Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Misogynist Reviews Mad Men

Hey folks,

"My name is Bill and I'll be sitting in for Steve on this review. He asked me to comment on one of his favourite shows, a period piece called Mad Men that's got the liberals peeing their pants and handing out Emmys as if network television doesn't exist. Before I get to my review, you need to know that Steve and I are friends, but we don't believe the same things. In theological terms, I'm what you call a complimentarian. That's a big word, but basically it means I think men and women are different, and have different roles to play in society. God created us different, and we're just trying to take advantage of those differences in how we think society (and the church) should be run. Steve is an egalitarian, which means he believes men and women are the same. Lord help me, I feel like a retard even trying to explain his position, because it seems so darn silly to me, but he believes that men and women are equally capable in every field. Whether it's running a church or a business, he believes men and women are, well, the same. There, I said it, and I hope he forgives me for feeling a bit tied up when I even think about his position, because it just seems dumb. I mean that in a friendly way, of course.

You also need to know I'm not a big television guy. I like sports, and I don't mind the Dance show my wife insists on watching every week, but I generally don't watch cable shows. Mostly they're an excuse for nudity and swearing and the rest of the liberal nonsense. Like the one about the man and his twenty wives or something. Why would I want to watch a show about a freak like that? No thanks. Or the other one about a gangster and his family, The Sopranos. You remember that one, don't you? That was the show the TV libs were all gaga about before Mad Men came along. Again, why in the world, would a clean living, normal person watch a show about the mob? Ridiculous. I wasn't even gonna do this review when Steve said the show was set in the sixties. It isn't that I'm not interested in fairness, but the world went crazy in the sixties, and some days when I think about it, I just want my country back, you know. But he said it was set in 1960, which is before all the crap started, so I decided I would go along with it.

The show itself is about a bunch of fellas working in the advertising business, just before it became the big business it is today. Season Four opens up in 1964, so I guess four years have passed. Kennedy is dead, and they're working at a new building.

I gotta tell you, the first thing I noticed about the show was how accurate it all was. I wasn't around back then, I'm Steve's age, but from all the pictures and films I've seen, the costumes are bang on. And I have to say everyone looks terrific. None of this baggy saggy look at my arse garbage of today. The men are wearing suits. The women, who look like women, are wearing skirts with their hair done and their makeup in place. For the first five minutes all I could think about was my office this past Friday. Couldn't tell the men from the women. Back then women liked being women, you know. These days, it's like they're ashamed and feel as though they have to look like men to get ahead.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is the man in charge. And when I say man in charge, that's exactly what I mean. I would have worked for this guy! He's a big fella who likes the ladies, and they like him back. (I would be a wing man for this guy). He's the creative director and basically the life blood of the firm. His employees all look up to him, but he has a bit of a hard time handling Peggy, who I guess used to be his secretary and has worked her way up to being one of the boys. Watching her there with all those good guys, and how awkward she is sometimes, and so bossy, like she's a big know-it-all, made my stomach clench. Oh, I get it. She's pretty good with the ideas, but she also acts like a man! That part is obvious. An egalitarian would say that she is clearly capable of doing her job, which proves their point. Right. But if she has to be a man to do her job, what happens when every woman starts wanting to be a man? Where does that leave us? What, teaching or nursing or being a secretary wasn't good enough for her? How selfish is that? Oh, and her hair is ridiculous and she's the ugliest one on the show. But that's what happens when a woman tries to be a man. Smart women know this, of course.

The show moves pretty quick, and the actors are all pretty good. They smoke and drink a lot, but there was a lot more freedom back then, before the government got involved in everything. I haven't mentioned Roger Stirling either, Don's partner. Now that guy is funny, and really smart. Every time he says something I find myself agreeing with him. I wish I had a few more buddies as cool as him! I suppose I should talk about Don, the star of the show. Now, Don seems like an all right fella. He seems to agree with rational, normal people about roles in society. But there's something there, something kinda dark, that makes me not believe him when he (rightly) tells a woman to get lost or that he doesn't want a woman present. It isn't that I think he's joined Steve's pink shirted cast of Nancy school girls, but it almost seems as if he doesn't care about men or women. Or that they don't matter because nothing matters. Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm sure that I'll be watching the show again. I liked the costumes and I liked the surety of that society. Oh, I know that it's written by one of the "Nancies" (with a name like Weiner, what do you expect?) but I'm hoping it will remind people how much simpler and more efficient things were back when men were men and women were happy. Hope this helps, everyone."

Thanks, Bill.


Authour's Note: Names may have been changed and certain individuals above may not actually exist. But as James Frey says, it's the truth that matters.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sex: What Religion and Pornographers Don’t Want You to Know

Kyle stood numbly in front of the church leadership. He was a big, sprawling redhead who always had a smile for people, and when he led the worship portion of the service, did so with sincerity and reverence. Today however, his face was glum. I sighed and looked over at the men and women in leadership. There was some sympathy in the younger set, but the deacons, the ones who comprised the lay leadership and handled the church finances, did not look happy. Brad – the church treasurer – looked at the others before finally breaking the silence.

