A Distraction

I just finished reading Preston Sprinkle’s book  People to be Loved.  There were numerous flaws with the book. It reminded me of a man throwing a cup of water on a burning a house and claiming he is fighting the fire. If the best you can say about a book on this subject is at least he doesn’t believe men should have sex with men then it is not going to help fight the battle. My goal is to review various sections of the book. I want to begin with one of the more persistent lines you see from the gay Christian movement: same sex attraction is not just about sex.  Here is Sprinkle:

Being gay doesn’t mean you walk around want to have lots of gay sex any more than being straight means that you walk around wanting to have lots of straight sex. Have a same-sex orientation includes a wealth of other virtuous emotions and desires towards members of the same sex; it cannot be narrowly reduced to a volcanic hunger for sex. Same-sex orientation includes the desire for conversational intimacy, same-sex physical touch, emotional bonds, companionship, doing life together, and expressing mutual affection toward members of the same sex.  And if all of this sounds “gay” to you then David and Jonathan really were gay, since I am alluding to 1-2 Samuel.

He goes on to quote with approval lesbian Julie Rodgers

[same-sex attraction is] an overall draw toward someone of the same sex, which is usually a desire for a deeper level intimacy with those of the same sex. Just like a heterosexual orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for straight sex, a gay orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for gay sex. This longing for intimacy is usually experienced as a desire for nearness, for partnership, for close friendship, rich conversation, and an overall appreciation of beauty.

Again Sprinkle:

Most gay Christians I know say the same thing. Same-sex attraction is much broader than just a drooling desire for gay sex. Such attraction includes a virtuous desire to be intimate-in the David and Jonathan or Jesus and John sense of the phrase-with people of the same sex.

I would love to see quotes from Christians who think people who struggle with SSA walk around with a “drooling desire for gay sex.”  Sprinkle does this a lot in the book where he puts words in the mouths of conservative Christians (with no citations) that I have never heard a conservative Christian in the pew, from the pulpit, in an article, or in a book say. Perhaps he is thinking of Westboro and folks like that.  But conservative Christians distance themselves from groups like this over and over.

But besides the condescension towards conservative Christians, he repeats the mistake I often see in gay Christian literature: It isn’t about sex. We can see the problem with this proposition by asking a simple question: What separates SSA from the desire for close, intimate friendship with someone of the same sex? Right. Sex. If there is no sexual component then it isn’t SSA. A man can have a close intimate friendship with another man without it being sexual. Men have done this for thousands of years and Christian men have done this for just as long. They have kissed each other, embraced each other, wept with each other, spent nights together talking, slept in the same bed, swam naked, showered together, etc. without there being a sexual component. The desire for male physical affection and emotional intimacy does not make it same-sex attraction.

Same-sex attraction does not simply mean you have or desire close friendships with people of the same sex. It means the desire for closeness with a member of the same sex that includes a romantic/sexual component. Without that it is just a close friendship between people of the same sex, which all Christians should have and should work for. This is the reason why the sexual/erotic aspect of SSA should be front and center. It is what makes SSA, SSA. The friendship angle pushed by gay-Christian groups is a distraction.  Friendship is part of SSA, just as friendship is part of marriage. But that is not its central or defining trait. Without the sexual/romantic component it isn’t same-sex attraction.

Lost Boys Need Marriage, a Trade, and Worship

welder

Samuel James, working with research from Erik Hurst, gives a bleak picture of manhood in the 21st century in his article on America’s Lost BoysThe article is worth your time.

Young men, significantly more so than young women, are stuck in life. Research released in May from the Pew Center documented a historic demographic shift: American men aged 18-30 are now statistically more likely to be living with their parents than with a romantic partner. This trend is significant, for one simple reason: Twenty- and thirtysomething men who are living at home, working part-time or not at all, are unlikely to be preparing for marriage. Hurst’s research says that these men are single, unoccupied, and fine with that—because their happiness doesn’t depend on whether they are growing up and living life.

Several thoughts occurred to me as I read the article.

First, there are numerous reasons why we are in the predicament this article describes. But one of the key reasons is sex divorced from marriage and procreation. We need to return to marriage as a public good and something to be desired and children as one of the goals of marriage. Churches and politicians need to teach and model the glory of marriage, not as a idol that will provide you with personal fulfillment, but as a way to create a productive family unit that will benefit the home, the church, and society at large. There are few things as dangerous, exciting, and ultimately productive as starting a family.  Of course, this is hard when Dad has been divorced twice and his children are scattered all over. But here is where the gospel comes in. Christ restores, heals, and strengthens relationships. In world filled with lies and cheap substitutes, the church must lead in helping young people who have lost faith that marriage can be done well and be good to understand and see the good in getting married, having sex with one woman for your whole life, raising kids, and showing up at work every day.

