Posts Tagged ‘sin’

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Adultery and Patriarchy

November 12, 2013

Here’s what this article is not about. It is not slamming the Christian Patriarchy movement per se – or Complementarianism. Both belief systems teach that males in a family are in charge, and in order for females (wives) to find their true place in God, they must submit to their husbands in all things. According to a few Patriarchy teachers, this can even include  violence, lying, harsh words and adultery. If the husband is doing any of those things, then it is ultimately the wife’s fault or she has to somehow take responsibility to fix their relationship. This extreme position is taught by many teachers, but Michael and Debi Pearl  are the best known advocates of this instruction. In their teaching, if a husband has an affair, at some level the wife was not doing her duty properly.

But I am not primarily writing about the wrongness of those movements. I don’t agree with them, but let’s just leave it at that.

Nor is this article about the dangers of adultery. A lot of people commit adultery and that does not necessarily negate their belief system. We all fail and many of us fail spectacularly. Anyone who claims they do not fail is faking it, and those who do not fail spectacularly are either lying or hiding their problems really well. Adultery is a problem because we all want to feel good, and when marriages have problems, an affair can seem to soothe the hurts for awhile. Or the boredom. Or the resentment.

But this article is not about that. Adultery causes many problems and let’s just leave it at that.

Doug Phillips has admitted this past week to having a long-term affair. If you don’t know him, he’s one of the prime teachers and leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement, President of Vision Forum, which along with Gospel Coalition seems to represent the most conservative wing of the conservative marriage movement.

He has many extreme teachings including that President Obama is allied with the Antichrist (because of the emergence and legality of homosexual marriage), that every family should keep having kids until the woman’s uterus is worn-out and won’t work any more, that godly parents will ONLY homeschool their kids, that a wife must never disagree with her husband, must submit to all his commands and whims, must teach their daughters how to serve a future husband and this same wife must provide a safe and sacred place where all sexual needs of her husband are fulfilled – even if her needs are not.

It is an extreme position. Doug Phillips also puts himself forward as the example of what a Christian husband should be.

Now he has had an affair. Let me try and help  you understand some of the implications of this. First, I consider Doug Phillips to be something of an outlier, in that the majority of Evangelical Christians do not hold to his extreme views. Second, just because he has had an affair does not mean his views are wrong. I believe the Bible shows that his views are wrong. But there are Egalitarians (i.e. those who believe husbands and wives are equal partners) who have had affairs, cheated on their taxes and watch soap operas. I am not bringing up Phillips’ affair because it disqualifies him.

I am introducing this subject because it points out an endemic problem with this approach to marriage and sexual sin.

The view that says the husband is the Patriarch of the family arises out of ancient agrarian societies where this approach was necessary and practical. In ancient times, any woman not attached to a family unit led by a powerful and protective man was in danger. Women who did not marry a man who could protect her often were beaten, raped and would ultimately starve. Women had no education, no opportunities, and faced constant dangers during an epoch when the strongest dominated the weakest. This is why polygamy was allowed. It gave protection to many women at the same time.

In those days, a man had very little contact with anyone outside of his family. He was accountable to very few people except his immediate family and a few friends. He met very few single women, and the ones he did meet were often brought in as third or fourth wives.

But in today’s culture, men and women contact each other daily. And strong men can no longer marry all the women they meet. If his wife is not strong, aggressive and able to hold her husband accountable for his actions, adultery is much easier to do. Unless the husband agrees to never talk to another woman (and how is that even possible in our day and age), the only two things which will hold his sinful tendencies in check are an equally strong wife and an even stronger relationship with the Holy Spirit.

But the Complementarian movement does not teach that women should be strong and equal partners. It teaches that women should be subservient and never disagree or ask their husbands to account for their actions. It does not surprise me that Doug Phillips had a long-term affair before he admitted his problem. Since he had no one at home to call him on his crap, he was able to hide his problems over a long period of time. His wife was ordered never to question him or disagree with his actions.

What bothers me even more is that Phillips’ wife will ultimately be called upon to take responsibility for fixing their marriage. All Phillips has to do, according to his teaching, is admit the affair, apologize and move on. His wife now has to try harder to please him, hoping to fend off future affairs.

If you believe that the marriage culture of the Old Testament is God’s plan for your marriage, consider that it no longer fits well with our urban modern society. Even though affairs happen in Egalitarian families, they are treated much differently afterward. This failure by Doug Phillips should serve as a warning that Christian Patriarchy is not as ideal or biblical as it purports to be.

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Does God Pull Away or Do We?

October 25, 2012

I have heard it said many times that God hates sin so much that he cannot have anything to do with people who have sin. God is often pictured as distancing Himself from sinners, retreating to a holy conclave where He is not affected by our sin. Jesus’ death on the cross, which legally pays for sin, allows God to have fellowship and friendship with the believer.