"We accept your apology, Kyle. But you'll have to step down from leadership. We can't be having immorality in our leadership, and while I know you love Sarah, you aren't married yet."

Kyle nodded, his face red. Someone in the church had caught wind that his relationship with his long time girlfriend had become sexual and reported it to my senior pastor, who'd then gone to Kyle with it. Kyle had confessed that they were having sex, and Pastor Hall had told him that he'd have to apologize to the leadership of the church, and that they would go from there. I'd tried to excuse myself from the meeting, but Pastor Hall had been adamant that ALL of the leadership needed to be there, including the youth pastor.

"Is there anything else, Kyle?" Brad said.

"Um, no, sir." His words tumbled out in a half slur, a stark contrast from his singing voice, which was strong and clear. "I'm really sorry about this. I love Sarah, but we sinned. I love God so much…"

Pastor Hall stood up. He was short and stout, and his white hair was thicker than mine, although he was well into his sixties.

"Thank you Kyle. We know that wasn't easy. We'll give you our decision later this week."

Kyle mumbled something under his breath and walked out. I followed him to the parking lot a few minutes later after a word with my boss, but he was already gone. I knew what the Bible said about leadership and expectations, but the whole experience felt dirty to me. At least the leadership wouldn't gossip about it, I knew that much. My church was small, about a hundred and fifty people, but when it came to things like this, there would be no discussion with other members. Pastor Hall wouldn't tolerate it. Still, it didn't change what had happened, or the fact that I felt like I'd bathed in dirty water. And it wasn't Kyle's sex life that had me feeling like a creep.


Growing up in a small town in a conservative home meant information about sex was not forthcoming. Rumours and whispers after school when I was young, chatter in the locker room and at parties as I got older. I was still a virgin when I became a youth pastor, and I still knew relatively little about sex. That made it tough, because as a youth pastor, the one thing teenagers (well, all of us) are especially interested in, is sex. What I did know was that it was wrong. Sinful. A crime against your body. Unless you were married, of course, at which point it underwent a startling transformation to something amazing and wonderful and a special sign of your love for your spouse. That's what I knew, so that's what I taught. The internet was in infancy back then and pornography still required a visit to the video store or the magazine rack, but there were nights when I caught glimpses on flickering, blocked cable stations. It was sin, that much I knew, but there was something exciting about probing the darkness around a topic that was completely not only muted in the religious circles I travelled in, but a topic I knew so little about.

It wasn't until I'd left the ministry that porn became more interesting to me. That coincided with its availability as the internet blossomed. Even when I became engaged, I found porn to be more and more enticing. I was twenty four, and what I knew about sex could be summed up in two sentences. Sex outside of marriage was sin. Sex was great. That was the sum total of my knowledge, which, looking back, is mildly terrifying in that I was teaching others about it. I railed against pornography, and joined in condemning it with my Christian friends, while secretly watching it on occasion. Unfortunately, I never learned anything new about sex. All porn did was reinforce what the Christian books said about sex being guilt inducing and sinful. I felt dirty every time I looked at it.

What no one had prepared me for, however, was the marital transformation, the point where sex stopped being sinful and suddenly became wonderful. Despite the sudden "freedom", and the fact I engaged all the "Christian" jokes with my friends about being a "do-er of the Word", sex was never great. It wasn't even good. Mostly, it caused problems. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. I read a number of 'Christian' books on the subject, but they were no help at all. Mostly they parroted one another and kept sexuality in a guilt laden frame. It would be a number of years before I learned that what I thought I knew about sex was either a myth, or misinformation used to control me. And even then, I rejected it, because the human tendency is to hold to our illusions, even when they're destructive.

What I never expected however, was to be confronted with the truth that most religions (Christianity, Mormonism, Islam) view sex the same way pornography does.


Religion and pornography have seemingly always been at odds with one another, ever since the advent of photography and later film turned porn into an industry. (For the purposes of brevity, we'll skip the naked drawings and sculptures that have marked all civilizations of recorded history, along with the growth of pornography as technology has made it more available.) The two have always been seen as enemies, with religions uniting in the fight against pornography, their members leading the charge in cities and states to have it banned. And yet, the relationship between the two is not what it seems. Just as most people mistake love and hate as being opposites, with the true opposite of love being apathy, religion and porn are not opponents. They are, in fact, step-children of the same parents, children who squabble and make a lot of noise in public, but fall asleep at night in the same bedroom.

Religion perceives pornography as sin. An abomination. A dark evil. Most of that has to do with lust, the idea that any 'lust' outside of your marriage partner is sin. According to most religions, watching other people having sex and being excited by it is not only sinful and wrong, it's gross. Why would anyone watch that? They must be perverted.

Pornography perceives religion to be upheld by a bunch of uptight jerks that are self-righteous and deny their own humanity. Sex is not only good in marriage, but all the time. Isn't that what freedom is for, and clearly, sex feels good. So why not experience it as often as you can? Besides, watching porn is not the same as having sex with someone else. Why not celebrate the human body and watch other hot bodies go at it? What's the harm?

