Monday, January 12, 2015

I Am Not A Gentleman pt. 2

I would like to expound on my last post in this one…and I’m going to do that using none other than the expert on love herself – Taylor Swift.

A buddy of mine and I were listening to Blank Space on the radio (because it was on, ok, we didn’t geek out or anything…or did we?) and we came across that infamous line – “Boys only want love if it’s torture.” Now, I don’t know what ole T-Swift meant by that from her own perspective, but my friend and I discussed what it might possibly mean and I offered this thought.

It is the age old story of rescuing the damsel in distress. If there is a dragon to slay, a tower to scale, or a molten lava moat to cross, that somehow makes it more fun for the prince and more meaningful for the princess. 

Imagine though, the princess fighting her way out of the castle while the prince was on route and doing half the work, teaming up with the prince’s efforts. Does that sound like any story ever? Nope. Why? Because it’s not as “romantic” or fun for the prince and it’s definitely a lot harder for the princess.

Now think about our own society. We have bought into this idea quite a bit. The man pursues the woman relentlessly and surely is the first person to initiate anything (lest the woman be too “forward”). The girl plays hard to get but the man doesn’t give up, he offers gesture after gesture to prove his affection. Eventually the man proves himself, the girl falls in love, and then she subjugates herself for the next 70 years and makes sandwiches on the daily.

There is a power switch that seems to go on. For some time, it seems as though the woman holds the power in “courting” as she creates the boundaries, doesn’t make it too easy, and so on and so forth. Then, whenever the final task of a ring and a question is completed, the chase is over and the man has his “prize.” He then assumes power in the relationship completely. Now, this initial power being in the woman’s hands is rather artificial and really just shows other facets of male power, but it nevertheless at least appears to exist as the man courts her.

What do I mean by artificial power? Think of it this way. In our society, the guy is expected to ask the girl out for the most part (at least the “official” date, she may suggest coffee or the like, but the man usually initiates a “date”). Now, if a girl likes a guy but the guy does not have such feelings, really, all he has to do is…nothing. So, there is apparent power in being pursued by a man, but that power still ends up in the man’s hands if you think about it.

A relationship where both parties went into the process equally would not be nearly as riveting of a read, and it also would not necessarily lead to the inevitable power shift to sandwich making. “Boys only want love if it’s torture” because it means they get to be in control of the relationship later on down the road.  

Although it may not be very Disney, I think an equal relationship from the get-go creates far healthier scenarios for both parties throughout the course of that relationship.

Now remember, from my last post, this does not mean we go around acting like jerks. It instead frees us up to be mutual servants to each other, continually seeking to put the other’s needs above our own. When both partners do this, it embodies the agape style of love that Christ showed to us. We talk about being servants to spouses all the time, but do we really have the fairy tale scenario in mind when we think of such?

Fairy tales are fairy tales for a reason, they aren’t real life and we don’t get to see years down the road. Cinderella marries the prince after one night of dancing and some diligent seeking on the prince’s part? What if the prince has some pretty janky expectations of her? What if they aren’t very compatible in their personalities? What if he likes Nickelback? These are all distinct possibilities that the fairy tale doesn’t get into. Do they truly live happily ever after? I would suggest that it is unlikely.

There may not be a happily ever after, but there is certainly joy in mutually submitting to another person in humble servanthood and seeing an equal in your partner. That is Eden. That is how Jesus saw other people. He came not to be served, but to serve.

We take the few verses containing household codes in the Bible that mention wives submitting to husbands and we skew this to refer to power. Those verses are not about power; they are about mutual service and respect. Jesus was not a power guy; He was a servant. 

Some of the most joyful marriages are ones where there is such deep respect and love for the other person that neither sees the other as lesser. Unload the dishwasher together. Cook dinner together. Decide to have mutually fulfilling sex together. Basically, share as much responsibility, pain, and joy as equally as you can.

