Friday, February 20, 2015

The Royal Me

Cultural Emblems

Certain book and movie events, such as the recent movie about an abusive relationship portrayed as a romance, are worth considering as believers not because they are unique, but because of the reverse.

I haven't seen 50 Shades of Grey, but my understanding from reports (which emanate and titillate from every possible news source) is that this movie affirms, even valorizes, sadomasochism. If so, this movie, rather than being the cutting-edge phenomenon heralding a new sexuality, is actually emblematic of the long-time sexual identity of our western culture, in which the only boundary or guideline is consent.

The book series sounds like a charter for The Divine Right of the Consenting. The movie sounds like a sermon preaching the one moral value for sexual behavior in western culture today: The First Commandment of Consent. The celebrants snicker and gather to worship with a resounding "Amen-ything Goes -- as long as you have signed here, and initialed here, and here, and here..." (Be sure to read the fine print!)

Believers need to identify pagan and secular creeds in order to answer them. So it's important we at least note these cultural markers and icons as they come along. (And if you've ever read the Old Testament you should not be surprised when they do. A thorough reading of Scripture precludes naivete.)

Emblems both define and differentiate.

When pagan creeds are widely broadcast and affirmed, we are given clarity about the world we live in and our neighbors suffer daily in; they help pinpoint its dark places. They help clear away confusion and foggy thinking and give us an urgency for the gospel.

And as a sort of bas relief or photo-negative, they also help us identify the ideas, practices, and people who are nurturing spiritual, mental, and physical health and wholeness.

The spirit of the anti-Christ has to do with whoring Babylon and an "I did it my way" religion. In other words, if I consent and you consent (though even that latter part's a bit wobbly -- maybe you "consent" under the influence of alcohol or manipulations), who is to say we are wrong? Certainly no god but myself. The Royal Me.

And what is the most natural place for this rejection of the first human relationship -- the one between the real God and man -- to nestle? In the heart of the very second human relationship -- woman and man.

The Garden and the Ghetto

That nascent and beautiful marriage of a man and a woman was founded in a Garden as a bond created for love, intimacy, fellowship, fertility, communication, comfort, co-regency, and, as my friend Bill Mattox points out, as a locus of diversity (man and woman are decidedly not the same).

In a reverse world, this male-female union becomes instead a weapon warped and wedded to fear, domination, aggression, anxiety, and subtler, arm-twisting power-grabs like withholding, silent-treatments, blaming, and punishment, all enacted on the hardscrabble grey pavements of The Land of Looking Out for Number 1. The Garden exchanged for a Ghetto. As C.S. Lewis describes, we are indeed children playing at mud-pies, though offered a vacation at the seashore.

A Better Romance

But I must add that this is also no time to be discouraged. These moments of clarity not only point out what is wrong, but point out what has always been true.

We dwell on the One who gave it all to love us, who suffered that we might live, and who offers a real and true relationship. Christians enjoy the true romance of a Groom who suffered for a Bride.

He walked in our world. There is no new evil here; He came and saw it and conquered it with real, living, divine love -- the kind of love that casts out all fear.

And then we love like he does, because he first loved us. Not left to love on our own, his Spirit makes us lights in the darkness of the world and, yes, even the bedroom. This radiant and wholesome love arcs out into our families and neighborhoods. We are called to share and show all kinds of true love to people really hungry for it. We have good news to share daily not just in how we talk and how we live with our husbands, but in how we love our children, family, friends, and the whole world.

This good news -- the kind spoken in both words and deeds and beginning in our marriages -- is not only true, but healing and wholesome, infectious and irrepressible. Across the ages, even death has not been able to stop it.

Who can resist him?


The article below is by a clinical psychologist, and it discusses what happens to a person psychologically when sexual intimacy, fear, and aggression experiences are fused together in the human mind. (A salient but long quote from the article also below.)

Here's is the article: Hooked Up and Tied Down

And here is a quote from it, emphasis mine:

"Sexual Arousal, Aggression, and Fear

Human beings have neural networks related to sexual behavior, and these are shaped in subtle ways by our sexual experiences. We have separate neural networks related to anger and aggression, and these are shaped and strengthened when people engage in violent or domineering behaviors. We have still more separate brain maps for fear and anxiety, which are shaped and reinforced by frightening or anxiety-provoking experiences.

If you think about these three emotional experiences—sexual arousal, aggression, and fear—they are typically quite distinct emotional experiences. There is some overlap between them in terms of physical or bodily response: all three, for example, involve increases in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, because all three involve activation of the sympathetic nervous system. And yet, for most healthy individuals, sexual arousal, aggression, and fear remain distinct emotional, cognitive, and physical experiences. This is, I will suggest, a good and healthy thing.

