Blog | Topic: Identity

Treating Your Heart Like Precious Cargo

As a post-grad, I spent a couple of years in cubicle world working at an insurance agency. My first position there was as their front desk receptionist, and it was my job to transfer calls and manage the mail room. One day, while putting together the Second Day Air UPS envelopes, I missed inserting the address sleeve into the clear plastic cover of one of the packages. A few days later, an agent in our office asked me to track that particular package, and the blood drained from my face when I realized that the shipping barcode had never been generated. Come to find out, it was extremely precious cargo. Inside the destination-less envelope was an annuity check for six figures. Without a timely arrival, the agent lost the client and the hefty commission on the account. To this day, I still feel a hint of that pit in my stomach when I think about that mistake that didn’t just affect me, but someone else’s livelihood!

I say all this because I think that a lot of dating relationships resemble that envelope. You’ve been dating for a little while, but no actual intention has been established. And yet, the more time you spend together, the more the physical side of the relationship escalates. In essence, the plane has taken off before the flight path has been confirmed. I think most Christians would agree that boyfriends don’t get marriage privileges (at least in theory), but I submit to you that friends and dates shouldn’t get boyfriend privileges, either.

True pursuit acknowledges the preciousness of what’s being pursued and is careful to match the pace of a relationship with the definitions. Are you friends who happen to like each other? Great! Don’t let your “friend” treat you like a girlfriend until he’s made that public commitment. Are you dating and “figuring things out”? Awesome! Don’t be pressured to give in to any kind of intimacy that doesn’t belong in that stage. You run the risk of being strung along in a relationship that begins to resemble a cardboard container that doesn’t value its contents.

Now, here’s where gray areas emerge and you need help from the Holy Spirit. What are good physical boundaries for dating? I can’t decide that for you. And I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog post. But, I will say that it shouldn’t be anything you’d regret if the relationship doesn’t end up going anywhere, and it needs to be firmly established with accountability long before Mr. Potential shows up. Don’t decide as you go, because I guarantee that you will underestimate the power of the cloudy, smoky rave that parties in your frontal cortex at the onset of a blossoming relationship.

Some of you ladies have already sensed the truth in what I’m about to say through personal experience. One of the most devastating realizations for a woman is when she knows she’s being pursued more for her body than for her heart. Because deep down, all anyone wants is to be fully known and then fully loved. And if someone simply doesn’t see the value in pursuing what’s on the inside, we feel reduced to any other cheap envelope without a unique tracking number.  I have friends who are pre-marital counselors and they have said that 90% of the time, when couples come to them with relational difficulties, it always stems from pushing the physical boundaries too far early on in their relationship.

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Disclaimer:God’s grace covers past relationships and even ones you are currently in. It’s never too late to stand up for your value and set new boundaries. If your lines force an exit, good riddance! He’s not where he needs to be to pursue you in love and protect you in truth. If you feel like, after setting those boundaries, he’s always looking for ways to cross them, you need to think and pray seriously about your next steps. I believe that each stage in any relationship is a training ground for the next. And respect is a muscle. If he doesn’t flex it now, how will that lack of cardio show up in future situations when the stakes are higher?

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At the end of the day, you, my friend, are a daughter of the King of the Universe. You were bought with a price much greater than 6 figures- the price of His Son, Jesus. And you are clothed in His righteousness so that you won’t step back in the mud but instead, see clearly the path of real, God-honoring, Kingdom work. I truly believe that if you recognize your worth as His image-bearer and your position in his reign, you wouldn’t need to read this article or learn from the tough pill of regret. You would have everything you need to make wise dating decisions.

Love,

R


A version of this post originally appeared on Not Singled Out on December 16, 2018. Used by permission.

Rachelle Windham – I am a redeemed follower of Jesus Christ, and I desire to spend my time on earth using any gifts, passions, strengths, and even weaknesses to serve Him. I am especially passionate about Biblical singleness, discipling younger women, seeing God’s power and creativity in studying His world, and approaching each new season of life with Christ in a sense of ADVENTURE! You can find more of her writing at: www.notsingledout.com.

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What The Church Gets Wrong About Singleness and Marriage

This article was originally posted at Relevant

Church can be a tough place for single people. Most Christians don’t realize it, unless they’re single, but if you step back and look at our Christian culture, you’ll see that we elevate marriage. In some cases, we idolize it. We see a beautiful girl and we say, “What a catch!” We see a handsome man and say, “He’ll sure make a wonderful spouse someday.”

If they’re still not married by the age of 30, we think something’s wrong, or perhaps they’re too picky. “Why aren’t they married yet?” This is code for: Something must be wrong with you. If you were living out your full potential and making all the right choices, you’d be married by now.

Parents especially can put undue (and unbiblical) pressure on their kids if they don’t get married and have kids. You have to wonder whether parents are actually thinking about what’s best for their kids, or just wanting what’s best for themselves—i.e. grandkids.

Singleness is rarely viewed in positive light in American Christianity, even though it’s extolled in the New Testament.

Singleness in the Bible

In the Old Testament, most people got married, had kids and passed on their inheritance to their children, who in turn passed it on to their children. Laws were even set up to ensure that one’s family name was passed on through a male heir (Deuteronomy 25:5-10, Ruth 4:7). It was assumed that people would get married and start a family. It wasn’t a sin not to. But it was sort of expected.

Things changed in the New Testament, however. Jesus reconfigured the Old Testament’s emphasis on family when he recognized all Christians as brothers and sisters: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asked. “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33, 35; Matthew 12:48-50). After Peter praises himself for leaving everything, Jesus responds:

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and bothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands. (Mark 10:29-30)

Discipleship might cost you your family. Yet becoming a disciple means you gain a new family of believers who are your brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers in Christ.

Jesus considers all believers—not just married folk—to be family. We’re not kind of like a family. We are family.

The apostle Paul almost downplays marriage in light of the beautiful prospect of singleness. “If you do marry, you have not sinned … Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Marriage isn’t wrong, but Paul clearly preferred the single life. “He who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Corinthians 7:38).

And, of course, John the Baptist and Jesus were unmarried men of marital age—a shocking sight to a first-century Jewish world. Perhaps they were just picky. If they could just pray a little harder, God would bless them with a fine woman.

Singleness in the American Evangelical Church

I wonder if the American evangelical church has it all backward. Instead of viewing singleness as a pitiful stage to get through on your way to married life, we should elevate and honor the single people in our midst as those who, in Paul’s words, “will do even better.”

Much of this anti-singleness message saturates the air of our churches, sometimes with words, other times with actions. The message is usually it is subtle and unintended. But single people hear it loud and clear: You’re incomplete until you get married and have at least two kids. (But if you have more than four, then people think you’re weird again.)

Just ask any post-college single person at your church how they feel. Ask them if they feel like they are valued, honored, respected, loved and invited into the lives and homes of other families of the church. Ask them if they are ever made to feel incomplete by off-handed comments (“Why aren’t you married yet?”) or sermon illustrations that always draw from parenting. Ask them how they felt on the weekend that the church was away at Family Camp.

The fact is, marriage is a small blip in our existence. We’re all born single and called to steward our singleness for the first 20-30 years of our life. Many people will be called out of singleness and into marriage and then called to steward their marriage to the glory of God. But us married folks will be single again, in this life, whether through divorce or death of our spouse. And then we’ll spend eternity with God as single persons once again.

But we won’t actually be single. We’ll be one with our Creator; married, if you will, to God.

Some Christians have bought into the cultural narrative that you can’t really thrive unless you’re married and having lots and lots of sex. But Christianity doesn’t teach this. Christians can live without sex, but we can’t live without love and intimacy. And there’s a difference. Human flourishing doesn’t depend on marriage and it certainly doesn’t depend on sex.

Marriage brings with it its own temptations and trials, frustration and other problems that married people don’t often admit. To think that marriage will end your loneliness and take care of your sexual frustrations is a myth. Many married people wish they weren’t and the “majority of people struggling with sexual addictions and compulsive online habits are married men.”

The fact is that we are relationally and sexually messed up. And only Jesus, not marriage, can fix that. Jesus—the one who was single and the embodiment of human flourishing and joy.


A version of this post originally appeared on the Center For Faith, Sexuality, and Gender blog on October 24, 2018. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell(with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence(David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited(IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us(David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue(Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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Why Christians Need to Think about Polyamory

I often get asked, “what’s the next discussion that Christians need to have about sexuality and gender?” My immediate answer is: “polyamory,” though the morality of sex with robotsis a close second.

Polyamory is often confused with polygamy, but they are actually quite different. For one, polygamy is a type of marriagewhile polyamory is not necessarily marital. Also, Polygamy almost always entails a man taking more than one wife, while polyamory is much more egalitarian. “Polyamory is open to any mixture of numbers and genders so it is just as common for a man to be in a relationship with several women as it is for a woman to be in lovewith several men,” writes Mike Hatcher.

Polyamory is also different from swinging or open relationships, though these do overlap. Open relationships are polyamorous, but not every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship. Sex and relationship therapist Renee Divine says: “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexualrelationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, lovingrelationships with multiple people.” And that’s the key. Polyamory is not just about sex. It includes love, romance, and emotional commitment between more than 2 people.

For some Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. It’s wrong. It’s ridiculous. No need to defend why it’s wrong or think through pro-poly arguments. Just quote Genesis 2 and move on. But hopefully we’ve learned the hard way from our rather “late-to-the-discussion” approach with LGBTQ questions that it’s better to get ahead of the game and constructa view rather than just fall back into frantic reactive mode when the issue is in full bloom.

For other Christians, polyamory is only considered when being used in a “slippery slope” argument against same-sex relations—if we allow gay relationships, why not poly relationships? While I agree that the ethical logic used to defend same-sex relations cannot exclude poly relationships, merely using polyamory as a slippery slope argument is inadequate. We actually need to think through plural love, as it’s sometimes called, and do so in a gracious, thoughtful, and biblical manner.

