Tag Archives: sexuality

Elements of Reconciliation – Listening

Read a tweet this morning from @mattgallion, “The humility built into community is the recognition of incompleteness, not of partial incorrectness. – @pagitt

In trying to develop a series on the Elements of Reconciliation (The first one in no particular order, is memory), I’ve been reading more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and been very convicted by the fact that listening is a key component to healing.

The basic concept of the Truth and Reconciliation is that amnesty is granted when perpetrators and victims confess their crimes and losses before the other and they must listen to one another fully. The perpetrators disclose fully their acts of violence, even to the gory details. The victims and survivors listen. Then the victims talk about their grief and pain, the perpetrators listen. Then after the hearings, amnesty is granted by the commission.

One of the reasons why reconciliation doesn’t happen in Christian America is that we listen to caricatures and we speak as caricatures. People who have been victims and are victims don’t have the space/freedom/choice to speak and those who carry these crimes out don’t speak either. Or worse, we speak into these huge amplification systems of media and fear mongering (sometimes even the church participates in this one) that keep us from really listening to what is happening.

Case in point, do you know any “illegal” (the preferred term is undocumented, btw) immigrants? Have you ever asked them if they pay anything for their hospital visit? Have you ever asked them how long it takes to get citizenship? Have you ever heard their story? Did you listen, really listen?

Or do you know the stories of the people struggling with their sexual identity and sexuality? Have you heard their stories and how painful their journey has been? How they would have given anything to be “normal”? How many of them have trouble reconciling with their faith in God because of the tempest of emotions, morals, and ethics they wrestle with on a daily, if not hourly, minutely basis? Have you listened?

Don’t get me wrong…I know that ultimately it is important to align our lives to God’s answers and God’s story. Yeah, I get that. I’m just saying you can’t just say that and not listen. Christians don’t have a very good reputation when it comes to listening. Christians are more likely to roll their eyes at words like racial reconciliation and oppression. We are so tired of taking the blame, I suppose. It can feel like there are all kinds of things that we as American Christians can be faulted for on issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality, that we just begin to get tired and defensive. But I think as followers of Christ we don’t have a choice. How can we expect people to really hear the gospel of Jesus Christ if we aren’t willing to listen to their story? If we don’t ourselves cultivate our own stories?

Our “hearing” is directly related to our obedience; the Hebrew word for “hear” is synonymous with the word, “obey”. I think in the work of reconciliation, to “listen” is also closely related to “hearing.” If we’re not hearing the stories of our brothers and sisters who live at the margins, who are disenfranchised, who are suffering and feel slighted, does it not also bring up questions of our ability to obey? I don’t know, maybe that’s a stretch, but I am convinced that listening is more important in the work of reconciliation than speaking, even. What do you think?

What is the Relationship Between Sexuality and Spirituality?

Historically, Christians have an inherent tension with sexuality. Jesus wasn’t married, nor was Paul. And the Gospel writers are pretty silent on the topic. If you take that into the medieval monastic scholarship, the absence of the mention of sexuality leads to a prohibition of sorts. Just like certain orders prohibited laughter because while there is a mention of Jesus weeping in Scripture, there is none of him laughing. The thought process was that if it were mentioned at all, it was permissible. Anything unmentioned, we probably shouldn’t do. But the problem with applying that with sexuality is that if we don’t do that, we don’t really make it past one generation.

And so we behave strangely with regards that which is arguably most human, most carnal. Even when those of us ideologues know that gnosticism is a heresy, we don’t know how to fully engage a theology of incarnation when sexuality is such a bomb. And where we fear to tread, the world learns to dance and enjoys themselves. How then shall we live?

How would you answer this man’s question?

And if you don’t like Portuguese accents, here’s a transcription:

Sexuality and Spirituality. Why sexuality is a taboo for most religions? Why should we repress something that was given by God to us in the name of, we don’t know why? Our conversation this week is about how do you exercise your sexuality in a sacred way, and also to understand why society and religion tends to repress this important part of our lives.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Is it just a matter of repression? Can the church speak about sexuality in a healthy way?

