Scattered, Smothered, and Covered

The title here could mean two things: one, being lost and drowning, or maybe you’re just hungry and found yourself at a Waffle House. The past few weeks have been rough mentally for me. I feel like physically I could have spent the time doing manual labor and still feel fine. There is just something about mental and emotional exhaustion that begins to suck the life out of… well, life. Actually, maybe there’s one more meaning to the title today…

I was struck this morning by a book I’m reading: The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. I try not to judge books by the cover, but the cover drew me in. The title is superimposed on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich laying open on a green background. I think I brought up the idea a few years ago of this very sandwich being, in a way, a form of the Lord’s Supper (bread and fruit of the vine – grapes.) I was intrigued as to whether or not someone else had come to that same conclusion.  I haven’t gotten to that chapter yet, but a different idea hit home.

When Jesus was baptized, before he had done anything of note or miraculous, God called out from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Before Jesus did anything, God proclaimed love for him. God loved Jesus for who he is. Can you see where I’m going yet?

We love people based on who they are, not what they do. I was thinking this morning about what drew me to my wife. I came up with her spirit is what drew me in. It’s a hard thing to describe precisely who someone is. Her likes, dislikes, personality, whims, goals, and every other trait make up who she is. And that her-ness drew from me love, respect, joy, and commitment. I love her for who she is before anything she does.

God is the same way. He loves us from the word “Go.” I imagine this is much like being a parent. It’s now less than a month (give or take) before I get to meet my daughter. I already love her. I love her for existing, even if I have only seen glimpses of her and her personality. Suddenly, Little Bit has the love of so many people and she’s only just begun existing at all. Our own baptism, ,regardless of when it happened, is a moment when God’s grace is spoken over us before we have really done anything.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy being liked. I relish the feeling that people see that I’m doing a good job. But what’s more important is that I have people that like and love me regardless of the job I do. I don’t have to work myself to death to bring them happiness or joy. I just have to be me. It may be one of the most comforting thoughts to think about God’s grace and how His love doesn’t depend on my actions. Even reading Hosea’s pronouncement of coming punishment to Israel, there is a sense of hurt, of love, of a longing for God’s people to simply come back to Him.

So, I guess even when I’m scattered, I’m still smothered and covered in God’s love and grace. Sure, it may be cheesy, but sometimes love is too. And I think love tastes a little like Velveeta, but your mom may have used something different in your grilled cheeses growing up.

How do your children know you love them for who they are? What moments to you use to reinforce that idea? How do you tie in your love as being similar to God’s?

Torches At Night, In The South

This past Friday and Saturday, America had a distressing moment of deja vu. Torches were lit by white men dissatisfied by the results of the Civil War. For anyone who knows their history… there is no doubt what message was being sent. As if the past one hundred fifty years decided all at once to remind us of all of their darkness and pain, many of us watched in horror as Swastikas flew beside Confederate flags in protest of a statue being moved… not destroyed… moved.

YrUNo

I have heard more than once from commentators and conversations the question, “What year is it?” Some WWII veterans that we have left and children of WWII veterans are wondering, like Captain America in Winter Soldier, whether the war they fought and the sacrifices they made had any lasting impact. Those that lived through the tumultuous 60s are wondering if their marching and activity left any lasting impact and whether or not they’ll need to head out again in defense of those without power.

I… Honestly I am just heartbroken and dismayed to the point of near-despair over this one. I look at the faces in the pictures and I see young men my age or even younger. I see young men who have had their college paid for by loving families with enough means. I see young men who have had nice clothes purchased for them by others. I see young men who, in many respects, have had everything handed to them, whether they realize it or not… And in these ways, I see myself… I realize that I have not had to work as hard as others to get to where I am today. I am grateful. Truly.

But what also breaks my heart is the phrase, “both sides.” In this instance… there aren’t two sides. At some point this may have been about free speech, but part of free speech is also facing the dialogue and realizing the wrongness of toxic ideas that will only poison society. White nationlism/supremacy is and has been a dangerous idea. At the same time it claims a position of power and powerlessness. It willfully ignores the privileges it has while denouncing the ability of the other to reach for those same privileges.