Polyamory is much more common than some people think. According to one estimate“as many as 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships involving consensual nonmonogamy” which is about the same as those who identify as LGBTQ. Another recent study, published in a peer reviewed journal, found that 1 in 5 Americans have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship at least some point in their life. Another survey showed that nearly 70% of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24-35 believe that consensual polyamory is okay—even if it’s not theircup of tea. What about church going folks of the same age? Roughly 24% said they were fine (Regnerus, Cheap Sex, 186).

Why would anyone engage in polyamory? Doesn’t it foster jealousy? Can these relationships really last? Aren’t children who grow up in poly families bound to face relational harm? These are all valid questions, ones which have been addressedby advocates of polyamory. At least one argument says that people pursue polyamorous relationships because it’s their sexual orientation. They really have no other valid option, they say. They’re not monogamously oriented. They’re poly.

I’ll never forget watching Dan Savage, a well-known sex columnist, swat the hornet’s nest when he made the audacious claim that “poly is not an orientation.” Savage is no bastion for conservative ideals, and he himself admitsto having 9 different extra-marital affairs with his husband’s consent. This is why it was fascinating to see him get chastised for making such an outlandish statement—that polyamory is not a sexual orientation.

Is there any merit to the claim that polyamory is a sexual orientation? It all depends on our understanding of sexual orientation. How do you define it? Measure it? Prove it? Disprove it? What exactly issexual orientation? (Stay tuned for a later blog on this.) It’s not as if we take a blood sample to determine whether somebody is gay, straight, or poly. Sexual orientation is much, much messier than most people realize.

Celebrities, of course, have suggested that polyamory is an orientation when they talk about monogamy being “unnatural,” or that some people are just wired for more love than one partner can provide. Pop culture isn’t the only advocate, though. Scholars are also starting to argue that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. As early as 2011, Ann Tweedy, Assistant Professor at Hamline University School of Law, wrote a lengthy 50-page articlein a peer reviewed journal where she argued that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. Tweedy writes: “polyamory shares some of the important attributes of sexual orientation as traditionally understood, so it makes conceptual sense for polyamory to be viewed as part of sexual orientation” (“Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation,” 1514).

The logic is familiar: Those who pursue polyamorous relationships can’t help it. It’s who they are. It’s how God has created them. And it would be wrong to pursue a relationship, like a monogamous one, that goes against their orientation.No, I’m not retorting to the age-old slippery slope argument (e.g. this is where gay relationships will lead). I’m simply summarizing a growing opinion expressed in both pop culture and academia.

Polyamory might be, as a Newsweek article suggested 10 years ago, “The Next Sexual Revolution.”And several of my pastor friends tell me that it’s becoming more common to have people who identify as poly asking about the church’s view on the matter and if they will be accepted and affirmed. These are not abstract questions, and yet the discussion is still young enough so that Christian pastors and leaders have some time to construct a robust, compassionate, thoughtful response to the question—“what’s your church’s stance on people who are poly?” Put more positively, we have time to construct a truly Christian vision for monogamy, if indeed that is the only truly Christian vision.

My purpose of this blog is to put this topic on your radar, not to answer all the questions that you might have. With that in view, here are a few more questions that Christian leaders should wrestle with:

What are the relevant biblical passages and themes that mandate monogamy for those who are called to marriage?

How would you respond to someone who says that Genesis 2, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5 and others are just a few “clobber passages” that are used to beat down poly people?

How do you know that “one man, one woman” statements in the Bible apply to contemporary poly relationships? Perhaps they only prohibit abusive, misogynistic polygamous relationships.

If God’s love for us is plural, and our love for (a Triune) God is plural, then why can’t human love for each other be plural?

Is polyamory a sexual orientation? Why, or why not?

And what is sexual orientation, and should it play a role in determining (or at least shaping) our sexual ethic?

Is it helpful to talk about poly people or should we talk about poly relationships? (And can you pinpoint the important difference?)

Since the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn plural marriages that are polygamous (or does it?), could we say that monogamy is the ideal while still allowing for polyamorous relationships as less than ideal but still accepted in the church? Why, or why not?

If sexual expression is only permitted if it is faithful, consensual, and marital (which is what most Christians would say), then why can’t it be plural? That is, what is the moral logic that drives your view that monogamy is the only way? Is it just “God says so? Or is there some rationale why plural love is immoral?


A version of this post originally appeared on the Center For Faith, Sexuality, and Gender blog on June 7, 2018. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell(with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence(David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited(IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us(David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue(Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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Love, Love: The Intimacy Found In Singleness

This is Part Two in Nathaniel Arroyo’s blog series, “Love, Love.” Read part one here.

When God created man, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and every non-married single person in the Church resounded with, “Have you forgotten about me, God?” 

Being single and Christian can summon a kaleidoscope of emotions, thoughts, and various responses (did I just hear an amen?). In this cultural moment, our craving for intimacy is posted publicly in our status updates and Instagram posts. Could it be that we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that intimacy is best found in romantic and sexual relationships? While I can elaborate more on how we’ve developed a false binary scheme of the two, I really want to tackle singleness in the next 700 words. Our cultural understanding of singleness has led to a sense of loneliness that is only remedied in the communion of Christ. 

Men and women are experiencing their first marriage, on average, between ages 27-30; this proves to be a significant departure from the median age for marriage in previous generations, when individuals would wed between the ages of 20-24. This fact alone may explain why your grandmother has been asking for great grandchildren. Christians are no exception, as this median age applies to those within the Church as well. For this reason, we have far more singles in the Church than at any other time in history. And while I don’t think it’s safe to call the rise of this median age a problem, I do think it proposes a different challenge for Christian singles. Love is harder to find today, and it begs the question worth answering: 

Is “true love” available for singles? 

Whether you’re single, dating, married, celibate, or “it’s complicated,” I hope you find solace and Christ in the following words. 

Singleness isn’t a curse. 

In fact, it’s a gift to receive joyfully. As reluctant I was to write the previous sentence, I can’t help but trust that it is true. Many grow up with the notion that marriage is the epitome of the Christian lifestyle; it’s the Creme Brûlée of Christian delicacies. I did not grow up in a Christian household, yet, growing up, there was an agreed notion in the air that marriage was one most substantial relationships to enter into. To find “the one” was to live your best life. Ideally, the dream would play out like this: the two of us would get married, teasingly argue about the number of kids we were to have and what their names would be, and drive off into every sunset we could find. This would be the relationship in which true love is found. This is where love would be enough. All I needed to do was endure my singleness.

How I wish that I understood sooner that singleness is a gift. There is real intimacy available to us singles that brings lasting joy and satisfaction; and it’s found in Jesus. Yes, the classic Sunday School answer is the remedy to loneliness (notice how I didn’t say singleness), but it’s far more in-depth than proclaiming Jesus as your boyfriend at your local Galentines. When I say Jesus is the pathway to intimacy, we need to understand what it means to bravely enter into a relationship with Him and what He offers. 

When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, we enter into a relationship with True Love. God is love. Jesus is God. The logic follows. Yet, despite having a theological understanding of who God is and how He relates to us, we still find ourselves wrestling with loneliness. Our craving for intimacy still feels starved when we don’t experience physical acts of love. Tim Keller exposes our desire for intimacy in his book, “The Meaning Of Marriage:”

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Trusting Keller’s wisdom, then, means being fully knownand truly lovedis already a reality because Jesus created you and He died for you.

I love how David, the Psalmist, puts it, “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” God knows you. Your hands, feet, the curvature of your nose, the roundness of your shoulders, the hue of your iris — He knitted you together in your mother’s womb. You are fully known, and His love extends just as deep. John, one of Jesus’s apostles, records Jesus’s words as His imminent death is around the corner, and Jesus says this, “…Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus laid down His life for you. In bringing to fulfillment the redemption story, Jesus valued His relationship with you to the extent that He would do anything to make that relationship permanent… even if it meant giving up His own life.   

There is nothing that can separate you from His love. Jesus is committed to you. He was purposefully single because of you. Jesus, our Bridegroom, looks at His bride, we the Church, and He marvels at her because He is the perfect husband. He did not commit to an earthly wife during His ministry. He sought union with us. He invited us to be one in Him just like in marriage when two flesh become one. His lack of an earthly marital status hinged upon His covenant relationship with His Bride. 

Whether you like it or not, Christian, you have a husband, companion, helper, redeemer, lover, and savior in Jesus. There will be a day when you face your Bridegroom face-to-face. You are looking forward to, yet, mysteriously already in, the most intimate relationship you will ever experience.


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Nathaniel Arroyo is a poet, photographer, and coffee aficionado located in Spokane, Washington. Being from Chicago, IL, he has a passion for the Church’s engagement with culture through mediums of art, community, and rich theology. He attended Moody Bible Institute – Spokane and studied Biblical Exposition.

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6 Signs You Spend Too Much Time on Social Media

We’re becoming a digital culture. Maybe we’re already there. I’m not sure. But I am sure this presents unique challenges. The digital shift is neither good nor bad. It just is. And we must learn to navigate this shift, not use it as a scapegoat.

The problems we face today are as old as Eve. Does social media amplify them? Probably. Make them more visible? Certainly. But are they unique to our generation? Not hardly.

If you google “average time spent on social media” you will find varying answers, anywhere from 60 minutes to 9 hours a day. While these numbers are alarming – nine hours a day on social media, really? – they’re merely symptoms.

The real problems rests underneath the surface. And if we’re serious about addressing them, we must dig deeper. Social media can have an equally negative effect on the soccer mom and the college student, the one-hour-a-day user and the nine-hour-a-day user.

Using time spent as a metric is little more than a quick answer to a deeper problem. Instead, we should look at habits, behaviors and perceptions. The negative effects of social media breed particular problems.

Here are a few. If any of the following points resonate, you probably spend too much time on social media.

1. You have a nagging sense that your life is “average,” and that’s not okay.

Sensing your life is average, that’s not the toxic part. When you think “my average life is not okay” you have the origins of something toxic.

In college, several of my professors graded on a curve. This curve says a few people fall in a percentile lower than their shoe size (5 or less), a few more in a percentile higher than their oldest living relative (95 or greater), and every one else fall in the middle.

