Thinking Out Loud

June 29, 2015

Changing Views on Gay Marriage

SCOTUS - NYT

This weekend we ran a series of the all time most-read articles on this blog, so this is the first opportunity I’ve had to respond to the events of Friday. There is no doubt the United States begins the week having entered a whole new era. Something that was once illegal (and still is in many places) and was considered an abberation (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM) is now the law of the land, mandated by a constitutional ruling by the Supreme Court.

Now, I don’t wish to discuss the particular issue here, but rather, I simply want to note that we’ve seen over the last few years leading to this decision has been a huge shift in values — even among some Christian people — and I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

I know that among my readers are those who have different feelings on not only the issue of the day, but on many different areas where the sphere of spiritual concerns overlaps the sphere of civic or legal issues. Some are truly rejoicing in the events of yesterday, for many different reasons. I think it’s great if you can see an up-side to all this. My point is simply that through one Supreme Court decision we have witnessed a tectonic shift of huge proportions.

Interestingly, while looking up the above scripture verse when I prepared this originally for Chritianity 201, BibleHub posted a link to Habakkuk 1:14 (NLT)

The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.

There are some who would argue that the only thing that changed yesterday is that another court, the court of popular opinion, grew vocal enough to tip the scales of justice.

Unfortunately, there are also a few who have a misunderstanding that if something is legal it is no longer sin. It is important to recognize that there is not a one-to-one correlation between the two. Many things that are legal are still sinful, and many things that the law says are illegal have little to do with the spiritual condition of the heart.

For example, if we take a simple Ten Commandments approach, the 1:1 correspondence will hold more often, since many of our laws derive from Judeo-Christian teaching. But society accepts many other things which would go against Bible teaching. To the contrary, if where you live it is against the law to make a left turn at the corner of Central Blvd. and Main St. during the evening rush hour, that does not derive from scripture. Still we should note that in the second case, the left turn, it can also be argued that the principles of Romans 13 apply:

1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

The problem is trying to read this in the reverse, and saying that what the law permits, God also is okay with; the logic of that does not hold. The “governing authorities” of verse one are not the ones to whom we hold ultimate accountability.

It’s more to the point to refine our understanding of what sin is and isn’t. The word means ‘missing the mark.’ It connotes an archery image of firing our arrows but not quite hitting the bulls-eye, or worse, not even hitting the target sheet at all.

I believe that knowing God’s best exists means we can’t settle for anything less; we can’t be content with the good or the better knowing there is a best.

When we fail to be concerned with aiming for the best we grieve Father, Son and Spirit.

The ultimate question of the day therefore is the question that should guide the everyday actions of all believers: Can God be trusted?

Do we think that maybe, just perhaps he has his reasons for suggesting we organize our family units in a certain manner and live in a particular way. Is it just, as some suggest, that some laws were given were given to provide Israel with a distinct identity from its neighbors, or is there, to put it one way, a method behind the madness?

I believe God’s best is so not because it’s best for him, but because he knows what’s best for us

We must keep this in mind, especially when the tide of public opinion changes, and the law of the land shifts accordingly.

March 7, 2013

The Edge, Shock Value and Shifting Standards

There are going to be people who think me a little too conservative for not posting the cover of the book referred to in today’s earlier post. Sigh.

no-godIt seems that we live in a time when standards are shifting, and even if your values are less progressive, it never hurts to go for shock value, as in Peter Enns’ article Why I Don’t Believe in God Anymore. Perhaps it’s just that people who blog on the Patheos platform are expected to be more controversial, but the word “God” with the red circle and red slash through it seems a bit over the top.

Peter Enns actually does believe in God, at least in the way most of you think. His article is saying that for him it’s really about trust.

…“Belief” in God connotes–at least as I see it–a set of ideas about God that may, if time allows, eventually make their way to other parts of my being…

…I see a huge difference between “I believe in a God who cares for me” and “I trust God at this particular moment.” The first is a bit safer, an article of faith. The latter is unnerving, risky–because I have let go…

In a way, Enns’ view is at the heart of Christian living. As people approach crossing the line of faith, our great desire is to see them reach that point of belief; but once the line has been crossed, the center of the Lordship of Christ is trusting Him with every area, every department of our lives.

