Two items relating to (mainly male, but see below) sexuality have been appearing on my Facebook feed. Together they have prompted this reflection, even if it should confirm Netguardian in their decision to filter this blog.1
The first concerns a man who during, a “mission” to free children and women from enforced prostitution2 committed the sin of adultery. This is the article Undercover investigator’s harrowing story. The issue being discussed was whether like Hayden Donnell (the author of the piece) we should see the man as a hero, or as a villain. Basically and crudely do we focus on his sin which (the story implies) wrecked his family, or on the children and women his actions save from degradation and suffering.
The other was a video, little discussed, “shared” and sometimes “liked” but not discussed:
Yet does this video not raise more and more practical questions?
It seems to me that the research Jessica Rey cites (which I have not seen and am taking her word for, unless you know differently) describes the male human as sinful (i.e. subject to the power of Sin, in this particular case leading, if not effectively resisted, to sexual sins)3 As many commentators on the “undercover investigator” article noted sex is indeed a besetting sin of (many or most, at least) male humans. The video also implies, however, that there may be a complementary female besetting sin, of seeking to arouse male lust. This notion is of course abhorrent to many/most women: Can’t you men control yourselves?!
The short answer is we can, and some of us (so far) have, but your actions and the general behaviour our society finds acceptable do not make it easy. Cheap, ubiquitous, multimedia communications exacerbate this problem. We have this problem because our society refuses to recognise that humans are sinful, inclined towards wrong. To cling to the, demonstrably false, notion that humans are ‘naturally’ good does us all a disservice. It contributes to the sexual slavery of women and even children, and also to the different (and yes, less severe and self-inflicted) sexual slavery of (many) men. 4
A friend told me yesterday that he was unable to access the posts below as Netguardian perceived it as falling in the category: “Category: Pornography Description: Sites that portray sexual acts, activity, nudity, toys, stories/writings, beastiality, fetishes, videos, etc.”
This has been appealed and hopefully this post will not confirm their view that my blog should be filtered.
NB: I am not complaining about Netguardian, such filter services are useful for reasons that the post above should make quite clear. [↩]
By gathering evidence to present to the authorities. [↩]
NB. I distinguish here, ‘Sin’ using an initial capital, as the power which Paul says is at work in us undermining our best intentions and releasing our worst, see e.g. Rom 7, and ‘sin’ some particular wrong act which hurts us and/or others. [↩]
I’m in pass-on-the-great-posts-I’ve-read-recently mode, I’m sorry that this one too is from a blog I’ve recommended before. What can I say? Either I’m a hide-bound creature of habit or these are superb posts, or both ;)
Unlike the previous recommendation, this one is all hype. In On Warfare and Weakness: Part 1, A Real Fight Richard Beck offers little but promises. But what promises he is making! Nothing short of “a vision of progressive Christianity that … is exciting and might have popular appeal” through bringing two somewhat dissimilar books “into conversation… the books are God at War by Greg Boyd and The Weakness of God by John Caputo.”
If this first post (apart from the 27, to date, comments) is all hype, why am I recommending it? Well I expect more and want you to get in at the start, but also because he offers this quote from William James as a motto:
If this life is not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight.
Now, that’s not only a reason to get out of bed in the morning, it’s a straightforward challenge. I’m with James, where do you stand?
Chris Heard has been doing a really fine and deeply thoughtful (and perhaps provocative) series on Scriptural claims about the inspiration of Scripture the series is not over, but has arrived at the stage of partial conclusions. You should read it (if you are reading this, then whoever you are you SHOULD read it) if you prepare a carnival (whether in Avignon, Rome, Geneva or someplace else) you MUST include it!
As part of my move to deliver the screencast versions of 5 minute Bible via You Tube I’ve been looking closely at the automatic captions the system offers. Basically I go in and tidy them up. Some are atrocious, making out I swear or say the most outlandish things. I’m not sure whether it’s my strange (British, close to “Received Pronunciation”) accent or whether it’s the topics. Certainly You Tube has less problems with Beatrix Potter’s stories than with my 5 minute Bible episodes… though again this could be the difference between a text read and one spoken from notes…
The biggest tasks have been the sermons. I did the one I posted the other day almost straight away, today I did this one on making sense of Revelation.