Statisticians call those in the lowest and highest percentiles “outliers.” Because outliers skew results, they normally aren’t considered in analysis.

Social media, however, is built on outliers. The worst of the worst and the best of the best are most likely to show up on your timeline. A few weeks ago, for example, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were littered with articles about some dude who killed his girlfriend, stole her car and was now at large. I remember thinking during all this that social media gives someone with evil intentions an easy way to gain international fame.

We now have a celebrity as President. Earth can’t complete a full rotation on its axis without a new story about President Trump.

If you have a nagging sense that your life isn’t special because you haven’t committed a heinous crime or received the final rose on TheBachelor, you might be spending too much time on social media.

If you have a nagging sense that your life isn’t special because you haven’t committed a heinous crime or received the final rose on TheBachelor, you might be spending too much time on social media.

Almost everyone, 99% or more, lives in the middle. And that’s quite okay.

2. You have a lot of “friends,” but you still feel lonely. 

A meaningful life needs a few necessary ingredients. Human connection is one. These connections are tiered based on intimacy. Spouse being the most intimate, then family, close friends, co-workers, and Spot, the dog who isn’t a human but is.

You don’t need every tier, but the fewer you have, the more incomplete you will feel.

If you’re doing it right, social media will undergird and strengthen relationships, from the top down. If you’re not doing it wrong, social media will amplify disconnection and loneliness.

Social media friends are mostly padding for your ego.

Social media profiles don’t determine how many friends or followers you have. Those are just numbers, mostly padding for the ego. If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, ask yourself how many intimate relationships you have.

3. You can’t commit to anything because you’re afraid of missing something better. 

Several years ago, this behavior was dubbed FOMO (fear of missing out). Today, I think it’s called normal. The source of its rise? Social media.

Jill is kickin’ it on the beach. Timmy is posing with the crew on a mission trip in Africa (#blessed). Everyone seems to be killin’ this life thing but you, so says social media.

Without some inner work, constantly checking your heart and aligning your decisions with your values, you end up playing the game. Rather than embracing the life in front of you, you hold out, waiting for the next experience so you can one-up Jill and Timmy.

This game is competitive yet it has no winner. You can’t compete with your timeline, mostly because what you see is a facade.

If making decisions brings anxiety, you might spend too much time on social media.

4. You often say or do things you later regret. 

One of my favorite books of all time is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. In it, he says this, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

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I would let Frankl elaborate, but he’s dead. So I’ll give it a try. Regardless of situation, you have the power to choose your response. You can’t necessarily choose the circumstances (or stimulus). But you can always choose your response. The space between a situation and a response is where growth and freedom live.

Social media decreases this space, leading to high levels of sensitivity and low levels of emotional resilience.

5. You have a low tolerance for people who don’t think like you. 

Social media platforms want you to spend more time on their site, so they give you more of what you like. These platforms filter your feed based on previous likes, clicks, etc. In other words, social media pads your ego by strengthening your confirmation bias.

If you’re hardline conservative, for example, chances are your feed won’t include posts about Black Lives Matter or knocks against President Trump. If you lean left (I hate labeling people this way, but it gets the point across, so…), you won’t see posts supporting traditional marriage or travel bans on refugees.

And both sides said, “Amen.”

Yeah, except this doesn’t promote much tolerance, compassion or humility. Especially if you’re a Christian, this is bad. This is one of the greatest challenges facing our generation.

How do we find common ground and come to the table with people who think different from us?

6. You have no boundaries between personal and private moments. 

I see Christians post pics about alone time with God. While I’m not judging, I wonder about the motivation behind this? Some moments are too intimate for a timeline, too powerful to be contained in 140 characters (or less).

I fear we irreparably harm our peace and joy when every moment becomes shareworthy. Whether it’s lunch with a good friend, date night with your spouse or intimate time with God, we can’t fully embrace a moment while simultaneously trying to capture it. We also can’t embrace a moment when it’s interrupted with chirps and rings.

One of the greatest gifts you can give any one is your full attention. I suspect the most grateful, content among us understand this.

It’s your turn.

What are some signs someone spends too much time on social media?


A version of this post originally appeared on Bayside Blog on March 25, 2017. Used by permission.

Frank Powell-

Frank is a freelance writer and speaker living in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife and three kids. His goal is to challenge status quo Christianity and push everyone (Christian or not) to see God with fresh eyes.

His content has been featured on sites like Relevant, ChurchLeaders, Catalyst, Thought Catalog, Mogul, and FaithIt. Be sure to check out his work on the Bayside Church blog at: blog.baysideonline.com.

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Stop Trying To Get People To Like You

“They don’t want to be my friends.”

 

My 7-year-old daughter had just come home from her time at summer camp, and we were processing a situation that came up involving a couple girls that just didn’t want to be her friend. She had tried talking to them, complimenting them, sitting with them, and involving them in what she was doing.

But every attempt was failing. They would move away, ask her to mind her own business, and blatantly ignore her throughout the day.

“I know!! Maybe I’ll make them friendship bracelets, so that they’ll like me. I am just determined to make them my friend!”

Her persistence gives you a look into the type of girl she is – she doesn’t quit and she doesn’t give up easily. But in this case, it was time to give up. My best advice to my sweet daughter was, “child…it’s time to let go. People like this are not worth your time.”

It was interesting processing this situation with her, because as a parent – I saw the situation so clearly. She was giving, investing, trying…and getting nothing in return. She was trying so hard to make this relationship work, because she wanted to succeed! She wanted to be liked!

But in the end, she was investing so much energy into a relationship that would eventually get nowhere. A one-way relationship, where she would be doing all the work, and getting little to nothing in return.

Sometimes, I need that lesson myself.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Because it’s a problem that we all face at different points in our lives with the many relationships we engage in.

Getting Over The Need To Be Liked

 

We want to be liked so badly, that sometimes we allow ourselves to be in relationships where we’re doing all the work.

We value being liked by others over loving and respecting ourselves.

And that’s exactly where it has to start. In order for us to move away from these type of relationships, we’ve got to begin by recognizing our value and worth standing alone.


We’re not valued because of the people who like us, we’re valued by the One who created us.


 

And that truth, when it’s finally sunk deep, deep down, has completely revolutionized my life. Over the past decade, I’ve been learning this lesson in many ways, shapes, and forms. From friendships where I had to set major boundaries, to dealing with misunderstanding without feeling the need to defend myself.

One crash course in particular came with my becoming a writer and teacher in the public domain. On an almost daily basis, I had to deal with some kind of critique, disagreement, negative comment, scathing hate mail, or hateful review.

One of those hateful reviews actually came from a “friend” in ministry, who in an anonymous review (well, she thought it was anonymous – but it really wasn’t, yikes!) publicly wrote that I had nothing of value to add to this conversation and add to that – my personal love story was so ridiculous that it made her nauseous. Gee, thanks, “friend”.

Welcome to the reality that no matter who you are or what you do, you can’t get everyone to like you…and to the more important reality that you SHOULDN’T EVEN TRY. STOP TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO LIKE YOU.

Part of becoming a healthy person is learning to recognize early on which relationships are worth investing in, and which aren’t. I get that every now and again someone will be so good at pretending that they’re a good friend, that you won’t recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing right away. But to be honest, those times are more rare than not. Usually the signs are there, we just aren’t willing to look for them, or when we see them, we’re not ready to let the relationship go until we end up hurt, drained, and betrayed.

Overcoming The Need to Be Liked

 

I feel like I’m finally at a place where I have gotten over my need to be liked. Part of this has come in realizing that I only have so much emotional margin. I only have so much room to invest in relationships, and so I want to (no, NEED TO) save my emotional energy for friendships and relationships in which I am valued, loved, and respected. Relationships in which I’m giving as much as I’m taking. Relationships in which I am not doing all the work.

If you listened to the most recent episode of my new Love + Relationships Podcast (if you haven’t listened, go give this episode a listen right now!!), you heard me tell our caller who was struggling in one-sided relationships:


“You attract the type of relationship you think you deserve.” – (Tweet it!)


I said that to my daughter a few days ago, I say it to myself on a regular basis, and I say it to you today.

It’s time to get over your need to be liked, believe in what you deserve, and free yourself from relationships that are holding you back. Because oftentimes, by closing your heart to the wrong relationships, you open your heart to the right ones.

There’s so much more to this conversation! If you’ve ever struggled with the need to be liked, click below to listen to the correlating Episode of my Love + Relationships Podcast: One-Sided Relationships


A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on August 1st, 2018. Used by permission.

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Mewhere she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Love, Love

Why is it that we love love? This isn’t necessarily a new trend to romanticize the idea of falling in love nor is it a cultural phenomenon.

We’ve always been infatuated with love throughout history. The passion. The scandal. The warmth. 

For example…  

As a child, I was introduced to the transformational power of love in Beauty and the Beast. In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated from the English Monarch in order to marry the woman of his dreams. In 1813, the world was introduced to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett’s tug-and-pull of a relationship in the novel Pride and Prejudice. In the early 12th Century, Lancelot betrayed his dear friend, King Arthur, to pursue a passionate romance with his wife, Guinevere, in Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart. And even farther than that, in the Bible, we have numerous of love stories such as Ruth and Boaz, Jacob and Rachel, the bride and groom from the Song of Songs, and, probably the most memorable, Adam and Eve. 

Love has always been loved, not simply by the dominant culture, but by humanity as a whole. 

Understanding that love is a timeless force that currents through all human beings will teach us about the character of God. Or, maybe more adeptly put, learning about the character of God will teach us more about love, Himself. 

John, one of Jesus’s closest friends and disciple, writes, “God is love.” [1]  

Wait, what? God is love. 

This is not mere theological poetry, but a transformative truth meant to remind humanity of its image. 

If we trust the book of Genesis, we immediately learn humanity was made in the image of God. The Imago Dei. We were created as his children. Sons and Daughters of the King, the Mighty Lover. And, with this intent in Creation, we are honored with the responsibility to care for the earth and cultivate community in intimacy. Our image is the very imprint of love because of the source of love. We were created to love. 