Is this about Confederate history? Not anymore. When actual Nazi flags are being flown in front of General Lee, General Lee no longer stands for honor, states’ rights, and a bygone era. He now stands for a philosophy so ugly and damaging that the world went to war with it. A symbol’s meaning is not static. Symbols are dynamic, meaning that they change and shift over time depending on the culture surrounding them. Just as the swastika was originally an Asian symbol of peace, enlightenment, and the sun, many cultures in the West today see it as a symbol of genocide, hatred, and domination.

Part of what I saw at this rally was a collection of embittered young men who have lost all direction to their lives. They were sold a bill of goods that society couldn’t follow through on. They were told that they could get a degree, start a career, purchase a house, and stay in their career until they retired at 55… no, wait, 65… no, wait, 75. But today’s world isn’t working that way. Most people in my generation will change careers at least once, maybe two or three times. The economy is shifting due to technological advances that have very little to do with immigration. Suddenly, the bill of goods falls through an hundreds of disaffected, drifting men descend on a town in Virginia to feel like they are part of something bigger. (

I’m not making excuses for this behavior, though. Turning to racism to justify one’s own insecurities is inexcusable. Turning to violence to squelch dissent is also inexcusable. Despite cries of “this isn’t racism,” I have to disagree and say that, yes, it is in fact about racism.

I’ve also heard the phrase “this isn’t America.” I’m sorry to burst that bubble, but this is America. This is the dark America that has been festering underneath the surface since our inception. I will agree that this isn’t our ideal of America. No, America ideally is a place of equality in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Instead, we are a people, sorely divided, broken, sinful, and selfishly clinging to our own view of the world in order to feel at ease with the world around us.

This also goes back to my post about gender. Consider that most men are taught to feel only one emotion: anger. Any other emotions besides victorious joy and shame are implied to be “incompatible” with manhood. So when faced with the sadness, frustration, and confusion of a rapidly changing world that promises nothing, these men fall back on their one emotion, anger, and channel it into a cause.

It’s taken me a while to formulate this post, and even now I still feel like it’s a jumbled mess of thoughts tossed out in frustration

Your children will probably hear about all of this one way or another. Have you thought about how you will talk about it? We can all agree, I hope, that we should name and shame white supremacy, white nationalism, Nazism, and racism in general. After that conversation, maybe put to rest their fear and comfort them that they are safe. Maybe discuss your views on how protesting works. Discuss your views on how to love your neighbor and what that looks like. Maybe plan a service project where you go out and help others.

And for future conversations down the road: Have you figured out your own viewpoint on the Civil War and its main players? How will you discuss racism with your children? How are you preparing them for entering the adult world, and what promises are you repeating?

These are not easy conversations, because often times it requires us to remove the plank in our own eye before addressing another issue. It requires us to do some self-reflection and really sort out how we view others and what we expect out of life. It also requires us to run to God, to pray, and then pray some more.

 

Everything is Terrible and My Life Is A Mess!

I’ve been dealing with stress on a large scale lately. Nothing life-threatening, but there are days I stare at my computer screen or to-do list and wonder who’s going to do all of this. The frustrating thought that occurs after these staring sessions is that, yes, I have to get them done.

I’ve gotten some encouragement lately, though, from some unlikely sources. See, Abraham was homeless. Moses changed careers 2 times. Ruth had to date again after her first marriage. Job lost everything. Jesus only lived until age 33, well, the first time, anyway.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking, “That’s not encouraging. Those are all terrible things to have to deal with!” You’d be right. They are pretty terrible. Then again, consider the hope that acknowledging God brings. All of those people found themselves smack dab in the middle of God’s grace and mercy. Each found God’s faithfulness in the midst of their darkest moments.