There would seem to be no middle ground between the two, except that both religion and pornography endorse a shallow and immature view of sex. Pornography is senses based, and so promotes that aspect of sex. With a nod to the fact it does feel good (sin feels good), religion considers only the spiritual aspect of sex, is it sin or not. The end result is that most people have no understanding of the deep complexity of sex, and the joy that comes from an intimacy based approach, one that is freeing without being moralizing. Because our need for sex is so powerful, both religion and pornography use it to advance their own ends. Pornography to make money. Religion to control its adherents. Understand that when I say religion, there are no doubt clerics out there who do their best to promote a more complete view of sex. But religion, by its very definition, is incapable of nuance.

But the most disturbing aspect of this is how the two shallow views of sex actually promote one another. That is to say, the more religious people talk about the evils of sex outside of marriage and how degrading porn is, they more they serve to add to porn's growing audience. The reason for that is not only the tendency of people to explore "darkness", but the sense of freedom in pornography when it comes to sexuality. For those raised in a culture of sexual shame, pornography presents sex as a celebration of something innately human. Unfortunately, porn is not actually about freedom. All it does is objectify an incredible gift and turn it into a pretty package so you will spend more money. Even more damaging is the implication within porn is that sex is merely a physical act. Watch enough porn and it dominates how you look at people, and how you measure them. Suddenly, people become commodities, and most of the time that means women. But when a religion argues that it has stood against porn for exactly that reason, they're lying through their teeth. For example, if Catholicism was interested in a mature, positive view of sex, it never would have banned contraceptives. As it is, it practically promotes pornography as the only alternative to a very human need.

We may not like it, but the truth is that religion funds pornography. Religion uses sex to sell its ideas of morality and porn uses religion to sell its false sentiments about sexual freedom.

Instead of hating porn, religious people should be dismissing it as we do childish views about the world, and looking to the positives that we can find in an intimate, emotionally connected relationship.

That isn't to say that porn is not destructive. Of course it is. And no matter what or who you read, there is little evidence to support the idea that porn is helpful. However, the market for it continues to grow, which means that it is filling a need. It's just not filling that need in a positive manner.


Porn is an addiction. That's what we've been told by psychologists and experts, and there's a growing list of textbooks and articles that deal with it. Unfortunately, the addiction label isn't very helpful in that it, once again, frames an immature sexuality within a negative frame. It certainly doesn't point us towards a healthy sexuality. Instead, it has become simply another item to add to the growing list of things people are 'addicted' to. A sampling of other addictions could include television, sugar, coffee, nicotine, sex, football, alcohol, marijuana, working out, candy, movies, Starbucks, work, fashion, cars, dating, computers, Facebook, food, and religion. There is not enough space here to debate our tendency to rank addictions, some of which are considered very bad (drugs, alcohol, porn) and some which are considered mild. (caffeine, candy) But we miss the point in that addictions are nothing more than ritually repeated behaviours which we use to help us deal with certain issues we have either not addressed or do not understand. That is, addictions are ALWAYS symptomatic of something else, and while they can reveal the destructive nature of people (think drunk man on a rampage) the problem is not with the thing which holds us, but the emotional and spiritual structure within the individual who manifests the symptoms. Professional, unbiased counseling often helps when it comes to addictions (we still have to be open to what we hear), so much as it helps us learn more about ourselves and teaches us new and healthier ways to deal with our issues. That's why religion is often ineffective when it comes to addictions, because it simply paints behaviours as sin but refuses to address the real issue. (There are a number of enlightened churches that reference professional counselors, and they should be commended for that.)

When it comes to pornography however, we do not regard it as we do other addictions. Within Christianity (as with most religions), pornography is simply evil, with no further explanations offered. Men and women who watch porn are perverts and sinners. And yet, in religious circles, the extreme levels of disgust directed towards pornography are completely inappropriate, and yet consistent with our fascination with "sexual sin." In biblical tradition, the most galling sin is pride. But you don't see people marching to remove pride from their town. You don't see lectures and townhall meetings and conferences to serve the need for more humility. You don't see religions uniting to talk about the need for humanity to be honest about their faults and admit them to the Creator.

Instead, religion commodifies sex in the form of negative advertising and sells its message to promote its own ideas about morality. It uses the mystery and power of sex for self-promotion in the same manner that pornography does, and in so doing, ignores the crying need in the populace for a better model of what sex is and what it can be. In short, it sells its soul for more adherents and more power.


Religion has created an aura of shame around our sexuality. Within Islam, that view is reflected in the treatment of women as sexual tempters and lesser citizens. Within Christianity, we can effectively date much of our current "shameful" view of the body back to Augustine and the predominant Greek influence of sinful flesh and the purity of the soul, a duality that did not exist within Judaism until after the first century.

When I think back over my life these past twenty five years, since the time of my first embarrassing erection, my ideas about sex have been largely guilt inducing. No freedom. No gratitude towards God for giving us such a powerful gift. In that way, as with many people I have counseled and spoken with through the years, both in and out of church, sex has been both the seed and seat of true dysfunction and a great deal of pain.

