the bad parent, the neglectful politician, the lazy pastor, the judgmental gossip.  I am the one in need of a savior who can clean all this junk out of my life.  I am the one who has some things to learn about family values and personal holiness and private piety.  I am the one working on these things because I wish they weren’t there in my life.  And only through the strength of God, I am overcoming them.  My life is the mess and I need the great cleaner.”

The goal of personal repentance is not to somehow keep the judgmental people from judging you or even to judge them back or worse, preemptively judge them.  The goal is to turn your own judging spotlight on yourself before they can.  To go back to the Sermon on the Mount, the goal is to get the plank out of your eye before anybody notices it.  Or at least to acknowledge it before they do, saying, “I have all ready confessed the planks exist in my life and am working on them.”

Whether or not they follow your example is really up to them but at least you found a way through it all.  And that is a lot easier and cleaner than the mess of judging.

 

Comparative Religion in a Worldview of Absolute Humility

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I don’t know if you knew this about me but I am a really religious person.  That last sentence was a bit of a joke because any of you who know me know that I try to be spiritual but that I succeed at being religious.

A pastor named Kent Carlson once wrote, “At night I am a subversive revolutionary in a French cafe, wearing a beret and smoking cigarettes with some revolutionaries plotting the overthrow of the institutional church.  The next morning I put on my nicely laundered button-down shirt, pull on my neatly pleated Dockers and drive my Honda Civic to the church office to try to figure out ways to build the organization.” (Renovation of the Church, 175.  You can read my review here.)

These words come pretty close to describing me.  I started this blog because I liked the freedom that the format gives me to pose revolutionary questions and give “third way” answers.  Therefore, I write this blog as a revolutionary.

But after I am done today I will open up a word processor and write a sermon for institutional church ears to hear.  Then I will go to Excel where I will work on an institutional church budget that hopefully represents our religious priorities.  After that I will meet with traditional church guys for lunch and then go visit a woman who has given most of her life and money to the church.

I make no apologies for that.  There is a lot of good left in what we so wryly call “religion.”

Yet lately I have been inundated with questions and claims that seek to defend our institutional religion against the big bad enemies.  These questions and claims come from a defensive posture by those in our institutional world who want everybody to know, “we are better than them!”  These come in the form of, “Who is the better Christian?  Am I a worse Christian for disagreeing with you?  Is our religion more or less violent than theirs?  Is our denomination or tradition more doctrinally sound than theirs?  Are our political views better or worse than them?”  I could list many more.

I admit that sometimes I catch myself asking those questions and playing that game.  I make lists that rank worldviews from better to worse.  I find myself thinking, “if that one grumpy parishioner would just become a better Christian, like.  .  .wait for it.  .  .me.”  I find myself in the heat of argument claiming that a “true(r)” Christianity would do A, B and C for the world.  And I get defensive and stand on what others might call “molehills.”  There I sit with my French revolution cigarette, holding a scimitar and daring anybody to try to push me off of this ideological issue.

Lately I have been laying down that scimitar and repenting of those tendencies, desperately asking God to cure me.  I am doing so because I have found those comparisons are extremely unhelpful in following a God who requires absolute humility.  In our system there is no room for better or worse, truer or falser, righter or wronger.  After all, when you boil out all the religious fluff and pound down all the molehills, what remains of Christianity is a group of wayward sinners who are dying of spiritual thirst helping each other find the free water that gives life and then proceeding from the well to live faithfully to its owner.

In closing, I am reading a wonderful little book about Jacob Arminius, whose hometown Oudewater was completely destroyed by a Christian army because the Christian in Oudewater were not “right” enough.  There is a rather dark report from Oudewater of the Christian army raping the nuns while the nuns cried out, “We are Catholic too!”  This did not just happen in Oudewater.  It happened all throughout Europe for over 150 years as Christians slaughtered Christians.  Not coincidentally, that century also saw the rise of atheism as a legitimate worldview.

It seems that with that dark memory in my religion’s recent past we can stop arguing about who has the truer system and start seeking the truer God, a God who is not far from any of us and yet whose narrow gate we still refuse to enter.

Have a blessed day.

 

Rethinking my Re-thoughts on God and Football

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Praise Football from whom all blessings flow! Praise touchdowns for his highness below! Okay I will stop.

I am not going to lie.  I wholeheartedly believe that Christianity’s idolization of American Football has become.  .  .well, idolatrous.  Also, I am not going to lie.  I like football.  It is a really fun game to both play and watch.  I will even go further to argue that we owe our professional entertainers (from actors to musicians to sports players) a livable wage, maybe not a wage that exceeds that of most countries, but a wage nonetheless.

