Category Archives: Wrestling with Sex

This is the ultimate struggle!

Out of a Far Country

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This book combines two stories into one.

Chris (the son) — He is gay, that’s not cool by his Asian American parents. There is a nasty blow up. He moves out, gets into the gay club party scene, discovers drugs, excels at selling them. Life is perfect for him, money, power, drugs, gay sex and complete acceptance. All of that ends, with an arrest, incarceration and an HIV diagnosis. In prison he finds a Bible in a trash can, reads it, and accepts Jesus as his saviour.  He also finds a man to help him grow in his new found faith. The man tells Chris to become a minister when he gets out of prison. At first this idea sounds preposterous, but Chris’ prison ministry grows and he wonders if maybe…but what about the whole gay thing? The chaplain at the prison says “not a problem” and gives Chris a book teaching that Christianity was for gay love and not against it. However, the more Chris studied his Bible the more he discovered the opposite to be true. The chaplains book ended up in the trash can.

Chris did get out of prison and he did become an internationally respected conference speaker, and theology professor at a Christian university. In fact, I purchased his book at a conference he recently spoke at. From all points he seems to be doing well. He is reconciled to his family, he has joy and a transcendent purpose now. But what about his same sex attraction? Christopher will tell you that he remains gay, however, he has become content to resist those attractions and remain celibate. He believes that celibacy is a legitimate option for human beings and that he as a person is in no way incomplete, unfulfilled or somehow deficient just because he is not sexually active. His allegiance to Jesus and God’s Word have led him to deny himself in this area. Self denial, of course, is a major tenet of Christianity so he doesn’t feel as though he is different than any other Christian.  Chris thinks it’s unhelpful and unhealthy for humans to be identified primarily by their sexual orientation. Chris does not want his identity to be “homosexual” or “heterosexual” His identity is that he is a child of God. He is also emphatic that singleness is not a curse or a burden. There is only one thing Chris can’t live without, that is God. Everything else can go. For so many years, Chris was a prisoner to his need for popularity, dance music, sex and drugs. Liberation came when he tore those idols down and began to follow the God who is love. Ironically, true freedom came for Chris while he was in prison.

Angela (the mom) — She is Chinese, locked into an honour/shame culture. The ultimate shame was Chris’ coming out. That despair combined with a lifeless marriage brought Angela to the brink of suicide, but she did not go through with it. Instead, by means of a series of incredible providences she discovered Jesus. Her life changed. Now, because of Jesus she could forgive her husband, because of Jesus she could love her son regardless of his attractions or his actions. Before Jesus, Angela manipulated her husband and children through guilt, shame and “drama” now as she oriented her life around Jesus, she began to practice sacrificial love instead. Her husband was compelled by the change and became a Christian as well. With healing on the home front, Angela set to work in prayer and love for her son whose life was clearly spiralling out of control. Chris was very hard on his parents when he was doing and dealing drugs, but Angela relentlessly stuck to her plan of love and prayer. Eventually Chris came to the same faith that had changed her life so much. Now she serves as his travel and ministry partner.

What did I learn? 

  1. I think Chris is right on when he questions our cultures assumption that a healthy and fulfilled life must have sex in it.
  2. A lot about the gay clubbing/party lifestyle, drugs, and prison life. Probably more than I wanted to know.
  3. The power of a faithful passionate prayer life. Angela’s story helps us see that prayer is not a pointless exercise rather it’s a vital means through which God draws people to himself.
  4. Singleness is not a curse, it’s a gift.
  5. Even though, Chris enjoyed the power, popularity, and exhilaration of his pre-Christian lifestyle, it all came at an increasingly terrible cost. Life was solely focused on himself, his needs, his wants, his attractions. This self focus made it impossible for any real relationships to last. This natural turn inward that we all have actually shrivels up our lives. In the end Chris turned his allegiance from himself to Jesus. This shift in devotion liberated Chris to serve Jesus by loving and serving others above himself. The result for Chris has been the exponential growth of joy, peace, and purpose in his life, the abundance of which far exceeds any benefits his previous life afforded him.

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Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture.

Regarding the cultural milieu out of which this book comes Yarhouse writes:

“A culture at war politically and over morality and epistemology contributes to reducing complexity to simplicity, from thoughtful reflection to media sound bites. Perhaps it is a miracle anyone is actually helped or ministered to in that context.”

Yarhouse should be applauded for his attempt to avoid the culture war and get into the conversation so as to actually help people.  He acknowledges that research is very difficult in this field, because there is hostility for any findings that don’t agree with what people already want to believe in. Yarhouse’s call for humility from every perspective is needed.

