I recently read a piece by Wesley Hill about Celibacy for the Common Good as well as several posts from A Queer Calling and, after getting a more clear picture of what celibacy really is, I can’t in good conscience say that I’m called to it. That’s not to say that I won’t stay a virgin as long as I remain unmarried, but just that I’m not called to it in the vocational sense. Wes describes the call to celibacy as foregoing marriage in order to love more broadly, to pour out affection and service en masse instead of funneling it towards one person. While I understand this desire and applaud it, I find myself with an overwhelming desire to focus my affection on one person and have it reciprocated. If I had my choice, I would be able to direct all my energy into showing one person how much I care about them and not worry about it seeming weird or unnatural or having to hold back for fear of causing discomfort. It reminds me of a heartbreaking line from the movie Magnolia when Donnie says, “I really do have a lot of love to give! I just don’t know where to put it!” I know that I can spread my affection out to all my friends and family, but the other person has to be willing to receive it as well. They have to put in the time and show up, otherwise I’m left sitting here not knowing where to put my love.
It’s a difficult place to be in because I regularly read posts where people talk how not all single people are called to the vocation of celibacy, but if you’re unmarried and you desire to please God, it’s kind of the only option. Whenever I think about this topic, I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 “8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” It seems like this applies to my situation, but I’m never completely clear how. I think the passion he’s talking about here is sexual desire and, while I definitely have that, it’s not really my primary concern in wanting to get married. I think, based on this passage, Paul would say that I should remain unmarried since I can pretty much keep my passions in check, but what about desires for love and intimacy? And all that aside, marriage isn’t exactly the kind of thing you can just decide to do, it’s much more complicated than that. Anyway, all this to say, based on the definitions of celibacy and the descriptions of celibate life written by Wes, Sarah, and Lindsey, the celibate vocation doesn’t sound too great to me, but I’ll keep living my life seeking to be the person God wants me to be and we’ll see where that ends up.
At church this morning, my pastor continued a series called “The Fifth Gospel” based on the book of the same name by Bobby Conway. The idea is that many people will never read the Bible so, to spread the Gospel, we need to live it. In today’s message, he talked about being an example by the way we respond to the suffering in our lives. During the message, he brought up people who he believed exemplified this trait to share their stories. One couple’s story hit me pretty hard and it was difficult to keep from tearing up while listening to the multiple tragedies they’ve suffered together. Unfortunately, I found myself responding in an abysmal way that is regrettably way too common for me. Often times, when I hear someone talking about their misfortunes, I immediately begin comparing them to my own and, more often than not, I determine that what I’ve had to deal with is worse. It’s an awful habit that I frequently catch myself falling into, but today, God really convicted me of it and showed me how it can be harmful in multiple ways.
First, it numbs me to the pain others are feeling. While I can still empathize and grieve with someone during this process, the effect is stunted by the belief that my pain is more significant or substantial. Supporting someone through a difficult time is much less effective when, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking they should just suck it up and move on because they don’t know what real pain feels like. I find this often manifests when someone is mourning the loss of something I’ve never had and I’m reminded of the old saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” While I’m perfectly aware that this is a horrible response, I’ve yet to be able to overcome much of the bitterness that stems from my lot in life.
The second way that this attitude is harmful is that I’m constantly feeling sorry for myself and bemoaning the ways in which I’ve been wronged. I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked God to help me overcome this attitude, but I continue to focus on the negative aspects of my life much more often than the positive. I try to stop and thank God for all the blessings He’s provided, but as I do, my thoughts inevitably drift to the things that everyone else takes for granted and that I long for so desperately. My overdeveloped sense of justice kicks in and I begin complaining to God that it isn’t fair that everyone else gets to experience love and family while I’m often left feeling lonely and empty.
I know that this is a big hurdle I need to overcome and I could use all the help I can get so please pray that God will help me better appreciate the gifts He’s given me and that I can stop trying to out-do other people’s pain.
A thought occurred to me the other day that, as I’m slowly growing and maturing, I essentially become a new person every decade or so. I imagine this is true of most people and I began to ponder the theological implications of this. When I first accepted Christ, I was around four years old and I did it because my mom wanted me to. I don’t remember much about the situation and what I do remember, may not be completely accurate, but I seem to recall my mom asking me if I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart and I could tell by the way she asked that my answer should be yes. Then she asked me to repeat after her and I did and she was happy. Not long after that, I was baptized and I pretty clearly remember that my primary motivation for that was the fact that the baptism was in a pool and I was promised I could go swimming afterwards. Now, I’m not saying this to slight my mom or her methods of discipling me, that’s a topic for another post. The reason I bring this up is to show the mindset I was in at the time; I was a child and therefore my understanding of God and what it means to follow him were limited.