Putting all that aside, I get really nervous when people start talking about God helping football players win, especially the ones who make great public spectacles of religiosity like praying after every touchdown and talking about God during press conferences.  That just seems to go against the grain of Matthew 6 a bit much.

Also, I have read other parts of Scripture, passages like, Psalm 146:7, “God upholds the cause of the oppressed” and others like it that seem to suggest that God is more concerned with things like looking out for the poor and the oppressed than with helping independently wealthy athletes score more touchdowns to get more money to cause more concussive brain injuries.  It makes me even more nervous when these athletes go home and beat up their spouses and children. (source although to be fair, countersource)

The things God seems to be engaged in doing.

I am quite passionate about this, as you can probably tell, so much so that I have blogged about it before.

However, something happened over the last couple weeks that has caused me to rethink my thoughts about God and football.  Simply put, I read Luke 6 again.

Verse 35 has always stood out to me, especially the last phrase which states quite clearly, “[God] is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

This is what God is supposed to do to wicked people!

The God I grew up worshiping was not kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  In fact, being ungrateful was a great way to get God mad at you.  Being all out wicked (a word we reserve for the worst of the worse) was the best way to get God to pummel you into a fiery eternity.  As for entire nations of wicked people.  .  .well God would certainly disband them quite soon, even though it took God about a 1,000 years to disband Rome after the very wicked Pax Romana. But who has time for the study of history when you are trying to convince your compatriots to not be evil nor get destroyed?

Someone stop Jesus from talking on mountains. He starts to say some pretty bizarre things when he does!

And yet right there, coming from the mouth of Jesus no less, we find out that God is not actively decimating the wicked.  Instead God is showing kindness to them.  I love that Jesus used the word “kind” here instead of something more generic like, “love.”  If it were “love” we could hide behind sentimentality, saying such ridiculous things like, “God loves them but still will destroy them, but you know, out of love.”

That is not what kindness means.  Kindness means God is actively doing gracious and kind things to wicked people.  This isn’t a lone verse.  There are echoes of this in other parts of the Bible.  You can look at Mathew 5:45 watered down version where Jesus says that God sends both the sun and the rain on good and wicked people alike.  You can also look to particular narratives like God’s deaalings with Jacob in Genesis.

Concerning football this might mean that once in awhile God takes a break from upholding the cause of the oppressed to help a wicked person score a touchdown.  It might also mean no matter of prayer and religious grandstanding is going to help you win that football game.  In the end God might just offer a miraculous hail-mary catch to the “wicked” team because God decided to have some fun with our silly sports that day.

Of course, one can surmise that this would have something to do with prevenient grace.  Prevenient grace is this idea (on which I base my blog) that God’s gracious provision goes before us and meets us in our wicked states to invite us into a relationship with God.

This might mean there is no problem in telling that wicked, concussed, wife abuser of a football player that God did help him win.  Now in order to respond graciously to God’s grace, he should leave his violent sport and lifestyle, give all his money to the poor, seek forgiveness from those he has harmed and offer himself as a living sacrifice to God’s mission of helping oppressed people.

Oooooh, concussive brain injuries, yum!

Or maybe this has nothing to do with prevenient grace and God just enjoys blessing the wicked because that is who God is by nature.

Or maybe I was right at the very beginning of all this, that God really doesn’t want anything to do with American Football, no matter how many football players offer shallow prayers after touchdown drives and “give the God the glory” during press conferences.

If that last scenario is the case, then I guess I will conclude with The Hunger Games’ popular mantra, “May the odds [of your favorite team] be ever in [their] favor” because God probably isn’t.

The Value of Honesty in a Non-Confrontational Culture

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It is 60 degrees and cloudy outside with smatterings of rain.  Last week I drank not one but two Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  Yesterday I finished off the last of a jug of Simply Lemonade and sadly don’t plan on buying another one until late April, early May.  And due to the weather, I seriously debated not wearing shorts today.  In the end I put the shorts on because you can’t let go of summer al at once.  Yet still, it must be Autumn.

Nobody is happier about that than me.  I love the Fall.  I love football games and cross country races and pumpkin flavored everything and brown leaves that crunch beneath your foot.  Everything about this time of year is simply amazing, with one huge exception.

In the Autumn, because I am pastor, I have to spend huge amounts of time recruiting people to do things for me.

