Joshua Graves
Exploring the Collision of Culture & Faith
December 13, 2013

D     I    V     I     N     I     T     Y          A     N     D          D     U     S     T

I recently completed a 4 month teaching series in which I taught, explored, examined (insert adjective) the role of the Jesus Story in helping us think, imagine, and live as it relates to our bodies, desire, sexuality, celibacy, divorce, the call to singleness, culture wars, gay and straight, marriage wars, identity. I titled the series DIVINITY AND DUST  from C.S. Lewis’ line that we are all part animal, part angel. We are all imprints of God, but prone to darkness and evil (you can listen to the series by CLICKING HERE). NOTE: the final 3 weeks of November deal with the culture wars as it relates to same-sex and opposite sex attraction.

One of the reasons I’ve hardly been blogging-the time it took me to write this series and the ensuing conversations with Otter Creek and Nashville friends was formidable and time-consuming. Okay. Even exhausting. But. Worth. Every. Minute. Every. Cup. Of. Coffee.

Some observations for you to consider.

Please note: We = the church, people striving to follow Jesus. I realize not all of the readers here “fit” that description. Much love and respect. 

1. We don’t know what Christian faith has to do with our bodies. We tend to think of ourselves (as Gnostics, but that’s for another day) as spirits living in bodies. We have 2 or 10 texts from the New Testament we use to support this (heretical, btw) view. We fundamentally don’t understand the mind-blowing, heart-warming, soul-shaking way the NT imagines the relationship of the body and the soul. And because of this (1b, I suppose) we compartmentalized and increase shame. secrets in the hearts of others.

2. We are afraid of desires. Especially desires that have to do with our bodies. Ultimately, all of our desires are misguided passions meant for God. Whether or not we make this connection is somewhat irrelevant. The truth is that all of our passions (ALL of them: sports, addictions, all of them) are ultimately about our yearning and search for God. God permeates all things, is in all things, holds all things together. How could this not be true.

3. We are hardwired to show grace to ourselves, harsh judgment to others. I think it was Donald Miller who said that we judge others based on what they do but we judge ourselves based on what we intended to do. It’s weak sauce. It’s an ancient strategy we know Jesus detested (see: Jesus and the Pharisees).

4. We are not talking about this. I am stunned how few leaders are openly teaching, writing, discussing this on a local church level. I don’t know what is all behind this (fear, ignorance, fear, confusion, more fear) but how can churches stay silent on one of the most pressing issues facing modern America? This isn’t a conservative or liberal thing, this is a human thing.

5. We are not talking about this in a robust, nuanced, affirming way. When we do talk about all of this we do so with naivete, shallow sentimentality, bullet point pop therapy, and insulated understandings of how deep this stuff runs in all of us.

6. Evangelicals struggle to talk about issues of the body and sexuality without bringing heaven and hell into every conversation. Of course, and it has been well documented, we don’t do this when it comes to gossip, greed, materialism, hate, war, etc. We tend to bring heaven and hell into this discussion as a distraction from dealing with our own insecurities, ambiguities, and anxieties.

7. We are unwilling to deal with the profound sense of loneliness that haunts many rich, white, American Christians (I am one, I know). That’s all. Loneliness is there. Even though we have iPhones, iPads, SUV’s, big houses, loneliness laughs at us for thinking that we can close a gaping wound with duct tape.  Pastors are nothing more than doctors of the church. We know that loneliness is epidemic in our circles. It’s the secret no one wants to whisper. It’s one of the many manifestations of death in our midst. More on that later.

8. (Late Addition)– You can’t predict how people will hear your words or heart. Some people will surprise you with their hurt, pain, wounds, and demons. You will get a hearing from people you never expected and you will be shut out and shut out by others for reasons that are way beyond reason. Family systems, secrets, past trauma are all lurking and when you dare speak a word into these complex realities you never know exactly how the forces are at work. But, you dare speak and speak with grace. Only pray that they will continue the conversation with you or other trusted spiritual friends.

This is where I began. God created the world out of a profound sense of love and affinity. So, having made the previous 7 observations I believe that there’s reason for great hope. I think if we just open up the conversation in a life-giving, God-honoring, Jesus-faithful ways . . . people will continue to come out of the caves, singing songs of thirst and hunger. And hopefully, we in leadership will recognize our own hunger, thirst, and poverty . . . pointing people ahead to the life of Jesus. Water that never runs out. Bread that keeps our bellies full.

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Do you have recommended readings from your research?

by Wes C (Dec 19 2013, 10:58 am)

Torn by Justin Lee
Loves God, Likes Girls Sally Gary
Anything by NT Wright on the subject (google for videos, articles, etc)
Real Sex by Lauren Winner
JPS Series Genesis
SexGod Rob Bell

by joshuagraves (Dec 19 2013, 11:13 am)
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