Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Apparently I'm Weird

I've been taking a lot of heat recently over at Geoffrey's blog, What's Left In The Church. The reason?


I like sex. I like it a lot. A whole lot. I like it very, very much. I enjoy it immensely and look forward to every opportunity. It's a wonderful way for a husband and wife to spend ten minutes.
OK, that last was a joke. I can go twelve, thirteen minutes easily. But the point is that it is between me and my wife. That's as it should be. Anything I did before marriage was not as it should be. Though it was fun.

But all jokes aside, at least for a bit, the problem I've been having at Geoff's, among others, is that I now am viewed by him and his, ah... um... "ilk" as something strange for the reason that I see sex for what it is, a selfish act of self-gratification. I see it, and the desire to engage in it, as the bane of our society. Geoffrey tells his very young daughter that it is a wonderful gift from God. I wonder if he feels the same for any spasm the body might produce. In any case, I requested Biblical support for that belief and at the time I began this post, I'd not seen such support. It's been a couple of days now, but perhaps he'll grace us with such here.

This discussion actually ran over a few of his posts, and without stopping here to go check for sure, I think it began at his post about JK Rowling "outing" Prof. Dumbledore. Naturally, this scholar of Biblical proportions thought that was just peachy and really nothing whatsoever over which anyone should have concern. I protested that I thought that such things are entirely inappropriate for young readers and why should such crap be put before them whilst they seek to enjoy their innocence. As it was not depicted openly in the books (from what I understand), what possible reason could there be for it anyway, except to promote the behavior as "normal"?

So began a back and forth about the goodness and holiness of sex and how it's natural and a beautiful thing that is shared in many different ways by many different people and how it's a wonderful expression of love.


But this is what he teaches his kids and as far as our debate, has expressed nothing regarding when it is appropriate and when it is sinful, which, for a semanarian and spouse of a preacher, seems rather lacking in the parental responsibility department. I don't know. Perhaps he simply neglected to add that to his rebuttal. I hope so. For as it sat, he's pretty much given his kid the green light to get it on as soon as she's up to it, with only some perceived feelings of love to justify it and make it "OK". And when, or if, she comes home pregnant with no ring nor license to show for it, why, he'll support her and not scold or say "I told you so" which he really couldn't say since he never did.

So here it is again, sex is NOT love. Sex is lust. End of story, really. We attach these lovely notions to the act for the sake of romance and all that, and truly, between spouses, it ain't so bad to do so. But it's a stark lie that society has come to embrace more and more over the years. Sex is a biological act with a specific purpose. The pleasure is a function of that act that ensures the act ever gets done and the species survives. But we have taken that pleasure and made it primary over the true purpose and now what are the consequences? They are many. Among them are:

*Over 40 million abortions since Roe v Wade. Those are of the surgical variety. Untold millions more from chemical abortions due to the use of birth control and morning after pills. A result of putting sex on such a high pedestal that it towers over the value of human life, as the spineless have chosen to redefine when life begins to accomodate their weakness.

*The proliference of STDs, with younger and younger sufferers all the time, including babies born with them due to their parents immaturity, as well as younger girls getting pregnant.

*High divorce rate and the invention of No Fault Divorce.

*The push to normalize abnormal relationships and behaviors.

*The rise in child abuse.

*Rap videos, internet porn and sex as a constant in advertizing, films and TV shows. This just compounds the issue as it gives credence to the nonsense of sex as being as necessary as food or sleep.

I was the subject of ridicule by Geoff and his friends, particularly his sister, the only one besides himself allowed to freely insult to whatever level she desires, for my use of the terms "crotch-centered" and "bastard".

