Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, July 19, 2012

50 Shades of Grey and Sexual Addiction

I began a discussion a few months ago under the category of Sex and Power that spoke to common business practices and the impoverished masses. But I've yet to speak to the actual interpersonal interactions between a man and a woman in the many of expressions of love that we find written about in poetry, novels, videos, the media and our everyday conversations. It's an interesting question that seems better left to the parties involved as to how men and women prefer the intricacies of their love making.... However, its come up once again this time in a series of books known as 50 Shades of Grey which seems to have quickly spread into the minds of men and women demanding more literature, more conversation, more air time, within the public consciousness.

And so, rather than attempt to answer that question (mostly because I suspect it involves a broader set of experiences that goes beyond the everyday normative practices of simple kissing, hand holding, and the popularly-parodied missionary position of late night TV shows) we might reframe the topic by asking the following positive set of questions: Is the freedom of both lovers primary and being fully honored? Are your sexual actions or behaviors celebrative of your partner's personal image and humanity? Are both partners equally in charge of these very interpersonal experiences? Are your experiences helpful in developing the inner person of both you and your partner towards personal expressions of liberation and freedom? Is there any form of abusive harm or damage (whether physical, emotional or unconsciously) that is occurring in your practice? Are BDSM behaviors and personal self-practices particularly healthy for you as a person, or as a couple, to participate in?

Conversely, we should also ask the important follow-up questions of whether the practiced sexual behaviors of bondage and eroticism is personally addictive to either one, or both, of the consenting partners sharing in love making and personal expression. If, however, these practices and behaviors are addictive (or are becoming addictive) then we have come to a very legitimate concern that will slip progressively downwards in terms of a person's wants and needs from merely erotic physical bondage to that of very interpersonal form(s) of spiritual bondage. And once there, is extremely difficult to be liberated from when held within the dark cages and bonds of our own self-image's poverty as we try to find healing in personally (or spiritually) regressive behaviors. And mostly, in practices that are unhealthy and personally demeaning in what we could rather call 50 Shades of Sexual Addiction that starts out benignly grey and tied with a bright bow of promise to very quickly become darker and more disorientating harming our desperate human spirit and troubled inner self seeking spiritual release unto unbounded personal expression.

And it is here I think we find the most danger for the seemingly harmless practice of erotic love-making as it escalates into a steady demand to meet our personally unbalanced emotional and spiritual needs. Kept within the positive bounds of expression mentioned above it might be developed as personal redemptive expressions that can be fun and even liberating for some. But like everything we seem to do, or think we need to experience, it can very quickly devolve into a craven need which may become sourly addictive. A personal need reducing the human soul to personally unhealthy behaviors, expectations, artificial needs and wants. Sure, every one of us would like to be swept off our feet to experience the ultimate release and freedom that a truly intimate love might offer. But very few of us really can find this through sexual manipulation unless we first learn to give of ourselves while seeking the redemptive release of our intimate partner above our own very selfish (or is it, deceptive?) needs.

In this world of ours, the only truly freeing love that we may find is the love of God spiritually for our souls. It is God's love that would release us from our sin and sin's addictions. From selfishness and our unloving behaviors and imagined needs. Teaching us self-restraint and personally responsible expression. That would cause us to hungrily seek the inner liberation of redemption's insatiable promises. And birth us towards the newness of spirituality that has been lost about us in this world of sin so adamant in its demands that we must seek our own personal needs and wants foremost above anyone else. One can yet hear the ancient serpent's hiss saying, "Hath not God said all is good and may be eaten?" (my abridged version of Gen 3). Whether we speak of our time. Our money. Our relationships. Even of our most intimate of relationships. All has come under sin's scrutiny casting its vote to doubt God's goodness and strive for our own happiness and well-being through our own actions and determinations

