50 Shades of … Confusion (Christians, Youth, and Sex)

My job (pastor and high school teacher) and age (I’m 26) both mean that I have an inside track to what’s really happening in the world of kids. They trust me and let me see the things they usually hide from adults. As one who thinks he has a pretty good feel on today’s youth (both inside and out of the church) it always amuses me to see Christian leaders react to the continued sexualization of our media.

It is obvious that they have no idea what these kids are already watching and doing. Trust me, it’s worse than watching a sexually-charged movie.

I have two theses that I’d like to explore about sexuality (particularly among Christian youth):

1) Christian youth are (about) just as sexually active as non-Christian youth.

It’s built into our DNA, people. If you think there is a significant difference in the sex life of an average Christian young person and the average non-Christian, then I can’t help but think that you are (either intentionally or unintentionally) hiding your head in the sand. Now, if you defined “Christian” as a “very committed Christian” then I’m guessing there would be a difference. But your numbers and sample size would drop even more significantly – most who self-identify as Christians don’t meet the average pastor or priests’ definition of “committed.” Further, I’m not sure that this is all that big of a change from earlier history. The narrative we’re often sold is that “back in the day” kids were so pure and innocent and now we have corrupted ourselves into a sexualized hell on earth. I agree with the premise that the media has changed significantly, but I’m not convinced that kids actually behave all that differently. Then again, I wasn’t alive 50 or 80 years ago… I am just imagining that kids have always been curious and a good portion of kids are sexually active (and the ones who aren’t are not restraining based on choice, they just can’t find a willing partner – – – trust me… this again is a very real thing in the world of Christian youths).

For older readers of this blog – would you agree or disagree? Was there plenty of sexual activity at the High School / College you attended as a kid? Would there have been even more if there were more opportunities or willing partners? Was there a significant difference between the average “Christian” and the average non-Christian?

2) The reason Christian youth do not embrace a healthy view of sexuality is related to our lack of proper theological teaching.

I teach 9th graders and every year I survey them about what they have heard about sex outside of marriage. Every year I hear the same thing: they’ve been told it’s against God’s will and that dangers abound: unplanned pregnancy, STD’s, emotional damage, etc. Unfortunately, they either usually have the second reason over-emphasized to them and/or the first reason left unexplained.

Guess what: everyone (Christians and non-Christians) know the dangers of sex. It’s a simple risk-reward calculation . . . and most human beings usually decide its worth the risk. If we teach our children the same things about sex, we shouldn’t be surprised if we get the same results.

Instead, I suggest that Christian youth need to be taught to think theologically about sex. Why is it outside of God’s will for creation? What happens, spiritually, during sex? What does it mean to be united to Christ and how does that relate to sex? Only when our youth truly understand the spiritual implications of sex (instead of just telling them loudly that it’s against the rules), might we see a difference in their behavior.

Do you agree or disagree?

Cyril of Alexandria on Reading Scripture Christologically

A quote from Cyril which comes after he explores the similarities and differences between Jesus and Jonah:

“Thus just as bees in the field, when flitting about the flowers, always gather up what is useful for the provision of the hives, so we also, when searching in the divinely inspired Scriptures, need always to be collecting and collating what is perfect for explicating Christ’s mysteries and to interpret the Word fully without cause for rebuke.”
– Cyril of Alexandria, Fragment 162; MKGK 205

Jesus Misquoting Scripture . . . On Purpose?

How well did Jesus actually know his Bible?

This isn’t a common question posed by Christians, but it is one that the end of Mark 2 forces upon the reader. In Mark 2:25-26, Jesus re-tells a biblical story as part of a confrontation with the Pharisees. However, his version of the story is riddled with . . . mistakes?

Jesus’ biblical reference comes in response to the questioning of the Pharisees concerning his disciples’ activity of picking grain on the Sabbath. He returns their question (“Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”) with another question, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

Jesus seems to be referencing a tale found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The problem is that Samuel’s version of this story is significantly different from Jesus’ version. In Samuel’s narrative, David was by himself. There is no mention of hunger. David does not enter the house of God. The priest was Ahimelech, not Abiathar.

Most Christian interpreters try to smooth over the differences between the versions of the story presented in 1 Samuel and Mark 2. These efforts are, in my evaluation, usually unsatisfying. But there is another, perhaps more creative, interpretive possibility.

What if Jesus misremembers this tale on purpose? What if his misquotation is an ironic jab at the Pharisees?

This is the conclusion that theologian William Placher reaches:
“Is this all a joke? A mistake? By Jesus? By Mark? Mark so rarely misremembers texts that I doubt he is doing so here. I infer, then, that the point of his reply is to show that these Pharisees, eager to burden the common people with the details of the Law, are actually so ignorant of Scripture that they do not notice one misquotation after another. Such matters have not altogether changed, and those who quote a particular biblical passage as a means of condemnation often turn out not to know its context or relation to other biblical texts.” (William Placher, Mark: A Theological Commentary on the Bible, 51)

My experience does confirm that those who use religion or religious clobber-texts to condemn other people usually are not very familiar with the sacred texts they hold so dear. This reading is further supported if Placher is right and Mark rarely “misremembers texts.” Why doesn’t Mark (or a later scribe) spot and correct Jesus’ mistake? Why do Matthew and Luke carry over these mistakes (Matthew 12 and Luke 6)?
Perhaps they caught the irony in Jesus’ response.

What do you think? 
Are you convinced by Placher’s interpretation?
If not, how do you reconcile the two texts and Jesus’ apparent mistake/ignorance?

Thou Art Lightning and Love [Gerald Manley Hopkins]

Be adored among men,
      God, three-numberéd form;
   Wring thy rebel, dogged in den,
      Man’s malice, with wrecking and storm.
Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm;
    Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung:
Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then.
– Gerald Manley Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” stanza 9.

A Very Hauerwas Christmas

“That the Holy Spirit is necessary for our recognition of Jesus as the Son of God is not surprising, given our presumption that it is surely not possible for God to be one of us. Our temptation is to believe that if God is God then God must be the biggest thing around. Accordingly we describe God with an unending list of superlatives: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present, but these descriptions make it difficult for some to understand how God can be conceived by the Spirit in Mary. Yet that is to presume we know what it means for God to be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent prior to God being found in Mary’s womb. Admittedly this challenges our presumption that we can assume we can know what God must be prior to knowing Jesus, but such presumption is just another word for sin. By Mary’s conception through the Spirit, our prideful assumptions that we are capable of knowing God on our own terms is challenged.”
– Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew, 33-34.