It seems Geoff's grandmother is a bastard (or was it his great-grandmother? I forget. No matter.). Now that sounds harsh based on the common usage of the word today (I'm partial to the term "rat bastard"), but that she was born of two who were not married to each other justifies it's use, since that's the definition of the word. I asked him if he was proud to learn such about his great-grandparents (or was it great-great-grandparents? I forget. No matter.), that they engaged in sex without benefit of marriage. He never really answered the question, and I never implied that he should hate them for it. But that's the route he took and it shows he has no regard for the appropriate time and place for sex as dictated by traditional values and standards. This is where "crotch-centered" come into play. What else would you call someone who is so unwilling to control one's urges? The possibilities are many. Few are endearing.
The point is that engaging in sexual activity carries with it serious consequences. It is the dismissing of those consequences, redefining them, risking them even when acknowledging them, that is the cause of so much suffering in the world. Rather than making the world go 'round, as the romantics among us insist, it serves to make it grind as those consequences manifest when it is abused. When the sexual urge is allowed to define and/or control us, it dimishes us. As Christians, it results in spiritual impurity (and can even within a proper marriage), and as human beings, it makes us very much like animals who are unable to resist their instinctive drive.
The sexual urge is no different than many other urges that should be controlled if we are to call ourselves mature adults. The urge to take what doesn't belong to us, to strike those who offend us, to over eat, to avoid work, to gossip, to eat jello with our hands in the closet. How we respond to our urges demonstrates the level of our character. How our society now responds to the sexual urge has shown our character is lacking.
I challenged Geoffrey for he and his wife to abstain for a month. There's no reason why he should and as a married couple they certainly aren't oblidged. I once suggested it to my wife as a Lenten sacrifice, and she was not up for it. For my part, there's little else that would seem a great sacrifice for such a ritual. But Geoffrey mocked that suggestion as well. OK. Fine. But that he wouldn't even consider it is telling. But it's a sad state of affairs if one can't or won't for such a brief period of time, even to honor one's Lord.
But I've rambled enough. I don't know if I've even made the point I was hoping to make. What I do know is that the consensus opinion of sex is harmful and the evidence is overwhelming that this is so. Mock me if you choose. It won't change the truth of it.


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

It's wonderful to see a person put their sexual hang-ups on display, and assign the deviance to another.

What is "crap" is the idea that sex is selfish. What is crap is the idea that teaching children there is nothing wrong with people who love others of the same gender is wrong. What is crap is that y great-grandmother should be referred to by a foul word for no other reason than her provenance; or that her parents were somehow evil, horrible (the phrase he used was crotch centered) people. What is crap is the idea that teaching our children that their sex is a good gift from a loving God is somehow abnormal. What is crap is the idea that sexual repression is a good thing.

I am quite sure that there will be those who think my wife and I are awful people because we are teaching our children to be open, accepting people. I amquite sure that there will be those who shake their heads at the notion of Christian parents teaching their children that their budding sexual urges are normal, and should be dealt with honestly and openly, in the full knowledge that there is nothing wrong with them, or with those urges. I can't help what other people think, nor do I honestly care.

The imputation, however, that there is something unChristian about all this is offensive to me. The assigning of a foul name to an ancestor of mine for her birth is morally offensive. The imputation of evil for her parents being human beings who make mistakes is quote the most outrageous thing I have read in a while - considering the couple in question lived and did their horrid earth-shaking deed in 1863!

In all seriousness - this is the kind of thing that makes me so glad that I grew up in the family I did, and am passing on the values of openness, acceptance, and a joy in all of the things life provides to my children, as they were passed on to me. This is the kind of thing that makes me proud to be part of a denomination that declares, in its Discipline, that sex is a good gift from a good God, to be used prayerfully, and within the bonds of marriage alone. Chastity in singleness is the rule not just for clergy, but for all United Methodists, and it is a good rule for a good reason.

I do believe that Marshall assumes that because I refuse to judge my ancestors harshly, or declare absolutely that my children will be pariahs if they make mistakes that I approve of sexual relations outside of marriage. As a general rule, I do not. On the other hand, I do not judge those who make different choices, including those in my own family. Of all the things in the world to worry about, how others live their lives in their most intimate affairs is simply not my concern, nor is it really anyone else's business either.

Which brings me to my last point. There is an effrontery to this post that is astounding. The man wrote close to a thousand words based upon only what little he could glean from a few scattered comments on my blog. He does not know me. He knows nothing of my life, my history, my likes or dislikes - nothing at all other than what I have offered. I would hardly rate my writings on my site as a window in to my soul. Yet he can declare my sinfulness, my lack of Christian ethical principles, both in my own life and as a parent - from my declaration that I refuse to judge others. Truly astounding.

I do believe that (a) I shall end Marshall's place on my blogroll; (b) not darken the doorways of this blog again. I find your attitude presumptuous, your approach a mixture of ignorant bullying and pompous declaration based upon your own narrow views of the world and of human beings. Were I to meet you, I am quite sure that I would not want to make your acquaintance. Please feel free to say what you will about me in my absence, because I know you and your "ilk" (that's the second time I've been included in an ilk, and I don't even know what an "ilk" is) will do that anyway.

Neil said...

Hi Marshall,

I didn't read the thread at Geoffrey's so I'll have to go by your characterization of it. Normally I heartily agree with most of your conclusions but not so much in this case. I realize this puts me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with several of Geoffrey's points, but we were bound to agree on something (just kidding, Geoffrey - that wasn't a dig).

