Friday, 17 June 2011

Changing roles of marriage and sex


The variety of ways our society adapts marriage to accommodate different outlooks and desires is as complicated as it is numerous.   I came across a diagram by Franklin Veaux that perhaps exemplifies some of the more common approaches that we might discover if we are to probe beyond the venear of ‘married’ sorts to see what lies beneath.

 Click here to open a very large version of the Map, with labels.



Many of the people who are involved in so called alternative lifestyles  often describe themselves as ‘spiritual’ and are therefore prime candidates for us to introduce to the ‘God they don’t yet know’. But for many, their sexual identity is as important to them as their spirituality and many of us will struggle to get beyond our feelings about their sexual lifes to see the person with spiritual needs beneath.

There are (or should be) many similarities between people who are living any sort of radical life, so we should be able to find a great deal of common ground on which to open conversations

For instance:

  • Communication, Forgiveness, honesty are integral to sharing and being open.
  • Community [‘belonging'] and acceptance [common ground] is shared between many people who practice similar lifestyle choices
  • These relationships take a great deal of work to keep together (just like any marriage)

however, many Christians will struggle to deprogram their judgement that sex outside of marriage is wrong sufficient to enable any such dialogue to open up easily.  It is quite natural for those in these lifestyles to feel ‘different’, ‘outside’ of our expectations (the very term alternative suggests not ‘mainstream/normal/acceptable’ to many…) and the challenge to us is to know how to be loving towards these very different yet searching people.

People not projects:

I think one of the reasons we struggle is because we can’t projectise reaching these communities.  It’s hard to imagine church missionaries going into swinging clubs, disrobing and attempting to get on ‘their level’.  While we can meet prostitutes on the streets as they go about their work without being one, we can’t very well turn up at a couples home pronounce our judgement and then expect them to listen to us telling them how they should be living their lives.  So clearly designing a project to tackle the problem is NOT going to work.

But relationship evangelism, seeing a person and loving them… could that work?

If we can see people as people ‘not projects’ or ‘unsaved’ then we have an ability to love them.   What we would perhaps naturally do with our friends, we would be able to naturally do with people who are different to us.. ? As with all our neighbours, it starts with starting to talk.. Say hello. Invite them for coffee, talk about your life, talk about theirs. Don’t condemn, judge or give opinions. Listen and understand what their life is like. What makes them tick. What’s important to them. Talk about what’s important to you. Find common ground.

If someone were to come to our church meetings, we will need to be more careful.  Pastors and welcomers have a supremely important job to protect people under their care.  That care can be temporary (for the time they are in the building) or extend towards offering services (counselling, practical help) and SHOULD include keeping at bay well meaning but ungracious/unskilled people.  It will have taken amazing amounts of courage or a significant need to cajole someone so obviously different in lifestyle to walk through our doors, and the way we approach them should not be left to chance.

People who are naturally good at making friends should be introduced especially if there are things in common such as employment type, children, geographic location or history. But their remit should be specifically to grow freindship, not to counsel.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

simplicity & finances

It’s often hard to unplug the competitive nature of keeping up with the Jones’s.  Certainly my house doesn’t look the same as it did 15 years ago, because I’ve ‘improved’ it in part to make the interior space work for my burgeoning family, and in part to tie all the parts of the house together in a uniform colour scheme with at least some matching furniture…   But do I really need my sofa’s to match?

I am often struck by the want to acquire.  I work with technology, and that often drives me to inquire about latest gadgets. I like them but the reality is I don’t need any of them.  So I have held off getting an ipad. (though I do have a much cheaper epad – but I barely use it because I mainly use my phone (when I’m out of the office) and my laptop when I’m in the office).  I do like reading on the e-pad though..

But I don’t have a massive TV, it can’t support 3D or HD.  I just have a computer monitor connected to Virgin Media via a media box. it works fine.

I drive old cars because frankly, I prefer having to ‘drive’ rather than point and steer and there’s something truly satisfying about conversations with (mainly older) people that strike up because they once had one or haven’t seen one of those for ages… such contact points in my travels are really welcome respite from mundane isolation.

But I am a long way from being anywhere near where I think I should be in respect of recycling, simplicity, generosity and sustainability.  It’s very tough to make the decisions that will substantially change the way you live in the ‘modern’ world.  It’s even more difficult when you can so easily observe that very few others give such considerations any space in their technology obsessed lives.   Now don’t get me wrong, technology is all around us and we couldn’t actually run life today without electricity, transport, washing machines etc..  and it’s not technology that is bad, but our relationship with it is really worthy of examination.

Anyone can make any excuse for possessing anything.  This is an absolute fact.  Whatever you want to have, you can justify purchasing if only to yourself. Let others judge you (they will) on your purchasing decisions. They will also determine how much money you have (or have borrowed) and they will also make a judgement about what sort of person you are because of what you have spent your funds on.  20 years or so ago I remember judging one fellow I was acquainted with because he chose only to have one pair of shoes.  He would wear the same pair of shoes no matter what outfit (he only a two or three of these anyway) and frankly I thought he looked scruffy and was ill advised.  yet was he living more simply than I?  In Jeff Goldblum’s version of the fly, his clothes cupboard was complete with several outfits of identical nature. Is that really more simple? Both can be easily justified. Which one is right?

Reading the god first blog today, there are some refreshing principles from Celebration of Discipline that may help us to remedy this conundrum.  Let me suggest you hop over there and read the 9 bullet items and see what you think…

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the matter..

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Uneasy feelings..

I’m disturbed today.  To some extent because I’m tired. – I need to find some rest this week.

I’m also disturbed because some carefully made plans have been easily undone by taking my eye off the ball.   I now have to make more difficult choices than they needed to be, if I had managed situations more diligently. – I feel foolish because plans however detailed and well intended come to nothing unless they are executed and maintained.

I’m disturbed because there is a rising tide of humanistic, new-ageism that is gripping the hearts and minds of disenfranchised  people, and those who have become battered by how we do church. ‘the secret’, ‘desteni’, Law of attraction, Abraham-hicks, IALAC, Oprah spirituality and other universe/self/resonance centric mysticism infiltrates well meaning people who want to see broken lives healed and churches make a difference and are lured in by their desire to make happen what God “seems” unwilling or unable to do directly.

I’m uneasy when I hear and see people being told not to think for themselves. Not encouraged to read, learn, enquire and test instead to ‘experience’, trust, accept. This is the doorway to manipulation and control.

I’m uneasy when leaders [in whatever capacity] are more interested with being followed than by giving a lead that is easy to understand, is exemplified by their own life/actions, and does not require ‘do what I say because I’m a leader’.

I’m concerned about the capitalistic need to be monetarily superior, all the while never feeling satisfied.  This endless dissatisfaction with what we have causes terrible decisions that impact far more than our bank balances. What we eat, where, consume should cause us to be uneasy, and I’m uneasy that it’s so easily put to one side for the sake of personal convenience.

Other than being tired, there is no connection between these items… they are just some of the things that are on my mind that I thought I’d get onto virtual paper.

Feelings are fickle, they cannot always be trusted to be accurate bell-weathers but that doesn’t make them unimportant. We feel fear when we are frightened. We feel nervous when we are unsure. We feel love when we are held and made secure. We feel safe when we are not threatened or on familiar ground.  But they should never be allowed to overule the head as fear can be irrational, nervousness can be normal, love can be misplaced and safety an illusion.