Category: Sexual Brokenness

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Glorious Repentance

‘John came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All the people of Jerusalem went out to him, confessing their sins…’ (MK 1: 4, 5)

I went to Thailand the second week of Advent in order to repent. Again. Strengthened by our 40-day fast, I told everyone I met en route that I needed to start the Church year with Christians like my friend Sue who have to fight for their faith. We Americans are way too well-fed. We are fat cats, bored and listless, who can barely paw off familiar rats.

On the other hand, Thais face the triple threat of entrenched sexual immorality, Buddhism’s deadening passivity, and the ‘saving face’ culture that smiles at a multitude of sins. These sins threaten the integrity of the Thai Church; pedophiles and adulterers hide in the folds of her lousy religious garments. Tolerating serious sin can render the Church here small, ineffective, and prone to destruction.

But my friend Sue knows better. No stranger to sin herself, she is a better friend of repentance. An older relative poisoned Sue for most of her childhood through sexual abuse. She coped by hating her womanhood while seeking comfort in women and in Thai Buddhism, a quest for nothingness. Dark and darker.

Jesus sought Sue out through a host of Spirit-filled messengers. He gave her the grace to repent and to live daily in the light of His truthful love. She now lives passionately to recover human treasure from the darkness of sin in Thailand.

These treasures are among the most glorious I know. Their witness of living fully and unreservedly for Jesus shames my divided heart and invites me to die again. They reveal my petty concerns and compromises then rouse me to repentance.

The saints who compose Sue’s healing army have to fight for freedom. They pay a huge price for uncovering a host of abuses (many church-related); they must repent over and over until lifelong patterns of adultery are overcome. In the process, they shatter a decidedly un-Christian culture of shame by going boldly to the throne of grace in order to confess and conquer veins of sin that have darkened family-lines for generations. The choice becomes clear: live for Jesus or the pagan gods. Choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15).

They are shining gems of Jesus’ redemption. Their way forward is nothing less than the Cross realized through confession and repentance to Jesus and to one another. The call must be true and direct, like the Baptist himself; anything less will not break the power of sin. Such repentance ushers in the Light that rises on these ones gloriously.

While flying over the region where Sue ministers near the Lao border, I noticed the landscape growing more brown and dry. The pockets of water became fewer. But the few that remained caught the Light with a brilliance that made me gasp. My heart leapt at the sight for it captured in full the truth of my Thai family–the Light shines in the darkness and overcomes that darkness (JN 1: 5) through a repentant people. I want to be among them. Sue’s band of prophetic healing saints helps me to repent. Again.

‘And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all humanity together shall see it.’ (IS 40: 5)

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Waking Up

‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…May He not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch”!’

We begin Advent 2017 with a disturbing wake-up call, assisted by the outing of men in entertainment (Louie C.K., Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Tambor, Garrison Keillor), in politics (Ray Moore, Rep. John Conyers, Sen. Al Franken), and in journalism (Charlie Rose, Mat Lauer) who have abused power in dishonorable sexual acts against women (Spacey and Tambor excluded.) Republican or Democrat, morally conservative or libertine, professed Christians or not, these men are united only in their failure to grasp how women not only hate being groped, probed or exposed to vile expressions of their nakedness: they are being fractured by it.

We all are. I would go so far to say that the gender and sexual mess we are in– ‘gay’ marriage and an ever growing list of gender ‘selves–is founded on the fault-line of male privilege and the reverberating impact of previously unseen sexual power plays. Disintegrated masculinity damages all persons and in my opinion has successfully tempted a generation into concluding that ‘gender’ is a social construct employed by men to get what they want. I applaud the courageous women who have sounded this alarm.

My main point here is to raise some awareness of what might tempt otherwise smart, empathic men to treat women so badly. These are not excuses, but factors. A man possesses a kind of focused sexual energy that he must learn to temper into something that will serve the good of the other; he needs his sexuality to be integrated into the whole of his humanity, which includes his longing to be a trustworthy gift to her. Disintegration occurs when his sexuality splits off from his capacity to recognize the whole of another—a woman, a person, whom he has no right to employ as an object of his drive for pleasure or power. An integrated man subordinates his need for hers. Period.

Welcome to the mess we are in. Today we are witnessing masculine disintegration at a grand scale. We must wake up! And we must ask ourselves as a culture: are we sounding the clarion call of repentance unto integration for all men, as well as the training and formation that helps men become whole in relation to women? We perish without vision here, poisoned by grotesque images of dishonorable men. Where are men of honor who have lived the truth of employing their power to protect and empower the vulnerable, who helped conceive lives and who stuck around to fight for their dignity? They are among us, and we need to be roused by their faithful witness of wholeness.

