In his first letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul lamented, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate.” Paul was referring to a case of incest within the church. His response? He instructed the community and its elders to “hand this man over to Satan”, to “not even eat with such people”, to “expel the wicked person from among you.”
Given that, how do you think Paul would have responded to a bishop who was found guilty of failing to report child abuse? Who actively covered it up, possibly out of a misguided sense of institutional loyalty? Do you think the apostle would have considered it acceptable for the man to retain his title even if he’s no longer allowed to teach? Or do you think he would have considered him no longer fit for office?
I am seeing many criticism of women who dress scantily yet complain of sexual harassment.
May I offer a response by way of analogy? One could certainly question the wisdom of fighting theft by putting your jewellery in the front window of your home. But such silliness on the part of owners still doesn’t make theft any less theft.
I loved this exchange I witnessed in a forum:
Enquirer: How would you explain to your 6 yr old daughter why the Bible is mainly about boys and not girls? My daughter asked me this question this morning, after months of studying her children’s Bible every morning. It was a simple enough question, and I think the answer should be simple, yet… I could not seem to come up with an adequate answer for her.
Responder: A lot of the Bible is about people doing dumb things…. boys are better at doing dumb things. 😉
Here’s my view. Though God-as-father-to-Israel and God-as-husband-to-Israel metaphors are prevalent within the New and Old Testaments, they are by no means the only metaphors to be found there and closer examination reveals feminine metaphors for God as well. Moreover, some of the God-as-father metaphor found there are distinctly counter-cultural and not at all in tune with traditional images of fatherhood at the time of their writing. So it undercuts notion that God’s character can be fully encapsulated by patriarchal language, as some would have it.
In his first letter to the Thesselonians, Paul uses breast feeding mothers as a model for leadership (1 Thes 2:7). Imagine if more leaders took this seriously!
In his thought provoking article on “Evangelical Churches and Same Sex Attraction“, Nigel Chapman raised a three practical scenarios for Christian leaders to consider:
Three Practical Scenarios
The pastoral and missional problems raised by same sex attraction and orientation, and
exemplified in the many negative outcomes for same sex oriented people in our churches can be encapsulated reasonably well in three basic scenarios. In each case, suppose you are a minister or leader in your church:
Dave: a teenager in your church tells you that they are same-sex attracted. You
cannot in any way fault this person’s godliness; but they beg you not to tell anyone, including their parents, believing they will lose their friends, family and church if anyone finds out. Suppose that a survey of your church reveals that most members think same-sex attracted people have chosen to be that way, just need to repent, pose a danger to children, and are too repugnant even to discuss. How do you proceed? Does your feeling or judgement on the matter change if he says he is bisexual?
Nick: a faithful leader in your church is same-sex attracted. He has been through
endless counselling and long bouts of depression and loneliness over a period of twenty years. It is likely that he has been through a more strenuous and thankless trial than anyone else in your congregation, has persevered in ministry, at which he excels, and has remained celibate. However, he has experienced no change whatsoever, and no longer sees any hope of changing. What he wants more than anything is a family and life partner, but is not in any way sexually attracted to women. What options are open to him? Are these options the same as for Dave, who has not been through the same experience?
Kim + Jen: two young women in your local community have a civil union and are raising two children. They are a schoolteacher and a journalist by profession. They grew up in Christian families, have been thinking a lot about God lately, and have begun attending your church on account of a relative in your congregation. Do you tell them to break up their family, have a celibate marriage, or … what? Does your answer create a precedent in which a same-sex attracted person simply has to leave church, get married, come back, and continue on? – and what then do you say to Nick or to Dave about that? Does your feeling or judgement on the matter change if they are a male couple, if they have no children, or if they have no Christian background? What do you tell them and their friends about your church’s view of the LGBT communities?
If you think Christianity is too patriarchal by far, consider the heights to which these Bhutanese Bhuddists have taken it.
For them, images of the phallus are an essential aspect of traditional ceremony. They were introduced the 15th-century Buddhist teacher, Drukpa Kunley, who’s unconventional Tantric teachings made a deep impression on the Bhutanese.
Curiously, the sexual balance I would normally expect from a Tantric teacher seems to be missing here. Here the focus is all on the phallus. It is believed to promote fertility and (one could make many insinuations here) silence gossip.
Is this how you imaging Eve? In researching Christian art I frequently come across highly sexualized interpretations of the temptation of Eve, with artists playing up the possibility that original sin was related to sexual knowledge.
Often this atmosphere is eccentuated by having the snake draped over Eve in ways not normally witnessed outside of exotic nightclubs.
However, given that God instituted marriage in Genesis 2, before sin emerged in Genesis 3, it is clear that this view is seriously unscriptural; that sex was originally sacred, not sinful; that God, not Satan, sexed Eve and Adam up for one another. If sin is related to sex, it is only in the way sin distorted sex.
Sacred is sex without self-centredness.
This week I have been exploring Christian art related to the dance of the daughter of Herodias (Salome in some traditions) and the beheading of John the Baptist.
In many paintings I found the dancing and beheading scenes were mingled into one. In some cases, in so graphic and erotic a way that there seems little doubt that the artists were seriously toying with necrophilia motifs. I have spared you the worst.
The story is obviously charged with an atmosphere of political corruption, but I think that’s taking artistic licence a wee bit too far don’t you? Even the nakedness (seen left for example) is completely speculative as all the Bible says is, “When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.”
The key theme of the story, the foolishness of Herod and the faithfulness of John, tends to get lost in the titillation.
Following are a series of images inspired by the Song of Songs, a celebration of sexual love that is unique within the Old Testament scripture.
“Song of Songs – Verse 3” by Anna Ruth Heriques
“Song of Songs” by Eric Gill
“Song of Songs” by Ruth Galanti
“Song of Songs” by Yaron Livey
For more on Song of Songs see:
Black and Beautiful
Contemporary Christian Art – Song of Songs
Tim Keller on homosexuality, hell and the way of Jesus