modesty and men

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) posts a timely article, “On Modesty and Male Privilege.” Of the many cultural shifts taking place in the 21st century, our concepts of sexuality are certainly some of the most significant.

The idea that “sex sells” has been around for decades. Yet in today’s world, a better description might be that “sexy women sell.” From soft-porn Victoria’s Secret ads to domain names, the objectification of women and its corresponding desensitization of men has become the new normal. This raises issues of modesty and responsibility within the Church.

I have had more than one friend say to me, “It’s more difficult for men. They can’t help themselves because God made them so visual.” Frankly, this is pretty much non-biblical, uninformed BS, and it is an indicator of how pervasive this cultural perspective is within people of faith. The CBE article calls it for what it is:

“If men are perverse, then that’s decidedly an issue for men to address.

Shifting the responsibility to women simply enables men to think and act like sexual predators, rather than demand that they do the hard work of being transformed by the renewing of their minds (Rom. 12:2). Men, we shouldn’t be saying, “Her skinny jeans and V-neck are making me lust.” No, you’re lusting because your God-given capacity for sexual attraction has morphed into a distorted view of women as objects that you need to control.”

I have to say I find the label of “rape culture” in this article a bit excessive. It feels like the same extremist language the world uses, (in which disagreeing becomes “hating”) and I think as Christ-followers our response should always take a position of least offense, not greatest. Even so, the writer is making a point and his conclusion is valid.

“Perhaps instead of focusing on the culturally ambiguous standard of “modest dress” for women, we should worry more about our attitudes toward, and our objectification of, women. Maybe instead of trying to place the blame on women for our own shortcomings, we should do the hard work of re-wiring our brains in order to remove the influences that continue to perpetuate our distorted view of women… We should focus on what it means for men to partner with God in bringing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”

ugliness & beauty

Today is Good Friday…arguably the most conflicting day in all of history. It’s the day Jesus – the promised Messiah – was crucified, and died. Instead of conquest and deliverance, there was scorn, grief, confusion, terror. Hope crushed.

There’s a beautiful post written by A Penitent Blogger some years ago about the ugliness of salvation. It is only in hindsight that we can see the beauty of that day’s terrible events.

And you begin to understand why Christianity is not a religion simply formed around a wise teacher. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Lose your life to find it. None of these provide the catalyst to launch a world-changing faith. Take up your cross daily – who wants to rally around that? And perhaps more revealingly, Peter, following Pentecost doesn’t stand up and declare “I preach this Jesus, who spoke the Beatitudes!”

No, over and over again through the book of Acts, Peter proclaims, “this Jesus, whom you put to death, and who God raised from the dead!” The resurrection is the single most significant factor of the Christian faith. It’s the reason we come together this weekend, with millions of believers around the world everywhere, to celebrate our “ugly” salvation. Because it is “the Good News that saves you if you firmly believe it…that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:2-4).

Death isn’t the last word anymore. Death has become life. And ugliness becomes beautiful.

getting it backwards

There are lots of things in the world today that we just see backwards.

Like “trying it out” by living together is a good way to tell if you’re compatible for marriage, when study after study shows the opposite is true.

“We don’t need a piece of paper to validate our relationship.” When what you mean is, you’re not even committed enough to bother with a piece of paper that’s so “insignificant.”

And online friend Dan Johnson nailed one this week on his Facebook page:

“Whoever said, ‘Love is blind,’ was wrong. Love has 20/20 vision. It chooses to overlook some of the things it sees. Love, like friendship, accepts who we are trying to be and not who we always are. Lust is blind. Love has perfect vision.”

Lust is blind. It sees only its own needs and gratification, ignores responsibility and consequences, and frequently objectifies. Love sees us for who we really are, as well as who we can become.

buying a brand

Yesterday Jen Taylor Johnson posted a great article at the Christian Standard, calling out Bible publishers who keep creating repackaged versions so we’ll keep buying.

“…I see it as one more indicator of American Christianity’s consumer mind-set. A simple study Bible in a reliable translation is not enough? We need the ‘Personalized Promise Bible’ that inserts our name into the text, the ‘Holy Bible: Stock Car Racing Edition,’ a ‘Thomas Kinkade Lighting the Way Home Family Bible’?”

I had actually been thinking about this topic over the weekend, and here’s where I landed: Our culture has a consumer/branding mindset, combined with an obsession for individualization. And this combination is dangerous for believers.

For example, let’s say you used to buy Tide laundry detergent, and I used to buy Era, and someone else bought Gain. We identified with these respective brand preferences.

