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Posted by on Jul 22, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

The Church and A Sexualized Culture: Who Influences Who?

She turned away and my eyes refused to leave her pants

They weren’t the type of legwear she slipped into in the morning, but the kind that were painted on with a thin lacquer that accentuated her calves and the gentle swells of her thighs. Nothing was left to the imagination as she paced and turned.

I could tell that each of the guys I was sitting with was thinking the same thing: Those pants are wonderful. Then, as a follow-up, I thought: Is it weird that one of our pastors is wearing them?

We were sitting in the young adult service at the hippest church in Denver, receiving a sermon from this female pastor wearing jeans so tight they made yoga pants look like parachutes. It made me wonder about the entire modesty conversation within the church, but at a much higher level.

I wondered about the influence our sex-saturated culture has had on the church in general. 

Here’s a brief (and overly simplified) history lesson to help us understand. The church was born in Jerusalem in the middle of the first century.

From there, it essentially traveled in all four directions—to the east, Christianity took on a lot of forms of eastern culture. It became mystical and drenched in experiential theology. Even today, the Eastern Orthodox church is less concerned with doctrine than they are with the living Presence of Christ. Their services are disorienting and beautiful.

The Word went south, first to Ethiopia, which claims to be the oldest Christian church in the world, saying the Eunuch in Acts 8 planted it himself upon returning home. The African church takes on a lot of spiritual elements and is consistently more supernatural than ours in the west. 

The Northern Orthodox church reflects many of Russia’s traditions, and most of us are familiar with the church in the west, which is reflective of our culture which is focused on philosophy, science, and logic.

The point is, wherever the church goes, it becomes indigenous to the culture in which it exists. 

The struggle, then, is to step outside of our own culture enough to get a more accurate picture of how our culture influences our view of our church. We in America have a highly sexualized culture.

I wonder how many Christians from around the world would have come to that young adult church service and been utterly repulsed by the pastor’s outfit. For many Christians worldwide, it wouldn’t even be a conversation—it would simply be wrong, along the same lines of lying and stealing (For men too, of course. We are just as guilty of getting a pre-sermon pump at the gym or wearing too tight of shirts…or pants).

Because of desensitization in the American culture, we may not even notice how sexualized the church has become. 

I’ve also noticed how Christians are obsessed with talking about sex. Growing up, I always heard the phrase, “Why is no one talking about sex and relationships in the church?” I don’t know what churches they’re going to, because that’s basically all I hear about in church. 

Men need to grow in purity; women need to do x,y, and z…and so on. 

I feel like every other sermon series is about dating, porn, sex, or marriage. 

Could it possibly be that the American church allowed her interests to be formed by the surrounding culture, rather than being the shaping force in our culture? After all, that was the case up until about the time of the Enlightenment.

Nearly all of the most famous pieces of art were created for or by the church. Handel’s Messiah elevated the praises of God to otherworldly choruses, while Michelangelo’s Pieta conveyed through marble the despair of Mary holding her executed Son. 

Since the 1700s though, with the rise of humanism and the Scientific Revolution, the roles have reversed and the Church has become follower more than leader. Culture talks about sex, so we hold a conference in response.

Instead, let’s think about two monks standing on the sidewalk in New York City:

A hooker walks by them in skimpy shorts and a bra. One monk jerks his vision away from her and looks the other way. A moment later he looks at his friend, who is still staring at the woman, and rebukes him.

“Brother! Why are you looking at something so unclean!?”

He sees a tear in his friend’s eye as he continues staring at the prostitute. 

Which monk was purer? Perhaps both responded appropriately, but the monk with the more Godly vision was the one who could look at the woman, see through the sexy attire, and see a little, wounded girl instead. He could see someone hurting, looking for love, and in need of grace.

The church typically falls into two camps: embrace the cultural flow and adapt (attractive pastors in skinny jeans jumping around in fog machines), or plug our ears and avert our eyes. We can bury our heads in the sand and effectively bury our witness to the world.

As long as we dwell in either of these camps, we are playing by the rules of the world. We are conceding that they have the arena and we’ll play within their bounds. 