That isn't to say that I have it all figured out, because I do not. I have learned some things however, like the understanding that there is a difference between our genital prime, which happens at a relatively young age, and our sexual prime, which doesn't happen until late into our forties and early fifties. All of this impacts our view not only of life, but the foundations on which we build our relationships. Sad to say, neither religion nor porn do much to help, and in fact, have evolved into a destructive tandem that is not interested in what is best for us, and works actively to keep us in our sexually built hovels of ignorance. We may not like it, but sometimes the thing our religion wants and what God has for us are not the same. And that framing our sexuality in a culture of evil only serves our maddening tradition of defining ourselves only by what we are against.

Do you believe God wants the best for you? Do you believe God wants you to be in a healthy relationship? Do you believe that God, who created you, finds sexuality dirty and shameful? No. Neither do I. How about we move together then, towards a healthier sexuality and remove the stigma of shame from our discussions. Perhaps then we will no longer see the need to embarrass people in the name of our God, and in so doing, embarrass ourselves.


Authour's Note: I highly recommend Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch. For many people, including myself, it's been a life changing book.

Authour's Note II: As always, names and places are changed in my examples to protect the privacy of people.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

UPDATE: Pornography, Authenticity, and Site Changes



In the ongoing site reconstruction (reconstitution?) here, I've decided to include updates as part of my regular blog posts. I've resisted doing this in the past due to the plethora of blog/sites seemingly enamored with a daily confessional style of daft and uninteresting posts. ("I went to the market today. It was so busy there. And then I bought some bananas.") I didn't want that type of website, and so I resolved that I would only post articles, long thoughtful pieces worth the time it took to read them. Now, I don't edit in the same manner as I do when I'm sending an article out, as some of you grammarians have noticed, but I still work to be as thoughtful and diligent as I can. The purpose of a site like this is an exchange of ideas, and it's designed to provoke your imagination, push you to think about things in a new way, and encourage you along the way.

    That said, I've decided to post a bit more frequently, and so what I'll be doing is essentially a split. I'll still be writing my frightfully long articles that cause you to pull your hair out and yell at me through the computer, but I'll also be including what I'll call "UPDATE Days," which will be written as short pieces. Some of these will be actual updates about what's coming along the chute on this site, and some will be ideas that I've been working through, but do not want to spend two thousand words on, and other days it may simply be an article or video I found while cruising that I thought you'd enjoy. The difference will be noted in the title, where you'll find UPDATE (I know, it's original) and if you're away for a while and want to search through the archives on this site, you'll be able to find the actual articles more easily. The UPDATES will not have Digg buttons on them, and I won't be promoting them along the various social networks (like Facebook) like I normally do. They'll be here however, for those of you with a bit of time to kill. As well, I'll be adding one movie/TV/book review per week. Just check the Review pages for updates.

    It's been a remarkable month of growth here, as this site has expanded and continues to break five year records seemingly with ease. It's been humbling to receive so many kind words from you who grace this site with your presence and valuable time. My life has settled into something of a pattern, and with God's gracious blessings I now have a lot of time to read and write, more than I've ever been able to for such an extended period of time. I can't promise that you'll always agree with me (I'm not looking for consensus here, I'm looking to stir your imagination) but I promise that I will do best to be as fair as possible, and as honest as a person can be. (Which is to say, only slightly dishonest.) I will never align with a political party, though I do have some politicians I enjoy, despite their faults. (President Obama, for example) What I won't promise is that I'll be completely 'authentic' (mainly because I don't know what that means, see the next section for more on this), although I'll never be a (willing) shill.

    Again, thank you all for your readership. If you have an idea for a new "section" for this site, please let me know and I will take it into consideration. Life is difficult sometimes, but it gets better when we continue to ask ourselves hard questions about whom we are and why we're here. Hopefully, this site can help you along the path.





    I've written on a number of controversial topics in the past, and when I decided this past Sunday which topics I would approach this week, I didn't think much about it. Honestly, what does 'controversy' even mean to a writer? If you're not willing to write about the hard things, what's the point? That said, the research for my next article, along with the collection of ideas and research, has been disturbing. I actually had to stop for a while this morning because I didn't like where it was taking me. Specifically, not only discussing pornography and its relationship to religion, but the pairing of the two and the effect on the public, the common misconceptions and myths when it comes to sex.

    I was raised in a traditionally conservative home, which meant that information about sex was essentially non-existent. As I moved into the evangelical church in my late teens, the information changed, but the message was the same, and despite the best efforts by a few, it was largely destructive. What has bothered me this week is the striking relationship between pornography and religion. I won't say more until the article is done. (By the weekend, most likely) I expect that this article will upset a number of people, and I understand, in so much that it upsets me (although perhaps for different reasons) and I'm writing it. Hopefully, you'll feel the freedom to comment, whether you agree or not.




    "Authenticity is like authourity or charisma: if you have to tell people you have it, then you probably don't."

