Roll Your Eyes, Brothers and Sisters

I love it when my phone updates its emojis. My favorite of the new bunch?

The face palm.

This perfectly capture my response when reading (yet another) profoundly unhelpful article by a Christian for other Christians with Rules For Men and Women To Avoid Immorality. This time, the culprit was texting. Apparently, married people should NOT text people of the opposite sex, because “affairs don’t start with sex.”

This is pretty much what my face looked like:

So, let this sister just explain herself a second here, attached to my formal appeal to please Stop The Madness. This article prohibiting texting is a variation on a well-worn theme of Men And Women Should Just Stay The Heck Away From Each Other Unless They’re Married, and has as its underpinning two terrible and insulting beliefs. It is insulting to women because it fears that they are temptresses and seductresses (see Jen Wilkin’s excellent article here on this), and it is insulting to men because it treats men as helpless victims of their sex drives. Unless you’re married, then, you should have as little contact as possible with the opposite sex: no driving in cars with them (the “Billy Graham Rule”), no private conversations in offices, no dancing, and lately: no texting. Unless you’re copying your spouse on the text thread, warns the author.

This kind of thing drives me nuts, because it shows that believers in the church have bought into the widespread (and WRONG) belief that all male and female interaction is inherently SEXUAL in nature. I hear griping and moaning about the sexualization and objectification of women and the terrible eroticization of all relationships (why can’t guys be friends who love each other without people accusing them of being gay? why do all tv sitcoms have a friendship where one of the part have feelings for the other, which almost always ends in a season finale of THE KISS (or sex) to relieve the tension?) But when we treat men and women in the church as if they can’t reasonably relate to each other without being in constant, grave, and unavoidable danger of illicit sex… we are falling into the same trap.

We need to reclaim the space for GENDERED and NON-SEXUAL relationships.

Yes, the Bible has much to say about gendered, sexual relationships – marriage being foremost among these.

But the Bible has SO MUCH to say about gendered, non-sexual relationships, and we desperately need healthy role models and better conversation about what maleness and femaleness look like without anyone imagining anyone else naked. And, Scripture has language for how we do this. It’s the family language of brother and sister: gendered, warm, intimate, familiar, and totally clothed.

I live in a church community and have friendships with men and women. Yes, I am a married woman and I am friends with men: both married and single. And my husband has both male and female friends. And, when we were single, we both had married and single friends of both sexes. As far as I understand it, this is the beautiful pattern of community within the FAMILY of God: filled with brothers and sisters who sometimes squabble, sometimes disagree, but who really, really love each other and are on the SAME team. We desperately need to reset our default setting and learn to see the men and women around us primarily as brothers and sisters, rather than potential sexual partners.

This is not to say, however, that affairs don’t happen, or that we can say anything or do anything with anyone, male or female. But, so much more than rules about how close you should stand to a guy, or whether or not you can give your phone number to a married man, what this calls for is MATURITY and WISDOM. The question is always one of the heart: am I seeking other people’s BEST in this relationship? That’s what love requires. To follow this standard requires so much more than keeping your contact list limited to same-sex-friendships: it requires us being willing to search our hearts and lay our intentions bare before God. Asking hard questions of ourselves (like “why am I wanting this person’s attention?”) requires more diligent self-scrutiny. For me, one check is knowing that I’d be willing to show my husband any of my text exchanges with other men and women (which is an internal caveat for me), rather than simply ruling out any texting at all.

It may well be that, giving yourself a sober self-assessment of your habits and vices, that it may be better for you not to text Dude X or arrange a regular carpool ride with Miss Y because you know you’ll be vulnerable to crossing lines that brothers and sisters shouldn’t cross. But it shouldn’t mean writing half our family off complete as dangerous and deceptive.

Surely, we need to do better than that. We can do better than that. Yes, we all need to take care that we aren’t making choices that will lead us into temptation (of bad spending, bad gossiping, selfishness, and yes, sexual temptation too)… but surely to accomplish this we need is HEALTHY relationships guarded by wisdom, not ZERO relationships regulated by fear and suspicion.

 

 

 

The post I don’t want to write, and you don’t want to read (but we must)

I was one of the first people I knew to get a cellphone in the 90’s: a sleek black Nokia about the size of a pencil case. It could make and receive calls, and when texting became available a few years later – I texted on it too.

And for 17 years, that was all I needed my cellphone to do.

But then last year, my sisters bullied persuaded my Dad into buying me a smart phone, since I wasn’t willing to make the change. “We stay in touch through apps,” they said, “and we don’t want you to be left out.” And so I got a phone. With apps. And it was wonderful.

The arrival of a smart phone also meant the arrival of some other things: the ability to get driving directions whenever and whereever! the ability to put my earbuds in and speak to my family overseas via skype for free while driving long distances, with sound quality as good as if they were sitting in the passenger seat next to me! the ability to check the opening time of the local pool, or the start time of a movie before heading over there! wonderful!

But also: the ability to check my facebook updates when I stopped at a traffic light, and the ability to see if that email reply I’d been waiting for had come in, and the ability to see what witty and wonderful things had been posted on twitter. At first, it was the occasional check. But with the weeks passing by, I found myself driving with my phone in hand more and more often. Not calling on it, or texting on it, but just… you know… checking.

Friends – I say with shame that this is the DUMBEST HABIT I have ever developed in my life: and after the second or third time I had an “oops” moment where I had to suddenly veer  back after drifting into another lane, or screech to a halt behind someone who put a turning arrow on, alarm bells began to go off. It was just a matter of time before the “that was close!” moment became an “it’s too late” one.

Last year I fell off my bike. I was going about 3 miles per hour and was new to riding a road bike with clip-in pedals. I didn’t clip out fast enough, and I toppled over and smacked into my driveway. I was nearly stationary, and the weight of the fall was just me and my super-light bike – but it hurt like the BLAZES and I sported a bruise for weeks. Also, last year, my daughter fell off her 1-foot-off-the-ground bed… and broke her elbow.

If falling off a stationary bike or rolling off a 1-foot-high bed could cause such damage – WHO WAS I KIDDING that driving a two ton speed of metal at 30 miles per hour wasn’t going to cause SIGNIFICANT pain and suffering to my loved ones (and others’ loved ones!) if I were to get into an accident. Even at low speeds. Even just a fender bender.

And then yesterday, this video started to go viral – which hammered the point home even more:

Whoa.

I am an addict and I know it. But in the spirit of being proactive and responsible and a LIFE-SAVER and a parent, this is the plan I have come up with:

When I buckle myself into my car, I pick up my phone and scroll to the settings menu. I select “cellular”, and it looks like this:

 

20140610-094243-34963075.jpgAnd then, I make it look like this:

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No internet on the road? That means no social media on the road.

Easiest thing ever. Or easier yet – put it in airplane mode.

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Or turn it off.

Please.

Please.

(I’m so sorry it took me this long).

But Please, do this with me. It can be our safe driving covenant, okay?