Libido, Church, Equality, Relations, "RELATIONS" and Friendship!

A post at www.OfftheMap.com reads:

More on Male Female non Romantic Friendships      
This Slate Magazine article explores the history of male/female friendships. By way of being provocative  I wonder why these more interesting views/insights and frankly honesty usually have to emerge from outside the realm of what is normally called Christian thought.  Given that the founder of our movement provided more than enough evidence to his ideological enemies to indict him of being a radical feminist why are his (so-called ) followers today so timid on the topic?

I think it’s INCREDIBLE that my secular day-job has a higher view of human capacity to cultivate and maintain dynamic, growing, intimate, ongoing relationships between members of the opposite sex than the church does.

Our Evangelical world is so terrified of the “appearance” of sin or of providing a “dangerous” scenario that leads to temptation, that it undermines Christ and makes us all a bunch of scared little adolescents  apparently all on the brink of orgy! And sadly, BECAUSE that’s how we treat ourselves and each other, that may be what’s more likely to occur when normal, real-world intimacy enters the unnatural cloister of Evangelical subculture: dontthinkaboutsexdontthinkaboutsexdontthinkaboutsexdontthinkaboutsexdont…  uh oh! 

How do you NOT obsess over the thing that’s beat over your head day in and day out? How do you NOT covet “the forbidden fruit” when the FRUIT is all anyone can talk about?! (that is, without ACTUALLY ever really talking about it… if that makes sense).

If Christians really take equality seriously, we have to do a better job of cultivating horizontal relationships between men and women who are not romantically involved. And then we have to leave them the hell alone  not eye them like hawks, waiting for signs it isn’t working.

It’s atrocious that attractive women in particular have no place in equalized relationships.  A commenter on the Off The Map blog joked that his wife allows him to have friendships with women - as long as they're "fat or ugly."  Really nice.  A good friend of mine (an attractive female) had a pastor tell her, somewhat apologetically: “the men here aren’t going to be your friend because you’re too attractive and they’ll be worried about stumbling.” 
That is not a compliment, it’s oppressive and it's shaming.
For the church to actually change its direction and make a difference in equalized male-female relationships, it’s going to have to accept collateral damage in the beginning. It’s an unfortunate inevitability, given the normative dysfunction of Evangelicial culture: relationships that are perfectly appropriate and acceptable in the secular/business world ARE going to cause SOME men and women to "slip up" and experience some sort of moral failure... we just can’t handle the eroticism of eye contact with someone we’re not married to (like seeing an ankle in Iran).
I would propose that this potential (likely) moral failure is worth the end result. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus exhorts, "Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."  We've rejected the shrewdness of snakes and made ourselves a bunch of scared little birds. We don’t become strong or wise or FREE in obsessive, sterilized environments. And we certainly can’t witness, experience or PERPETUATE the redemptive, healing, equalizing power of Christ if we’re hiding from ourselves and from each other.
Sometimes you have to amputate a gangrenous limb to save a life. Our gender dynamics in the Evangelical church are gangrene, and it’s killing us. It’ll hurt to cut it out, and some relationships will get infected, but if we’re brave enough, we just might survive.

3 comments:

Existential Punk said...

YOU hit the nail on the head, Pete! GREAT commentary!

Lutestring said...

So powerful, Peter. I loved this.

As an average girl with a church/youth group upbringing, I saw only too clearly what you describe here: "Our Evangelical world is so terrified of the “appearance” of sin or of providing a “dangerous” scenario that leads to temptation, that it undermines Christ and makes us all a bunch of scared little adolescents – apparently all on the brink of orgy!"

If people insist on seeing themselves as small and weak, than that is exactly what they will become. Not that there aren't wise cautions or boundaries for male-female friendships, but far too often I just see the fear you describe.

And what about temptation between same gender friends when at least one friend is gay or bi? Not that being gay or bi is any less right than being straight, but the potential for an affair is there just as much as between a straight man and straight woman. Yet I *never* see that discussed in the same category. Somehow, the male-female dynamic seems to be all that is seen in the Christian world (much of which exoticizes being gay or bi as a deliberate choice into some strange dramatic sinful lifestyle).

Religious pathology regarding sex, ironically, becomes an obsession with sex and all related issues, including gender differences, ect. And all the obsession is expressed negatively, by means of "don'ts" or worries about possible transgressions.

And perspective on all related issues becomes warped - discussions on gender differences become ways to limit, bind, and categorize each other, rather than celebrations of variated gifts in one body.

Why do I hear nothing but the voice of fear in so much religious plainspeak around me?

*rant over*

thanks for calling people to something more.

Peter J Walker said...

Lute!
"Religious pathology regarding sex, ironically, becomes an obsession with sex and all related issues..."

YES! We are LITERALLY obsessed with the thing we decry. In many ways, Evangelical culture IS on the brink or orgy, with only its socially constructed boundaries to keep people in check. That's different from how society at large sets boundaries: individuals have to make their own choices.

When the church is making a choice for you, and keeping you from scenarios and situations where you might have to practice reinforcing that choice yourself, personally, that personal power is never "exercized."

So Evangelicals go hog-wild over "temptations" that are only minor distractions to culture-at-large. That's hardly "moral strength" or fortitude. It's innocence merely by avoidance.

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