Love is embedded into the fabric of our DNA. 

Yet, when we think about love, do notions of God occupy our mind? Often times love is accompanied by illusive bytes of flirtation, concertos of heart-fluttering butterflies, and passionate fogged up windows. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms about romance or healthy sexual expression. One of the first commands God gives humanity is to have sex. And God doesn’t make mistakes, therefore the pleasure that comes from sex is, both, natural and good. It’s a gift. But let us not confuse the gift with the Gift-Giver. 

God is love. Love is not God. [2] – tweet this. 

As the Church, our job is not to worship an emotion and to elevate deed over deity. Romance will not comfort us when we lose a loved one to a fatal disease. Romance will not grow holiness from a sinful carcass. Romance will not personify itself to ransom a captive prisoner. What I really want to say is, our pursuit of romance may seem gloriously vain because it is short of our pursuit of Jesus. 

Jesus is love. 

But he is not love in the sense that we most commonly use the term. Often times when we converse with our community, we use this term love in ambiguous modes. The popular examples are: 

  1. I love pizza 

  2. I love my wife/husband. 

  3. I love quality time 

  4. I love the outdoors.

It becomes pretty clear that this term love, most commonly carrying a romantic sentiment, has been the mediator for any and all relationships we may describe.

Romantic love is not the destination in which our souls will find their satisfaction, for it is just one side of a multi-faceted diamond, Love himself. – (tweet this)

Love is the tethering Spirit that binds relationship. Love is carrying the burden of a dear friend. You can hear love in the laughter of community and in the tears of mourning. Love is available in the loneliness of singleness and in the everyday of marriage. 

Maybe love has been obscured by a negative experience. Maybe love and delight seem like antonyms with a tragic backstory. Maybe you are like me, wondering if you are considered to be worthy of love, insecure of your value and purpose, all the while love has only been issued to the privileged. Forgive me if this is all seems too theoretical or abstract, but, I believe, love is available to you right now. You were not created to be starved of intimacy.  

Maybe our pursuit of love has been wooing us to true intimacy. 

Here is my prayer for you:  

I pray you find Jesus in your definition of love. I pray that your relationships are not solely intent on building romance as much as they should be to cultivate community. I pray you find yourself worthy of love despite any harm you’ve experienced. I pray your delight and passion are found in Jesus. 

[1] 1 John 4:8[2] C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity


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Nathaniel Arroyo is a poet, photographer, and coffee aficionado located in Spokane, Washington. Being from Chicago, IL, he has a passion for the Church’s engagement with culture through mediums of art, community, and rich theology. He attended Moody Bible Institute – Spokane and studied Biblical Exposition.

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How To Be “Friends With Benefits” (The Right Way)

Q: In your book, True Love Dates, you recommended a “season of friendship” before dating. If I am interested in a woman who I normally have very limited opportunity to interact with, how do I pursue her as a just a friend when it is quite obvious I am interested in more given how far out of my way I am going to spend time with her?

A: First of all, to you who asked this question: dude, you score some major brownie points for referencing my book!You would be the kind of guy that sits in the very front row of one of my seminars or lectures….so I already like you for that! And let me just take a moment here as an opportunity to shamelessly plug my book, True Love Dates, because to be honest, it was what got me blogging about relationships in the first place!! We owe this entire blog to that little book, because in it are all the foundational concepts that I believe give you the outline you need to engage in a killer dating relationship and in turn, an incredible marriage.

And people, you may not know this but due to the publishing contract I have with Zondervan, I am not allowed to publish more than 8% of the contents of my book on this blog. That means even those of you who have read EVERY SINGLE article on this blog are missing my most PROFOUND (ahem, yes, I said “profound”  – especially the seasons of a relationship concepts!) principles about dating!! So don’t be cheap and go purchase a copy for yourself….right now…seriously. It’s like one long dating therapy session. And who doesn’t need that?

Secondly, I love this question because it shows a guy with a genuine desire to do dating well. I love that. For those of you out there (especially the ladies I hear from) who email me whining and complaining that there are no more good men out there, let me just tell you right here and right now – that’s so NOT true. They are everywhere. I meet many of them right here on this blog. And maybe you will too. hint hint

Thirdly, apparently I’m in rambling mode this morning, so let’s go ahead and dig into this important question: how on earth can you be just friends with someone you’re totally interested in? I’ll be the first to admit that every relationship looks a little different, but for this question, I’m going to site my relationship with John, my hubby.

When John and I met back in 2005, we met at a conference up in Boston. I was living in Virginia at the time, so clearly, there had to be some sort of “interest” shown for us to even continue our friendship after that conference. So to make a long story short, he asked for my number to keep in touch, and then we actually kept in touch. The next 5 months of our “long-distance friendship” consisted of phone calls, visits, texts and emails.

If you keep up with my writing, you know full well that I’m a HUGE advocate of being friends first.

There are SO many benefits to the stage of friendship before dating.

 

And for those of you who are confused about the title of this article, I don’t mean the benefits of hooking up, making out, or getting physical. On the contrary, the BENEFITS of being friends first are that you get to know each other in a truly meaningful way before you commit to dating – with no strings attached. There are SO many things you can learn about a person during the time of friendship. (If you want to learn more about all that, check out this in-depth article from the TLD premium content library.)

We were both interested in each other, but we never actually discussed dating until we had known each other for a while, namely, like I mentioned, 5 months. So how did we grow our friendship during that time without crossing over into dating?

Here’s what we did:

We took advantage of community: Looking back, John and I spent around 75% of our time together in a group setting, with our friends and family. We had a lot of friends and family in common, so yes, that definitely made it a little easier – but even where we didn’t have friends in common, it gave us an opportunity to meet one another’s community.

That meant inviting him to my cousin’s huge “fantasy football” weekend, (even though for him that meant catching a flight – remember, we were long distance). That meant me going up to Boston to stay with a girl friend of mine and all of us spending the week doing group activities (which, of course, included him). That meant him visiting a friend in the area where I was living, and swinging by to grab dinner with my friends and I. All that to say, we spent a lot of time with a lot of people. And it really gave us a good glimpse into one another’s respective worlds. You can learn a lot about a person that way.

Friends with Benefits Don’t Get Physical:

 

When people think friends with benefits, the physical aspect is what usually comes to mind. But the greatest benefits actually come when you keep your physical interactions in check throughout the stage of friendship. If I’m totally honest, I remember a couple of times during our friendship stage, especially as my interest in him began to grow, where I genuinely wanted to grab his hand, or lean over and give him a big kiss. And now I know he felt the same way about me. So it’s not like the desires weren’t there, it’s just that we didn’t follow through on those desires. We each chose to control our desires and in doing so, we forged something deep – a genuine and authentic friendship. We didn’t want the temporary pleasure of physical connection to mess with us, because we still weren’t totally sure where our friendship was headed.

Friends With Benefits Are Careful with Conversation:

 

I have to give credit to John for this one. Most of the guys I interacted with in the past were extremely flirtatious with their words (ironically, their actions never followed suit). But our friendship stayed a genuine friendship partially because we kept our words in check and had emotional boundaries. We didn’t talk about the future, we didn’t use flirtatious lingo, we didn’t have any kind of romantic conversations, and we didn’t “define the relationship” right away (there’s a time and place for that conversation, but don’t rush it). We kept our conversations just as we would with any other friend: we asked questions, we got to know each other, we told funny stories, and we used our words to learn about one another. Words are powerful, so in any relationship, you have to use them wisely.

So at the end of the day, it’s absolutely possible to show be friends with benefits the right way – even with someone you are interested in. It just takes being deliberate and practicing self-control. Which is a GREAT quality to have upon entering a dating relationship…and even into marriage. At least, that’s what happened for us!


A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on February 22, 2018. Used by permission.

True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”.

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest book, Choosing Marriage, is set to be released in the Summer of 2018! You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching over 4 million people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Some Thoughts For Those Single, Engaged, or Married

I feel like I should start this post with a slight apology.

You see, when I was single I absolutely hated getting advice on being single from married people. It was just the worst –as a happy married person they had no right giving me, an embittered single person, advice. Most of this hate was channeled into unpublished blog posts, because after reading them I realized they could never see the light of day. Thank god.

So yes, this post is a little advice for single people, but it’s also for people engaged or married (and me being married for five months means I can mostly provide advice on how not to write wedding gift thank-you notes, and that is to actually write all of them and not stop when there are ten left because your brain cannot handle anymore wedding-related activities).In fact, I wouldn’t even say this is advice. Rather, it’s some observations that I offer to you, whatever life stage you are in.

And to the married people I resented before for trying to tell me how to live my life, my bad. You were only trying to help because you were once there too, and it turns out that just because you’re married you don’t know everything either (which you also probably know).

So here are some thoughts, observations, and advice for those single, engaged, or married:

Marriage will not fix your problems. Instead, marriage will do two things: you will simply find yourself now with different, married-people problems, and hopefully your problems, both old and new, will feel a little more bearable because someone has your back forever.

Just because you are a Christian and this really nice person you are dating is a Christian doesn’t mean you have to get married to them. Seriously. This is a confusing one, I know.

Breaking up is not a sign of spiritual immaturity. In fact, it might be just the opposite.

Please stop feeling this pressure to get married immediately after becoming engaged. Being engaged is different than dating, and it’s different than being married. It’s unique, special, and refining. And it can (and should) reveal the realities of what you’re getting into with marriage – good and bad. Sit with those realities before marriage, together.

I fully reject the lie that sex is inevitable if you wait a long time to get married. You’d be surprised how resilient people are.

You are allowed to feel numerous ways about one thing, or person, or relationship.

Confidence is attractive and will probably get you a date or relationship, but if you’re in it for the long haul this person is eventually going to see all of your really ugly, unconfident bits.

It’s okay to be selective about who you take dating or marriage advice from. Everyone single person has had a different experience than you, somehow.

