30 March 2013

Easter: Who Cares?

I've seen more people upset about Easter this year than usual-- from Christians upset about bunnies and eggs (or even the name Easter) to schools outlawing the use of the word Easter because it might offend someone. To ice the cake (not an Easter cake for anyone concerned) we got invited to have lunch with a group of friends from Church, and I wondered if family members would feel left out that we weren't having lunch at home with them.

Let's start with the icing (I am all about the icing; Sharon is the cake lover). Easter is not actually a family holiday. Not in the traditional sense of the word, "family". If you're a Christian, it's a family holiday in the sense of your family in God, whether related by birth or not. But if it's just an excuse to get with birth family, eat chocolate, hunt eggs, and dress up, any day is as good as another. If that were my goal I'd pick a day nobody else was likely to be doing anything. Maybe the Saturday before the Ides of March. (Afterward could run smack dab into spring break, a major holiday week.) Not a family holiday (what are? birthdays, mothers day, etc).

I also don't care what you call the holiday, or where that name came from. Some people are really into the whole debate about whether "Easter" came from "Ishtar" (there is "proof" both ways), and whether the Church redeemed the day by taking it over, or opened up a back door to the spirit of Antichrist by assuming that name.

Two other points of division and confusion [1] are the Easter Bunny Conspiracy and the Easter Egg Controversy. Is the Bunny really a symbol (or even a familiar) for the pagan goddess of love, war, sex and fertility? Or was it the natural association with Mary because it was mistakenly believed a hare could reproduce without losing virginity? Are Easter eggs likewise symbols of the empty tomb or a nefarious, demonic sneak attack by their association with (again) Ishtar?

I've spent way too much time over the years thinking, studying and praying about these. I have looked at them from all sides (at least, all the sides I'm aware of). I have finally settled firmly into the camp of I Don't Care. I don't care whether you call it Easter or Resurrection Day. I don't care whether you talk about the Easter Bunny or whether you celebrate with eggs (much less whether any such eggs are candy or hard boiled, organic or not). God would be a puny god, indeed, if he got his panties in a wad about such things. Puny god? That sounds more like Loki to me.

Today is the day we celebrate the day Jesus proved his power and authority. God forgave everything everyone ever had or would do... including (if they happened, and if they need forgiving):

  1. Naming the day after a pretty bizarre goddess (love, war, sex and fertility. OK!)
  2. Associating theoretically hermaphroditic bunny rabbits with Jesus' Mom.
  3. Using eggs (clearly a fertility symbol!!!!) to represent the empty tomb and new life.
  4. Promoting tooth decay with eggs and jelly beans made of almost solid sugar and HFCS.
  5. Using unnatural dye on eggs that are neither organic nor free range.
  6. Peeps
And just for the record, Jesus did all that without waiting for anyone to ask. You're loved and forgiven, and you look just like Daddy/Mommy God. I'd say that's worth celebrating, whatever you want to call it.

You're awesome and loved. Happy Easter / Resurrection Day / You Are Forgiven Day.

[1]Who's into dividing the Church? Who's the author of confusion? Yup, same old fish head.

23 March 2013

Innocence and Intimacy: She Was My Soul Sista

In my last blog I brought up how we have lost the real meaning of intimacy, and how we've abused it. Today I want to share an of intimacy between opposite sex friends, and how it was God's provision.

I don't recall exactly how Alice Gernazian danced into my life. We were both madly in love with Jesus, but still comfortable with our inner hippies (there was a lot of good in the hippie movement). For whatever reasons, we were instant soul mates-- not the sort who would want to kiss (much less get married) but more like Jonathan and David. Without sex, without drugs, without doing anything illegal, immoral or sinful, we had a serious case of the dreaded "soul tie".

Alice was definitely more mature in her faith and understanding of God in some ways. One night coming back from a concert we picked up a hitchhiking hippie. When I found out he was into numerology I started preaching. He asked to be let out early. After he was out, silence reigned for a minute. Finally I spoke. "I blew it, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did." And Alice loving, patiently, relentlessly walked me through my arrogance, my superiority, and my lack of love... back to where I needed to be. I so trusted Alice that she could go anywhere with me I needed to go.. Intimacy and openness made this possible. It worked both ways, though I never had to chastise her like that

A few months later we were discussing how everyone we knew seemed to be dating, and we were always kind of the extra people. We decided we would become a couple of a different sort. Since we were friends, with an intimate emotional, intellectual, and spiritual relationship, and did lots of things together anyway, and since neither of us was really interested in dating at that point, we decided that any time one of us wanted to go somewhere one might normally take a date, we would go together.

