Let’s Talk About Sex?

nude-yabyum-ishA few months ago, Methodist pastor and blogger Allan Bevere wanted my viewpoint on the argument that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will lead to polyandrous relationships. (Allan doesn’t share that view, but is trying to answer that question.)

I have to admit that I haven’t answered Allan’s question yet.

It’s not for lack of trying.  I have thought about it.  But I haven’t been able to come up with an answer that says same-sex marriage is okay and polyandrous relationship aren’t- at least with what society and mainline churches have used as an argument.

The view that I have encountered from liberal Christians and liberal society as a whole is centered on a sense of equality.  As long as other people don’t bother us, then they are free to do what they want.  Being a soft libertarian, I think that’s the way I want to go.  Let people be.

But if that’s my answer, then I could also use that argument to support three people getting married as much as I could two members of the same sex.

The problem with the libertarian/equality viewpoint is that it can treat all forms of sexuality as equal if they don’t harm people.

Which is why I haven’t answered Allan yet.  I think the answer I could give Allan would come up short. Continue reading

Is There a Plan B for Plan B?

120323-planB-hsml-oom-5p.380;380;7;70;0I don’t have kids.  But if I had a daughter and she was say around 12, would I want her to be able buy Plan B without my say-so or even knowledge?

The Obama Administration has decided to offer Plan B, the emergency contraceptive, to women over the age of 15 without a perscription.  All those under 15 have to get a percription.  That goes against a judge who ordered that the drug be made available to all women without a script.

Of course, most women’s groups tend to favor the judge’s ruling.  It’s about the women’s health, the say.

Yeah.  I’m pro-choice and favor comprehensive sex-ed and I even favor giving kids condoms.  But going back to have my hypothetical daughter (I’ll name her Harriet, because I’ve always liked that name).  I don’t know if I want my little girl being able to go to Target and get birth control when they aren’t even able to drive.

It’s not that I can protect a kid from having sex.  I think parents have to do the best they can in telling kids the good and the bad of sex.  But I don’t know if I want to give pretend-Harriet the equivalent of the car keys when she may not even be ready emotionally.

Columnist Kathleen Parker echoes these concerns:

There’s no point debating whether such young girls should be sexually active. Obviously, given the potential consequences, both physical and psychological, the answer is no. Just as obvious, our culture says quite the opposite: As long as there’s an exit, whether abortion or Plan B, what’s the incentive to await mere maturity?

Advocates for lifting age limits on Plan B, including Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, insist that the pill is universally safe and, therefore, all age barriers should be dropped. From a strictly utilitarian viewpoint, this may be well-advised. But is science the only determining factor when it comes to the well-being of our children? Even President Obama, who once boasted that his policies would be based on science and not emotion, has parental qualms about children buying serious drugs to treat a situation that has deeply psychological underpinnings.

What about the right of parents to protect their children? A 15-year-old can’t get Tylenol at school without parental permission, but we have no hesitation about children taking a far more serious drug without oversight?

These are fair questions that deserve more than passing scrutiny — or indictments of prudishness. A Slate headline about the controversy goes: “The Politics of Prude.” More to the point: The slippery slope away from parental autonomy is no paranoid delusion. Whatever parents may do to try to delay the ruin of childhood innocence, the culture says otherwise: Have sex, take a pill, don’t tell mom.

There’s the question of what is the church’s role in all of this.  Maybe abstinence-only education is a bad idea, but at times it seems the alternative is just as bad.  Do I want Harriet to join the “hookup culture?” I want my kid to have knowledge, but I also want to still be kids and not little adults.  What does it mean to be a follower of Christ sexually?  Sexual ethics has to be more than safe sex.

Of course, I don’t want to see any girl get pregnant at a young age, but having sex is more than preventing pregnancy.  Are the kids emotionally ready?  As Parker notes, this isn’t just about science, it’s about emotions and those matter too.

But of course, I’m not a father and I’m a guy.  But I still feel like making Plan B so easily handy is forcing kids to grow up way too fast.

Wait for the Healing

Back in May of 2012 , I shared a story of what happened at a Baptist church I attended in Washington, DC in the early 90s.  It was a story of how people who disagreed with each other on the issue of homosexuality were able to still be friends and support each other.

Around that same time, I remember someone saying something after a congregation was going to make a tough vote on becoming open and affirming.  The exact situation is foggy after 20 years, but what I remember this woman saying that after this vote, “there would be some healing to do.”

The pastor was quite aware the stand be open and affirming to gays and lesbians was the right thing to do, but there was also a need to heal the rifts from this challenging process of discernment.  After the prophetic, there had to be time for the pastoral.

When my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gathers in Orlando this summer for our General Assembly a resolution will be up for consideration on welcoming LGBT persons not just as congregations, but as a whole denomination.  Knowing some of the folks who came up with the resolution, I think it’s pretty good.

And yet, I’m concerned what will happen to the wider church after the vote.  Will the body been torn apart, never to be put back together, or will there be agents of peace who will try to mend the broken pieces after a hard, but neccesary vote?