It’s also okay to be selective about which books you read about singleness or marriage. Or, stop reading them altogether. Sometimes all that advice can be really overwhelming.

Some reasons I’ve broken up with people, for reference:

He couldn’t support my boundaries.

He couldn’t communicate with me about faith or Jesus or spirituality.

He had trouble understanding me.

His presence made me feel like a different, untrue version of myself.

He didn’t pursue me – he made me pursue him.

He couldn’t figure out how he felt about me.

He made me feel like I made no difference in his life.

He wasn’t kind.

He made me believe me being with him was the answer to his problems.

And some reasons I started dating my husband, for reference:

He was steady.

He made me feel special, important, and cared for.

He actually took me on dates, and made it clear they were dates.

I wasn’t the answer to his problems.

He was kind.

He was really funny.

He was gentle to me in touch, respect, and speech.

He was super cute.

He was honest with me about really, really hard things.

He took initiative to learn things, learn me, and better himself.

He wanted a relationship with God more than he wanted a relationship with me.

I loved being around him.

He was super fun.

He wanted to wait for sex.

He didn’t make me feel like I needed to earn his love or attention, which I’m still baffled by to this day that someone can love me like this, especially when I have a dramatic mid-life crisis about once a month.

I don’t really know if God tells us to marry a certain person, but I do know that there is no such thing as one destined, perfect person for us all.

Even for us married people, it will never not be obnoxious when people excessively post sappy things about their spouse.

The first few months of marriage have only been hard when one of us has been selfish. Period. Other than that, marriage is pretty spectacular and I think we need to stop telling people that the first year of marriage is always so scary and tough.

If you’re single and need to unfollow people on social media whose lives appear to throw your singleness into sharp, painful perspective, unfollow them. Do it. Do it now. Take care of your heart.

It’s funny, because in the end advice or thoughts or observations from others only resonate so much in our own lives. I have found that one of the most incredible and frustrating things about love is that no matter how much you “know” it will probably not be enough, and you will have to learn for yourself and through your own actions and choices how to do all this well (or at least try your best).

But I think that’s what’s going on with this blog when it all comes down to it – it’s all just offerings. Offerings for both myself and for you. I really like that.

– XO


Julia writes about relationships, faith and identity at hellosoulblog.com.

 

  • Photography by Kat Skye Photography
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A Theology Of Masturbation: Tackling One Of The Tough Questions

Yes, we want our kids to ask questions about God’s good gift of sex, gender, and sexuality. We might not be well-prepared to answer their questions, but as many parents have said to me, “It’s easier for my kids to bring up the questions rather than me!” But there’s one question that always seems to generate a period of hemming and hawing that can go on and on and on. That’s the question of masturbation.

Let’s be honest here. . . my informal surveys of an entire older generation of boys reveals they either a) indulged in auto-eroticism without borders or boundaries (“Ninety-five percent of all teenage boys say they masturbate. . . and the other five percent are liars!” . . . remember that?), b) never discussed the issue with their parents beyond hearing a one-sided “Don’t do it!”, or c) lived their lives in fear and trembling believing that they were going to go blind by the age of 19.

In today’s hyper-sexualized culture, the questions are rarely even being asked. And when a young person (or an old person) seeking to develop a healthy God-honoring approach to His good gift of sex and sexuality starts to ask questions about masturbation, most adults either go blank or have no idea how to answer. I’m fully aware that in the world of theology, and specifically youth ministry, there are a variety of perspectives on how to best answer the question.

Like all questions about sex, sexuality, and gender, this is a question that can only be answered in the context of the story in which we choose to live. If we choose to live in the cultural narrative, it’s not even a question. But for those who have been called into the biblical narrative, we need to listen diligently to that story as we faithfully ponder what God’s answer is. . . even if we don’t feel like His answer is the easiest one to accept and enlist.

Yesterday, I spotted a post on “Solo Sex and the Christian” from my friend David White at Harvest USA. I’ve spent years trying to think through the best way to hear the Scriptures speak and how to communicate those answers to the kids (and adults) I encounter who ask. David’s article is, without a doubt, the most thoughtful practical theology of masturbation I’ve ever seen. It is worth a few minutes of your time. . . and perhaps you will find it as helpful as I do.

We are all sexual strugglers at some level. . . all of us. Here’s what David writes about the struggle with masturbation. . .

One of the frequently asked questions at a Harvest USA seminar is whether masturbation is a sin. There has been a lot of debate on this issue in Christian circles, largely because it’s a behavior without a condemning, biblical proof text. Although I can’t point you to a specific chapter and verse forbidding this behavior, God’s design for sexuality makes it clear that there is no room for masturbation in the life of a Christian.

As I’ve written elsewhere, there is theological significance to our sexuality. Two things are crucial to have at the forefront when considering solo sex. First, in the Bible sexual activity is always reserved for marriage. It is designed to be inherently relational, a deep knowing of and intimacy with another. Second, the goal of sex is selfless service, the pleasuring of another. This latter point is particularly clear from 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, the only “how to” passage in the Bible prescribing sexual activity.

God designed sexuality to be like every other aspect of the Christian life: a turning away from selfish desires to honor God with my body and use it to serve others. Sex in Christian marriage should reflect the New Testament’s ethic in general. Describing discipleship, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is much more than a proof text for the atonement; it is the culmination of Jesus’ teaching on what it means to be his disciple.

As a solitary activity, masturbation is not rooted in relationship with another. There is no opportunity for deepening intimacy and knowing of another. Further, far from selfless service, masturbation is a picture of incarnate selfishness. To engage in this behavior is to say. . . (to keep reading, click here).

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Sex And The iWorld

Sex and the iWorld by Dale Kuehne is one of our favorites here at the Sexual Integrity Initiative, and when author Preston Sprinkle wrote an insightful summary on his blog, we thought we’d share it with you!

 

I just finished Dale Kuehne’s book Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationships Beyond an Age of Individualism and it was a fantastic and compelling read. Dr. Kuhne (Ph.D. Georgetown University) is a professor of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at St. Anselm college and has been a pastor for the Evangelical Covenant Church of America. I’ve known about Kuehne’s work for about a year now and recently enjoyed a very friendly conversation with him over Skype. I learned so many things about culture, ethics, and sexuality from Kuehne’s book—too many things to reveal in this blog. I want to keep this review to a single post, so let me jump right in and summarize the book and highlight a few key take aways.

 

Summary

 

Kuehne (pronounced “Keen”) examines three different types of societies, which he labels the tWorld (t = traditional), iWorld (i = individual), and rWorld (r = relational). Specifically, he looks at how these three different worlds understand sexuality, along with related topics like anthropology, identity, relationships, and morality as a whole. In short:

 

  • The tWorld views sexual morality in traditional terms. Its primary founders were Plato, Aristotle, and the early church fathers. Sex belongs within the context of marriage between a man and women for the purpose of procreation and strengthening the marital bond between two partners. Most relations in the tWorld are given not selected—you are born into a relational matrix of family, community, and even though marriage is a choice, it becomes a relationship of obligation once you commit to it. “Hence in the tWorld the key to relational fulfillment was not to find the people with whom we most wished to relate, but to love and engage with those we had been given” (p. 37).

 

  • The iWorld represents the world we now live in (esp. in the West). Friedrich Nitzsche and the influence of the sexual revolution are the primary founders. “The iWorld makes individual freedom its non-negotiable value” (p. 67). “Freedom of individual choice…is the highest ideal of the iWorld” (p. 72). The iWorld “is predicated on the foundational belief that the expansion of individual rights will leader to increased happiness and fulfillment (p. 67). The only guidelines—Kuehne calls them “taboos”—are: (1) “One may not criticize someone else’s life choices or behaviors,” (2) “One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others,” and (3) “one may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent” (p. 71 and throughout).

 

  • The rWorld is shaped by a Christian worldview and believes that intimacy and love are found in relationships—both relationships of choice and in relationships of obligation—regardless of whether these relationships are sexual. “The abundant life is a product of having an intimate love relationship with God and others, and sex has very little to do with it” (p. 161). In the rWorld, sex is a significant component of a marriage relationship, but a marriage relationship isn’t essential for human flourishing. The rWorld believes that “the sexual revolution” and the iWorld has “become so focused on finding happiness in sexuality and sensual or sensory experience that” it has missed “the love and intimacy for which our soul craves” (p. 163). “Unfettered sexual freedom can inhibit our ability to cultivate and enjoy love and intimacy” (p. 163). “In the rWorld, life is not spent searching for people to make us happy but is instead spent cultivating the relationships we already have” (p. 180).

 

Kuehne makes clear that the tWorld is not the same as the rWorld, even though there is some overlap. While the tWorld has many good things about it, it also devalued women, cultivated patriarchal marriages, and fostered societal systems of inequality. While Kuehne is very critical of the iWorld, he does admit some progress it has brought to society including equality among people and healthy tolerance for diverse cultures to exist together.

 

However, the rWorld is the best path for human flourishing and yet it stands diametrically opposed to theiWorld. “The aims of the two worlds are mutually exclusive” (p. 203). You cannot turn individual humans loose and expect this to produce a society where humans will mutually flourish.

 

Highlights

 

There were so many thoughtful points made throughout the book—way too many to highlight. Here are two of the most salient ones that gave my highlighter a run for its money.

 

Sex and Human Flourishing

 

As stated above, even though the ethics of the iWorld assumes that sex and sexual fulfillment is essential to human flourishing, Kuehne argues that this is simply untrue. We’ve been conditioned to think and feel this way; the propaganda of our hypersexualized age is overwhelming and it would be the pinnacle of ignorance to think that human desires are unaffected by our cultural narrative. Like a fish that doesn’t know what “wet” feels like, we swim through a sea of sexual propaganda unaware of how profoundly our cultural narrative shapes our desires. (This, of course, was a major point in Jonathan Grant’s book Divine Sex.) The iWorld is telling us that a person who’s not having sex is not a fulfilled person.