So these neural networks and these experiences normally remain distinct—unless our experiences begin to fuse them together. When this fusion happens, the brain gets confused. And this is exactly what happens when people experiment with sadomasochistic sexual practices. These distinct neural networks and brain maps become fused according to Hebb’s principle: neurons that fire together wire together. Once this happens, aggression automatically triggers sexual arousal. Or fear and anxiety automatically trigger sexual interest. When this fusion of neural networks becomes pronounced, people often will present to the psychiatrist with clinical problems. Patients complain, for example, that they cannot get aroused unless they get aggressive or violent. Or they complain that they become involuntarily aroused whenever they experience fear. Once these distinct neural networks are fused, the person is—at the level of the brain—literally tied down.

....Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body—what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by our repeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tweets and Satire Don't Go Together

and other morals-of-the-story.

Interesting NYT article on ill-advised tweets and modern and historical public shaming.

More on the 21

"Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' Blessed indeed,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'....

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on this thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords....

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more....And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new...The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.'"

From the book of Revelation


Sunergoi on "21 for 1"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


"After a hundred reads, familiarity with the text verges on memorisation – the sensation of the words passing over the eyes like cud through the fourth stomach of a cow. Centireading belongs to the extreme of reader experience, the ultramarathon of the bookish, but it’s not that uncommon. To a certain type of reader, exposure at the right moment to Anne of Green Gables or Pride and Prejudice or Sherlock Holmes or Dune can almost guarantee centireading. Christmas is devoted to reading books we all know perfectly well. The children want to hear the one story they have heard so many times they don’t need to hear it again."

On reading a book 100 times -- a good writer writes about reading Hamlet and Wodehouse,

Centireading Force:why reading a book 100 times is a great idea

As a Navy kid who attended 10 schools, I found reading and re-reading and re-reading certain books formed a groove in my mind of friendly kinship and "place" that eluded me in my constantly-changing school social circles. These books helped me translate my experiences from the vantage point of a wanderer in good company.
I saw myself as the adventuring outsider, watching mountains and plains and woods and cities roll by the car window on 80 or 95 or the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Though a skinny American girl living in the 1970s and 80s, I felt I related directly with the Pevensies and the Ingalls of Narnia, Cambridge, and the woods and prairies of 19th century America -- not the Middletons of Charleston or the Donovans of Maine or the Smiths of Virginia. I can quote the Narnia books and the Little House books like I can quote the Bible, yea, in time of need.
Later, as an adult living in Shanghai, when the strangeness of that glittering and odd city felt heavy and chemical, and like walking in a backwards world upside down, I turned frequently to Wodehouse to recall something warmly organic, a comfortable friendship, the mollifying lightness of old jokes shared again. And also therein recalled a world that presumes we are all, occidental and oriental, at least a little bit nuts.

In this except from the article, the author reflects on Jeeves and Hamlet (and why not?) as an expat Canadian boy in England: 
"Every Sunday, my family would load ourselves into a car – my father, my mother, my kid brother and I – and drive out more or less randomly to see what England had to offer. In western Canada where I grew up, it had been perfectly standard to cross three or four hours of prairie to visit a relative for lunch. From Cambridge, an hour in any direction would land us in a church from the reign of Queen Anne, unspeakably ancient to our new world eyes, or some grand estate, the luxury of the residence always offset by the cheapness of its gift shops, always reeking of scones and plastic guidebooks, or the ruin of some abbey, the stuff of mossy legends. During these trips, in the tiny English car, we would listen to cassettes of The Inimitable Jeeves, read by Jonathan Cecil.
The psychology of my love for The Inimitable Jeeves isn’t exactly hard to understand. As we rolled through that strange country, laughing at the English with the English, the family was both inside and outside. My associations with The Inimitable Jeeves are as powerful as they could possibly be, a fused sense of family unity and childhood adventure. The book is so much more than just a happy childhood memory. In such ways, books pick us, rather than the other way around.

The main effect of reading Hamlet a 100 times was, counter-intuitively, that it lost its sense of cliche. 'To be or not to be' is the Stairway to Heaven of theatre; it settles over the crowd like a slightly funky blanket knitted by a favorite aunt. Eventually, if you read Hamlet often enough, every soliloquy takes on that same familiarity. And so 'To be or not to be' resumes its natural place in the play, as just another speech. Which renders its power and its beauty of a piece with the rest of the work."