God hates sex

This week the University of Saint Mary on the Lake concluded its annual Courage Conference. The conference is a gathering of the saints to discuss the foremost topic facing Christians: sex.

In and of itself, a conference about Christian sexuality is hardly something to criticize, much less subject to my usual level of mockery. But the conference opens itself up to parody, if not outright satire, with its opening prayer which is posted above the fold on its web site. The prayer opens innocently: “Lord Jesus, I consecrate my sexuality to you.”

How can any sincere Christian argue with that? Any reading of scripture indicates that Christians want to bring all of our desires into subjugation to God, our appetites, our health, our quest for knowledge, our ambition, our pursuit of fortune for the benefit of our families. But the next lines are nothing less than a punchline: “cleanse my mind, my memory, my imagination and my dreams of all erotic content.”

Clear my mind of all erotic content? Wow, that's pretty harsh. So if Carol bends over I'm supposed to ask Jesus to keep me from getting a little bit aroused? That kind of kills the point of marriage, doesn't it? Why bother to be fruitful and multiply? It's kind of hard to multiply if you've purged your mind of the erotic thoughts that make multiplication possible.

That would kill dating too, wouldn't it? Isn't that why kids date? Because they see other kids and they get those urges? Why get married if you've put all erotic thought out of your head? You could just be friends. Of course, that would kill Christian Mingle, not to mention all those weddings which are a major source of income for churches and companies tied to churches.

I read through the panel presentations and a couple caught my eye. My favorite was “Interior Purity: Tricky Temptation and Jumbo Chastity.” I got the “tricky temptation” metaphor, but what is “jumbo chastity?” I'm trying to picture the seminar and the speaker trying to stretch that metaphor to fit, kind of like a jumbo gum ball or jumbo condom.

The other one involved sacred imagery in art. Why would a program on sacred imagery be included in a sexuality conference? Oh wait, are they trying to hide a discussion on erotic imagery in art? Is it really a panel on replacing naked babes in painting with the Virgin mother? I wouldn't be surprised. Once Christians get an itch in their pants, they're likely to do anything.

Song of Songs: Sacred art or Erotica? This is the sacred Disney version (religion.lilithezine.com)

The conference will launch with training seminars for clergy and mental health care providers on how to pray the gay away by National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) therapists. It doesn’t matter that their methods have been discredited by just about every legitimate therapist and medical organization (including Christian groups), if it's anti-Gay it's the Courage way.

The sessions are only the lead up to the opening mass conducted by Chicago's Archbishop Cardinal Francis George. His scheduled appearance only fueled the fires of dissent with protesting groups, even though the church consistently swore it didn't constitute an official endorsement. Unfortunately, when one of the key figures in the church presides, an endorsement inevitably follows.

Nor can we ignore the fact that the church's ardent anti-abortion stance, at least in part, stems from the belief that women should not be allowed to have sex and get off scott free. Yes, every life is sacred, but if women engage in promiscuous sex they should at least be saddled with a child to remind them of their transgressions.

Somehow during the process by which the church managed to build an institutional structure, sex got a bad rap. A very bad rap. I read the Bible and I’m not sure that was ever supposed to happen, but happen it did, and it’s one of the indications of how our drive to institutionalize absolute ways of thinking took us on a detour with the real scripture in the rearview window.

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), I was told from the beginning that sex would warp my mind and my relationships with women. Masturbation was the sin of Onan, and fornication, or sex out of marriage, was equated with homosexuality among the worst sins in Paul's accounting of sins in Romans. The only problem was, the more I read my own Bible the more I had doubts.

Onan didn't masturbate. He refused to father kids in his brother's place. There is no reference to masturbation in the Bible (or abortion for that matter). The early Old Testament saints were having sex out of wedlock all the time. They would even meet women on the road and sleep with them. And it wasn't that big a deal. And once I read the book of Romans I realized that as far as Paul was concerned, homosexuality and fornication were held to be as evil in God's eyes as gossip and jealousy. In short, all sin is pretty much the same.