I know someone who hasn’t crossed that line yet, but I know the ‘gay’ question is going to come up at some point and when it does I’m going to say, “Look, I want to let you in our playbook. Right now our concern for you is about believing, but for those of us on the inside, the fundamental question is: Can God be trusted? Can we see that out of good, better and best, He does indeed have a best for each of us, an ideal which represents His highest intentions?”

Trusting God has having our ultimate highest good in mind is a better way of framing difficult questions. It’s possible to look at people in an adulterous relationship and say, “I know you expect me to say what’s wrong with what you’re doing, but I want to ask you, ‘What’s right about what you’re doing? What do you derive from this that makes it worth the various inconveniences?'” I believe you could equally ask, “What’s right about your incestuous relationship that makes it worth the effort of keeping the secret?” or “What’s right about your gay relationship that makes it worth the separation from your family?”

It’s not rhetorical.  You’re going to get some answers in most cases. What makes it good. And then it’s easy to say, “I believe God’s intention was beyond good, beyond better. I believe God had a best, but we’re afraid of fully trusting Him.”

However, it’s important not to let this much more compassionate, much more sympathetic approach not undermine the idea of trusting God for the best. It’s vital that in the process, we don’t take scissors to scripture and excise the passages we think don’t fit.

Which brings us to United Methodist pastor Dave Barnhart’s article How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality. This piece has received a lot of attention online and is emblematic of what happens when theological convictions are transferred to real people engaged in real living in a real world.

Most people who have wrestled with this issue have come to recognize the personal disconnect that takes place when the convictions we would write on a list shatter in the face of people who have been damaged by dogma. No one reading scripture thoroughly can help but be caught in the middle of God’s holiness and judgment versus God’s compassion toward those who ‘miss the mark’ of His greatest standards.

The article says,

Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by the people I meet than issuing infallible decrees from a pulpit, more about admitting I’m wrong and sharing my frailty than pretending I know God’s will on a given subject. One friend describes preaching as a “homiletical wager,” and I’ve come to believe that pastoring, presuming to be a spiritual leader, is bit like gambling with God, where the stakes are very high but I’m betting the game is rigged toward grace.

So again, the title is edgy, it certainly goes for shock value, but has the writer really changed his view on the standards that God holds up for us, or has he simply come to see those standards in the light of mercy, come to a desire to confront the way The Church attempts to mete out its version of upholding God’s best?

Conservatives and traditionalists may feel the spiritual sky is falling, but I prefer to think of the present spiritual climate more in terms of a shaking. Too many people wrote things in ink that they should have written in pencil, or even chalk. But a massive rethink of terminology or approach doesn’t mean that we’ve completely tossed all our formerly held convictions.

As pendula swing wildly, the place of balance, the place of rest, is ultimately somewhere in the middle.

September 10, 2011

Identity: From Star Wars to Torchwood

Normally when I feature an article here drawn from somewhere else, I encourage readers to go to the original writer’s blog… and nobody does. But this time, I promise you, if you click to Julie Clawson’s blog, One Hand Clapping, you’ll get pictures which I didn’t borrow here. Surely you’ll all click for pictures, right? The article there is called The Complexity of Identity.

Over the last few weeks I have finally had the chance to introduce my kids to the Star Wars movies. It took them awhile to get interested, and since Star Wars was one of the defining narratives that shaped my childhood, I had to force myself to wait to show it to them until they were ready (and yes, like any good parent of my generation, we started with Episode IV).  But as we watched it and the array of characters appeared on the screen my daughter would repeatedly ask, “so is that a good guy or a bad guy?” When she asked that about the Ewoks I had to laugh (seriously, how could wonder if a teddy bear was a bad guy?), but most of the time I found myself having to give qualified answers. She is used to Disneyfied depictions of the world where there are obvious good and bad characters. But Star Wars, like reality, is nuanced. The good guys can be self-seeking and greedy, and cute little Anakin becomes the evil Darth Vader who still has enough good in him to be redeemed in the end. Identity is fluid and people are complex. My six year old (along with many adults) would rather have the world be easily divided into clear cut categories of good and evil, but that’s just not the way it works. Heck, even the Ewoks tried to roast Han and Luke alive.

