Posts filed under ‘sexuality’
Purity=Virginity?Join the conversation on my other blog: http://elizabethchapin.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/purity_virginity/
Each week this summer I am giving away books and offering a choice of two titles – one written by a man and one by a woman. Just to be fair.
Sign up to get monthly email updates delivered straight to your inbox and you’ll be entered in the weekly drawing for free books when you confirm.
This week’s choices are:
|The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson
|Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home by Jonalyn Grace Fincher
The first week of the #freebookgiveaway I offered Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. I have not finished reading it yet, but my friend Peter Benedict recommends the book and sent me his review.
|Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin
Love Is an Orientation Book Review by Peter Benedict
Love Is an Orientation is on of the most important books on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) issues that any follower of Jesus could read. Andrew Marin’s story lends power to his writing. His life and work give him authority to challenge those of us who have looked at gays as somehow “less than” straight people.
My faith community (a Vineyard church, somewhere in the vicinity of the conservative evangelical stream) didn’t discuss homosexuality much. When we did, I was given the chance to preach two “truths:” 1) Homosexual acts violate the Bible’s teaching, and 2) The greatest truth of the Bible for most of us on this issue is that Christians must love gays as much as anyone else.
These were safe truths. No one confronted me about them. I had one friend who was trying, in her words, to use our weekly 12 step recovery meeting to deal with “an unwanted gayness.” She was one of our best servant leaders.
Then that same friend reported that God had, during a sermon in which we were teaching about the various reasons divorce might be acceptable, told her that she was beautiful just as she is, and that she could date women. I told her that I loved her, and that I trusted her to hear God in the coming weeks and months. I also began to consider my stance: Was she necessarily deceived or wrong? Could this have been the voice of God?
I realized, over the coming days, that this needed to be discussed in community, so I got her permission and brought up the situation with my fellow staff members. We realized, in a few short weeks, that we represented very nearly the complete range of views on GLBT issues in the church. We had one staff member who was completely affirming; one who was mostly affirming; one who described himself as “somewhere in the middle;” one who was welcoming but not affirming; and one whose primary concern was that we get the person in question out of leadership as soon as possible.
Once we realized the disparity in our positions, we knew we needed to dive into the issue if we wanted to move forward with anything like unity. There was a lot of pain among us, as we considered whether or not we could stay together. For some of us, this was an issue of a Christian being prevented from service because of prejudice. For others, this was an issue of Biblical integrity.
We decided to read Love Is an Orientation and discuss it together. We couldn’t possibly have made a better choice. The book’s greatest strength is also its most frustrating characteristic: it doesn’t discuss whether or not gay lifestyle is sinful. In retrospect, that helped us more than anything else. We read lots of articles and books, and those on the affirming side promoted the affirming material, while those on the welcoming-but-not-affirming side promoted material that supported their position. Only one of us changed perspectives – God moved me to become affirming, but not as a result of any material proposed among us. That’s a story for another time.
What we needed was a way to move forward in love for one another, while still disagreeing (strongly!) about the theology and practice of GLBT lifestyles.
Marin’s book, which is at turns transparent, sensitive, confrontational, challenging, troubling, moving, and humbling, provided us a framework to get where we are today: still in disagreement, but able to be together, with our gay friend still among us. We didn’t come up with a solution that makes any of us particularly happy (and as a result, sharing it wouldn’t help anyone else… each person, family, church community, etc. needs to do their own work), but we found a way forward that works for us.
Marin’s use of scripture is challenging; I didn’t always think he was playing fairly, but he made a good number of Bible-based arguments that challenged me to consider how I can love others. In the end, though, it was his story, the story of a genuine homophobe learning to love gay people, that disarmed us.
I owe a portion of my love for my community and for my place within it to Andrew Marin. I’ve passed his book to conservative, liberal, and gay friends, with generally glowing and positive reviews.
Please give it a read, and weigh in with what you think.
If you want to contact Peter to hear more of his story, you can connect with him on Facebook. Peter will also be checking the comments here and joining in on the conversation.
