The opinions expressed on this blog are the personal views of Andreas Kjernald and do not reflect the positions of either the UMC congregations in Skien or Hvittingfoss or the UMC Norway.

onsdag 4 mars 2015

A pastor reflects on "Fifty shades of grey" - since everyone else does...

Yes, pastors think about sex. Heck, some even have kids! Yes, it is shocking but it is nevertheless true. Pastors are real people who watch movies, go to restaurants, buy cars and engage in extra-curricular activities. To many, pastors make up this "mystical" group of people who resemble the witch-doctors of old, although they look normal (for the most part). It is interesting to me that pastors are still seen as different or special or at least that they should be different or special. I can remember the woman who bowed her head low when she greeted me. I mean, seriously?

That was just weird...but it symbolizes what many people still think. Somehow, pastors are still seen as different or strange, even as our society is more and more secularized. Maybe people just humor us and see us as a little weird (but harmless) but I think it is because we don't fit into any of the current categories. I have noticed that when I am asked to fill out a form on the internet or in the mail about "occupation", "Pastor/Religious worker" is (nowadays) always absent. I have to select "other"...and "other" easily becomes "unknown". We are the unknowns.

Then again, it is hard to miss or forget that pastors exist. Churches are everywhere and the tradition and heritage of Christianity is strong in Scandinavia, mainly due to the influence of the state churches. Pastors still perform the overwhelming majority of the major "rites of passage" such as weddings and funerals and thus still occupy a place in the mind of the masses. We exist but only on special occasions, like Christmas decorations or our finest suits and dresses. Pastors are like jeans, everyday but unnoticed. Most people don't know a pastor personally and even fewer have a pastor for a personal friend. Perhaps that is why many have very outdated views of pastors...they haven't met any.

Add sex to this aura of "mystic" and you have a volatile combination. Most people, I believe, consider the Church, and therefore her pastors, to be against sex and sexuality. I appeared on television one time regarding an art-exhibit in the town where I was a pastor. It was profoundly sexual and pornographic in nature and I had commented online that it was inappropriate. I can't say whether I succeeded in my attempt to explain sex and its proper place, but I do remember that while I tried to show that sex does have a proper place in the order of things it was very clear that everybody thought that I had a very naive view of sex. I remember the look of disdain on the face of the man responsible for the exhibit when he talked about the "outdated" and "prudish" views of the church/me and how our society had evolved into a more refined and mature view of sex and sexuality. 
Basically, he argued that our society can "handle" sex and sexuality better now and should let all bonds of old be set loose. It is a new time, he argued, and sexuality should be free from everything that hinders it no matter time, place or method. If he wanted to show pictures of bestiality or sado-masochism in a public forum...why not? To argue against his idea was deemed silly and the people laughed at the pastor once again. More porn to the people!

Here is the reason why the Church always seems to say "stop" when the world says "more" concerning sex. The Church, resting on the Bible, has a better understanding of sex than the world. Period.
The Bible talks about sex (and sometimes extremely vividly) and it does so in a much broader sense than the world. The Bible knows where sex comes from, why it is so good and what it is for. The Bible claims that sex and sexuality comes from God, that it feels good because God is good and is for pleasure as well as the creation of new life. (If you really want to discover the depths of the Church's teachings on sex you will find that it sometimes talks about sex and the ecstasy of sex, the standing-outside-of-yourself, i.e. the orgasm, to be an inkling...a small sliver of the divine life itself.)  But let us move on.
The world doesn't know either one any more. It thinks it has purely a biological source, has no clue why it feels good and has divorced it from its purpose, to make children (by introducing different birthcontrol methods and abortion-on-demand). 
So, the world is awash in sex but clueless to where it comes from or what it is supposed to do or why it has such power over us. It just wants more of it. The Church understands its power, knows where it comes from and what it is for and especially why it has such power over us...and as such the Church says that it should only be allowed within certain limits. 

