Alicia [who told me about this] was at The Crossing forum, and the panel that night consisted of: a gay man, a straight man, and a MtF straight woman, so I figure anyone there can't be conservative in a way that would make me uncomfortable.
I browsed the website, and it's all male God language (even for the Holy Spirit, which apparently makes me sadface).
I got really irritated that they said, "Furthermore, there is nothing we can do on our own to re-establish our relationship with God." and then two sentences later, "Our relationship is re-established when we make a commitment to accept Jesus as God's son and our Savior and Lord." I understand that they mean that we can only be back in right relationship with God through the salvific power of Christ, that we can't make it happen by our own power, but still.
They also say, "We believe the Bible is entirely accurate, complete, and reliable. We look to the Bible for the revelation of the character of God and the final authority on matters of faith and conduct." I suddenly felt very Wesleyan.
They have the !Augustine quote "In essentials - unity; in matters of opinion - freedom; in all things - love" in their "Core Values & Our Culture."
Anyway, I found that I could listen to their sermons online, so I started with their current sermon series.
We live in a sex saturated world filled with messages about sex. Who are you listening when it comes to sex? God gives us the book of Song of Songs and Solomon's story to help navigate issues of love, intimacy, and sex.
Beloved - Who Are You Listening To? 02/01/09
Pastor: Hank Wilson
Near the beginning of his sermon, he listed lots of stats.
"The average person has their first sexual experience by the age of 16" -- my reaction: "Define 'first sexual experience' -- do we mean kissing? do we mean masturbation? do we mean sexual fantasy? This statistic implies that it's the age at which teens first have sex, but that's not at all what it is saying."
The porn industry is a $60B/yr industry. We spend $12B/year on porn -- more than is spent on pro football, baseball, and basketball combined, and twice as much as we spend on foreign aid.
25% of internet searches are for porn.
2% of girls who get pregnant and give birth before graduating high school go on to get more education past high school. (I would point out that things like access to contraception would do a lot to help with this situation, that this is not just all about controlling the actual act of sex or even the culture of sex.)
The #1 consumer of pornography is boys age 12-17.
He said that we tend to hear what God is against re: sex, never hear what God is FOR.
He talked about Solomon, and I kinda eyerolled at concubines being referred to as "girlfriends."
He said that the Bible doesn't say this [multiple wives and concubines] is okay; "The Bible is incredibly honest, just simply describing broken people and the terrible choices they make when they begin to walk away from God."
He referenced Genesis 2: "a man shall leave his father and mother and he will be united with his wife."
He talked about the admonition against marrying foreign wives and how Solomon married women who did not worship the same God and they drew him away from his walk with God.
Your partner "looks deep into your heart and sees the most important thing in the world to you and doesn't get it."
Yes, to some extent, my faith is not the central most important thing in the world to me, but I also feel like you can have the same values without a shared faith context.
He argues you can get closer to the other person by pushing God out of the center, or you and your partner will have a rift. I am not convinced.
He said that you should have a conversation with your partner, suggest that the two of you "figure this out before we continue to talk about our ability to do one-ness."
He brought up the issue of kids -- "What kind of spirituality, what kind of worldview are you gonna bring them up with? What will their faith look like as a result?"
Well let's see, my Protestant mother and my agnostic/atheist father who are still happily married after more than 25 years, currently have:
1 son who (I believe) would self-identify as "born again" and politically and theologically conservative but rarely goes to church.
1 daughter who self-identifies as low church Protestant "wrestling with faith" and politically libertarian. I place great value on honesty and consistency and direct communication. I am forever researching the answers to questions, and I want strong, logical, arguments complete with solid citations. I attend 3 worship services each week (and I take notes) and at least one church discussion group each week, and I'm listening to sermon podcasts from a church I've never been to on my day off from work. I'm growing into an appreciation of liturgy and the value of community. I'm supportive and nurturing to people I really care about.
Maybe you don't want your children to turn out like either of those, but I'm not convinced that children of a union of "Christ-followers" turn out any better on average.
"What do you base your identity on?"
"Who are you listening to when it comes to matters of faith and identity?"
He said it's easy for us to say oh yeah I'm not cheating on my spouse, but we all have "mental libraries of women we've been with or would like to be with."
I've talked about this before -- how I find Jesus' statement about lust in your heart to be a really powerful challenge (I think thoughts do matter very much), but how I also think that fantasy can be a really safe thing. It's a double-edged sword, as I also know from experience that fantasizing about stuff can make it feel more okay to actually do it.
"We offer our bodies, our money, we even sacrifice our children, I believe, to pursue sex -- we just call it choice."
Did you just invoke the abortion issue?
Beloved - Singleness and Sexuality 02/08/09
Pastor: Hank Wilson
He opened with a clip from Keeping the Faith which, IMDb-ing, I've now decided I wanna see.
He said that Ronald Rolheiser in Holy Longing talks about the harmful false choice between religion and eros. He said it's like a divorce in Western culture -- the property got divided up; religion got to keep God and chastity; the secular got sex and passion. He quoted(?), "we the children of that divorce find ourselves torn between the two, unconsciously longing for them to come back together."
He talked about Adam and Eve and the move from being connected to being disconnected and said, "we're born into a world of disconnection." He quoted Rob Bell (Sex God): "Maybe this is why the first thing newborns do is cry -- we're severed and we're cut off and we're disconnected in a thousand ways and we know it and we feel it, we're aware of it every day, it's an ache in our bones that won't go away."
He said that scholars believe the word sex in Latin is related to the word for for sever/amputate/disconnect (from whence we get: sect, section, dissect, bisect).
Our sexuality is an awareness of how profoundly we're severed, cut off, disconnected. and is all the ways we go about trying to reconnect.
He talked about the bit in Song of Songs when the woman talks about her dark skin, and how it wasn't an ethnic thing but rather that to have dark skin was a signifier of having been doing outdoor work and was undesirable, and how she knows that she is lovely.
He said: Next week, Timmy is going to be talking about how to choose someone that you would be proud to be linked to. Before that, you should do some self-examination -- ask yourself: is there anything about my character that is unattractive? ask someone you trust to answer that about yourself.
He said that pre-marital sex might be okay if everything in the world was as it should be, but it isn't. You feel that connectedness and then that relationship ends, and a piece of you is left with that person. I was not entirely sold on this
Then near the end he talked about St. Paul on singleness (1 Corinthians 7:8), saying if you're married, ultimately you won't understand about relationship with God, it's a gift given to single people. I was a little confused as to how this fit in given all he had said prior. (In our email exchanges afterward, he did point out the distinction between "sexuality" and "sex," which was a distinction I'd been blurring somewhat in listening to the sermon/s.)
He also told the story of Hai and Lan in the film Three Seasons -- which is a sweet story but I think in some ways doesn't entirely fit.