I'm not sure why you would inject the term "bastard" into the conversation. I'm probably a bastard (I was adopted at birth - presumably the product of an out of wedlock couple - but I'm not sure). Sex outside of a one man / one woman marriage is a sin, but any resulting pregnancy is not a sin. And being a product of a sinful encounter is not a sin. So while your term was accurate I am not sure how it advanced the conversation.

Sex can be selfish, but I don't think that is the ideal. The more it is done in a Biblical fashion (a lifetime commitment of love and trust, not treating the other person as an object, etc.) the better it is.

Teaching kids age-appropriate lessons on sexuality is an important duty of parents (not Planned Parenthood or the like). Teaching the Biblical worldview (it is good and a gift from God when used properly) and the consequences for violating it (shame, disease, unplanned pregnancies, etc.) is vital.

Teaching kids the opposite of what the Bible teaches about homosexuality is a bad idea. Of course, teaching kids the opposite of what the Bible says about anything is a bad idea.

I follow all your stats about what happens when a Biblical model is not followed, but I don't see how that proves that sex is only about lust.

Marshall Art said...

Gosh. I could have written Geoffrey's response myself it is so typically off the mark of my point.

Sexual hang-ups? Apparently I'm weird to see things as they are say as much. Let's look at his misrepresentations more closely.

First, the hang-ups. I believe I took great pains to show that I, too, possess the same urges as any other normal human being. Never once, ever, have I presented such urges as unnatural or wrong. They simply are. Unnatural and/or are demonstrated in the response to those urges. In Christianity, it is plain and obvious to anyone objective and desirous of pleasing God just what the accepted responses should be. Ask as I might, Geoffrey has offered no Scriptural support for his position regarding how sex should be regarded. None. Zip. Nada.

Second. "Bastard" is a foul word when used as a common epithet. When used in a manner aligned with it's definition, it is appropriate. A bastard is the child of two people not married to each other. Sorry if that offends, but that's like being pissed that I called you a man because you fit that definition.

Third. Can we be sinful, yet not evil? I'd like to think that I'm not evil, though I, like everyone, sometimes can commit a sinful act. That his ancestors did so is by his own admission, they acted on the urges of their "crotch", and did so without benefit of marriage is sinful. Sorry again. Take it up with God.

Fourth. At the risk of being redundant (I'm just taking these in order they're presented in his second paragraph), Geoffrey has presented no Biblical support for his contention that sex is a good gift from a loving God, rather than a tolerated, though necessary function of the human condition.

Fifth. Never advocated sexual repression as a rule of law, but self-control as a sign of character.

Sixth. (On to next paragraph) Not awful parents. Mistaken in your teaching. Geoffrey mistakes tolerating bad behavior for tolerating people. Common amongst the left. And again, and I can't stress this more strongly, that we have urges is normal. That we don't encourage mastering them is a parental shortcoming for sure. He doesn't have to care what others think, but I would pray he'd care how his "tolerance" plays out in the mind of his own kids.

Seventh. That his ancestors committed their sin in 1863 is irrelevant considering the Christian doctrine of right and wrong had existed for at least 1800 years by then.

Eighth. He finally makes some noise regarding when sex is appropriate. Good for him that he actually knows to some extent when this is so. Bad for him that he thinks it can be so in any other arrangement than in a traditional marriage.

Ninth. Once again, I never encouraged judging people. That's not our job unless we're called for jury duty. I spoke only of judging the actions of the people HE brought up. Are the shortcomings of any relative the source of pride or an unfortunate aspect of those peoples' lives? To agree with the latter is mere honesty, not judgement. Who really has the hang-ups here?

Tenth. I do not know Geoffrey personally. Never claimed to. I speak only of those things that he put into his posts by his own volition and commented and questioned based on what was there. Unlike Geoffrey, I made no assumptions about who he is or what he feels, I've only sought clarification. Is that now unproper in this medium? It's rather funny and hypocritical that he has accused me for doing exactly what he has done in his posts about me. I'm sure he this post will be grist for more of the same at his blog.

I wonder why so few visit his blog.

mom2 said...

Marshall, I have quit reading his blog because it was sometimes sickening to me. I took from what he wrote, basically the same thing you did. If he did not mean to come across that way, he should have written differently. He seems to have a little better manners on other peoples' blogs (although not much better) so it is quite different to arrive at what he means unless you have read his blog - where he lets it all hang out.

ELAshley said...

Dude, there's nothing unholy about sex within the will of God; between a man and his wife.

But here's a question: Is ALL lust bad? Is a wife or a husbands' lust for each other evil?

