Transforming the Mind: The End of Sexual Identity

vandykeIt’s no secret that our culture has undergone a sea change in our attitudes about sexuality during our lifetimes. I remember watching old TV shows, for example, where couples were depicted as sleeping in separate beds, houses seemed to have no bathrooms, and even the word “pregnant” made network censors nervous. That seems quaint today given that, according to a University of Washington study, two out of every three television shows include sexual content (that’s up from half in 1997/98). Some of us are old enough to remember when Bruce Jenner was a gold medal decathlete in the 1976 Olympics, the all-American man, the one who adorned my Wheaties box as a kid. Now he is known for identifying as she, Caitlyn Jenner.

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The Mission of Marriage

Part III of “Redeeming Sex”

Texts: Matthew 22:23-33; I Corinthians 7:25-35

Wedding-CakeAsk most pastors which they would rather do, a funeral or a wedding, and most will tell you that they would prefer to do the funeral every time. It seems counterintuitive—funerals are “sad” and weddings are supposed to be “happy,” so why prefer the downer?

For me, it’s a theological thing. At a funeral, people are generally focused on God and on eternal things. One cannot sit at a funeral without thinking about one’s own mortality, about ultimate things, about the mystery of death and eternal life. At a wedding, on the other hand, people—in particular the bride and groom and families—are generally more focused on themselves as the center of attention. Practically speaking, God is an interesting addition, if he is there at all.

It’s like the bride who called our church in Utah and said, “Your church is so pretty and we’d like to have our wedding there, but is all that ‘God stuff’ really necessary?” I explained to her in terms that she could understand—it’s part of the package. I didn’t do the wedding. I have seen a lot of bad behavior at weddings because everyone is focused on themselves—breaking up fights between the mother of the bride and the wedding coordinator; a couple who talked to each other all through the ceremony as though neither I nor anybody else was in the room; another where the bridal party stopped at a bar on the way to the reception, leaving the guests waiting for two hours before the meal, which largely had to be abandoned.

I could go on and on. There’s a book there waiting to be written, actually. As I think about it, however, a lot of these weddings are not necessarily the fault of the participants, but rather the result of the way that our culture views marriage (and sex, by extension). For most people today, marriage is a private contract between two individuals that is based on mutual love and attraction, wherein each party finds a sense of personal fulfillment. People get married because they “fall in love,” which means they feel love toward one another. Marriage is an important societal institution, but what happens in the marriage largely remains a private affair.

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Disoriented Orientations: When Sex Becomes an Idol

Part II of “Redeeming Sex”

Trudie-Styler-and-Sting-001A few years back there was a media report going around about the rock singer Sting who, according to the report, claimed that he was a practitioner of an ancient eastern form of Tantric sex and could “make love for eight hours a night.” This was big news in the entertainment world, where sexual prowess is seen as one of the keys to success. Sales of books on the Kama Sutra and other eastern forms of spiritualized sexuality soared. Everybody wanted to know the secret.

Awhile later, though, Sting made a cheeky confession. Apparently, he had bragged to Bob Geldoff, singer for the Boomtown Rats and organizer of the Live Aid concerts, about his ability to have sex for eight hours a night. Several years after the story broke, Sting confessed that he had “sexed up” the story to impress his fellow musician. “I think I mentioned to Bob I could make love for eight hours,” he explained. “What I didn’t say was that this included four hours of begging and then dinner and a movie!”

When it comes to sex, there is the fantasy and there is the reality. I love this story because it’s so honest—that while the culture is fascinated by tales of sexual fantasy, it’s the reality of relationship that gives us the real thing.

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Longing for God: The Sacredness of Sex

Part I of the Series “Redeeming Sex”

Redeeming Sex Logo2-01Let’s talk about sex.

That’s not a sentence you often hear from the pulpit. It’s so unusual that when I advertised a summer sermon series on sex while I was in Park City, UT, the local radio station called me and wanted to interview me. They thought that a local pastor had lost his mind completely. The church talking about sex? That has to be a story!

It was interesting, however, that in the middle of July in a resort town the church was packed for every sermon in that series. Clearly, people wanted to hear what the church, or at least its crazy pastor, might have to say on the subject. That’s one of the reasons we advertised this series during Christmas—sex sells, even when it comes to church!

The reason for doing a series like this, however, has a lot more to do with the need than with attendance. After all, our culture is talking about sex all the time. Sex does, indeed, sell when it comes to advertising, and you can’t open your computer or a magazine or drive down the highway without seeing someone’s body alluringly displayed for your inspection. Radio and TV commercials lead us to believe that erectile dysfunction has replaced heart disease as the most important health concern of our time. Sex talk and sexual adventures dominate our entertainment media.

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Exit the Warrior: Thoughts on Neil Peart’s Retirement

international-musician-07.1984-5Word came this afternoon through a variety of online classic rock and musician sites that drummer Neil Peart (pronounced “PEERT” for the uninitiated. Accept no substitutes.) is putting away his ProMark 747 drum sticks for good. His announcement was a subtle one, as befitting a thoughtful wordsmith like Neil:

“Lately Olivia [his young daughter] has been introducing me to new friends at school as ‘My dad– He’s a retired drummer.’ True to say–funny to hear. And it does not pain me to realize that, like all athletes, there comes a time to… take yourself out of the game. I would rather set it aside then face the predicament described in our song ‘Losing It’ (‘Sadder still to watch it die, than never to have known it’).”

My first reaction was sadness, immediately followed by a sense of gladness for him, his family, and all that he accomplished as a musician and lyricist. I saw Rush on the R40 Tour in Denver this July, which was billed as likely being their “last tour of this magnitude” and Neil was as good as ever, as were Geddy and Alex, of course. I once heard a quote attributed to Stewart Copeland (another member of the Mount Rushmore of rock drummers) where he reminded those sit behind the kit: “The singer doesn’t need you. You need the singer. No one shows up at a concert for two hours of a drum solo.” It may be an apocryphal quote, but that makes it no less true of any drummer and any band. Rush is (was?) truly the sum of all three of its parts. If this is the end of their 40 year run as a band, they are going out on top.

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