My Most Recent Books
- 50 Shades of What the… February 26, 2015
- The Gay Wedding – To Go or Not? February 24, 2015
- God’s Pink Slip… February 18, 2015
- Agreement or Understanding? February 6, 2015
- Research on Playground Songs… January 31, 2015
- Breakpoint Symposium on Evangelicals and the Gay Issue January 25, 2015
- Interview with Kerby Anderson January 25, 2015
- Focus on the Family Broadcast on Cohabitation January 12, 2015
- Another Amusing Bible Lesson from Newsweek January 2, 2015
- Future Islands – There is Indeed Something New Under the Sun December 30, 2014
So, people are voting for 50 Shades with their feet (and dollars).
If you’ve payed any attention in class, you pretty much know what it’s about:
Young woman submits to generally anything this guy wants do to her sexually.
As a friend remarked, “The movie didn’t seem to have any plot line other than that.” Uh, porn flicks don’t have plot lines. But the run-away success of the film, at least dollar- and publicity-publicity-wise, raises many questions for me:
* Exactly who’s going to see the movie, mostly men or women? Women I suspect.
* Is it because they are truly interested in the topic? To pick tips for the bedroom?
* Or are they simply rubber-necking, not wanting to look at the bad car accident, but you simply can’t help yourself?
* How many women see this woman and think ‘I so wish my guy treated me like that?”
* Do guys really wish their gal would submit to such treatment? Really?
*What does the success of this film say about the state and vitality of feminism today?
*Did the character misunderstand the admonition to “Lean In”? Is the character an “empowered woman”? Are the women who see the movie?
* Did any dads of daughters see the movie?
Here’s how weird this cultural moment is:
We have the potty-mouthed Chelsea Handler (Does she eat with that thing?) inflicting blunt-force trauma on the movie, the book, the author and everything they represent.
And Russell Brand provides an impassioned pulpit-pounding, hell-fire sermon against the movie and porn in general. (Given that it’s RB, there’s a tad bit of language.)
Let me know your thoughts on these questions. I’m curious.
The following is an excerpt from my new book – Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth – which provides practical advice, forged from real life, in building genuine friendships with our LGBT family member, neighbors, co-workers and those we share our pews with. Important stuff.
Regardless of whether you live in a state that has legalized same-sex marriage or not, the invitation to such a wedding is something that more are having to face. So how do you respond if you receive an invitation from a family member or a close friend?
This is more difficult than it may seem– or at least there are more wrinkles and angles to it. I have thought about this a great deal. There is curiously a good bit of differing opinion here and I can understand and respect most of these convictions. Some would give a flat-out “no way” to any and all such invitations. While I understand and respect this conviction, I take a less absolute approach.
There are helpful guidelines and here are mine. First question to ask is:
Who’s Inviting You?
One of the first considerations is: who’s extending the invitation? This obviously matters. Is it Walter, the accounting guy at work who audits your team’s budget? Or is it your brother or child? You will certainly evaluate these two invitations differently, one causing you much more soul-searching than the other. So, the first question is “Who is this person and how do they matter to you?” For me, the person would have to be quite special and meaningful to me.
What Kind of Wedding?
Another consideration is what kind of wedding it is. Is it happening in a Christian church or conducted by a clergyman representing the Church? What kind of church? I will be frank here. Is it an Episcopal or Lutheran church that permits such weddings, but should know better, or a Unitarian church that has forever been on the side of whatever challenges convention?
Is it a completely secular wedding at the country club, the beach, someone’s backyard or maybe just City Hall?
Is it actually a legal marriage or a commitment ceremony?
So What to Do?
First, the wedding is not just about the couple, with everyone else mere spectators. The attendees of a wedding are participants as well, supporting the couple, rejoicing with them in what their new union is creating, and even creating solidarity with them and their joining families, agreeing to be there for the couple, as a couple, in the years to come in many ways. You are a stakeholder in their union.