We were totally comfortable holding hands, putting our arms around each others' shoulders, and hugging. Neither of us had any desire to kiss the other (no aversion, simply no desire). We were about as close a brother and sister as there can be. I recall holding hands when we walked places, sitting with our arms around each other at concerts, days at the park, dinners, her head on my shoulder driving... and never a wrong desire. Seriously.

Eventually we both ended up in dating relationships. We each happily married and sadly lost touch (the internet was still in its infancy). But God gave Alice and me to one another in a special way. It nourished and nurtured us both, and provided for our needs. It was in no way a temptation. In fact, it provided a type of protection; neither of us was really interested in a dating relationship with anyone right then, and because we were always together, people tended to give us space. I know there were some people who wondered about us, but that wasn't our problem.

Ultimately, we were each part of God's cocoon for the other, a safe place to metamorph into someone even more beautiful, ready for the deeper relationships headed our way. The safe intimacy we experienced was just what we needed, made us both better people, and ultimately prepared us for the relationships that turned into marriage.

21 March 2013

I'm a Soul Man! (Will you Be My Soul Sista?)

(Thanks to Alise Wright (http://alise-write.com/) for sparking this.)

A term I've heard far too often over the past decade is "soul tie". For those who don't know, it's Modern Christianese for two people being very close. The term "soul tie" does not appear in any translation of the Bible I'm aware of.

The Bible sometimes refers to people as "knit together" or otherwise as one: man and wife (Gen 2/24); Jonathan and David (I Sam 20/17); the men of Israel (Jud 20/11); a local body of believers (Col 2/2). These would be examples of good soul ties.

While most people who "teach" (and I use this term loosely) on soul ties recognize that there are good ties (marriage, close same sex friendships) there are several problems with the whole concept.

  1. They focus almost exclusively on bad soul ties to the point most people don't even realize there are good ones.
  2. They tend to paint almost all friendships between opposite sexes as examples of negative soul ties.
  3. They tend to see close relationships between the sexes as inherently and inevitably dangerous... at best.
On top of these problems, there's a lot of doctrinal silliness contending that anything you do wrong creates a soul tie with someone and that any such ties are destructive, debilitating, demonic, and difficult to break.[1] This flies in the face of grace and the power of the finished work of the cross.


At its core, a soul tie is simply a relationship. Relationships are determined by intimacy; close relationships have more intimacy, more risk, more exposure, more openness, and ultimately more security. We are made for relationship-- not just with God, not just with a spouse, but with all those around us. We are made to be mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents and grandkids, and so on. Even best friends are intimate; how much more so family?

Therein lies a big part of the problem. We have become so sex-conscious that we tend to see everything in terms of sex. For most of us, the term "intimacy" primarily means "physical intimacy", which primarily means "sexual intimacy".

Except... those are not the primary meanings. Intimacy is a broad category. Physical intimacy is merely one subcategory of intimacy. Sexual intimacy is merely one subcategory of physical intimacy.

I am intimate (to varying degrees) with a fairly large number of people. I tend to be somewhat physically intimate with everyone around me, unless they simply can't cope with that. For me, handshakes are for business. I would far rather hug (I do respect others' boundaries). I have kissed quite a few people of both sexes-- family, extended family, and friends-- on the cheek or the head. There are any number of people I will put my arm around if we are in seats next to one another. There are at least a dozen young ladies who see me as a father or uncle with whom I sometimes hold hands while we walk, as well as women I see as sisters. I would have no problem holding hands with men. I am only sexually intimate with my wife.

Some of you need to read the preceding paragraph again. Maybe more than once. Every word is true. You read it right-- I have a lot of "soul ties". But these are good soul ties. These are the people I love, and who love me. There is nothing the least bit unhealthy about it. When we get to Heaven, I fully expect these soul ties to be stronger than ever. Or maybe we'll just see them more clearly.

Intimate relationships are what really make the world work-- whether between God and us, or between us humans. In the words of my oldest brother, "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Mt 22/37-40 NIV).

Since Jesus commanded soul ties, we'd best get busy with them. Does that scare you? Perfect love chases away fear. (I Jn 4/18) Once the fear is gone, you start enjoying love (and life!) a whole lot more. If you're not careful, you might even find yourself greeting people with a holy kiss.

And liking it.

And God will yet again say, "It is good."

And so will you.


[1] No sermon is complete without three or four points that start with the same letter.