Thinking Out Loud

August 26, 2017

Spiritual Alignment in Marriage

Yesterday I had a nearly one-hour conversation with a couple who belong to a denomination which I can easily say would be somewhat fringe, and one I had never heard of before. While we agreed on many things, we differed as to the terminology; and while many elements of our worship services would be similar, there were some that would no doubt be unfamiliar. It was interesting, to say the least.

I’m very hesitant to take this conversation and turn it into blog material, but there is one particular aspect to our discussion which struck me.

When this couple spoke about their doctrine and beliefs, they spoke as one voice.

That is to say, their depth of understanding was at the same level for both, and never once did they even hint at contradicting each other on the interpretation of what it is their church teaches.

The cynic in me would want to suggest that perhaps they have simply been programmed with the same ‘party line’ on these matters, but their passion was too intense for these to be rote responses. And their passion was indeed great.

They certainly left me thinking and wanting to explore some of these areas further. I wish I had recorded the conversation. I would be unlikely to sign on to the entirety of their Biblical approach, but they left earning my highest respect.

But it was the marital aspect I wanted to leave you with here. The husband and wife were as unified as any two people I’ve ever seen, especially in a discussion that was high intensity. The things they spoke of really mattered, and their desire wasn’t to hit me over the head with their hermeneutic framework, but rather they seemed to care that I also take what they said to heart. They also equally enjoyed spending the time together doing this; neither was more or less in a hurry to leave than the other.

So today’s question is for married couples: Do you speak with a single voice on matters of Christian doctrine, Christian ethics, and Biblical understanding? Or is one voice stronger than the other; does one defer to the other? Or do you differ on matters of doctrinal standing? Or are you perhaps in a marriage where one is a believer and one is not?

Advertisements

July 16, 2017

We’re Back from Europe

We are back from eleven days in Europe

In the early days of my reading faith-focused blogs — approximately 2005 to 2009 — I was often disappointed to turn to some of my favorite writers only to learn they had taken the day to talk about their latest vacation. This occurred at a time when even an out-of-state (or province in our case) trip would have been impossible. Over the years there have been four significant factors preventing us from going anywhere. In order:

  • Raising children, including one who would have been considered special needs at the time.
  • My health; though we did take some road trips.
  • Economics, especially in the sense of affording air travel.
  • My parents health which perhaps wasn’t always as much a barrier as we thought, but certainly did require us to be in daily contact, which would have complicated an overseas holiday.

So when the opportunity to catch up arose, we selected a package which took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. We also passed through Slovakia which I later got to visit more closely while Ruth took a different side trip.

I knew nothing of these countries prior to leaving and did not have time to do much research. I probably could have pointed to Germany on a map and said something about wiener schnitzel, polka music and beer. (For the record, I don’t remember hearing an accordion and my beer consumption consisted of splitting one with my wife on the last day of the trip.)

As familiar as sightseeing destinations are in Paris and England and Rome, the recent terrorist activity in the first two doesn’t lend itself to worry-free touring. (I’ll grant that Germany has not escaped such events.) So we chose this particular set of countries. They were different. They were unknown. They were a nine-hour flight away.

The trip was certainly eye-opening. As I sit typing this at 5:45 in the morning — my body confused by the six hour time difference — I am reminded particularly of our reaction the first day to the historical sections of Budapest on our first full day, and our first glimpse of the old town of Prague last Wednesday. It was surreal.

We were there. It wasn’t a movie set. We saw it. We felt the bricks. We walked on the cobblestones. We pinched ourselves a few times to make sure it wasn’t a dream.

In North America, generally speaking nothing old is older than the late 1700s. Our old buildings are mostly mid-to-late 1800s. In Europe, tour guides speak of a structure saying, “this was erected in the year 921” as casually as they are reminding you not to leave personal belongings on the bus. “…And the one on the left was built in the 1100s.”

Europe is also all about cathedrals. Our last tour director — the trip was in two stages — told us that many travelers reach a the ABC stage, meaning “Another bloody castle.” But they might also say, “Another bloody cathedral.” You know your brain is saturated when, knowing the ornateness and beauty that awaits inside, you pass by because you are simply cathedraled-out.