Of course us pastors are not really asking people to “help us out” but more to “help the church out.”  Yet it is hard to see it that way.  The church and its pastor get so closely intertwined during this time of year that we feel like we are asking everybody for deeply personal favors.  In fact, what little political capitol we have been storing up all summer is spent quite quickly through carefully worded, overly polite requests to “invest in discipling our children,” to “assist us in making our building more hospitable” to “aid our worship service in making it more vibrant” and to “help our outreach event reach the lost for Jesus.”  (See the key below for translations of all that Christianese.)

Not surprisingly most Christians in America don’t want to do any of those things.  After all it is the Fall, which means their personal lives have all become ten times busier than they were just one month ago, which is crazy because they were really busy a month ago.

So throughout the country church goers have specialized in the polite and non confrontational rejection that is barely a rejection.  Most times your poor pastor doesn’t know they have been rejected until they reflect back on it the next day.

“I just don’t feel like that is my calling.”

“I just need to focus on my family right now.”

“I have too much going on and can’t give it the attention it deserves.”

“I’ll pray about it.”

Once again, see the key below to translate all those Christianese cliches.

And I appreciate polite non confrontation as much as the next person.  In fact, I suppose the fact that nobody is willing to just say “no” outright symbolizes that there is just enough positional authority in the title “Pastor” to warrant some degree of nicety.

And yet I have found over the last couple weeks that I deeply appreciate outright “no’s” way more than the overly polite avoidance tactics adopted by most Christians.

In fact, those few times someone has just said, “no, I don’t want to do that,” I have found myself going back to tell them “thank you” because I would rather a blunt and honest truth than an overly polite lie.  I think there is biblical warrant for that.  Politeness is rarely, if ever, extolled in our great book but honesty is a downright basic requirement.  And sadly one that most Christians today sorely lack.

For that reason, when someone lies to me about wanting to help with the children’s ministry, I always wonder what else they are lying about and who else they are lying too.

But when someone just flat out tells me, “No, that isn’t my thing” I at least know I can trust them.

After all, the worse thing that can happen is that someone says yes out of obligation and then ends up hating the church and hating me because they felt coerced into doing something they don’t want to do.

So this gorgeous Autumn, as you sip those Pumpkin Spice Lattes and watch those Sunday night football games and feel the cold rain fall across your brow, feel free to be honest with your pastor(s).  Be polite and respectful as can be about it for there is a big difference between being honest and being a jerk.

But trust your pastor enough to tell them the truth about that halloween event or that children’s program or that lawn maintenance project.  Seriously, if your pastor can’t deal with a little bit of honesty they are probably in the wrong profession anyways!  Instead, I hope they reward you richly for it!

Christianese Dictionary

“Invest in discipling our children” means showing up once a week to color pictures with them.

“Assist us in making our building more hospitable” means taking time to fix a broken toilet or mow the lawn.

“Make our worship service more vibrant” means joining our worship team in whatever capacity.

“Help our outreach event reach the lost for Jesus” means showing up on Halloween and passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters.

“I don’t feel like it is my calling” means I don’t want to do it.

“I just need to focus on my family right now” means I don’t want to do it.

“I have too much going on right now and can’t give it the attention it deserves” means I don’t want to do it.

“I just need to focus on my family right now” means I don’t want to do it.

“I’ll pray about it” means no.

What’s Pastor Kevin Reading: A Theology of Luck

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Now I know what you all are thinking.  You all read that title up there and immediately assumed that in what follows I would not miss one opportunity to tell jokes and makes puns concerning the word “luck.”  But have some faith people, I am more disciplined than that, albeit not much more.

Actually that is absolutely what I intended to do until I looked at the one sentence reviews inside the front cover of this book and saw that they all did the same.  You just need to know they stole the idea from me.  Or maybe my brilliant ideas are not that original or maybe I am just that.  .  .wait for it.  .  .unlucky.

Still, I should open this review by noting that, like the authors, I believe luck is a thing.  By all indications when God put together the structures of the cosmos, God seems to have done so by programming a fair amount of random number generators.  We have just about proven this to be the case.

Click to buy!

Now let me back up right there and note that us Christians have to account for the fallen nature of creation.  Paul seems to imply that all creation was subjected to futility or chaos because of human sin.  So the random number generators and the chaos they bring about could have been the result of our sin or they could have been all part of the plan from the beginning.  Or some could be one and the rest the other.  Either way, luck, or if you prefer “randomness,” is a reality and seems to imply we don’t have a micro manager God on our hands.  I personally love that considering I loathe micro managers, especially ones that randomly decimate towns in the Bible belt with tornadoes every Spring.  I mean, after all, a God of the Bible would know those lousy liberals in the north deserve those tornadoes way more than those devout Southerners!  (Yes, I am joking there.)

So the question is:  What does all this say about God?

