Sunday, June 24, 2007

when i write we i mean i when i write i i mean you when i write i i mean us...?

We are faced with decisions about how to live and for what everyday. Sometimes we think about it, sometimes we don't, the complacency of routine lulls us into security or acceptance. We are afraid to step into the unknown for fear of what we may lose, the trouble it may cause, the insecurity of not knowing. All of which are quite necessary to include when making a decision. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut. In between the head and the heart exists a body of ambiguity. How do you live with that ambiguity? We can resort to our head, which I often do. We can resort to our heart, which I often do. Or we can struggle to hold both. Sometimes the anxiety is too much to hold both and the pendulum swings one way or another.

I need to decide every morning how I will choose to live. Will I live for money, stuff, health, job, family, people, God, appearance, feeling, security, risk, adrenaline, joy, friends, soul, prestige, performance, music...? At least I'm asking the question.

1. Some mornings I don't decide, I sleep in late, drink too much coffee, and sit on the couch indecisively...all day. That's okay.

2. Some mornings I am decisive, self-aware, conscious, motivated, and hopeful. That's okay.

3. Sometimes we make decisions and later ask the question "what the hell was I thinking?" That's okay.

4. Sometimes the decisions we make scream "THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" That's okay.

Today I hope the decision I make includes #'s 1, 2, and 4.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Father's Day

Memories fade over time, what used to be so clear becomes blurred...Father's Day. I ran at the waterfront watching young families picking shells on the beach together, lone old men walking slow and alone, father and son riding bikes, a single leaf falling from a tree. Symbolism. I felt sorrowful for the relationship I once had with my father, for the children who have or who have never known their father, for all the dad's that are just plain jerks, for the estranged relationships, for the pain of families. Heavy and contemplative.

My Dad was a stellar man. He loved me well, loved my mom well, and loved my friends well. He had a temper. I often wonder what life would be like if he was still around today. It could be harder and infused with more pain or it could be lighter. I won't know. Perhaps it seems strange to you to have grief be so present 12 years later. It is for me, but I find rest in acknowledging the confusing pain of loss. Grief feels big, onminous, unspecified, peaceful. I'm finally able to cry the tears I tried to control for so many years and I find there are others around to catch them. They hold a cup for me to cry and are not drown by my sadness or confusion. I am at rest.

I was young when my Dad left this world. I didn't know what to do except go on. So I did. Now I am finding time and space to pause, remember, and grieve. Today is a day I feel loss, and a lot of it-not just of my dad but more. It comes at different moments, surprising, not so surprising. Sometimes it feels like life falls apart.

Thesis: Loss of Relationship

Conclusion: Hard, Sad, Life...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


A New Genre

Today I was informed of a new genre often utilized, easily recognized, but not often enough named:
that of the "half-assed, rapid-write, hope to God this does the job" paper
Not that I have any idea what my Professor and T.A. were talking about...

Dirt, Greed, and Sex...

I was intrigued by the title of the assigned reading as soon as I opened the syllabus for my Sexuality, Intimacy, and Power class. The three words were followed by an even more surpirising subtitle "Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today." Countryman, the author, offers a refreshing, articulate, and academic synthesis of what the Bible REALLY has to say about sex. And what you may find will disturb you, compel you, challenge you, free you, welcome you, and repel you. My hope would be that it compels you toward a deep compassion and invitation to the outsider, those who have been marginalized for their sexual practices. The gospel is for everyone PERIOD. So get over yourself, and I'll do my best to get over myself. The gospel is for your neighbor who sleeps with different women weekly, for the man who longs to be a woman, for a woman who loves a woman, for a man who loves a man, for the celibate, for the adulterer, for the prostitute, for the couple celebrating 50 years together, for me, for you. I of course suggest reading this book, but below is a short summary I wrote of Countryman's main thesis. Enjoy and respond.

William Countryman challenges the modern sexual ethic often revolving around shame, exclusion, and physicality through careful examination of the New Testament text and culture. His attention to Greek language nuances, juxtaposition of ancient and modern culture, and overarching principle of grace invite the reader to understand sexuality and sex in light of the transforming gospel of grace and redemption, not condemnation and separation.

Throughout his work Countryman spends significant time specifying how translators imparted their own traditions and societal norms to the text, thereby changing the original meaning. Although translators may have chosen the best available word, the connotations and meaning our culture assigns to it alters the intended meaning (p.126). Countryman asserts in a variety of ways, “we must seek to recover from them [N.T. writings] not only what they say, but what their original audiences already knew” (p. 141) and “one must resist the temptation to read the ancient texts only in terms drawn from one’s own immediate experience and the tradition which has shaped it” (p.143). With this in mind, we must not be too hasty to understand subjects of desire, lust, purity, and other sexually charged words in the New Testament based on our own experience.

Countryman’s investigation of language frames the cultural picture he presents to show how purity and property norms differ significantly from today’s norms. Today sexual purity often presents as a moral issue, in the Old Testament world it was a way for the Jews to set themselves apart from other ethnic groups (p. 65). In the first century, the purity laws were abandoned in order to allow Jew and Gentile table fellowship, ultimately relationship. The change in societal code lead to viewing purity as deriving from the heart, not from physicality. Humility, love, compassion, unity, and peace were the author’s intended meaning of purity, not whether or not lovers are having sex before marriage or engaging in homosexual acts. These virtues intended to help the new church gain respectability from neighbors and maintain community (p. 129).

Property, not purity language was used around sexual acts that would dishonor a patriarch’s ownership of women and children. As difficult as it is to understand, much less accept the lack of women’s rights throughout most of history, the serious reader must not impose modern expectations or experiences of romantic love-choice, freedom, and individuality on the Biblical text. Ancients understood sex outside of marriage as stealing, not a breech in one’s purity in relationship to God. Christians who have used purity language from the scriptures to create very specific boundaries around what is and what is not acceptable sexually will likely experience anxiety and resistance when presented with Countryman’s elucidation. It is disappointing to find out that neither sex nor physical purity is of utmost concern in the New Testament (p. 141).

What is of primary concern is the availability of grace. Nothing separates God’s love from humanity. Contrary to the message of condemnation Christians have freely handed out to individuals living in “sexual sin,” Countryman reminds the reader that salvation is not dependent on purity. Abolition of the purity rules meant to unify, today often “Christian” culture uses purity rules to separate. Practicing purity rules is not wrong in and of it self, but what is to be examined is the “exaltation of one’s own religious excellence at the expense of others” (p. 95). Where does the bible say that having sex before marriage, non-vaginal intercourse, or homosexuality is a greater sin than that of pride? The simple answer is-it doesn’t.

Countryman closes his work with “the gospel works rather to express the power of God’s love, which rejects our rejections and breaches our best defenses and draws us out of our fortifications toward a goal we can as yet barely imagine” (p. 267). We need not be as concerned with our neighbor’s sex life as that of our own acceptance, expression, and bestowal of God’s indiscriminate grace and love.

Countryman, L. (1988). Dirt Greed and Sex: Sexual Ethics In the New Testament and Their Implications for Today. Philadelphia. Fortress.