But it does offer the opportunity to consider a number of faith-focused things. Tomorrow we’ll look at the emergence of a new group of conservative Christians in Germany, and then move on to look at

  • The very not-seeker-sensitive synagogue district in Prague
  • Resenting the church’s wealth
  • Church funding in Germany
  • Meeting people who grew up Godless

and other topics as I think of them and go through our pictures.

So that’s the line-up for this week, plus hopefully a return of the link list on Wednesday.

If you don’t want to hear about someone’s holiday excursion when having one of your own seems remote right now, please understand I totally get that.



The Eugene Peterson Thing

On the last few days of our trip an interview Religion News’ Jonathan Merritt did with Eugene Peterson blew up into a major tempest and then within 24 hours, as quickly as it had begun, the gale subsided. We’ll obviously be focused on other things this week, but here’s a 7:00 AM Sunday morning update from Religion News in case you missed it:

  • Jonathan Merritt’s column was actually the third in a series of Q&As with the author. | Read the story
  • Merritt’s question to Peterson was by no means unfounded, especially given what he said in this 2014 video. | Read the story
  • Our summer intern Madeleine Buckley looked at other prominent Christians who’ve had a change of heart on LGBT issues. | Read the story
  • Commentator Jacob Lupfer says the controversy shows that Peterson is exactly where most non-mainline Christians are — “confused, conflicted, and torn between fidelity to beliefs … and compassion for people they know and love.” | Read the story

Note: I thought what Peterson said about engaging in hypotheticals in interviews like this was brilliant; it’s hard for a pastor to answer a question which begins if there was a gay couple and if they were Christians and if they asked you to marry them…

May 14, 2017

To the Daughters and Sons: Advice for Mother’s Day 2018

Filed under: Christianity, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:10 pm

 

In a world where people are ditching their telephone land lines for sole use of their mobile/cell phones, I also recognize that snail mail is become increasingly rare. I picture parents in 20 years explaining to their children that the term mailbox was derived from the existence of actual physical boxes.

Nonetheless, mail still exists and it’s nice to receive something that isn’t mass advertising or bills from credit card and utility companies. So for all those who are younger, step-by-step instructions on how to do this for next year, especially if you’re now living away from Mom and/or Dad.

  1. Go to a dollar store. It’s not about the price. If guilt is an issue, then by all means go to Hallmark and pay $5 or $6 for the card, but otherwise, the $1 ones will suffice.
  2. Select a card. Actually choose one, don’t just grab the first one. However, it’s all about the effort in so doing. It’s about saying, “You matter enough that I took the time to park the car and go inside and obtain a card.” Pay for the card before leaving.
  3. Sign the card. Try to add something personal besides your signature.
  4. Address the card. You do know Mom’s zip code, right?
  5. You’re going to need something called postage stamps. (Running the card through a postage meter where you work, if you have such access, is not acceptable in this case.) Most are self-adhesive now so you don’t have to actually lick anything. Find the nearest Post Office or stamp retailer.
  6. Place the card in the mailbox. If you’re in New England and Mom is in Southern California, allow enough days for it to reach her.
  7. Do not assume that this exempts you from a phone call on the day. She will say, “I got your card.” You will feel good knowing that the process worked.

This is not rocket science. This is saying “I love you” in a tangible, physical way beyond what a phone call can do.

April 25, 2017

The Modern Church Dilemma: People Belonging Before They Believe

Filed under: Faith, family, media, reviews — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:55 am

Movie Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

It’s become a recurring theme: Someone wants to help out at church but their spiritual status is not-yet-arrived, ambiguous, or hard to authenticate. Parking lot duty? Not a big issue; but many seeking an avenue of service are looking at the platform; so many of these requests involve music ministry or something related.

That’s what’s at the heart of the movie The Resurrection of Gavin Stone which after a brief theatrical run is now releasing on DVD. In this case, the protagonist is looking to be involved with the church’s annual drama production. His theology is sketchy, to put it kindly. But in addition to being very good at acting, he’s also a former child star still possessing considerable name recognition.

The director isn’t really torn. She sees this as not conforming to the requirement that platform participants share a testimony of life change through Jesus Christ. But the senior pastor, who also happens to be her father, is more open to the possibility that God is offering the church a rare opportunity to do something which will both bless the actor and bless the church.