No matter what we face, God’s faithfulness doesn’t run out. Even the Israelites, who were told flat out that they would run after idols and selfishness and turn their backs on God were promised that after their hearts broke, they could turn back to God and He would restore them into something even greater than before – a people who would have God’s law written on their hearts.

So when you’ve done the millionth load of laundry, or when you’re facing down an Everest-sized to-do list, or you’ve come face to face with one more person demanding your attention and patience, remember that God’s faithfulness doesn’t run out. Remember that stress will pass – if we hand it over to God. Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you. Don’t be anxious about anything, pray about everything. The King is on His throne, and is ready to grant peace.

Take a moment today to pray over the small things. Pray with your family. Ask for peace. Ask for grace and patience. Model to your kids what it looks like to seek after God, even when you don’t feel like you have time.

Gender: Another Straight, White, Male Perspective

If you haven’t noticed yet, these posts usually end up dealing with something that comes up in my daily conversations. When I begin hearing about issues from friends and relatives and not just online sources and media, I realize that maybe throwing my hat in the ring could help someone navigate an issue, or at least help someone think through something. And today I am going to lay down on the metaphorical hand grenade that is gender.

I have a little girl on the way. I cannot tell you how excited I am to raise a little girl. I already know she will be the light of my life and that even though we haven’t touched directly, she’s already wrapping my heart around her finger. I have gotten the question posed to me several times, “Aren’t you worried about raising a little girl?” Honestly, no. I have seen so many amazing women role models in my life that are in my family or go to my church that raising a girl seems like a natural thing.

Recently I have come across a slightly worrying trend in parenting that involves letting a child pick their own gender. For one, the effort involved in raising a gender-neutral child seems enormous to me, if for no other reason that making a decision of language that might feel unnatural to most. From an educational perspective, I question whether it is helpful to allow a child to grow without that helpful structure. Consider that the human brain isn’t fully formed until a persons 20s, and the idea of letting children decide something as monumental as gender seems less than ideal. Even if we all end up some day with the position that gender is a societal construct, gender, and other societal constructs, do help to create order and smooth interactions between persons and groups. Dismissing something because it is a construct is akin to dismissing city planning or architectural plans as inconsequential. Sure, we can build a city without those things, but it won’t be nearly as organized or substantial.

I think one of the biggest issues facing society today in gender issues is the falling out over what masculinity is. (Yes, of course the straight, white male would say masculinity’s the problem.) Basically, masculinity fashioned itself as the anti-femininity for so long that once women began to step out and fill those roles, men found themselves trying to develop a philosophy on a negative. Instead of hearkening back to the positives of ancient masculinity – courage, curiosity, grit, loyalty, etc – society fell back to the negatives of primal man – aggression, anger, greed, hunger for power, hard-headedness – and in return we got the rise of machismo culture and what some call “toxic masculinity.” Considering that the male role models in my own life have none of these traits, it does beg the question, how do we then define masculinity?

For me, it comes down to the argument between traits and roles. I will argue for one and against the other. Roles are expectations set on a person either by themselves or society. Both genders have these roles, and when a man or woman is incapable of filling that role, he or she finds a gap, a hole, a chasm filled with disappointment and disillusionment. Suddenly, a stay-at-home dad who works his tail off taking care of a home and kids, hardly getting time to himself gets unfairly labeled as a failure and lazy because he isn’t out making money. Or maybe a woman who isn’t a mother and wishes to focus on her career is unfairly characterized as cold, calculating, uncaring because of her desire to put off or forego motherhood. These, and many other roles, often come with unfair expectations, and I am completely ok with some of these roles getting the “gender neutral” treatment so that it won’t matter which gender fills them, as long as the family continues to function.