While our nature as children of God created in God’s image defines us at our core (and makes the ultimate redemption of all possible), who we are in relation to each other is constantly being shaped and changed as we proceed through life. We, at various points, can be both good and evil – as well as simply greedy, self-centered, and apathetic even as we try to follow the way of Jesus. We are the good guys and we are the bad guys. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously wrote –

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Not only are we unwilling to destroy that part of ourselves, we often can’t even admit to the complexity of our identity. If we see ourselves as decent citizens and committed Christians, we have a hard time admitting that within that framework we might be participating in evil. I hear this all the time when I speak on justice issues. It’s the “I’m a good person, how dare you suggest I am hurting others when I buy clothing made in sweatshops or treat the environment however I wish.” We prefer our binary categories that help us label and judge the world. I’m good, others are bad. I’m normative, others are abnormal. It’s not reality, but it’s how people cope.

Getting at that reality is part of why I’ve recently become obsessed with the show Torchwood (a Dr. Who spin-off). Described as a postmodern, post-colonial, pan-sexual narrative, episode after episode it serves to deconstruct binary assumptions about our world and our identity. Captain Jack Harkness, the 51st century time-traveling, omnisexual, and morally ambiguous main character who is constantly re-negotiating the identity of the alpha-male lead role, dismisses our tendency to be comforted with the binary with “you people and your cute little categories.” There is no one purely good or evil in the show, simply people trying to survive as best they can. Friends who would otherwise die for each other turn on each other when it could save those they love the most. Middle men just doing their job contribute to systems of evil and yet are not powerful enough to stop them. In one poignant scene one sees that it is the poor gang members who have nothing left to lose who are the only ones willing to stand up against an act of extreme injustice the government tries to commit. The show pushes the boundaries of sexual identity, but also tears to shreds the stereotypical colonial narrative of the alien invasion story. In one storyline an alien race was threatening the destruction of earth unless we gave them 10% of our children to use as drugs. As the story unfolded we saw that the humans weren’t merely victims, but as capable of sacrificing the weak for their own comfort as the aliens. Even Captain Jack’s solution to the invasion revealed him to be just as much monster as hero. Assumed categories of right and wrong broke down in light of the messiness of reality.

I love the show because it is so real. As absurd as it sounds to describe a science-fiction show as real, it is the honest depiction of the fluidity and complexity of our identity that resonates so well. Most episodes leave me deeply frustrated and unsettled, but also commenting to my husband that this is the way evil works in the real world – not as some absolute tyranny out to destroy the world, but in the accumulation of everyone’s small decisions to shape the world for their own personal benefit. It takes these sorts of post-colonial stories that deconstruct hidden power structures and allow for the exploration (as opposed to imposition) of identity for us to become aware of the complexity of our own selves. The rigid definitions of who we claim to be break down when seen light of our relations to others. We are the victim and the oppressor, we are the hero and the villain, we are friend and we are the enemy – all at the same time. South Africa discovered this after Apartheid. They knew that to even function as a postcolonial nation the community had to let go of binary labels like victim and oppressor, confess their corporate complicity in evil, and embrace the messiness of living in relation with complex people.

Good relationships evolve because they allow for people to be in process. To understand where that line of good and evil exists in their hearts and to hold their cute little identity categories loosely. People change, we grow, we constantly fail, and yet we must remain in community. Unless we start to understand the fluidity and multiplicity of our identity in relation to others it is impossible to build healthy relationships that revolve around our core nature of being created in the image of God. And ultimately it is those relationships with God and others that matter the most.

~Julie Clawson

January 6, 2011

Dressing Your Children Appropriately

This first appeared here almost exactly two years ago, was repeated about a year ago, and still applies… abercrombie-girl

Check out this statement:

The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls. What I encourage my child to wear is a statement not merely of fashion but of theology and axiology—and this link between our theology and our wardrobes is not a recent phenomenon.