So for the first premise-introducing one-third of the film it’s a simple matter of laying out the plot. During the next third, my attitude was, “This isn’t that bad.” But by the final third of the movie they had won me over. Even my wife who is usually a tough critic when it comes to Christian cinema was very positive toward the film.

It wasn’t the authenticity of the portrayal of the various characters, though that was extremely good. It wasn’t the realism of the sets and location shots, though they were well done. Rather, it was the genuine nature of the problem; namely that churches we know are wrestling with this issue all the time now and someone has finally fleshed this out in a screenplay.

Fans of The Middle on ABC-TV will recognize Neil Flynn who plays Gavin Stone’s father. Tangential perhaps, but interesting that Middle co-star Patricia Heaton has been a force behind Affirm Films. Not so tangential was my wife’s comparison between The Resurrection of Gavin Stone and Heaton’s Moms Night Out. Worldwide rights for this picture however were purchased by WWE Studios, and wrestler Shawn Michaels has a significant role in this picture as well.

In the first few minutes, we recognized a hallway from Harvest Bible Chapel’s Elgin, Illinois campus where much of the filming took place. Again, it’s entirely plausible that a church like Harvest would face a dilemma such as what to do with Gavin Stone.

At the end of the day, this is a romantic comedy. While ecclesiastic nerds like myself might get lost in the doctrinal quandaries of qualifications for service, you don’t have to be a regular church attender or even a Christian at all to get the tension in the plot.

Which is, come to think of it, exactly what the movie is all about.

 

March 26, 2017

Should Christians Have Sex on Sunday?

This graphic image goes in a different direction than today’s topic, but I couldn’t resist including it.

This topic occurred to me while listening to a talk radio show last week. They weren’t addressing this specifically, but I decided to see what the internet had to say…

First, although our title says “Sunday” I thought if anyone has an opinion on this, the Seventh Day Adventists may be more schooled than most in the area of “Sabbath” and found this article:

…There are two schools of thought:

1)   The Sabbath is a holy day of rest onto the Lord and one should not engaged in sex on the Sabbath: Those who hold to this view, argue primarily from Isaiah’s warned against finding one’s own pleasure on the Sabbath:
 “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:”  Isa 58:13 They conclude that Sabbath is not the day for sex because sex is finding one’s own pleasure.

2)   Sabbath is a holy day and Marriage is a holy institution therefore sex can be done on the Sabbath: The supporters of this view contend that both the Sabbath and Marriage were instituted by God and as such sex is definately sacred, especially since God only sanctioned sex in the institution of marriage. They further argue that the Apostle Paul gave strong support for sex on the Sabbath when he said: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” 1 Cor 7:5. The argument is that couples are not required to fast and pray every Sabbath. Some even go as far as to say that since Adam and Eve were married on the sixth day, God would not require them to wait that long before consummating their marriage.

Next stop — and the internet is filled with articles that can prove a distraction on this, so be discerning — was an article on whether or not it is appropriate to have sex during Lent. I figured that was timely so after a good explanation of what Lent is, there was a longer answer on whether a couple could have sex during days of fasting:

…I think we often fail to focus on the one time it is permissible to mutually decide not to have sex:  When you have decided to devote yourself to prayer and fasting, for a time, you MAY decide, mutually, to also refrain from sex.  To deprive each other, again, mutually.  This doesn’t mean you can say to your spouse “well, I’m praying and fasting, so no sex”.

So, if you cannot unilaterally decide that you cannot deprive your spouse of sex, but you may unilaterally decide that you, yourself, are going to pray and fast, then by simple logic, it must be that a couple can pray and fast, and still have sex.  So, should Christians have sex while fasting?  It’s up to you, together.  No one gets veto rights.  You have to both agree to not have sex, or else it’s back to business as God intended: frequent and awesome.

But, I want to bring up another point:  I think there is a reason why this is the only acceptable time to decide, together, not to have sex.  I’ve done some fasting in the past.  I once did a 16-day water fast (nothing but water).  The most startling thing I noticed:  I had absolutely no sex drive half way through it.  Seriously, it was gone.  I was shocked.  I’ve never not had a strong sex drive, for as long as I could remember.  In fact, I wrote about it in this post.  I think Paul must have known about this.  Why else say that every other time that you deprive each other, you are leaving them open to temptation, but during prayer AND fasting, it’s okay?  From my perspective, it’s obvious: you’re not as tempted when fasting because your body goes into survival mode.  It’s not interested in sex, it’s more interested in surviving until the next day.