Traits, on the other hand, I will argue for all day. There are, in my view, masculine and feminine traits. And, in agreement with Eastern thought, I see each person as having some traits from both columns. Personally, I understand how I come off to others even in my own field. I am a Children’s Minister who dresses well, enjoys cooking and writing, is not exceedingly athletic, and who is compassionate, thoughtful, and polite. I have been asked by fellow children’s ministers, after some strange looks, whether or not I was using children’s ministry as a pathway to being a lead pastor. I would often smile, say, “No, I really enjoy building the next generation,” and watch their minds try to wrap around that thought. I can be a man, with all the virtues of manhood, and yet still have feminine traits that allow me to care for my family and my kids at church. Consider that God, who is most clearly shown in Jesus, exhibited both masculine and feminine traits. He was remarkably firm, showed tough love, and suffered through immense pain with a perseverance and toughness that many of the strongest men might shrink from confronting. He was also kind, compassionate, and unwilling to harm those who were vulnerable. He sat children on his knee, he allowed women to care for his needs like shelter and food, and taught indiscriminately using words that still speak to us today. Instead of throwing out gender entirely, let’s instead do the hard work of developing a concept of manhood and womanhood based on traits rather than roles, allowing men and women to inhabit their God-given character traits without judgment.

From here on out, I will be assuming a Christian perspective, that I hope is at least fair and well-considered. How often do we hear people and not listen? I am beginning to realize that as often as I hear people, I am not really listening. Sure, I can probably tell you exactly what you said, and how it applies to the conversation. I might even understand some of the inside jokes or allusions you put in your sentences. Yet, when I hear a complaint or a criticism, I may not listen for the underlying issue. I am beginning to listen for the underlying questions and concerns involved in this gender discussion. The questions underlying everything else is, “Who am I?” It’s one of the most basic human questions along with: “Why am I here?” and “How, then, shall I live?” The question is one of identity. As our Western way of thinking has become more and more individualistic, we have begun to lose the sense that society is a good. Instead, the instinct is to go against society, to hole up within ourselves and find a small segment of society that allows us to feel comfortable and safe. This further fragmenting of society creates smaller and smaller cells which see one another as, at best, loose associates or, at worst, enemies. Our political discussion nowadays seems a great example of how neither side can have a discussion because both sides feel threatened by the other. Relative truth creates a scenario where discussion breaks down because neither side can even agree on facts. The individual is supreme, and society is an evil to be avoided for all of its rules and expectations. So what happens when, instead of interacting with society, we demonize it? We create generations of individuals who value themselves over family, over groups, over society – and without those support structures, identity is… difficult to construct. Another idea that I ran into from Eastern media is that an individual has no sense of self unless confronted with an “other.” In other words, we define ourselves against someone or something else. Our identity builds itself off of accepting or rejecting what we see in the world around us, and society, at its best, is the historical accumulation of “best practices” in identity and group construction.

So at the end of the day the problem will not be solved with any magic bullet solution, but rather hard work, compassion, curiosity, love, and patience. We must learn to live with a more complex manhood and womanhood that has a place for traits, but that still celebrates the differences between the genders. The godly life is lived in tension. We live in a tension between male and female, between the individual and society. When we attempt to erase complexity, a dangerous simplicity arises. That tension comes from accepting who we are, who God made us to be, and then collaborating with those that are different from us. The greatest picture of God we have is when men and women are working together. God created each of us to inhabit a piece of the picture of God, and we can only share the full picture in a collection of others who have different traits, ideas, and talents.

I know I don’t often land on solutions, because I think simple solutions to complex problems often turn out to be disingenuous and lack long-term effectiveness. If we are going to continue to live and work as the church, we must begin the process of giving up ourselves and submitting to our King, Jesus. We must die to self, set aside our own desires and pride and find our identity first in Christ.

How have you handled gender in your own home? How do conversations about how God made each of us tend to go in your house? What can you do today to better show God’s love through the traits, talents, and relationships you have?

Your Media Bubble Is Unscriptural

Who knew that bubbles would be all the rage in public conversation after second grade? I hadn’t really considered bubbles much since learning that most weddings use them instead of rice or birdseed in order to be more environmentally friendly. Of course, though, I’m not talking about the fun, pop-able joy orbs that can make a bad day seem more joyful.