Years later, towards the end of my time in high school, I realized just how ignorant I was when I first gave my life to Christ and decided to re-dedicate myself to Him. This time, I wasn’t baptized, but I did go forward during a youth event and pray with my youth pastor and, for a time, I felt that I had become a mature Christian. It’s only recently that I’ve become aware of just how little I knew back then and this has lead me to wonder if, as Christians, we should somehow formally re-dedicate our lives and possibly be re-baptized as we grow into these new people with new understanding. At least for me, it feels like the promises I made at four to follow Christ don’t mean much, they were a misguided attempt and being a obedient. My re-dedication in my teen years was more authentic, but still lacking much of the maturity and wisdom I now poses. It almost feels like I need to check in with God and say, “Even though I am now able to perceive more of what following you means and how difficult it can be, now that I know it’s not going to solve all my problems and may at times create more, I’m still in this.”
A couple weeks ago, I finally got around to checking out the movies that are releasing this year and I made a list of the ones I’m most excited about along with a quick blurb about why. I tried to keep this post short, but I kinda failed. They’re in no particular order except the order I found them in.
- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – I love Pride and Prejudice so adding zombies can only make it better, right? I think the picture above is proof of that. Plus it has Matt Smith in it so…
- Jane Got a Gun – the story sounds interesting plus Natalie Portman is in it which virtually guarantees I’ll see it
- Pitch Perfect 2 – The first one was amazing and they kept all of the original cast including the awesome Anna Kendrick and the amazing Rebel Wilson
- Dark Places – It has Chloe Grace Moretz in it which mean I have to see it and Charlize Theron is an extra bonus
- Chappie – The story is intriguing (I’m a sucker for a developing AI) and it has Hugh Jackman who’s awesome and Dev Patel who was on my favorite show of all time (The Newsroom) so yes please.
- Digging for Fire – It has a great cast including Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, Melanie Lynskey, Ron Lingston, and Brie Larson plus it’s written and directed by the guy who did Drinking Buddies.
- Sisters – I will literally watch anything that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do whether it’s movie, TV, or even a commercial for Apple (blech), plus Maya Rudolph is in it.
- Suffragette – Meryl Streep is my spirit animal and probably the best actress ever and she’s teaming up with other favorite actress candidate Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter
- Nasty Baby – Kristen Wiig is another person who makes a movie a guaranteed watch and there’s also Alia Shawkat for extra goodness.
- Z for Zachariah – Post-apocalyptic movie + love triangle is all you need to know. Also Chiwetel Ejiofor is in it.
- Fantastic Four – I’m hoping it will redeem the franchise after the two travesties they made a while back and also, I can’t argue with Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan (loved him in Chronicle).
- The Martian – I’ve started listening to the audio book and it’s super entertaining. Plus previously mentioned favorites like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, and Kate Mara are in it.
- Freeheld – The LGBT rights angle has me somewhat interested, but I’ll mostly be seeing it for Ellen Page and Julianne Moore.
- Room – The story is fairly interesting and Brie Larson is pretty much my favorite since she started in Short Term 12
- Far From the Madding Crowd – First, I find the title super intriguing for some reason. Second, the story seems right up my alley, and then there’s Carrey Mulligan and Juno Temple.
- Untitled Christmas Eve Project – While there are several actress that will make a movie a must see, one of the few actors is Joseph Gordon-Levitt (gotta love JGL) and Lizzy Caplan is set to appear as well.
- Ricki and the Flash – Another Meryl Streep movie and she’s teaming up with Diablo Cody who is one of my all time favorite writer/directors.
- Ex Machina – Super interesting story and the writer behind Never Let Me Go and 28 Days Later (Alex Garland).
- Spotlight – The story of how the Catholic priest molestation scandal came to light sounds like something I’d be interested in plus Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo.
- Ant-Man – It’s a Marvel movie. That’s all.
- Jurrasic World – This one might be the one I’m most excited about. Great franchise, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, DINOSAURS! and the trailer is soooooo goooood.
- Blackhat – I debated listing this one because technology related movies can go so bad, but Chris Hemsworth is in it as well as Viola Davis who I have adored since Doubt.
- Our Brand is Crisis – Zoe Kazan is in it so that’s all that needs to be said, but also, it’s got the same writer as Frank which was quite good.
