Religion and Sex

May 30, 2007

 

Time to get back on topic.  I’m doing better, thank you all for asking!

I’m listening to Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings on a podcast about sexuality or as they title it, sexual brokenness.  They did this podcast almost a year ago, but of course I didn’t know about them then.  Not that much of what I’ll talk about will be from their conversation.  Like most religious broadcasts on the subject of sexuality, they spend a lot more time talking about pornography and the sexualizing of our society, than about the issues I grapple with here.

 

But they do get off to a promising start in talking about how religion most often appeals to shame when it comes to sexuality and sexual sin.  “Sex is shameful.”  “Masturbation is dirty.”  “Lust is sinful.”    But by the end of the podcast, I do sort of get the impression that these guys do end up buying into masturbation = sexual brokenness. 

 

Anyone who has read me for any length of time will understand if I see “sexual brokenness” a bit differently.  To be sure, sexual brokenness is all about some sort of sexual dysfunction but the over riding theme here is all about a lack of sexual wholeness between two people.  I would dearly love to be able to offer myself up completely to my wife in a sexual way, except she doesn’t want it.  Her menu of things she wants from me include my time, money, some help around the house, help with the kids, going out to places together, doing family things together and possibly eating out together just the two of us.  But sex together?  It does not even make the list.

 

There are a smattering of Christian authors who sort of deal with the issue; Dillow & Pintus, the Lahayes,  the Wheats and a few others.  But these are not the sort of books that end up in the front section of the Christian bookstore, or the reception area of your pastor’s office or even your own coffee table when your cell group is getting together.  Those of us who are blogging candidly about the subject do so very anonymously with some who are more than a bit squeamish about making certain comments for fear they someone might Google us up and then out us in front of everyone, surely bringing shame to us and our families and especially spouses. 

 

For the most part, religion has NOT served us who are in sexual starvation very well at all.  We were told when we were single that we should wait until we were married.  I was one who waited until I was 26, which is longer than most but  I still wasn’t married.  I felt some amount of guilt about that, and looked forward to the day when I could finally be married and then it would be all legal and I could have as much sex as I wanted without the guilt.  Whoohoo!

 

Right?

 

RIGHT?

 

WRONG.

For as sure as I’m sitting here at my keyboard, I’m here to tell you that the reality is that guilt-free sex seems to be equal to sex-free sex. 

 

In an amazingly candid display of openness, Arwyn actually expressed some of her guilt to the pastor who did our premarital counseling about our premarital sex.  He said not to worry about it.  But I know she did and she said she looked forward to being married and being free of the guilt.  But of course, I don’t think she has ever been free of it.  She certainly has never been free of hang ups.  After being free of the guilt of being immoral, at various times there was the fear of pregnancy.  And then a few years ago, the fear of pregnancy was eliminated and so was our sex life.  It did pick up for a couple of months but then plummeted and continued to get worse and worse and worse.

 

The religious answer to all of this is to pray, to be faithful and to go to counseling.  Perhaps go to a clergy member for some guidance.  One problem noted by Brad and Wayne in the above podcast is that the pornography consumption of a given hotel is directly proportional to the number of clergy staying there.  But Wayne and Brad do not discuss what to do when your partner ditches you, sexually speaking, in favor of kids, career, chores, television or whatever else.  We hear all sorts of admonishments against adultery but there’s nothing said about what to do about one partner forcing another partner into a state of involuntary celibacy.  Some may say it is a wrong and selfish thing to do, but it is not a teaching that appears in any Sunday sermon.  It is not something that is discussed openly in the religious community at all, at least where I’ve been able to find it.    Try Googling it up (christian involuntary celibacy), and the first hit is a guy on my blogroll who hasn’t blogged in months!

 

I know all about 1st Corinthians 7.  Been there and done that to death.  We know it’s in the Bible but it isn’t taught in the institutional church.  Ever.  It’s rarely discussed even informally outside the walls. 