What if we could look at the Sports Illustrated cover and see a woman made in the image of God, rather than a sexy object…or a BAD person? This would be a truly revolutionary approach to the sexual conversation—humanizing people.

The world, for all its talk of sexual liberation, still treats that model more like a sexual object than a person. And if we simply bounce our vision away from her, we do too.

So there must be a third option.

What if we learned how to baptize our vision, treating all humans with dignity, not being distracted by the big, flashy, sexy labels slapped all over our culture? 

What if, instead of ‘bouncing our eyes,’ we were able to instead ‘baptize our eyes’? What if we could be like Jesus, who did spend ample time with prostitutes, but never saw them as sex objects, but humans?

This, in my opinion, is one of the most revolutionary aspects of Jesus’ teaching: not that certain people are bad and others are good, but that we are all broken and in need of love and acceptance. 

I believe the church can take after its leader, who re-humanized those who had their humanity stripped from them. Whether it was a demon-possessed man slicing his skin in the tombs or a woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus seems to take great pleasure in seeing them as they are—as bearers of the imago Dei—and restoring their dignity to them. 

Let’s baptize our vision and attempt to see humanity as God does: not as overly-sexual, nor as asexual, but as fellow struggling, tempted, wounded humans who matter a whole lot to God. This is a truly revolutionary approach to sex that the church can pioneer, if only we try. 

As we’ve mentioned before, we want to hear from you about these difficult topics. If you have questions about any of the things we covered here, be sure to check out Office Hours and submit your question so we can answer it in an upcoming session.

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Posted by on Jul 19, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Sacred Sexualization

Every day we all wake up to a world and culture that seems obsessed with sex. That should come as no surprise to any of us.

Flip through your TV channels, scroll through your social media feeds, or read an online article on a popular news site and it will only takes few minutes (or less) to be presented with a visual reminder that our society eats up sex and sexualized content.

And as we said last week, there’s no getting away from this reality.

Consequently, we need to stop spending so much effort on fighting and running from this stuff and, instead, focus on learning how to live effectively among it.

Yet, there should be some safe spaces in our lives where we can enjoy a small reprieve from the sexual onslaught.

For instance…

Or at least you’d think?

But in today’s modern church culture, while the forms of sexualization may be less obvious, they still are very much present.

I can tell you first hand that I’ve often walked into churches where many young women are wearing pencil skirts tighter and shorter than you’d ever think reasonable, and tops that are so snug and low cut that they leave nothing much to the imagination. 

Then you have the pastors who stand up front and talk about their “smoking hot wife” as part of their sermon introduction or a punchline to a joke. Because, apparently, bragging about your wife’s high IQ isn’t anywhere near as attention grabbing or entertaining. 🤔

Oh, and then there are those Christian “leaders” out there who tell women that they should always be available for sex to their husbands, that failure to do so is a “sin,” and to be ok with serving as methadone (i.e. a replacement) for their husband’s porn addiction.  

And let’s not forget the male singers and guest speakers who get up on stage and wear pants so tight that you know about as much as what they have going on down below as their spouses. I know, a little crass but highly accurate. (I’ve unfortunately seen this a few times myself – hard to get those images out of your brain!

And listen, I’m no prude.

  • I don’t think that clothes need to be baggy to be acceptable.
  • I’m not part of the modesty police.
  • I don’t think that the way one dresses ever excuses any resulting objectification that may occur.
  • And if you think your wife is “hot,” good for you. I hope so.

Admittedly, I can’t get on board with the tight penis pants tho…seriously guys – no one wants to see that. 🤮

But regardless, the fact remains that sexualization occurs even in our churches, and honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised. Again, we are to some extent sexual beings and so dressing in ways that draw attention to that fact is to some extent expected.

However, when we are finally willing to concede this, we then need to be more vocal about the matters of sex and sexuality in general.

We can’t preach purity and integrity without acknowledging that there are those among us (a large percentage incidentally) who struggle in these areas and need help and support.

Likewise, we desperately need to start talking about sex and sexuality in healthy ways and incorporating these conversations into the fabric of our church communities rather than running from them.