 

As this reasoning goes, if sex is an essential aspect of human fulfillment, then if Christians, or anyone else, are missing out on sex, and if God wishes us to have the most fulfilling life possible, then that which stands in the way of this fulfillment—divorce, remarriage, or cohabitation—must not be wrong after all. (p. 160).

 

We’ve actually lost sight of ancient wisdom. “The notion that sex was an essential part of human happiness was not in the consciousness of people in that time and place. Sex was considered to be a drive, an appetite, and a necessary means of procreation” (p. 162). But sex wasn’t seen as essential to intimate relationships or human flourishing. Sex is an important aspect of marriage. It “will sometimes produce children” and “provide a bond for the marriage that is useful in holding a married couple together. But sex in itself will not be the catalyst for happiness or fulfillment because that is not its innate purpose” (p. 162). Therefore, the hypersexualizing of our culture actually prevents us from finding and experiencing true, lasting, love and intimacy.

Unfortunately, the evangelical church has bought into the cultural narrative unknowingly. “Contrary to some contemporary popular evangelical theology, the two great commandments are not to get married and have sex” (p. 162). The idolatry of marriage (and therefore sex) in evangelicalism is actually hindering human flourishing, especially for those who are made to feel like unfulfilled second class citizens in God’s kingdom because they aren’t married.

 

Discovering our True Identity

 

The second salient point of Kuehne’s book is scattered throughout but comes to fruition in the final chapter. It has to do with discovering our true identity. Kuehne argues that the iWorld has wrongly searched for human identity by looking within ourselves rather than outside ourselves. Instead of asking the question, “Who are we” the iWorld asks the question “Who am I” and gives the individual the keys to discovering who they are by looking within. “Self-discovery and authenticity, not birth and nature, become the new source of human identity” (p. 209). Instead of seeing human identity as “something we derive from a common nature”—we are humans created in God’s image and designed to live according to His will—we view it as “an individual’s quest for self-understanding” where “people are encouraged to look within to find their true self and live lives that authentically reflect who they discover themselves to be” (p. 209).

 

This is where the iWorld and rWorld fundamentally disagree.

 

The iWorld sees the formation of self-understanding as primarily an individualistic enterprise…The rWorld, however, believes that we come to know who we are only by first coming to know our true human nature through relating with god and other persons. Then we can make sense of our individual characteristics (p. 212).

 

After the individual comes to discover who they are by looking within, morality is dictated by living out who they really are. But this confuses the “is” and the “ought.” Even if you can discover who you are by looking within, this doesn’t in itself sanction the morality of living according to who you are, as David Hume used to say “You cannot derive an ought from an is!” (p. 160). Even if we rely on science to tell us who we are—common in the sexuality and gender debates—“Science can tell us what is, but it cannot tell us how we ought to act” (p. 52).

Conclusion

 

One of the most helpful points made in the book is that we are still living in a transition between the tWorld and iWorld (p. 45, cf. 207, 213-14). That is, even from a purely, secular perspective, no one knows whether the iWorld’s promises of human flourishing are empirically true. Does sexual freedom lead to societal flourishing? Does letting individuals discover and determine their own identity and morality lead to human flourishing? Do biblical guidelines about sexuality and gender hinder human flourishing or promote it? Does the iWorld’s expanded definition of marriage lead to greater societal flourishing or does it lead to more long-term harmful effects on families, children, and society as a whole? Should sex be separated from marriage and procreation? Does consensual divorce enhance human happiness?

 

Empirically, we cannot answer any of these questions yet, because we haven’t lived in the iWorld’s way of doing things long enough. All the iWorld offer at this point is some individuals who say “it works for me” or “I’m happy” or “I’m flourishing.” But it cannot say we are flourishing. And since the iWorld doesn’t possess a moral code outside the individual, it has no way to measure whether its way of living is actually good for the human community. Not yet, at least. We have to wait several generations to see if the iWorld’s way of doing things will lead to greater, lasting happiness among humans.

 

So far, the trajectory is not looking so good. If you look at where things are going—depression and suicide rates, loneliness and anxiety, addictions, sexual dysfunctions, children born out of wedlock, lack of sexual and relational fulfillment, the global destruction of pornography—things aren’t faring too well for the iWorld’s ability to deliver what it’s promised, even by its own standards.

 

Perhaps the Christian vision for human flourishing might be on to something.

 


A version of this post originally appeared on Preston’s Blog on December 16, 2016. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell (with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence (David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited (IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us (David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue (Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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11 Signs You Need A Break From Social Media

There’s no denying that social media has a powerful role in our lives and personal relationships. It helps us stay connected, spread information, and share our stories with one another in a really unique way.

But isn’t it safe to say that many times – instead of adding to our lives, it begins to take over?  I know that there are times in my life that I’m guilty of this. Even as I write this post, I am increasingly aware that my life is slowly creeping back in that direction.

It’s easy to get to a place where we want to post about the moments of life more than we actually savor those moments.

Maybe you’re aware of this tendency in your own life.  If so, consider the following signs that maybe it’s time for a social media break:

11.  You’ve actually said the word “hash-tag” out loud in a conversation.

10.  You’ve started formulating your thoughts in the form of a Status Update or Tweet.

9.  The majority of your socializing during the week requires the use of an electronic screen.

8.  The first thing you do when you wake up–or the last thing before you fall asleep — is check social media.

7.  You have been known to interrupt conversations with real life people or stop an actual social interaction to post a photo, tweet a quote, or update a status.

6.  The first urge you get in a moment of down-time is the urge to “check” the Social Media happenings.

5.  You’ve been known to peek at your phone while driving–just to see what’s going on.

4.  You go on with the intention of a quick look- but it quickly turns into an hour or more and devours your time.

3.  The main reason you know what is going on in your friend’s lives is because you’ve read about it- not talked about it.

2.  You find your emotions and self-esteem are either elated, or depressed- based on your experience online.

1.  Your online life is starting to have a negative impact on your real-life relationships.

If you find yourself caught up in one or more of the above list- than maybe it’s time to step back for a while and take a break.  While that might mean unplugging for an evening, a day, a weekend, or even longer–more than simply unplugging from social media- it’s a deeper call to plug back into real life.

It’s important to make sure that we are using social media as a way to enhance our lives- rather than allowing it to become life itself.

*If you liked this article this, check out: Social Pornography: Social Media vs. Real Life, and 3 Ways Social Media Can Impact Real-Life Relationships.

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on August 31, 2017. Used by permission.


 

True Love Dates, is the book that world-renown #1 New York Times best-selling authors and relationship experts Drs. Les & Leslie Parrot have claimed to be exactly what “your love life needs”.

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest book, Choosing Marriage, is set to be released in the Summer of 2018! You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching over 4 million people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Virginity Doesn’t Make You A Better Christian

Several years ago, I was walking around Boston with an old friend and one of her friends whom I had just met. I can’t remember exactly how the topic came up, but her friend ended up saying something along the lines of, “Yah, we’re both Christians; we both still have our virginity.”

It was such a small comment, but it clearly reflects something many of us raised in Christian homes subconsciously believe:

That being a Christian=Being a virgin

and

Being a virgin=Being a Christian.

There are a number of problems with this mindset, that the sole factor in you being a Christian is your ability to control your private parts, and I want to look at a couple of them here. But before we get started, I’ll dispel any notion that Ethan is actually against purity now. Nope. Still a virgin and will be till my wedding day.

 

Problem #1: What about non-virgins?

 

I imagine anyone overhearing our conversation who was not a virgin would have immediately been turned away from Christianity. The notion that virginity is core to the Christian faith erases any chance for those who have slept around in the past to be saved. It’s as if their previous relations have disqualified them from the one relationship which is enduringly life-giving and soul-nourishing.

The Jesus I’ve come to know is one who reaches out to those who are especially filthy; to those who feel the mostunworthy. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that our sexual transgressions are what make us unworthy in the eyes of God.

In fact, it would appear that the things which disgust God the most are things like pride and religiosity, the pointing of fingers at ‘sinners’ without first examining one’s own heart. Jesus seemed to chill with the prostitutes more than with the religious leaders of the day. Maybe the prostitutes had a unique view of God’s grace in a way the religious leaders never did with all their rules and laws and judgment…

 

Problem #2: Sexuality isn’t the only category of holiness

 

A couple months ago, I was in a thrift store thinking deeply (We’ve all been there…) when a simple yet profound line came to me:

He is no better a Christian who can control his penis but not his angry thoughts, his gossiping tongue or his worrying heart.

If you grew up in the church, your mentality may persuade you to believe that you are fulfilling your Christian duties by keeping it in your pants until marriage and maybe even reading your Bible every now and then. Some pockets of American Christianity have put so much emphasis on sexual ethics that the rest of the scope of Christianity has been mitigated to the back burner. Things like work, money, missions, friendship, food, and justice have taken second seat to the mammoth topic of Christian sexual ethics.

We would much rather debate about “How far is too far with my boyfriend?” than discuss how the Church can work toward ending human trafficking, or how we can make our inner-city neighborhoods safer.

Have you worked on growing in holiness in all areas of your life?

Keeping yourself sexually pure is a noble and admirable feat, and all Christians should strive for it (inside and outside of marriage…one needs to remain sexually pure even after the wedding day and remain faithful to their betrothed). But have we focused on this one topic to the neglect of other categories of holiness?

Do we still lust for more money and nicer possessions?

Are we generous with the money we do have, or do we spend it solely on ourselves, improving the quality of our own lives?

Do we have a handle on our emotions, especially in areas like anger and envy?

Are we patient with our coworkers and loving to everyone we meet?

Or are we merely concerned with how far we can get with our girl before God starts to frown?

What a small religion.

God cares about our sexuality and what we do with our bodies, yes, but He cares about so much more than that! If sexuality is the only area in which you pursue holiness, perhaps take a look at Scripture and see what God spends the most time talking about (Hint: It’s not sex…).

 

Problem #3: It removes the need for grace

 

Virginity, by definition, is something someone chooses to keep. Therefore, by your own willpower, you could hold onto it until your wedding day, and share that very special gift with your spouse.