A media bubble is the echo chamber that we create around ourselves to solidify our worldview and make sure that we have the sanity we need to face the day. Before the internet and the million-or-so channels on television, there were only a few ways to get your news and its interpretation: 3 local/national TV stations, 1-2 local newspapers, a national paper (if you bothered), and word of mouth. Most everyone seemed to be working from a similar framework. Now, though, conservatives can go to their corner, liberals can go to theirs, independents can find their place, and so can just about any other label. Today, then, no one is working from a common framework or even a similar worldview. Plurality has divided us to the point of hilarity.

Starting in college, I challenged myself to listen to viewpoints that differed from my own. Why? Because I realized I was missing crucial perspectives and ideas that might help me to better engage with the world and the people around me. Did I agree with all of those new ideas, of course not, and many new ideas I have to run through some serious critical thinking before deciding what to do with them. Here’s my hot-take on the bubble problem: our media bubbles are unscriptural and damaging.

“The time is coming, you see, when people won’t tolerate healthy teaching. Their ears will itch, and they will turn away from listening to the truth and will go after myths instead. But as for you, keep your balance in everything. Put up with suffering; […]; complete the particular task assigned to you.” 2 Timothy 3-5

This verse comes after an exhortation to hold fast to Scripture and the teaching of Jesus and to continue announcing the good news of Jesus’ Kingship at all times. I see our media bubbles, especially as Christians, to be damaging. It would be similar to a doctor deciding to operate on a patient without listening to the patient describe his symptoms. At that point, the doctor would be guessing and might perform the wrong operation on her patient. If we, as followers of Jesus, aren’t listening to those around us, how can we know what needs they actually need met? (As an aside, can I say that adding qualifier to the term “Christian” is about as dangerous as lighting a stick of dynamite and then putting it in one’s pocket?”) Christians who are liberal and those who are conservative need to branch out and listen to the other side. If we do not, we will have no idea how to partner with, show compassion toward, and love those who also claim to follow King Jesus. On top of that, we are disregarding Jesus’ prayer in John when he prayed for unity for His followers, in addition to scratching our own itching ears with the stories we want to hear.

It should go without saying that I am against blind acceptance of anything. Scripture never suggests that we blindly follow anyone. GK Chesterton points out that artistic descriptions of Hebrew prophets and Christian saints almost always show them with eyes wide open – alert and in awe of what they have seen and must say. We should live the same way, with eyes wide, alert, and ready to unleash compassion, justice, and love on the world around us.

What does your media bubble look like? Do you have any voices in your life that challenge you to think? Do you encourage your family by challenging them? To you accept challenges to your thinking when they come, or do you actively avoid them?

Get Out of the Lifeboat and Storm the Gates!

I have odd collections of associated images when it comes to the phrase “storm the gates.” For starters, old black-and-white images of soldiers leaping off of ships onto the beaches of Normandy come to mind, their terror and determination coming through in a way only those cameras can capture. Many of those pictures were taken by one war photographer, Robert Capa, that ran onto the battlefield at Normandy armed with nothing but his trusty camera. So, he was shooting his own side, but ironically in a frantic bid to preserve those brave soldiers as they stared down machine gun nests and the rising tide of the Nazi forces waiting beyond that point.

Next, I see grizzled Aragorn and the remaining Fellowship of the Ring riding with all of their might toward the gates of Mordor, their battle cries ringing clear and sonorous off of the Black Gates. Each soldier fully expected to die a painful death, or spend an eternity as a prisoner of Sauron. And yet, they miraculously survive due to the efforts of a few small hobbits exploring a volcano deep within enemy territory.

I bring the idea of storming the gates to your attention, because I think Christians have had a wrong mindset for years when it comes to evangelism and the world in general. The way many Christians talk about dealing with the world and the unchurched is by speaking in terms of a lifeboat. “Come with me if you want to live!” We say in our best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice before handing over a tract on salvation and inviting our friend, or a complete stranger, to church. There is a fear that this whole planet could spontaneously combust at any moment, leaving those outside of the “Jesus Lifeboat” stranded swimming in a river of fire and death.