Does every girl dream of being a mother when they grow up? I have four girls, and I can say from personal experience – it’s a mixed bag. Even my own history testifies to the ambiguity in answering this question. When I was young, I wanted to be the first woman president and I wasn’t going to get married, or if I did, I wasn’t going to take HIS last name! That way I could also be the first King of the United States – my maiden name is King. I don’t remember being interested in having kids at all. If I played those schoolyard games of picking out future kids’ names, it was only to fit in and go along with the crowd. Perhaps it was growing up as a child of divorce, passed back and forth between abusive and alcoholic homes that soured me to having kids. Who knows. My sister was the one who wanted to get married and have kids. Maybe it was because she fell in love in High School. But, the odds were not in her favor.
In The Hunger Games Trilogy, Katniss never dreamed of getting married or having kids. She couldn’t imagine bringing children into such a bleak world. The dystopian imaginary of Suzanne Collins is a reality for many. I love how Suzanne Collins deals with the romantic ideal and the myth of the “good mother”. Katniss did not have a typical “good mother” role model – a reality for many that makes Mother’s Day a difficult day to celebrate. While I don’t hate Mother’s Day in the way that Anne Lamott does, I appreciate her critique of the holiday.
I appreciated the intricate interaction of free-will, cultural/social pressure, and destiny in The Hunger Games Trilogy. Katniss stubbornly clings to her independence and desires to choose for herself whether and whom she marries, while faced with the extreme pressure of The Games to conform to the expectations of the world around her. Many girls are pressured to marry – in some cultures they are even forced to marry or sell themselves for what feels like the salvation of their family. Katniss resists the injustice of such a forced marriage arrangement, yet is willing to consider it as an option to protect those she loves. I was a little disappointed in the ending when Katniss confesses, “I know this would have happened anyway.” This line gave the sense of some sort of inevitability that minimized her choice (I won’t tell you her choice in case you haven’t read the books). But, the ending also represented a sense that Katniss had finally reached a level of self-awareness that allowed her to make the choice of a partner that best suited her. Isn’t that what we want for our girls – that they will have choices and that they will choose the partner that best suits them? And, that they would have the freedom to choose a career or choose to raise a family or both?
Collins did a good job developing the character of Katniss to have a legitimate choice between two young men who genuinely loved her, balanced with the possibility of choosing neither of them. The complexity of the character development was well done with Katniss loving both Gale and Peeta in different ways and for different reasons, showing us that the romantic ideal is not often a reality. Love is a choice. Loving and being loved in return is not a given. The tension and the uncertainty was well played, even though it felt a little bit like the “Team Edward” vs. “Team Jacob” rivalry in the Twilight Series. Fortunately, the rivalry in The Hunger Games was a bit more realistic, exposing the possibility that life circumstances may prevent romantic love from flourishing.
One thing that frustrated me about the Twilight Series was this notion of a soul mate – or the sense that one person is destined to be with another and can’t survive without them. While it may make a good story, I wonder if it sets our girls up for unrealistic expectations in regards to choosing a life partner. The idea of a soul mate – or someone we can’t live without – makes love and marriage almost inevitable and gives a sense that there is some cosmic matchmaker who knows what’s best and will make it happen. It also gives a feeling of incompleteness – I’m not enough unless I find that one person designed to complete me. I don’t think this is the way love works, nor am I convinced it’s the way God intended for love and marriage to work.
When my girls dream and talk about their future husbands and kids, I dream with them and celebrate their choice of kid names. But I also push back a bit. My sister wanted to get married and have kids, yet at age 50 she remains single and childless. Was it because her first love died in a car accident before graduating high school? Was it because of the abuse when she was a girl? We could speculate about the reasons, but I don’t think that would be helpful. Most people say really stupid things to their single friends over 40. The reality is, we don’t always get what we want. So, I ask my girls, “What if you never get married?” “What if you can’t have kids?” We talk about options, choices, reality.
I didn’t even imagine having kids until after I committed my life to Christ around age 17. I gradually started opening up to the idea. If that’s what God wanted, I was willing to consider it. But, I was planning to remain single and go to the far reaches of the world for the sake of the Gospel. In my church culture there was this subtle message that marriage and child-rearing was a woman’s primary call and function – some sense of “this is why God created women.” Well, sometimes the message was not so subtle. I had friends who were part of the Quiverful movement – a movement of couples committed to having as many children as physically possible with God’s help and without the use of any birth control methods. I knew others who were intentionally childless because the end of the age and the tribulation were certainly near! After reading A Full Quiver, the argument made some sense to me, though the fear of an impending apocalypse was tempting as well. Four kids and a “quiverful” later, I am not so persuaded by either argument. I chose to marry and have four children – and my choice was largely influenced by love and hope – love for my husband and hope in a better future than my past predicted. Love changes things. Hope changes things.