But when we conflate this (very good!) choice with our faith, then the Gospel suddenly becomes more about our own willpower than it is about the gift of grace. We don’t get a special trophy in heaven because we kept our hands to ourselves until the honeymoon. We don’t earn our salvation, period.

If the focus of our faith is on our own restraint and self-control, then it entirely removes the need for a Savior to come and lift us up out of our sin and death; we could just get there on our own. Praise God it’s not up to us or our decisions to get ourselves into the kingdom!

 

Problem #4: It places sex on such a ridiculously high level

 

This is similar to #2, but with a few slight differences.

We live in a culture in which everything is highly sexualized. TV ads, Facebook ads, magazine covers, and yada-yada-yada. To ignore the topic of sexuality in the American Church would be a huge misstep, but we also must not let our culture’s fascination with the topic define our own views of it.

My friend’s friend in Boston seemed to think that because she was sexually pure, that counted as evidence of her faith. However, this does not reflect the teaching of the Bible, but rather a specific subculture of American society which waits for marriage. If we as Christians let our faith be dictated by our sexual views, we are not thinking biblically, but rather floating along with the cultural tides of American trends. Our priorities are being dictated by popular culture rather than by the Bible.

In other words, our faith should dictate our sexual beliefs, not the other way around.

 

Conclusion

 

Jesus did not come so that all may be virgins again.

He did not come to save only the sexually pure, nor does He turn His back on the ‘unclean.’ If anything, He moves toward those who feel the most ashamed and draws them into the sphere of His love so they can feel clean and new again.

American Christians have somehow married virginity to our faith in such a way that we have come to frown on those who screw up and cast out anyone with different beliefs than ours in the arena of sexual ethics. Yet, nowhere in Scripture do we see Christ doing this. In fact, just the opposite. He rescues a woman who was caught in adultery from her punishment and tells her to be free from her sin.

And that is a religion I want to be a part of. I wan to chill with a God who doesn’t mark me down for my sexual misdemeanors, but who sees past them to a wounded soul and a struggling spirit, inviting them to come and cast my cares upon Him.

My virginity cannot carry the weight of all my sin; Jesus can.

May we be people who look to Him, rather than our own sexual restraint, to cure us of our sin, shame, and fear.

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on August 5th, 2017.


 

johnny-61-e1484779008898-2

I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Watching Gender: Kids And Media Stereotypes… A Helpful Infographic

Our media mantra here at CPYU has always been this: Media serves our kids as a map. In other words, it shapes the way they think about and live their lives. And, with teenagers engaged in 9 hours of daily media time. . . and tweens (ages 8-12) engaged with media for 6 hours a day. . . it makes sense that we (parents, grandparents, and youth workers) reckon with this reality by teaching our kids how to think critically and Christianly about music and media. We want to train them in ways that equip for a live of critical engagement rather than mindless consumption.

A recent report issued by Common Sense Media looks at issues of gender equity in media.  Along with the report comes an interesting infographic (see below) that reveals what parental concerns regarding media influence in today’s world. Give it a look. Then, take a look at a resource we’ve created here at CPYU that will help you help your kids engage in lifetime of thinking critically and Christianly about media and music.

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Dear Internet,

I just got back from a week in the mountains with my beloved children. I’m a youth pastor without any kids of my own, so when I talk about “my kids,” I mean these teens and tweens whom I love with all my heart. We had a phenomenal trip, but the more time I spend with them, the more my heart breaks as I get to peer deeper into the culture in which they dwell.

And that culture is shaped in large part by you, Internet.

When I was in high school not that long ago, girls would wear the sports jacket of the boy they adored. They would fill their notebooks with his name, and perhaps her own name followed by his last name.

But today, to catch the eye of the boy she likes, a teenage girl will just send naked pictures via Snapchat or any other myriad apps designed for just that kind of communication.

Today, in order to impress her boy, she has to strip down and reveal her body just to keep a guy interested for longer than a few minutes.

So thank you for that, Internet. Thank you for disrobing my kids just to let them feel a little bit of value or beauty. Thank you for putting into their pockets unlimited connectivity and unrestricted access to the world.

Thanks to you, I walked in on three of my 8th graders talking about sexual acts I didn’t know about until well into my college years. So thanks for spreading your wealth of information.

Thank you for stripping down and beating to a pulp any hope my kids had of holding an attention span longer than 14 seconds. They have become addicted to your apps and videos like a drug addict to his beloved heroin.

When we first arrived at the cabin, we made a rule that during group activities, discussions and meals, your phones were to be nowhere near you. That rule lasted about five minutes before my kids were pasted to their screens once again, unable to enjoy the company of the friends and leaders present with them.

 

And I know this is no accident, dear Internet. I have read article after article about how you rake in the profits the more time my kids and I spend on your apps. Not only do you beckon them back to your beloved apps with push notifications and unique sound effects, you want to keep them there as long as possible. You have countless little algorithms in place to ensure that my kids will whittle away their time (aka, lives) glued to your precious screens, unable to break from their devices longer than a few minutes.

Unable to sit in silence, their minds unstimulated.

Unable to be with their closest friends in a mountain cabin for a week.

Unable to read a book (those heavy paper things) because ‘it’s too boring.’

You hide behind the cloak of connecting us with our friends, when just the opposite is true. You don’t want to connect us; you want our time. Because the more time we spend on your slice of the web, the more money you make.

Dear Internet, you are heartless and cold; a vacuum cleaner sucking in not only our time but our money as well. You don’t see humans or feel warmth, you only see dollar signs and addictive triggers in the chemicals inside our brains.

My kids are less healthy because you have glued them to their beds and couches.

My kids are less secure in themselves because you flood them with images of far away models flaunting as much skin as Instagram will allow.

My kids are less at peace because you have programmed them to crave your constant stimulation and to wonder who has contacted them in the last 3 minutes.

My kids don’t see their bodies as things of value; they see them as a means to some kind of cheap digital affection.

My kids are more exposed, not only to sexual and pornographic content, but violent and gory images as well. One of my students is addicted to looking at snuff films and pictures of humans who had died brutal deaths. Did he wake up one day and decide to look at these? Or were they served to him on one of your popular websites?

You may have done a lot of good for the world, but most of what I see is destructive and uninhibited. You don’t care about the souls of my kids, you care about dollar bills. Perhaps if you were only aware of just how much damage I’ve seen you do in the lives of my students, you’d at least try to make an effort to improve things.

Please leave my kids alone and stop berating them with your addictive tactics and ruthless dopamine stimulation. I love them more than you ever will, so the least you could do is make an effort to change.

…or just go die.

Angrily,

e

A version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on July 15th, 2017.


 

johnny-61-e1484779008898-2

I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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Camille Paglia On Transgenderism

 

Going straight to the source, I read Jonathan V. Last’s interview with Paglia. I’ve been tracking with a wide-spectrum of opinions on transgenderism as I seek to understand and respond to this emerging cultural reality in ways that bring honor and glory to God. And so today, I’m simply passing on this exchange between Last and Paglia. . . (you can read the full article here). . .

JVL: I keep waiting for the showdown between feminism and transgenderism, but it always keeps slipping beneath the horizon. I’ve been looking at how the La Leche League—which stood at the crossroads of feminism once upon a time—has in the last couple years bowed completely to the transgender project. Their central text is (for now) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, but they’ve officially changed their stance to include men and fathers who breastfeed. The actual wording of their policy is wonderful: “It is now recognized that some men are able to breastfeed.” Left unsaid is the corollary that some women are biologically unable to breastfeed. Though this would go against the League’s founding principles, one supposes. What does one make of all of this?

CP: Feminists have clashed with transgender activists much more publicly in the United Kingdom than here. For example, two years ago there was an acrimonious organized campaign, including a petition with 3,000 claimed signatures, to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer at Cardiff University because of her “offensive” views of transgenderism. Greer, a literary scholar who was one of the great pioneers of second-wave feminism, has always denied that men who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery are actually “women.” Her Cardiff lecture (on “Women and Power” in the twentieth century) eventually went forward, under heavy security. And in 2014, Gender Hurts, a book by radical Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys, created a heated controversy in the United Kingdom. Jeffreys identifies transsexualism with misogyny and describes it as a form of “mutilation.” She and her feminist allies encountered prolonged difficulties in securing a London speaking venue because of threats and agitation by transgender activists. Finally, Conway Hall was made available: Jeffrey’s forceful, detailed lecture there in July of last year is fully available on YouTube. In it she argues among other things, that the pharmaceutical industry, having lost income when routine estrogen therapy for menopausal women was abandoned because of its health risks, has been promoting the relatively new idea of transgenderism in order to create a permanent class of customers who will need to take prescribed hormones for life.

Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.

The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone. As for the La Leche League, they are hardly prepared to take up the cudgels in the bruising culture wars. Awash with the milk of human kindness, they are probably stuck in nurturance mode. Naturally, they snap to attention at the sound of squalling babies, no matter what their age. It’s up to literature professors and writers to defend the integrity of English, which like all languages changes slowly and organically over time. But with so many humanities departments swallowed up in the poststructuralist tar pit, the glorious medium of English may have to fight the gender commissars on its own.

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Bill Nye The Science Guy. . . Sex Junk Education. . .

If you’ve been paying attention at all to those elements of the rapidly changing culture soup that have been talked about online over the course of the last week, you’ve probably heard some rumblings regarding the latest venture from long-time science educator, Bill Nye. From 1993 until 1998, Nye was a PBS staple with his popular kids’ show, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Nye never disappeared from television, making numerous appearances over the years in an effort to promote his view and theories. He now has a new venture. . . which we’ll get back to in a minute. .  .

Interlude. . . for a little bit of social science reality. As we say and teach here all the time at CPYU, culture is both a map (directive) and a mirror (reflective). As a map, it tells us what to believe and how to live. It’s especially powerful in the lives of kids since they are at a very vulnerable and formative stage of life developmentally. Consequently, we need to know what the cultural maps are and where they’re leading our kids. When they lead them in the right direction, we can celebrate and affirm those maps. But when they lead in a direction away from God’s order and design, we are called to issue challenges and correctives in an effort to lead our kids onto the narrow road that leads to life. As a mirror, culture helps us see who we are, the choices we’ve made, and the course we are on.