That is precisely the question the authors of “Theology of Luck” try to answer.  I don’t want to spoil the end for you, because I hate spoilers more than micro managers.  So let’s just be brief and note that according to Fringer and Lane, a macro manager God is also a relational God.   This God seems to prefer to partner with us in order to bring about good purposes in spite of the randomness and chaos and luck that abounds.

They make this argument in enticing and provocative ways, using a fair amount of relevant Scripture passages, examples from every day life and references to fictional pop culture.  In fact, the amount of Scriptural and cultural exegesis is remarkable given the extremely low page count.

On that note, it is common knowledge that there is a growing disparity between the church and the universities.  The pews are frequented more and more by less educated, blue collar types who either don’t want to study or don’t have the time.  The classrooms are full of people who love to study and get paid sums of money so that they have time to do so.  The problem, some argue, is that the academics seem to silo themselves off from the pews and embrace ever greater concepts using an ever expanding vocabulary.  At the same those in the pews silo themselves off from the university and get stuck at “Jesus loves me.”

If that is a real problem, than what we need are more mediators.  These people will frequent the classroom and the pew in equal measure and be able to write in ways that explain deeper concepts but using a more common vocabulary.

“Theology of Luck” is such a book written by such people.  It explains higher concepts of God’s nature without trying to sound overly smart.  Its examples are rooted in the world of the pews and its exegesis is simple enough that any sixth grader could follow along.  We desperately need more books like it.

In closing, I was involved in a Facebook discussion awhile back with some academic types.  We talked a bit about the bare minimum education pastors should be expected to have.  One of the things we eventually agreed on is that every pastor should be able to teach the equivalent of a Sophomore level theology and bible class.  Since then I have used that as my standard for teaching and preaching.  I want my congregants to know what every Sophomore Bible student knows.  (Actually I want them to know more than that, but I am willing to compromise.)  “Theology of Luck” fits that criteria precisely.  It is readable, fun, accessible and still deep and provocative.  Any run of the mill pew sitter could read it and interact with it and learn a lot from it.

And if they should do so, they should consider themselves so lucky! (Okay couldn’t resist that last one.)

What’s Pastor Kevin Reading with the Damned: The Bible

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This week I read Bob Ecblad’s, “Reading the Bible With the Damned” which takes first place in the competition for which book title makes my blog post title incredible convoluted.

This book is also rare in that I only downloaded it to read one chapter, the chapter on Exodus.  It was recommended by a fellow pastor who found that chapter to helpful in preaching about Shiphrah and Puah in Exodus 1.

But after reading Ecblad’s take on Exodus 1, I couldn’t help but peruse the other 8 chapters about his experiences reading Scripture with immigrants, inmates and third world citizens.

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At times the book is tedious.  At other times it is repetitive.  And some times it gets a little bit too preachy.  But at the very least Ecblad has found a clever way to introduce readers to a liberation reading of Scripture.  His chapters document conversations he has had in Bible studies with various groups where he helps the readers revisit colonial assumptions about the God who is on the side of the powers and embrace a God who is trying to free the oppressed from power.

With that said, this book played many different roles.  At times it read like a biblical commentary in the catechism tradition.  For example:

Q: Who does Jacob steal the blessing from?
A: Esau.

Q: And what is the significance thereof?

A: Jacob was younger and therefore not deserving of blessing.

At other times the book reads like a social justice text giving great details about the lives of the oppressed in today’s world.

At other times the book reads like a how to in giving a Bible study with comments about asking questions and an incarnational approach that pretends to know little or nothing so as not to belittle or demean.

As for that last one, a few years ago I spent three months teaching in a federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, KS.  How I got there and why I only lasted 3 months is a story for another day except to say that I failed miserably in all the ways where Ecblad succeeds.

At that point I had worked for about 6 months at a Rescue Mission and I mistakenly believed that inmates were the same as homeless men.  I was very wrong on that assumption.  The culture of prison is very different from the culture of the streets, though with some similarities.

As I read Ecblad’s book I found myself wishing I had read it before setting foot in Leavenworth.  As he documents the social justice travesties of our day and describes his interpretive approach while giving out detailed biographies of inmates he has met, I found myself deeply lamenting my own failures over those 3 tortuous months.  It would be a great text to give someone in that situation.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have some major tweaking to do to my Sunday School lesson!

Beyond the Talking Points: Why I am Ignoring “50 Shades of Gray”

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Before I get going, that title up there is a complete misnomer.  I totally misspelled “gray” and I did it on purpose to show you how clueless I am about the movie (or is it book?).  I also am not really ignoring “50 Shades of Grey” because if I were, I would not be writing this blog.