And yet, God's love is a mystery that would remove all other mysteries from consideration. For it is in this divine mystery that we may find its promise so vividly portrayed to us through Jesus' incarnational ministry, death, and resurrection on Calvary's cross of release from sin's bondage and our own personal torments. A redemption that henceforth opens all benighted paths to release from personally deceptive behaviors of spiritual bondage which has held us too long within its dark prisons of hell's confounded deep. Listening to its mocking lies whispering in our wayward ears, our doubting hearts, our lost souls, minds, and hearts. Hissing the rightness of our exultant needs and wants, when simply it is but God's searching love which our hearts most long for when savagely desiring the divine salve binding the mortal wounds and scars of our empty lives and hearts but refusing its ministrations by our own desperately failing pleas and efforts.

Rejoice then my dear brothers and sisters. God's love is the one true love we should seek and yearn for when abandoning all-that-we-are to Him alone in our own personal chains of darkness. Here, in this solitary space, there will no longer be shades of grey. Nor 50 shades darker blinding the tortured human spirit with a dithering freedom that never comes. Nor 50 shades freed bound in the final pits of our deceived hearts giving in to hell's faithless promises of discovering our own freedom apart from God's truer chains of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope in Christ. A darkness which would hide us deep from the sublime touch of God's unbinding glory and grace. But rather, it is in Love's many striking colours of prismatic rainbows sparkling and refracting about us that would beckon us to taste-and-see that God's love is rich. Full. Pure. Deep. That would thirstily fill and satisfy our empty souls and impoverished beings with the redoubtable goodness of God's great love. Taste then, and see, that the Lord is good. And in Him there are no shades of darkness promising a freedom that will never come. But in Jesus alone is Love's purer light freeing our bounded soul to love's truer release. Not by our own hand but by God's hand mighty of salvation. To give love. To share love. To be love. There can be no greater joy. No greater experience. No greater power when discovering God's great good redeeming love.

The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

- Zephaniah 3.17
R.E. Slater
July 19, 2012

For further reference

A poem I wrote called Jars of Clay -

Other Verses on God's Love -

ps - As an introduction to the last article please note that this blogsite does not advocate the position of  complementarianism (man's dominion over women) but of egalitarianism (both sexes are equally empowered by God in mutually supportive and assisting roles). So that in the last article below Eric Reitan will take this same position as he questions Jared Wilson's diatribe for God-ordained sexism. It is in our considered opinion that the bible does not teach God-ordained sexism but God-ordained equality between the sexes in everything. And in all walks of life. And that would include equality between impoverished sects and classes of humanity so that regardless of gender, orientation, or social position, all men everywhere are equal in standing before God who judges right and true.

Negative Addictions

Sexual Addictions - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_addiction

Sexual Addictions, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment -

Sexual Addictions Self-Assessment Test - http://www.sanjosecounseling.com/sex-addiction-test.htm

Healthymind: Sexual Addiction Awareness - http://healthymind.com/s-index.html

A List of Books on Sexual Addictions: Don't Call It Love -

Drug Abuse and Addiction -

A Complete List of Addictions - http://www.addictionz.com/addictions.htm

Positive Addictions

10 Worthwhile Addictions - http://www.anwot.org/ten.html

Choosing Your Addictions Wisely -

Think Christian: No Such Thing as Secular

I recently watched the “Saturday Night Live” spoof of 50 Shades of Grey, the E.L. James book that millions of women all over the world are claiming has rejuvenated their sex lives. The spoof made me laugh, but it also made me sad.

Because I teach a course on gender to hundreds of Christian college students, I pay attention to cultural phenomena like the Twilight series and other novels that shape many female fantasies of love and sexuality. Generally, my students are disdainful of romance novels, but the 50 Shades discussion is unique in the way it has captured our culture’s attention. “Ellen,” “Dr. Oz,” “SNL” and nearly every talk show on TV references women’s obsession with these novels, and they also talk about the number of married men who are looking to these books to determine the answer to the age-old question, “What do women want?” This is a frightening thing.

