Tag Archives: sex

Loneliness and the Lost Art of Deep Friendships

By Eugene C. Scott

What do the TV shows “Seinfeld,” “I Love Lucy,” “Cheers,” and “Friends,” all have in common? They are all listed in TV Guide’s 50 most popular shows ever. Also each could be described this way:

Seinfeld (#1) is a sitcom about a group of friends living in New York City who navigate the meaninglessness of life together (Subplot: who they do or do not have sex with).

I Love Lucy (#2) an old sitcom about two couples who are friends trying to survive Desi’s stardom and Lucy’s craziness (Subplot: nothing about sex).

Cheers (#18) is another sitcom about friends. These friends meet in a bar and deal with life from there (Subplot: who they do or do not have sex with, except Norm).

Friends (#21) is a sitcom about a group of friends (go figure) who do or do not have sex with each other.

These shows depict people in “life on life” friendships in which they depend on one another for most of life’s seen and unseen necessities.

Sadly, for many, this kind of friendship is as unreal as the TV shows portraying it. Researcher John Cacioppo estimates 60 million Americans struggle with chronic loneliness. And “Americans reporting a healthy circle of four or five friends had plunged from 33 percent to just over 15 percent” between 1985 and 2004.

But loneliness is not only a matter of how many friends one has. Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, claims, “Some of the most profound loneliness can happen when other people are present.” Lonely people can just as often be surrounded by others. What most of us are yearning for are what twelfth century monk Aelred of Rievaulx called “spiritual friendships.”

What is a spiritual friendship?

These deep are friendships are often born out of pain. Ruth and Naomi, that most famous of biblical friends, clung to each other after the loss of both of their husbands. I met my best friend, who also happens to be my wife, in a time when I was struggling with addiction and felt I had no future. Through the years the all too frequent pain in our lives has only driven us deeper with each other.

Yet, many of us hide our pain, even from those closest to us. This hiding only further isolates. Spiritual friends are vulnerable and that deepens our relationships.

Spiritual friendships also are non-utilitarian relationships. This is where the above TV programs promote a fallacy. Many of the friendships depicted in them are friendships with benefits: friendships that include so called casual sex.

The phrase “friends with benefits” reflects an assumption that other people often exist for what they can do for us or give us.

“Did you get any?” boys masquerading as men often ask each other after a date. Many times, if we think about it, we even speak the words, “I love you” to get the same words in return, at least in part. Interestingly, these “give me” relationships most often leave us empty.

The Apostle Paul told some of his friends, “I have no interest in what you have–only in you.” Spiritual friends aren’t in the relationship for their own gain.

Spiritual friends also value your soul. In the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” blues guitarist Tommy Johnson admits he sold his soul to the devil in trade for his guitar skills. When Everette, who values Tommy’s soul, is shocked, Tommy says, “Well, I wasn’t usin’ it.”

We talk of being soul mates but rarely develop the vulnerability to dive beneath the surface where the soul resides. But our souls are what make each of us unique. Not, as advertisers claim, our clothes or toothpaste. Souls are the God-breathed image of our Creator.

A spiritual friend will look beneath the designer jeans for your designer soul.

Spiritual friendships are also redemptive. To be redemptive in daily life means to be part of the process that helps turn pain into beauty. Recently a friend of mine honored a mutual friend, Jay, by recognizing Jay’s deceased father Jim during a military ball. He awarded Jay with a plaque displaying all of Jim’s lost Korean war medals. Suddenly Jim became more than an old man crippled with Emphysema. He became a hero. And those of us still mourning Jim’s loss, especially his son, had our grief overlaid with pride and hope and healing.

Friends who walk with us through our pain, and refuse to use us for their own gain, and care for our souls also then care about growth.

Why are shows about friendships the all-time most popular? In part because they portray something we all yearn for: life on life communities. Do they do so with complete authenticity or reality? No. But, just as any good story does, they give us hope for what could be.

Eugene C. Scott has friends who occasionally call or text him for no reason whatsoever. Several of them also show up at The Neighborhood Church and nod their heads if he ever says anything profound.

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Did Jesus Have Hair Like a Flock of Goats and Breasts Like Twin Fawns?

The Kiss an 1889 marble sculpture by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

No one knows what to do with this book. Why is it in the Bible? What’s Song of Songs about? Bible scholars have asked those questions since before Jesus’ time. Sex, romance, and love? Can’t be. Love, maybe, but a book in the Bible can’t be about sex and romance. Sex is base and romance frivolous. The Bible deals with life and death issues: heaven and hell, eternal salvation, sin, of which sex is usually considered one of the worst.

What is the Song of Solomon?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Song of Songs 1:1-4:16

2 Corinthians 8:16-24

Psalm 50:1-23

Proverbs 22:22-23

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Corinthians 8:16-24: Paul seems to be taking care of some every day, ordinary business here. Titus is coming to visit with two other men. Treat them well, add to their financial collection for the poor, Paul tells them.

Thus heaven bends down and kisses earth. God enters the mundane and adds to it holiness, meaning and purpose. The Bible is the most far-reaching, powerful, mysterious book in existence. It is God’s word. But the Bible is also practical, earthy, real.

Yet our expectations of the Bible often put it in an untenable place. Each time we crack its covers we expect it to transform our lives, almost magically.

Bible reading, however, may be more like eating. Sometimes the meal is extraordinary, spicy, rare, a feast we remember and tell others about. Sometimes it’s a hamburger and fries. We eat, get up from the table, clean the dishes and go about our business. Both meals nourish, replenish, however.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Origen, a Christian scholar who lived about 200 AD, believed the Song of Solomon was an allegory picturing Christ’s love for us. Like Jewish and Christian scholars before him, he largely ignored the sensual, sexual nature of the book. Unlike Hippolytus, however, he did not restrict its reading to the mature only. These godly, intelligent men could not fathom why God would canonize a provocative love poem from a Hebrew king to his dark, perfumed, busty princess. Nor could they, I imagine, if they were as easily aroused as most other males, read this book without facing their own humanity. Much more simple is it to skim the passionate parts and name the others allegory. But this says more about us than God or the Bible.