Intrigued? Want to read more? If you’ve ever wondered if there is a “theology of clothing,” check out Dr. Timothy Paul Jones Continue reading here. Maybe your choice of shirt or pants today wasn’t entirely spiritually ‘neutral.’

 

 

 

About 50 pictures were rejected before choosing this one. Then there were dozens of others that were never seriously being considered.

July 12, 2010

Rock Music and Pornography: Parallels

The 1960s was a time of accelerated social change in Western Europe and North America.   No chronology of those times is complete without some reference to the role that popular music played in both reflecting and shaping those times.

As folk singers protested Vietnam and The Beatles sported longer hairstyles, the church began to establish its somewhat defensive posture; and by the end of the ’60s, the psychedelic branch of rock music combined with the message of free love to confirm all their worst fears.     Any band with guitars and drums was immediately caught in the line of fire.

The actual music form itself was no different than the modern worship that was played in the church service I attended yesterday.   The drums, bass guitar, electronic keyboards, lead guitars and rhythm guitars would later be regarded as morally neutral.

By the 1980s we began to hear a redefined meaning to the term “rock music;” it wasn’t the music itself, but the performers and their lifestyles and ideals; it was the attitude and the surrounding culture.   The music itself — the notes, the harmonies, the rests — were simply the wave which carried youth culture along; in fact it was the youth culture itself that the church had really been afraid of all along.

The eventual emergence of Christian rock wasn’t so oxymoronic.   It showed the spiritual neutrality of the musical forms, and showed that those forms could be used to carry a positive and even Biblical message.

Over two years ago, I posted a rough manuscript online of a short book titled The Pornography Effect:  Understanding for the Wives, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters and Girlfriends. Part of the reason that I’m still looking for a publisher for the print version is that some people disagree with the book’s basic assumption.

I believe that the visual images that one thinks of when they hear the term “pornography” are not the ultimate core issue.    I do believe that they are addictive, that they are exploitative and that they can be devastating to men (and women) and especially teens and pre-teens.

But like the music issue of the ’60s, I think we may be focused on the wrong target.   (The parallel ends there however; I don’t foresee those images appearing in our worship services 25 years from now the way that contemporary music styles are part of modern worship.)

Just as rock music is about lifestyles and ideals and attitudes, pornography changes the worldview of those who partake.   Again, I think that the point in my manuscript that some people can’t get past is the idea that text pornography — chats, forums, stories, blogs, etc. without pictures — is every bit as serious a threat as sites with various types of pictorial images. If not more so.

click image to orderThe Church’s response is to think in terms of pictures and videos (a concern not to be minimized) and think in terms of addiction (an issue to be taken seriously) but to neglect what exposure to porn does in terms of how men look at their wives and girlfriends, and even their sisters, daughters and mothers.   (The promotion of incest is a major agenda on many websites.)  Perhaps we’re more concerned with the physiological sexual response than the brain ‘wiring’ or brain conditioning that is at work here.   Perhaps it is easier to choose a target we can see than consider the more serious concern which is invisible.

Pornography has even changed the expectations men have as to what constitutes normal sexuality within marriage.   (And, as we’re seeing, increasingly changing the expectations of women also.)   The result is an increase in unusual requests and even demands in the bedroom.   But it also causes men to think nothing of considering an office affair; it causes boys to make advances toward their sisters; it causes heretofore straight individuals to nurture same-sex attraction.

It’s the 1960s all over again.   The “Summer of Love” of 1969 is back with its message of free sex without consequences, but aided by a new technology tailor-made to get that message to the widest audience.

It’s the escapism drug-of-choice; with each dosage customized to meet individual desires.   In online pornography nobody ever gets pregnant, no STDs are spread, no one is arrested for rape or indecent exposure, no small children are ever left without a daddy.

Hedonism is the reigning philosophy.

