Let’s Talk About Sex

Yeah… “rape culture” exists.  I’m finally willing to admit it.

As person after person after person comes forward to accuse various politicians or Hollywood celebrities of different types of sexual misconduct, it’s clear:  there’s a problem in the culture.

George Takei may have groped a male model.

Richard Dreyfuss may have exposed himself to an actress.

Kevin Spacey may have touched an 18-year-old inappropriately.

This helpful New York Times article details 23 different men (omitting the women) who have been “accused of everything from inappropriate text messages to rape.”

So, if calling this problem “rape culture” gives us some common ground from which to build, then fine.  Let’s start there.

—–

Our country has a rape problem…but I don’t think that’s the root.  

It seems obvious to me that our real issue is with “Casual Sex Culture.”

There is very, very little difference between a fun and crazy memory of a one-night stand–and a night filled with regret because the other person didn’t pick up the “fun” part of the craziness.

I mean, imagine this:

An attractive, young protagonist goes to get a massage after a long day.  The hero is stressed and conflicted by something serious, and he wants to spend some time relaxing.  Luckily, the man doing his massage knows exactly how to take his mind off his troubles…

If this is a movie scene, we know where this is going, right?  Probably John Travolta has done a few scenes just like this, in front of the camera, for lots of money!

A few years ago, a massage therapist who claimed to specialize in “more than massage” said John Travolta was one of his customers.   So…why are we surprised that Travolta is being accused by another masseur of “groping” and “exposing himself” and “making lewd suggestions?”

Why is Travolta in trouble this time, for trying to recreate what was perfectly acceptable in another case?

A wise young person will ask himself: when is it okay to live out movie fantasies, and when does it run the risk of becoming a night that I’ll regret?

The answer is:   You run that risk every time.   Every time.

Whenever you have some sort of sexual encounter with another person, you are taking a risk that you’ll be in a different frame of mind. (And, yes, that includes sexy text messages.)

You might be more eager…more enthusiastic…more interested than the person you’re propositioning.

And, if you’re even slightly more eager than the other person, it’s possible that a police officer or judge or jury might call what you did “rape.” 

The more people you include in your living fantasies, the more you’re putting your reputation into their hands.  Someday, it could be their word against yours.

Of course, this is the point where I have to clarify that not all cases of rape are complicated. Furthermore, not everybody who accuses someone of sexual misconduct is simply regretting what they consented to do at first.

I’m not saying that massage therapists should expect to have their butts touched by celebrities.  Obviously.

What I AM saying is that we can’t have “casual, judgment-free” sex AND fight rape culture at the same time. 

Sex can’t be both a recreational activity between ANY TWO ADULTS, and also something that can completely ruin your life if/when one of those adults remembers the details differently.

There’s nothing “casual” about that kind of relationship.

There’s nothing fun and judgment-free about government officials “investigating” what happened when you were naked.

It’s not fun and judgment-free when all of America debates whether you’ve crossed some arbitrary line between kinky and criminal.

“Well, they didn’t say no!”

“But they didn’t say ‘yes’ enthusiastically and repeatedly!”

“Yet…he didn’t touch the other person!”

“Right, but he was exposing his penis.”

“Okay, but he asked first!”

“No one in a ‘position of power’ should EVER ask a question like that…”

Stop.

Just stop.

It’s very simple.

Sex isn’t casual.

It’s serious and deeply emotional and life-changing and complicated, and that’s why it shouldn’t ever involved strangers or near-strangers.

If you’re not married to the person in question, just assume they DON’T want to see your genitalia.  And, even if they’re literally begging you to get naked, you still should walk away.

“So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say: Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! If you do, you will lose your honor…
Drink water from your own well—share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in the streets having sex with just anyone?
You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers.”

People shouldn’t be having conversations about whether an acquaintance wanted to see you naked or not.   

Sex is for married couples.  That’s it.

Until we stop trying to draw ridiculous, blurry lines between casual “hook-ups” and criminal “sexual misconduct,” our problems will only get worse… with more broken hearts sacrificed on the alter of physical gratification.