So the prayer for the Courage Conference perhaps should read, “cleanse my mind, my memory, my imagination and my dreams of all erotic, malicious, jealous, spiteful, gossipy and even narcissistic content.”

As for fornication, or sex out of wedlock? After hearing a sermon on how words from the New Testament such as “baptism” were frequently mistranslated, I decided to look fornication up. It turns out no concordance I referenced would really tackle the word's etymology. It really seems to be a transliteration rather than a real translation. The real word is “pornea.” As best I could tell from reading, the early Christians were very concerned about a practice involving temple prostitutes.

It seems pilgrims visited temple prostitutes as part of pagan worship (and no doubt to enrich the temples, not to mention keep up membership). Now I ask you, which practice do you think would upset practicing Jews and early Christians more, sex out of wedlock or sex with foreign gods and goddesses? I've got to think fornication more likely referred to temple prostitution than kids fumbling around in the courtyard when their parents weren't looking. Especially since those two rascals would probably end up married in a month or two anyway.

Yes, the Bible acknowledges that we can be driven by lustful thoughts and impulses. But we can also be driven by greed, pride and hatred. Nor am I suggesting that Christians seek out meaningless sexual encounters with multiple partners, or drop into bed just because the body moves them. The question is whether or not the enjoyment of sex, or even eroticism itself bad.

Any good BPK knows where I'm going with this. The great white elephant of the Bible. The Song of Solomon. That poem puts DH Lawrence to shame and yet it has been twisted and lied about and interpreted in every possible way to brainwash us into thinking it's not about sex.

It's about sex. It relishes sex. It is the most erotic poem in the history of Western Civilization.

I know, I know. As a BPK I was told it's an allegory, it's symbolic of our love for Christ written hundreds of years before Jesus was born, it's about anything but sex. Unfortunately, we're Baptists. Every word of the Bible is literal. And that means it's good to think about breasts and kissing and exploring what's between a woman's legs and her exploring what's between mine. Literally.

Which brings us back to the Courage prayer: “cleanse my mind, my memory, my imagination and my dreams of all erotic content, and please take the Song of Songs out of the Bible because if I stumble across it in my daily devotions, I have to clean my mind all over again.”

 

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Rick Perry: Guns not kids

This post was originally written a couple of months ago, but more immediate issues intervened. In light of recent announcements, this week seemed like the week to pull it from the closet.

You know how some people can read something and miss the meaning altogether?

Like, going into a restaurant. The sign says: “Pull to open.” Only you push and can't open the door. And neither can the people inside trying to push to exit because you're pushing it closed.

I used to work in a multimedia lab and for weeks we would post large signs saying, “The lab will be closed for maintenance on….” On the date posted people would bang on the door demanding to be let in. And then, if we were kind enough to open the door and point to the sign saying “The lab will be closed for maintenance,” they would say, “So can I use the computers?”

Then there are those people who read the Gospels time and time again, profess to believe every word, promise to do what Jesus would do, and then behave as though they read Machiavelli or a white supremacy manifesto.

Like, say, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who not only professes to listen to God and to do what Jesus would do, he even holds quasi annual rallies to bring the state back to Christ. But, even though the Gospels enjoin us to care for the poor and needy, when he had an opportunity to provide health care to poor women and children, he killed the program.

He wouldn't even have had to pay for it himself, nor would Texas taxpayers. These were federal dollars. But because they made services available to the poor he didn't think they should have access to, he refused the money and shut the programs down.

Granted, the clinics were funded by taxes Texans paid to the Federal government, but this also meant he took out tax dollars and sent them to another state, without asking. Which is stealing.

Governor Rick demonstrating his grasp of the Gospels.

He is a big believer in the second commandment, however. “Thou shalt bear arms.” He's even gone one better. This week he announced his initiative to bring gun manufacturers to Texas with an appearance at the NRA convention and a video showing him shooting semi-automatic rifles.

You can check it out on YouTube.