So when some Christians say they cannot in good conscience attend any kind of same-sex wedding, it is not necessarily because they don’t like “those darned gays and lesbians” but because of what they understand a marriage and a wedding to be. Along these lines, I could not imagine myself going to a heterosexual couple’s “commitment ceremony” declaring their dedication to each other, while not seeing marriage itself as necessary. Even if I cared deeply for the couple, I simply couldn’t participate in celebrating such a thing. In fact, to be honest, I’d think it was silly.
And this would not be any kind of statement about the people themselves, as hard as that might be for some to believe. Would I think my atheist friend hated me if he declined my invitation to attend my baptism next week? Such an event is a massive thing to a believer, but it would be unfair for me to expect him to come, much less make it a litmus test for the substance of his appreciation for me. It is just a matter of belief and conviction about what such ceremonies are. Hopefully, such Christians could explain these convictions to their gay or lesbian family members or friends in a gracious way and hope to have the couple understand even though they will not likely agree.
This is where I would stand in most situations. I certainly could not attend a wedding that was held in a church or officiated by clergy as a Christian wedding that was clearly outside of God’s design and desire for marriage. I would not want to be a part of a seemingly Christian wedding that was clearly in contrast with Christian teaching, for I would not only be an audience member, but a witness and supporter, which is exactly what the friends, family, and loved ones at a wedding are. It is a communal covenant that all are entering into, but of course, two more than anyone else. This I could not do and would have to decline with a sad heart for my friends.
A Green Light in Other Circumstances?
It depends, and it would relate primarily to the first question: Who are these folks and what is my heart toward them?
My main consideration would rest upon what this person meant to me and how I wanted to communicate my love for them, in spite of our differing convictions. Add to this whether the wedding was a secular affair or of a faith tradition outside Christianity that had no authority in my life.
For me, if I was ever to attend a same-sex wedding, these would be the questions that I would have to wade through. I will be honest. I do have some friends whose weddings I would like to attend, solely because of what they mean to me and not because I would want to celebrate the thing itself. These particular friends harbor no illusions about my convictions here. But I care for them so deeply as people–and as “opponents”– that I would be willing to reach out and attend their weddings just to show them that despite our clear differences, I would like to be there for them and show them I willing to make this compromise for them. For me, that would be an important grace. And knowing each of them as I do, none of them would be married in a church, so that eliminates that issue.
This might seem inconsistent on my part to some people, and I understand if they do not understand. But in more than a few issues regarding friendships with our LGBT neighbors, there are areas that are not as black and white as we might like them to be. But that should not keep us from seeking to find the best way through them that are true and faithful to our faith while also gracious and loving to our friends.
So, for me, I would need to be very motivated to attend such a wedding, and I would do so primarily out of love for the person who invited me.
Here is a remarkable piece of writing I came upon this week while reading a 2004 issue of the journal First Things, which I highly recommend, btw.
It’s about God being let go from his job.
Termination for Cause
I had thought the terms of our agreement
Were quite clear.
You were to provide me length of days,
Model children by a docile wife, support for same;
Keep far away all disaster man-made
Or act of your own.
And a death if not quite painless
At least sudden, without humiliation.
I in turn would confess You Creator
Of all things seen and unseen, offering customary
Praise and adoration.
Regarding line four above
Your performance has been marginal at best,
And I have now confirmation
From two physicians
Of what I must deem willful disregard
As to length of days and dying.
I therefore recognize no further obligation whatsoever
To provide the aforesaid praise, etc.
Or, indeed, to acknowledge Your existence.
Any further communication should be directed
To my counsel,
Who assures me that he knows You
from of old.
- James F. O’Callaghan
First Things, November 2004.
Was talking to a student this week over some issues regarding gender. For some reason she said a few times that we weren’t to agree on the topic at hand.
That put us on an additional discussion.
Which is more important, agreement or understanding?
It’s a key question, especially today in our contentious and over-polarized political and moral public discourse where it often happens at high-volume in simplistic soundbites on 24 hour cable shows. In my work, I deal with this all the time. If agreement doesn’t happen it’s believed we are not affirming or accepting one another. This is a very brittle way to deal with others and evaluate our relationship with them.