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The Ten Commandments (Revised)

A few years ago, NBA star Kevin Durant testified that he struggled with guilt and a sense of condemnation, until Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz explained to him that “We don’t live by the Ten Commandments anymore.”

I don’t want to unpack the reasons that’s partially true and also misleading right now.

Instead, I want to point out that all of us DO live by certain commandments today, whether we call them that or not.

Some members of the modern church have replaced the original Ten Commandments with a new set of Laws.

For example, when Carl Lentz appeared on The View, he explained that his church has a certain way of dealing with the more controversial (“political”) topics, when someone asks where they stand.

Hillsong has a method.

They have a strategy.

Lentz was asked: “Where do you stand on social issues that young people are particularly passionate about, like gay marriage? Abortion? Like, how do you address those types of things?”   And he responded: “I think our job is to help people. Not necessarily change how they think, but try to point them to what God has said…[what] we believe the Bible to say…” and he kept rambling from there.

Then Joy Behar tried to pin him down: “So it’s not a sin in your church to have an abortion?”

And he chose not to answer with a yes or no.

I think this was a difficult question for Lentz because, though he isn’t condemned by the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, he and many others ARE strongly compelled by the Ten Commandments of Influencing People. 

Here are a few of the most important points of effective evangelism, from a sermon I found:

Law #1: Keep your mouth shut and your ears open

Law #2: Offer questions, not answers.
Remember this: Nobody cares how great you are until they understand how great you think they are.

Forget about trying to “sell” Jesus or you particular church, and focus instead on why your Seeker wants. To do this, you need to get fascinated with your Seeker; you need to ask questions (lots and lots of them) with no hidden agenda or ulterior motives.

Law #4: Speak to your prospect just as you speak to your family or friends

Law #10: Invite your prospect to take some kind of action

After having gone through the first eight steps, you should have established a mutual feeling of trust and rapport. You’re now ready to bridge the gap between your prospect’s needs and what it is you’re offering.  So invite them to church!

Bur remember: You don’t want the prospect to be reminded that he/she is dealing with a “Christian.” You’re not another “Christian.” You’re a human being offering a gift! And if you can get your prospect to understand that, you’re well on your way to becoming an outstanding Christian.


Okay, okay, it wasn’t really a sermon, per se. It came from Entrepreneur Magazine and I just changed a few words.

The closing line is my favorite.  The original article said:

“You’re not a salesperson, you’re a human being, offering a particular product or service. And if you can get others to understand [that you’re not a salesperson], you’re well on your way to becoming an outstanding salesperson.”

I laughed out loud because he doesn’t seem to realize THIS is why 85% of people have a negative view of salespeople…

Salesmen literally teach each other how to obscure and dance around their own motives. They encourage each other to PRETEND TO BE SOMETHING ELSE, in order to “win” clients.

Sound familiar?

Salesmen always insist they’re not selling. They say things like, “I just want to get to know you, with no ulterior motive” or “I want to find out what you need…”

…or really, whatever it takes to get their foot in the door.

I’m not saying that this “technique” won’t turn into sales! (Who am I to argue with the experts?) Clearly, people are interested in piling into amphitheaters, to hear that God loves them and that abortion is complicated.

But, when I look at the product, to see if I’m interested in buying, I’m turned off by churches filled to capacity with excited, brand-loyal fans of the guy on stage–when they can’t say, for sure, why “Thou Shall Not Murder” is still important.

So, I say to the salesman, “I’m not interested in that, thanks.”

And when I am, I’ll just get my fix for “someone who wants to get to know me” from pretty much any other salesman in the country.

(For the record, I’m pleased with how Lentz took a FIRM stance on racism and said “Some of that stuff needs to be called out, up front, out loud…”   Why such different tactics there? It looks to me like this is a game being played between cat-and-mouse. And he knows which issues are easier “sells” than others. You can see The View segment here.)

God Bless Criticism

Last week, I did something I didn’t want to do…

I reached out and attempted to build a bridge, even though it required stepping out of my comfort zone.  I picked up the phone and made a call, with the goal of smoothing things with someone who was willing to share that he was upset with me–but refused to specify how/why.