He even gave a speech at the convention claiming that gun control advocates outraged over the murder of children at Sandy Hook were little more than opportunists. He said that we can set our watches by the response time between mass murder and the outcry for gun control. The entire theme of the convention was that gun owners are freedom fighters.

I'm sorry, I can't picture Jesus making a public display of brandishing weapons and calling for his followers to pick up arms and fight for freedom. In fact, Jesus called for his followers to do the opposite of what was expected. If someone strikes us on the cheek, offer the other one. If someone takes our coat, offer our shoes. If someone threatens us with a weapon, surrender ours.

Except, Christians don't carry weapons. We are commanded to only carry a staff for walking and sandals. (Mark 6).

Nor are we allowed to turn away those in need. Even those in need of health care. Especially when the care is on someone else's dime.

Epilogue

Fortunately, we are now in a good news/bad news situation. The good news is Perry announced he has served his last term as Governor of Texas. He will be stepping down at the end of this term. The bad news is that there is a lot more bad news. First, retirement means nothing these days. Perry could be back to run in 2018 when God reveals that he laid his retirement on the altar, like Isaac, and his sacrifice was acceptable so now he can return. Or, second, God could reveal in 2016 that he really meant for Perry to run for President and Texas (not to mention Jesus and Christians in general) will once again be held up to ridicule internationally, at least until he washes out of the first three primaries.

Finally, for Texans the worst news is that Gregg Abbott is his heir apparent, and he makes Perry look like a cuddly Care Bear. The only question is how much of the blame will he lay off on Jesus. Perry was awfully good at it.

 

Fools for Christ or just plain fools?

This week the Texas Senate struck the ultimate blow for Jesus. They banned tampons.

You can’t get more Christian than that. Except in my opinion, they didn't take it far enough.

For those of you who don't follow the defense of faith in Texas, you may need a little explanation. Texas wants to step to the forefront of the pro-life movement. As we all know, the newest commandment in the Bible is: “Thou shalt not have, or facilitate a woman's ability to have an abortion.” It is now at the top of the Eleven Commandments.1 With our governor Perry at the helm, Texas is declaring that all life is sacred, at least until it emerges from the womb. (In our defense, we have to execute someone.)

As a result, Texas has foregone federal health care funding to make sure women don't have access to family planning since that includes Planned Parenthood, an organization that supports abortion. But that wasn't enough. The Texas Legislature was so determined to ram through some of the most restrictive abortion legislation that they kicked aside their own legislative rules and even scheduled a second special session.

Jesus was the first issue on the agenda. They had to protect the unborn, and they railroaded through the legislation, squashing amendments and suppressing even the precious Republican filibuster. But somehow they feared one thing, protest. Not just protest, but protest by tampon. And so the senate banned the tampon.

As of Friday the tampon is banned in the Texas Senate.

That's right. Visitors can carry guns into the capitol, but not tampons. Women will be strip searched for tampons. I suppose they will erect tampon detectors at the entrances. They will have to remove tampon machines from the bathrooms. What next? Sanitary napkins? Will women will be allowed to bring their own rags?

Of course, if they really want to honor the scripture, the Senate didn't go far enough. The Law doesn't ban tampons, it doesn't even permit them. Women are supposed to quarantine themselves for seven days for the purposes of purification.

So I think the Senate should set up purification quarantines at the edge of town for menstruating women. Including legislators. They could call them cramp camps. I mean, who knows what a woman is likely to do when she gets it into her head to protest and she's menstruating. Do we really think relieving her of her tampon is enough? I'm trying to think like a fundamentalist Republican for Jesus here.

Oh, that's right. We wouldn't have women in the legislature because they should stay at home and obey their husbands. If they did, we wouldn't have these problems, like crazed pro-choice women running around throwing tampons in the Senate chambers. We wouldn't need to worry about abortions because all women would be at home and pregnant like they're supposed to be.

