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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Teachable Moment?

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed and sorta-kinda listening to the news - especially for the weather and sports report (Go Red Sox!), I left the room to fix myself a cup of tea and returned to hear Jay Leno say,
"Lawyers are now working on special wording for a "no cheating" clause in the marriage contract. Really? Do we need a "no cheating clause"? I thought that's what the marriage vows were all about."
I'm no fan of Leno, but I thought, well, good for him.

And then I thought, "Hmmm . . . might the otherwise hideousness of the 'all-Weiner-all-the-time' reports provide a teachable moment for the church?"

Might the deplorable situation with the whole host of public officials - Republicans and Democrats - hold an opportunity for the church to provide some catechesis on "Love and Marriage" as well as "Human Sexuality"?

I mean, if we could set aside our obsession with homosexuality for one red hot second.

We do have Resolution D039 of the 73rd General Convention (2000), which says that "We expect such relationships will be characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God," and that such relationships exist throughout the church.

Might not this be a good time to talk about that? I mean, each one of those things - fidelity, monogamy, etc - and what they mean for Christians who are Episcopalians?

I'm thinking, if you hung out a sign in front of the church that said . . .
"SUMMER LOVE. The church, sex, marriage, adultery, Craig's List and Twitter. Thursday night. 7 PM. Followed by Ice Cream Social at 9 PM". 
 . . . you'd get a more than a few folk out on a Summer Evening to see what the heck was going on behind the red doors of The Episcopal Church down the street.

I suspect it might be a heck of a lot more appealing than sitting home watching "Minute to Win It" for lots of folks.

Perhaps this is a wonderful opportunity to talk about male sexuality and how that differs from female sexuality.

I remember one parishioner, a long-time, faithful member of the choir, telling me, "Well, my husband knows what I'm doing every Thursday night. He thinks I don't know what he's doing every Thursday night. I guess he doesn't realize that when I change the bed linens every week, I see his porn magazines and videos under the mattress."

What Anthony Weiner (D-NY) did on Twitter or Rep Chris Lee (R-NY) did on Craig's List is what a lot of man are doing and have done in the "privacy of their homes" for a very long time - except, now it's being done on "social media platforms". 

I'm not judging that. I'm just sayin', it is what it is, folks. Why do we play polite games about it? Maybe if we talked about it more openly, it wouldn't be such a big deal.

Either way, it amazes me that none of these men ever thinks anyone else will find out.

Actually, what Weiner and Lee have done is really no different from what the marketing industry has done for years. Open any magazine, look at any billboard, and you'll see men and women in their underwear in provocative poses - many of whom are 'disembodied' - no face, just a jockey full of junk and a bra that pushes up and abs on both men and women that look like they couldn't be part of a normal human body.

Most of the stuff that passes for 'dancing' or 'reality TV' or 'entertainment' qualifies as 'soft porn', even when you 'bleep' out the obscenities.

Is this committing "adultery in your heart," as Jimmy Carter once said? What does that mean, anyway? And, what relevance does that have for today's Christian who is Episcopalian?

We know what some of our "non denominational, evangelical" sisters and brothers have to say about this. What does The Episcopal Church have to say to help provide guidance to teens, young adults, parents and grandparents?

While we tut-tut and titter as Weiner twitters - or just look away - are we missing a teachable moment?

Or, shall we rely on Jay Leno to be our moral compass?


Matthew said...

I think we are missing a teachable moment. I was at a work related retreat some time ago and we were all asked to break out into pairs -- except there were an odd number of us and one group had three. The group of three publicly joked that they were polyamorous. The reatreat facilitator was humorless. And she was serious as a heart attack when she stared straight at them at said in the utmost serious voice that she was a Unitarian and her church was wrestling with this issue and having serious conversations about it. While I did not appreciate her humorlessness, it did occur to me that they at least be having a serious conversation about all kinds of sexuality, not just homosexuality. She later said in private that her church converstations also included open relationships, pornography, etc.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

The UUA's, UCC's, and MCC Churches are also having these discussions.

I wish we'd get to the basics of male and female sexuality first and then go into the "exotic" stuff.

MarkBrunson said...

Well, the adultery in the heart thing is rather addressed by Jesus, so I do have a rather strong conviction about that.

However, as the brilliant-but-too-fallible Alan Watts noted, it's one of Jesus' "impossible commands" like commanding us to love one another - you can't command it, or it's not love. In this case, "Do Not Commit Adultery," but a robust young man (as well as God) of the pre-Christian Roman Empire would likely have been quite aware how impossible it was for most to avoid desire, outright lust, for someone they find sexually desirable!