As I dialed, I could hear my little brother’s voice in my head: “Social media is where fights happen! You have to connect with people on a genuine level. Sit down face-to-face, or at least reach out by phone, to build real relationships…”

So I gave it an honest effort.  Rather than hashing out the issue in comments on Facebook (even though that’s where the disagreement started), I asked the angry person whether he was open to a phone conversation instead.

11.3.17 God Told Him to Shut Up (and he didn't listen)

The blog post in question is this one: God Bless Divorce.

I asked whether it’s wise for a pastor to brag about how many people are attending his services–even under the guise of bragging about God?  It’s especially complicated when that pastor suggests his divorce has something to do with God’s favor, and that the full offering plates (somehow) make the Devil look foolish.

My question was–and still is–how can we be sure God is the one orchestrating the senior minister’s divorce into more baptisms?… How does that work, exactly?

For the record, I censored the name of the pastor and the name of the church in the first blog post. But I’m not doing that now.

Now that I’ve tried a handful of times to open the doors of communication with Ryan privately (and failed), my dad and I talked about the details on the podcast.

Click here to listen.

Summarizing points:

 

 

 

#1.   I always much prefer an honest, angry email or message rather than a passive-aggressive note that you’re “praying for me,” followed by sticking your fingers in your ears.

#2.   Anyone who knows me, or who gives me the chance to explain, knows I welcome criticism about anything I’ve written, even from people I’ve never met.   I don’t put random stipulations on people (like “you need to have been in my youth group more recently than ten years ago,” for example.)

#3.  I feel bad for any Christian who doesn’t allow him/herself to have the blessing of being judged.  Many pastors of large churches are surrounded by layers of staff to protect them from unwanted criticism.  But, the rest of the Body has learned to do the exact, same thing by selectively blocking certain people on social media.  You only want to watch cat videos and hear a happy chorus of “I’m praying for you!” whenever you have a problem?

Easy! Just block everyone who makes you think.

Honestly, I understand how hard it is to hear criticism, especially if you’re already in the middle of an emotional crisis. (Listen to the podcast! Think of my toilet-paper story! I’ve had fragile moments, so I get it!)  🙂

But, I harp on the importance of being open to criticism, because finding the courage to do that (even when it’s hard) ultimately changed my life.  I’ve discovered it’s empowering!  It leads to mental toughness and a certain maturity that cannot come from hiding, and plugging our ears.

I teach my children how to appreciate criticism, even when the critic is wrong, because I can’t think of a more powerful gift I could give another person.

——-

In closing, Ryan was partially correct a few weeks ago when he said that making a statement (like the Nashville Statement) “hinders the possibility of relationship in many ways.”

But he and Perry Noble should stop blaming “the statement” and recognize which person is really at fault.  Blame the individuals who build walls to protect themselves from disagreement.

9.1.17 Unanswered Questions (#3)

Unfortunately–it’s not just the “unchurched” who build walls.  Christians do it with each other, too.

To me, it’s a red flag when Christians talk about inclusion and dialog and then turn around and block each other. 

Unfortunately, the only way we can discuss that is if we come out from behind the walls we’ve built and face the possibility of criticism with courage.

Advice the World Won’t Give You (Part 6)

Dear Children,

There really isn’t a good reason to “block” someone on social media.  Ever.

People who “block” others think they’re putting up a boundary to protect themselves from the other person–because the other person is just so stupid or mean or wrong or generally tiresome that they have no choice except to build a wall.

But your mother sees things differently.

If I hear word that you cut ties with another person (unless that person poses a physical threat to you) then I will not blame THEM.

If/when you resort to blocking someone who used to be a friend, I’m going to have a talk with YOU, because I want to know:

What’s going on in your head that you’re not able to handle the stupidity or meanness or wrongness of another person, without permanently hiding? 

I’ve never “blocked” anyone on social media because I have the ability to ignore what I can’t control or confront what I think is wrong.  And, if you don’t feel strong enough to do either of those things, then we can talk about building up a tolerance until you get there.

But hiding from different views isn’t healthy.   It demonstrates that you can’t control your emotions, so you need technology to do it for you…

…by making people disappear.

You may think you’ve solved a problem.  But, a person can’t be “cured” of their road-rage if they only drive on a closed course. And likewise, you’ll never be “cured” of your sensitivity if you simply block everyone who triggers you.