Some argue, “It’s only fantasy. Lighten up. If it sparks the sex life of married couples what harm can it do?” Others point out that the subtext of the books, often referred to as “mommy porn,” can be dangerous.

Should Christians read these books? I think Christians who choose to read the books should start talking openly about their responses to 50 Shades. If we believe that Christ’s redemption shapes our response to culture, we cannot be afraid of what our culture is talking about.

When students ask me questions about sexuality I emphasize to them that sex, like everything else in our world, was created by God as a gift, but then was subject to the Fall. Through Christ’s sacrifice, though, we live in the knowledge that our sexuality has been redeemed, and we are free to explore it within the bounds of what God intends for human creatures. Within this framework, there are three things that should trouble us about these books.

First, the woman in the story agrees to the man’s rules of dominance in the relationship in part because she believes she will eventually be able to reach him and heal his troubled psyche. Friends who have suffered in abusive relationships tell me that this fantasy - that with sufficient love one can heal the abuser - is more damaging than we know. It shields abusers and keeps the abused in a bad situation.

Second, the story depicts sex as something that men do to women: real men dominate and women crave it. Christians who believe that males and females both reflect God’s image have to talk more openly about what God’s design for sexual partnership might look like. Sadly, there are few scholars that have taken up this topic well, but I think Lewis Smedes’ Sex for Christians remains one of the most thoughtful commentaries available. Students tell me that his theological discussion prepares them for engaging culture better than anything else out there.

Third, the dominance fantasy is dangerous when we only understand part of the picture. A fantasy can be benign - it is not reality. But if people are reading these books to determine what women want then we have a serious problem. The submissive character in the book consents to the treatment she receives, but historically and legally the nature of consent has always been a complicated issue. When government statistics tell us that one in five American women has been or will be sexually assaulted, we do ourselves no favor by insisting that dominance fantasy and violence have no relationship to each other. We must at least explore the possibility.

Sex can be complicated. We owe it to men and women to be more honest about sexuality, desire, the nature of the Fall and the blessing of God’s redemptive power. Christians should be leading the way on this discussion, not shying away from it.

What Do You Think?
  •  Is 50 Shades of Grey harmless fantasy or something more problematic?
  • Should Christians spend more time discussing how sexuality relates to faith?
  • How do you understand the Fall’s effect on human sexuality? 

Julia Stronks J.D. Ph.D. is the endowed Edward B. Lindaman Chair at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. She writes on faith, law and public policy and can be reached at jstronks@whitworth.edu.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
'50 Shades Of Grey': Is Christian Grey more
Ted Bundy than Ian Somerhalder?

by Linda Shaw
July 17, 2012 11:45 AM EDT

50 Shades of Grey may be making women everywhere excited but is the main character, Christian Grey, more like Ted Bundy than Brad Pitt or Ian Somerhalder?

While it may seem as though everyone is embracing the novels, there are quite a few people who actually hate them. With a passion [A quick review of Amazon.com's reader reviews board will show an almost universal response by the Amazon readership. - res].

The haters claim the horrible writing, repetitive sex scenes and weird language makes for a waste of time -- and money.

The Stir put together some of the most hilarious reviews of "50 Shades of Grey" for readers to check out. Here are some of the best:

"If you take out the parts where the female character is blushing or chewing her lips, the book will be down to about 50 pages. Almost on every single page, there is a whole section devoted to her blushing, chewing her lips or wondering 'Jeez' about something or another."

"The author makes sex and eroticism as boring as mowing lawns."

"This novel (if, a bunch of childish, repetition words comprise a novel) is the biggest load of crap I've come across since visiting a dairy farm in Wisconsin when I was 7. My tabby cat could write better sex scenes than this woman."