But, for this to be the case, I think we have to start this togetherness from the start. What starts in equality can stay in equality. Fellas, don’t offer countless gestures of chivalry and affection simply so that you can claim your prize and “call her yours,” serve her and see her as your equal. Ladies, when you are being swooned by gestures of affection and chocolate, ask what is expected in return and if you are truly viewed as an equal. Don’t let love be torture, make it mutual service and respect.

Donnn’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t, warn yaaaaa!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jesus' Call To Self-Defense? A Look At Luke 22:35-38

It has happened a few times as I’ve written various things about violence – someone convinced of their right to bear arms, arm bears, and defend themselves from a Biblical perspective will bring up Luke 22:35-38. In fact, this seems to happen quite a bit, so let's look at the passage and talk about it. 

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors. ’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough”

Usually I deal with a topic, this time I’m going to deal with a specific text. I do this because recently I have seen this text misused heavily, mainly in support of gun ownership and the right to defend one’s self using such means. I have even seen some people saying “this is Jesus’ call for self-defense” and that simply is not true on any level.

Firstly, such an interpretation would be pretty contrary to Christ’s command of enemy love in Matthew 5. If something is that different, it behooves one to look deeper into things and see what is really going on. Furthermore, what this shows is that when it comes to Jesus’s commands, we like to pick and choose which one’s we follow based on our own desires.

Now, like I said, you don’t have to pick and choose, Jesus is not inconsistent here with what He has said previously.

Look at verse 37 – “I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ This comes from Isaiah. So, this command to His disciples is so that He will fulfill prophecy and be considered an outlaw by Roman government (Sprinkle, 2013). Also, some even think that the two swords allude to Deuteronomic law which said that it takes two witnesses to testify against someone, and in this case, the two swords are those witnesses (Willimon, 2008). It is not for defense. How do we know this? Two things: Firstly, two of the disciples (likely Peter and Simon the Zealot) already have swords and so they say “Look, Lord, here are two swords” and Jesus replies to this with the phrase “it is enough.” Enough for what? This verse cannot be about self-defense, because two swords cannot defend 11 disciples, especially if they go out two by two as they did just before this passage.

In fact, there are opinions out there on what "it is enough" would have actually meant when Jesus said it. For Luke Timothy Johnson (1991), "it is enough" essentially carries the same meaning as "enough of this nonsense" and he comes to that conclusion by matching it grammatically and in its original language to something Jesus says later surrounding this same issue, which we'll now get into.

Scroll down a few verses to 49-51.

And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 

Jesus rebukes Peter for using the sword, because that was not the purpose of the sword. He in fact uses the phrase "no more of this!" (or as Luke Timothy Johnson writes - "enough of this" and thus reading the first time Jesus uses the phrase as matching the second time). While we are busy making our enemies bleed, Jesus is healing them and making them whole. Nothing in the teachings of Jesus allows for violence, but the disciples still can’t get their minds around it.

The disciples almost constantly misunderstood what Jesus being the Messiah truly meant for the Kingdom of God. They expected an earthly kingdom to come about, like the glory days of the Maccabees. There were many “messiahs” in that time who tried to set up the Kingdom of God, but did so through violence and always failed. That is why Jesus actually orders them in Mark 8:27-38 to tell no one that He was the Messiah when Peter identifies Him as such. Jesus wanted to differentiate Himself from the other “messiahs” out there (Sprinkle, 2013). RIGHT after that section when Jesus instructs them to not tell others that He is the Messiah, He begins to talk about how He is going to have to suffer and die. Peter actually rebukes Jesus for this (8:32) because that would totally jack up the violent political uprising that would help install the Kingdom of God. Jesus then tells Peter that he does not have his mind on the things of God but the things of men.

With their minds still on “the things of men” and not “the things of God,” the two disciples with swords get excited when Jesus commands them to go and buy them. They, like many who misinterpret this verse to talk about self-defense, had earthly kingdom thinking and not heavenly kingdom thinking.