That’s not a healthy solution to the root problem.

There are ways to deal with annoying, rude, and even downright HATEFUL individuals, without having to run away, dear children.  And that’s what I pray you will learn to do…because you’ll never be able to hide from them all.

  1. Ignore what you can’t control.                     OR
  2. Confront what you believe is wrong.

When you feel that you have no choice but to block someone, let’s have a conversation about why…  (We can do that as long as we leave the door to communication open by not blocking each other.  See how this works?)

If you think I’m wrong, let me know. Or ignore me.

But you have no reason to “block” me–or pretty much anyone–ever.  🙂

As always, I love you immeasurably.

-Mom

Whose “Stoning” Would Jesus Stop Today?

I read an article in Relevant Magazine recently that completely misrepresented the relationship between Law and Love. Here’s the quote that is problematic. See if you can figure out what’s wrong:

“Jesus, left alone with the [adulteress] woman, simply says to her two things: ‘I do not condemn you. Now leave your life of sin.’ The order of these two sentences is everything. Reverse the order of these two sentences and you’ll lose Christianity. Reverse the order and you’ll lose Jesus.

As was the case with Jesus, so it will be with his people when we create environments that communicate ‘no condemnation’ first, before we ever start talking about law, obedience and ethics. Because with Jesus, grace and love establish the environment for the morality conversation.”

So, is this factual?

Is it theologically sound?

To be fair, I had to spend quite a while thinking about it before I was able to put my finger on exactly the issue. So, here is a question that might help the lightbulb come on:

Was “Jesus” the same God as the one of the Old Testament?

If yes…then there’s simply no way to make the argument that he put “no condemnation” BEFORE “law/ethics.” He literally spent hundreds of years drilling law-and-ethics into his Children’s heads, before Jesus introduced the other side of the coin. 

When we understand that Jesus was the same God of Justice from the Old Testament, then we can understand why he didn’t “condemn” the religious leaders any more than he condemned the adulteress.  (That’s something today’s “Love and Mercy Pharisees” might want to consider.)  Jesus didn’t tell the religious leaders they needed to “go and sin no more.” 

Maybe that’s because the religious leaders weren’t wrong.

The angry, “scolding,” judgmental crowd was just following the rules that God himself had put into place. If Jesus hadn’t come along before the stoning that day, the religious leaders would have been completely justified in carrying out the execution of the adulteress woman.  Have you ever thought about that?

They were justified by God’s law to keep doing what He commanded them to do.

So, if Jesus was God, then law/ethics and obedience came first, long before grace/mercy. The Relevant article has it exactly backward.

In other words, the religious culture of Jesus’ day is exactly backward from the “religious” culture we’re dealing with in the West in 2017. 

We no longer live in a culture where the importance of law, ethics, and obedience has been drilled into our heads since childhood.   Most of us, instead, have been taught the Law of Never-Condemning, as preached by Relevant magazine.

That makes a huge difference!

When you don’t understand that you deserve to die (the way the adulteress woman understood it), then the grace of Jesus has no impact.  None.  

When you reverse the order and put “no condemnation”  BEFORE the lesson that all humans deserve condemnation, the ministry of Jesus doesn’t make any sense at all.

What if Jesus happened upon an adulteress woman being confronted today? How would that look?  This is what I think he would see:

Rare Religious Leader: This woman was caught cheating on her husband…

Crowd: So what? Nobody is perfect.

Rare Religious Leader:  True. Nobody is perfect. But she’s destroying her family.

Crowd: You just think you’re better than everyone!

Religious Leader: What do you think, Jesus? Should there be consequences for this woman’s sin?

Jesus:  Let the woman speak.  What do you say for yourself, woman?

Adulteress:  Well, my actions weren’t right.  But–I know you won’t condemn me. You will love me no matter what!

Jesus: As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Adulteress: Uh…Jesus…that’s Old Testament stuff…

Religious Leader: How about this one, then:  “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them…?”  That’s from the book of Hebrews.

Crowd:  Pharisee! Pharisee!  We should focus on grace, like Jesus did!