If God can hate and not sin, is it not possible then to lust and not sin?

Neil said...

"Is a wife or a husbands' lust for each other evil?"

That reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons where Ned Flanders calls Reverend Lovejoy in a panic and says, "I think I may be coveting my own wife!"

At the risk of over-analyzing, it depends on which of these two definitions you use. Seems like #1 wouldn't be a sin but #2 would.

1. intense sexual desire or appetite.

2. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness.

ELAshley said...

My question was semi-rhetorical, but thanks for those illustrative examples.

Marshall Art said...

I think a major point is being missed. Of course Geoffrey missed it and it was the start of our problems.

The point was that sex is not love. I don't see where it can be supported Biblically that it is a "gift" from God anymore than any other biological function. (Imagine if we didn't have the "gift" of eliminating bodily waste.) Sex and lust are merely biological functions to which we, as human beings, attach romantic feelings. Sex, in and of itself, is not evil or sinful, anymore than is money or handguns. It's how it is used or abused that determines its (how's that Les?-both versions in one sentence) sinfulness.

The same goes for the word "bastard". I did not abuse the word in any way, nor did I use it to disparage anyone. I used it in its proper context, that being a person born out of wedlock. With Geoffrey's penchant for misinterpreting and misrepresenting my comments, I felt it best to be as exact as possible and will continue to do so. The trouble here, is clearly part and parcel of the main gist of my message, that being that sex has been elevated to a place for which it wasn't intended. I might be a dirty bastard for the things I do or say, but calling a spade a spade does not imply goodness or evil. In fact, I never commented on the character of this woman. But she still is a bastard child of two unmarried parents. Sue me for being precise. In addition, I never commented on the character of the woman's parents, only on their inability to control their carnal desires.

If there was anyone who was wronged between Geoffrey and myself, it is me. I resent the implication that I'm trashing someone when I use a legitimate term to describe them, and then to go further and attach to me things I never even said or implied ("...or that her parents were somehow evil, horrible...") And there's certainly nothing deviant, it may surprise Geoffie to know, about striving for the purity and holiness described by Paul.

I submit that there is no Biblical support for the notion that sex, even between a man and his wife, is a gift. In fact, I don't see anything that suggests sex is more than tolerated beyond its purpose of procreation. I recently sought to determine how often the word "eros" is used in the New Testament and found it isn't. This suggests to me that sex is not what is meant by "love" in the NT, and I doubt it is meant such in the OT either, though I haven't looked to know for sure.

Right about this point some may be beginning to wonder if Geoffrey is right about whether or not I have "hang-ups" about sex. I don't know why anyone should assume so in a discussion about the appropriateness of sex. Rather than weep, take my ball and go home, as poor Geoffrey has done, I remain ready to more sharply clarify my meaning if necessary. Perhaps if Geoffrey took a little more time to really understand what his opponents are saying, he'd have more traffic at his blog, and his feelings wouldn't get so hurt. He has my sympathies nonetheless, and he is still welcome to darken my towels in the future.

As to whether all lust is bad, or even if it is bad at all, I would have to say that lust is not controllable. One cannot help feeling an attraction and that attraction is almost immediately lustful to some degree. When Jesus spoke about lusting being equal to adultery, I have to believe it must mean wallowing in fantasy rather than merely being attracted. But that's just my opinion.

Les said...

"how's that Les?"


Erudite Redneck said...

Wow. I bailed on this thread too soon.

My take:

1. All of life and its functions is a gift. Therefore, the ability to pass waste IS a gift. Therefore sex is a gift.

2. In 2007, it is never, ever appropriate to use the term "bastard" in its old "accurate" sense -- it is no more appropriate than using the words "Injun," "nigger" or "cripple" all of which are historical, and "accurate" but now deemed offensive with the evolution of language and people's sensibilities. I mean, un;ess you're looking for a fight. Then, fire away.

Have a happy T-Day, dude!

Marshall Art said...


Good to hear from ya.

Your points are well taken. Now comes my "however".

1. If all functions are a gift, then sex is nothing special, or no more special than any other of God's gifts. This kinda supports my stance, that it is raised up to its current lofty place is the issue and cause of so many social ills. My take is that it is the best, but it ain't that great. This means that as good as it is for the sake of pleasure, it isn't so great that it must be satisfied merely for its alure having been aroused. Too much is at stake to play so fast and loose with it.

