Thinking Out Loud

January 6, 2015

Wise Words for Wedding-ers

Filed under: marriage — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:48 am

couple2Donna Schultz is a licensed minister in our area who is often called upon to perform weddings. She preached in our church a few weeks ago and shared this, and I asked her for a copy of the text. I’ve taken the liberty of using bullet points so you can get the force of this…

I have couples come to me who want me to marry them and I try to be as polite as possible. When I have these couples come and ask that I perform their marriage ceremony

  • They are so concerned about where they need to stand for the ceremony.
  • They are so concerned about the timing of the music. They want to make sure they walk down the aisle to the appropriate time with the music so they get to the front and…
  • They want to have the right words being sung at the right time.

They are concerned that their apparel is just right. They want to look their absolute best. They are concerned about the fact they have this picture perfect outdoor wedding. Some do not have a church affiliation … hence there is no church building which represents a place of worship and appropriate setting for this sacred ceremony. So they want this beautiful outdoor wedding and they always say to me but if it is forecasting rain we have a backup plan. Really after I have stood in rain for a wedding and I am thinking where is the alternative? They will do everything possible to have this outdoor wedding. I want to say to them:

  • You are so concerned about where you are going to stand for the ceremony, but when you are at home where is your stand going to be for one another?
  • You are so concerned about the right words being said at the right time but in the home, in the marriage, words spoken between you two five years from now are much more important and have a lot more weight than the words spoken in front of me and guests the day of your ceremony.
  • They are so concerned about the right music and getting to the front on the right note and yet the timing of different circumstances that will hit their lives will have a lot more bearing on a marriage than the wedding day.

You and I are the same. We can come here [i.e. to church] and we can say the right thing … but what is in our hearts is much more revealing and has a much more lasting effect on each one of our lives.

January 3, 2015

The Bizarre World of Domestic Discipline

Domestic Discipline

Sometimes in a relationship someone forgets to do something. Or lets the other person down. It may be something as trivial as burning the toast. I remember one time, early on in our marriage after some random event saying to Mrs. W., “Oh, oh! I’ll have to give you a spanking.”

I said this rather playfully, since probably in my mind it conjured up something sexual; something kinky. Mrs. W. was not amused. Down other branches of her family tree there is some history of abuse. After using this line on one or two more occasions, I learned to drop the suggestion of corporal punishment. And for the record, we’re not into the kinky stuff, and nobody has ever dressed up in black in the bedroom.

But wife-spanking as a disciplinary action is more common than you might think.

Enter the website Learning Domestic Discipline, a collection of resources dedicated to help you “Learn the DD Lifestyle.”

To begin with, egalitarians need not apply. This is for hardcore complementarians, though I suggest I’m only using that word because in our Evangelical milieu the one is considered the opposite of the other. The blog approach is friendly enough, but the situation described is much more authoritarian, with the husband described as the HoH or “head of household,” and submissive wife described as… the wife.

To best understand this, you need to go to some of the earliest posts on the blog, go to the archives and scroll back to Spring, 2011. (Clicking the image at the top of this article takes you to one specific article on spanking positions. One in May, 2011 discusses whether this should be over or under clothing.)

Again, the earlier articles spell out the lifestyle most clearly, such as one in June, 2011 which tries to clarify the difference between spanking and abuse or BDSM. Anyone who has been a victim of domestic violence — who is probably cringing as they read this — would want to read that article and see if they feel it checks out.

An ‘About’ page makes clear that everything being discussed is fully consentual, and I trust that both partners would see it that way. (The issue of consent was at the center of one of Canada’s biggest news stories late in 2014.) In many ultra-conservative or fundamentalist setting, the role of the husband as HoH is given to be granted by divine authority, and the blogosphere is filled with horror stories of women who suffered all manner of abuse before breaking free.

In the case of Clint and Chelsea, who co-write the LDD blog, it seems to be working for them. They conduct retreats — next one is September, 2015 — and I’m not sure if you bring your own ‘equipment’ or if it is provided. (I’m not saying that tongue-in-cheek, I would think you need to know before you pack.)

More recently, the blog takes a Q&A approach, and unless they’re making up all the questions, they do have an army of followers. Still, these questions are all concerned with the how of DD practice, the why is taken as a given. You pretty much have to have bought in before you start reading. But one column dealt with why the woman would want to go along with this.  Reason #1: “It make women feel more loved.”