- Queen of Earth – The story caught my eye plus Elisabeth Moss
- Avengers: Age of Ultron – So much good in this one: it’s a Marvel movie, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, great plot, and the best two for last: Joss Whedon and Elizabeth Olsen (squee!).
- Joy – It’s written by David O. Russell who did I Heart Huckabees and Silver Linings Playbook (woot) and it’s reuniting Bradley Cooper and my girl Jennifer Lawrence.
- Black Mass – The story sounds boring, but I can’t pass up Benedict Cumberbatch, Juno Temple, and Adam Scott. Meanwhile, I’ll try to forget that Dakota Johnson is in it.
- Aloha – Again, boring sounding story, but a good cast including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, and John Krasinski. It’s also the same writer as Elizabethtwon which is one of my all time favorite movies.
- Tomorrowland – I almost want to leave this one off because it seems like a money grab, but between Hugh Laurie, Judy Greer, and Keegan-Michael Key, I had to.
- Irrational Man – Woody Allen movies are kinda hit and miss for me, but he’s been hitting more often of late (Magic in the Moonlight was great). Also, Emma Stone and Parker Posey
- Trainwreck – Amy Schumer is starring in it and she’s hilarious. Add in Brie Larson and Tilda Swinton and I’m on board.
- Mistress America – While the story seems a little plain, I’m interested plus Greta Gerwig is in it and I find her to be a wonderful, though under appreciated actress.
- Life – I really like Dane DeHaan ever since Chronicle and I want to see how he does playing James Dean. Plus I’m moderately interested in he life of James Dean.
- Crimson Peak – It looks pretty freaky, but I can’t pass up Guillermo Del Toro and Mia Wasikowska
- Midnight Special – I’m always down for a story about a kid with special powers (as long as the kid isn’t awful) and Kirsten Dunst is the greatest actress of our generation (mostly an inside joke, but I do really like her).
- Macbeth – It’s probably my favorite Shakespeare drama and when you add in Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, I’m hooked.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens – I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but I have to at least see it. Also, I’m sure it’ll be improved by the presence of Lupita Nyong’o and Andy Serkis.
- The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino
- The Knight of Cups – Natalie Portman
- Kingsman – I know this one already came out so I can’t really anticipate it, but I’m putting it on the list anyway. It’s got Colin Firth who’s great and it somehow reminds me of Kill Bill so there’s that.
- Kill Me Three Times – The story is super interesting, Simon Pegg is my hero, and the trailer was great.
So there’s my list, hopefully it wasn’t too excruciatingly long and I also hope I was able to point out some lesser known movies for people to check out.
The Washington Post recently published an article discussing the Statement on Human Sexuality released by Erskine College in South Carolina. According to the Post, the statement is a reaction to an article published nearly a year ago on OutSports.com profiling two out gay students on the school’s volleyball team. In my eyes, Erskine’s statement is unsurprising and fairly typical for a Christian school, however, when viewed through the lens of our current culture, it is seen as hateful and bigoted. The statement doesn’t point out the students by name or even reference particular students. It doesn’t call for gay students to be banned or segregated in any way. In fact, all it really does is say that the Bible speaks of sexual relations between two people of the same sex as sinful and asks that it’s students avoid sinful behavior. While the sinfulness of same sex relations is up for debate in many places today, most churches are still solidly in the same camp as Erskine, but whatever your view on the subject, I don’t see the problem with an organization making their view on a subject known, especially when done with as much graciousness as Erskine has. The statement specifically requests that it’s community “practice humility and prayerfulness when engaging in any conversations or other actions related to these topics” and that they seek to “treat all persons justly with grace, dignity, and compassion in the Spirit of Christ.” That seems a much more loving approach than many others I have seen.
I think the reason that many people have viewed this statement so negatively (the WP’s article includes tweets referring to Erskine as bigoted and comparing it to the Westboro Baptist Church) is a result of the general population misunderstanding what Christians mean by the word sin. In Christian culture, it’s common to be reminded that we all sin, that Christ died for our sins, that man has a sinful nature. Pointing out that someone has sinned, when done with care and proper motives, is seen as an act of love, not one of condemnation. One could say, and I would probably agree, that certain sins have gained more attention than others and been dealt with more harshly and that is an area that I believe the Church needs to grow in, but I don’t see that happening in this instance. Sure, Erskine probably hasn’t released a Statement on Covetousness or a policy on bearing false witness against your neighbor, but I would argue that it’s because those things aren’t topics for discussion in our culture while LGBT issues certainly are. All in all, I applaud Erskine for their gracious discussion of this topic and I hope that their community can have peaceful loving discussions that are fruitful and bring them closer together as brothers and sisters in Christ.