What is Gender Dysphoria? 

Gender dysphoria means being uneasy about or generally dissatisfied with ones psychological and emotional identity as either male or female. The psychological and emotional uneasiness comes when ones identity does not correspond to ones biological or birth sex. This perceived incongruity can be the source of deep and ongoing discomfort.

How do people understand Gender Dysphoria? 

To help us understand the various lenses through which humanity attempts to navigate gender dysphoria, Yarhouse offers the following 4 frame works.

Integrity Framework Disability Framework Diversity Framework Integrated Framework
Identifies gender incongruence as confusing the sacredness of maleness and femaleness and specific resolutions as violations of that integrity. Identifies gender incongruence as a reflection of a fallen world in which the condition is a disability, a nonmoral reality to be addressed with compassion. Strong form: Deconstruction of sex/gender

Weak form: Highlights transgender issues as reflecting an identity and culture to be celebrated as an expression of diversity.

Seeks to integrate all three frameworks by keeping the integrity of sex differences, while at the same time having a compassionate management of gender dysphoria while at the same time leaving space for transgendered persons to make meaning, identity and community
It’s Wrong Its Unnatural It’s Beautiful It’s Complicated
Change your ways, gender incongruence must be resolved with ones birth sex. It’s a moral issue. It’s not your fault, you didn’t go looking for this. Dysphoria is not a moral issue, it’s a psychological problem.  Lets help you manage your dysphoria in a variety of ways. Celebrate it, publicize it, normalize it, flaunt it, shame anyone who doesn’t joyfully affirm it. Biological sex matters, however dysphoria exists and will need to be managed in the least invasive ways possible. It’s ok in our society to have diversity like this, but not as a means to deconstruct sex & gender.

 

 

Yarhouse promotes the integrated framework, as the way forward for Christian people, however, any specific details on what that might look like are sparse.

How do people with gender dysphoria cope? The paths that are before them include (1) resolving their Gender Dysphoria in accordance with their biological sex; (2) engaging in cross-dressing behaviour intermittently to manage dysphoria; or (3) adopt the cross-gender role, which may or may not include hormonal treatment and sex-reassignment surgery

What about the children? In particular Yarhouse is wary of the diversity frameworks experimentation with children. A small percentage of children experience some form of gender dysphoria growing up, for most it is resolved with their birth sex by adulthood. Studies are showing that efforts to use puberty suppressing hormones, or aggressive pro-transgender political ideology to push a child in a direction away from their birth sex are creating more suffering, not less. Indeed both the statistics and the stories that Yarhouse shared are troubling. It seems like, loving a child well, without forcing inflexible gender roles on them is probably the best way to navigate gender dysphoria in children.  I am sure Yarhouse, would approve  Lindsay Leigh Bentley’s story: I am Ryland – the story of a male identifying little girl who didn’t transition, particularly the role her father played in her development. The American College of Paediatricians recent release on the subject of gender ideology and children further bolsters what Yarhouse’s lifetime of research seems to be indicating. (note: the ACP is a relatively small organization of paediatricians that has splintered off of the larger, AAP)

Does biology even matter? —  a movement away from biology as a way of knowing or identifying is certainly underway. The international Gay and Lesbian Commission puts it this way: We make trans and intersex issues our priority because their presence, activism and theoretical contributions show us the path to a new paradigm that will allow as many bodies, sexualities and identities to exist as those living in this world might wish to have, with each one of them respected, desired, celebrated. While Yarhouse certainly recognizes the increasing complexities surrounding understanding human sexuality he is a lot more hesitant to jump into this new paradigm for knowing. To him it smacks of individual preference and cultural pressure not science. Is who we are, really a matter of what ever we might imagine ourselves to be? Yarhouse is unconvinced. But it would seem that the cultural air of the day might be putting him in a minority position. Click Here to watch a very interesting video that reveals our societies growing desire to dispense with traditional ways of knowing.

What about sex reassignment surgery? 

Yarhouse, quotes  Paul R. McHugh’s article “Psychiatric Misadventures”, in American Scholar magazine. In the article McHugh  likens sex-reassignment surgery to liposuction for anorexics:

“Is it not obvious how this patient’s feeling that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body is similar from the feeling of a patient with anorexia nervosa that she is obese despite her emaciated, cachectic state. We don’t do liposuction on anorexics. Why amputate the genitals of these poor men? Surely, the fault is in the mind not the member. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.”

