Thinking Out Loud

April 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Irresistible Grace

After falling for an April Fool’s Day prank yesterday — hope you enjoyed yesterday’s here — you may be overly cautious today, but as far as we know, everything below is legit.

Despite a submission guide at PARSE that allows writers to post additionally at their own sites, our Leadership Today overlords want you clicking from their site, thereby depriving me of stats. So if you see something you liked, leave a comment here or there; it’s the only way I know. Clicking anything below will take you first to PARSE.

While leaving no Christian internet news stone unturned, Paul Wilkinson also writes at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Twitter.

Devouring God's Word

January 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List

link-list-basic

So, if you’re following the saga, sometime in late June we agreed to make the Wednesday Link List part of Out of Ur, which is part of Leadership Journal, which is part of Christianity Today, which was founded by Carl F. Henry, who was not related to Buck Henry. But then, last weekend, Leadership Journal officially rolled out PARSE which is where each of the links below takes you… you can click through from there.

To celebrate our first official PARSE column, we bring you both quality and quantity this week…

Link sleuth Paul Wilkinson is also available to DJ your next youth group meeting or help you herd your cats. He writes these little disclaimers at the end of the list for CT/PARSE readers and sometimes forgets to remove them here.

Trouble reading this? We’re experimenting with leaving out the “<big>” tag on each line for the first time; but if it’s small for ya, we’ll update midday. This classic blog theme has a default that’s somewhat miniscule.

Our closing graphic is from a collection of 30 mean letters written by kids.

Dear Uncle Bryan

May 14, 2013

Rob Bell Defending His Position on Gay Christians

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 am

I am indebted to Trevin Wax for making me aware of today’s featured video. If you want to go deeper, be sure to read his analysis on what you see here.

Maybe you’re just tired of this topic. I get that. And the video runs 21 minutes and doesn’t mince words. But I think this is significant on a number of grounds.

First of all, Rob explains himself very well here, if only because the program hosts don’t allow him any escape. On the other hand, he’s not exactly on the ropes, either; he knows what he believes on this topic, and articulates it better here than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Second, Andrew Wilson clearly disagrees, but he so well models what Christian disagreement should look like. Trevin said, “Kudos to Andrew Wilson for maintaining his composure as he gently presses Rob not only to be clear on his position, but also to reveal the grounding for the position. Too often, discussions on this issue are so focused on the tip of the iceberg that the foundational, grounding elements of the argument are assumed and never made explicit.”

Third — and this at the core of where you lean on this issue — is the whole issue as to which of the Levitical prohibitions apply today and which do not. Wilson asks, “Is it a question of hermeneutics, or is it a question of exegesis?”  (That sound you hear is hundreds of readers clicking away as this distinction may be confusing to many, including one blog host. Reader thoughts on how to clarify this for the average reader are welcomed.) Trevin Wax noted, “Rob answers by appealing to the way the world is in order to make his case. He believes the church must affirm the world as it is.

Fourth, there are the amazing wrap up moments where Wilson says he would not call Bell “liberal,” and where Bell affirms the brotherhood of those who disagree with him, or him with them.

September 29, 2012

Is He Gay? — The Not So Straight Answer

Found this today at The Two Cities, a blog I hadn’t heard of before* which began just over a year ago as a collaboration of seven friends. This article is thoughtful, well-written, and will take about 4-5 minutes to read; here’s a sample:

So am I gay?

Here’s the problem: it’s hard to cram a whole conversation’s worth of cultural context, theological concepts and personal convictions into “yes” or “no.” For Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction, the answer is really “yes and no.” Yes on the surface level (being attracted to the same sex) and no in the truest sense (as a new creation in Christ). So if someone asked if I’m gay, the best answer is “Kinda sorta yeah not really.” It’s a complicated answer. But so is the question.

continue reading I’m (Kinda Sorta Yeah Not Really) Gay at The Two Cities blog


*found at Saturday Links at DashHouse

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.


June 9, 2009

Same Sex Attracted

It is sweeping North America.  It is a cause of contention within families.   It’s a condition based on lifestyle choices that are rooted in sin and lack of self control giving way to desires and passions.   The behavior becomes addictive and consuming.   The worst result, of course, is a disease that can be severe and debilitating and even bring death.

The condition is obesity, the sin is gluttony, and the disease is diabetes.