At the end of the day, I understand that we may possess a different view on self-defense. However, I think we can agree that scripture has been used for terrible reasons before and a little look at the context of a verse can truly help us steer clear of poor interpretations. So, I hope that you have gotten something out of this discussion. Grace and peace to you all!

Works Cited:

Johnson, Luke T., and Daniel J. Harrington. The Gospel of Luke. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1991. Print

Sprinkle, Preston. Fight: A Christian Case for Nonviolence. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013. Print.

Willimon, Will. Duke Chapel Service, February 21, 2008, #160. Link –

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I Am Not A Gentleman pt. 1

This is going to be a bit of a trip, so strap in. Are you satisfied with how the world views men, women, and relationships? I personally am not, and I want to share some thoughts on the issue with you. 

We live in a world where men are highly privileged over women. Some may not see it, others may think that is fine and dandy, but it is nevertheless the case. If you are male, I challenge you to ask several women that you know if they have ever experienced some sort of oppression or prejudice because they are women. Some have been passed up for jobs, others have been viewed as lesser, and still some have experienced absolutely terrible and shocking things, simply because they are women. 

Now, I know what most reading this will be thinking - "I don't treat women that way, I am a gentleman" - but that doesn't mean that there is not a problem or that you don't contribute in some way. So, the first thing that must be done is to realize this and like I said, one of the best ways that I can think of to open your mind to this might just be to interview different people and get their stories. 

Now, for those of you who are genuinely good guys, I still have some thoughts to share. Girls, don't feel like you're excluded from reading the rest of this and getting something from it because honestly, when society tells you something long enough, you may start to believe it, and I don't want you to. 

Now, for my gentleman and ladies out there, I would like you to observe and ponder the following image:

Now, this may offend some for good reason, but I'd like to talk about it in a way that perhaps one might not get at first glance. I personally believe that there is a certain level of expectation in our culture for gentlemanly behavior. I believe there is a subtle, if not sometimes overt, message that in exchange for being a gentleman, I expect to be served. Perhaps the message at other times is "I treat you well, you put out for me" (If you'll allow me to be so crass). 

I know that for most good dudes out there, this is not what is going through your mind consciously, but I still think that the overall message from society is that if a man is a gentleman, the woman will subjugate herself to the man. 

So, what's the cure for this and how do we as people balance this idea while not just becoming jerks with no manners? Let's start at the beginning. I start here because I think we must change the way our minds think about gender in a holistic way. 

In the beginning, there was a garden. Did you know that the Hebrew used in Genesis 1-2 describing man and woman is language of equality? It truly is in stark opposition to the culture that seems to come later. Eve may be called a "helper", but that term has an extremely elevated meaning compared to how our culture often thinks of the word. After the fall of humankind (brought about by Adam and Eve), the world becomes patriarchal. 

This is where I may differentiate myself from some Christian feminist thinkers. And please note, I have not studied this in vivid detail so if you can and would like to contribute to my understanding and knowledge, please do so. I think that how women are viewed in this world is related almost completely to the fall of humankind. With that being said, I think that this will always be the case on some level. So, while some feminist movements seek to bring societal change to how women are viewed, I don't think this will ever be fully realized. 

But, there were beginnings to this. When you look at the Old Testament Law, it is clearly patriarchal and even seems to be a bit on the misogynist side, if not very much on the misogynist side. However, in a way, it is still a small piece in making things better. Understanding this topic means understanding how the Law functioned. It was a mediator. The Law was not God's ideal, but it did move us closer to that ideal. When you look at the Law compared to other ancient law codes and cultures of that time, Israel was pretty grand. It made sincere improvement on things while still allowing for some cultural expectations. This can be seen in how women, slaves, and foreigners were treated, how violence was viewed and used, and a slew of other things. As odd as it may sound, when compared with the surrounding culture, it is almost a piece of feministic literature. It was making improvements while building up to something else, and that something was Jesus. 