 

The problem is that religion is so terribly bound up in keeping people from engaging in sexual activities and sexual behavior that when a couple finally do marry and can do it legally, it seems counter-productive to counter all those years of “Thou Shalt Nots.”  The fact is that if one has really and truly bought into the religious prohibitions, some degree of deprogramming must take place in order to fully enjoy that gift that God is supposedly the author of.  Thus, God is now cast in the role of the Great Frustrator.  There are all sorts of temptations all around and we are created with these hormones and desires and there is nothing whatsoever to do with them and still remain within God’s grace and mercy while we’re single.  So we finally meet a person with whom we can freely allow our sexual expression to have free reign and…what happened?

 

Paul said it was better to marry than to burn, but I’m wondering if he was not terribly misguided on this.  I’m married and still burning.  I still have all the same hormones and temptations and desires and perhaps even moreso now that I have some focus to them in the person of Arwyn.  But there is no expression allowed here.  When she exercises her free will, it is her will that we not engage in sex.

 

If I force her, it becomes rape.  If I try to appease her, it is manipulation.  If I try to guilt her, I might get a mercy fuck.  If I try to work out some sort of quid pro quo exchange, it’s prostitution.  If I find another willing partner, it is adultery.  If I masturbate, it is shameful and selfish.  If I castrate myself, I’m attacking the temple of the Holy Spirit.  If I channel my desires into something else, I’m repressing or I’m kinking.  No matter how you add this up, I am sinful and depraved for wanting to have sex with my wife when she does not want to have sex with me.  On a deeper level, I want to be wanted and desired.  When it comes to being personal and intimate, you can’t get more personal and intimate than sexually.  It can’t be done.  I can reject you on many levels but if I reject you sexually, that’s the deepest of cuts for any man especially when it comes from someone he loves.  And I imagine it is just as hurtful to any woman who gets rejected, postponed and put off by a man she loves.  In all the ways that a person can be rejected, sexual rejection has to be the most hurtful and personal of all.

 

The Church is not talking about sexual rejection and I think that’s because as a body it rejects sexuality as a legitimate expression of communion between two people.  I think a lot of lip service is offered, but it is not something that is going to be discussed openly with any sort of consistency or clarity.  It will be secretive and veiled.  Something to be laughed at, joked about perhaps.  But it is not seen as a problem because NOT having sex is seen as too much of a virtue in Christianity.  The Catholics have taken celibacy and elevated to sacramental proportions where it is a defining and core characteristic of their priests!  Having sex is seen as a weakness, and Paul certainly treats it in such a condescending manner when he does discuss it.  It is seen as a virtue for the sake of procreating other little converts, but not as a fundamental bonding experience between a man and a woman. 

 

Sexual abstinence is the steady drum beat that is drilled into the heads of little girls and boys from the time they begin asking about sex.  They are told that they must wait until they are married.  The problem is this: what if Mom and Dad aren’t having sex?  What sort of message is that?  Why the hell should I wait and look forward to that?

 

It’s getting to be about time be a bit more candid about this conversation we’re having.

 

Somewhere along the line, the Church needs to unfuck itself and start getting on message: celibacy and abstinence within marriage is NOT a virtue!  It is not spiritual!  It is an abomination!  Because if one part of your body is causing you to sin, better to pluck it out, right?  And guess what?  My spouse is the one who seems to be the cause of me burning.  At the very least, she doesn’t seem to be terribly concerned with my unhappy state while being fairly content to exist on the other things that I offer while rejecting those things I most want to offer.

 

D.

 

 

 

 

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Different Dancing

May 25, 2007

 

Yesterday, I received my DDR dance mat. My youngest son totally liked watching and egging dear old Dad on. He really likes the music, so for him it’s a definite hit. Arwyn…not so much. It’s going to be a challenge doing this while she’s around because she doesn’t like the music or the whole video game concept.

 

While she went out to some church activity, I entertained the boys with my fine Stepmania skills. Actually, not really. Songs that I scored AA on the keyboard barely made a C score on the mat. But in 40 minutes, I felt like had accomplished a real work out. Considering my handicap, I was actually doing really well.