Now, some of you make the connection that that means that the church wants to "boring-fy" sex, to make it something dull or lifeless. To stifle the imagination and never enjoy it or experiment with it. Wrong.
The Bible doesn't talk about what is appropriate when it comes to sex within a marriage. Not even once. It is amazingly quiet and leaves that (supposedly difficult) topic blank. It seems that God is fine with a husband and a wife enjoying all the different pleasures of sex but within the marriage vows. Live it up! It is very clear about where sex is supposed to happen and it gives very good reasons for this. It recognizes the incredible power sex has and as such it makes it very clear what boundaries sex must have, otherwise it takes over...and I think that is the main difference between the Church and the World. 
The World doesn't recognize or realize the incredible power sex has and treats it as a treat, something harmless, something fun to spice up our lives..."as long as it is ok with both (or more) partners", as the saying goes. That is naive and the results are catastrophic.

For one thing, it confuses love and sex and makes a mess of both. That is why in the movies you always see people having sex before the say "I love you". See, love as the world understands it is not a strong enough bond to keep sex in place. Love is not a feeling or primarily something sexual. Sex isn't even the highest form of love. Love is a choice, first and foremost, and feelings are simply not strong enough to keep sex in place. Only holy matrimony is, which is why God made marriage the holiest of human bonds and forbade divorce except allowing it for adultery. God knows the power of sex in humans and understands that if it is not kept holy and sacred within a marriage where both the man and the woman live under will more than likely ruin everything. Sex is like fire, it either destroys or refines. 

So, 50 shades. Why would the Church or a pastor care what the world does with that? Because a pastor is supposed to care about people and what happens to them. Sure, by all means, see whatever movie you want. Read whatever book you want. Do whatever you want...but don't complain when it all comes crashing down around you, and it will. That is the nature of sex run rampant. 
The one thing that "50 Shades" will do is bring you disappointment and disillusionment. Sex outside its proper boundaries always does...and it will always take you farther than you want to, or should, go. When you leave the movie theater you will have all these images and feelings inside you. However, your real life will bring you disappointment because all those images you saw in the movie and the deep desire you will have for such things can't be fulfilled in real life. None of us live like that. How then can you fulfill your desires if the illusion from the movie can't be achieved in real life? Enter problems. 
Sex is by its very nature insatiable. If it is let out of its "bag" then it will demand more and different and crazier. It is like a drug and it won't stop until you are waaaay out there with a trail of destruction and disappointments behind you. And yet people try.
That is why you currently see the media refer to the porn industry in much more civil terms, much like any other industry. 
That is why you currently see classes for teen-age girls in "pole-dancing".
That is why you see media refer to the  "50 Shades of Grey"-effect in what items people buy and what people do.
That is why you have a brothel in the Berlin Schönefeld airport.
That is why Miles Cyrus "twerking" is a big deal and is emulated everywhere.
That is why you see divorces and unhappy marriages everywhere. 
That is why human trafficking is increasing and girls are seen as goods in many places.

So, when a pastor reflects on "50 Shades of Grey" he does it much like any other man. Sure, I realize the draw and attraction of such movies. Sure, the ever-present lure of of "forbidden fruits" is tempting. I'm a man. Sure, I understand that many argue that such movies should not be allowed because they encourage mistreatment of women or disrespect women or some such, but I don't see that. Isn't a consensual contract a big deal in the movie?  But...
I know that eating the so-called forbidden fruit is a bad idea. It doesn't give me what it promises. It's a trick, a lie. It will take over and eventually destroy us.

As a pastor I don't abstain from typing "s-e-x" in Google because I am a prude. I don't abstain from watching "50 shades of Grey" because I am against sex in all its various forms. I don't protest the proliferation and prevalence of sexual innuendo, pictures or movies in our society because I want sex to go away.
I abstain from looking up sex online, watch sexual movies and/or protest the industry promoting sex because I truly understand sex, respect sex and love sex and as such know that I must keep it in its proper and God ordained place lest I be destroyed. Lest society be destroyed. Not because I am a genius but because I have heard from the creator of sex and he obviously knows best.  I must (and do) keep God higher and am therefore able to enjoy sex without fear of disappointment or corruption or destruction. 

Yes, you just read that a pastor enjoys sex. Big deal. God made it and he is a good God. I'm happy to belong to him and praise him for his creation and care over me. My question to you is, who or rather what do you belong to?

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