Mess of Pottage Blog

Luke's "Pro" Blog

Sexual Relationships — Theory and Practice

In view of all the changes to the PC(USA)’s Book of Order, it’s worthwhile to look at what its Book of Confessions says it believes. We wouldn’t want our practice to get ahead of our theology, after all:

d. The relationship between man and woman exemplifies in a basic way God’s ordering of the interpersonal life for which he created mankind. Anarchy in sexual relationships is a symptom of man’s alienation from God, his neighbor, and himself.

—Confession of 1967, §9.47

That’s pretty good. But it goes on to explain this problem as follows:

Man’s perennial confusion about the meaning of sex has been aggravated in our day (1) by the availability of new means for birth control and the treatment of infection, (2) by the pressures of urbanization, (3) by the exploitation of sexual symbols in mass communication, and (4) by world overpopulation.

—Confession of 1967, §9.47 (Numbers added for reference.)

There’s as much wrong as right with the list of reasons. (1) and (3) are obviously true; (2) has some truth in it, and (4) might be true if it weren’t for people like Norman Borlaug who solve problems instead of whining about nebulous potential dangers whenever the status quo is challenged.

Another problem with this list is that by lumping everything until about WWII together and calling them “perrennial” problems, backward views about sexual relationships like those of Boko Haram and ISIL don’t rate a mention, for all the violence and sorrow they’re causing.

In other words, our confusion about the meaning of sex was reflected in the very documents that tried to address it, almost fifty years ago.

Yet it reads like a breath of fresh air in today’s climate. The last two generations have not fared well (by any metric) as a result of what appears to be not a linear but an exponential accumulation of problems.

In the intervening years, new ways our confusion is aggravated have become apparent. I would include among them, (5) by the welfare state’s need for a broad tax base, which led to the creation of many inducements for women to work outside the home, and (6) by society’s misinterpretation of marriage as being about conferring approbation of and support for sexual rather than parental relationships.

Many of these causes are in fact symptoms of another, deeper, problem: the idea that we are smarter and more enlightened than our ancestors. We have made more progress along some invisible track. This gives us the audacity (or impetuosity) to implement change based simply on theory, rather than promising results from field tests. We impose our theory across all of society rather than using small laboratory environments to discover what works and what doesn’t.

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Grace vs. Consequences

From the infinitely-rich “God doesn’t give us what we deserve” department, the Anchorage Daily News brings us a cautionary tale:

A Sutton man is being treated for serious head injuries after he was found pinned under his ATV on the Glenn Highway, troopers said Sunday.

Some take-aways:

1. don’t drink and drive

2. not even ATV’s

3. maybe especially not ATV’s

4. and wear a helmet!

Also remember what Matt Groening said so long ago: “At night, the ice weasels come.”

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The Catholic Church (Part 1)

I’ve mentioned that “Orthodox” is a word I’d like us Mainline Protestants to reclaim. Another word like that is “Catholic.”

The word “catholic” means “universal” or “entire.” It comes from a Greek word that means “according to the whole.” Unlike “orthodox,” this word actually appears in Scripture, where members of the high priest’s party examine the disciples and order them not to testify about Jesus:

So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

The word that eventually became “catholic” is translated here as “at all.” The only place in Scripture where this word occurs is here in Acts 4:18.

If that verse were the only place Christians used the word catholic, it wouldn’t matter. But of course it isn’t. Most of the time, when American Protestants say “catholic” they’re referring to the Roman Catholic Church. This is reasonable, as 95% of “Catholics” are members of the Church of Rome, and only 5% belong to the 22 Eastern Catholic churches.

But at the same time, Protestants assert their own catholicity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Straight Teaching

Imagine an argument where one parent said, “I love our baby,” and the other parent didn’t reply, “Well, so do I!” Even in an amicable separation, that would raise some eyebrows. For the same reason, there are three words I’d like mainline protestant Christians to reclaim. They each represent something too important to walk away from.

One of those words is “orthodox.” We don’t use the word very much, except when we use a capital “O” to refer to “Orthodox Christians,” the eastern branches of Christianity resulting from the Great Schism of 1054.

That’s too bad, because “orthodoxy” should be important to us. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apparently We Don’t Believe Anything

Another problem with the new PC(USA) web site: apparently we don’t believe anything anymore. Or, if we do, those beliefs are carefully hidden.

Now, I’m on record as liking the new look of our denomination’s website. And I’ve already commented, negatively, about a particularly smarmy “reasons I’m a Presbyterian” badge posted there.

But I was hoping the PC(USA) web site would at least be better organized. I entertained the hope that it would be easier to find things there now, and it’s not.

Read the rest of this entry »

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