"I found myself thinking 'Twilight, plus some spanking, minus the sparkly vampires.' Here, I'll save you all some time (SPOILER ALERT): Once upon a time... I'm Ana. I'm clumsy and naive. I like books. I dig this guy. He couldn't possibly like me. He's rich. I wonder if he's gay? His eyes are gray. Super gray. Intensely gray. Intense AND gray. Serious and gray. Super gray. Dark and gray. [insert 100+ other ways to say 'gray eyes' here] I blush. I gasp. He touches me 'down there.' I gasp again. He gasps. We both gasp. I blush some more. I gasp some more. I refer to my genitals as 'down there' a few more times. I blush some more. Sorry, I mean I 'flush' some more. I bite my lip. He gasps a lot more. More gasping. More blushing/flushing. More lip biting. Still more gasping. The end."

"This book is absolute and complete garbage in every possible sense. Try to imagine of the smell of a large crate full of month-old eggs in the dumpster behind a questionable greasy spoon diner on a muggy, sticky August morning. With a dead skunk on top. And garbage juice dripping onto the pavement. And a drunk guy urinating onto the whole thing. Now imagine rolling in that dumpster. Naked. That's how this book made me feel."

Obviously the haters are just as vocal as the lovers of "50 Shades of Grey."

These readers all have a point. Christian Grey does sound messed up and could easily be like Ted Bundy, all tall, dark and handsome but with a murderous mind.

The repetition in the novels would be annoying to anyone and the idea that this naive character named Ana would do all this with this crazy man is beyond belief.

But, (most) women love it. Some say it has even changed their lives.

Where do you stand? Are you a "50 Shades of Grey" lover or hater?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

'50 Shades of Grey' is Full of "Crap"

by Aida Ekberg
July 19, 2012 01:15 PM EDT

There have been arguments that 50 Shades of Grey is laughable because of its portrayal of a girl's first time - virgins might walk away with extremely unrealistic expectations after reading the erotic novel about sex god Christian Grey making a very convincing argument about why an inexperienced college student should become his sex slave.

All you have to do is watch the uncomfortable show Virgin Diaries to see how awkward that first time can really be.

However, the book isn't just full of crap because it has virgin Anastasia Steele having orgasm after orgasm during her first time - the book is literally full of "crap."

The Mirror has helpfully compiled a list of every instance of Ana saying "Holy crap" in 50 Shades of Grey and the other books in E.L. James' series, which is a whopping 71 times. The newspaper editors were probably going to make a list of every time Ana's "inner goddess" is mentioned in the books but decided that they only needed a little filler, not pages of nonsense.

Here are some of the best "Holy crap" lines:

"We're talking about cheese... Holy crap."

"Holy crap. His hands are really gripping my hair. I can do this. I push even harder and, in a moment of extraordinary confidence, I bare my teeth."

"Holy crap... I need to take my pill."

"Holy crap! My inner goddess removes her iPod earbuds and starts listening with rapt attention."

"Holy crap, he's holding a cotton ball!"

And that sums the book series up fairly nicely, don't you think?

So obviously whoever plays Anastasia Steele in the 50 Shades movie is going to have to get her catchphrase down. This means that Peter Griffin from Family Guy or zombie Peter Boyle (R.I.P.) from Everybody Loves Raymond would be perfect for the part.

So can you think of any twenty-something actresses that actually use Ana's catchphrase? It might come naturally to country gal Miley Cyrus.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Benign" Christian Patriarchy and 50 Shades
of Grey: A Response to Jared Wilson
by Eric Reitan
July 18, 2012

A few days ago at The Gospel Coalition's blog, Jared Wilson offered a critique of the bestselling erotic novel, 50 Shades of Grey--in the form of an extended quotation from Douglas Wilson's book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man.
The quoted passage, in essence, blames the "twisted" forms of domination and submission between men and women--including rape and sadomasochism--on our failure to accept the God-ordained domination/submission relationship that, supposedly, is part of the natural reality between men and women. Denying and suppressing this hierarchical relationship--the one supposedly endorsed in the Bible--leads to this hierarchy coming out in twisted and violent forms.