I know I may get pushback from DD advocates here, but longtime readers of this blog may find all of this eerily similar to some articles we did about the child discipline advocated by Michael Perl and Debi Pearl in To Train Up a Child and other resources, such as this one, or this one. I can easily see how a situation like this could be, for lack of a better word, abused; or how Clint and Chelsea’s blog and website could be used to justify a host of activities that they are careful not to condone.

I should also say that nowhere on the blog did I see specific references to the spiritual authority of the HoH. This in no way overtly purports to be a Christian resource, though obviously we’re discussing it here because of the way it would suit the purposes of many fundamentalist groups. Any temptation to quote scripture verses here or discuss church contexts seems to be carefully avoided.

But of course we can’t end there.  There is in fact, CDD or Christian Domestic Discipline. One 2013 article goes so far as to describe it as a “new Christian trend sweeping America.” Huffington Post called it “Spanking in the name of the Lord.”

I’m also presenting this relatively without comment. It’s one of the those internet curiosities that proves the “different strokes for different folks” adage. Quite literally as it turns out.

 

 

 

 

October 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Sunset - Mark BattersonThis is another photograph in a continuing series by people known to readers here; this sunset was taken Monday night by author and pastor Mark Batterson.

 

On Monday I raked leaves and collected links; you could call it my own little feast of ingathering.

Paul Wilkinson’s wisdom and Christian multi-level business opportunities — “just drop by our house tomorrow night, we have something wonderful we’d like to share with you” — can be gleaned the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201 and in the Twitterverse

From the archives:
The problem with out-of-office email notifications:


Lost in translation: The English is clear enough to lorry drivers – but the Welsh reads “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.” …Read the whole 2008 BBC News story here.

October 3, 2013

Sexual Expectations

sexual expectationsSometime last week I was reading an article that used a term that is probably widely employed in online articles, but I had simply never run across it: Porn sex. As you can guess, the article was about the fact that many men — and some women — have expectations based on things they’ve seen online that aren’t being met. There is a very real sense in which some people view internet porn as a marriage textbook and think that it models the way things are supposed to happen.

It’s not fair however to blame this phenomenon on recent technology. In a pre-online era, there was movie sex. While the line between the two is probably now blurred — unlike my Evangelical blogger counterparts, Mrs. W. and I don’t really go to movies — I’m thinking that the movies of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s probably presented a surrealistic image of sex that might not reflect reality for the average Joe and Joanne.

But if you think of it, expectations — both in the bedroom and in terms of what’s being served for dinner — have always been a consequence of lack of communication in marriage. Perhaps one of the couple believes that to talk about something that should be spontaneous spoils the experience. Some might even say that to set a time makes it sound clinical, like an appointment. My suspicion is that marriage counselors would lean toward the idea of more communication. If only, for example, he would say to her, “Honey, do you think tonight you can do that thing where you…

“…put raisins in the brown rice with sweet and sour sauce, and add some chopped radishes to the salad?” (Ha! And you thought I was going to say something else, which is the expectations thing happening again.) Perhaps the supper table conversation is a barometer of what’s happening in other rooms in the house.

I think the problem is that when you focus on the expectation you ruin the process. Reality isn’t always the same as what happens onscreen at the cinema, much less what happens on the smaller screen in your home.

August 13, 2013

Keep the Story, Lose the Illustration

This is a rebroadcast of a piece from September 2011…

Having become previously acquainted with the addictive properties of the internet’s dark side, I can identify with the AA mantra that “one drink is too many and a thousand drinks are not enough.” I have experienced moments where one online image essentially gives you permission to then delve deeper into more of the same, a task easily undertaken when you have the road map memorized.

Of late, this has not been an issue. Facing job uncertainty, the loss of a friendship, or a medical challenge has a way of keeping you focused on things that matter, and making a renewed commitment to purity of thoughts and actions. For me, anyway. I know there are others for whom the same stresses are what drives them to find a way of escape. But lately I have been relatively detoxified and in fact, there are parts of the above-mentioned roadmap that start to fade over time.

But it can only take one idea, one article, or one photograph; and the process can start to unravel. I know this because, about a week ago it happened to me

On a Christian website.

The woman in question, who I believe has written some Christian books, had posted to her site/blog an article about a particularly disturbing trend taking place. I won’t name it, because I don’t want to drive anyone to find it. She posted a number of pictures including one that I don’t feel was absolutely necessary. Furthermore, in the limited internet exploration which did follow, I discovered she had posted a picture that many secular bloggers and media sites had shied away from.