Jesus said He came so that we might experience life to the fullest; however the “abundant life” is also the “narrow way.”  Countering the ‘message’ of pornography isn’t about saying “don’t look” anymore than putting up a wet paint sign on a freshly whitewashed fence is going to accomplish “don’t touch.”    Pornographers, advertisers and fashion designers will continue to keep pushing the envelope.   Men’s thoughts will continue to stray.

So while we do need to tell the world that,

  • pornography is an addictive behavior;
  • as an addiction it is subject to the laws of diminishing returns; the addict is never satisfied;
  • with God’s help you can be set free;

we also need to be proclaiming,

  • the version(s) of sex depicted online does not generally represent God’s intention for sex;
  • many of the subjects in online images are being exploited or being forced to participate; it’s not true that “nobody is being hurt”;
  • the movies and stories are unbalanced; they don’t show disease, unwanted pregnancy, loss of self-respect, or ruined lives;
  • if you keep watching, the images are changing you; as you give more time to worship at the altar of porn, the pornography effect is a sacramental effect; as you receive it, you’re allowing it to shape you and define you;
  • those so exposed need to recognize, confess and confront how pornography has so changed their worldview; both in subtle and greater degrees;
  • the consequences of long term exposure to the larger society is that it places that society in a downhill spiral (what pilots call a ‘graveyard spiral’) from which there is no recovery apart from dramatic repentance followed by dramatic intervention from God (or what might be called “a turning” or “revival”)
  • because it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness; more energy needs to spent promoting models of modesty, purity and chastity; and less energy on appearing spiritual by simply “denouncing” porn;
  • in the end, pornography is not the problem; the human heart is deceitfully wicked; the core of the problem is human rebellion against God;
  • finally, we need to proclaim the omnipresence of God; men and women need to be reminded that God is constantly sitting next to us as we click the mouse, turn the scroll wheel and stare at the monitor; His Lordship has to extend to be Lord over the URLs we visit daily.

Allowing myself to be a spokesperson on this topic has had to involve some awareness of its magnitude, and I think the people who say there are 200,000 pornographic websites online are terribly low in their estimating.   I believe the person who suggests 1,000,000 might be more accurate.

This means that realistically, we’re not going to see an end to pornography any time soon.  (Although, I applaud those who faithfully file objections to blog hosts, internet service providers, and search engines; each day sites all over the world are shut down because of their counter-measures; and even some of the most liberal pornographers recognize a need for someone to be applying the brakes, though often for different reasons.)

What we can do is build resistance (not immunity) to it.   We can recognize that just as the music debate really wasn’t about the musical forms itself, the sexual ethics debate is not about this picture or that video.

It’s a battle for the mind.

It’s a battle for the heart.

Want to study more on this?  Here’s an article also posted today on the complications of leaving internet choices to filtering devices.


May 20, 2010

EFC Claims Victory in Christian Horizons Case

I recognize that today’s post won’t be as significant to my largely U.S. readership, but it has major repercussions here in Canada, so I hope you’ll permit me this domestic story.    For context, the EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) is our version of the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals) which sometimes also fulfills the role taken on in the U.S. by the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) lobbying in Canada’s capital on behalf of Christian ideals.

Over two years ago on this blog, I reported on a complaint filed by Connie Heintz, a former employee of Christian Horizons, a Christian organization which operates group homes for developmentally challenged adults.   The big picture issue was the requirement by CH that employees live up to a lifestyle clause with certain moral or behavioral guidelines.   The complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT), a group with a reputation for never losing; so this was a David vs. Goliath type of battle.

But it was also a battle with large scale implications for Christian (and by extension various other religious groups’) organizations of all stripes, not to mention churches.   The OHRT argued that on the basis of the variety of people being served and on the basis of the government funding received by Christian Horizons. (Read the editorial that is part of the above link, which comprises the second two-thirds of the blog post.)

Wednesday, we received this announcement in an e-mail from EFC, which you can also read online:

OTTAWA – In December 2009, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) appeared before the Superior Court of Ontario, Divisional Court, in the landmark religious freedom case, Heintz v. Christian Horizons. The court, which heard an appeal of the decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT), released its decision late Friday afternoon.