In other words, the pursuit of genuine equality between the sexes, the critique of fixed gender-role expectations and the requirement that men and women uniformly be shoe-horned into these roles and relationship structures regardless of the unique features of their personalities and relationships...all of this is, apparently, leading men to rape and abuse women rather than benevolently cherish and protect their precious submissive little feminine flowers.

It seems that lots of people were horrified by this message. Jared Wilson was perplexed by the horrified responses and so, today, offered a response.

His response was utterly inadequate. It certainly missed the problems that I have with his (and Douglas Wilson's) original message.

So what did Jared Wilson say? He corrected those who seemed to  think, mistakenly, that the quoted passages as in some way explicitly endorsed  violence against women. In responding to those who found something misogynistic in Douglas Wilson's claim that the male/female sexual relationship is naturally about male "conquest" and "colonization," Jared Wilson quoted the other Wilson's response, which accused everyone making this charge of possessing "a poetic ear like three feet of tinfoil." He said some other things, too, but you get the point.

Neither Wilson seems to get it. So let me try my hand at explaining why the Wilsons' message is so horrifying. And while I could spend hours on the subject, I will limit myself to two features of the message that are particularly bothersome. One I will discuss at some length. The other I will treat only briefly.

1. The message treats gender egalitarianism as the problem and gender hierarchy as the solution, but it seems clear that the reverse is far more likely to be true.

Wilson and Wilson explicitly support the idea that the pursuit of egalitarianism in heterosexual partnerships is central to the problem of distorted and aggressive sexuality. Here's the money quote from Douglas Wilson:
In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts....But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
In other words, the Wilsons take it that the pursuit of gender equality amounts to repression of an inescapable reality, and that such repression leads, in Freudian fashion, to dysfunctional expressions of what has been repressed. Men rape because men need to have authority over their women, and when they are denied (presumably by the feminists and other supporters of gender equality) the opportunity to get this need met in the benign patriarchy of a head-of-household family, they're going to get it by fantasizing about raping women, or maybe by actually doing it.

Likewise, women who don't have the opportunity to submit to benevolent patriarchs are going to fantasize about being raped (and, dare we say, take risky actions that make themselves more vulnerable to the real thing, thus opening up the door to a whole new "Wilsonian" avenue for blaming rape victims?).

This is the message that makes me want to vomit.

Part of the problem is that this message assumes that the male desire to have authority over women is an essential part of the human condition as opposed to a culturally malleable one.

It isn't. A big part of the reason I know it isn't is because I don't personally have this desire. Somehow, being socialized by egalitarian Norwegian parents, I ended up not wanting to wield patriarchal authority, benevolent or otherwise, in my intimate relationships. I suppose the Wilsons will say I'm in denial--but that's easy to say. If I am in denial, it isn't a denial that has produced any bondage and submission games or dreams of being a rapist. It has, instead, generated a relationship with my spouse that is characterized by mutual respect and compassion and care, in which the relational dynamic isn't "authority and submission" but egalitarian partnership.

What do the Wilsons offer in support of their essentialist view of gender differences? Metaphors about sex. But do these metaphors simply describe the reality of sexuality, or do they create and nurture a certain perception of a reality that is far more malleable? What would our culture be like if we talked about sex in terms of the woman "enveloping" while the man is "enveloped"? The woman "consuming" while the man is "consumed"? Are these metaphors any less descriptive of the reality of sex? Isn't it more the case that the metaphors we use are cultural realities that help to shape what sex becomes?

In the face of this, I suppose the Wilsons may point to biological evidence that speaks to generalizable differences between human males and females on not just the physiological level but the psychological one. But what do these differences demonstrate, if anything?

Even if there may be some psychological generalizations that can be made about the human sexes--dispositions that are more frequent in one sex than the other because of biological differences--such generalizations are not universal. There are men and women who don't fit these generalizations, and who suffer when they are culturally expected to fit.