And then, there was the temptation to go back and see how some hold friends are faring, if you get my drift. Heck, I had already started down the road, and I might as well see how the old neighborhood was doing.

But instead, I just sat at the computer, not once, not twice, but several times with my hands hovering over the keyboard, but unable to complete any actual keystrokes. Some would say there was a battle raging. If so, the battle probably stretched out over about three days. In the end, while I somewhat danced around the outskirts of what is for me, the internet’s forbidden zone, I did not actually revisit the old haunts.

But none of this — absolutely none of it — would have happened if a certain Christian internet writer had been content just to report on a problem without feeling the need to add pictures. It was just completely unnecessary. And it was, to at least one person, a huge potential stumbling block.

We all want more readers. We all want to think our particular blog or website is a relevant source of breaking trends and opinion on current issues. The stats provide that affirmation.

But not at any price.

August 8, 2013

Thursday Link List

linksHere’s a few things that just missed being in yesterday’s list. I may add them to next week’s for the wider audience at Out of Ur; then again I might forget.

  • Bene Diction Blogs On has a good follow-up piece on the huge credibility gap with Tony Anthony’s book Taming the Tiger, which has culminated in the closing of his ministry.  Click here.
  • Who is Samuel Williamson? The name doesn’t register, but his blog, Beliefs of the Heart gets a lot of comment action. In a recent piece he suggests that Sunday School with its simplified-message Bible stories possibly does more harm than good. Click here
  • This is not a current link, but the above reminds me of a piece we did here about ten months ago about The Bible Story Handbook, by John and Kim Walton. See below for a quotation.  Click here.
  • I’m sure that when the Bible speaks about wives submitting to husbands, nobody had in mind the type of things Lee Grady has witnessed. Click here.
  • Rocky of Ages:  This is a current link, but pertains to some old information. An email is making the rounds about the conversion of Sylvester Stallone. Unlike many religiously flavored email forwards, this one actually made it into Snopes.com. Click here.

“If we present something as God’s Word when it is not, we are misusing God’s name. Students of the Bible expect their teachers to present the authoritative teaching of God’s Word as given by the inspired authors. If we substitute this teaching for some idea we think is important, students don’t know the difference. We are then violating the third commandment because we have attributed God’s authority to what is really only our own idea.” (John & Kim Walton, The Bible Story Handbook; p. 25)

July 31, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Bible for Christmas

We scan the internet so you don’t have to!

Got a suggestion for a link here? Contact me through Thinking Out Loud before 6 PM Eastern on Mondays.

July 4, 2013

When Faith Doesn’t Stick

Recently, my wife and I have had a number of recurring conversations prompted by comments overheard that among some Christian parents we know that their children have arrived at their late teens or early twenties only to reveal that the Christian faith they were immersed in, for lack of a better phrase, didn’t take.

At that point, I usually shake my head in despair and usually lament the time and energy that was poured into their Christian education would appear to have been entirely ineffective, at least to this point. Specifically, my comments repeatedly run along the lines of:

  • “…all those Sunday school classes…”
  • “…all those nights at youth group…”
  • “…all those weeks at church camp…”

and other variations you can fill in. 

The other day when I was finishing up this litany my wife said something that arrested me in my tracks. Now remember that, (a) she is very wise, and (b) she had the advantage of experiencing multiple repetitions of my soliloquy before issuing a comeback.

So when I said, “…all those years in church…” she said, “Yes, but you don’t know what was said in the car on the way home.”

True.

Or over dinner.

I can’t imagine that any of the parents in question would do anything knowing that it had the least potential of undermining the nurture of their children’s faith, but that’s just the point, isn’t it?

How many kids are destined for a young adulthood (and beyond) without a faith component because we inadvertently did a really crappy job of modeling for them what Christ-following looks like?

You don’t want to think about that.

So parents, be careful what you say in the car ride home on Sunday. Your comments are being picked up by little ears.

Coincidentally, The Pew Research Forum has just released a report on the religious life of Canada, my home and native land. The charts and graphs all speak for themselves — two are reproduced below — but the message is clear that an attrition is taking place in the church as we’ve not seen before. Furthermore, in Canada and the United States, the religious landscape is forever changed because of immigration policy.