2. ' is never, ever appropriate to use the term "bastard" in its old "accurate" sense..." Says who? I never got this memo. "injun" and "nigger" are slang terms and don't apply. Slang is rarely appreciated in formal settings. "Bastard" is not a slang term, though it has a slang application. "Cripple" is an accurate term but at least it has an alternate---"handicapped"---though I don't know that if I were "physically challenged" I would have love for either "cripple", "handicapped" or "physically challenged" as a description of my situation. The same can be said for "bastard", but it's because of the traditional negative state of being a child born out of a sinful relationship. It's really too bad that the children would be tainted by the sins of others, but such children are the product of such activity. Anyway, there is no other word that comes to mind that is synonymous with "bastard" to describe such a child.

I believe that part of the issue is the very attitude for which I lamented in this post. Out of wedlock sex is no longer viewed as taboo by the majority of society. It's too bad, since there's nothing Biblical to support that shift in attitudes. For one who so wraps himself in Christianity as does Geoffrey, it seems a little much to hear that there are exceptions to Biblical standards. Furthermore, to instruct one's children in this manner seems rather risky since it without a doubt blurs the lines of right/wrong. The risk is in the effect such has on the children in question. Will the parent be around to guide them 24/7 now that those lines are so blurred? Of course not. So the absolute that is now made less so leaves important decisions in the hands of those least able to judge correctly, least able or willing to deny themselves, least able to resist the pressures of their age. It's all well and good that one might not condemn one's child for failing to make the right decision and to then be under the weight of the consequences of those decisions, but by smudging those lines they have condemned the kids in another way---they've condemned them to decide whether they carry life within them, they've condemned them to a life of hardship should they allow a pregnancy to come to fruition or a life of hardship due to disease that they felt wouldn't befall them.

I never have, and refuse to consider whether Geoff and his wife are "bad parents" simply for failing in this area, and they have if he so defends his teachings. But that this is a mistake on their part is not in question in my mind. We all are less than perfect as parents and hope we don't fail too badly for the sake of our children. But this particular point of view is clearly risky and a bit irresponsible simply to maintain an aura of liberal post-modern sophistication.

Erudite Redneck said...

I think it's outrageous that you think you have such a handle on what the Bible says, and means, that you can so confidently judge anyone else. Truly amazing.

And this is just ... whatever is the step above outrageous: "For one who so wraps himself in Christianity as does Geoffrey ..." WOW. I'm not even sure what that means, but the spirit behind it is demeaning, judgmental, dismissive and plain ol' run-of-the-mill holier-than-thou. "Wraps himself in Christianity"! Boy, I hope YOU wrap YOUR self in Christianity, specifically the Peace of Christ and the Grace of God -- which is all I'ver seen Geoffrey do. Come to think of it, I DON'T see much in the way of Peace OR Grace come from your blog pen. Yuck. I'm going to take a shower now. Whatever this post and your last comment got on me, it makes me filthy.

Neil said...

Hi ER,

What, no partial credit for Marshall based on his "Peace offering" post?

Marshall Art said...

"Yuck. I'm going to take a shower now. Whatever this post and your last comment got on me, it makes me filthy."

Could we be any more "over the top?" ER, you often default to this "Peace of Christ and Grace of God" setting. I'm beginning to think this is your move when no true response is available. But the "holier than thou" accusation is easily applied in both directions. I'm mean really...But as I've always maintained, I choose to judge the words and the actions of my opponents rather than to judge the person himself. This is not even anti-Biblical. What is, nowever, is the notion that standards of behavior have somehow changed. They haven't, except where mankind has decided to do so.

But the fact is, we can take our religion totally out of the conversation and still his teachings are risky for his kids. That's the here and now and that's the point of my comments. The spiritual side will forever be debated between us, I'm sure, but one cannot look at the state of affairs in our culture and pretend liberal notions of sexuality haven't resulted in a whole slew of problems. The best, and to my mind, only way to reduce or hope to eliminate these problems lies in adhering to traditional values. That this is lost on the left simply amazes me. It works no matter whether one is a self-denying monk or a far left progressive post-modern liberal. If that makes me "demeaning, judgmental, dismissive and plain ol' run-of-the-mill holier-than-thou", I'll wear the badge proudly. The liberal view of sexuality has been a bane of our culture and the cause of so much suffering. At least the over-the-top prudishness of yesterday, for all it's extremism, saw far less suffering.

Marshall Art said...


One more thing. You are obviously cutting Geoff yards and yards of slack to say that all you see from him is Peace of Christ and Grace of God. YOU can be snarky. HE'S often downright rude. I can take either. That's why he's still welcome here. But I won't sugarcoat it when it happens, and I won't fold before it. Perhaps that's why you question the spirit behind my words. You have to account for the relative nature of such things.