The disastrous result of reading such commands and teachings with no gleam of humor results in hijabs, covering piano legs, separate beds for couples on television, all manner of over-scrupulousness - which was once regarded as a sin, itself!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark - That Jesus! Always holding the standard high and reminding us that our interior and exterior life are connected and that God sees them both.

IT said...

The rigid repression is the problem, don't you think? The idea that we can deny ourselves as sexual creatures. We have to admit that of course, as biological creatures, we will at times feel lust!

Isn't that really what the exhortation about adultery-in-the-heart means? It's an impossible thing, to avoid looking at one another with desire.

I read that as an exhortation against sexual puritanism, since obviously the majority of people will be unable to tame such thoughts-- a statement (again) that none of us is perfect, and yet we are all expected to TRY. A statement calling us to admit that sexuality is as much a part of us as emotional, or spiritual, or physical being. Admitting this, however, doesn't mean acting on it.

Thus, I consider that viewing this exhortation as a justification for hiding or denying sex, and treating it as something dirty, is precisely backwards. Rather, we should recognize its importance and treat it appropriately, with reverence as an expression of union between a loving couple.

In a modern world, I have come to recognize that this is a very old-fashioned sexual morality. But I feel strongly that it is not up to ME to dictate the sexual morality of consenting adults, who may not view sexual expression the way I do. As long as they don't frighten the horses....

w/v couggish. "She looked at the poolboy and felt very couggish" ;-)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - I think what I'm calling for is honest conversation - FINALLY - about human sexuality. We dance around the whole subject, or focus on homosexuality so we don't have to deal with conversations that people are dying to have.

I don't want them to be directive. I want them to be open and exploratory and informative so people can decide for themselves how to live ethical, moral lives - despite the "teaching standards of the church" which no one is paying any attention to, anyway.

JCF said...

(As was said similarly re Bill Clinton)

When Weiner lied, nobody DIED.

This given-over-to-principalities&power guy? Rather different.

Lively's Lies: A Profile of Scott Lively

Matthew said...

Mother Kaeton, I loved your last comment to IT. It just occured to me that in dancing around the topic or focusing on homosexuality, that we are ignoring one of the elephants in the room, namely the young and dating. At what age should our teenagers start dating? what is appropriate on the first date? the 20th? What about college students? What about college students who have sex? When do we think or under what circumstances should sex be okay? A friend of mine is a Methodist pastor. One of his sons is living with his girlfriend. He does not talk about or tell anyone at his church. When I asked him about it he said, "I just hope they get married and the sooner the better because then -- poof -- the problem "goes away" because of marriage and one need not talk about youthful indiscretions." But, I wish we would talk about college students shakin up rather than ignoring it. No rector I know officiates at a church marriage anymore where the couple are virgins (if it was ever true). Even when I was first dating my partner (and on the Vestry of a church) I did not disclose what we did until we were "committed" so then the church could validate it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Matthew - Right. I want us to talk about the issues but not be directive about it. Each family has to decide what works for them, balancing that with what the "other kids are doing".

I understand that Kate and Wills lived together for 3 years before marriage. The ABY is reported to have laughed it off saying something like, "Many young people want to try the milk before buying the cow."



I am now in the 70th year of my age , and must admit that I have never heard anything taught , or preached from any Episcopalian pulpit , regarding human sexuality , and I find this to be a sad state of affairs...Perhaps far more than "sad"
it seems deplorable..If indeed the Communion is split asunder over human sexuality , ought we not to have some teaching on the subject before jumping headlong into the canyon below...

MarkBrunson said...

IT and Elizabeth,

Exactly on both. That's the point of Watts' "impossible commandments" - that the puritanical scrupulosity of scribes and pharisees is, in fact, the problem, not the answer. Changing inner brings a change to the outer, and there are parts of the inner that cannot change because God made them that way, and can be healthily expressed only with that understanding, not shame and rigid repression.

No Compromise said...

I think we need to stop voting for men, develop leadership so that women comprise about 65% of the congress and senate, and get a move on here. In the past, men who exposed themselves in public were arrested. Now they just tweet and text the exposure to women who have not asked to see these photos.
I'm sick of them all, I'm sick of the pornification that men indulge in, and I think it is time for American women to break through male supremacy-- Republican women Democratic women-- we need to finally run this country. And I hope that stupid congressman's wife just leaves him hanging out to dry, and refuses to appear on stage with him ever to shore up his sorry self.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I do agree with you that we need to elect more women, but spare us from the Sarahs and Micheles of the world