Monday, January 14, 2008

Stogies, stilettos and sex -- at church!

Alisha: Deirdre and I did something we've never done together ... We went to church!
Deirdre: My mom would be so pleased! But we were on a mission: To check out the "Stogies and Stilettos" series at Watershed, a church community that meets at Actor's Theatre in uptown Charlotte. The five-week series purports to help attendants better understand the opposite sex.
Alisha: We were intrigued to uncover how the church would integrate uncensored conversation on relationships into its theological mission. It was interesting, indeed. I especially enjoyed the video montage that included funny - and very much on-cue - phrases about the differences between men and women. Here's one from American writer Oliver Herford, "A woman's mind is cleaner than a man's: She changes it more often."
Deirdre: HA! And I liked the funny scene from "Hitch," the flick where "date doctor" Will Smith helps dudes score the ladies they want. I was surprised to see cute quotes and a film clip in "church." But I dug it -- and I'm sure that was the whole point.
Alisha: I was shocked a church would name such a series, "Stogies and Stilettos." The concept was refreshing -- there was a good mix of religion, where you felt as though you had really been to church, and at the same time, there was a hearty dose of realism about sexuality and how we engage each other in day-to-day interaction. It was preachy yet relaxed, and modern yet traditional.
Deirdre: I agree, but I will say I hoped for more on the topic. The first week's program was entitled "X & Y," and while I came away with the basic message -- that we should be good to each other and take care of each other, and while it's totally cool to admire another person's beauty, lust is NOT cool, because it's all about what that person can do for you and that's it -- I wanted more substance.
Alisha: You summed up my thoughts to a tee. The church is planning on four more messages in this series, and I hope they delve more into the topic because obviously a church planning to discuss sex freely was enough to get us to attend.
Deirdre: Well, one of the co-pastors said conversations over the series would get "raw." I'm sure it'll come nowhere near what we'd consider raw, but the very fact a church community is willing to explore communication issues between the sexes is a welcome event. It never would've happened in the church I grew up in, that's for sure.
Alisha: Just make sure you know there is prayer, Scripture readings, and hymns, so if you go expecting just a Mars vs. Venus speech -- you're in for a big surprise.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I attend what would be considered a theologically conservative church that differs greatly from the "seeker sensitive" type church that you are talking about here. The argument against the "seeker" type church has been while they're good at getting people in the door, they are lousy at preaching the true Gospel (that we are sinners and that Jesus Christ died on the cross to be an atonement for the sins for those who repent and place their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior).

I don't know whether either of you are Christians, but if you're not would you please say whether your thoughts would have been different had the church spoken more about sin and the need for repentance?

Thanks!

No more prosperity garbage, please said...

Great comment above.

I, too, tire of the "come as you are" churches. Jets jerseys and flip flops have no place in church. Churches are dumbing down their message in order to get fannies in the seats.

My dad always told me "if it's good enough for the court, it's good enough for the King."


If you want "feel good" religion, stay home and watch the church of Oprah.

ashley said...

Wow, well I think it's great that you've found a church in Charlotte that provides a message you can relate to... while also preaching the Golden Rule, the Bible, and theology. As for the comments above, I wish you nothing but the best in your religious endeavours, but please note that every individual has a different relationship with God, and that He speaks to people in different ways. Dressing in my "Sunday best" and being lectured into guilt (ie repentance) is not a way to make me, personally, a spiritually healthy individual. In fact, it turns me away from religion all together. My relationship with God and His Son is one of learning, growth, kindness, respect, and understanding. I feel that the sermon these ladies attended would have settled very well with me as a theological discussion about real, modern relationship issues and how to have a healthy "threesome" - man, woman, and God. Isn't that what He wants for us? (or, I'll even say - man, man, and God - or woman, woman, and God)

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I love how people will get off topic on the very first post!

What does the series they were doing have to do with repentance and sin?

It's comments like that that make me almost ashamed sometimes to say I'm a Christian.

Like all the people running around saying that Harry Potter is evil, yet they never watched the movies or read the books.

Danimal said...

The Catholics have similar programs geared toward younger people. One is 'Theology on Tap', esentially a bible study held at a local beer joint. They have had frank discussions about sex at these, with the strict adherence to Catholic teachings clearly explained. I would believe that some of the message presented at this new church is probably very similar. To the 'fire and brimstone' Calvinists, in the room, if these moder churches can get people outside the faith on the path to salvation with their 'out of the box' tactics, isn't it all worth it?