So, what’s a mother of four girls to do? Do I wish marriage and motherhood upon them? Do I pray that someday they will meet Mr. Right, have children and live happily ever after? Honestly, that’s not my prayer for my girls. For centuries motherhood was the only sure way for a woman to find value and have a place in society. Times have changed. My prayer is for my girls to choose and be chosen for roles that they are best suited for – whether raising a family or having a career or both. I pray they would find their value and worth in their identity in Christ, not in their roles or in what society expects of them. I pray they will reflect the image of God in their choices and that they will be faithful to their true selves. I pray they will resist pressure from society or cultural systems that are in opposition to God’s Kingdom vision. I pray they will choose to participate as valuable and valued members of unified communities of cooperative friends of Jesus living lives of creative goodness for the sake of others.
“Dad, do I have to help change the oil in the car?” It’s been a long time since I changed my own oil – though my dad taught me how. One of the benefits of growing up in an all girl family – there is no division of labor along gender lines. While my husband is usually the one who gets dirty under the car to change the oil, I am capable of doing it and want my girls to master the skill of taking care of their own vehicles for a number of reasons – one of which has to do with the rule of reciprocation. I’ll never forget learning this concept in my Persuasive Communication class and don’t make a very good target of most marketing schemes. We learned about various tactics used to influence compliance and persuade people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to do. One of the tactics we discussed involved the rule of reciprocation. I was already somewhat familiar with this concept because I wrote a paper in High School titled, “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.”
In discussing the rule of reciprocation, one scholar notes, “Possibly one of the most potent compliance techniques is the rule of reciprocation, which prompts us to repay what someone has given us. When we are given a gift, we feel indebted to the giver, often feel uncomfortable with this indebtedness, and feel compelled to cancel the debt…often against our better judgment. The rule of reciprocation is widespread across human cultures, suggesting that it is fundamental to creating interdependencies on which societies, cultures, and civilizations are built. In effect, the rule of reciprocation assures that someone can give something away first, with the relative assurance that this initial gift will eventually be repaid–nothing is lost.”
This rule of reciprocation is not always applied consciously. For instance, at church we invite our volunteers to a free lunch to thank them for their service. Along with serving them a free meal, we have drawings for giveaways and by the end of the day, many volunteers feel a sense of indebtedness. So, when the time comes to sign up to volunteer again or when they are contemplating quitting their volunteer position – they are more likely to choose to continue volunteering because of this general sense of “owing” something. This rule of reciprocation is likely intended by God to create cultures of mutual interdependence, but like all good things, it is often abused. Some use their influence and the rule of reciprocation to serve themselves, instead of for the good of the whole. You’re probably imagining your own scenarios, but I’ll offer a common one. Guy meets gal on college campus and invites her to dinner. He takes her to a nice restaurant and offers to pick up the tab. Later, they go to a club and he buys her quite a few drinks. With her judgment impaired by the alcohol and her growing discomfort of indebtedness, she gives in to his sexual advances but later regrets it in the morning.
Some gals are not so easily persuaded, and this is one of the reasons I want my girls to be able to change their own oil. A gal goes out on a date and let’s the guy pay for dinner, he doesn’t ask for sex in return. But, the relationship goes on and he continues to give gifts – not only tangible gifts of dinner dates and chocolates or flowers, but gifts of service – like changing the oil on her car when she is in need. At some point, she may reach a tipping point and the discomfort of this growing sense of indebtedness breaks down her better judgment and she attempts to cancel the debt by giving him something she later regrets. Thankfully, not all guys springing for a meal with a gal are in it for sex – some are making a genuine offer of friendship and love that they hope will be reciprocated in kind. I’ve also seen beautiful church ministries where men who are skilled at changing oil in cars serve single women with the gift of their time and ability, and the women are blessed. There is a healthy functioning of interdependence – of giving and receiving, a beautiful reciprocity that invites us into cooperative relationship with God for the sake of others. Jesus taught this principle, whoever is forgiven much loves much. (Luke 7) And Paul gives us parameters for this principle: Owe no person anything, except the debt of love. (Romans 13)
Unfortunately, there are many large scale abuses of this powerful principle – one of which I plan to work against in Thailand. Some of the rural regions are struggling in poverty and families send their girls to the city to earn money to send home and support the family. Men prey on such vulnerable girls and use this rule of reciprocity to their own advantage. They lure girls in by giving them gifts they are unable to repay in any way. The overwhelming sense of indebtedness traps the girls into the sex trade with little hope of escape – they can’t imagine how they could ever repay the great debt they owe expect by doing what the sex traffickers tell them to do. It’s the only way.
