Top 6 of 2010: #1 Hot Christian Sex

In honor of the coming new year, I am posting six of my most popular posts from this last year.   I hope you enjoy the throwback:

#1: “Hot Christian Sex.”

I read an article yesterday entitled: How Christians Spoil Sex.  The editorial was actually reviewing another article, which was promoting hot Christian sex.  The CNN reviewer gave it another twist by highlighting the ways Christianity (or sick Christianity) ruins our chance (perhaps for all of us) to experience erotic collisions.

Maybe I am not hearing the conversation right.  But I wonder why nobody is making this point: maybe the cultural pressure for hot sex is what is spoiling it.  Watch ten movies. The majority of them will depict hot sex.  The majority of our nation, I think it is fair to say, is likely thinking right now about hot sex.  We’ve pumped our eros full of steroids and blame religion for holding us back.  And then we go after it (hot sex) and realize that the pursuit of it usually ruins us.

There is no question that forms of Christianity have implanted within us an allergy against anything sexual.  It is also true that forms of Christianity have downplayed our bodies.  But I don’t think it is helpful to anyone if Christians carry the “Christians can have hot sex too” banner.

We should be saying things like: Christians don’t treat others like objects through which we can get hot sex.  Christians revere the image of God in each person.  Instead of a neurotic search after passionate love-making, we should be saying: Christians experience the heights of ecstatic union with their lovers amidst the earthiness of our inhibitions and awkward but beautiful bodies and through a transforming patience harnessed upon average experiences.

Vibrancy for a married couple depends on a robust and healthy sex life.  Vibrancy is not dependent upon hot sex, though sometimes, as a married Christian, you find your way there.

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Top 6 of 2010: #2 About

In honor of the coming new year, I am posting six of my most popular posts from this last year.   I hope you enjoy the throwback:

#2: “About.”

If you’re like me, you love this world.  Its people and landscapes sometimes take your breath away.  And, seriously…did they really think that I would buy into this “you have a heavenly home, so don’t worry about this one” formula?  You will find none of that here.

Thriving Among the Lilies is a tapestry of local inspirations and lessons hard learned.  What does it mean to live locally as a global citizen?  What does a radiant life look like in a post-Christendom, post-industrial city?  How can I live simply in tune with the sacred earth? What does it mean for a human to fulfill their destiny?  That’s what I think about on a daily basis.

I have seen more places on this earth than most old men.  I wake up every morning thinking about building vibrant global community.  I work all day sometimes catching glimpses of it. I am launching into a PhD on Early Christianity, having just finished the equivalent in Formative Spirituality. And let’s be honest, trying to maintain our radiance, living in 3D, often leaves a wake of disappointments and debunked expectations.

So in my few years, I have collected a few things in four subject areas that I’d like to share with you.  I hope you take the opportunity to share back.  Lovers of Nature. Students of Scripture. Global Citizens.  Authentic Spirituality.

I also invite you to write a post-card and link into my events.  Write me a post-card on your thoughts about all of this.  Submit a message, or send me a picture (send these to my email: kmjagger@asburyseminary.edu).  If possible, I will either post the note on the front page or use the picture in a blog post.   And, on my Events page, you can link into some of my upcoming speaking arrangements and presentations.

 

Top 6 of 2010: #3 Spirituality at Asbury Seminary, Adrian van Kaam, and Susan Muto

In honor of the coming new year, I am posting six of my most popular posts from this last year.   I hope you enjoy the throwback:

#3: “Spirituality at Asbury Seminary, Adrian van Kaam, and Susan Muto.”

The seeds of Spirituality sown by Father Adrian and Susan Muto have been cast wide at Asbury. From as early as 1980, Asbury’s faculty have looked to Father Adrian and his institute for guidance.  Now, Asbury boasts of one faculty member taught mentored by Father Adrian, two staff members who have taken the 60 CEU course on Formative Spirituality and many more influenced by his right hand woman, Dr. Susan Muto.  For example, Asbury’s core small group initiative looks mainly to Father Adrian’s model of small group direction for guidance.