Anonymous said...

anonymous said..."What does the series they were doing have to do with repentance and sin?"

If a Christian church is aiming to "reach" the unchurched then their series should have a lot to do with repentance and sin. The objective in evangelism is to bring people into a relationship with Christ by showing them their critical need of a Savior. That is done through the preaching of the Gospel.

To Danimal...
What is your definition of salvation?

Anonymous said...

My comment is to address the first post who said they attend a "theologically conservative church". I would assume that this church they attended preached the true gospel but it was not addressed in the article.
Check out www.elevationchurch.org if you want a "theologically conservative church" that addresses the issues of today head on and preaches the "true gospel"

danimal said...

The fact that I know that there is a God and that jesus died fro my sins is my definition of salvation, as tought by Catholics and many other Christian denominations.

I am not going to even attempt to argue with anyone who thinks their particular brand of Christianity is the only way to heaven. That's a lost cause. I will support any church though, no matter how unorthodox (no pun intended), that can get through to the most cynical individual and give them a reason for hope.

Anonymous said...

"I am not going to even attempt to argue with anyone who thinks their particular brand of Christianity is the only way to heaven."

How true !! And it is this attittude toward which keeps myself and many others loath the thought of attending your "theologically conservative church".

Anonymous said...

Danimal,
One could interpret your definition of salvation as universalism (no mention of repentance, assumes all are saved based solely on the death of Christ). I'm not saying you believe this, just that's what can be interpreted from your response.

The only "brand" of Christianity that gets us to Heaven is what is laid out in the Bible. As long as you match up with that then you're ok.

Anonymous,
Elevation Church may very well be a solid church (never attended so don't know), but there are many out there that do not preach the Gospel or they are at least lacking of spiritual discernment. A very good read on this subject is "Hard to Believe" by John MacArthur.

danimal said...

To 3:24, we have repentance. It's called confession. A few 'Hail Marys' and a couple 'Our Fathers' and we're good to go. Then we go watch the BC/Gonzaga game. Come join us, we'll show you a good time.

Anonymous said...

danimal,
a confession of sin is not the same as repentance for sin.

We are saved only by grace through faith. Our works (i.e. confession) will never save us.

Anonymous said...

Danimal et al:

Well said, we are all saved by grace and through Jesus's blood on the cross we are forgiven. Check out the over 700 churches in this city and you will find many that give the most cynical hope. Attend Elevation some time at Providence or Butler High Schools and you will find one of these churches that give the most cynical hope. If you are north of the city check out New Birth Charlotte in Huntersville.

Anonymous said...

Once again, the fundies go spewing their 'my God only' mantra on the rest of us. God must be laughing at us most of the time.

Anonymous said...

Folks, you're missing the point...What these ladies are talking about is a church that is taking the time to do something that desperately needs to be done--that is, frank, open and MATURE discussion about human sexuality.

In a city like Charlotte, where churches are about as common as traffic signals, it's good that a congregation is stepping away from the sin-and-repentance mantra for a little while and talking about something germane to everday life, something that people can relate to no matter what they believe or where they come from.

Just for the record, the God I believe it doesn't really care what you where when you walk into His house, be it Sketchers or Stacy Adams. If your heart's not right, it really doesn't matter because He will know.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:35: Amen

Kevin Decker said...

Kudo's to Watershed for doing a sermon series on relationships and sex.

And, you can find church programs all over the area that have bible based as well as secular educational programs on relationships, marriage, and even sex.

Visit Charlotte Metro for Family and Marriage and click on Calendar of Events.

Anonymous said...

There's not much tolerance for preacing against sin these days is there?

Until we realize that we have offended a Holy God by our sin and that sin will separate us from Him for eternity we will never truly understand the need for a Savior. The reason why God sent His only Son to die on the cross is so that we may have eternal life. Once we realize our sin, we repent and place our faith in Christ as our only hope and way of salvation.

We must be careful to not think that preaching about sin is not relevant to our culture. Sin is man's biggest problem and all the issues we face are just a result of that problem. The only way it can be dealt with is to be reconciled with God through Jesus Christ.

Healthy relationships are important and a Christian should obey the commands of God in relating to other people, but let's not lose sight of what is the critical component in getting us to living a life pleasing to God and that is to first acknowledge our sin and trust Him as Lord and Savior.