 

My stomach has been doing its own step-dance routine for a few days. Just some general nausea, but nothing too serious. Until about 4 a.m., then I ended up talking to Ralph on the porcelain telephone.

bunny

D2

 

 

I was getting it from both barrels, as I’d have to sit and I had a serious case of the squirts.

d3

D1

 

FYI, beef stew does NOT taste so swell the second time around.

 

So far, so good this afternoon, though.

 

Which led me on a zany search for related artwork. Go ahead and make up your own version of the Pepto dance!

 

D.


A Heavy Issue

May 20, 2007

Perhaps I’ll engage in some lighter fare, and I do need to address a couple of long-lost topics that have gotten lost amongst the..er…heavier topics.

 

Actually I do want to talk about weight, specifically mine.  My mass seems to be in a linear incline since I’ve pretty much given up the smoking.  I say “pretty much” as I have had a couple of deliberate lapses lasting over a couple of 2 day road trips.  But by and large, I’ve been good.  The smokes still have a psychological pull, as I do miss them, especially during the stressful times.

 

But weight.  Geez.  After 10 years staying at pretty 219 lbs. or so, I’ve gone up to close to 240 over the past year.  Today I found a place where I could calculate my BMI (body mass index) and I’m at 29.9!  I’m 0.1 from going from “overweight” to “obese!”

 

My knees are suffering for it.  Other systems are too, I’m sure.  So I’m watching it to make sure I at least stop the incline, which I’ve done since February.  But now I really need to get it off and this will involve some exercise.

 

I hate exercise.

 

I don’t mind doing something relatively purposeful.  For instance I still use a push mower on my 2/3 acre lawn.  Okay, it is self-propelled, but with the bagger I’m still pushing and sweating buckets in the Georgia sun.  So once a week, I have that going.  I still don’t like it much but at least it makes more sense to me than walking a track or running somewhere I don’t need to go.  But my knees don’t really like this very much.  Once a week is about as much as they’ll take of that pushing over the rough terrain that isn’t even that nice of a lawn..

 

Swimming is not something I do well, and since there’s no pool, river or lake nearby, that’s out.

 

Joining a fitness club: That totally seems like a waste of money for me.  Pointless exercise, remember?  This works for some and it is a yuppie thing to do to keep in shape.  But it’s not like a real club, with dancing girls, a pole, cigarettes and mixed drinks.

 

Plus, the idea of driving somewhere else in order to exercise just seems odd to me.  If I lived within walking distance, it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But if more of us lived within walking distance of stuff, this probably wouldn’t be an issue at all.

 

 

Yeah, there is one sort of exercise for pleasure that I could totally be into.  But my wife would sooner see me dead than do that 3x a week for 30 minutes.  “Enjoy the heart attack, Fatman!”  I can’t even get it once a month.  Or even once a year. 

 

 

 I Finally did find something that looks like it might appeal to me.  I recently read about a guy who played video games and lost a pretty significant amount of weight.  Video games?

 
You can read for yourself. 

 

If you don’t like video games, you will totally not get it.  At least this is true for Arwyn.  I approached her with the idea and she outright scoffed.  She admitted that I had gained weight, and so has she.  But the idea of video gaming it off seemed absolutely preposterous to her.  Her idea of an intense video game is spider solitaire.  I’m more of an RTS man, like Age of Empires.  But back in the ’80’s I spent vast sums of money on various video arcade games. 

 

Anyway, I’m thinking of trying to step my way into shape using Stepmania, which is the open source (and free) version of Dance Dance Revolution.  I downloaded the program and a bunch of the songs and it’s actually kind of fun to play on the keyboard.  In fact I really like it as the music is real techno-ish and is heavy, heavy on beat.  Perfect for dancing and I probably burn a few extra calories grooving around while doing it with the keyboard.  It certainly is challenging and I notice that I am getting better at following the arrows, but I still struggle with anything but the easiest of selections!