Now, regardless of your views on the afterlife, this sounds like a retreat mentality, not the mindset God desires of his people. This isn’t Dunkirk, everyone, this is Normandy. We don’t have a lifeboat, except to ferry us to the battlefield!

When Peter made his confession in Caesarea Philippi, Peter stated clearly that, “You (Jesus) are the Messiah[…] You’re the son of the living God!” (KNT) Peter made a bold claim that day, and bolder than you may think. See, “son of god” was a term used by Romans for the emperor. So in a way, Peter is proclaiming that Jesus has more claim to rule the world than Caesar, in a place named after Caesar! And before that, Peter claims that Jesus is the Messiah, not just any anointed king, but the hoped-for ultimate King sent by God, who was God, who represented His people and would free them from sin and exile! Again, Peter in other company would have drawn some sharp gasps from Romans and Jews alike. And Jesus responded with: “and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell won’t overpower it.”

So the gates of hell. Gates, if you know, are part of the defensive structures of a city or fortress designed to let in allies and keep out enemies. Let me say again, gates are defensive structures, not offensive ones. I’m saying it twice because the idea struck me harder than a sack of old hammers. On the cross, Jesus already destroyed the power of sin and death, he rescued his people from oppression and exile. So the great commission is not so much a cruise ship’s warning alarm to fill the life boats – it’s the trumpet call sounded “CHARGE!” We’re not pulling people into life boats and giving up territory for destruction, our marching orders are to bravely move forward taking enemy territory in the name of Jesus Christ. And we take territory through acts of compassion, mercy, justice, charity, kindness, honesty, truth, and perseverance.

Consider what God called the Israelites to do after freeing them from slavery: to march ahead and capture land. So if God has freed us from slavery to sin, our next move is to do the same.

We can’t afford to retreat. As the church retreats from compassion and charity, what casualties are left behind? Who picks up the slack that the church leaves behind?

Be strong and courageous. Do not lose hope, do not be discouraged. The Lord your God is with you, wherever you may go. Joshua 1:9

What can you do to begin playing offense with your compassion and love? What gates do you need to storm in Jesus’ name with justice and generosity? What steps can your family take to begin impacting the community around you?

Photo Credit: “Face in the Surf” by Robert Capa

Marriage and Sex: Why Monogamy?

Call me crazy, because I am for trying to tackle this issue. Why, oh why would I decide to toss my dog into this fight? Well… I’m married, I have a kid on the way, and I currently work with children. I’ve been percolating on this topic for a while and I’ve some thoughts I’d like to jot down.

So here’s a question: have you ever driven someone else’s car? Do you remember how that felt? Every time I drive a different vehicle, I have to spend time adjusting mirrors, driver’s seat, steering wheel, A/C levels, and radio settings before even looking for the gear shift. Then, I have to fight with the steering’s looseness or tightness, how soft the brakes are, and how quickly the car accelerates… or not. I spend the entire drive trying to figure out the car… and heaven forbid it rain or I have to find the headlight switch.

I could very easily make a common sense argument for monogamy based on my car experience. I like my car. It’s comfy. I have the seat right where I want it. I can find every button without looking. I rarely have to adjust anything, and can turn on the ignition and go. I have an idea when something’s wrong and I need to have some maintenance work done. Because I drive the same car every day, the car and I can act like one body. Not to say my wife is in any way like a car. I have a hard time imagining trying to learn to live alongside a different human partner in the same house after six years of marriage. I know where Kristie sits, how towels should be folded, how she likes her steak. I know her habits and I have learned to appreciate everything she is. Personally, I can’t imagine spending another 6 years learning someone completely different. Part of the joy of monogamy is getting to know just how unique and multifaceted my wife is and enjoying the process as we both change and grow together over time.