I am glad for this.  Read one of his books and you will see why.  In his preface to volume one of his magnum opus (13 volumes on Formative Spirituality), Father Adrian gives this challenge to us all:

“This is the first volume of my series that aims to initiate the reader not only into a new science but also into a way of thinking that is as old as humanity, though perhaps new for many today.  Our purpose here is to distinguish informative thinking from formative thinking.  Most readers may be familiar with the former, but puzzled by the latter.  The informative approach is customary to our culture, our sciences, our daily life.  Its results are most impressive; at times, as in the technological conquest of outer space, awesome.  The results of informative thinking are most useful in many fields of inquiry, including the science of formative spirituality.

However, exclusive dependence on informative thought alone does not seem sufficient for the full flowering of our life and world.  Human thought also has to help people find ways to live more consonant, happier lives, making the world a better place for them and succeeding generations.  To be sure, the majority of informative thinkers and researchers also aim at such improvement, but in a more remote or indirect way.  Their insights and findings contribute greatly to its realization, but the missing link between their informative efforts and the concrete daily life of people is formative thinking.”

 

Top 6 of 2010: #4 Primitive Imagination and Early Christianity

In honor of the coming new year, I am posting six of my most popular posts from this last year.   I hope you enjoy the throwback:

#4: “Primitive Imagination and Early Christianity.”

Do indigenous African religions offer African Christians a clearer view of Early Christianity?  In what ways does the Early Christian imagination match the indigenous mind in ways that Western enlightenment worldview does not?  These are the questions of the week.  I am leaning on African theologian Kwome Bediako and historian of religion Harold Turner (not Victor).

Points four and five of the primitive imagination include: 4. a belief that humanity can enter into relationship with a benevolent spirit-world, 5. an acute sense of the afterworld.

For the fourth point, consider this text (Luke 1): Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear….”

For the fifth point, consider this verse (2 Peter): But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. THe heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare…But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Bediako notes, “Primal religions generally conceive of religion as a system of power and of living religiously as being in touch with the source and channels of power in the universe; Christian theology in the West seems on the whole, to understand the Christian Gospel as a system of ideas.  And yet, when the apostle Paul described the gospel, that is what he wrote: ‘I have complete confidence in the Gospel; it is the power of God to save all who believe…’ Surely, this calls for a new idiom.”


 

Top 6 of 2010: #5 Should a Christian Have a Happy Halloween?

In honor of the coming new year, I am posting six of my most popular posts from this last year.   I hope you enjoy the throwback:

#5: “Should a Christian Have a Happy Halloween?”

As a Christian I am sometimes torn if I should wish you a Happy Halloween.  You might be a person who loves the Night of Fright filled with happy childhood memories.  You might be a fundamentalist who thinks the holiday is nothing but  Satan worship.  Or you might be the unique religious who celebrates Halloween by passing out tracts with candy, though you will not dress up.  So, when I come to your door in  my costume this year, I am not really sure if I should ask you for a treat.

For me, I have great memories of Halloween, and when I delved deeper into my faith, I began having some tensions.  My  journey to the light seemed threatened by the night of dark revelry.  So, my first step was to replace Halloween with Harvest.  I love the spirit of the season and tried to link it in some way the Christian holiday of all Saints on the 1st of Nov.  That is a good route, though I think there is a better way.

Though I have gotten over the need to dress up in gore– to me there is something wrong with the over attachment to our own need to express the grotesque pieces of this life– I do think that the numinous spirit world is important for every person and Christian to face.  Psychologically, Halloween allows us (especially those of us who generally think the spirit world is a myth) to face the dark unknown that we all somehow feel is out there.  More than that, we must face the fact that the Bible thinks there are a bunch of disembodied spirits out there and not all of them are in heaven.

So, in the tension between fusion with the grotesque and an overtaxed need to defend ourselves from the dangers of the great unknown, we should find a way to happily face our greatest fear: that I am not in control of this universe, which stretches far beyond my five senses.  It is a great chance to practice abandonment to the Light while sharing it with those who feel that all lights for them have gone out.

Top 6 of 2010: #6 Keith’s Big Year

In honor of the coming new year, I am posting six of my most popular posts from this last year.   I hope you enjoy the throwback:

#6 “Keith’s Big Year.”

This was a big year for me.