 

Fortunately, Stepmania is fully configurable, so I can adjust and tweak it enough so it isn’t overly frustrating.  I’m using version 3.9 at the moment, and it is compatible with most operating systems even PII’s with 64 Mb RAM (there’s also a Linux version for you that are Penguin friendly).   Slowing it down for a middle-aged, overweight guy like me is a must!

 

My step mat has been ordered through eBay so we’ll see how things work, shortly.  I suppose I could work a fitness/weight loss theme in here somewhere, amongst my other topics.  Blogging is a good way to help with accountability.  Sometimes.  I’ve read a couple other blogs that had weight loss as somewhat of a goal or theme, but they didn’t do very well.  The blogs were quite successful, but the weight loss– eh, not so much.

 

I’m actually getting two mats, so I can either have one at home and one at work or I can find a similarly slow, middle aged partner to compete against/play with.  It would be nice to have a partner to play with.

 D.

 

 


Why Men Hate Going to Church

May 17, 2007

 

I’ve been loosely following Therese’s discussion of emasculation and I thought the discussion might come ’round to where I’m at here today.  But it hasn’t.  Yet.  The title of this post matches a title of a book that is currently gathering no small amount of buzz around the Christian community.  We were actually thinking of giving it a read for the Methodist Men’s group, but someone said the book was more for women!

 

I’ve looked around the Church for Men website, and it’s an interesting read with some rather startling statistics.  Such as 25% of married women attend church without their husbands.  Or that while 90% of men in the U.S. say they believe in God and 4 in 5 identify themselves as Christian, less than 2 in 6 are in church on a given Sunday.  Or that by the age of 20, 90% of young men have dropped out of church, and many will not ever return.

 

The latest article there points out that men flock to the religion of Islam while they tend to avoid Christianity.  Instead, church is identified as for “women and little old ladies of both sexes.”  Indeed, we don’t have to look too far to see this phenomenon in action. 

 

Square1 used to identify very strongly with the Christian faith, even having a blog dedicated to Christian discipleship.  However, her husband had a blog dedicated to….um….civil unrest?  He shared some very deep dissatisfaction with the way this country is going and how it is led.  And he was definitely NOT interested in any wimpy, namby pamby religion for women and old ladies.  So he joined the ranks of the fastest growing religion in the world; Islam.  and today his blog is about his new journey.

 

Jesus started His ministry with 12 other guys and dealt primarily with men.  He seemed to have little problem getting men to identify with Him.  So what happened?  Somewhere along the line, Christianity became a religion that appealed more to women and totally NOT to men.  The author of the book/blog has some interesting ideas of what the problem is, and what to do about it.  But I’m going go my own way for a bit.

 

First off, the institution of the church has very little to offer men of today.  Last Sunday, most services extolled on the values of motherhood and how wonderful mothers are.  Interestingly enough, Mother’s Day is one service that has more men in it than any other as the guys do it to make their wives/mothers happy.  But what about Father’s Day?  First off, the guys will take the day off…from church.  While the women get roses and flowers on their day, men will get books or reminders of how they need to be more accountable and how they need to devote more time for family.  For women, it’s about honor.  For men, it’s about obligation.  While the preacher exhorts men to seek first the kingdom on their day, women are held up as the pillars of the family and faith that they are on Mother’s day.  No minister ever enjoins women to be better mothers on Mother’s Day and yet this happens all the time to men!  A bit of a double standard, don’t you think?

 

Every so often, in a blue moon, in exceedingly rare occasions, you might hear a sermon about sex.  You might hear all about the harm of pornography, and consorting with prostitutes and the sin of adultery.  You might hear about how sex is God’s gift to us, and of course is reserved for those that are married.  Men are exhorted to love their wives, and wives should respect their husbands. 

 

But 1 Corinthians 7 is never taught.  Ever.  Probably because the preacher’s wife will never have sex with him again if he does.  And yet look around.  This is a HUGE problem!  Thanks to the institutional religious programming, women think sex is dirty, disgusting and certainly unholy and impure.   And men are made to feel guilty for being men who might actually enjoy getting busy once in a while.