Furthermore, psychological dispositions are subject not only to cultural accentuation but also to cultural muting. Even if there is a tendency for the more testosterone-laden sex to be more aggressive when they don't get there way, what follows? A gender-role division that instructs women to submit to their husbands and tells men that they have the authority to get their way is a recipe for a relationship in which men consistently impose their wills and their wives consistently acquiesce. In other words, a relational template of this sort, if it is paired with a biological tendency for greater male aggressiveness, is likely to lead to a situation in which women's needs and interests will be consistently suppressed in favor of their husbands' preferences.

A gender pattern that affirms male authority and female submission makes it less likely, not more likely, that husbands will respect the needs of their intimate partners. It doesn't matter if endorsing that relationship pattern is paired with an injunction for men to be benign monarchs over their wives. Yes, such an injunction may soften the harmful effects of hierarchy; but it doesn't follow that the hierarchy doesn't have harmful effects. Kings who were invested with authority to rule, unconstrained by others with equal power to impose checks on that authority, would sometimes listen to the moral message that they should use their power benignly. But not always. After all, power corrupts, as they say.

Here's another way to think about it: In a world in which male authority and female submission is the cultural norm, women are more vulnerable to exploitation by their husbands. Many men are persons of good will who'll resist the temptation to exploit their wives; but in such a culture, women will be more dependent on the good will of their husbands because of their increased cultural vulnerability to exploitation. And if there is a biological tendency for men to be more aggressive in the pursuit of their desires, there will also be a temptation on the part of many men to take advantage of their wives' vulnerability.

Conservatives insist that falling prey to such temptation would be wrong, and that men have a duty to be benevolent patriarchs rather than abusive ones. But conservatives Christians like the Wilsons also believe in original sin. And we don't realistically deal with the reality of original sin by setting up social structures and institutions that increase the temptation to sin and make it easier to get away with it. Rather, we realistically confront our human propensity to fall prey to temptation by setting up conditions which make it easier to "avoid the near occasion of sin" and harder to avoid overt negative consequences.

If we want those with a disposition towards domination and oppression not to dominate and oppress, we don't set up social institutions in which domination and oppression are made easier. We set up social institutions that discourage domination and oppression. We set up gender socialization that mutes tendencies to dominate and oppress and builds up the sense of self-worth and dignity required to stand up to oppression or walk away from oppressive situations when they arise. Getting drummed with the message, "Submit to your husbands," doesn't do that.

In other words, Wilson and Wilson have identified an important contributor to the problem of women's exploitation and oppression, and they have touted it as the solution. And they have put their finger on one of the chief remedies to women's exploitation and oppression--namely, the cultivation and nurture of a culture of gender equality that expects and encourages egalitarian intimate partnerships--and declared this to be the problem.

2. Wilson and Wilson are trying to hold everyone hostage to their view of gender relationships.

The other reason the Wilsons' message is so disturbing is that it amounts to an attempt to hold hostage everyone with views about human sexual relationships different from their own. It is one thing to demonstrate that denying a view has dangerous consequences. It is something else again to simply assert that it does, to a large extent in the teeth of evidence to the contrary, in the hope that fear of dangerous consequences will lead to conformity.

I don't know if the Wilsons were intentionally doing the latter--but they sure haven't done the former. And the effect comes much closer to the latter. Basically, the message seems to be this: "If you don't see things our way, then you are suppressing reality in a way that is magnifying the abusive exploitation of women." We'd better do things their way--resist our egalitarian impulses--or more women will be violated. If we don't toe the line and make sure we wrestle every relationship into the particular mold that they read into the Bible, then we have only ourselves to blame for the violence against women in the world.

As if rape were less common when patriarchy was the uncontested norm.

(For more about my own experience with an egalitarian relationship, see my next post.)