Christian Horizons, a faith-based ministry, employs over 2,500 people to provide housing, care and support to over 1,400 developmentally disabled individuals, and has done so for more than 40 years. This Christian ministry, which requires its employees to sign a Statement of Faith and a Lifestyle and Morality Policy, was the subject of a human rights complaint when a staff member resigned after she felt she could no longer live according to the commitment she made when she signed the policy.

In the decision being appealed, the OHRT had ruled that Christian Horizon’s efforts were not the ministry of a religious community but rather social work and that it, as well as other faith-based bodies serving public needs on a non-discriminatory basis, could no longer require that employees share their religious beliefs and resulting service commitment. The Divisional Court ruled differently and reversed much of the OHRT’s decision.

“This is significant victory for faith-based charities across Canada. While they must clarify certain governing documents and review certain employment policies, they may largely continue to require employee compliance with both statements of faith and lifestyle and morality policies,” said Don Hutchinson, the EFC’s Vice-President and General Legal Counsel.

“We’re relieved to see the court found that the exemption provision in the Ontario Human Rights Code which permits certain charities, including religious charities, to selectively hire employees who share the same beliefs makes no private/public distinction. This means that Christian charities may continue to serve non co-religionists in society all while maintaining their internal religious ethos and integrity,” continued Hutchinson. “I’m relieved that the court recognized that the exemption exists to guarantee the right to free association in this way. This was of serious concern as the OHRT had found otherwise.”

“Of course, we are also disappointed that the Court found it reasonable for the OHRT to have concluded that Christian Horizons did not meet an objective test for a bona fide occupational requirement for Ms. Heintz’s job, but the Court was instructive as to how that situation may be corrected.”

“What does this mean for Christian charities across Canada? Well, it means that it’s time again for them to clarify their statements of faith, lifestyle policies and job descriptions for all employees in order to clearly demonstrate how compliance with both statement of faith and codes of conduct are necessary for and related to job duties.”

This case is huge here, and while Christian Horizons didn’t have the resources to fight this on their own, there was simply too much at stake here for Canadian Christian charities, hence the involvement of EFC.

UPDATE:  Here’s a different perspective on the recent decision from an editorial in Canada’s national newspaper, The National Post.

ALSO: “…But the gay rights group EGALE, which was an intervenor in the court case, also said this week’s ruling was a victory. Lawyer Cynthia Petersen said the ruling would make it hard for religious charities to prove that a person’s sexual orientation or beliefs would get in the way of their duties.”  That quotation is from an article in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

FURTHER UPDATE (5.21.10) Here’s a summary of the decision posted on a blog operated by CFPL, the Centre for Faith and Public Life, a division of EFC.

February 8, 2010

Yichud

Okay, so first of all, if you’ve landed here from a Google blog search or a WordPress tag, you need to know that I’m not Jewish.   This is actually a Christian blog, and up until about an hour ago I’d never heard the word Yichud before.   Since then, I’ve been reading various internet articles, and while I’m not an expert, let me say to any Jewish readers who land here, I’m impressed with the concept.

The word and I crossed paths in a stage show review published Thursday  in The Toronto Star.     Longtime theatre critic Richard Ouzounian was reviewing a play bearing this word as its title, in an article titled Wedding Crashers.   The husband and wife in Yichud are, in real life, also husband and wife.     She grew up in Judiasm, while he converted from Roman Catholicism.

So what is Yichud?    Let’s start with Wikipedia which quickly alerts us to two different definitions around which the play Yichud revolves:

…the impermissibility of seclusion of a man and a woman a private area. Such seclusion is prohibited when the man and woman are not married to each other in order to prevent the two from being tempted or having the opportunity to commit adulterous or promiscuous acts. The laws of yichud are typically followed by Orthodox Jews. Some Orthodox authorities view these laws as so strict that they may not be broken even when a life is in danger.

Okay; got that one?   Then you’re ready to move on to meaning number two:

…a ritual during a Jewish wedding in which the newly married couple spends a period of time secluded in a room by themselves.