 

Meanwhile, the Muslims are promising 70 virgins for their self-sacrifice!  Muslim women literally wear their submission wherever they go, which seems to inspire their men to greater faithfulness and devotion.  Although the 70 virgin promise doesn’t hurt, I’m sure.

 

Now that I think about it, I remember a time in my fundie days when we had prayer meetings.  The women there did cover their heads with bandana head scarves as a sign of submission to God and it was inspiring to see that sort of devotion. 

 

Am I the only one who felt like Huck Finn having to attend the widow’s church?  Obviously not, since most guys dump church as soon as they leave home and get out on their own.  This makes church a good place to pick up chicks, except you’ll be expected to continue that behavior indefinitely.

 

Men like more participation than a typical worship service allows.  Most congregations don’t take kindly to a guy in the stands second guessing the preacher’s choice of scripture.  Or bringing hot dogs and peanuts to a mass.  Or making any changes that rock the boat.

 

Jesus and His posse were ways on the move and they were definitely rocking the boat.  Their fellowship was dynamic and organic and always they had no idea what would happen next.  This was an adventure of a lifetime involving danger and risk which required real strength and fortitude.  Tell me what in a modern church service requires real strength and fortitude?  Compliance, docility, passivity, submissiveness, being quiet, being safe, keeping busy; these are all things the modern church values.  They are also the values of women and old ladies of both sexes. 

 

Men need space to argue, debate, challenge, compete, strive, and basically sharpen each other to a keener edge.  Instead, modern church services tend to dull and lull men until they literally can not keep their eyes open.

 

So to address the question Therese posed, a good way to emasculate a man is by wearing down his edge and turning him into a compliant dullard.  Nagging tends to have a wearing effect.  An institutional sermon sometimes has a tendency to sound like just another nag session.

 

I’m all about relationships, but it has to be real.  I need to be able to sharpen another person by calling them on mistakes, and they should do the same for me without worrying about whether it’ll jeopardize the relationship.  Men can do this while women seem to struggle that way, often taking criticisms more personally and getting all hurt and wounded.  Men can struggle, disagree, compete, debate and fight and still have a beer together at the end of the day.  Not that any of those things are encouraged or even allowed in church.

 

The modern institutional church has as much to do with the emasculation of men as any of the other forces that were brought up in Therese’s discussion such as the feminization of the larger culture (which has taken over the church as an institution), the absence of male role models in society and culture, the increase in single mother-led households and the urbanization of our society.  Men are not attracted to institutional church because they find it instinctively in opposition to the way God created them.  We’re designed to have a very active, engaged and dynamic relationship with our Creator, and yet the modern institution fosters and cultivates passivity paired with institutional busy-ness.  This may be why some men have gotten attached to the CGM congregations because the goal-centered, mission-oriented, market and purpose driven paradigm is something with which they can somehow identify. It has little to do with relationship to their Creator, however, and more to do with being part of something that has worldy significance.

So basically, when looking at masculinity and spirituality, men have 3 choices:

– Modern institutional churchinity in the liberal, feminized flavor

– Modern churchianity in the CGM flavor

– A more fundamental form of religion, such as Islam

Which is why the relational flavor has more appeal to me.  There is room for guys to get together and relate as guys. There is room for being part of something significant but one does not have to digress 800 years into the past to do it, or chop off people’s heads.

For a good podcast discussion, click here and listen to these guys discuss the disconnest between men and organized Christianity.

 

D.


Duty to the Institution

May 14, 2007

I have returned to the Methodist Sunday school with new eyes.  Now it is so obvious to me what the institution wreaks up its members that it’s more sad than funny.

 

This month is our classes turn to usher as well as be greeters for the worship services.  Let’s talk about just those two things for a moment.

 

Ushering is mostly done by the guys who come and wear suits and ties, although it’s not a strictly enforced dress code.  The captain of the usher guard comes to our class bearing two magnetic tags with the word “usher” on them, and we pass it around until each one is claimed.  They Usher captain might as well be the angel of death as everyone hates it when he shows up at our door.  But everyone must do their bit, right? 