It’s kind of insane when you think about it, that one of the hardest places to find healthy and honest talk surrounding sex is in our churches. 

Maybe this is why so many Christians carry around so much sexual baggage, shame, and a distorted view of sexuality overall? 

Why is this? After all…

  • God created sex.
  • Sex is beautiful and enjoyable.
  • Sex is meant to build intimacy and connection.

And when kept within the confines of healthy and holy relationships…

Sex is highly spiritual and should be celebrated.

But yet we see very little of this happening. 

Because while sex is spiritual, it’s also scary to talk about. And until we get over this irrational fear of sex and sexuality – many will continue to struggle in their ignorance and brokenness.

The reality is this…

If you want to see less sexualization and objectification in our culture, then it’s on you (and the church) to lead the way in healthy dialogue about sex and sexuality. Let’s stop being last to the party on these conversations, but rather serve as a safe place to have them openly and honestly, so we can all move forward together.

BTW – we at XXXchurch understand these topics are difficult and messy. If you have questions about any of the things we covered here, be sure to check out Office Hours and submit your question so we can answer it in an upcoming session.

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Posted by on Jul 15, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

The Fallout of Broken Sexuality

I am the daughter of a porn addict.

My father thought his secret life only affected him, but hearing and seeing porn, going to strip clubs and other places for his voyeurism, and using me as bait to seduce women – affected me from a very young age. It also trained my brother to sexually abuse me for years.

The fallout from my father’s lifestyle of harmful sexualization nearly destroyed me.

We were a broken family limping along trying to make it look normal. We took family vacations, had nice things, were well educated and musically talented while my parents remained married.

Our home, however, was an emotional vacuum devoid of true, genuine connection, kindness, and warmth. My depressed mother yelled a lot and took most of her frustrations out on me.

My father was emotionally detached from everyone outside of anger. My brother used his emotions solely for the purpose of seduction.

It was difficult to grow up in such a home.

No one received comfort when in pain. There was no protection and no boundaries to allow people to say no. Pleasure in any form was the god of habit who ruled the appetites of everyone within those walls.

The biggest rule of thumb was to keep all the secrets under wraps so no one outside our family knew the truth.

Even though I lived under that roof for 21 years, I saw evidence there was a different way to live when I met some Christian friends.

They seemed at peace with each other. There was grace and forgiveness for mistakes. They were not hiding and their connection was unmistakable.

I wanted what they had.

The stark contrast of what I had in my home to this newfound safety and peace is what brought me to believe in Jesus as my Savior.

For the past 21 years since my conversion to truth, I have trusted Christ to show me a different way of living. Although Jesus instantly helped me walk away from my promiscuity with others more than two decades ago, it took an additional 15 years to become able to walk away from my masturbation and fantasy.

But now I live out a Redeemed Sexuality.

My thought life is still a work in progress, but God’s grace says that He is with me no matter what.

They say that people die as they lived. And that was true for my father. My mother passed away after she remained faithful to him for almost 50 years. Yet, he continued to seduce women, some of them many decades younger than him.

But when the chaos of his choices caught up with him in the nursing home, they asked him to leave. I confronted him about it and as he continued to talk about pornography, girls, and strippers to me, I said to him:

“Dad, you need to stop sleeping with these women or the people in charge are going to make you leave.”
I can’t,” he said.
He was 74 years old.

We got him in his new nursing home and he only lived an additional 10 days.  He had no access to all the women he had spent the past two years grooming to do his sexual bidding.

I prayed for my father’s conversion for two decades. He never changed, nor did he want to. And he asked me specifically never to talk to him about it, either. I dutifully respected his wishes.

But God had changed me.

And I desperately wanted to show him a different way to live. When the path of life through Jesus’ forgiveness changed me, I wanted to tell him that he had access to:

A path that didn’t require constant time and energy on pornography.
A kinder way to relate to people of the opposite sex as people, not objects.
A deep, loving connection to make heart to heart conversations possible.
A true commitment to a spouse that was fulfilling and close.
A fantastic relationship with the God and Creator of the Universe, His Son & the Holy Spirit

I forgave my father.