The advantage I hope to gain is accessibility. Both for humans with hearing issues, and for the great and powerful Googlebot. If the transcripts actually say what the audio says, then surely Google will direct better traffic my way (as in people who are actually interested in topics like making sense of Revelation, and not what Laurie Guy called the goofy stuff).
I love the short ending of Mark. To end a gospel with “for they were afraid” is brilliant, to end this gospel like that is nothing short of genius. Add to the pleasure of real richly provocative composition the ending seems to focus on the theme of the “fear of God” – hardly a popular topic today ;)
I really enjoyed myself, but what do you think?
And before ex-Carey students complain, I admit, I broke my own advice and did not offer concrete local real application, but stopped with vague and general “theology” :( Maybe if this was a series on Mark 16 (in the best edition of Mark) then I’d have managed that too ;)
In view of conversations I’ve had recently with some of you, you may find this interesting: The Christian Purity Culture: More From The Atlantic Interview Richard is always thoughtful, usually thought provoking, and often spot on (IMHO). He approaches faith and theology from his professional background as a Psychologist, but one with a strong grounding in Theology and a deep faith.
Bob linked to a presentation he’s prepared: New presentation available on Seeing the Psalter If like me you have been too preoccupied over recent years to really follow his project, or if you have not heard of it, this half hour (or less if the technical stuff at the end does not interest you) makes it all clear.
I’ve now bought the book, despite being “retired” and having no allowance for such things any more, and expect to draw interesting and useful ideas from it over months to come. If you are interested in patterns and structures of repetition in biblical texts this seems like a must read… but see the presentation for your self :)
Perhaps it’s because I recently did a series of guest posts summarising the ideas from my book about God as mother (I also did podcast versions of the summaries) or perhaps there really have been more voices raised this year putting the case against having a “mothers’ day”. Either way, the mothers’ day scrooges make at least two very powerful cases. Both are emotionally charged, so I have waited till a couple of days after to write this post.
Let me first summarise how I hear the cases against (I do not want to be thought to be picking an order, so I’ll start with the first that crossed my eyes and ears this year):
Many women either do not have children, or have lost children. For them “mothers’ day” is an annual reminder of their pain, rubbing salt into their wounds. This is a real and powerful argument, which (of course) applies almost equally to fathers’ day.1 The argument is a crushing indictment of the rush to profit from this day at the expense of these sisters. It is also a sharp and accurate critique of the way “mothers’ day” is treated in many (until recently most) churches – at the least, we should not celebrate and pray for mothers without recognising and praying for the pain of many non-mothers.
Many people have/had bad mothers. Somehow because our societal expectations of mothers are higher (men are expected to neglect their children “because of their jobs” and we turn a less than sharp eye to the way some men father children and then relinquish their responsibilities to love and care for their offspring,2 the experience of a bad mother hurts at least as deeply and is perhaps more often hidden than that of a bad father. Mothers’ day is for them also a painful reminder.
And yet, precisely because parenting arouses such deep hurt or sense of blessing, it is important. Children need good loving adult care. In a society which has turned its back resolutely, if with blind stupidity, to the “it takes a village to raise a child” approach3 mothers and fathers (and the grandmothers and grandfathers who often share or assume the role in a broken world)4 whether biological or adoptive, or even honorary need celebrating and supporting.
Perhaps, instead of mothers’ day and fathers’ day we could have a few childrens’ days each year, when everyone celebrates those who care(d) for them as children, and also those who are currently caring for children. A day when instead of being exclusive we include. When parents gift childless people with the pleasure of a picnic and a play in the park with the children (or whatever) and children enjoy the gift of time (and perhaps, to keep the supermarket owners from starvation, chocolate or toys) from honorary aunties and uncles, and we all celebrate the wonder and joy of childhood. We could also spend some of the money that is currently lavished on cards and presents to support the organisations that provide this care for children who are less parentally gifted.
I would not have written “almost” because, for childless men with strong parental feelings, the “almost” seems an insult to their pain, yet I recognise that such strong parental feelings are, sadly, less common in men than women in our society. [↩]
Again, I know this IS a generalisation, there are also men denied the chance to fully fulfill their role because of the way our courts privilege the mother’s “claim”. [↩]
The proverb is African, but the practice was once simply human. [↩]
It is striking how many grandparents we know who are primary or very significant caregivers for small children. [↩]