So, back to Bill Nye and his latest venture that’s been getting so much press over the last few days. . .

 

 

Ironically, on the same day that our CPYU family gathered for our annual Celebration Banquet of our mission and ministry to know ulture (April 21), Bill Nye was making culture and mapping life through the debut of his new Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World.  While the show’s moniker is telling in and of itself, a peek into Nye’s beliefs and the show’s mapping message can be found in Episode #9, titled “The Sexual Spectrum.” During the show, Nye introduces a performance by Rachel Bloom as a “cool little segment” that’s “very special.” Bloom’s performance of the song “My Sex Junk” clearly maps and mirrors emerging societal attitudes on gender, promoting the idea of behavioral relativism, personal choice, a sexual/gender spectrum, and fluidity. . . or as Bloom sings, “there’s nothing taboo about a sex stew.”

I want to encourage you watch Bloom’s performance. I want to encourage you to quietly ponder and digest how her performance serves as a map and a mirror. And, I want to push you to view the performance and the beliefs at its’ core through the framework of a biblical sexual ethic. Then, talk to the kids you know and love. The Scriptures must shape our view and practice of God’s good and glorious gift of sexuality. Our transitory feelings and shifting opinions on sexuality should never be used as the foundation from which to develop a view of Scripture. Overall, we need to be speaking up and framing the issue in God-honoring ways with our kids.

The culture is speaking. We must be speaking even louder.

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Ed Sheeran, Body Image, and New Rules For Dating. . .

It’s been on the charts for 18 weeks. It peaked at #1. Today it sits at #4. “It” is Ed Sheeran’s single “Shape of You,” one of two lead singles from his third studio album, ÷ (divide). The video (embedded below) has amassed well over 1 billion views. And with Sheeran currently touring in South America and ready to start the North American leg of his tour on June 29th, the song is sure to stick on the charts for quite some time.

 

 

What’s the big deal and why would the song be blog-worthy? For culture-watchers who understand the power of music to serve us as both a map and a mirror, “Shape of You” is not only reflecting how we now think about love and sex, but directing us into a normalcy on these matters that disrupts God’s good design for His good gifts.

“The club isn’t the best place to find a lover so the bar is where I go,” sings Sheeran in the opening lines (see lyrics below). Some fast-drinking , a conversation, and then a dance to a Van Morrison tune lead to a sexual hookup(s) fueled by nothing more than physical attraction. Thus, the song’s title. Sheeran’s declaration of love is not about a person. Rather, it’s about a body (“I’m in love with your body/Everyday discovering something brand new/I”m in love with the shape of you”). And then, a week into more hookups, “we’re going out on our first date.” That’s the way it works in today’s world.

Today, we posted a 1-minute “Youth Culture Today” radio spot on Sheeran’s song, “Shape of You.” Give it a listen. Then, talk to your kids about God’s order and design His good gift of sexuality, along with challenges to our culture of objectification. “Shape of You” is a matter-of-fact statement of cultural opinion. And that’s why it needs to be talked about.

 

Ed Sheeran and Dating Standards

 

The club isn’t the best place to find a lover
So the bar is where I go
Me and my friends at the table doing shots
Drinking fast and then we talk slow
Come over and start up a conversation with just me
And trust me I’ll give it a chance now
Take my hand, stop, put Van the Man on the jukebox
And then we start to dance, and now I’m singing like

Girl, you know I want your love
Your love was handmade for somebody like me
Come on now, follow my lead
I may be crazy, don’t mind me
Say, boy, let’s not talk too much
Grab on my waist and put that body on me
Come on now, follow my lead
Come, come on now, follow my lead

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
And last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

One week in we let the story begin
We’re going out on our first date
You and me are thrifty, so go all you can eat
Fill up your bag and I fill up a plate
We talk for hours and hours about the sweet and the sour
And how your family is doing okay
Leave and get in a taxi, then kiss in the backseat
Tell the driver make the radio play, and I’m singing like

Girl, you know I want your love
Your love was handmade for somebody like me
Come on now, follow my lead
I may be crazy, don’t mind me
Say, boy, let’s not talk too much
Grab on my waist and put that body on me
Come on now, follow my lead
Come, come on now, follow my lead

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
And last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Oh—I—oh—I—oh—I—oh—I
I’m in love with your body
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on

I’m in love with the shape of you
We push and pull like a magnet do
Although my heart is falling too
I’m in love with your body
Last night you were in my room
And now my bedsheets smell like you
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with your body
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
I’m in love with your body
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
I’m in love with your body
Come on, be my baby, come on
Come on, be my baby, come on
I’m in love with your body
Every day discovering something brand new
I’m in love with the shape of you

 

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The Shame List. . . And How To Talk About Sex. . .

Last week, the folks at Campus Pride, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a safer college environment for LGBTQ students, released its 2016 Shame List of the absolute worst campuses for LBGTQ youth. As I scrolled through the list of colleges and universities, I began to feel like I was scrolling through one of those old Campus Life guides to Christian colleges that we used to make available to youth group kids and their families. It was not at all surprising that the list was overwhelmingly populated by religiously-affiliated schools. Included on the list was my own alma mater, Geneva College.

The Campus Pride site includes these words about the list from Executive Director, Shane Windmeyer: “Religion-based bigotry is careless and life-threatening. LGBTQ young people face high rates of harassment and violence, especially our trans youth and LGBTQ youth of color. The schools on this list openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth and many of these schools have requested or received Title IX exemptions for no other purpose than to discriminate, expel and ban LGBTQ youth from campus. It is shameful and wrong. . . Families and young people deserve to know that this list of schools are the worst for LGBTQ youth. They are not loving, welcoming, safe spaces to live, learn and grow – and nobody wants to got to a college that openly discriminates against anyone.”

I’ve been thinking about Shane Windmeyer’s words for several days. While my thoughts are still in process and therefore incomplete, here are some initial reflections. . .

Perhaps most troubling to me as I pondered the list is that fact that I know a small handful of the schools listed and believe that Shane Windmeyer’s characterization of those schools is a bit unfair. Granted, I can’t speak for all of the schools on the list. Most are schools I only know by name. Nor can I speak for the far-too-many people associated with many Christian colleges (and other institutions, for that matter) who horribly misrepresent Christ and Christianity when it comes to matters of sexuality. . . either through their own arrogant behavioral hypocrisy and failure to recognize that hypocrisy, and/or through hate-filled approaches to issues of sexuality that would be more like those crazy messed-up folks who show up at military funerals and pride events screaming, yelling, and condemning. The fact is,  these people do not represent me, and their actions shouldn’t lead to hasty judgments regarding Christ, Christianity, and all Christians.

But what also left me troubled regarding the list and Shane Windmeyer’s comments is the all-or-nothing nature of his words that I believe unfairly box those of us in who are truly working hard to listen, to understand, and to respond in ways that reflect a humble attitude of repentance (where and when we’ve been wrong. . . and we have been), along with a clear Christ-like approach that oozes grace, while maintaining a proper perspective on God’s order and design for his created gift of sex and sexuality. My own college, Geneva College, unapologetically expects and strives to nurture all students to embrace a consistent Christian faith that is integrated into all of life. . . academics, relationships, play, work, sexuality, etc. Every faculty member and student who is honest will readily admit that to do so is, in fact, a daily struggle. This mission is rooted in the transformative message of the Gospel. In Geneva’s case, the whole of Biblical history and two-thousand years of Christian history continue to come together to shape an understanding and approach to all matters of life in ways that challenge every student on a personal level, while reflecting the way and will of God as revealed in the Scriptures. For me personally, I have struggled, worked, and at times failed miserably to see how the Scriptures do in fact speak to every nook and cranny of my life. . . including sex and sexuality. While it has been a difficult venture that usually challenges my beliefs and behaviors to the point of great discomfort, it has always been a journey that is life-giving and transformative.

To all those who would come to blanket conclusions based on the Shame List, I would simply ask that you understand that in the case of what I believe is true of most Christians,  is that we endeavor to be people who represent love, welcome, and safety. This is who God has been to us. We endeavor to be those kind of people because we endeavor to be faithful to God and his revelation of himself in the Bible, which is why we believe that God’s good gift of sex and sexuality are given for a clear purpose and place. I would hope that as we endeavor to serve God and show grace, that you would not openly discriminate against us as we endeavor to follow and serve the God who has revealed himself to humanity in the Scriptures and called us to “come and follow me.” For me, to walk away from a Biblical sexual ethic would require me to turn my back on all that Christ has done in my life, and to jettison everything I’ve believed about everything. To do so would be a clear denial of Jesus Christ. . . which is not an option for me. Likewise, to stand on a corner and scream “God hates fags!” would be a denial  of Jesus Christ as well. And in the midst of all of this, I continue to pray that I would be open to understanding where I have been in error in both beliefs and behaviors.

To my fellow followers of Christ, I highly recommend this short little conversation about how to speak to our culture about sex:

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The Fluidity of Identity in Today’s World. . . A Thought-Provoking Video. . .

A friend sent me a link to this video yesterday. I understand it’s been around for a few days so my apologies for getting to it perhaps a little late. I found it incredibly enlightening and incredibly disturbing at the same time. This is who we are. That’s enlightening. And, this is who we are. That’s disturbing.

When I read the Scriptures I see that a generation can be lost within the span of one generation. It’s not necessarily over the long haul. When I watch this video, I’m thinking the same thing. I remember how twenty years ago we were talking about the postmodern turn and telling youth workers and parents that “we’re moving into a worldview landscape where there is no such thing as truth. Instead, truth is individualized and fluid based on one’s mood and feelings.” We’re here. And while we were only speculating on how this shift would play out in everyday life. . . well, here’s one example.

So, take a look at this. Then let’s talk about it. Feel free to comment and discuss. In addition, this is a great one to talk about with the kids you know and love. . .

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