So, in the end, I think you have to decide as a couple. If you are praying AND fasting, have the conversation about what to do with sex.

The article linked in the above excerpt is from Ministry Magazine and offers a lengthy, historical discussion on this topic:

There is no textual evidence to indicate that sex was forbidden on the Sabbath or the Day of Atonement. Rene Gehring argues that in the Hebrew Bible, sexual intercourse within marriage is not ritually defiling at all.

The next stop was a Jewish perspective, sourced at Yahoo Forums:

Under Jewish tradition, sex is advised on the sabbath.

In Jewish law, sex is not considered shameful, sinful or obscene. Sex is not thought of as a necessary evil for the sole purpose of procreation. Although sexual desire comes from the yetzer ra (the evil impulse), it is no more evil than hunger or thirst, which also come from the yetzer ra. Like hunger, thirst or other basic instincts, sexual desire must be controlled and channeled, satisfied at the proper time, place and manner. But when sexual desire is satisfied between a husband and wife at the proper time, out of mutual love and desire, sex is a mitzvah.

Probably the most interesting answer came from Nigeria. I’ll include the question from a pastor’s wife (implied) and the answer that was given:

[Q.] What is your take on a couple having sex before going to church. For instance, I discover my hubby doesn’t like having sex any time we have to go to church or the Saturday before Sunday because he feels it would reduce his anointing. I am not finding this funny at all and it is beginning to look as if I am sent to destroy his ministry by trying to have sex with him. Please what is your take on this matter sir?

[A.] Thanks for your question and the trust you have in us at TheCable to be able to do justice to this issue. I wouldn’t know the paradigm your man is operating with but I have met a number of people with the same beliefs. It is quite common among some religious leaders and it could have been part of the ministerial ethics that they were taught from the Bible school or it could have been borne out of personal revelation.

I tried to get a Catholic perspective, but the site containing the “Sex after Mass” article wasn’t loading, but apparently the sex before going to church is a theme in some marriages; though this question was a bit too graphic to quote here.

I would probably put the greatest weight on the first two responses, but unless I was completely out to lunch with search terms, I was surprised there weren’t one or two more articles on this subject. Feel free to mention something in the comments, I might amend the article later. (See also yesterday’s post here for something possibly somewhat related.)

So a general answer today would be, yes.  


Update: After posting this and re-reading the responses I collected, I was surprised that given the preponderance of Christian marriage resources, there was so little mainstream Evangelical answers on this question. Perhaps this just isn’t a concern, or perhaps I didn’t dig deep enough.

March 24, 2017

Keeping Up the Infield Chatter

Filed under: Christianity, family, marriage — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:06 am

Not growing up playing a lot of sandlot baseball, and not having friends like Charlie Brown and Lucy, I didn’t get to hear the phrase, “Keep up the infield chatter;” until I watched the Peanuts specials on TV. The phrase refers to encouragement yelled to a pitcher or batter on your own team such as,

  • “You can do it, ______”
  • “Knock it out of the park”
  • “Easy out! Easy out!”

And probably many similar things that I wouldn’t know about.

In marriage, we’re often told that communication is the number one factor determine the success or failure of the relationship. Having a wife who is very much a natural introvert, and is therefore very reticent or taciturn, I have over the many years we’ve been together often encouraged her to “Keep up the infield chatter;” but not in the baseball sense used above.

Rather, I think in marriage communication comes in two forms:

  1. Deeper, meaningful conversation
  2. Relaying everyday common information.

Here’s what I mean by the former:

  • hopes, dreams, aspirations
  • creating holiday plans
  • spiritual conversations; Bible topics
  • political, economic or environmental ideologies
  • things intimate (conversations that could never be shared outside the marriage)

You get the idea. In contrast we have the second type of communication:

  • who we’re ordering the pizza from
  • where we put the postage stamps
  • a rattle we’ve noticed in the minivan’s front end
  • the concert that’s been cancelled
  • noting that we’ve run out of milk

These are important, but they’re important in a different way. The dinner decision has to be made. The stamps have to be found to mail a payment. The van needs to be looked at. The concert things means we have an extra night free but we need to make sure we get a refund. And at some point really soon, someone’s going to want to glass of milk.

