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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

ABC…..1,2,3….or is it SAVE?

Written by: on March 16, 2017

Introduction

The Jackson 5 (of Michael Jackson fame) had a song in the 1970’s that said: “ABC, it’s as easy as 1-2-3, As simple as do re mi, ABC, 1-2-3, Baby you and me”.  Oh, how times have changed.  Now, it is not as simple as ABC or 1-2-3 or who gets to be “baby” or even “you and me”.  Relationships, sexuality, morality, and normality have become quite convoluted.

Throw in a Christian mindset, framework of the Holy Scripture, and you may be in for a battle on what is acceptable and non-acceptable.  To help the concoction, mix in Adrian Thatcher’s God, Sex, and Gender:  An Introduction.  Thatcher’s “Introduction” asks two questions: “Who are You?” and “Who am I?”[1]  I have good bead on who I am.

But who is Thatcher?  Thatcher says, “Well, no one can set aside who they are, especially if they are writing about sex and gender!  Feminist theologians, lesbian and gay theologians, evangelical theologians, Catholic theologians (traditional and revisionist), queer theologians, and others are all writing in part of their own experiences.  I am no exception.”[2]

This is where the truth flourished.  We all write and think from our experiences, without exception.  So, who has the right experience and standard of truth would be my next question.  If this is a moving target, who determines how far you can more the moral boundaries and manipulate scriptures?  Maybe the Jackson 5 were wrong!  It is not as easy as ABC, 1-2-3!

Thatcher tells us that he is “…male, straight, and a grandparent.  It will become clear his sympathies generally lie with progressive or revisionist themes, as long as these are deeply rooted in traditional theological sources and doctrines.”[3]  From this launching pad, Thatcher takes us on a journey of sexual theology and sexual history that is quite compelling and filled with blushes, if read in a mixed crowd aloud.

My title comes from Thatcher’s use of ABC = Abstinence; Being faithful to one partner for life; Using Condoms….    SAVE = Safer practice, Available medical interventions, Voluntary counseling and testing, and Empowerment.  SAVE is more about public prevention policy, whereas ABC was about individuals’ self-protection.”[4]  I see the thoughts behind each, but the Jackson 5 leaned ABC.

Summary

Quoting from the book may have its challenges for some.  Using clip art in my post could result in some R-ratings in content.  I have chosen to summarize the book by its chapters.

God, Sex, and Gender:  An Introduction is written with five chapters:

Part I – Sex, Gender, and Theology.  Thatcher takes on a construct of sex, sexuality, and gender in biblical times and in late-modern Western societies showing us how churches and some theologians identify and use theological sources for thinking.

Part II – Being Theological about Sex.  Part II contains and analyses different forms of desires and links sexual desire with a desire for God (at first sounds awkward, but really it is not).  It also looks at the concept and framework of marriage being the only place for Christians to have sex.

Part III – Being Theological about Gender.  Thatcher looks at the gender of God – masculine or feminine.  The “body of Christ” and how that relates to gender.

Part IV – Being Theological about Same-Sex Love.  Thatcher examines can long held views of same-sex relationships still be viewed the same today.  He also examines the condemning of homosexual practice; is it justified or not.

Part V – Learning to Love.  Thatcher looks at sexual love in the eyes of virginity versus chastity, celibacy, contraception and the wedding vows.[5]

 Analysis

I would say that ALL views on sexuality are being questioned by institutions.  From our government to schools, to sports arenas determining which bathroom you can use, to churches being forced into abnormal choices that would have never been dreamed or imagined, we are in more than just a revolution – we are at a moral crossroads.  I am not throwing stones because we all live in glass houses that are being impacted by these shifts.

Thatcher talks about “Intersex and Transgender People”.[6]  This sounds like it is from a sci-fi, horror movie, until you know someone who is in this category.  “By the 1930’s however, ‘medical practitioners had developed a new angle: the surgical and hormonal suppression of intersexuality.’”[7]  Yet having technology and advanced medical procedures available, it is not a panacea for success.  Having knowledge of people in this position has been challenging for the individuals and their families.

Thatcher refers to Harriet Bradley’s book from 2007, Gender, and makes the following overview, “The statements confirm that relations of gender are universal.  They are constructed, like the discourse of gender that analyzes them.  They are pervasive, percolating down to habits of dress and speech.  And they are mediated by institutions.”[8]

Over the last semesters, we have read books that have caused me to questions “Where do you draw the line?  Who gets to be the one who determines where the line is?  Is everything that is historical and dated wrong?”   Last week’s reading of Tanya Luhrmann’s work, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, brought us to the institutional Evangelical Church (Vineyard by flavor) and challenged us to where is the realness of God today?  Even when it seems He is showing up and showing off.

After reading the book and being open to Thatcher’s research and processes, I fall closer to his “covenant” analogy in Chapter 6.  As Thatcher made clear, “A key doctrinal theme which blends together the relationship of God with the world, and the relationship of people with one another, is that of covenant…”[9]   We can change the language and we can improve surgeries that can alter genitalia, we can embrace oddities in relationships even if they break with traditional Christian views and interpretation of Scripture.  But there is something to living and walking in covenant.  God revealed Himself to us through covenants and I believe He is asking us to abide in Him and with each other and with our spouses in covenant.

