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."

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