I pursued him and never gave up the hope that he would someday love me, choose to connect with me in a healthy way and make time so we could have a true father-daughter relationship.

That day never came. And I grieved and wept deeply when I saw his body in the funeral home.

Those words were never spoken to my father because he never wanted to hear them. But maybe those words were never meant for my father to hear.

Because maybe, just maybe….

….those words are meant for you.

 

 

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Posted by on Jul 12, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Fight, Run, Hide, or Rise

Our bodies are amazing creations. The way we are naturally wired and the manner in which our brains work are truly marvelous. It’s the type of stuff I personally geek out on.

Take for instance the limbic system. This lower part of the brain is involved in our behavioral and emotional processes, particularly when it comes to behaviors we need for survival such as fight or flight responses. 

It’s the primary reason humanity has survived all these years through hungry dinosaurs, plagues, famines, and the unpredictable whims of mother nature. 

And while fight or flight responses are more primitive, they are essential for survival especially when it comes to dealing with imminent danger scenarios that could result in physical harm (such as running out of a burning building).

 However, as our society evolves, and we find ourselves in situations where we no longer need to say… run away from a hungry dinosaur, many people still react to any perceived threatening situations in a fight or flight manner rather than thinking through scenarios critically. 

In other words, we operate from a place of “feeling” instead of a place of “thinking.”

Just take a look at your Facebook feed and you’ll see what I mean. 🙄

And unfortunately, many of us have adapted this type of primitive response methodology when it comes to how we deal with sexually charged media, messaging, and situations.

What I mean is that the most common reactions we see when faced with a sexually saturated culture are…

  • “Fight” it.
  • Run or hide from it.
  • Crawl up in the fetal position and shut down in the face of it.

So this is why we see… 

  • People and groups who want to censor everything and “eliminate” the danger. (Fight)
  • Those who try to sanitize their surroundings and lock out access to all potential danger. (Flight)
  • Individuals and churches who rather withdraw from culture than risk the danger of engaging it. (Shut Down)

It’s why so many guys I’ve worked with over the years come into the recovery journey wrongfully thinking that the answer to their life-long problem is just a “better” filtering solution and/or internet blocker.

It’s also partly why so many single men think their porn use problem will go away once they are married and can finally have sex without sinning!

Remove the temptation so that you can remove the possibility of failure.

But this mindset ignores reality and in some ways makes things worse.

Let’s be honest, the sexualization of our culture increases daily – despite all the fighting, prevention, and social withdrawal.

And so what happens is when these primitive responses fail (which they all do at some point) we are left with the same problems and find ourselves back in the same dangerous scenarios. 

Leaving us with no hope, no real solutions, and no chance.

But what if we learned to respond to our sexually saturated world with a more critical mind?

What if instead of hiding from or fighting these things, we acknowledged their presence in the world and learned how to operate effectively in spite of them, rather than spending all our time just hoping they go away?

What if we actually engaged our culture rather than condemning and running away from it?

The reality is that when we rely on fight and flight responses we are always fighting, always running, and always left unprepared for the next challenge.

But… 

  • When we learn how to think critically through the sexual messaging we hear,
  • When we make decisions based on our goals and values and not just on the lack of options available to us,
  • When we rise up to engage and openly talk about the challenges we experience rather than retreating from them,

We grow in our awareness, understanding, and decision-making practices leaving us better prepared for whatever may come next.

And yeah, I know it sounds crazy, especially if you are someone struggling with porn and the like. But, running from our sexuality and the sexualization we are constantly exposed to doesn’t help our situation. 

At least not for very long. 

Rather we need to explore these things and the reasons they evoke such responses from us, so we can get to the root issues of our fantasies and  unwanted sexual behaviors. This is something that author and therapist Jay Stringer talks about extensively in his book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (a book I highly recommend).

The answer to your unwanted behavior and the door to your lasting freedom is not going to be unlocked with fear, anger, or ignorance. It can only be discovered through thoughtful engagement and understanding.

Yes, there may be moments in your life when fighting or running is the best solution, but it should not be your “go-to” response for dealing with the reality of living in a sexually saturated world.

There is a better way.