Failing to mention any of these is serious. It’s the everyday stuff of running a household and managing family life. True, it’s not fodder for high-level, philosophical, concept-based discussion. (Though it could be: “Why do we have a minivan?”) However, if you subtract it, the fallout from communication that didn’t happen is potentially more damaging than not sharing your dreams, ideal holiday, Bible doctrine perspective, etc.

At times like this I can’t help but be drawn back to the “little foxes that eat the vines.” That’s a Bible metaphor for the little things that can do serious damage.

Failing to communicate is one of those. The solution is keeping the lines of communication open; keeping up the infield chatter however you define it.

 

 

February 14, 2017

I’d Marry You Again

Filed under: Christianity, family, marriage, personal — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:30 am

ruth-3-pictures

In addition to Valentine’s Day, it’s also our anniversary. Not just any anniversary, but one of those special ones that ends in a ‘5’ or a ‘0.’ A really special one.

Where did the time go?

I decided that for today’s article, I would share the text of a poem I found on a card that my father sent my mother on an equally special anniversary. Last week I put it in a very safe place. You know how those things go, right.

It was titled, “I’d Marry You Again.” You’ve possibly seen it on cards and on plaques and on goodness knows what else. But the one you’ve seen is probably the version credited to Anne Peterson. It ends,

…With all the ups and downs we’ve had
In learning to be friends
I know that in this heart of mine
I’d marry you again.

In looking around online however, I found Lynette, a blogger in South Africa who had posted a version of the poem credited to Carla Flamm. Lynette’s blog seems aimed at creative crafters and scrapbookers and I clicked the header to see if she was still writing and she is. She says her blog is, “The place where I am free to share my love for my Lord and Saviour.” That header reads, “My life: Perfectly imperfect.” So for all those reasons, this poem seemed to fit like a glove

Do you know how much I love you
How much you mean to me
I can’t imagine my life without you
My world would be empty

It seems like only yesterday
I first looked in your eyes
But the years have passed so quickly
Much to my surprise

The life we’ve made together
Our children and our home
The memories we have to cherish
How much our love has grown

Through the good times and the bad
You’ve been right by my side
You’ve made me smile, made me laugh
And wiped my tears when I have cried

You are my partner, my companion
My lover, and my best friend
If I had the chance to do it over
I’d marry you again.

I’m writing this a few days ahead, and things are a little hectic. It’s a perfectly imperfect day. But I have so very, very much to be thankful for looking back over all these ends-in-a-five-or-a-zero years. I really married up. I got the better of the deal. And it’s just for that reason that she would never admit this. She accepts me despite my brokenness, my sometimes cold responses, my frequent inability to make decisions, and even the odd bad habit. I have the greatest difficulty accepting that; accepting that I am so very blessed.

Happy Anniversary, Ruth. We’ll celebrate that in a few months when the weather is warmer. You are so intelligent, so gifted and so wonderfully unpredictable. For today, Happy Valentine’s Day.

I’m so thankful I have someone to say that to.

February 13, 2017

My Personal Battle With PTSD

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:17 am

Originally, I never thought of it in PTSD terms, and it’s not like I did a tour of duty in the Middle East. Instead, it started our gradually, with phone calls from the seniors’ home where my mom was living. The calls always came late at night, when the staff were wrapping up paperwork once the residents were sleeping.

  • She had another fall today.
  • They’re putting on her a new medicine.
  • We’ve noticed she’s not eating so much.
  • The doctor’s concerned about her circulation.
  • She fell again today.

I realize these health care workers have a responsibility to notify families, but the calls always came at an hour when we were winding down for the evening and wanted to relax, not deal with tension. We asked for “emergencies only” notification, but we had different definitions as to what constituted an emergency.

It got to where every time the phone would ring I would tense up, and now that she’s gone, the after-effects of this stress continue.