We need vision and we need a way forward. Otherwise, our shame will bury us and we will grieve God by failing to offer our uniquely masculine gift. We must also not forget the fallen. I may not sin on a grand scale today but I am still a sinner and my predatory brother is no less in need of God’s mercy. If I consider him outside the reach of mercy, I know nothing of the Cross. We must call all men to join us in following this Jesus who embodies what it means to be an integrated man and who poured Himself out in order to transform male lust into the fire of pure, impassioned love for women. As we wake up, may His light expose the darkness and steadily become ours.

‘All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.’ (Isaiah 64:6-9)

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Hollywood-izing Harassment

Count on Hollywood to highlight a real threat to human dignity (sexual assault, power abuse, a la Harvey Weinstein) only to distort its threat to the point of mockery. If Heather Lind’s accusation of 93-year-old George HW Bush’s sexually assaulting her does not provoke an SNL sketch, I’ll never watch it again.

If you recall, actress Lind accused the former president of placing his hand on her bottom as they posed for a large group photo. Wheel-chair bound Bush insists that the position of his hand was the best he could do in light of his lowered seat. Intentional or not, his alleged ‘assault’ seems inflated. Are we ready to describe the brush of a hand (or another body part) against another’s vulnerable area as an ‘assault’, in the same category as rape? Ludicrous, of course, but ‘any type of sexual contact that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient’ is how we now define sexual assault.

This from an industry that rewards feminine sex appeal above all else. Yes there are bad powerbrokers. And yes there are scads of beautiful women who contribute to this exploitation by consenting to a host of vulgar scenarios. Kate Winslet who can hardly keep her clothes on in film self-righteously noted that she did not thank Harvey Weinstein when she won an Oscar for a film he produced. How noble. Another actress now accuses director Oliver Stone of touching her breasts; the only film footage that played in the background as she cried on cue was of her ample breasts displayed for a vulgar/comic moment on a sitcom. Enough said.

In spite of some women’s mixed messages, nothing warrants or excuses sexual assault. I would add to that: wise up and take responsibility. Mayim Bialik wrote a funny, smart essay on ‘Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World’ in which she implores young actresses to invest more in brainpower than bra power. (NY Times op-ed Oct. 13, ’17) Bailik was dissed for collaborating with the enemy. It reminds me of ‘gay’ activists who in the eighties decried HIV-related discrimination while they actively spread the disease by refusing to play it ‘safe.’

Miss Lind, I urge you use your ‘power’ to remove the misplaced hand from your behind. Assume that a 93-year-old unwell man is innocent before declaring him guilty. For the sake of justice, stay off social media. We make heroes felons through virtual kangaroo courts. Let’s also acquire language that allows us to distinguish between ‘brushes’ with another’s sexual intention and actual sexual violation. If everyone has been sexually assaulted, has anyone? We serve justice to those impacted by life-threatening coercion when we calibrate our language and discern proper forums for addressing sexual assault.

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Wildfire

As flames sear the West Coast, so the Hollywood community skewers one of its ‘gods’ (Meryl Streep referred to Weinstein as one in accepting an award for a picture he produced) for sexual misconduct of the most lurid order. Anyone with an IPhone knows that Harvey Weinstein—movie mogul responsible for highly honored films—used his position to misuse dozens of women. Most women were twenty-something beauties on their way up. Weinstein apparently could not be stopped. His lust leapt out of the casting office and onto female reporters who are now reporting the truth.

I hope the exposure of his power abuse will restrain the gods of Hollywood. Remarkable are the weird responses to his unraveling. Especially his ‘friends.’ We are talking here about a tightly knit network of actors and staff and lawyers and politicians who knew what was happening (come on, the man exposed himself constantly to pretty women, and had eight out-of-court harassment settlements) and turned a blind eye. That Streep—the most respected advocate for women in the industry and a frequent collaborator with Weinstein—claims she did not know of his abuses rings false to me. One can know and choose not to know.

Why the silence? Since the movies became an American institution in the 1920’s, Hollywood has been off-limits for most kinds of sexual restraint. Lusty players created a moral fault-line on which the industry developed. Early studio heads did damage control constantly for reckless actors (of both sexes) while behind the scenes, these gatekeepers advanced appealing ones in exchange for sexual favors. Such trade still flourishes (both homosexually and heterosexually) under some power brokers: ‘Give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want.’ Too many aspirants perpetuate the system by exchanging their dignity for a shot at stardom.

