Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crushing family jewels or sneaking a peek to pray? Is Scripture an anaphrodisiac or sex manual? Are we Jesus and/or rapists? elevation or transference?

At first glance, the whole swath of Jewish teaching on sexuality/spirituality seems  like a muddled mash-up (midrash-up).  It may depend on which stream/rabbi/Judaism one attaches to..

But an underemphasized component (core?) would be "elevation":

...For the chasid, prayer is not something one recites, it is rather an exercise that one performs, or an
experience that one enters into.... There is no room for inhibition...singing and dancing are essential means by which ...he expresses his emotional cleaving to God….but
that desire for God has to be so overwhelming that any extraneous thoughts are excluded…If distractions are erotic in nature…and (one) 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…Chasidism dealt with this by introducing the doctrine of the "elevation of strange
thoughts." This...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.... taught to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for the
physical beauty that is currently bewitching us. (The pray-er) 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…

 Of course, U2 picks up the elevation theme with their song of that
 same name.  (See "Elevation leads to Vertigo 2.0":):
  "[Elevation] is fun and frolics but the goal is soul.  It is about sexuality and transcendence, a playful piece about wanting to get off, or in this case, to literally get off the ground.  I can't actually remember writing it, it was all over in minutes, which is probably not the greatest admission to make in a song about sex." (  Bono, in U2 by U2, p. 296)

Some funny and fascinating dilemmas (and trilemmas) arise in the debate and literature.

Is sex inherently sinful outside of the need to procreate?
Is sex the very starting place of spirituality?
What happens at the point of lust?

What to do/how to pray... if Rob Bell even partly right:

"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 that word "reconnect" is crucial..maybe it even completes/transcends/ends elevation.  Isn't the Kingdom message about restoring Imago Dei, the "reconciliation of all things," and redemption of all creation..
Creation, in Romans 8,  "groans in longing"  Is that a "sexual" groaning/longing?   Have you noticed we often use "consummation" language about Kingdom come?

We are gnot gnostic.
 We duel dualism.

Bell has well made the point that "everything is spiritual."
 What if everything were also sexual?

Russell Willingham, my favorite  biblical sexpert, sometimes opens talks with this silencing salvo:

"Jesus had erections."

Can Jesus teach us how to deal with them?

"Eros and the Jews" may be TMI for some readers...and ironically too sexy...but it collects, like no others source, some of the rabbinic remedies:

  • Torah has been called an anaphrodisiac.
  • Cirumcision  has been seen as peeling back/cutting off  desire

  • Rabbi Mendel of Kotz offered appointments with young men with issues of lust, promising he could "crush it one for all"  I'm not sure I want to know what that "crushing" involved....(But we all know "some were made eunuchs for the Kingdom.")
  • "instead of imagining a woman during prayer, one must strive for the opposite" (that line caught me.  What is the opposite of a woman?  If you're thinking "man," you'll laugh, as that doesn't solve the dilemma.   He meant God; imagine God before you.

    Baruch of Kosov  even suggested that "sexual pleasure is the source of sanctification"

Crush your family jewels?
    But what if the jewels aren't the issue?
                     Circumcision of the heart, anybody?
                                       Remember a stunning sermon on a mount which dealt with sexuality?

I sometimes fantasize about speaking at a men's conference and saying,
"I'm now going to point to my primary sex organ.."

Then I point to my brain.


Whether it's a mind or heart issue..or both/and..

Maybe for many  the test is the "ten second rule," how long, or how to, linger/focus on the temptation/image...

You won't be surprised that some rabbis suggested actively seeking out temptation,even sexual sin, as the only way to learn.  (Shades of  a Maria McKee song)

Not recommended.. in fact such a strategy St. Paul explicity called B.S.

And if everyone is at heart ( and heart-level) either exhibitionist or voyeur,
acknowledging that may be the key.

I do recommend about Russell Willingham's section in "Breaking Free"  about why certain body parts/fetishes are attractive to us, and praying (explicity!) about what that indeed means..

Every sexual addict has a recurring fantasy (the internal ritual).  However, if he is constantly acting out, he doesn't have time to look behind the obvious scenes of nude bodies and sexual acts.  It is the longing behind the erotic symbols he is trying to satisfy.....

"Well, I guess you could say I'm a 'breast man''...
....How does this knowledge of the female body and its symbolizing of deeper issues  help us?  It helps us by showing us exactly where Jesus Christ needs to make his entrance.  The information I'm about to give you is the practical conclusion of everything this book has been moving toward: an intimacy with God that I believe the recovering sex addict is uniquely positioned to experience.  I call it the great transference.    "Breaking Free," pp. 169, 171, Read all of chapter 13

Once a group of pastors were praying for each other.  One confessed a struggle with lust.
I prayed(with words of compassion and encouragement)for the brother; then another pastor prayed
(a bit more prophetically, apparently).  At the close, the pastor who had confessed said something like:  "When Dave prayed for me, I felt like he was calling me Jesus.  When Bob prayed for me, I felt like he was calling me a rapist."

Aren't we all both?
If we get that, maybe we can start getting spiritually formed, reading the Book that is (among other things) a sex manual (see Willingham on Song of Solomon here)...........and the great Transference can be activated.

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