Religious Leader:  I’m sorry, but it kind of sounds like you’re making a new Law out of your favorite Jesus quotes…and maybe ignoring others…

Crowd: *picks up stones*  Judgmental heretic! You are precisely the type of person Jesus hated!

*Religious Leader Cowers*  *Adulteress Woman also picks up a stone*

…What would Jesus do?


For more about the role of Justice in the Gospel message, you can read this personal story about the time my 3-year-old experienced mercy for the first time.  Would that lesson have been impactful, if my daughter hadn’t learned about rules/obedience FIRST?  What’s the point of mercy, if a child doesn’t really believe they deserve consequences?

God Bless Divorce

I’ve been asked, “Why are you so negative?”   But that’s just one way the question is phrased. Others say, “You just enjoy creating division!”  or “You can’t leave things alone.”

The nicer folks will simply offer some positive advice: “Maybe try giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of being skeptical all the time!”

But, there’s a problem with that.  I can’t just give people the benefit of the doubt or stop asking questions, unless I silence my own conscience. 

There are certain issues, in the culture and the Church, that genuinely bother me.  I wrestle with what’s true and how to make good choices. And that’s where my “skepticism” comes from.

These are genuine questions I have.

So, unfortunately, certain people will always assume that I’m TRYING to start arguments, just for the pleasure of upsetting people. But I’m taking the time in this introduction to explain to whoever will listen: that’s not the case, at all.

I realize I’m going to say a few things, and use a few examples, that could get some feathers ruffled.  But I’m working through these issues in real life. And writing about them is part of that process.

If you’re looking for something fully fleshed-out (and “not too negative”) this is my way of warning you…

_______________

I want to know, what do you think of this statement by a pastor?

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#1)

My main question is, what does church attendance REALLY have to do with a pastor’s failed marriage?

Anything?

Anything?

Bueller?

Is the lead pastor’s divorce related to baptisms at all–or was that just a random, off-handed comment that was tagged on to the equally cringe-worthy “Weekly Numbers Humble Brag” that (some) pastors do regularly?

Well, the commenters seem to see a correlation:

 

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#2)

Ah, Roman’s 8:28.  We really like that verse, don’t we?

We think it says, “No matter what my wife and I choose to do, good things will be given by God.”

I suppose this overlaps with my post last week. I asked “How do we know when GOD has ‘called’ us?”  (Or, is it our own flesh which we can find ways to justify, no matter what?)

When enjoyable stuff happens, God is confirming that we’re on the right path!

But, when negative stuff happens, that just means we’re being tried/tested, and we need to stay on the same path!

In other words–no matter what happens–keep walking that path.

No need to wonder if you’re doing something wrong.

You’re God’s vessel, either way.

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#3)

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#4)

10.23.17 Humble Brag (Edit) (#5)

So, you see? The momentum of people joining the church is a sign the pastor is doing great things for the Kingdom!

AND, the fact that his wife is leaving the church (and family) is also a sign that God is doing great things for the Kingdom. Got it?

Look, I’m sorry.

I just can’t shut off my mind and go along with these comments without asking questions.

Is it actually good that people are continuing to donate, no matter what happens in their pastor’s personal life?  Is there anything this particular man could have revealed about his family which WOULD (rightly) affect how many people come to be baptized and give their money?

Are we bragging about a congregation that isn’t bothered by divorce?

I keep thinking, what if Joel Osteen started bragging (factually!) that–despite all the criticism of his personal finances–there have been increases in attendance and giving at Lakewood Church.   So take that, Devil!

Is that valid reasoning? Does it make sense, theologically?

Something tells me, if Joel Osteen announced tomorrow that he’s getting a divorce, then suddenly a few people would remember, “God hates divorce!”  And they would add that the list of reasons he’s a slimy manipulator for turning literally every situation into a sign that God is supporting his ministry.

Imagine Joel posting this on Facebook tomorrow:
“Not every church still pledges to write MORE checks–even when the pastor announces he’s getting a divorce–but Lakewood Church did!  Way to go Church! You’ve made the Devil look silly!”

At least a few people would go, “Uh, you’re nuts, Joel. Since when does a failed marriage make THE DEVIL look silly?”