The issue may be moot. The Senate passed the abortion bill late Friday night, although I don't have news as to whether or not they repealed the tampon ban with the passage of the bill. I don't know why they should tie the ban to this one bill. I wouldn't be surprised if it remains in place, and if it doesn't, I'm sure someone will decide to reinstate it, It's just too good to lose.

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), I know there's always at least one verse in scripture to justify ignoring the broad strokes of the Bible. It didn’t matter how dubious their point, my relatives could drag out one isolated dependent clause and slam it on the dinner table to prove their point only to be countered by a contrary dangling participle to prove the opposite.

And I can imagine even now the pro-life legislators defending their behavior with the verse in Corinthians about being “made a spectacle unto the world,” and “fools for Christ’s sake.” Of course Paul is referring to apostles and he juxtaposes the paradox of wisdom in Christ as well. I'm not sure even scripture gives a pass to making a total embarrassment of the faith. And this week, the Texas Senate came pretty close to doing just that.


1There had been an attempt to remove “Thou shalt not covet” from the list since the advertising industry depends on people coveting, including Christian advertisers such as Christian Mingle and all those religious music producers. The fact that eleven was more difficult to manage than ten made the covet removal lobby even stronger. But the fundamentalists toed the line and covet remained.back

 

Don’t turn this cheek, Maddy

The boys might get the wrong idea

Seriously, Maddy Blythe, an outstanding middle school defensive tackle can't play for Strong Rock Christian School in Locust Grove, Georgia this year because the school's CEO is afraid the boys will have lustful thoughts about her.

I don't know which is more disturbing, the fact that a school principal calls himself a CEO or that he's worried that the boys in the middle of a pile up with twenty one other boys and one girl, all in full field gear, will have lustful thoughts. Have they trained their young Christian men that poorly that the pre-game prayer and fist-pumping, chest-pounding, head bashing violence will suddenly be undone by their penises?

If that's the case, don't blame the girl.

It's not as though they're throwing Maddy naked into the showers with the boys. She has her own dressing room. And she's not exactly lining up in Fredrick's of Hollywood's latest ensembles. She's dressed just like the boys, in full football regalia, which is to say about as sexy as watching Robert Downey Jr. dress like Iron Man.

Beware Christians, this girl could seduce your son.

I've seen Maddy interview on television with some of the boys from her team. They say they feel about her as though she's their sister. Why doubt them. Especially when they have cheerleaders running up and down the field kicking their legs high up in the air to lust after? I went to middle school and high school. Those little girls throw themselves at football players like locusts after honey. Who needs a defensive tackle dressed in shoulder, hip and knee pads to stir their lust?

If the Strong Rock Christian CEO is so worried about young girls stirring lust in his young Christian ball players, why not get rid of the cheerleading squad?

Come to think of it, doesn't it strike you as strangely Freudian that a Christian school would even allow their young boys to be ball players? And while we're on Freud and transference, why is the CEO so obsessed with young boys obsessing over girl ball players, when no one else seems to see a problem?

See here's the thing about suppressed sexuality in young Christian men: In the Bible Belt, supervisors and CEOs turn a blind eye to covert sexual aggression all the time. Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), I was rather naive sexually. My parents suggested to me every day in every way that any sexual overtures toward women, even holding hands, would make them hate me forever. It took me years of missed opportunities to discover that was the worst kind of Christian nonsense.

But as I did begin to date and become more comfortable with women, my girlfriends told me the many tricks Baptist boys used in church camp and Sunday School to cop a feel for Christ. I won't detail them here, but I was amazed to hear how many of the boys my parents pointed to as the example I should follow (especially when I disappointed them) had managed to squeeze a breast for Jesus and come off appearing perfectly holy in the process. The girls knew, of course, but they also knew it was pointless to say anything because no one would believe them.

So, Maddy, trust me. The footballers don't need you on the field to fuel their desires. Someone (I won't say who) is simply using you as the excuse to cover up desires they wish to hide from the world.

Those of you who wish to support Maddy can like her facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LetHerPlay?ref=ts&fref=ts