God Bless. I've enjoyed the conversation.

Bill Van Fleet said...

How many religions are there? Which one is the correct one? What are the odds that it is the correct one? Have the others been founded on mistakes? Is it possible for a religion to have mistakes in it? How can a newcomer be reassured that he/she is not getting into one of the religions that contains one or more mistakes?

I attend Watershed. Am I making a mistake? I certainly don’t want to make a mistake. How should I find out if I am making a mistake? Who is the final authority on whether I am making a mistake? How did that person achieve that authority? What are his/her credentials?

I certainly don’t take the Bible literally. I just can’t see killing your child if he/she curses you. I don’t believe in stoning people to death. I have trouble believing there is a loving God who orders ethnic cleansing and will torture someone for all eternity if he/she just can’t quite believe that there is a loving God who orders ethnic cleansing and will torture someone for all eternity if he/she just can’t quite believe that. I see the Bible as religious literature that offers us a peek into the history of certain religious ideas and the cultural backgrounds of those ideas.

I believe Jesus wanted us to change our usual way of doing things. I believe he wanted us to stop engaging in punishment and revenge. I believe he was opposed to the loss of freedom within domination systems. I believe he was against doing things that cause pain, suffering, disability, and early death. I believe he wanted to make the world a better place. I believe he was ahead of his time, and still is. Of course, I guess the odds are that I am mistaken, right?

We love punishment and revenge. We love violence in the name of the struggle against evil. We love justice, the fair distribution of revenge. We drool at the thought of getting to throw the first stone. Is it not fitting for us to have a God, then, who holds us over the pit of Hell by a thread. Is it not fitting that we regard ourselves as sinners in the hands of an angry God. Imagine thinking that we are all basically good and bad, because good and bad come naturally, and that we need to help ourselves and each other shed the bad and practice being good until we really get good at it. Boy, anyone who thinks that way is really headed for Hell. We need to despise ourselves so God will love us. We need to punish ourselves so God won’t have to do it. We need to repent, to realize how really worthless we are except insofar as we can close our minds to all other beliefs than those within our own, correct religion.

I wonder if Jesus ever cried. I don’t mean on the cross. I mean looking around and seeing how much pain, suffering, disability, and early death we cause each other in the name of our religions. I wonder if he would cry today, looking around and seeing what has happened to his ideas, and what has been advocated in his name. I wonder if he would cry for all of those who have been tortured and killed in his name.

When I am at Watershed, I see people loving one another and wanting to make the world a better place. Well, maybe that’s a mistake. Maybe they are just not with it.

But I am with them.

Anonymous said...

Bill,

You obviously have been put much thought into this subject.

I don't know if there's anything that I can say here that would open the door to your understanding of where we Christians, who are Biblical literalist, get our convictions for our belief. But I'll give it a try.

First of all, my belief about sin, repentance and justification from God is not a belief that has been established within my own mind. It comes from the Holy Spirit, which guides my life and helps me to understand Scripture and to live out the Christian life.

The Christian message of salvation can be thought of as a paradox. In order to have life, we must die. Our death must be to self as we place our faith in Christ for the atonement of our sins, which brings us newness of life.

There are many questions and comments that you made that would take a long time to answer specifically here. I think that it would be helpful for you to sit down and discuss the Christian belief with someone who is a theologically conservative believer. Someone who does emphatically state that the Bible is totally true, inerrant and infallible and that Jesus Christ is the only way of Salvation.

I don't want to knock Watershed too badly since I've never attended. However, I think it's not too off base for me to think that given the subject of the Original post and your struggles with the Christian belief as one who attends the church that Watershed is not preaching the Gospel message as clearly as they could.

It's obvious that you believe there is more to this life than the sinfullness and the hurt that we see everyday. There is hope and that hope is the message of Jesus.

Bill Van Fleet said...

Anonymous, my responses are in bold.

Bill,

You obviously have been put much thought into this subject. Off and on.

I don't know if there's anything that I can say here that would open the door to your understanding of where we Christians, who are Biblical literalist, get our convictions for our belief. But I'll give it a try. Okay.