Second, we need to get young men involved in the trades.  We have been taught a four year degree or more is the goal for all men. Thus many men who do not finish college or high school believe they are failures. If success looks like four years in a lecture hall followed by low job prospects and tens of thousands in debt many young men decide to forego college all together. They used have an honorable option: get a good trade skill and serve your fellow man. But now they are viewed as failures by our society. When is the last time a politician pushed the trades to a high school audience? They push college. That is a shame.

 “Hurst says that his research indicates that young men with less than a four-year degree (according to virtually all data, that’s an increasing number) are spending their days unemployed and unmarried, but not un-amused.”

More young men need to be taught to fix cars, weld, build houses, plumb, fix electrical, and drive trucks. They should be given a trade-school education and be taught that this is not a step down from the really important work such as law, engineering, and medicine. It is really important work because it serves your fellow man. Part of this goes back to my first point. If the goal of our vocation is to make money, have a certain reputation, and be self-fulfilled then fixing cars would be down the list of desirable vocations. But if the goal of work is to serve others and provide for a wife and children then trade-school vocations should be just a popular as four year degrees. They often earn more, they earn more quicker, and those who learn trades usually come out of school with less debt.

Finally, the last paragraph has this sentence in it,

“Rather than try to attract these millennials by reshaping faith in the image of entertainment, we as Christians should offer a gospel that saves not only from hell but also from meaninglessness.”

James is talking about our faith in general, but my mind went directly to worship. Do we try to reshape worship in the image of our entertainment driven culture? Is our worship baptized pop-culture? And just as important does church life and the worship promote passivity? Do we call the worshiper to engage their heart, mind, and body or do we allow them to spectate? Does the fellowship in our churches allow members to drift in on Sunday and leave one hour later with little commitment, little push to serve?  All Christians suffer when our worship reflects the world instead of the Lord’s priorities. But men especially suffer in our current worship environment that is driven by emotionalism, theologically shallow, low commitment (just like porn), and often led by men who act like women.  Does our worship feed the adolescent fantasy described by James or does it offer an alternative?

Boys are lost in this world. Truth be told most men are as well. The good news is that the Scriptures, creation order, and our fathers in the past provide a way forward. It will not be easy. The devastation of the sexual revolution and the abdication or abuse of so many biological fathers, church fathers, and political fathers has left a parched landscape with little sign of water. But our job is not to count the obstacles, but to do the job. We must help these boys find their way again.

Esolen on the Death of Male Friendship

Yesterday I wrote on the need for male physical affection. We long for this as men. A friend directed me to this Anthony Esolen essay, which covers a lot of the same ground though with more eloquence. He even uses the same phrase “half-man” that I used. Esolen is more pessimistic than I am about the ability to overcome the tragic loss of friendship among men. I believe the gospel can, with much time and work, resurrect true manly, friendship. But I feel what Esolen’s last paragraph says,

No doubt about this: If you are a modern man, a half-man, many such ideas [about friendship and male love] and loves have already died in you. For as much as you can admire them wistfully, from a half-understanding distance, you can be neither Frodo nor Sam, nor the man who created them. You dare not follow Agassiz, alone, to the Arctic. You will not weep for Jonathan. You once were acquainted with Enkidu, but that was all. Do not even mention John the Apostle.

I look back at my fathers and realize I am a “half-man” because I do not know how to create or participate in true male friendship. One of my regular prayers is that I can do this with my sons and my brothers at church. I commend the essay to you. Here are a few other quotes that struck me.

Friendship and the signs upon which it must subsist are in a bad way. I will focus on the friendships of men, since that is what I know about; many comparable things might be said about the friendships of women. We still have the word “friendship,” and we still have something of the reality, but it is distant, dilute, bloodless. For modern American men, friendship is no longer forged in the heat of battle, or in the dust of the plains as they drive their herds across half a continent, or in the choking air of a coalmine, or even in the cigar smoke of a debating club…

It [loss of male friendship] is but more of the devastation wrought by the sexual revolution. That we fail to see it as such is no surprise: Naturally, when we think of that recrudescence of paganism, we think first of its damage to the family and to relations between men and women. We think of divorce, pornography, unwed motherhood, abortion, and suicidally falling birthrates. But the sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports; and the homosexual movement, a logically inevitable result of forty years of heterosexual promiscuity and feminist folly, bids fair to finish it off and nail the coffin shut.

