Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A horrifying letter from a pastor

Yesterday I ran across a series at Slate titled, "How do you maintain desire in a long-term relationship?" Slate occasionally has some good psychological stuff on there, so I was expecting to see things about communication and date nights away from the kids and fostering ongoing love, etc.

Wow. Was I wrong with where they were going with this series.

I won't link to the series because, well...they have five articles:

  1. Date people outside of your marriage.
  2. Have group sex.
  3. Wear costumes in bed.
  4. Have threesomes.
  5. Sleep around a lot before you get married.

My jaw just flat-out dropped. I mean, I've heard of people doing this stuff but to so blatantly advise it...and to pretend as though this makes a relationship healthier?? It's unreal.

Then I moved from shock to horror when I read this in one of their articles:

"I am a pastor in a mainline, traditional church. I preach weekly and often lead Bible study. From the exterior, the church I serve is quite ordinary. I would not say that we are a liberal congregation, although we are certainly not fundamentalist or decidedly conservative. This church is in the American Midwest.

I am very happily married with one child. We live a clean, community-oriented lifestyle.
About once a year we get together with friends, who are also pastors, and have group sex. As the years have gone by, the sex has become more open and vigorous. Our winter vacation to Arizona involved my wife having robust sex with a mutual male friend and me at the same time.

We only have sex with other clergy and their spouses, as they are the only people we trust. I believe in my theological tradition, I want to see it grow, and my career and therefore ability to serve the church would be shattered if anyone found out.

As a pastor, I have had members of my church confess to me that they have been involved in group sex. They come to me with a sense of remorse. This puts me in a bit of a theological conundrum. But, at the end of the day, my wife and I are happy. Our relationship is strong. Sometimes I feel that I am enjoying the best of both the sacred and secular worlds.

Beyond my circle of friends, I have no idea how common this practice is among clergy.

For the sake of my career, I ask that you keep my identity anonymous.
--Blessings, Anonymous." 

It is rare for me to be speechless, but here I am. How in the world could a pastor possibly believe that this is acceptable--and indeed, numerous pastors? Intentionally or otherwise, he shares the real truth when he says, "I feel that I am enjoying the best of both the sacred and secular worlds."

Because that's exactly what he is doing. He is picking the parts of our sacred religion that he likes, and the parts of the secular world which he likes, and merging them as though somehow it is not mutually exclusive.

You see, he's let the yardstick he uses to measure "goodness" and "best" to become corrupted: his context makes it clear that by "best" what he means is not, "Best in God's eyes," but rather, "Most physically pleasing to me."

This pastor says that he leads Bible studies. I would highly encourage him to read Acts 15 sometime. As I have written before, this passage clearly indicates that we Gentiles are held to two (and only two) parts of the Law:  the bans on idolatry and sexual immorality.

I am a grace-giving guy: you all know that. I rarely draw lines in the sand. But Acts 15 leaves little doubt. We Gentiles are not the chosen people. God owes us nothing with regard to forgiveness and salvation. God invited us into the wedding feast of salvation even though we were not the original guests and are not properly clothed to attend. God adopted us, choosing that we were holy and blameless even though we were not.  He grafted us onto the tree of the Jews, even though we are wild branches and not part of the original covenant.

And what He asks of us--according to the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15--is not very much! Don't worship false gods/idols; don't make sacrifices to false gods; and follow Jewish sexual ethics (Lev 18--no incest, no homosexuality, no sex before marriage, no adultery).

Not much to it, guys. And before you get as arrogant as this pastor, and decide to change the laws of God, please remember Paul's warning to the Gentiles in Rom 11:20-21:  "Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either."

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