    -Andrew Potter, The Authenticity Hoax

    In my current reading of The Authenticity Hoax, which feels like a follow up to Potter's previous best seller The Rebel Sell (a tremendous read), I've been forced to work through a number of pet ideas, favourites of mine that I've held through the years, especially in regards to "authenticity" and transparency. Potter is a good thinker, but what I love most is that he challenges a number of contemporary ideas and forces you to re-digest them. Is our quest for authenticity nothing more than status seeking? Isn't that what we're really witnessing in the local/organic food movement? (For example) What I like best is Potter's drive to push us towards something better than authenticity. He pushes us to an honest appraisal of ourselves. I've seen this continually through the years, in people who refuse to look in the mirror, refuse to get counseling, and refuse to admit their human. (And therefore, a screw up) The consequences are always bad, and we end up worse then when we started the journey, because not only do we not know who we are, we don't like ourselves very much either.

    I'm sure I'll be posting a full article on this in the future, but I'm reminded again how good it is to read against the grain. We all have blind spots. Sign a book out of the library by an author you wouldn't normally read, and wade through some of it. (I'm not stating you need to read, say, Ann Coulter, however.) Although I haven't finished Hoax, I highly recommend it.


    (For those of you who didn't see this on my Facebook this week) I was reading some fantasy book reviews and found this on one of the websites. It was (unintentionally) hilarious, especially when I read it out loud. Thought you might get a kick out of it.





Monday, July 26, 2010

The Reason People Hate Church… And Americans

Her left eye was still a bit swollen, and there was a blankness to her gaze that I'd seen before. I was standing outside the church, waiting for the last of the kids to be picked up following our park outing when I saw her. Rita (not her real name) flashed me a fragile smile, and timidly asked me where Anthony was waiting.

"He's inside with Joe. They're horsing around in the fellowship hall."

Rita wasn't a member of our church, but she brought her oldest to some of our youth events from time to time. She was a thin woman in her mid-thirties, with a delicate face and long stringy blonde hair, which she continually straightened and patted without realizing it. Her stance was closed, her gaze nearly always centered on the floor in front of her, and the few times I'd heard her laugh, had been quiet and strangled, as if she was afraid to make too much noise. I'd spoken to a couple of her friends, who'd confirmed my suspicions about her abusive husband.

She went inside and picked up her son, but left without engaging anyone else. She rubbed her son's head affectionately as she put him into the car, and gave me a quiet wave before settling into the front seat and slowly pulling out of the driveway. I could feel my eyes starting to water, and I took a deep breath when one of my helpers called me inside for some help. I turned slowly, thinking about Rita, and the life of terror she lived. Her husband was, by all accounts, a Christian. I doubted it, but he went to church each week and paid his tithes and sang the songs. When I'd asked one of the other parents about Rita, she'd told me that Rita's pastor believed that any woman who left her husband, even if she was being beaten, had committed a great sin. And that the Bible commanded a woman stay in such a situation.

It was such a great lie, I thought, that God would want His children to be exposed to that type of torment. And yet, I'd seen it in some of my extended family as well, this idea that abused women were somehow sinning if they left their marriage. It was so outrageous as to almost be unbelievable, and yet, its proponents were not only still around, but in some cases, gathering even more adherents.

It's been nearly fifteen years since I last spoke to Rita. Nothing has changed. So called Christian leaders like John Piper laugh (disgustingly) over the idea of a woman staying in an abusive situation. And when someone asks a woman like Rita why she remains in such a terrible situation, her answer is simple: 'I'm a Christian. I want to honour God. My church doesn't believe in divorce.'


Along the crumbling towers of the old downtown, between the boarded up buildings on one side, and the filth that lines the sidewalks, is a single door that is washed clean and unmarked. The stairs lead upward and open into a large room with a number of couches and a few tables that is again marked by its cleanliness. Sister Mary Jo (not her real name) is wearing washed jeans and an old blue sweater. Her hair is short and curly, and there is a depth to her gaze that grabs you almost immediately. I'd discovered the place by accident, after speaking to some of my kids, and she's agreed to see me, though she asks that I don't disclose anything about her name and location. She has the blessing from her local parish to work here, but she doesn't get many volunteers.

"Who wants to work here?" She tells me with a smile. Her hands gesture towards the world outside the building. "I have a couple of volunteers, but I do most of this on my own."

'Most of this' means the work she feels God has called her to, which is helping young prostitutes get off the street and either into a school or a regular job. Many of the girls are abused, she says, and so it's not a simple thing for them to adjust to the 'norms' of society. A lot of them hold a great deal of anger, and their habits are self-destructive. Think of it this way, she says, most of them do not really have a reason to live. Their life has been hell from the time they were little.

I don't ask to see the rest of the place, because she's been clear about the boundaries. "Seeing a man in the safe shelter would not help them very much" was how she put it. We talk for another ten minutes or so. Sister Mary Jo is a formidable woman with an unusually deep compassion and faith. I ask her how she can maintain her faith in the face of such evil, day after day.

"If I didn't believe that we would all have to account for our actions, I would have ended my life years ago." She says it so matter-of-factly, I'm momentarily stunned. I check my watch and realize it's time for me to go. I ask her one last question before I head out.

"Why do you do it? This… work?"

"I'm a Christian. This is what we're supposed to be doing."

She says it with such conviction I swallow and suddenly feel a wave of self-directed questions.

So, what are you doing, Steve?

There are no answers forthcoming however, as I've had problems attending church for the past five years with any consistency. I think about it throughout the next day, and write about it in my journal before deciding I can't answer the question. That, I'm afraid, will take a few years yet.