 

Ushers basically hand out bulletins, shake hands, take a count and collect money.  They also pass out the newcomer cards to anyone who is visiting for the first time.  During communion, they help usher people to the front pew-by-pew.  If someone needs special assistance such as someone in a wheelchair or with crutches, they’ll assist and if someone needs a hearing device,ushers hand them out.  Basically, ushers are a part of the production process of the morning service.  My point here is that they serve pretty much the same purpose as ushers in a movie or Broadway theater thus making Sunday morning worship more of an entertainment venue than God’s house.  How many of your houses require an usher?  When most of you have a party, when someone knocks at the door, you say, “C’mon in!  It’s open!”  And what is worship, except a party where God is the Guest of honor?  When you have a party at your house, do have guys with suits who count heads and collect money from all the guest?  Do you have the suited gentlemen escort guests to the kitchen for a bite of bread or a rice wafer and a thimble full of grape juice?

 

There is nothing intimate about having ushers at a party.  For a big formal feast, you might have caterers who serve the meal and serve the function somewhat.  But again, this type of state dinner party would hardly be described as intimate or involving relationships.

 

If ushers are akin to temple guards, what exactly are greeters?  Talk about the Wal-Mart-ization of the church!  And yet, you will be hard pressed to find a church of any size that does not have them.  Nowadays, they also wear shiny tags identifying their role.  They often stand next to the ushers, and will be around every door, so no one enters without being greeted warmly.  At Saddleback East, it is a virtual greeter gauntlet, with almost a dozen of these folks milling around the main entrance.  And you want to know something?

 

I’ve managed to walk in the building without any of them saying a word to me on more than one occasion.  Granted, I take it as a bit of a personal challenge to see if I can do it, but it isn’t all that difficult.  They are all talking to each other or people they already know…their friends with whom they already have a relationship!   That’s the stupid thing about having greeters; it tries to institutionalize and foist something on people that is unnatural and artificial and probably causes cancer.

 

At the Methodist church, we didn’t have greeters for the longest time.  Then someone heard a complaint from someone else about how the church didn’t seem very friendly.  All the sudden, the greeter program was hatched to meet the need to make our church seem friendly.  Sunday school classes were assigned to provide 10 or so greeter for 10 minutes before and after each of the two services.  Which means they got to Sunday school late and had to leave early.  It was and is a royal pain.  I did it one time, and chose the least-used entrance and still felt dumb.  “Hi, welcome to church mart!  Would you like a buggy?”

 

Some people are naturally gifted with warm, inviting personalities.  Others of us have personalities that take some warming up to get used to.  Those gifted folks should be out there if they want.  But the answer is not to create some program that artificially simulates relationships where none truly exist.  That is simply perpetuating a lie.

 

If people seem unfriendly, perhaps looking into that is called for.  Could it be that folks are overburdened with programs?  Or perhaps they are stuck trying to keep their mask on straight so no one can really know who they are?  Or perhaps, the institutionalized church has gotten so busy trying to put butts in pews/chairs and making the budget that the plight of actual, real people has been lost.  The hustle and bustle of putting on a perfect program/service every week is no small thing.  Everyone has to do their part, right?

 

Since coming out, and taking a hard look at the institution, I find I’m a lot more interested in the people I’m with.  I’m more interested in why they are there and what they’ve brought with them.

 

During Sunday school, the topic was Mother’s Day and we all shared memories and thoughts of what we learned about from our mothers.  Once the discussion gets going it often gets real good and real interesting.  And then, as often happens, one of the women brought up an issue she had with a relationship where honesty caused the relationship to fail.  The woman felt so bad that she resented her own honesty that seemed to caused the loss of this close relationship.  But she couldn’t NOT be honest.  And then we started working through this issue that was obviously important to this woman and….

 

Oops!  Time to go to worship!  Our time is over!