(Inspired from reading chapter 5 in unChristian.)

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Today’s post is a continuation from yesterday’s, where I tried to explain the influence of the internet in shaping sexual preferences, so that regular readers of this blog — mostly interested in Christian news and opinion — will better understand the rapid growth of same sex attraction.

Dave Kinnaman in his book unChristian (Baker Books) suggests a number of ways in which the Church (capital C) and local churches (small c) can do better when interacting with people who are ‘out’ in the gay community, as well as people struggling with same sex attraction:

unChristian borderedAcknowledge the Complexity

“The biblical response to homosexuals should be to deal with the fundamental needs that all men and woman have.   We just acknowledge that everyone has sexual baggage but also the potential for sexual wholeness.   There are major problems across the spectrum of sexuality that the church needs to address…

“Being “against ” gays and lesbians is not a flag to wave… Sexuality should not be seen as dualistic — all good or all bad — but as a good part of our created nature that is constantly in need of repair…

Open Doors With Conversations

“A vital element of engaging homosexuals is to elevate the importance of conversations.   Christians expect overnight results and are impatient with the need to develop deep, candid relationships and interactions of trust…

Treat Other Christians With Respect

“Christians need to downgrade the importance of being antihomosexual as a “credential” proving that we are more faithful to God than anyone else is…   We need to be more concerned about reaching those who need Jesus than “proving” our faith to those who already claim to know Jesus…

Have the Right Perspective

“We should not give up channels of influence, such as politics, just because our stand might cause negative perceptions, but we must pursue our efforts in those arenas with integrity, respect and love for people.

“…Despite widespread mobilization over the last decade, most Christians have become even more isolated from homosexuals…  Gays and lesbians should not be surprised to find us working side by side with them to address HIV/AIDS and to end workplace discrimination in nonreligious settings.

Express Concern for Kids

“…It’s offensive to homosexuals to say that a child needs both a father and a mother; it’s a difficult part of what Christians believe.   However, though this is an important conviction, Christians have to avoid rhetoric that dehumanizes people, especially in interpersonal interactions.   Our most important concern must be the response of young people to Christ, not merely what type of home they grew up in.

Have Compassion

“…Our words in an us-versus-them world can be weapons we use against outsiders, especially Gays…  It is easy to decry political correctness, but it is much more difficult to abide by the biblical concept of guarding our tongues and being accountable for what we communicate to others.   It is easy to learn what words are offensive and simply avoid them; it is much harder to find meaningful ways to speak the truth in love…”

~from unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity, by David Kinnaman with Gabe Lyons, 2007, Baker Books

If addiction to internet pornography is a factor in the life of someone you know and care about, be sure to check out my own resource, The Pornography Effect which is posted online for free reading.

If you are someone who is same sex attracted: Again, as I said yesterday, some  Christians have not been at all charitible in dealing with this issue, and maybe dealing with you personally.   For that, I am sorry.   I think that many in the Church thought that with enough opposition, this issue would simply go away.   It didn’t, and in the Western world, it’s here to stay.   Please be patient as we who are older, as well as the next generation of Christ-followers learn what it means to have the compassion that Jesus had in caring  for those who came to him; as well as dealing with the issues that we have in our own lives. And re-read yesterdays post with an open mind, considering the possibility that where you find yourself today may have actually been somewhat random; a consequence of who got there first at a vulnerable time in your life.

June 8, 2009

Same Sex Attraction

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:20 pm

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten months since I gave up on seeing my crisis book on pornography in print and posted the book online for people to read for free.    It was never about money in the first place.

The problem is that the book was written to fit the paradigm of crisis books, which are generally short.   And it was written to be distributed in packs of four or five, for pastors and counselors to have to give away.    At 22,000 words, this one is too big to be a booklet, and too small to be a standard pocket book.    So if I want to get it published, I need to add some major sections to each chapter.

I think the book has a lot of good things to say that other people aren’t saying, but if there’s one chapter I would want to expand right now, it would be the chapter titled “Orientation” which deals with same sex attraction.   I think there’s a lot more that needs to be said on this topic, both online and in print.    Also, although I’m not a psychologist, I have some opinions on this subject, some of which may contradict what the dominant voices are saying.