Today, there are 48 different versions of Tide. There’s Tide with “Acti-Lift” (vivid clean), Tide Vivid White+Bright (whitens & brightens), Tide plus Febreze Sport (work out odors from workout clothes), Tide plus Downy (softeness you can feel), Tide Free (gentle on your skin), Tide Coldwater, Tide Totalcare (keeps your clothes like new). Plus, liquid, powder, pacs and pod versions of all the above.

See what Tide did there? We can be as differentiated and individualized as we like, but we’re all still using the same brand (Tide).

So in Jen’s scenario, the brand is “Bible.” It used to be enough for a believer to carry a Bible – maybe the NIV or the NLT. But being the consumer individuals that we are, we’re compelled to differentiate ourselves from everyone else. So boom! – 200 versions of the Bible with which to demonstrate our individuality.

Here’s where my thoughts were this weekend: This is also why online dating sites have become so successful. It allows singles to shop our brand (Christian) but still differentiate our specific consumer preferences: tall and thin, blond with big boobs, athletic/outdoorsy – we can now shop for prospective spouses online based on any number of preferred criteria.

And it seems to me this happens because the Church has failed to understand the concept of being “in the world” but not of it. In fact, we’ve joined hands with the world, jumping on the bandwagon of differentiating brands: we’re culturally relevant, we’re seeker-friendly, we play secular music, we’re the hipster church, the fun church, the artsy church. And just like Tide, you can get podcasts, streaming, video and satellite campus versions of all the above. We’ve focused on marketing to consumers. And we compete with each other.

What we as churches may have misunderstood is what our brand really is: counter-cultural community, the body of Christ. This is what differentiates us – not from each other (who cares?) – but from the world. And it is only here – when we lay down our desperate need for individualization – that we find our true identity. Sinners saved by grace. Consumers, now contented. Takers, now generous givers. “High maintenance,” now serving others as more important than themselves. We’re Brand Jesus – and there’s no differentiating. “There’s neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free…”

why women talk more

Science claims to have found the reason women are more “talkative” than men. Apparently, the female brain has higher levels of a protein called FOXP2, which is linked with verbal communication. (It’s so cute how they managed to work the word “fox” into this biological protein. Who says scientists have no sense of humor?) Anyway, according to the experts, women speak an average of 20,000 words a day vs. 7,000 words for men.

Hmm. A biological protein? Maybe. Or perhaps there’s a different reason – clearly understood in the following story.

A husband attempted to prove to his wife that women talk more than men by showing her this very study, and explaining the 7,000 words men use per day versus the 20,000 women use. (What was he thinking?)

His wife considered the information for a moment, and then suggested that women use twice as many words as men because they have to repeat everything they say.

Looking stunned, her husband said, “What?”

valentine reads

A day or two ago I got an email from Amazon reminding me 1) that Valentines’ Day is almost here, and 2) suggesting I “celebrate the holiday with the gift of a great book” from their Valentine’s Day store.

Oh Amazon, you’re usually so right-on with your book recommendations that pique my interest and lure me in for a closer look. But… celebrate? Valentine’s Day? It’s as if you don’t know me at all.

The recommendations are as follows: The Husband List, by Janet Evanovich. Is this about “the list” most singles are purported to have tucked away detailing their perfect match? Or is it about someone who’s been married multiple times? Pass.

The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss. Uhm…me plus cooking…not so much. Especially not 4 hours of it.

Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons by Peter Trachtenberg. Cats? Really?

So here’s a recommendation of my own. A Kingdom Called Desire, by Rick McKinley. That, and a really big box of chocolates.

relationship resources

The View From Her was recently included in a list of top 100 Christian marriage and relationship blogs by the Catholic Dating Sites Blog. First of all, thank you to Joseph Atkins, editor of the blog, for compiling such a comprehensive list of thoughtful and well-written sites that is a remarkable resource for marriage, singles, and relationships. I’m honored to be included in it.

The description for my entry is as follows:

The View From Her: this Midwest writer blogs about relationships in a Christian context. Interesting topics include male birth control, love, and connections.

Aww… yes. I remember writing about “male birth control.” That was back in 2007 when researchers claimed “male birth control products are getting closer to market.”

And then, in 2011, I updated it upon learning of new “scientific advances on contraceptives for men.”

A quick Google search reveals that in 2012 – surprise! – a male birth control pill may be ready soon! It’s as if scientists distribute an annual press release to convince everyone that they truly do care deeply about male birth control, while they secretly work on something way cooler. Like a tractor beam that can move objects.