Or so we’ve been told. There are certainly verses throughout the Bible that suggest this and even state openly that because we are all sinners we fall short of the grace of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that when we sin we negate the effectiveness of our prayers (Micah 3:4), we bring spiritual death upon ourselves (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23), and we lose a place in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

But nowhere does it say that God cannot stand to be around us when we sin. Nowhere.

Here is what it does say: Isaiah 59:1-2:

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

Look clearly at v. 2. It is not that God pulls away from us; we pull away from God. Sin, by definition is selfish living, living without regard for Creator, other people and consequences. When we live in such a self-absorbed condition, it is hard to be close to anyone, let alone God. The more we sin, the less we are like God and the less we share values in common with God. When you do not share the values of another person, it is so hard to get close to them. In counseling over the years, I have seen many married couples grow apart because they do not share a common set of values.

In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, we read that God went looking for them. THEY HID FROM GOD, not the other way around. God is not afraid of sin and neither does God reject the sinner. Jesus is God and he liked to hang with sinners. Holy Spirit is God and he speaks to sinners about sin, righteousness and the afterlife. You don’t speak to people you abhor.

There is not a person in this world that God willingly pulls away from. But He will allow us to pull away from Him. Keep that in mind next time God feels far away. God didn’t move away. God didn’t change position at all.

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The Group Influence on Sin

December 27, 2011

I looked over at the car beside me. This was so stupid. It was 8 am on a Sunday morning and we are both waiting at a stop light that would not turn green. We were traveling on a major road and we were stopped at a red light for a minor cross-street. I assume it normally does not get activated unless someone is waiting to use it. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t a car on the road besides me and the guy next to me. We must have waited for four minutes and nothing was changing. Yet, like good law-abiding citizens we both sat there idling our engines.

I wonder how long we would have stayed there if the motorcycle had not pulled up. On the lane to the right of the guy beside me, a motorcycle came up and started to wait with us. But after 5 seconds, he looked both ways and bolted across the intersection. I was flabbergasted by this –  and offended.  Apparently, the guy beside me did not react the way I did. A few seconds after the guy on the Harley took off, so did he. They were both gone and left me holding up the letter of the law. On top of that, ten seconds later, the light turned green and I made my way – legally –  forward to my destination.

I have to say I felt a lot better when I came to the next light and they were both waiting there. But this scene touched off a spark of insight for me.

Many of our law-keeping ways have more to do with who is also keeping the law than our ingrained sense of right and wrong. I wish it weren’t so, but society proves over and over I’m right about this: You are more inclined to break the law if others are also doing so. Our mothers did have the question right: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump off also?” We all know the answer has three factors: 1. How many friends? 2. How high is the bridge? 3. Will I get caught?

In times of chaos (such as riots, blackouts and Justin Bieber concerts) people will still abide by the law as long as enough people around them are also keeping the law. But as soon as we notice “everyone” doing something wrong, our baser nature kicks in and we often do wrong with the rest. That is really the test of how strong our moral values are: Will we keep them if everyone else is not? I am thinking of the London riots from last summer. People were looting stores and burning cars who just a few weeks before were criticizing those who did those things. In a fascinating interview, one girl admitted she was standing there watching people take appliances from one store and was crying about the destruction of her society. But, as soon as she saw her friends go in and take some items, she thought to herself “I could use a new television”. It took about two minutes to go from outrage to outright sin.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem the week before he died, the crowds gustily voiced their approval of him. They shouted “Hosanna” and proclaimed him as the conquering Messiah. Did anyone imagine a week later they would be screaming for Pontius Pilate to “Crucify Him”? Mob mentality caused them to change their minds; nothing else makes sense. Jesus’ teaching was just as controversial and effective as it always had been (no more nor less), he did miracles that week,  and answered all their questions. Even up to the last minute, there were many vocal supporters. But as soon as the crowd began to turn on him, others followed suit. We don’t know how many people shouted for Jesus to be crucified, but it must have been a sizable majority for Pilate to go against his own desires out of fear for the crowd.

Last summer, when Casey Anthony was found not guilty in the drowning death of her daughter, people started a web page called “I hate Casey Anthony”. On that page, people were passing ideas around about how to kill her, lynch her or threaten her until she committed suicide. Here is one comment from that page: “Me either…I do not hate…it is wrong…but I do love this page.” Seriously, this person knew that participation in this page was wrong, but she valued being part of the crowd more than her own moral values.

What this really comes down to is a deep-seated need to belong. We will do almost anything in life to feel like we are a real part of a group of people. That includes sin. It would not be stretching it to say that most sin has some intrinsic element related to a desire to fit in, belong and have what others have.

Ask yourself this question? What would you consider doing if everyone you knew were also doing it? What would you do that is currently illegal if it was suddenly declared legal? Smoke pot? Commit adultery? Steal?

The answer to those questions is the real bedrock of our morality; or lack of it.

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