 

This has happened SO many times.  Someone brings an issue and obviously needs some prayer, support, hugs, input or just to be listened to, but that bloody service calls and puts an end to it.  And that is SO wrong!  This is just one way the institutional church puts obstacles in the way of real relationships.  I’m sure Jesus would rather the lost or broken sheep was tended to, rather than join the bleating mass of the flock.  But there is this perpetual obligation that is placed on the people who belong into a service for the sake of the institution rather than to the real people who make up the real and true Church. 

 

On the way out, I spoke to a woman who had to leave Sunday school early in order to change the candles the acolytes light as well as stand by a table with some commemorative plate that some had ordered to make sure they were distributed.   I like this young woman because she has a real heart for God.  But she has such a good heart she’s now all stressed about candles and plates and other assorted crap responsibilities that have been unloaded upon her.

 

There’s no shortage of absurdities that one can find in any large institution, and churches are especially rich.  They are so busy carrying on their own things that they lose sight of the Church, which is all believers regardless of color or affiliation.  Until we have deeper and more authentic relationships with each other, there can be no unity and no authenticity to the worship and fellowship experience.

 

D.

 


Hell

May 11, 2007

 

 

I’d like to talk about the sex.  Really I would.  Perhaps I will, but first I have another precious insight or two to share.

 

Actually, I think I’ll let these guys from Family Room Media do it.  I’m such a fan of these guys, I may even end up buying something from them.  But the videos here are short, free and hilarious.  I think it’s their sense of humor that I enjoy most.  They seem to really enjoy each other as well as what they’re doing. 

 

And I think many of us will identify with some of these situations.

 

I’d like to talk about Hell, because there are times when I wonder if that’s where I really am.  I think God is gracious enough to give us small glimpses of Heaven and Hell while we’re still walking around on earth.  I richly enjoy the Heavenly parts, but the Hellish parts?  Eh…not so much.

 

In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, (Luke 16:19-31) the rich man can actually see Lazarus across the great gulf.  I think this probably added to the misery and torment that much more, knowing that there was a place free of torment that was so close yet so far.

 

So close.  And yet so far.

 

I determined to test the waters and see if there was some intimacy to be had in my house, mostly because my blog is in sad need of some movement.  Plus I thought it might be kind of nice to live in a house where some intimacy might exist somewhere, some time.  Perhaps my wife is a bit like Tajalude, and wants me to initiate more.  Maybe I don’t get so much physical attention because I need to initiate more.  Could she be feeling undesirable because I’m not trying to start things more often?  Afterall, I’ve been staying up late on the computer, and that isn’t conducive to getting together in a husband-and-wifely manner.

 

Things started off promisingly enough.  When we awoke, I reached out and Arwyn responded and we did hug and cuddle for a few minutes before starting off our day.  After work, her and the boys were heading off to church for their Thursday night thing and I went to the store to buy groceries from the list she had already made.  We all got back late and while she put the boys to bed, I made some muffins. 

 

She then went to bed and it became the moment of decision.  Do I check my email or go to bed and spend time with Arwyn?  For once, I chose the latter over the former.

 

She was just finishing the preparations for going to bed and I brushed my teeth to get ready.  She had various instructions for me: turn off the TV, turn on the fan, make sure the door is locked, check the other door.  She was laying in her inverted position with her rug-blanket but was sort of laying on her back, splayed sort of invitingly.  Or at least it looked inviting in my addled mind.  After finishing all of my chores, duties and obligations, I laid down oriented in her direction and snuggled a bit.  She kissed me and rolled over, away from me.  And the ensued the fight for position.

 

OW!  Your arm is too heavy!  OW, it hurts my back!   OW, your leg is on my leg! OW, you’re laying on top of me!”

 

I was trying to sort of spoon her.  But when it was all said and done there was absolutely no skin-to-skin contact, and very little contact at all.  I’d had enough and re-oriented myself to the normal sleeping position under my own sheets.  I really was tired and dropped off to sleep fairly easily despite my frustration.