To expose Weinstein is to challenge one of Hollywood’s central tenets: sexual lust masking as liberty. Of all kinds. When does consensual sex become abusive? Where does one cry foul? On the fifth marriage? Once the affair ends after filming? The next arrest for procuring prostitutes? Boundary-breaking films featuring underage sex (Watch for upcoming ‘Call Me by My Name’)?

Perhaps the silence—or feigned shock– of some players toward Weinstein’s exposure is based on their own compromises—maybe not as monstrous as Weinstein’s but still stinking of strange flesh. One dares not judge lest (s)he be judged. Complicity is empowered by one’s own little monsters.

Some good feminists claim that Weinstein’s mess will provoke Hollywood’s repentance. Cleansing this system may take a little more. Yes, abuse of power must end. And yes, one must sort out all the vain liberties Hollywood celebrates. Sexism is not the only villain. All sins against chastity are; only those players who confess these sins face down before their Author and Redeemer will finish well.

Only one foundation stands through the fire. Pray that Weinstein (and all his friends who now throw stones at him) fall on the Rock. While the Weinstein story was breaking, I was rereading Pope Francis’ excellent encyclical, ‘The Joy of Love.’ I close with these excerpts: ‘God Himself created sexuality, which is a marvelous gift to his creatures. If this gift needs to be cultivated and directed, it is to prevent the impoverishment of an authentic value (150)…On the basis of this healthy vision of sexuality, we can approach the subject with a healthy realism. Sex often becomes depersonalized and unhealthy, an occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. In our day, sexuality risks being poisoned by the mentality of use and discard…Can we really ignore or overlook the continuing forms of domination, arrogance, abuse, sexual perversion and violence that are the product of a warped understanding of sexuality?’(153)

Hollywood can no longer.

Join us for the ‘Becoming Good News for the Gender Challenged’ fast from Oct. 11th-Nov. 19th.

Download the Prayer Guide Below:

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Greatest Story Rarely Told

‘As long as it continues to be told, no story is ever wasted,’ opines a ‘gay’ Christian writer. Like many today, he feels compelled to testify of how Jesus confirms his intrinsically homosexual self as one expression of the good news.

Everyone has a story indeed. But not every story tells the truth of the Gospel. I contend that persons whose stories feature Jesus as the advocate of identities based on disordered desires distort the Gospel. However charming their speech and poignant their frustrations, these ones build on a fault-line that undermines the power of Christ and His Cross. When validated–published and platformed–by arms of Christianity that claim to be orthodox, these story-tellers become enemies of the Cross (Phil. 3:18).

To be sure, we all need the freedom to sort out our disintegrated lives with wise Christian friends and elders; we tell our stories in order to break down certain worldly assumptions and so become conformed to the Crucified. Jesus uses the little cross of our garbled confessions! He leads us through our crises in narrative, which are resolved only through death to the ‘selves’ we have cobbled together from feelings and worldly attachments.

In light of the Father’s marvelous love for us shining on the Cross and mediated through His community, we can exchange our rags for God who alone has power to establish our identities. We discover that we need not be slaves anymore to the world. He gives us the choice to lay down our ‘gay’ selves or any other LGBT+ aspiration and simply rest in Him who through Christ calls us His sons and daughters, men or a women made to reveal Him in our human dignity (Gal. 4:3-7).

We can choose not to lay them down. We can nurse ‘gay’ feelings and plateau on a kind of eloquent melancholy (self-pity?) that empowers the ‘gay’ self (Wesley Hill picks up where Henri Nouwen left off.) Or we can arise in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. We died with Him, and need not worry about residual same-sex attraction. We are defined by the Father now, and therein resides His authority to restore us, His way. We are no longer tossed around by feelings. We are becoming conformed to Christ and His Cross. That is our commitment—a once and daily decision to pick up our little crosses in light of the one Cross that shelters us and makes a way for us. Always.

Only then can our stories reveal Jesus. I would dare to say that our stories are worth telling only if they reveal something about His Cross, and the joy of carrying our small ones into newness of life.

‘If no-one said “I die but I shall live” then there would be no hope for those who suffer. All suffering would be senseless, destructive pain; all grief would be the worldly sorrow that brings forth death. But we know people who have lived and suffered differently. There is a history of resurrections significant for others. A person’s resurrection is no personal privilege for one’s self alone. It contains within itself hope for all, hope for everything.’ Dorothy Soelle

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