Friday, July 11, 2014

A Better Conversation about Homosexuality (Part 9): Not About Sex

This may come as a shock, but our conversation about homosexuality is not actually about sex. 
     I know sex is part of homosexuality.  It's right there in the middle of the word and in the middle of our thoughts.  But it doesn't belong in the middle of our conversation.

Photo Credit: Nick Sherman

    Our global culture tends to make desire our highest good - specifically fulfilling our desires.  17th century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza would be right at home in postmodernism: "Desire is the very essence of man."
     David Fitch (a leading missional theologian) recently argued that world has a universal underlying paradigm that "desire is innate, not shaped, cannot be changed, and is who I am."  He continues: "This ... is so much part of the water we swim in, it is rarely if ever challenged. It plays deep into the psyches of the sexually charged cultures of the young. It drives the sexual controversies in society at large and in the church."  He proceeds to challenge and to break apart that paradigm.  I'd like to echo and reframe his arguments here. 

First of all, despite our cultural expectations, desire ≠ right.  
 We believe desire = right (as in good).
    Elvis started it out: "It feels so right, so right.  How can it be wrong?  ...  I know that nothing can't be wrong that feels so right."  But recent singers have carried forward this philosophy: Ne-Yo ("How can something that feels so right be so wrong?") and Carly Rae Jepsen ("Wrong feels so right").
     We have a basic cultural belief that whatever we desire is right.  If we want it bad enough, it must be inherently good - or at least good for us.  Even if it's normally bad for others, it must be good for us.
    However, we know that desire is a fickle thing and not a faithful barometer for ethics.  My desire for five bratwursts in two days during was not a good thing.  One of the essential elements of criminal prosecution is proving that the accused had sufficient motive (desire) for the crime.  We know that desire can easily lead us astray.

We also believe that desire = right (as in having a right to something).  
If I really desire it, then I have a right to it.   The US Declaration of Independence has enshrined our right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in our national documents, but the entire world has this motto etched on our minds.  Do not stand in the way between humans and our desires.  That is a good way to get yourself killed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Renovating Holiness: Helena the Hedgehog and Holiness (Janel Apps Ramsey)

This essay is part of the Renovating Holiness Project.  Janel Apps Ramsey is a staff member at Bloom Church Denver.  She graduated from NTS with an MA in Theological Studies.  She loves exploring topics of women and church, wholeness and healing, and techno music.  She lives with her husband Baird, cats Yao and Ty, and Helena the Hedgehog.  She loves waking up and seeing mountains every single day.

Photo Credit:

    The community where I serve expresses its vision as “cultivating gardens of resurrection.”  To explore this idea more fully, I’d like you to meet Helena the Hedgehog. A hedgehog is a softball sized insectivore with short sharp spines on her back and sides.  They have a soft furry underbelly and an expressive face with a cute button nose that wiggles from side to side.  Hedgehogs, in their native habitat, live in gardens and hedgerows in several parts of the world.
    Helena lives in a cage in the corner of my living room.  In a perfect world, I could train Helena to live in my garden during the summer and then bring her inside to protect her during the winter and spring.  (They hibernate and often die in the cold.)  But unfortunately, when she does what she was created to do, she isn't really thinking about the fact that I want her to stay only in my patch of garden.  Helena was created to tend the garden at large to help make all things new.
    Stewardship is in her DNA.  Eating bugs, stirring up the soil, and protecting the garden are all things she does naturally.  She is a kingdom creature, cultivating what is given to her.  However, when my cats want to play with her, or when she sees an arm come over her like the shadow of a bird, she takes a defensive posture.  She immediately curls up into a ball and puffs out her quills.  In this defensive posture, safety means keeping everything else out.
    For Helena, vulnerability comes when she is doing what she was made to do.  Moving around in the garden means that her belly is exposed and her defenses are down.  A few weeks ago, I let her out to roam the yard.  She was SO excited.  She walked the entire fence line, rambled through the raspberry bush, and foraged through the grass.  In her excitement, she got a little cut on one of her legs,which she barely even noticed.  I had to keep an eye on it the next few days and make sure she was okay.
    If I just put her in a cage with food, water, clean bedding, and a wheel to run on, she would be well taken care of.  But if I never picked her up and played with her, or let her run around outside, she would get bored, which would lead to several negative behaviors.  When bored with the world, hedgehogs will self-harm.  To release their energy and frustration, they will gnaw on their feet, sometimes until they can’t walk.  Second, if they get suspicious and paranoid, they will stop allowing you to tend to their needs.  From rolling into an indistinguishable ball of prickles to head-butting you when you are trying to care for them, they can become extremely difficult to interact with.  Even though I am trying to help her, to trim her nails so she can move around better, she butts me out.