First of all, my belief about sin, repentance and justification from God is not a belief that has been established within my own mind. Where then? It comes from the Holy Spirit, which guides my life and helps me to understand Scripture and to live out the Christian life. How are you able to distinguish that from psychosis? Since there does not seem to be 100% agreement as to what constitutes the Christian life, maybe you could help us to know how to know the right answer when we see it (or hear it). How do you experience the Holy Spirit?

The Christian message of salvation can be thought of as a paradox. In order to have life, we must die. No paradox there. Our death must be to self Please clarify! as we place our faith in Christ for the atonement of our sins, which brings us newness of life. I love life. I haven’t made any really bad mistakes, to my knowledge, certainly none that would require a deity to die in order to correct them.

There are many questions and comments that you made that would take a long time to answer specifically here. Maybe you could take just one. I think that it would be helpful for you to sit down and discuss the Christian belief with someone who is a theologically conservative believer. You aren’t one?? Someone who does emphatically state that the Bible is totally true, inerrant and infallible and that Jesus Christ is the only way of Salvation. You don’t state that emphatically?

I don't want to knock Watershed too badly since I've never attended. Sounds right to me. However, I think it's not too off base for me to think that given the subject of the Original post and your struggles with the Christian belief What struggles? as one who attends the church that Watershed is not preaching the Gospel message as clearly as they could. Nobody is perfect. But we are supposed to do some thinking for ourselves, anyway.

It's obvious that you believe there is more to this life than the sinfullness and the hurt that we see everyday. You bet! There is hope and that hope is the message of Jesus. No, the hope is that we can increasingly become more rational and ethical, and not believe arbitrarily things that fill us with self-loathing. The hope is that we can think increasingly clearly, understand ourselves and the world increasingly accurately, and conclude that Jesus’ message really has something to offer, that we should be inclusive, generous, nonjudgmental, and understanding, that we will one day be Homo rationalis, if we work at it.

I’ve got an idea! Why don’t you attend Watershed and then give us a report on it from your personal experience? Maybe we could meet up and have an interesting sharing and comparing of ideas. How about it? We could even invite others.

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com

Bill Van Fleet said...

Hi, Anonymous

My replies are in bold, below.


Bill, I'm the one that you were commenting with on the wecanrelate.blogspot.com site concerning the sermon at Watershed. I apologize for the delay in responding to your latest questions. This is a very busy time of year for me.

I understand completely.

Instead of responding through that blog, I thought I would respond through your website.

Okay, and I will post it back on the blog, with your anonymity protected.

You asked where my Christian belief comes from and how can one experience the Holy Spirit? I'm glad you asked.

Upon reviewing what you have written below, I don't think I see the answers to those questions. I will ask more specific questions related to the specific things you write.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful and I'll be glad to share it with you.

Perhaps you are saying that you obtained your beliefs from the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which consists of what?). But how did you arrive at this set of beliefs out of all of the many alternative sets of beliefs? What has led you to settle upon this one set of beliefs out of all of the other sets of beliefs?

When God created man (Adam), He laid out a very specific command for Adam not to do. However, Adam disobeyed and sin entered the world.

I am assuming that you are saying that this myth is actually historically what happened, right? And yet how is this scenario consistent with what science has to say about the emergence of our species from the general line of primates, according to which there could not have been the sudden appearance of one distinctive individual of Homo sapiens from the thousands of other primates existing at the time? What do you do about the fact that anthropology does not support the details of the myth as being a possibly real set of events?

This sin, which caused us spiritual death, has been passed down to all humanity and therefore it is in our very nature.

Why did it cause us spiritual death. Does any and all sin cause spiritual death? Why was the sin of one passed down to all progeny? Are we talking about the inheritance of acquired characteristics? Did God have a choice as to whether to consider our children to be sinful because of what an ancestor did? Would we do that to our grandchildren?

All of our life is consumed with sin

My life is not.

and we do not meet God's standards. What are God's standards? Perfect righteousness.

Wow! What a parent! Thank God we (at least most of us) do not require this of our children. They would grow up with such self-esteem problems that suicide would be widespread.

No one will ever be able to enter Heaven with God unless we are perfectly righteous in God's eyes which is to keep all His commandments. Obviously, since we cannot attain the level of God's righteous requirement, we in ourselves are without hope.

So it is some kind of catch-22?

But...God has provided us with hope! He has made a way for us to have fellowship with Him. God, in His love for the world, gave His only Son Jesus to be a sacrifice for our sins.