Telephones often bring bad news. Especially now when other forms of communication happen through email or on social media or texts. Four years ago, long before the worst of this experience was to take place, I recognized that having a calming ringtone doesn’t change the fact that it’s a phone call.

ring-tone

So again, while I wasn’t in Iraq or Afghanistan, I do have little bit of empathy for people who are bound by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It’s no fun living with anxiety, stress and tension and while having a strong faith and trust in God ideally brings peace amid the chaos, it doesn’t always work that way. Rather, the disconnect between the elements of faith we profess regarding God’s sovereignty and protection, and the inner turmoil we’re experiencing in the situation; that disconnect only adds to the problem.

A person dealing with PTSD is a person in desperate need of joy.

 

December 22, 2016

Christmas Alone

cd-on-cd-editedI’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog that each Christmas Day our family has assisted, in varying degrees, with a project started here over a decade ago, the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.

The December 25th noontime meal — a full turkey-and-all-the-trimmings dinner — originated in a community that my wife co-founded, the purpose of which was to serve people on the margins, people living on welfare, or working people unable to have good, nutritious, tasty food.

But as we engaged people in conversation, we realized that many people attending were people of means. There was a donation box if people cared to help out, and some of these people had no hesitation in dropping a $20 bill or even $50. The reason is simple: They just didn’t want to be alone on Christmas Day. They wanted to feel part of a community.

Many of these accomplished this by serving as volunteers. There was no shortage of people willing to help in the kitchen — where my oldest son served as lead cook — or as table hosts. If pressed however, they would confess that their need to be with other people on the 25th was equal or greater to the poor people we were serving, but it was social, not financial.

cd-on-cd-generic

Alone on Christmas Day.

That’s something I can’t imagine. In her later years, transporting my mom to our place simply got too complicated. As I stated, my wife had been a co-founder of the organization from which the Christmas Dinner was a spinoff, but we hadn’t attended the earlier iterations of it because of my mother staying with us. But when that ceased to be an option — we then visited her on the 26th — she told us how the seniors’ home pretty much cleared out on the 25th, with only a core staff and a handful of residents. I would imagine some of her fellow residents felt rather melancholy. At least my mom got a couple of phone calls and knew we’d be there the next day.

Well…all that to say this…

I came across something on social media that arrested me in my tracks earlier today. A group of people for whom the holidays means loneliness and isolation, because they can’t go home. The writer posted:

A shout-out and lots of love and good wishes to LGBTQ members who can’t go home for the holidays because of hate and misunderstanding

Wow.

So…told not to come home, or choosing a self-imposed exile?

In the former case, I can’t imagine saying to one of my kids, “We don’t want you here.” But it happens. I’ll bet it happens many times with Christian parents, too.

In the latter case, I can’t imagine one of my kids feeling so unwanted — feeling so strongly that going home is not an option — that they would prefer to stay away. Sad to say, I’ll bet some of those are Christian homes as well.

But this isn’t an issue in my family. That’s why the social media post shocked me, I guess.

Thankfully, another group in a nearby community is doing the Christmas Dinner this year. It’s actually the town where the first one started, but then the event was split into two locations. While I don’t know the serving team — and we’ve opted to stay home this year — I’m glad there is a place for people to go on the 25th.

Clearly, the above example illustrates we don’t always know why people show up for something like this, and in the case of a younger person who simply isn’t welcome with the rest of their family, they’re not likely to want to share the whole story.

But we can be thankful that people organize events like the Christmas Dinner. If there’s one in your community, contact them and ask if they’re in need of any last-minute food donations or kitchen help. Sometimes it’s just a matter of peeling potatoes the day before and you can still do your own Christmas thing on the day.

It will bless you as much as it blesses them.

 


A disclaimer: Sadly, among readers here will be those who have no sympathy for this situation at all, and others who may assume that by posting this I have strong gay sympathies. I hope instead you will reconsider the teachings of Jesus in general and in particular the Parable of the Prodigal Son and realize that our only response in a situation like this is love and acceptance. Heck, even countries at war will announce a cease-fire for Christmas Day. How can we not do the same?

November 29, 2016

Growing Up in a Porn-Saturated World

22 Ways Your Kids’ World is Much Different Than Yours

kid-at-computerLongtime readers here know that adult content on the internet was once a more common theme here. Despite some publisher interest, when the book project didn’t move to the next steps, I moved on to other activities. What would have been very much needed at the time is now more widely covered by other writers, both in print and online. Plus, it’s a topic I no longer wish to be strongly associated with.