As much as I've been able to ascertain in my (hobby) readings and study of neurology the past decade, the best analogy I've heard is the one that compares our brain to a jungle. That the competition to sort through the incredible flow of information and agree upon an idea, which will then be expressed as a thought or statement, is as fierce as it is complex. What most often tips the scales, in terms of what we remember and how we experience something, is the strength of the emotion that goes along with it. In fact, emotional 'tags', provide the greatest amount of weight in how we categorize things neurologically. And to that end, our brain categorizes EVERYTHING. We do it because we must. It would be impossible to catalogue all the information we receive and actually accomplish anything if we were unable to label it. This is, of course, the origins of stereotypes. And more negatively, speaks to racism and misogyny, although those issues are slightly more complex in that they deal with other issues which include selfishness and the prevailing need within a person to feel unique.

Back in my business days (which lasted one year, a 94% cumulative average, and extreme fatigue from boredom), I still remember my marketing professor telling us that for a business a negative experience was worth nine people. That is, if someone had a bad experience with a store or business, they would in turn tell nine people of that experience. And since word of mouth is the best form of advertising for any company, it was crucial that the customer be appeased.

Neurologically, it was also sound advice. The negative emotional tag is hard to escape, in that it leaves a great imprint on how we feel about things and how we, in turn, cognitively label them. We all remember our bad experiences, don't we? It's part of the storytelling process when we talk to our friends and family. (It's usually started by a statement like "Can you believe…?") Negative framing is a powerful tool, and in terms of our experience, a negative experience always outweighs a positive one. (Which is why one positive comment is not equal to one negative comment, for those of you out there, who like me, used to insist on being 'fair'.)

I Hate Church

'Church', as my friend and scholar, Mark Groleau, tweeted recently, is not a 'thing'. It is a group of approximately one billion individuals around the world from a variety of cultures. All of these individuals purport to follow the teachings of what was once a small Jewish sect, a sect that believed the Rabbi, Yeshua, to be their anointed Messiah.

That's what the church is.

It is a group of people, and at the latest count, constitutes approximately 15% of the world's population. What forms our opinion on the 'church', then, will arise out of our own experience. (The 'church' is not a thing like say, a banana. I know that sounds obvious, but it is how most people think of it.) Like any label, it's completely subjective. The problem is in giving a single identifier (like 'church') to one billion people is ridiculous. The label is so massive as to have almost no meaning, but it seems to be the only one we have, so there it is.

I have a number of friends who are atheists and agnostics, and when I ask them why they hate the church, I've noticed that a disproportionate number of them have had bad experiences with Christians (like Rita's asshole husband) or various 'church' rulings. I understand that. I understand it because it was my own position for so many years. And dealing with jerks like John Piper, who has clearly never dealt with the destructiveness of his own ideas and yet receives a ridiculous amount of positive attention from Seminary students throughout North America, makes it even harder.

And yet, John Piper does not represent the church. Neither does Rita's husband. Or, for that matter, does Sister Mary Jo. In one sense, they represent the perception of what many people will label 'the church', and that can feel to those in ministry like an awesome responsibility. It also leads to protecting our reputation and not wanting to say anything for fear of 'bad-presenting' the 'church.' It leads, in other words, to politicking.

So can we finally end this debate? You don't hate 'the church.' (Not any more than you hate 'Americans'. You may not like their policies, but there are a number of terrific people living in the U.S., and a number of jerks, just as there is in Canada or anywhere else.) To say that you hate or dislike a billion people is rooted in the pain of our experiences, and the tendency for us to believe what we already believe. Psychologists call this a Confirmation Bias, the tendency for people to favour their preconceptions, regardless of whether something is true or not.

Take Home

There's a small town near the Canadian-American border called Niagara-on-the-Lake. It is scenic and quite beautiful, with its cobbled downtown streets and quaint shops. It is also snobbish and rich. I worked for a summer at one of the hotels there, serving as a waiter. Our clientele were mostly wealthy people from around the world (NOTL has a great reputation). As a waiter, my favourite people to serve were Americans, and it wasn't close. They were far and away the most generous, and their tables tended to be fun. The worst people group to serve was the Brits. Snobby, particular, and cheap, cheap, cheap. And yet, not all British people are cheap, are they? And not all Americans are generous. But that was my experience. In labeling them, however, I do a great disservice to everyone else in those groups whose only reason for inclusion is birthplace.