I told this student – at her numerous warnings that we weren’t going to agree – that understanding was much better than agreement. The fact that she was asking me honest and pointed questions about my take on an issue was more virtuous than trying to achieve agreement.
There is a difference between the two. Too often, pressing for or expecting agreement is about control: “I need you to agree with me and if you can’t, then have a good life.”
Seeking honest understanding is respectful to the person and the importance of the topic itself. It says, “I want to make sure I understand what it is you believe and why rather than just assuming I know.” A well-educated and curious person take’s that position toward others.
Now this doesn’t mean that we seek to engage in a kumbaya “peace, love and understanding” sentimentality. Quite the opposite. It means that if disagreement – even passionate, serious disagreement – must be the result, as least we know why it is we disagree. Again, this is respectful and actually lays a foundation for potential friendship. Yes, it is possible to be friends with those whom we strongly disagree!
Who would resist an opponent coming to us and sincerely asking “Now my understanding is that you believe X,Y,Z about P,D,Q? Can you help me understand why that is?” You then have the good opportunity to explain this is a popular misunderstanding of your position, terribly presumptive, not quite right or precisely right on. Who doesn’t appreciate that? And hopefully you can do the same for them.
In this you might find you actually do agree, can agree on particular points or don’t agree at all. But at least you both know why any of these might be true. And you can take that knowledge with you as you meet others with similar views rather than just assuming you know why they believe as they do.
Understanding is more important than agreement. Give inquiry a chance.
One of the most interesting things I find in doing research as a profession is discovering how serious scholars really do very in depth research on seemingly very non-academic things. When writing my first book, Why Marriage Matters, I was researching step-families and found a scholar who had written extensively on the way step-mothers are consistently portrayed as villains throughout the history of early children’s literature. This afternoon I’m researching children’s rhymes related to family, gender and sexuality for a writing project and came upon this fun wikipedia entry on a song we all know and sang years ago. It explains:
“K-I-S-S-I-N-G” or “Kay Eye Ess Ess Eye En Gee” is the name of a playground song, jump-rope rhyme or taunt.
It really only achieves its desired effect—embarrassment—when sung among children to a couple that is in romantic love. The embarrassment is derived from the prospect of romantic contact between a boy and a girl, usually an uncomfortable topic for young children.
The song is learned by oral tradition:
[Boy name] and [Girl name] sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage!
Occasionally, but rarely, a coda may be added:
That’s not all! That’s not all!
Here comes the baby drinking alcohol (or) playing basketball!
And added to this either…
…sucking his thumb,
…peeing his pants,
…doing the hokey-pokey dance.
A version of this song also exists in Spanish, in which the couple is said to be “debajo de un árbol”, or under a tree, instead of sitting in one.
There is also a German version, where the couple is sitting in snow (schnee, pronounced “shnay”) instead of a tree, because the German word for tree (Baum) does not rhyme with “K-Ü-S-S-E-N-D”, the correlative of “K-I-S-S-I-N-G”.
It’s fascinating that songs like these are known and loved across diverse cultures and continue to live from generation to generation. But if I had know these other additional lines when I was a tot, I would have combined all three of these last additions into one nice conclusion about my playmate’s baby who…
“… sucks his thumb, pees his pants all while nailing the hokey-pokey dance.”
Breakpoint did a very nice symposium in response a recent TIME article on “How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Views on Gay Marriage”. Features some really great thinkers: Hunter Baker from Union University, Owen Strachan from Boyce College, Warren Cole Smith from WORLD Magazine, Andrew Walker at Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission as well as Jennifer Morse from the Ruth Institute. And they let me in on it.
A good collection of responses on a critical issue in the faith community.
Kerby Anderson – an old and good friend at Point of View radio – recently aired an interview he was kind to do with me on my new book, Loving My LGBT Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth. (Watch at 1:01:10)