I like to be a very down-to-earth Christian marriage blogger.
This week I’m taking a bit of a step back, since my daughter is getting married on Saturday! I’m going to be posting some round-ups of some of the best marriage advice I’ve published.
But as I was looking for posts I wanted to share, I came across this reflection that I wrote after my big “Every Man’s Battle” week that I wrote in June. I actually sent this reflection out to my weekly newsletter subscribers back then (if you’re not on my email list, you miss a lot of behind the scenes stuff, coupons, extra freebies, monthly videos, and more!) I thought it was important, and summed up well some of the things I’ve been thinking on the blog this year, so I thought I’d share it with you more widely!
A reflection written June 30, 2017, after writing the “Every Man’s Battle” series:
- Do All Men Lust?
- Why the “Every Man’s Battle” idea backfires
- 12 ways to help Christian men defeat lust
- How to talk about men’s sexual needs in a healthy way
- Why “do not be a stumbling block” is a horrible modesty message
Last week something strange happened. I spent a week writing almost 15,000 words on how the conservative Christian church has shamed women by talking about “every man’s battle” with lust as being primarily women’s fault, and, to my surprise, 95% of my female readers said a collective, “Well, DUH!” Even the vast majority of the men commenting agreed with me.
I thought I’d get a lot of pushback. And while I got some, the outpouring of support was overwhelming. It was instead a huge, collective “Finally, someone said it!”
In other words, I said something which was totally obvious to almost everyone sitting in the pews in churches in North America today–and yet that message is not heard in books, or by pastors from the pulpit, or by big name speakers.
I think it’s kind of like what happened last year when Gary Thomas, who is a pastor with the Southern Baptist Church (full disclosure, he’s also a friend) published his awesome article Enough is Enough, talking about how the Christian church needs to come to terms with the fact that in preaching the evils of divorce, it has also made it so horribly difficult to help women in truly abusive marriages. We need to stop talking only about saving marriages and start also talking about saving the people in those marriages.
It was not a radical idea. I’ve been saying the same thing for years; so has Leslie Vernick and countless other writers. But this time a well-known Baptist minister said it. And that’s what was so surprising. Someone broke with the mold.
And there IS a mold. If you’re going to get well-known in the Christian world, you have to get books published. Then you have to get on radio shows, but radio shows steer clear of controversy, so you have to say something relatively innocuous. Then you also have to get other authors to like you, so you can’t critique anyone.
I don’t like that very much.
I admit that I used to steer clear of certain topics, because I desperately wanted to grow this blog and grow my speaking ministry, and I didn’t want to lose readers.
But lately I’ve been finding that some things just need to be said, even if it means criticizing some pretty big things in the evangelical world–like my post Top 10 Signs You’re Respecting Your Husband Too Much (again, that post went huge and was largely appreciated); and my Every Man’s Battle post last week. These things are important. They’re almost “emperor’s new clothes” level important. Everyone’s thinking, “the typical take on this is really strange”, but no one’s saying it out loud. So you think you’re alone believing it’s somehow off, and you’re not.
Unfortunately, once you start trying to build an audience in the Christian world, it’s tempting to self-censor because you don’t want to tick off people that you need to sell your books. And so people stop saying things that are blatantly obvious because it may anger some people. But then the Christian world becomes rather bland and safe, and very few pastors and authors deal with the real messiness when the pat answers don’t always work.
My daughter Rebecca’s book Why I Didn’t Rebel is challenging a lot of the typical things Christians say, too. The parents who did all the “right” Christian things that we often hear about in conservative Christian circles tended to have kids who rebelled far more than the parents who broke with the mold a little bit. The reason? Everything comes back to authenticity. And you can’t be fully authentic if you’re wedded to a particular viewpoint rather than to a relationship. If you read her book (and I hope you will!), you’ll likely say a whole lot of, “Of course! That’s so true.” We all instinctively know this stuff. But we don’t articulate it, because it seems dangerous.
Maybe that’s a good thing, because I don’t want to stay safe.
The whole reason I blog is because I like to think about things, and I like to pray and wrestle through things, and I like to talk about those things with you. But it needs to be about what I think Jesus is saying, not what a particular viewpoint is saying.
The other danger is that as soon as we start blogging or writing or speaking primarily from a certain viewpoint–whether it’s a denomination or a political party or whatever–then we start seeing the other side as the enemy. If we think of ourselves mainly in terms of our viewpoints (I believe “A”), then we also tend to think that Jesus believes our viewpoint, too (Jesus also believes “A”). We’re Team A! Therefore, anyone who isn’t Team A is automatically wrong about pretty much everything. We look at what side they align themselves with, and either embrace them or dismiss them based on that. We don’t listen to what they’re actually saying.
I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I want to be myself.
Last week I was debunking a big foundation of the sexuality narrative in evangelical churches today–the one that says that men’s sexual needs really matter more than women’s, because women were put here to serve men first. Yet at the same time, I had some feminist blogs angry at me because I didn’t go far enough. I held, for instance, that men actually ARE visually stimulated in a way that women don’t tend to be (and I do believe that). So neither entrenched viewpoint was happy with me–though most readers were. And to me, the readers are all I care about.
You showed me last week that I don’t need to be scared–that people are so, so hungry for REAL dialogue on this stuff, because we don’t see it in the churches very often and we don’t see it in bookstores, either. Where we do see it is on the internet, where real people can hang out without the gatekeepers in the wider Christian sphere. I am so very grateful for that lesson, and for the many kind words, especially on Facebook, that you all sent my way. It really was a confirmation to me from God of what I’m supposed to be doing.
Publishers and denominations have a lot to learn from the internet.
One reason this blog is actually the biggest Christian marriage blog on the web (even though I’m not the biggest marriage author) is because I talk about real stuff that people are actually thinking about. I’m not trying to build a denomination or protect my reputation; I’m just talking.
And I’m just me.
I’m not your pastor. I don’t want to stay aloof from you. I don’t want you to follow me because I’m some big name or because I represent a viewpoint. I simply want to talk about stuff, and let you all get to know me, and then you can all make up your own minds. We’re in this together.
Jesus is with the marriage misfits. Jesus is in the trenches. Jesus doesn’t care about reputation or image or pedigree. And I pray that I may never, ever get so caught up in trying to get “big” that I self-censor myself ever again.
What do you think? Do we steer clear of hot button topics too much, and so become too bland? Let’s talk in the comments!
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