“And what does your divorce really have to do with the greatness of your congregation?”

It seems to me, the only thing my example would demonstrate is that a false gospel successfully convinced thousands of Lakewood Church members to keep giving both time and money, regardless of what happens in the pastor’s personal life.  (“Because the more my family falls apart, the sillier you make the Devil look by following me anyway!”)

Sorry, I’m not super jazzed about that.

Life As an Unfair “Race” (Video Featured)

Perhaps you’ve seen “privilege” explained with the race analogy, as portrayed in this video:

 

One of the things I appreciate about this video is that it doesn’t focus on whiteness or blackness.  The creators made it clear from the beginning that the analogy represents PRIVILEGE in general–and not necessarily “white privilege,” specifically. 

By the end of the video, it’s clear mostly white kids are out in front, while mostly black kids are left back toward the starting point.

But that’s because kids got to take two steps forward if their parents are still married…and if they have a relationship with their fathers…and if they “never had to help mom or dad with bills.”   And, sadly, far too many Black American youth can’t say those things apply to them.

Through no fault of their own, based on choices their parents made, many black kids (and a growing number of white kids) are starting behind. That’s true.

If the gym teacher is trying to make some generic point about fairness and the differences between well-educated, two-parent families (and under-educated, single-parent families), that’s fine.

But, if he wants to make a broader point about the way American culture REALLY IS, I need to make some adjustments to his experimental race for the $100 bill:

#1.  The video wrongly implies that life has a limited amount of money, and the first person to be successful (i.e. cross the finish line) is the ONLY one who will get anything.

In reality, there’s plenty of room at the finish for everyone. Successful people literally create wealth, no matter how many $100’s have been “taken” already by peers who crossed the line first.

For an accurate picture of The Race of Life, the gym teacher should offer an unlimited number of $100 bills, because any child who crosses the finish will get a reward, no matter how long it takes him/her to accomplish the goal.

#2. The video stops before asking WHY black children are being forced to grow up without their fathers.  

I understand this point may have been too large to tackle with a short video designed to get clicks and shares on social media.  But, ideally, viewers will begin to think about “why” for themselves. “Okay–WHY are black American families in poor shape?”

Unfortunately, people are quick to assume “White Privilege” is an evil, rather than asking whether “Black Self-Sabotage” might be a more accurate term.  I actually read multiple comments saying, “It’s up to those white kids in the front of the line to fix the inequality!”  But, until we know why one group is more successful than another, we can’t solve the problem.

How, exactly, are the white kids supposed to make their black peers get married before having babies? What can “successful” kids do for the rest, other than giving away parts of their reward to those who don’t make it? (That’s called “charity,” by the way.) To answer those questions, we have to peg WHY people are making poor choices that keep their kids behind in the first place.

#3. The gym teacher should have asked a couple more questions.    Again, I realize the video would need to be longer. But it would have been easier to find answers to the question “why is this happening” if the gym teacher had said something like this:

“If you’ve been told by influential people in your life that the entire country is working against you, take two steps BACK.”

Or maybe this:

“If your parents had a ‘talk’ with you–telling you how ‘different’ you are and planting the idea that you can’t trust white people–then take two steps BACK.”

Or maybe:

“If you were taught ‘the system’ is rigged and that you’ll probably be killed by a cop for no reason, then take two steps BACK.”

I think you get the idea.  What kids are taught at home (and now at school!) really matters. And we should take a hard look at those lessons to see whether we’re actually disadvantaging kids with our good intentions.

———

Just as an interesting side note, the out-of-wedlock birthrate among white mothers is about the same as it was for blacks in the 1960’s…

In other words, the destruction of white families is about 2-3 generations behind black families, but the trend is still headed in the same direction.  Just give Americans another 50-60 years, continuing down the same cultural path, and (I predict) most of us will be “equal” at the starting line again.

All the kids–both black and white–will be in a row, thousands of yards away from Success…

All of them–both black and white–will be unable to take any steps forward because they don’t know their fathers, they don’t know how money works, and they’ve been taught this makes them victims with no chance of reaching that single, $100 at the finish line, so there’s no reason to move.

Ah, equality.

No more privilege.

Sounds great, huh?