The thing that I don’t hear much these days is the call to mend fences after a vote such as this.  More often what happens is that folks vote and the winners claim victory and the losers walk off to sulk.  What missing in all of this is the larger picture, the larger whole of the church.  There is no desire to heal the wounds.

As I said in my post from last year, I think part of the problem here is sorting of American society into like-minded communities.  Here’s what I wrote back then:

Civility is all the talk in our political culture, mostly because it seems like we have less and less of it.  We have made it a civic value, but I want to lift up the fact that it should also be a moral and biblical value.  We have to learn ways to respect and honor one another; not papering over our differences, but finding ways to still care for each other even when we disagree.

Last summer, Sharon Watkins, the General Minister and President tape a video about the importance of all sides of this issue to remain at the Table.  The letter and video, called Setting a Graceful Table stressed the centrality of the communion table:

All tables of the church must be safe places, where respect for diversity among God’s children is honored. As self-governing ministries, in covenant with one another, our challenge is to make room for each other within one Church – even when we make different decisions on important matters. In the past, maintaining the respect and safety of the Table has challenged Disciples. In the era of slavery and abolition Disciples did not divide, but stayed at the common table. Today, the politicized and polarized character of the sexual orientation and equality debate again poses such challenges. This is the time to use our best table etiquette of entering into dialogue in love even in our diversity of opinion. This is the time for the church to show the world that wholeness wins out over fragmentation.

I shared in a post that this issue of welcoming LGBT persons into the full life of the church is personal for me.  But so is being a unique community of love:

Being an openly gay man and a Disciples pastor, I have a dog in this fight.  I’m not going to pretend I’m above the fray and all that.  I want to see churches become more accepting of LGBT persons.  However, I also want the church to be a better witness in the world, not only being more inclusive, but also showing how we can deal with one another humanely even when we disagree profoundly.

We live in a world that is increasingly polarized and factionalized.   More and more, we sort ourselves into like-minded ghettoes where we never encounter folks with a differing view point.  More and more we are certain that our view is the correct one and the other side is going surely lead us down the road to ruin.  As our political and social lives have become more polarized, so has the church. In the name of justice or faithfulness or what have you, we have erected barriers to protect ourselves from other views and launch verbal attacks on others, cloaking our incivility in some form of being prophetic or speaking God’s truth.

What I long for this summer is two-fold:  I hope the resolution passes, but I also hope that if my side succeeds they will reach out to their sisters and brothers who might be on the losing side.  I hope that we won’t just be prophetic, but that we are also pastoral to those who might be our “enemies” and welcome them with open arms.

I hope we can wait for the healing.

The Naked Pastor

I’ve been following fellow Disciples pastor Danny Bradfield for about five or six years via his blog, Field of Dandelions.  We still have yet to meet in person (it will happen, I promise).

He has a great post about what it means to be honest and authentic, something that pastors are not always good at doing.  Here’s the takeaway:

I eat, sleep, fart, feel lazy, dream, stare too long in the mirror, relieve myself, have sex.  I have questions regarding God that I doubt will ever be answered; questions about eternity, questions about sex and sexuality, questions about meaning and purpose and good and evil.  I have questions about the existence and nature of God.

I find exploring these questions to be fascinating.  The questions always lead to more questions, and yet I feel that simply by asking them, I learn more about God and more about myself.

Pastors are supposed to be better, holier, and more spiritual, but I do not feel that I am a better person than anyone else.  I am happily married, but I’d be lying if I told you that beautiful women don’t cause my head to turn; or even, sometimes, beautiful men.

I’m not sure what is good or moral 100% of the time.  I sometimes recognize that both sides of an ethical debate are valid.  However, most of the time, I think I do have a pretty good idea what is good or moral.  Faith helps.  Scripture helps.  But even when I do know what is good and moral, there are times when I’m not sure I want to be good and moral….

If these words strike a chord with you, then welcome to the conversation.  Together, let us continue asking questions and exploring what it means to be human.

Danny’s words remind me of another Disciple pastor that tends to be good at calling people on their crap.  She’s done that more than once with me.  One of the things she has done is tell people, especially other pastors, to stop pretending and start being honest and real.

The interesting thing about reading the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), is finding out how flawed these people were.  I’m not talking about the villians, I’m talking about the good guys like David (who committed adultery, maybe rape and then tried to have the husband of said wife assasinated).  David tried hard to play a game, but the prophet Nathan called him out and David had to come face to face with what he did.

For some reason, God still used David, God still worked through David.  Here was this guy that was considered righteous before God, flaws and all.

As pastors, as Christians, I think we are called to be the messy people we are.  I don’t think that Danny was saying in his post to just be lazy and do whatever you feel, but to be honest and real, which means being someone that will make mistakes and sometimes just annoy the hell out of people (I think I started talking about me).

Just some thoughts on the night before Thanksgiving.