So, to start into a theological discussion on relationships and monogamy, let’s go back to the beginning. I mean, of course that’s where we start, but I also mean Genesis. So looking at Chapter 2, we get a picture that one of God’s creations was lonely. He had a demanding, but fulfilling job – caring for an amazing piece of property and cultivating the land and animals – but something was missing. The man looked around at all of the animals and realized there wasn’t really anyone up to speed to be his partner, if you will. Sure, animals are great friends and we make stories and movies about that human-animal friendship all the time; however, it doesn’t satisfy the need humans have for community for relationships with other humans.

(Theological side note: we are created in God’s image. As Christians, we have a belief that God is a community in Himself – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – but also a unified God. So to be alone is to deny and to miss out on an essential necessity in the way God created us.)

So what does God do? Well, he creates a woman. He creates a human who is alike enough to be a companion, but different enough to add something new to the man’s understanding.

(Second side note: We usually see an artist’s last work(s) as the culmination of their efforts, a magnum opus, if you will. As such, woman is the crowning jewel in the creation of this universe.)

And yet, in all of this, there is something almost unnatural about selecting one partner “until death do us part.” Many of those who study the mating habits of animals and humans will often reference the fact that humans are one of the few species that continually mates with one partner for an entire lifespan… in theory, at least. Many of the sex-positive tribe (those that believe sex should be discussed and enjoyed in its many facets, without judgment from others) will often use these very natural observances of the world around us as a kind of permission for almost any kind of consensual act of sexual enjoyment between adults. The idea that society is the arbiter of sexual morals is at the same time both distrusted and used as a facilitator. (Read there: “No one can judge me,” but also “everyone else is doing it.”)

For those that claim to follow the Bible which contains Jewish and Christian texts, the concept of something being “natural” isn’t always a point in its favor. Even as we look around and death and violence seem to permeate every aspect of our lives, that natural violence and death are things God has been working to remove. The Mosaic Law creates a social order that cares for the weak and oppressed, and is written in such a way as to prevent and proactively fight against violence. Jesus and his followers often teach the nonviolent route, even to the point of submitting to that natural violence in order to defeat it. I think the same concept applies to sex.

Whether you are reading the Hebrew texts or the Christian ones, God is a God of order, who has a very clear idea of what a society should look like – that society should care for all, especially the weak. Society should give its worship to one God, and care for creation as duly appointed caretakers. Society should honor the family and give special respect to elders and children who often have no one to speak for them. These are not the natural order, but these are aspects of a supernatural order. God’s order goes beyond what nature insists and can even contradict nature’s imperatives.

Consider the first mention of marriage in Genesis 2 where the “man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh.” The order of words here is important: in this paradigm the man leaves his family to join the woman’s, not the other way around. It’s an interesting thought, and a subversion of what we typically think of relationships between the genders.

Polygamy, though recorded in the Bible, is not endorsed by the authors. Tolerated… maybe, but the stories and laws concerning polygamy more often illustrate the dangers, disruption, and unfairness inherent in a sexual relationship encompassing more than two people. The Patriarchs and their wives suffered because of this. David, Solomon, Esau and many others made the same mistake and found themselves in the natural trouble that arises from following a natural desire to its extreme. Also, polygamy, in ancient times, was often a way for one person to display their wealth and power – which often meant men having power over women who were considered property. Today, those that do practice poly-amorous relationships (romantic relationships involving more than two persons) still wrestle daily with the issues around openness, trust, and communication.

Monogamy is an idea baked into monotheism. Monotheism is, in a way, a covenant between a people and their god – one people, one god. Viewed this way, the relationship between God and his people is a view of marriage – a one-on-one covenant that relies on trust, faithfulness, and selflessness. God’s biggest complaints through the prophets often involve Israel’s unfaithfulness – going after other gods – and forgetting to care for the poor and oppressed. In other words, when the people began to drift back into the “natural” ways of thinking and acting, God sent his messengers to remind them that they had and have a higher, supernatural calling.

And so, we today, when faced with the natural urge to pursue multiple partners (not all are) we must remember that we are called to a supernatural standard that is in place to help create a different kind of society.

How will you discuss these issues with your family? How have you wrestled with the idea of monogamy? What messages do you and your family see in the media concerning relationships?