One of the lines in the Jackson 5 song ABC, 1-2-3 said, “Let me show you what it’s all about, Reading, writing, arithmetic, Are the branches of the learning tree, But listen without the roots of love everyday girl you education ain’t complete.  Teacher’s gonna show you how to get a “A”, How to spell ‘me’, ‘you’, add the two, listen to me, baby that’s all you got to do.”

 

[1] Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender:  An Introduction, (West Sussex, United Kingdom:  Wiley Blackwell, 2011 – Kindle Edition), location 144-197.

[2] Ibid., location 172 – 197.

[3] Ibid., location 197.

[4] Ibid., location 6846-6865.

[5] Ibid., location 197 – 226.

[6] Ibid., location 541.

[7] Ibid., location 512-541.

[8] Ibid., location 710.

[9] Ibid., location 3018.

About the Author

mm

Phil Goldsberry

12 responses to “ABC…..1,2,3….or is it SAVE?”

  1. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Phil,
    Great use of the song to highlight your argument. Phil, you’re probably going to see the term cultural Christians across my writings for the remainder of this program. Years ago, I never saw homosexuals profess themselves as Christians. I also never saw alcoholics pretend to be Christians. Now, these same groups (and others) pretend to be Christians confidently. Well, cultural Christianity tells us that these people can choose what parts of the Bible they want to follow. Yes, their actions are sinful, but their convictions blind them. However, Christ’s love allows us to find common ground to bridge the gap. Are they sinners who need repentance? Yes. However, our understanding of their cultural beliefs helps to redirect their misguided convictions.

    Garfield

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Garfield:
      Thank you! Your insight is pretty keen and yet gives us all challenges to the reality of our world that is pretty twisted. Is there any more sin? Is the best question to be asked. Instead of asking how do we create tolerance or how do we bend “traditional Christianity”.

      Phil

  2. My favorite part of the book is the covenant part as well. What I like most about the book is how Thatcher affirmed and never was negative toward that traditional concept and practice of covenant. I also like how he said, “most people most of the time” live longer if they are married and raise more well adjusted children. I like how he did not dispute that even as he attempts to explain a more “open” theological framework. Am I correct in assuming this book helps you with your research in framing the context in which a future leader will be picking up the baton?

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Aaron:
      “Covenant” has been, and always will be, the key to relationships both horizontal and vertical. As far as the dissertation, clarifying the “culture” of an organization, this book may be of help.

      Phil

  3. Pablo Morales says:

    Phil, very creative post. I enjoyed reading it. You asked a key question, “If this is a moving target, who determines how far you can move the moral boundaries and manipulate scriptures?” Did you feel that Thatcher manipulated scriptures in order to move the moral boundaries?
    Pablo

  4. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Pablo:
    The truth of “boundaries” and “manipulation” of scriptures, that is nothing new to contemporary times. In fact, it has been that way since the beginning of time. It ceases to amaze me that the nature of man is to bend or manipulate truth.

    In regards to Thatcher, he has “con-temporized” something that has been around since the creation of man – sex. BUT, does that give anyone the right or responsibility? I think not.

    Phil

  5. Aaron Cole says:

    Phil,

    Great blog, I love me some “Jackson 5”. Why do you think at all levels and institutions things such as gender, sexuality, and God’s role/place in the converstation are being questioned? Why now? Where do you think it will go?

    Aaron

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Aaron:
      Went J5 just for you!

      Why are they being questioned? A couple of things entitlement, keep pushing the envelope, etc. All of these are fairly good excuses. I feel that there is a deeper situation.

      Sexuality is, and has been, a major challenge through the Bible and now it is becoming the bastion that encroaches God’s truth to come under scrutiny in light of “contemporary revelations”. This is where I have challenges.

      Sexuality has really not changed since Genesis, Thatcher seemed to embrace that also. Now we change the “vocabulary” and add some scientific discoveries and we can now adapt genitalia and gender. I believe that challenging the original intent of God’s definition of sexuality is one of the highest forms of blasphemy.

      Phil

  6. Claire Appiah says:

    Phil,
    Thanks for providing another great assessment of one of our reading assignments; I love the graphics. Thatcher’s book was a challenging read for me on many levels. I can see how you gravitated to the chapter on God as Covenant Maker; it is one of the more enriching and inspiring parts of the book and is basically devoid of controversial themes. However, I find this book to be a mixed bag of biblical truths spun together with outright or at least quasi-blasphemies. Where his theology is good, it is very good and where it is bad, it is horrible.
    My concern is hypothetically for the young, freshman undergraduate student who may be a new Christian or “babe in Christ” and comes across this book in the school library and ravenously devours it in a hunger to know more about God. I believe Thatcher’s book will “mess up” any orthodox Christian teaching the student came with. How do you think Thatcher’s book will impact such an individual?

    • mm Phil Goldsberry says:

      Claire:

      I totally agree with your assumption. Even in some of my Master’s work I was glad that I had a firm foundation of what I believed. There were times that I felt tested. Nonetheless a 20-30 year old struggling with sexuality in a hyper-sexual era.
      When presented as “truth” it gives credence to desires (godly or ungodly) that give way to action. It is quite concerning.

      Phil

  7. Phil

    Great post on this subject. You did a great job streamlining all of these ideas and thoughts into one. Time magazine just came out this Saturday with a lead story Beyond He or She. Some of the argument that Thatcher made is ever taken further in this mainstream liberal magazine. Some of the labels that it puts on themselves I could not use without being labeled a racist or sexist. Double standards exist on all of this subject I believe. How do you handle this in your church? Do you have a family restroom?

    Kevin

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