But it’s the first definition I want to return to.   The prohibition finds its roots in the story of David and Tamar, as spelled out here on the website JewishMag.Com.   (II Sam. 13: 1-29)    The restrictions — which extend to parents and siblings — are spelled out in detail by Rabbi Howard Jachter.

[Sidebar:  To my Christian readers — There is a Jewish internet world*, besides the Christian internet world.   You should check it out sometime.   Of course I realize this is going to come as a bit of a shock to some who didn’t realize there was a Christian internet world beyond the Calvinist internet world.]

Everybody back?  I want to return now to comments that were made by Aaron Willis, the Catholic-turned-Jewish actor in the Yichud review, and his wife Julie Tepperman:

“There are so many levels of seclusion, within religion, within family, within ourselves,” says Tepperman. “I came to realize that all the laws of Judaism keep us safe. The Torah is like a blueprint for life.”

Willis adds his perspective. “My experience with Judaism is that one of the most beautiful things about it is that you experience it by doing, rather than intellectualizing. There are 613 mitzvot or commandments and every one is capable of making your life fuller and deeper.”

What strikes me there is the complete trust that — without putting too many words in their mouths — God’s rules have our best interest at heart.   It reminded me of another scripture verse that may be more familiar to my regular readers:

Trust in the Lord with everything you’ve got,  and don’t depend on your own rationalizing.   Put Him first in every decision and He will illuminate the pathway for your journey.    Prov. 3: 5,6 (my paraphrase)

When it comes to definition number two…

…What Tepperman discovered was that “many people consider the time spent there more sacred that the wedding itself…”

The play itself  “revolves around an arranged marriage, where this is the first time the couple have been alone together. Originally developed by Convergence Theatre, the production transforms the entire theatre into an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue.” [Toronto Star stage play summary, Feb. 4]  And yes, the various websites on the subject indicate that some couples do, in fact, do it in the Yichud room, while a greater majority would indicate no, couples do not, in fact do it in the Yichud room.

Christians believe that with the coming of Christ, we moved from a period of law into what is called the “age of grace.”   However, we also believe that God is the same:  In the past, in the present and in the future to come.  (Hebrews 13:8 speaks specifically about Jesus, but the expansion from this to the very nature of God Himself is implicit, such that the verse is often misquoted with God as the subject.)

Do we as Christians have the same trust that God is looking out for us, as Julie indicates in her appraisal of the commands?    Psalm 119 — the long Psalm — also testifies to a love of the law, with almost each of its 176 stanzas praising law, commandments, ordinances, statutes, etc.

Finally, the take-away from this for Christian parents with preteens and teens is huge.   Or even non-religious parents who are trying to maintain some kind of moral or ethical standard in the home.     Go back to the Rabbi Jachter link above, and show your children the rules that some teenagers live with, even in sex-saturated 2010.  I’ll bet the rent that it makes whatever rules you’ve got in place at your house seem tame by comparison.

Remind them that God doesn’t view our choices as simply good or bad, but that in his view, our good choices can be overshadowed by the possibility of better choices, and that those in turn, are nothing when compared with best choices.   God is looking out for our best.

Do we delight in his law to the same extent as Psalm 119 does?

*I tried to find an updated version of these 2006 awards for best Jewish blogs, but even though many of them may no longer exist, I’m posting the link anyway, because I want you to see the categories that they assign to various Jewish bloggers.

October 23, 2008

When True Love Doesn’t Wait

Filed under: Christianity, family — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:17 am

When a guy and a girl decide to have sex before marriage, one of the arguments used to justify this is the classic, “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive.”

This is, on the surface, sound logic.  In its full extension, it means that if the test drive isn’t favorable, you can decide not to purchase.    There are a lot of things around you can take back.   You can return a pair of pants if they don’t fit.   You can ask the waiter to take your food back to the kitchen if it’s not to your taste.  Some stores will take back a toy if the child didn’t find it amusing.

But fortunately, our high-tech world offers an analogy that works in this situation, to some degree.  Here it is:  Having sex before marriage is less like a test drive of a car, and more like buying a package of computer software.  Once you break open the package, you’ve bought it; there’s no taking it back.

Blog at WordPress.com.