Reassignment surgery does, Yarhouse admits, resolve the problem of gender dysphoria in approximately 75% of people who go through with it. However, in a recent study out of Sweden, that same demographic were found to be 20x more likely to commit suicide, have way higher mortality rates and are likely to need long term psychiatric and somatic follow up. It would seem that creating the body one would want to fit with what one imagines themselves to be does not correlate to health and well being.

What about brain sex theory? — This interesting theory posits that persons, could be female in their brain, but a male in their body, or vice versa. This is said to be a neuro-developmental condition of the brain.  The sex part of the brain, and it’s anatomical counterpart didn’t actually match up while developing in the womb.  There is no solid data on this theory to date and research is producing mixed results at best, at this point, science has no idea what causes gender dysphoria.

What is the role of Christian people? 

  1. There is high value in encouraging individuals who experience gender identity conflicts to resolve the conflicts in keeping with their birth sex if possible. Where those strategies prove unsuccessful, there is potential value in managing the gender identity conflict or concern through the least invasive means.
  2. Avoid adherence to rigid stereotypes of what it means to be male or female; recognize a range of experiences of our gender and ways of relating as gendered selves through various norms and roles that can be described along a continuum.
  3. Churches often operate with the following progression:
  • Behave — Believe — Belong. This won’t work.
  • Rather :Belong — Believe — Become

This book doesn’t have answers to complex pastoral questions, but it’s helpful in giving all a clear view of the horizon in front of us.

Is God anti-gay? (Book Review) Sam Allberry

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Sam Alberry is a Christian with a unique perspective. He admits that he is same sex attracted, but yet he stands resolutely opposed to fulfilling those attractions. He answers the question of his book title with a negative. Sam is certain that God is not anti-anyone, but if so, then why must he deny himself?

Gay is not who I am — He believes It is unhealthy for sexual preference to be the fundamental identifier of a human. This is why Sam prefers the term “same sex attracted” over the term gay. Just like it would be off to lock someone into the identity of carnivore simply because they like to eat a steak on occasion so to would it be inappropriate to lock someone into a sexual identity. A human is far more than what his natural appetites might be. To build an identity off of this one part of humanity is unfair to the human.

Sex outside of marriage is a bad idea — He believes that sex was intended to be so much more than casual. In a way, sex is like a post-it note. The first time you use it, it sticks well, but when it is reapplied too many times, it loses its capacity to stick to anything. We are simply not designed for multiple sexual relationships. Sex becomes less relational, more functional and less satisfying as a result. Sex is designed to irreversibly knit two people together. When it’s used for anything other than this, despite what the sitcoms preach, there is emptiness, brokenness and devastation.

Marriage needs both genders — He is also convinced that marriage is rooted in gender. It’s the great reunion. God made Eve from Adam, and then in a brilliant stroke, He puts them back together permanently through the sexual union that comes with marriage. Marriage according to God, says Sam, can only be the reunion of these two genders.

Let’s just be friends — According to Sam, a common problem among SSA people, including himself, is what he calls “friendship heroin.” Sam’s tendency, is to develop an unhealthy emotional dependancy on another person. If he is not careful he can get “high” on the affirmation of this friend which can easily result in intense but unhealthy longings. According to Sam, simply knowing this and being able to work through the dangers of “friendship heroin” together, and not “freaking out” is very helpful for people with SSA that really just want regular friendships, not the unhealthy addictive versions.

The Bible is clear — Sam has been told innumerable times that the Old Testament has lots of rules that the modern Christian doesn’t adhere to, so why can’t homosexuality just be one of those now irrelevant rules? Sam’s answer: Jewish civic law and Jewish temple law have been fulfilled in Christ. Those rules don’t apply anymore. However, moral law finds itself restated in the New Testament — specifically covering this particular area. If one wishes to give in to SSA and live in a lifestyle that allows for the fulfillment of those longings, he will have to do it, in opposition to what the Scripture says, something Sam is not willing to do. To quote him directly: “Life is far, far better when Jesus is at the centre, and far, far worse when anyone or anything else is.”  because of this belief he is willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus. Which is actually the calling of all Christians.

I applaud Sam’s tremendous courage to speak out. I am certain that homophobes on one side of him will criticize him unmercifully for his admission to SSA, surely he can’t be a Christian, without denying his same sex attraction they will say. On the other side, the gay activists will take equally unmerciful shots at him, incredulous as to how he could possibly deny his own sexual appetites for the sake of what they are certain is out dated and inaccurate dogma.

Click below to watch a short video of Sam explaining his unique position.

Sam from Living Out on Vimeo.

The Purity Principle (Book Review) Randy Alcorn

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For anyone left in our western world still interested in the concept of moral purity this is a helpful little resource.