One of the interesting things about Jesus is that His primary goal (other than saving humanity) was restoring the Edenic Ideal to the world, namely in the church. This ideal involves shalom, love, relationship that was lost, and if we truly examine the text, I believe it should include the treatment of women. So, while the world will likely always treat women as lesser to some degree or another, the church should be the one place where this is not the case. 

Now, unfortunately, the church has sometimes treated women worse than certain areas of the world, and so for that, I am truly sorry on behalf of the imperfect church that I am a part of. But, I want to change that. I hope that I can be a part of making the church a place where you feel so incredibly valued and loved, and that you are seen equally. 

I'm not going to go into women's roles in church or anything like that. If you'd like my opinion or resources, I'd be happy to give either, but such is not the purpose of this post. The Bible does have some unique things to say about relationships, men, and women. But, unpacking every nuance or why I choose to interpret in the way I do would take a long time. 

One thing I would like to say outright though is that I do not see many inherent differences between men and women. Obviously there are some physical differences (talk to your moms and dads if you don't know what I'm talking about), but some of the other stuff is made up by us. Our culture usually informs how we think about gender and the roles of such. Now, what's interesting is that these differences that are created by culture are in fact biological on some level. Culture and especially family can create and shape the way our brains function and our neurons fire, and so for some of the common "differences" between men and women, there is a level of biology to it. However, this is not inherent and can indeed be changed with an intentional change of the mind and how we view things. (I could go on for DAYZ on this subject, feel free to ask me about any of this since I have to leave it so short for now). 

What I wish to do now is incredibly cheesy, but it will help illustrate all of this content rather well hopefully - I want to write an open letter to whomever my wife may be, if indeed she exists and such is permitted to me. 

Hello there! Whoever you are, there are a few things you should probably know and expect if you choose to engage in a covenantal relationship with me (your choice, not my coercion). Firstly, I will not treat you like a princess (honestly, how entitled is that?), I will treat you like a child of God. I am not prince charming, in fact, I often feel more like Shrek and connect with him deeply. When you get to know me, you will get to know an incredibly flawed person. For pity's sake, at one point I purposefully decided to look like this: 

But despite my flaws, I am redeemed and have been forever defined by such. I don't know what our life together will look like. I hope we can share as much responsibility as possible, but who knows? Honestly, it's going to be a trip that we're going to have to figure out together. I don't have any preconceived expectations of who will do what, I only ask that you bear with me patiently as we learn the other's strengths and figure out how to not burn down the house. It will be a grand adventure to say the least. 

I'm not the average dude, and for some that is honestly a deterrent (but one that I'm proud of). I don't have a shotgun waiting for intruders and thieves. I fully plan on living in a really cheap yet functional house/apt/some sort of structure so that our money can be diverted to helping those less fortunate and furthering the kingdom of God. In general, I'm an odd duck and I'm proud of it. 

I want to empower you as a person and never treat you as though you are my lesser or in need of me because I am a man (we all need people, that's part of life). I don't really plan on fulfilling one of those odd Christian expectations of the man "pursuing the woman relentlessly" until I eventually wear you down and you concede or realize I'm cool. I fully desire for this empowerment thing to mean that you want a relationship just as bad as I do and are willing to go into it equally with me. Do I know exactly what all this will look like? Nope. But it will be fun living life together and figuring it out. 

Lastly, I am not a gentleman as defined by western society or southern manners, but I have dedicated my life to being a servant and I plan on loving you and everyone else in our lives as Christ loved the church. I will serve you, not because you're a woman, but because you're a child of God and because I love you. I will hold doors open for you, for children, for other men, and I may be stuck at doors for a decent while at times, all because this is how I want to treat other people, not because I think lesser of anyone. 

In all things, I want to treat you very well, but because I am a Christ imitating servant, not because I am a gentleman who expects something in return.