Do we still believe in sacrificing humans to an angry God?

What we are unable to do (live a perfectly righteous life), Jesus came to earth and did just that. He satisfied God's perfect standard and then died on the cross, taking the sins of many and shedding His blood for the sins of many so that they may have eternal life.

So since we simply can't live up to God's standards, he will allow us in anyway. But why did he have to kill a human, or a God, or Himself in order to make this decision? How does human sacrifice make God now accept us into Heaven despite our continuing to be imperfect?

He then rose from the dead to show that He had conquered death. For all who accept that they are a sinner, believe in and place their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior they will be saved.

So the human sacrifice didn't work after all. Something else is required, namely, that we believe the myth to be an actual reality. Then, even though we do not live up to God's standards, he will let us in. Why?

On the day of judgement, God will look upon those whom have trusted Jesus for Salvation as perfectly righteous,

I thought we would never be perfect. Now, if we have accepted the myth as a reality, we will become perfect? Or that God will simply look at us as perfect when we are not? If so, why does he require that we believe the myth to be reality in order to allow us in. God has required human sacrifice and blind acceptance of myth to be reality in order for Him to pretend to himself that we are perfect, and therefore worthy of being with him in Heaven? Am I grossly misunderstanding something?

because their sins have been covered by the blood of Christ.

See, I don't know what that means. God hates us for being imperfect, but is able to overlook our imperfections by virtue of human sacrifice and blind, obedient belief?

And Jesus's perfect righteous will be imputed to the sinners.

Imputed by God? God will convince himself that we are perfectly righteous when, as you have said, we can't be?

However, the Bible is very clear for those who reject Jesus and their need of a Savior, they will be deserving of God's wrath becaused they have sinned against a Holy God.

A Holy God is one who demands perfection from those for whom it is impossible, and then punishes them by torturing them for all Eternity? But because of having engaged in human sacrifice, God is willing to pretend that some of us are perfect, but only if we blindly believe that the myth is a description of what actually happened?

Bill...that is a short version of the Gospel. Here is a link to a longer, more in-depth version complete with Bible references. (http://www.bibchr.com/hcikg.html). I pray that you will be open to the truth of God's Word and that the Holy Spirit move in your life. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks and God Bless, Shannon

Thank you, Anonymous, for the effort you have put into helping me to understand. Obviously I did not understand some of the lines of your reasoning, and so I did indeed ask you my questions as we went along. I certainly consider myself open to the truth of God's Word, but I have to know what it is first. I have heard various opinions about what God's Word is, and how true it is. I am waiting for clarification as to what criterion I should use to come to a conclusion, and that is what I was asking you about. You have told me what you believe, but not why you believe it.

I believe I am motivated by the Holy Spirit, by which I mean my wish and intention to do right, and my extreme appreciation that there is something rather than nothing and that it is specifically the way it is such that we humans have had the opportunity to exist, and my extreme gratitude for all that any of us have ever done to promote not only the survival of our species but also the good life for everyone, now and in the future, the good life meaning as much joy, contentment, and appreciation as possible and as little pain, suffering, disability, and early death as possible. The Holy Spirit says to me that we should attempt to love one another, or at least treat each other as if we did. I think Jesus' message to us was quickly forgotten, because we don't naturally think like he did. At Watershed, we try to capture what Jesus had in mind, and to implement it in actual, practical work for the benefit of those who are being left behind in our efforts to survive and have the good life. As far as I can see, we at Watershed don't have the angry God view. We humans have always created our deities in our own images, and as we become more civilized we are gradually moving away from punishment and revenge as ways to fix our problems. That to me is what Jesus was trying to get us to see. So we at Watershed, I believe, see God as a loving God that does not get bent out of shape because of our imperfections, but encourages us to have the Holy Spirit and act upon it.

As I said above, because I think that it is so important for us all to think about these things, I have decided to post this back on the blog, maintaining your anonymity, of course. I appreciate your having gone to the website (HomoRationalis.com), and hope that you will read the free textbook downloadable from there. You could share your ideas further if you would join the Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group (Meetup.com). I would love to have further dialogue with you, and I am sure the others would also. (Some are theistic and some are atheistic.) If there is one thing that will save us, I believe it will be having an open mind, that is, being able and willing to share and compare ideas with those who disagree.

Again, thanks, and God Bless

Bill Van Fleet
HomoRationalis.com