Big Idea: Purity is always smart, impurity is always stupid. There is such a thing as moral law and it is as sure as the law of gravity. Test the law of gravity by stepping off a cliff you’ll get hurt. Test the law of purity by engaging in impurity you’ll get hurt

What loads of people will disagree with: What is moral purity then? Sex is a privilege inseparable from the responsibilities of the sacred marriage covenant. To claim the privilege apart from the responsibility perverts God’s intention and breaks the law of moral purity.

A lingering uncomfortable truth: Our society has in many respects muted the natural consequences for breaking moral law. We can prevent disease and eliminate the possibility of unwanted children. We can even alter any social stigma connected to sex outside of marriage. However there is no contraceptive for a guilty conscience. Even if the physical and cultural toll has been lessened through science and humanist philosophy, the emotional, psychological, and spiritual toll has not.  The social landscape of our society remains littered with the carnage of broken hearts and broken lives.

Final observations: When it comes to breaking moral law, it rarely if ever, just happens, the battle for moral purity takes place in the mind, and it is lost in one hundred silent secret steps before any large leaps into impurity happen.

Perhaps the three greatest greenhouses for the growth of immorality are anonymity, loneliness, and leisure time. Remove these three from peoples lives, and immorality would sharply decline.

Maleficent Movie Review

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Romantic love is good for warm fuzzes and box office sales, but it’s lousy for human flourishing.

The stories are all variations of the same thing. In about 2 hours time, a boy meets a girl, he is strong and handsome, she is beautiful, there is chemistry and connection. As the movie unfolds, there is a series of incredible circumstances that catapult the couple together, they become intimate, and romantic love triumphs once again. Over and over again we are visually educated that love is little more than a connection, a feeling oriented superficial gush that leads to bodies intwined in passionate embrace. This electric feeling is what results in happily ever after. In our deep hearts we know better and so does Maleficent.

“True loves kiss” goes badly for her. The handsome boy in a ploy to gain kingship uses romance to steal her wings and shatter her heart. Maleficent’s deep sorrow turns to hatred. She becomes violent, selfish, evil.  She is ready with her revenge when the king finally has a daughter. Eternal sleep will befall the child when she turns 16, a sleep that only “true loves kiss” can awaken. Maleficent is delighted with her sinister plot. The child will never awake because “true loves kiss” is only a fantasy. The child is spirited away to a secluded forest cottage in hopes that the curse won’t find her there when she turns 16. Maleficent regularly visit the cottage to make miserable the lives of the 3 fairies who have been tasked to care for the child. However, slowly over the course of 16 years, Maleficent begins to develop an affection for the child. She begins to care for her in quiet ways, to protect and provide for her, so much so, that she tries to revoke the curse on the eve of the girls 16 birthday, but to no avail. Sadly, the curse falls upon her and she is laid to rest in the kings palace. In desperation, Maleficent takes a handsome young man to the palace, maybe “true loves kiss” is real? The boy kisses the sleeping beauty but nothing happens. Finally, Maleficent emerges from the shadows, tears falling freely, she repents of her wickedness and makes a promise to the girl. Even though this girl will never awake, will never fill Maleficent’s heart with joy again, Maleficent determines to care for her, she will make sure that no harm comes to her as she lies in repose. Gently Maleficent seals her covenant promise with a kiss. The girl awakes!

The heart of true love is not an electric feeling, or great sex, or good chemistry. It is a promise kept, a commitment to care for someone no matter what. Feelings are important, but they are fickle, they come and go, they change and fluctuate. They should never define what we believe about true love. Falling in and out of love is tiresome business that results in way too much pain and suffering. Romantic feeling oriented love is over rated. I am with Maleficent on this one, covenant love is the better path.

This should not have happened to me!

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It was a beautiful day to study. I had just settled in on one of my favourite benches near the lost lagoon in Stanely Park, when I had the strange sensation that someone was watching me. I looked up from my books and turned around. There behind me perhaps 15 meters away in the bushes was a well muscled young man standing beside his bicycle, he was looking at me. No worries, I went back to studying. Still my unease remained, so I looked over my shoulder again, he was still there, but this time it appeared as though he was studying me. As I tried to return to my work I realized that I couldn’t. Why was this man watching me with such intensity? I decided I would make direct eye contact and find out. So for a third time I turned around. At that moment the man grinned in a sinister way, lowered his pants, exposed himself to me and began to massage his manhood in plain view.  With his other hand, he pointed directly at me, and then commanded me to  “Come here!” I was shocked, disgusted, traumatized, violated, angered, and afraid all at once. I grabbed my books and backpack, yelled at him “No!” and ran off.