Pew Research - Canada - 1

Pew Research - Canada - 2

The results are similar to a study done by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), called Hemorrhaging Faith, which we reported on here a few months ago. That study looked at four demographic areas: Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics in Quebec, and Roman Catholics Outside Quebec; and divided respondents into Engagers, Fence Sitters, Wanderers and Rejecters.

The Pew Study looked only at Protestants and Catholics, as well as respondents from other religions and the rapidly growing category known as “the nones” (not nuns) who check off the “none” box on census and other surveys. Unfortunately in the EFC study, the results for Evangelicals — while showing stronger adherence — did not point to a much brighter future over the long term.

Survey companies like Barna and Pew make money selling reports, and the very nature of the business means that bad news tends to get more attention. So books like David Kinnaman’s unChristian are better known than the counter response found in books like Bradley Wright’s Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites: And Other Lies You’ve Been Told reviewed here. People will flock to buy a book on how the sky is falling, but not so much toward one which advises the sky is intact.

But the Pew Research study and the Evangelical Fellowship’s study highlight statistics that are undeniable: Kids are leaving the church in record numbers.

April 10, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Community Baptist Church

I’m a success at blogging but a failure at Twitter. Please follow me… please?

Any one of this week’s links could have been its own feature article.  By the way, I’m organizing a travel opportunity that begins in a Wesleyan college in western New York and ends in Jerusalem. I call it the Israel Houghton Tour.

Explaining Present Technology

April 4, 2013

A Lesson Learned Too Late is Still a Lesson Learned

Was this the one time we disobeyed God? …Okay, maybe there were lots of times…

The time in particular that I’m considering is the time we moved to the city where we now live. It was 22 years ago, and we came with some “push” factors (wanting to get out of our 9th floor apartment in the city of three million) and some “pull” factors (liking the look of the town, as seen from the highway).

Later, I would write a song with an opening sentence that talks about the “pull” factors:

The part of the town that you see from the highway
Is never the part that the people there know.
The smiles and hellos that are so superficial
Filter the feelings we never let show.

When the business we were going to start in this town didn’t happen, we got caught up with the momentum of the “push” factors and decided we would move anyway. We would go into this foreign place and trust God to work out the details for employment and income. Not so smart.

(Tangent/aside: Never move to a town where you plan to raise a family if you don’t know anyone and therefore don’t have your potential babysitters or family supports lined up ahead of time. Ours included teenage girls who were (a) completely inexperienced — “You mean I was supposed to change him?” — with kids, (b) dealing with medical crises, (c) dealing with severe emotional breakdown.)

I think there was some element of God’s leading us to where we moved. We thought we were moving to start a business, but instead, we ended up getting involved with a church that really needed us. I got to write a newspaper column every weekend for ten years which paid for our groceries. My wife got to raise her boys in a house and not the apartment in the big smoke. I got to teach a year at a Christian school. My wife got to start a number of ministry projects which have made a big difference in the lives of people.

But did God just allow us to “make the best of it?” Was there a principle we missed?

I think there was, but I didn’t know the particular chapter and verse at the time. The verse is found in Proverbs 24:2 –

Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. (NLT)

First plant your fields; then build your barn. (Message)

Fix your business outside. Get your fields in shape and then build your house. (rough English translation of Louis Segond translation in French)

In other words, get a job, know where your mortgage payments are going to come from. Heck; know where your next dollar is coming from. Settle your career in that place first, then talk about your residence. Don’t move to Dallas, or Lisbon or Sydney without having a job waiting.

But we were young, we were idealistic, we were acting on a mix of faith and foolishness. I think we prayed about it — a bit — but earnestly praying together as a couple hasn’t been our strong suit. If you’re a younger married couple, and the shoe fits, take that as a personal admonition to do better than us when it comes to prayer. Starting now.

Joshua 9:14 — the story of Joshua’s ill-advised treaty with the Gibeonites — makes an even stronger case:

The Israelites … did not inquire of the Lord. (TNIV)

So the men … did not ask counsel from the Lord (ESV)

I really feel that God has journeyed with us and blessed us so many ways. But there have been some uphill battles that I believe trace back to not adhering to a basic scriptural principle. In many ways we’ve lived like monks who have taken a vow of poverty, nonetheless we’ve been blessed with some family circumstances that made it possible for us to live what appears from the outside to be a comfortable lower-middle-class life.

But my advice to people today is always the same: Prepare your work in the fields and then build your house.

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