What is more, those who will suffer most from this movement are precisely those whom our society, stupidly considering them little more than pests or dolts, has ignored. I mean boys…

On three great bonds of love do all cultures depend: the love between man and woman in marriage; the love between a mother and her child; and the camaraderie among men, a bond that used to be strong enough to move mountains. The first two have suffered greatly; the third has almost ceased to exist.

The Need for Masculine Physical Affection

Male Affection 1

Sometimes ideas are so closely linked that it is hard to know which came first. One of the problems that has arisen with the normalization of sodomy is the death of intimate male friendship. Which came first? Sodomy and the sexualization of male friendship? Or male friendships being viewed with suspicion? Did the sexualization of all things lead to the death of male friendship or did male friendship die and that led to sodomy? Did fathers stop showing physical love and this lead to sodomy and sexual abuse? Or did the rise of sodomy and sexual abuse lead to the decline of male physical affection?

These questions are not easy to answer. But physical, intimate, male friendship is often viewed today with suspicion especially by conservatives. Deep male friendship is at best weird and at worst a threat. Feminism seeks to destroy male friendship by making sure  women are always around. Often conservative women do the same thing by again making sure a woman, in this case MOM is always around to keep the boys in check. Whatever the reasons, men showing affection physically is weird. Two men with their arms around each other in public is odd to us. Men who kiss each other on the cheeks are odd, unless you are from the Middle East. In an older movie, Mrs. Brown, numerous British soldiers swim naked. How would that be viewed today? The truth is that many men fear physical affection with other men. They fear they will be viewed as latent homosexuals or it will just be awkward. There are two major exceptions to this, war and sports. In war men form deep  bonds and expressions of physical love are frequent. In sports, slapping each other, hugging one another, jumping into each other’s arms, and weeping with one another are expressed without concern for what the world may think.  As women continue to mingle with men in these fields no doubt even the physical affection shown there between men will diminish.  Continue reading

Private Christians Resent Public Christians

George Whitefield

Amos 5:10 says, “They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks uprightly.” One sign of a corrupt society is that those who speak the truth are persecuted and hated. especially those who speak the truth publicly. America is surely in that position. Her politicians and other public figures are serial liars. Truth is hated in America. But beyond politics the church does the same thing. She doesn’t want truth tellers. She doesn’t want public figures who call out wicked men and women for their lies and abominations. We are embarrassed by public condemnation of sins. Let’s do our theology at our desks and keep our opinions to ourselves. Let’s have our family worship, but never tell others about Jesus. Let’s hold our private opinions about gender and sexual issues, but let’s not impose those on others. Let’s continue to vote for people who destroy the weak and poor. And we so castrate Christianity, cutting off its potency. Tim Bayly speaks to this in his book Daddy Tried: 

Public Christians are always an inconvenience to private Christians, and so we teach young men and new Christians to keep their Christian faith quiet and harmless-which is to say, personal and private. But Christian faith that is personal and private, carefully kept within the confines of home and church, is no faith at all.

No wonder America continues to slaughter babies at the rate of 1.3 million per year, and often just down the street from our church or kitty-corner to our supermarket.

We’re private Christians.

No wonder America has come to believe in homosexual marriage. No wonder America has more women getting college, university, and professional degrees than men. No wonder America will soon have a woman president who’s a stronger leader than her husband. No wonder America lost faith in the authority of Scripture, denies the existence of Hell, and never reads the Bible. No wonder America is having fewer and fewer children in homes that are mostly fatherless, now.

Here is Jesus’s warning: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Mt. 5:13)

So it’s happened, hasn’t it.

The world is dying for lack of manly, zealous, biblical fathers like Noah, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, John the Baptist, the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Peter Waldo, Francis of Assisi, John Knox, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jim Elliot, Marvin Olasky, Phil Jensen…

And Jesus.

Men, what are you doing to speak and live truth in the city square? Is Jesus tucked away in your back pocket so you can pull Him out during family devotions and in the church parking lot, but He is ignored the rest of the time? If we are to be men who love Christ then we must find ways to speak  up in the gates. We need to look for opportunities to publicly oppose legislation that is against God’s Word. We need to look for opportunities to tell our neighbors the good news of Jesus Christ. We need to march on abortion clinics and write letters to the editor. We need to publicly oppose government programs the keep people poor. We need to expose the sins of our elected officials and put honest men in their place. Our faith is not private thing. We do not declare a Jesus who is in our heart. We declare a Jesus who king and has all authority in heaven and on earth. His authority extends to the city hall, the town square, and the legislative sessions in our states. Do we believe that? I think we do. But I also think we are cowards afraid of what others might think of us and the price we might have to pay for our public stand.