I kept running until I found another bench far away and in a very public place. I called my wife and as we talked she suggested I call the police. They came immediately, and together we searched in vain to find the perpetrator. As we drove around in the squad car, I asked the officer what the primary crime in our neighbourhood was. Without hesitation he said sexual abuse. People, he told me, are always trying to take advantage of each other sexually and as a result many people feel violated. Since we were only three days away from the Pride parade, (a parade in our neighbourhood which celebrates, among other things, sexual freedom) I asked the officer if during this time of year there was a spike in sexual abuse complaints. He said yes.

That got me thinking. Are we as a society helping to increase sexual abuse or decrease sexual abuse? I think it’s the former. The cry for freedom is a noble one, but maybe not so much when it comes to sex. If we as a society tell ourselves that we are free to experience whatever sexual pleasure we happen to desire then we shouldn’t be surprised when people regularly break through the rather loose constraints of “responsible” and “consensual” to maximize whatever they think will give them the most pleasure. This is exactly what’s happening in my neighbourhood and it’s exactly what happened to me. This man who attempted to violate me, acted upon a freedom principle he has learned from our society. Granted he was willing to break through more fences then most to get what he wanted, but still, if we continue to promote sexual freedom as one of the highest ideals in our society, then we will have to continue to accept sexual abuse as one of it’s unintended consequences.

Perhaps there is a better ideal to strive for when it comes to our sexuality than freedom. As one who has been violated, I am certainly willing to explore other options. What if, for example, freedom was supplanted by faithfulness as our society’s highest ideal when it comes to sexuality? What if faithfulness was the message we taught our children in schools and at home. What if our popular culture began to frame it’s art, movies, and music around this ideal? Would sexual abuse increase or decrease? My suspicion is that it would decrease and humans would flourish.

A Little Gnosticism With That?

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Gnosticism starts out with a bloody nose, shoved out of the way, covered in dust, an unhappy loser in the battle to explain Christianity. It’s the theory about Jesus that didn’t win, but losing is the genius of gnosticism. Without it’s 2nd place finish it doesn’t exist. Gnosticism comes alive only because it believes that the crude layers of “counterfeit” Christianity must be peeled back to discover the truth.

Gnosticism is all about discovering hidden knowledge. What are some of the discoveries? The hidden truths about God and Jesus are many and varied, but there is a basic story line: The ultimate God is completely transcendent and unknowable, divine emanations proceed forth from him in the form lesser deities. Finally, the God of the Jews, A deity extremely low on the depth chart, discovers that he is powerful enough to create but stupid enough to see the foolishness of creating. The earth is born on the ill-advised whim of a lesser deity. The unpleasant business of matter has begun. The whole plan is a disaster from the beginning. Ultimately the human will need to escape the debacle that is the material world. Jesus factors into the escape plan but not as a human and not in any clear sense. Jesus is divine it is believed, and divinity can never merge with humanity. Jesus’  life on earth is mysterious, ghostly even — not human. He doesn’t do miracles or connect in earthy ways with humans as the four gospels suggest. He teaches secret things to special people. With resentment the gnostic faithful blamed ignorant Jews for founding a church with a Jesus that is both human and divine.

The Gnostic heresy officially lost. The Nicene creed of 325 A.D. was the certified repudiation of it, but it did not go extinct on the contrary strands of it’s influence pervaded the church and continue until this very day. Perhaps the most troublesome impact of gnostic heresy on Christianity was the notion that the soul is good and the body bad. Somehow in spite of official decree this dichotomy remained entrenched in Christian thought with horrible ramifications. For example, sex became a bad thing, because it was this very physical matter oriented act that created more living breathing matter, and matter was bad! The great church father Augustine remarked “nothing turns my thoughts towards darkness quicker then the caresses of a woman.” Women were the collateral damage of this belief system they were of less value because it was their charms that further spread the darkness. It’s no surprise that at the end of the gnostic gospel of Thomas we learn that women will not be allowed into heaven!  Its was believed that a Christian businessman could never hope to be as spiritual as a priest or monk, a structure of value based on asceticism and denial of material pleasure began to shape an entire culture. If one enjoyed the simple pleasures of life too much, suspicious glances would be cast in their direction, material pleasure became a dirty thing.

Christians do not believe that the human is a good soul imprisoned in an evil body. A Christian should love his body and the pleasures that go with it because they are gifts from a good God. The human problem is not the body or the pleasures it affords. The problem is how the human manages to take God’s good gifts and pervert them or make idols out of them, choosing to love the gift more than the giver.  This is where the real evil resides and why Jesus’ rescue mission had to happen.