I graduated from the Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality.  My wife completed a rigorous year of her master’s work.  And we somehow managed to keep raising a confident (though not altogether sane) 3 year old girl 🙂

It all culminated as I reflected at Palm Beach.  Actually I reflected as I lay on the wave line where the beach and the ocean constantly joust.  It was a spiritual moment.  Who knows what the other beach goers thought about this crazy beached man.  Eyes closed, on my back, sprawled, I lay my head on the wet sand. CRASH!  The wave came over my body.  The water ran away again.  CRASH! Another round.  Ever try this?  It can evoke real fear.  You never know when or how intense the wave will hit.  It was to me it was a grand metaphor of my year.   Taking the brunt of the ocean’s rage, the waves and sand worked together to slowly swallow my body into the earth.  It was a cruciform epiphany. All along, I cringed over the next wrathful wave to crash.

Over the course of a half hour, I slowly learned to enjoy myself.  The waves crashed just as hard, but I began to find joy in the power of the earth and its waters crashing over my legs on my torso and over my shoulders.  A peace and then an abandonment grew in me among the lily foam.

It was an abandonment hard won over 12 months.  An abandonment that helped me lead a group of students to San Diego then Cincinnati for a conference that would thrust us into modern abolition and local justice work.   It was an abandonment that gave me confidence among 13,000 Biblical Scholars in New Orleans.  It was abandonment that encouraged me to apply to PhD even so (I was accepted to 1 of 8 schools that I applied).  It was abandonment that got me through the seminars I directed for 100 pastors in post-January Haiti.  It was abandonment that I learned so acutely about in Pittsburgh finishing Epiphany.  And it was the abandonment among the Florida crest that reminded me to cast my cares to the One who holds us when the pounding waves of adventure, community brokenness, disappointment, and triumph swallow us into the ground.

Advent Reflections from a Young Married Man: Transformed Love

“In the past few weeks, I posted seventeen short Advent reflections on the Song of Songs from a young man learning to be a lover and a husband, who at the same time struggles to plant his worth as the beloved Bride of Christ.  My guiding question:

How does the birth of God’s Son transform the broken projects of struggling lovers into aspirations for soul mating?

Click here to read the general introduction:

8C   Song of Songs 8.6-14             The Transformation of Love

6.  Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.  Its flashes are like flashes of fire, a raging flame.  7. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.  If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned. 8. We have a little sister, and she has no breasts.  What shall we do for our sister, on the day when she is spoken for? 9. If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.  10.  I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who brings peace. 11. Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he entrusted the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver. 12. My vineyard, my very own, is for myself; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit two hundred!  13. O you who dwell in the gardens, my companions are listening for your voice; let me hear it.  14. Make hast, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of spices.

Many lovers live in darkness, isolated in a land where there is no peace.  They tremble with the knowledge that love indeed is as strong as death.  For it is killing them. 

We are reminded this Christmas that on this day our saviour was born.  Salvation was never about a ticket out of this earth.  In the case of struggling lovers, salvation is about transformation and becoming the type of people who have the ability to set their love life ablaze amidst the drudgery of everyday.  When failed responsibilities and our brokenness lead us to accuse our beloved of a thousand wrongs, salvation changes our heart and its song from, “there are flaws in you” to “you are altogether lovely.”  This is the true meaning of holiness and its Christmas bond.

Then like Merton observed, we can approach the isolated islands of our broken beloved and join in with God.  There in that place, we help call forth our lovers’ glory.

And on a Christmas day after a season of Advent within the Song of all Songs, it seems strange to finish with Zechariah’s song.  After all, where does the story go after the manger?

Zach’s song was never only about his son, for like his child, Zechariah’s melody here points to the grand symphony and unfolding message of this child.

Zechariah was among the first to know that God’s kingdom coming meant a complete transformation of life on earth as it is in heaven.  He knew that the forgiveness of sins meant a new hope for vibrant love.  He knew that redemption meant the ability to create relationships of trust and environments of grace.   He rejoiced that the tender mercy of God would stretch beyond political stability and into every lovers bond that has gone cold.  This was God’s rescue attempt.  This was His hope that we might live our lives without fear.  This was God’s hope that holiness and righteousness would mean changing us from lousy lovers into soul mates. And this is the hope of Advent.

No wonder Zechariah, like we, sings a song at the Christmas birth of this child, who created the crucible of marriage not as the place that primarily fulfills but as a transforming academy of love. Then we live our long and often boring lives as lovers who in the cold winter nights and warm summer breezes turn down the sheets and leap like gazelles onto the mountain of spices.