Because while your limbic brain may keep you out of the mouth of a hungry lion, it’s not going to show you the true path to healing and freedom.

And don’t forget – we’re ready at XXXchurch to help you along your recovery journey. If you have questions about any of the things we covered here, be sure to check out Office Hours and submit your question so we can answer it in an upcoming session.

 

 

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Posted by on Jul 8, 2021 in Blog | 0 comments

Christian Sex

I cannot begin to count how many women I have been in contact with that truly believe their husband’s faithfulness rests solely on their shoulders. I used to be one of them too.

I was told, through various Chrisitan resources, I need to meet the needs of my husband sexually or he will go elsewhere. This was the actual advice given to me when trying to understand my husband’s pornography addiction.

How did we, as a church, get to a place where wives are to blame for their husband’s infidelity?

Let’s begin with some of the literature coming out of the church in the last few years (without specifically calling them out). A lot of the past books that deal with sexual issues, including pornography addiction, tend to lean on a foundational understanding that men NEED sex and will not be able to help themselves if they haven’t had it in awhile.

I don’t know about you, but I have had an incredibly difficult time finding anything in the Bible that states that a man will die if he does not have sex. And I have never personally met anyone that has died due to not having sex.

So let us start debunking what previous church sexualization has driven home. Sex is not a need. Sex is a DESIRE.

Does that mean that sex is not good? No! Sex should be a wonderfully intimate thing that both men and women desire in a marriage. Both people should feel deeply connected and fulfilled!

Now, let’s talk about the other foundational understanding that these texts seem to carry: men cannot control themselves if they go too long without having sex.

Again, it proved difficult to find Jesus teaching that a man cannot help himself when it comes to things like sex.

In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Bible straight up tells us that, with the Holy Spirit, we have love, power, and SELF DISCIPLINE. (2 Timothy 1:7). Therefore, a man does have the ability to go without sex.

Now that we know that sex is a DESIRE and men can have SELF-Discipline in the Spirit, let’s chat about the wives’ side of things. Wait, these texts don’t really touch on that. Oops!

That’s right, these Chrisitan authors have made sex a need for men, turned men into animals, and made women’s sexual wants non-existent.

Could that truly be God’s design for sexual intimacy? Awful sex results in that way of thinking.

A man and wife cannot have sex the way God intended when it is only about the physical release and, for that matter, the physical release for the man only. Listen, before you get angry, orgasms are fantastic and I am not slamming that.

However, feeling obligated to have sex with your spouse because that is what a Christian woman does to keep her husband happy, results in sex becoming a chore, possible trauma for the woman, and very few orgasms. Let’s face it, when both spouses want to have sex with one another, the sex is incredibly better!

Women need to feel safe in their relationship with their husbands. That safety and closeness doesn’t come from having sex when they don’t want to.

Women can not find healing, create healthy boundaries, and begin having really great sex with their husbands when their desires don’t matter. Men can’t find true recovery, real self-efficacy, and a deep relationship with their wives when they have been fed lies about who they are sexually.

This type of weird male-centered sexualization from the church and Christian authors that belittles men and degrades women needs to end.

There needs to be more authors like Sheilla Wray Gregoire that stand up and say, hey this isn’t BIblicial, this is not what God intended for marriage.

On Sheila’s website, discussing her newest book The Great Sex Rescue, it states “Sex should be free of manipulation, obligation, or coercion in your marriage”. Manipulation, obligation, and coercion all result when men and women are told that sex is a need for men and that women have to fulfill that need for their men. Period.

Sexual intimacy in marriage is supposed to be a wonderful gift between a man and his wife. But when the church refuses to talk about sex the way God intended, we come to a place of corrupted sexual intimacy and messed-up sex lives.

If we are to open up about sex, let’s start getting it right. Let’s start realizing the truth: that people are responsible for their own behavior, sex is a desire, and that women’s desires matter too.

 

If you missed it, we are now offering Office Hours: A weekly office hours session where we will answer any question you have on camera. If you have ANY questions about any of the topics we discuss here, be sure to check out Office Hours and submit your question so we can answer it in the upcoming session!

 

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