Here’s a video of someone who was raised Christian, but as she grows into her mid-20’s is starting to re-evaluate her faith in part because of the “allergic reaction” (my words, not hers) she observed and remembers from her Christian background. Now if you watch the video, you can really hear her honesty come through. You can criticize her for being young and naive and whatever. But let’s also listen carefully – what I admire about this young woman is the fact that she wants to “do her own math”, work out the problem herself. She doesn’t want to just look at the answer in the back of the book regarding sexuality, but my point is that she’s also not looking IN the book either. So how can Christians discuss sexuality in a way that is healthy and not phobic; authentic without being cliche; with gravitas and faithfulness?

We cannot simply be a people of the “no” when it comes to discussing matters of sexuality, we must be people who first wrestle with our idealism about sex, sexiness, intimacy, and purity. Our abstinence in the dialogue will not lead to sexual abstinence. Only our confession and our engagement will bring about what we want. And to point out the plank in our own eyes would be to look at the rate of divorce and sexual addiction among Christians, we have to get healthy enough and strong enough to have this discussion.


Reconciling Premarital Sex

From the Introduction of the book, “Premarital Sex in America: How Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying.”

In December 2006, researchers from the Guttmacher Institute released a report about the historic and contemporary prevalence of premarital sex, and they received an avalanche of media attention for it. Their news: about 95 percent of the American public had their first experience of sexual intercourse before they got married. The report also suggested that this is nothing new–even most Americans born in the 1940s reported having sex before marriage. But having sex before you’re married doesn’t mean you had sex by age 18, or even age 25 (although opportunities for premarital sex are certainly increasing). This book is about the heteroesexual decisions and relationships of unmarried Americans between the ages of 18 and 23, and our best data estimate suggests about 84 percent of them have already had sex.

Ironically, we won’t actually use the term premarital sex very often. Not because the sexual relationships we will describe here aren’t actually premarital–they are–but because the term itself has changed meanings. Historically, it implied a sexual relationship between a couple who eventually got married. Most sexual relationships among contemporary young adults, however, no longer result in marriage. And an increasing share of American adults aren’t marrying at all. Yes, premarital sex has lost much of its association with marriage, at least marriage to a particular partner. It now tends to refer to any act of sexual intercourse that occurs prior to a person’s getting married. Whether it’s a person’s first sexual partner, an old boyfriend, a one-night stand, or someone’s eventual spouse, the “who” has become less important than the “when in the use of the term.

OK, just this first page of the introduction probably sounds like Planet Bizarro to those who rarely step out of Christendom, but the fact of the matter is that the notion and value of sexual integrity, purity and wholeness has gone by the wayside. And if you thought prime time shows like “Desperate Housewives” or “Sex in the City” were downright shameful, you have no idea what the emerging generation watches in shows like “Skins” which takes the casualness of sexual encounter in high school to a whole new, brazen level. There’s a difficulty in reconciling something that is as epic as marriage. I don’t know if I’m alone in that thought, but it’s like trying to prove that breathing cleaner air will increase your lifespan when there is always that exceptional smoker who lives to 110. The value of fidelity is difficult to prove; because you’re trying to prove a negative — you can be happier by abstaining from sex. How would you know? You can’t have a control group for yourself while you ponder sowing a wild oat or two.

So where does reconciliation begin within a culture of sexual permissiveness? I think we begin with relationship as the fundamental metric. Without judgment or condition, we must be able to make and sustain friendships with people whom we feel border on promiscuity. Luckily, we have a model for this in a certain rabbi named Yeshua. Incarnation precedes reconciliation — not simply tolerance or suppression of a gag reflex, where they know that we are coming off some high place to be with them, that we are just marginally their friends, but that we care deeply for them. Never forget that despite our notions of purity and wholeness for ourselves, it is still not by our righteousness that we stand before God. Even now. We are even now clothed with a righteousness that is not ours.