I’m heading to Thailand next month to help rescue ten girls caught in the sex trade and deliver them into transitional safe houses in country. These girls need to know there is another way. They need someone to cancel their debt and give them a way of escape. Global Breakthrough provides a way out. Will you join me in rescuing ten girls? Our team hopes to raise over $12,000 to accomplish our goal. Some of the funds will go towards our travel, but funds raised above and beyond our travel expenses go toward paying these girls’ debts, providing a safe place for them to receive training and help in finding a different kind of job, and blessing them with new clothes and other items they need. Visit the Global Breakthrough website to contribute and learn more about this project. You’ll find my name listed in the drop-down menu under Giving Categories – Thailand-May Trip ELIZABETH C. If you’ve read this far in the blog, I know you care. Thanks for joining me and many others in this important work.
They did it in the back seat of a ’57 Chevy. It was her first time. It didn’t take long for them to learn that yes, you can get pregnant your first time. Virginity was not a virtue in the world I grew up in. By the time I was a teenager I knew my parents married because the barrel of a shotgun stared them down. I did the math – my sister was born 9 months after my mom’s 18th birthday and while they told everyone they got married in July, they really eloped in October. By the time I was 16, not only did I know that I was a product of the rhythm method of birth control, I knew that many of my friends were no longer virgins. I heard sex was a lot of fun, but, more than anything, I thought if a guy wanted to have sex with me that I was somehow special, valuable, worthy of love – if only for a moment. Even in the midst of multiple casual relationships, sex still had some sense of making love attached to it. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that sex and love do not always go hand in hand. When we separate sex from love we lose something. We lose some of our humanity. We become like all the other animals on the planet, driven by passions and instinct – responding to physical stimuli without thinking, without feeling, without loving. That’s not what I wanted for my daughters, but neither do I want to ask them to make a promise to NOT do something that statistically they have little chance at succeeding at.
While I may have some anecdotal evidence from a few young people around me, the statistics show that (almost) everyone is doing it before they get married (Relevant Magazine September/October 2011, pg. 65) – even Christians. Yet, I remind myself that statistics are a description of past behavior, not a prediction of the future. While some are speculating about why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore, I’m looking for the reasons why some people ARE waiting – and I talk about it often with my girls because I hope my girls will make better choices than I did. Isn’t that what most parents want?
“If I could just spare her that pain – the pain of feeling dirty and unlovable after having casual sex,” I thought. “If I could just make sure she knows she is special, valuable and worthy of love.” I had no idea whether a purity talk and signing a purity pledge would do the trick and protect her from the pain I had experienced or help her feel special, but I hoped it would make some kind of difference. I searched the local Christian bookstores and looked online and finally found a program called Passport2Purity. I invited my daughter’s best friend and her mom to do a Passport2Purity weekend together, hoping our daughters might be a little more receptive to our instruction if we had someone else to back us up.
Glue, construction paper, puzzles, balloons, … We gathered the supplies listed in the parent manual and embarked on my first purity talk weekend getaway. The Passport2Purity curriculum is good, though I’m using The Purity Code Book and CD now – it’s a little more up to date. But the curriculum is not the most important thing. The most important thing is continuing the conversation and making things that are often un-discussable between parents and children discussable. While sex and intimacy are private matters meant to be special moments between two people, keeping things secret and hidden promotes a sense of shame and fear. Using a curriculum helped me organize my thinking and talking as well as touched on subjects I may not have thought to talk about. I have been exposed to a variety of views on purity and sexuality – from the free love and sex mentality of growing up in Woodstock, NY to the conservative Christian view of “kissing dating goodbye” and waiting until marriage to even kiss. I wasn’t exactly sure where I would land on the spectrum with my girls, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be on the same end of the spectrum I came from.