What are your preconceived biases? What people groups have you labeled and then dismissed, simply because of your experiences? For people who have experienced trauma, like abused women and children, to consider returning to an environment (like a church) that was so destructive is not always a healthy option. But what about the rest of us? Those of us who simply disagree with an idiot pastor or jerky politician. What will our road be? My hope is that you will not remain closed to possibilities in the future, simply because of your past experience. Too many people shut down possibilities in their life without examining their decision. And in so doing, cut themselves off from something great in the future. Many of us have and hold great darkness from our past, and we're afraid to look at it, afraid at what we'll find. But when we live in fear, we let others rule us by manipulating that fear. They can say things like "The church" or "Women" or "Gays" and know exactly what kind of response they will get from us. My prayer this week is that you will not allow your past experiences to dictate your future, and that whatever labels that you do use, you'll become more willing to examine them and what they mean. In so doing, my hope is that you'll find the freedom God holds out for all of us, and that no experience or label will keep you from his best for you.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Site Additions

Hey everyone,

I've made a few additions to the site here. As some of you may have noticed, I've started attaching a "Digg" sign at the bottom of most of my posts. is a site that gathers together interesting/provocative/funny articles by allowing its members to "Digg" an article on the internet and submit it to the site. The more an an article is "Dugg", the more attention it receives. If you like something you read here, feel free to Digg it. Digg does require membership, but it's not only free, it links with Facebook. It's literally a two click process. Anyway, it's a cool site and I encourage you to check it out.

As well, on the bottom you'll notice other "share" buttons, which include Facebook and Twitter. If you're on either of those sites, click if you like an article (or despise it and think I'm a great idiot and want the world to know).

Finally, I've added some "quick reaction" buttons at the bottom of each post. As much as I try to encourage comments, most people don't like to wade into discussions. For many people, it's scary to expose yourself that way. All I can tell you is that while I will defend my work, I do consider your comments, and my mind HAS been changed about certain things. It's how we grow. I also promise never to ridicule someone who has taken the time to leave a comment here. If it still makes you uneasy however, you can now click one of the five reaction buttons.

I'm helping some friends move this morning, but I'll be back later today, and something will be posted either tonight or tomorrow. Don't be afraid to send me some more topic choices. And yes, I'll be writing about sex this week, but that won't be my post today. I'd give you a teaser, but I'm still debating between a couple of topics.

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.


PS I will have another review up this week as well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Same Ol’ Same Ol’

I'm sitting in my regular spot, tucked in the corner near the entrance of my local Starbucks. The music is far too loud and blares from the speaker above me. Some days it's difficult to write, especially if I'm working on my novel, as I find the music intrusive. I've never complained. Today is no different. I watch the masses pass by, as always impressed by how Starbucks has managed to market itself to so many different types. Business people, students, cops, factory workers, single moms. The list is endless. The people however, are largely the same ones I see every morning when I come. They come for their morning coffee, much like they'll probably visit the same place for lunch, and take the same route home from work. People are creatures of habit, and in a world that is constantly changing, there's something tremendously reassuring about visiting the same places and having the same associations. Unfortunately, in an increasingly open market of possibilities, there's a tendency to hold a bit too tightly to our daily routines. The real problem however, is not our routines or where we get our coffee, but the self talk that accompanies it. So today then, the challenge is simple. Listen to your self-talk. What are you saying about yourself when you get up in the morning? What are you saying about your life? What are you saying about your relationship, and about people in general?

It's surprising, but a lot of people don't realize how angry they are, how much they're sacrificing to protect their routines, to avoid listening to their self-talk. And they do it by burying it in "social code." ("How are you?" "Can't complain, no one will listen anyway.") I've heard people say that this type of thinking somehow implies maturity, that work is well, work, and that 'sucking it up' is the way an 'real' adult faces life. Bull. Yes, there are times when you have to do things you don't like, times when you have to put aside your own dreams and passions to serve people around you. However, if your life consists mostly of 'sucking it up', then you are being used and you need to change something. If you don't, you're on the path to becoming one of those bitter people who never have a kind word for anyone and do nothing but complain.

They key here, is not to blame someone else for the reason your life is dull and gray, because you've probably spent too much time conceding control of your life to others already. Take responsibility for yourself, and start by asking some hard questions. If there was one thing you could change about you or your life, what would it be? What do you hear in the few minutes before you fall asleep at night, or when you're stuck in traffic? Or have you so trained yourself that you don't hear anything at all?

I spent six years working at a job that was slowly eroding my soul. It wasn't the young people I was working with, they were redemptive part of my job. Most of the people I worked with, however, tended to be complainers, always griping about how they were getting screwed one way or another. After a couple of years, I was complaining too. It was hard to be hopeful and optimistic in such a toxic environment. Pushed by my friends, I went back to grad school, took a job making 9$/hour with supervisors too young to order a beer at a restaurant, and grabbed a tiny room in a house with nine other people. Leaving aside the fact that I met wife here, it was still the best thing I could have done. These days, I still miss the young people, still miss my old city, but everything has changed now. My friends encouraged me to challenge myself, and the results have been life changing.

There's no excuse for being miserable. I know that some of us are stuck, that we've made decisions that we regret and now must bear that responsibility. It doesn't mean however, that it must control our life. Listen to your self talk and change it. Plan for the future. Give yourself something to work towards. Whatever you do, don't take the easy way out. Listen to your heart, and follow it. Trust me, you won't regret it…


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

LeBron, Reality TV, and What It Means To You

I still remember the first time I watched the show. It was the second season, and after the furor of its first year I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was with Jim, already an avid fan, who explained the rules to me as we sat on my living room couch.

"Every week someone gets voted off the island. They form two teams, and they're given tasks, and they have a competition every three days. The winning team gets immunity, and someone from the losing team goes home, unless they win the individual challenge."