Still, I have not read the book and do not plan to see the movie.  I have, however, read the Wikipedia synopsis.

On Wikipedia the description of the plot sounded like your average run-of-the-mill soap opera or harlequin novel, both things we don’t need more of.  More than that, I was rather dismayed that sensual violence was now mainstream.

Still, the plot synopsis mentioned that the couple broke up in the end because they were incompatible.  At the time I thought that line would be a good conversation starter on true intimacy and compatibility.  After all, even by the plot’s own admission signed contracts of submission and dominance seem to run counter to intimacy.  But without having read the book, that conversation is one I won’t have.

Still, I wish there was some way to honestly begin conversations about the increasingly violent and erotic fiction that now lines our bookshelves and fills our televisions.  Heck, last night I was watching Gotham, a prime time, network TV show based off of Batman.  A side plot of the episode involved two mobsters kidnapping a judge and having a scantily clad prostitute beat him with a whip.  That scene would have been the stuff of late night HBO just 10 years ago.  Now there it is, on Fox at 8.

Perhaps somebody should start an honest conversation about that.

But here is the thing:  Evangelical Christians cannot have that conversation.

And here is why:  We have wasted our conversation capitol on things that don’t matter.

Over the last 30 years Evangelical Christians have led the country in mean and nasty attacks about insignificant cultural wars.  We have picked fights on everything from gun laws, to Harry Potter to Presidential Elections to mainstream media to trying to prove Barack Obama is a secret muslim who wasn’t born in America.

All of these ridiculous debates have exhausted whatever respect we had.

So when a novel comes out about a man beating a woman senseless and that novel goes mainstream and becomes a movie and we start to say, “Hey, maybe as a society we shouldn’t go here” we are laughed at and dismissed as another bunch of crazy religious fanatics who still think Barack Obama is the antichrist.

With that said, this post is not meant to be a lament.  Although I am in mourning over the respect we have squandered, I would like to wipe away the tears and see the “50 Shades” phenomenon as an opportunity to reclaim some ground.

There is an opportunity here to have a real dialogue about true sexual intimacy.  That dialog would have to proceed from respect, seek understanding and clarify our support for sexual wholeness.  It would not be easy, especially for evangelicals who often get emotional and angry while we let our good sense catch up.

Still it is possible to begin that conversation and here is how I think it might work:

1)  I would actually read the book.  I would not do so because I want too.  Let me be clear, there are some TV shows, movies and books that have erotic or violent content that I want to watch and read.  And I avoid them for my own spiritual health.  This is not one of those books.  I have zero desire to read erotic romance.  However, if I wanted to speak truth into this “phenomenon” I would have to take the hit and actually read the book.  Until I did that, my opinion would be easily dismissed and I would look like an idiot.

2)  I would acknowledge there is something very real drawing mostly women to the novel.  And I would not readily dismiss that something as “sinful” like many are doing.

3)  I would begin with the end of the book where the couple break up, blaming “incompatibility.”  That would be a wonderful launching point to discussions about intimacy.  After all intimacy seems to be underlying much of the force driving all of this.

4)  I would admit I do not have the answers to true intimacy.  I have been married 6 and a half years (which feels like forever) and just this month found out my wife likes 100 Grand candy bars (or was it Take 5’s?).  There are times when we are of one mind and spirit (and flesh) and times when I look at my wife wondering, “Why did I marry her” and “The Good Lord only knows why she married me?”  There are times when I want to race home just to be in the same room as her other times when I wonder if I could get away with sleeping at the church from here on out.  I do not have the answers to intimacy and I would be very honest about my own rough road in sexuality and marriage.

5) I would be very apologetic and humble about the harmful views my church has espoused about intimacy.  Let’s face it, we have said and believed some really stupid things.  Let’s also admit that we currently say and believe some really stupid things.  In 2015 there are still Christians arguing you only have one shot at intimacy and it is your honeymoon night.  Before and after that, you are doomed.  I am really sorry those morons exist.

6) The goal of the conversation would be truth, not judgment or even doctrinal/ethical clarity.  I really believe “50 Shades of Grey” probably has something to teach us about intimacy, even if it just shows us something to avoid at all costs (which it certainly does).  I also think its popularity has something to teach us about each other.  If I were to engage this cultural expression it would be with the hopes of helping people find out what that was.

But as that title above states, I am ignoring this particular debate so this is all hypothetical.

Maybe one day they will make a “Sword of Shannara” movie.  Then I will be all game.  I loved those books as a kid!

**After I posted this I realized that this book was actually the first in a trilogy and that the couple do end up married in the end.**