Monday, April 07, 2008

The House That Sex Built: Why let the Jews have all the good sex?!

Ask my friends at Habitat for Humanity:

Sex builds houses.

In fact, it's only through sex that anything on earth gets done, anyway.

At least sex as the Jews define it.

Better yet, ask someone who intuitively knows:

any Jew.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (emphasis mine):

'Celibacy was utterly rejected by biblical and rabbinic teaching. Those who refused to marry and bear children were regarded not only as having violated the first mitzvah of procreation, but also as if they had shed blood and diminished the image of God from the world, since man is created in his image. And according to the rabbis, they even caused the divine presence to depart from tthe Jewish people. The rabbis taught, 'No man without a wife, neither a woman without a husband, nor both of them without God (Genesis Rabbah 8:9 and Babylonian Talmud, Yev. 62b,63a)...An unmarried high priest was not even allowed to officiate in the temple on the Day of Atonement. Sexuality was seen as a potentially positive drive in rabbinic thought; for without those desires, 'no man wold build a house, marry a wife or have children.' (Gen Rab. 9:7)
-"How Firm a Foundation," p.137

Every sexologist (Jewish or otherwise) worth their...uh, aware of the sex-violence connection (Try Baile on the hot topic of the inherent sexuality of Zionism, and indeed of all nationalistic self-defense...or even Jewish pop sexologist and Holocaust survior Dr Ruth trained as a sniper in the Israeli army!). But how many specialize in the

sex/procreation(broadly defined)


Bottom line, everything that happens in the world; for good or evil, is done for/by/sex.

That's just the way God made it, and us.

Our paradigm, our definition of sex, and our God are too small.

"For many, sexuality is simply what happens between two people involving physical pleasure. But that's only a small percentage of what sexuality is. Our sexuality is all the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God." (Rob Bell, "Sex God," p. 42)
Maybe we simply need to integrate more U2 into our theological education.

Until Bono, influenced by the Jewish prayer model of actually admitting and incorporating our sexuality into our prayer and spiritual formation (versus the standard evangelical model of sublimating or denying it), penned the deceptively pop-ish "Elevation," I had never so clearly connected these dots.

The song is basically commentary-midrash this school of prayer.
Besides the coy Freud cigar reference, and the midsong prayer "Won't You tell me something true/I believe in You/Do you believe in me?" (hilariously tweaked on at lease one night..see 3:27 in this clip below), the lyrics ("I've lost all self-control...I need You to

elevate me..) are all about building a house, creating wholeness; elevating ones spirituality..

all via the only way there:

(In the Jewish Chasidic tradition), prayer is not something the elevated believer just is anexperience he enters into. There is no room for inhibition; singing and dancing are essential means by which he expresses his emotional cleaving to God….but such ardor/desire for God has to be so overwhelming …If distractions are erotic in nature…and the pray-er faces up to the predominance of the sexual urge at both conscious and subconscious levels, and its capacity to intrude even during prayer...then he has learned to take measures…by introducing the (ancient) doctrine of the "elevation of strange thoughts." This is a Chasidic
Jewish technique not of sublimation, but of thought conversion, whereby
the beauty or desirability of the woman is latched upon and used not as
a sexual but rather as a mental and spiritual stimulus
. We are taught
to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for the physical
beauty that is currently bewitching us. The praying one has learned to immediately contrast the pale reflection of beauty that humans are endowed with,on the one hand, and the supreme Divine source of authentic and enduring beauty,on the other…This is not sublimation; This is elevation.
-Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen

It must be time to find a place to actually talk about church. Better yet, as church!
(And I don't mean in the cheesy, dualistic, fundies in their undies way..)

We all live in the house that sex built.

But church culture, evangelical ethos and religious rubrics tell us we can't talk about it.

We should have asked a Jew.

Or at least Jesus.

Or as Bell, someone who is neither (but loves both),
has rabbinically quipped:
"Where do you WANT people to talk about it?

Can't we talk inhouse? You know, folks (especially the young) will inevitably talk about it (and more) out of the house. In the incredible "On Borrowed Words", Ilian Stavans, recalls losing his virginity in a Mexican brothel, all
the while haunted by his Jewish upbringing; and duly aware of the sexuality/spirituality connection:

"I felt warm and cold at once, and mostly bestial, but truly alive and mystical." (54)

Wouldn't your kids had their first teaching about the ultimate "alive and mystical" experience in the catechism/seminary of "church," so that they don't have to learn via the "lab" portion of the class in the back seat of a car? Or from their roommate on the short term mission trip to (ironically) build a house in Mexico?

Then they grow up to be pastors who sexualize/seduce the sheep in the 22nd pew, and fall into haggard/Haggard traps; having never learmed to dual dualism, think Jewish, and elevate their soul.

Either a thoroughgoing Hebraic understanding/feeling of the Kingdom, or a Celtic understanding/feeling of the same Kingdom (are the two the same phenomenon? Len needs to pursue that thesis, I will buy the book) will refuse to separate what God has joined together: Kingdom and good sex! We are not gnostics! We must dual against dualism! It's time (kairos) to return (per Alan Hirsch, "The Forgotten Ways," pp 84, 91) to a holistic "following of Jesus in the light of the Hebraic understanding of life. And it all starts with Israel's basic confession, called the Shema ['Hear, O Israel, the ONE..']...The Hebraic perspective draws a direct correlation from any and every aspect of life to the eternal purposes of God...To say this more explicitly, there is no such thing as sacred and secular in biblical worldview."

When good Christians 'must'..stuff and sublimate sexuality, such will surface somewhere less approp
riate, more violently, and well, kosher. Is this why we in the Western/Gentile church are obsexxed? Does this explain our pastors' habitual "committing adultery in the heart" with the woman in the 22nd pew; how clergy types can sexualize even hospital calls? And does this exegete all too well why we are inevitably violent and lusting/seeking empire/conquest at all costs?

How about hiring the amazing sexpert Russ Willingham to teach his class on Song of Solomon?
How about discussing the articles on "Of Course Oral Sex is Biblical"
in your small group?
Showing the "Elevation" video as the sermon?
I mean, you can dance to it!

Ah, never mind. That might lead to someone building a house.

No wonder those Habitat for Humanity volunteers, and Amish house-builders are always smiling...




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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!