Nonetheless, I’ve continued to watch a certain aspect of the topic if only from a distance; that aspect being to try to gauge what is happening to kids who have simply always had access to graphic images of people clothes-less and/or involved in various types of sexual activity.

The world has changed. I believe this is one of the most important articles I’ve written, and I hope you’ll share this with others.

Here, in no particular order, are things I believe every parent needs to think about. I’ve put keywords in bold face type for those who find this longer than most posts here.

1. They have way too much unsupervised time after school. With both parents working, there is often two to three hours from the time they reach home to the time the parents arrive for dinner. Not at your house? Then perhaps at the home of the friend they head to after classes end. Unless they’re playing after-school sports, or are diligent at working at scholarship-level rates on homework, parents often are unaware where the idle time might take their children. This is an important factor in several of the items which follow.

2. They have experienced an utter and complete loss of sexual innocence and mystery which was not common to previous generations. Heck; I still feel there are dimensions to sex which I don’t fully understand, not because I lack the general knowledge or intellectual capacity, but because I grew up at a time when it was all meant to be mysterious. But they grew up with access to all the videos they needed to demystify every possible human sexual activity and all their variants. Fact is mom and dad, they could probably answer some of your questions.

3. Many of them believe that what isn’t intercourse isn’t sex. Maybe we can (indirectly) credit Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” for that attitude. So even within the church (or maybe especially within the church) we have a very high per capita rate of technical virgins who actually have an incredibly high degree of sexual experience.

4. It gets worse: For many sex is simply only sex; in other words, it’s not such a big deal. They might see your views on politics or environmentalism as a more powerful reflection on who you are as a person than your virgin/non-virgin status. The now-considered-quaint notion that teens should “want their wedding night to be special” is becoming as outdated as the notion of a wedding itself.

5. Which brings us to the point that whether consciously or sub-consciously, many assume they will have multiple partners in their lifetime; even among kids in Christian families. (I should qualify here and note that “the divorce epidemic” predates the internet, though the net has been an agent for what I term accelerated social change, something we’ll deal with again in a future article.)

6. They see themselves as sexual beings. There is a strange phenomenon right now where pre-teen and teen boys remove their shirts for their profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter. (A good place to remind everyone that younger ones are not officially allowed to have FB accounts; but we know that guideline isn’t always followed. The magic number is also 13 on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and others.)

7. They have full access to everything online with a data-plan enabled smart phone that you have on your computer. The notion that the kids need to be sitting in front of a PC or laptop in order to access the Internet’s dark side is somewhat outdated. They aren’t looking for 42-inch picture quality, instead they’re exploring and discovering a new, exciting world of possibilities.

8. They live in a world where sexuality is fluid, but fail to foresee that the present fluidity means there could be future fluidity. Kids on the fringes of traditional, mainstream sexuality see their LGBT-etc declarations to be permanent and greatly resent adults or friends suggesting that their views or attractions may change when they get older. (There may be an element where pride — in the more traditional meaning of the word — prevents them from recanting of previously categorical or dogmatic statements about the tribe with which they have the greatest affinity.)

9. They are empowered by the choices of sexual or gender identity. They get to pick and choose who they are off the rack in the same way they choose the colors and patterns of the cases for their phones. In the wrong body? That’s easy, there are drug therapies and surgeries to fix that. (This takes place even within church communities or even Bible Colleges; many youth workers are aware of people who were or are currently in their group who are undergoing gender reassignment; most also have at least one or two youth who are pushing boundaries.)

10. In all probability they have been photographed naked even if they took the picture themselves and immediately deleted it. For some it may be a body-image obsession and for others it’s simply something silly to do with that surplus of after-school time mentioned earlier. The cell phone camera is the new mirror and the unclothed image isn’t subject to any particular fashion trend or wardrobe budget.

11. Even among Christian kids there is a compartmentalization of the sacred and the profane. For example they may not see a contradiction in an actor or actress being photographed nude while wearing a cross. Many church tweens and teens live a double life, being a different person at home and youth group than they are at school or at their part-time job. In a way, that’s nothing new, but many church tweens and teens are also living a blended life where they opt in some of the Bible’s moral teachings but not others.