Elsewhere God communicates boundaries for our sex lives. We don’t like these restrictive sections–or often obey them–but are more comfortable reading them and tacitly accept them as coming from God. This coincides with our belief that, though we humans enjoy sex, God does not like it, except that it produces children, and probably closes his eyes while any one of us engages in it.

Therefore, this allegorical method of understanding the Song of Solomon provides a distance and safety from one of the more powerful and dangerous (there is no safe sex) drives stirring in the human heart. Reading this poem allegorically allows us to dig a divide between what we see as a very serious and sanitized God and our very earthy, sensual lives. It’s a literary version of safe sex.

The allegorical method has fallen out of favor in modern times, however. What are we moderns to do with the Song of Songs then? Ignore it. Yeah, that’s it! Oh and don’t let our teens read it and our preachers preach on it.

Or. . . .

We can face the truth that, though God recognizes and abhors our sinful mishandling of, and obsession with his beautiful gift of sex, God is not uncomfortable with our sexuality. He made us that way. God made sex fun!

This poem is not an allegory about Jesus, though Jesus’ love for us is every bit as passionate and earthy. Jesus did not have breasts like twin fawns. This poem is about the beauty of human love and passion and romance. It shows even our fallen state cannot completely tarnish God’s greatest gifts.

In our times sex, even between husband and wife, can be twisted, manipulative and ugly. This dirtiness results, in part, from how even Christians have relegated sex to a mere physical act, forgetting that it is one of the most beautiful, intimate spiritual acts a man and woman can engage in. God created sex so that a man and woman could participate in sharing their bodies and souls–and sometimes take part in the creation of a unique, complicated, wonderful new life that also contains the image of God.

God canonized the Song of Songs in order to paint for us a word picture of romance, love, and sex that soars beyond the physical and takes us into the realm of the soul. Seen that way, Solomon’s Song may not be a picture of Jesus on the cross, but it does deal with life and death issues.      

  1. What do these for passages share in common?
  2. How does the Song of Songs’ picture of sex differ from Hollywood’s?
  3. What passage spoke most to you?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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Is Homosexuality the Unforgivable Sin? (Warning: You May Not Like this Blog Entry)

A small group of people in Topeka, Kansas have become infamous for their hate of homosexuals. They call themselves a church but consist mainly of the members of the founder’s family (I am torn here between naming the offenders to expose them and not naming them so as to not give them more publicity. I chose the latter.) These misguided, twisted sinners* travel the country and protest all things homosexual by holding up signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” and screaming vile slogans.

Romans 1:18-32 is one of the biblical passages they use to justify their hate. After reading  it myself, I wonder: if they feel these verses give them permission to protest homosexuality, why don’t they also attend church prayer meetings with signs reading, “God Hates Gossips,” or protest outside of their own meeting hall with signs saying, “God Hates Slanderers,” and “God Hates the Heartless and the Senseless”?

If I haven’t made you too angry or nervous, read on and ask with me, “Is homosexuality the unforgivable sin?”

(*Note: I too am a misguided, twisted sinner in need of God’s undeserving mercy.)

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING(click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36

Romans 1:18-32

Psalm 10:1-15

Proverbs 19:6-7

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36: When we last saw David, he was angry with God over (1 Chron. 14:11) the death of Uzzah. It seems David has reconsidered and has actually asked God about the ark and it’s treatment. David shows once again he is a “man after God’s own heart” by repenting of his actions and learning from his mistakes. Yet he still exhibits very human behavior in that he seems to blame the  Levites for “not bringing it up the first time.” I wonder if this is the first time the phrase “ignorance of the Law is no excuse.”

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Still with me? I hope so.

“Hate” is a strong word and in humans an even stronger emotion. The word “hate” occurs about 128 times in the English Bible, and only a dozen or so times in reference to God hating (The word “love” crops up nearly 700 times). And most often “hate” doesn’t describe an emotion but rather an enemy. The sense is that God generally “hates” things that are destructive to us humans, but not an emotion God feels toward humans. God views them as our enemies. The list of destructive actions God hates includes “robbery and iniquity,” “wrong doing,” “violence,” “idol worship,” and “religious feasts.”   Proverb 6:16-19 says,

“There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,

a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,

a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

In short, because God loves us so much, God hates sin, which means any minor or major human action that hurts or destroys us spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially, or physically. We could spend 24/7 protesting such things and not exhaust the list.

And God seems to hate all of this self–and others–destructive behavior equally. No one enemy to humanity rises above the other.

Jesus equates anger with murder and declares calling someone a fool an eternally punishable offense (Mtt. 5:22). This confuses us because, to us, there are obviously sins worse than others. But Jesus is simply pointing out that anger eventually kills a relationship and possibly even a life, though in a less drastic way than murder. The destruction of the relationship and life are what seem to matter to God not the severity of the destruction. The earth-bound consequences differ, but both kill.

God views homosexuality and idol worship through the same loving eyes. To God worshiping a tree, money, success, or a god that does not exist is as “unnatural” (something we were not created to do) and soul-destroying as is misuse of the great gift of our sexuality. One is a fatal misunderstanding of who God is and the other a misunderstanding of who we are. Both may be love misapplied.

Is homosexuality an unforgivable sin? Some seem to act so. But Scripture, and God’s nature, belie that view.

  1. Do these readings connect in any way?
  2. If so, in what way?
  3. What enemies of God do you still harbor in your heart and life?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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