Be prepared though. One of the most discouraging things I have seen over the years is that if you do this Christians, not just the world, will hate you. Of course, we expect the world to denounce us. But fellow Christians? Yes. If we are active in the city gate, it will not just be the world telling us to shut up, but Christians will as well. You are bringing shame to Christ’s name. You are not loving your neighbor. You are driving people away from the church. You don’t want to sound like a crazy fundamentalist do you?  And so they will hate the one who rebukes in the gate. But that is a little price to pay to bring glory to our Savior and perhaps turn some to the truth, isn’t it?

Book Review: Daddy Tried by Tim Bayly

Daddy Tried: Overcoming the Failures of FatherhoodDaddy Tried: Overcoming the Failures of Fatherhood by Tim Bayly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pastor Bayly has been a great influence on me over the years through his blog and I am grateful for this book. Fatherhood is so misunderstood and maligned in our culture. With warmth, love, wisdom, and the occasional punch Pastor Bayly takes us through what fatherhood is and who our good Father is. I love books where the author just believes what the Bible says. Too many nickel and dime the Bible until it means very little. Also the book “steeled my spine” as Dr. Frame says in the endorsement. I came away sorry for my sins as a father, grateful for the grace of Christ, and ready to dig in and get to work with courage and trust in God.

I really enjoyed his chapter on discipline. I have nine children with a tenth on the way. Discipline is hard and time consuming. It is easy to get slack in the task. His reminder that discipline is love was sorely needed.

His chapter on fathers in the gates was convicting as well. I make too many excuses for not being involved in the community. Pastor Bayly exposes those and encourages us men to find ways to get involved in our community.

Finally, I loved the tender affection for God and others that is woven throughout the book. Christians fathers should be known for their love, their physical affection with their children, their wife, and their friends. We should be known for our tears and our passion. Pastor Bayly doesn’t just exhort us to Christian affection, he shows it in the way the book is written. I can imagine that many of these ideas have been spoken dozens of times in pastoral counseling, over coffee, or after church in the parking lot. He shepherds us fathers as we read. I highly recommend it for all fathers, sons, grandfathers, pastors, and elders.

My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.

2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.

3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.

4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 4.1 is quite different from 4.9.

5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.

View all my reviews

Abandoned Long Ago

Female Soldier

A Republican led Senate voted (85 for 13 against) Tuesday on a military policy bill that would require women when they reach the age of 18 to register for the draft.This will go into effect on January 1st, 2018.  Here are a few relevant quotes from the article. All bold is mine.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved an expansive military policy bill that would for the first time require young women to register for the draft. The shift, while fiercely opposed by some conservative lawmakers and interest groups, had surprisingly broad support among Republican leaders and women in both parties.

“The fact is,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, “every single leader in this country, both men and women, members of the military leadership, believe that it’s fair since we opened up all aspects of the military to women that they would also be registering for Selective Services.”

While most Republican senators — including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and the women on the Armed Services Committee — agree with the move, it has come under fierce attack from some of Congress’s most conservative members.

I think the change is inevitable,” said Nora Bensahel, a military policy analyst at American University’s School of International Service, “whether in this debate or through the courts. It just seems that now that you have women allowed to serve in any position in the military, there is no logical basis to say women should not be drafted.

The Senate is expected to hold its ground as conservative members defend the status quo. Mr. McCain, whose family has a long and storied history in the military and whose daughter-in-law is a captain in the Air Force Reserve, said to Mr. Cruz on the Senate floor: “I respect the senator from Texas’s view. Too bad that view is not shared by our military leadership, the ones who have had the experience in combat with women.”

This is the big “E” on the eye chart. Basic human nature 101. There are gray areas in gender debates. This is not one of them. Any country willing to send its wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters into combat has abandoned a biblical/creational sexual ethic. Pastors, professors, theologians, and Christian thinkers should denounce this move and declare it to be wicked. They should do this publicly from pulpits, on blogs, in books, articles, and any other avenue available to them. Complementarians, if they want to be more than a stepping stone to feminism, need to do the same. If you can’t declare this a sin and blight on our country and the American church, then when will you decide enough is enough? What is the line that must be crossed?

But of course, evangelicals, including Reformed ones, have given up so much ground already. If we allow easy divorce, reject motherhood and fruitfulness as glorious, praise our women for fighting fires, drug dealers, and each other in the ring, believe the highest calling of a woman is 50 hours at an office, and allow all manner of sexual sin to go unchecked then what is the big deal about sending our women to war. We abandoned them long ago.

Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 145

What the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment [you shall not bear false witness]? The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are….undue silence in a just cause and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves or a complaint to others.