12. While they know some online images aren’t safe for school or home, they fail to realize that through constant exposure to the images, their worldview is being totally reprogrammed. Their opinions on everything from premarital sex to incest is subject to whatever online websites have been allowed to influence them.

13. Their sources for advice and counsel are often online forums. Rather than seek out their parents, youth pastor or guidance counselor; they are more likely to converse about vital life issues with people on chat rooms and forums, which means in many case they are getting peer counsel only; they are essentially sheep without a shepherd.   

14. Sadly, they are not particularly impressed with information about societal norms in previous generations. When their parents speak of life in the ’80s or ’90s, you might as well be describing the 1880s or the 1790s; to them it’s all ancient history and is therefore somewhat irrelevant, unless they need to know to understand a novel which is part of the literature exam.

15. Many of the ones who are sexually active are not likely to stop. As is often heard concerning this issue, once escaped it’s almost impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. 

16. Some of those who started early being sexually active are already sexually bored and are therefore looking at alternative sexualities, fetishes, or even asexuality. (Can’t help wondering if recruiters for convents and monasteries might want to note that last one.)

17. Underlying some of the sexual acting out is the fact that many of them of hurting. Their lives are not the Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch type of lives of past generations. Many have had friends die — probably more than you did at their age — through accident, illness, criminal activity or at their own hand.  Others are broken by a home life that involves being passed around like a football due to joint custody arrangements, or suddenly sharing a bedroom (and a life) with a step-sibling as a result of a parent’s remarriage. For others, it’s the pressure of academic life which can start in the junior high or middle school years. Sexual activity provides a distraction or a release from those pressures.

18. Their sexual decisions may be taking place in atmosphere fueled by alcohol or weed. The latter, while now legalized in a small handful of U.S. states, is available everywhere even to kids at a young age if they are determined to gain access. 

19. Because of their access to all types of video files, their desire is to emulate what they see in triple-X-rated videos or what they read about celebrities doing. Whereas in past generations a kid might dream of being on stage or on television or recording an album like their entertainment industry idol, now their wish is to do all the things their idol is reported to have done (and by implication, get away with it on some level and continue to enjoy a career and a generally good reputation.) 

20. For some of them the catalog of possible sexual activity is like a bucket list and they want to experiment and see what they like; what works for them and what doesn’t. Furthermore, if you’re still harboring ancient stereotypes, this is as true for girls as it is for boys. (Increasingly, boys will talk about being raped by a girl; the language wasn’t extensively used that way in the past.) Some of this activity starts at an early age, with much taking place at weekend parties, though there are many possible venues. 

21. Many tweens and teens are at a point where they feel no need to cover-up; there is no sense of modesty. Someone once said that humans are a unique species as we are the only ones capable of blushing. That unique characteristic is slowly disappearing. 

22. Finally — and I know some of you have been reading through the whole list wondering where this one was — they may have been abused. There may have been one incident or many which means there are no sexual frontiers to protect and everything is fair game, especially if they are now in control. Conversely, their abuse may have very much diminished their self-worth propelling them into a pattern of increased sexual activity.

…I know there are some people who will read this and feel things are being overstated, said too generally, or that the whole point of this is to paint a ‘the sky is falling’ type of panic. That’s not the intention. I’m open to have people quote studies proving that things are no worse now than they’ve been in the past. I doubt that’s the case however, and I’ll come back to the topic of accelerated social change here in the future.  

What I do hope is that for parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, concerned friends I’ve raised some topics here that present a clearer picture of what’s being evidenced online in various formats and platforms. 

So what do we do? Many times people who try to put the brakes on a trend that seems spiraling out of control are simply laughed at, even within the church. ‘You can’t stop that; it’s inevitable;’ is the response heard so often, an echo of a previous generation’s, ‘Kids will be kids.’ 

Whatever my response or your response, it has to begin with awareness.

If you’re a parent whose children are not going down this road right now, be very thankful; but also be aware that some kids simply repress sexual thoughts and actions and then everything explodes when they enter college or university. I would say that you need to have some conversations, but not have others. The advice of Song 8:4, “Do not awaken desire before its time;” is useful here, but there is also a place for warning — Book of Proverbs style — your kids what is going to happen down the road of life. That seems like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared on this blog many times:

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.