 

I do love my wife.  I like touching her and being close to her.  But she keeps moving across that gulf, and my unquenched desire to be close to her torments me.  It’s easier to turn away and not try to cross the divide.  Don’t even look at it.  If I don’t approach her, she doesn’t retreat.  If I don’t look over to the other side, I am not tormented so much.  

 

This is my concept of Hell.  I can see and almost touch and taste.  But I remain in anguish in the flame.  I try to find relief but the gulf simply widens in response to my efforts.  For whatever purpose, God’s hedge remains in place.  I have more lessons to learn in this place, to whatever end.

 D.


Antichrist

May 8, 2007

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.  21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us —eternal life.

26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. – 1 John 2:18-27

 

 

13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling,  that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.  And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

10 If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. – Revelation 13:1-10

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” – Revelation 14:9-14

 

It is thus that I put to rest the case for blindly obeying any person (or beast) put in authority.  It is true that all authority is given by God, and even the beast in Revelation is given authority by God which God will eventually take away in the final battle to end all battles.  In John’s letter above, we see in verse 20 and again in verse 27 that through the Holy Spirit a believer has sufficient knowledge in order to exercise their gifts, their discernment and ministry which is always done in love.  Love was the central focus of this letter of John’s and so it should be in whatever we do.

 

In Revelation we see a far different picture of what happens when love is not present.  The day will come when the beast of Revelation will make war upon the saints.  What will you do?  I suspect that Romans 13 will be the passage of choice for enforcing the will of the beast and allow him to soundly defeat and deceive so many who will bear his mark. 

 

The antichrist is basically a counterfeit or a substitute.  Promising health, wealth and happiness but delivering bondage, misery and pain.  It is easy to see how the institutional church could become a pawn of the beast, if not take on many of the characteristics.  I’ve certainly heard enough questionable things from serious institutions which call into question the resurrection of Jesus or His fleshly existence.  I’m sure there are false prophets within the structure, the system and the walls of the institution.  While I’m sure there are those walking around spreading heresies outside of the system, it’s the ones on the inside who would institutionalize any false teachings or beliefs who are the most dangerous. 

Any system which stands in the way of having a relationship with Jesus or becoming more Christ-like would have some of that anti-Christ-like nature, basically getting in the way of love and loving one another.  I have heard of and known some various teachings that would like to strap the “whore of Babylon” baggage solely on the Catholic Church, but from where I am now, any religious institution where there is a separate clergy-laity would be fair game for such an accusation.

Just to make sure that I’m not putting too fine a point on it, any believer should be able to baptize other believers, should be able to administer and officiate a communion meal and at any time.  In fact, according to Acts, this was taking place all the time and everywhere the church spread.  The church expanded and spread to thousands and thousands, not by building bigger and more expansive buildings and ordaining more pastors, but house-to-house and neighborhood by neighborhood.  And this is the same way the church is expanding in areas of the world that do not have the opulent wealth that most of my readers enjoy.  And one could argue that many who live in atheist or Muslim countries are already in the teeth of the beast for not adhering to the official state religion or the official state regulations. 

Many of you have gifts that exceed those who might be leading you and exercising religious authority over you.  It’s time you be released and loosed in order to exercise those gifts and talents.  God did a wondrous thing in the first century through the movement of the Holy Spirit.  I see something similar happening, again.  There’s a part of me that wonders if this is a sort of pre-rapture, where people begin to come out of the institutions in search of a closer relationship with other people and with God.  I know I’m not the only one who senses this quickening.  World events continue to happen, but God is working locally in the hearts and minds of your neighbors, your friends, your family and each of you.  Just like the Pharisees in the first century, so too the religious establishment will miss out on this movement of God and will work to condemn it.  Afterall, what will happen to these lavish cathedrals and huge worship centers if there is no one who attends who wants to pay the bill?  Who will support the clergy?  Who will the clergy have authority over if the flock goes running off?

 

Here’s a lovely comic to brighten your day and give you a chuckle, not to mention something to think about.

D.