Kids Surfing the NetThe big one in this chapter is my “stem cell analogy.”   Stating at the outset that I’m not a scientist,  I make the case that just as stem cells are useful in research and applied medicine because they can pick up their orders from surrounding cells — I’m told it’s like the way soy beans pick up the flavor of the food they’re being cooked with — so I believe that pre-teens and early-teens are also “in formation” and their sexual identity is largely shaped by early exposures and experiences.

I know there have been exhaustive research papers written on the predisposition of some individuals toward homosexuality.    I’m not suggesting that much of that is not valid.    But there are, I believe, many who fall into a vast middle ground; some of whom see pictures online of people of the same gender and wondering why they’re getting aroused.

I think that some of that arousal is normal.   Especially for young, healthy adolescents whose hormones are in overdrive.    (When you reach my age, however, I’m sure the pictures of either sex don’t have the same effect, if any, that they do for those younger!)    Certain responses are not a matter of normal or abnormal, they’re just what happens when the ‘surprise factor’ of certain images produces a response.   Or a result of aesthetics, just as the Greeks felt that the male body represented the apex of God’s creation and therefore had the original Olympic athletes compete naked. Or confirmation from other media, such as the girls at the slumber party discussing songs liked “I Kissed a Girl.” Or a matter of context:   A man can be in a change room with other men and not be as predisposed to think anything of it, while another man — similar in every way —  looks at internet pictures of men in the same change room and is consumed by them.

And there’s a lot of those pictures on the internet right now.   And there’s a lot of technology available to deliver those pictures.    And there’s a lot of people looking at those pictures.    Which brings me to…

I think that where pre- and early-teens are concerned,  a lot of orientation right now is a matter of who gets to them first:  The people putting up pictures of women and girls; or the people putting up pictures of men and boys.   The people putting up blogs and sites with a heterosexual orientation; or the people putting up blogs and sites with a same-sex orientation.

I say that because everybody who has a blog or a website has an agenda.    Sure, there’s lots of people using cell phones and flip cameras to take pictures of themselves or their friends, but the number of actual sites on which people come to view those pictures, while it is in the hundreds of thousands, is still finite when compared to the number of individuals thus displayed.

Each one of these people has a purpose in starting their particular site and determining what goes on it.    It’s a matter of their personal tastes and preferences.

teen with computerSo, I’ll say it again, a bit differently:  If you’re the parent of an early-teen or particularly a pre-teen, a lot of what they come to believe about their own sexuality is a matter of what kind of websites, blogs or photo galleries they and their friends see first.   It’s a race.   Who gets to them first?  What ideas, images and worldviews got to their friends first?

Let me try it one more time even more directly so you don’t miss the point.   If you have a child that is still relatively innocent, and you put that child with someone like myself who has done some research on this and knows where different types of things are located online, and then I ask you to choose site type “A,” or site type “B,” and then you give me one hour, I guarantee that after that hour your child would emerge with their innocence lost, their sexual worldview already shaped, and the direction of their personal sexual interest largely settled.   One hour.  Or less.

Not that I plan on trying this out.

I’ll say it again.   I think some kids are like stem cells.   Awaiting programming.   Being programmed.    A large percentage of them — even in our churches — now dealing with same sex attraction.

Tomorrow, I want to look at a half-dozen responses that Dave Kinnaman, in his book unChristian, suggests Christ-followers should remember when they encounter gays at church and in the broader marketplace.

And yes, they’re going to be at church.  Your church.   If they’re not there already.  But “they” are more like you than you realize.  “They” are really part of your “we” and “our.”  Same sex attraction is huge right now and it intersects church life just as it does the wider society.

So let me rephrase that:  The issue is coming to your church.   If it’s not there already.

Graphic:  The kids in the upper picture are a little younger than what I envisioned for this article, but given the looks on their faces, who knows what they’re seeing!

Personal to SSA readers:  If you got here from a Google or WordPress tag, I know that you’ve possibly put up with a lot of harrassment from church people already, and you may now have them stereotyped as much as they’ve stereotyped you.   All I can say is:  Stay tuned.   There is a tide of change happening out there.   Not the kind that will rewrite the Bible or re-cast God as a hippie from the 1960s or eliminate all bias and bigotry in every church forever, but the kind that will bring us together in dialog less characterized by antagonism and hostility.   ‘Cause really, we’re all sinners.   And we’re all hurting in various ways.   And we all want to be loved.

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