"That's it?" I said. "THAT'S the show?"

He nodded eagerly.

"Oh yeah, but it's SO much more. People trick one another, they form alliances and break them, they betray one another, lie to one another. And the winner gets a million bucks."

We watched the show in relative silence, although from time to time Jim would make a comment. He'd already picked his favourite. The show was well produced, and though I hated to admit it, well conceived. The competitions each week were the spine of the show, but its heart was the side interviews and the inevitable human drama. It was like watching war or politics, but on a micro level. It was absorbing and disturbing. The show – or competition – seemed to bring out the worst in people and hold it up like a shiny light. More than honour or humility or compassion, what people loved the most, was a winner. However it happened. Easier to rewrite tales of philanthropy once you'd achieved that status, than try to do things the "right" way.

The show, of course, was Survivor, and the year was 2001. Despite the backlash from the writing community, and those who considered it a passing phenomenon, Survivor would serve as the leaping point to something we hadn't seen before. Reality television exploded, with some copycats more successful (The Amazing Race) than others (Temptation Island). Along with the sweeping changes in technology, the millennium would usher in something new to our culture, especially in how we defined ourselves. It was a new narrative. It wasn't the words that had changed so much, but the book itself. The ramifications would be enormous.

I sat in the library staring silently at the screen before glancing over at the girl next to me. She was Indian, and with an MCAT study guide in front of her, looked to be about twenty four.

"How's the studying going?" I asked, needing a break.

"It's tiring." She said, smiling.

"My wife wrote it in her second year. I can't imagine." I said.

"What are you working on?" She asked, leaning past her cubicle.

"I'm working on a piece about LeBron James. His decision. The whole one hour special he did." She looked at me as if I was speaking Greek.

"You know, last week. Le Bron James, the NBA's biggest star, decided to leave his hometown and move to another city…" I let my voice trail at the sight of her face. She looked apologetic.

"No, I'm sorry. I don't know what you're talking about."

It was amazing how easily you could become enraptured by your own world, I thought. Of course she hadn't heard of LeBron. She was studying to go to medical school. What did she care about basketball? What difference did LeBron's decision, mean to her?

We chatted for a while longer and I turned back to my screen. Did the whole LeBron scenario really warrant any attention from people outside the sports world? What, in fact, did it mean at all?


Most of us don't see or feel the pull of culture. It flows in first one direction, and then another, like a winding stream. Some people try to fight it, and decide that they will swim upstream their entire lives. These are the traditionalists, the ones who believe everything was better thirty years ago, that all change is terrible, and that we should fight the stream to the bitter end while denouncing others who don't along the way. There are some who would prefer to leave the stream. To them, culture is nothing more than the winding waterway to destruction. More cities. More forests cut down. More corporations. More starving people. Like Rousseau, they view civilized culture as a construct against the purity of wholeness and organic life. They view indigenous tribes as living one with nature, and modern culture as living against nature. And they do everything they can to leave the current.

But culture is inescapable. You can't jam or contradict or walk against the stream, because eventually it catches up to you. Most of those traditionalists wading against the stream use a cell phone or a blackberry. The new ecotypes for whom the earth is to be gently shared use twitter and Facebook to organize their rallies for more organic food. It isn't hypocrisy, because the sincerity in both groups is welcome over the apathy in most. And what else is there? If we don't fight for something, why do we live?

The importance of an event like the LeBron "Decision" is that it signals a change in the narrative of our culture. Today, stars and celebrities still bemoan their lack of privacy, but they do so from their twitter accounts while they're at lunch somewhere. Technology and this new idea of "reality television" have extended far beyond the one hour shows ten years ago. It is the king not only reaching to the masses, but to each individual in those masses. It is new, it is powerful, and what it will mean for us as a culture is yet to be determined.

What's important is that it is noted. We need to recognize the changing of the stream and move with it, because it will change everything. It some ways, it already has. For parents, it certainly changes our kids' view of the world, doesn't it? They can get ideas directly from the twitter accounts of their favourite celebrities. Information floods our world. Anyone (in many countries, excepting China) can know anything at any time. Think about that. All I need is a computer and I can find out whatever I want to know… about anything. Who would have believed that fifty or even thirty years ago. This cultural shift changes everything from the way we relate to one another to the way our brain processes new information. And it certainly changes our narrative.

Years ago, my dad told me stories about his favourite players growing up. Now, he doesn't need to. I can logon and find out for myself. These days we have the ability to choose our narrative, as LeBron did. As we do, with blogs like this one. More and more, the emphasis is on the individual to choose their story and the stories they will follow. So the question remains. What story do you follow? And what story do you wish to create? More than ever before, we craft our own tales. My only prayer is that the story we choose to write, will be one that remembers why we're here in the first place. And that story, so far as I'm aware, is not about us.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

LeBron: The Story behind the Story (Part I)

The sun had not yet sunk to the horizon as I headed south down Highway 6. Every fifty kilometers or so I drove through another sleepy town, and with the windows down, listened to the summer hum of insects. This was the night LeBron made his decision. Alone on the highway, I tuned the radio to WGR out of Buffalo, listened to it cackle and then catch. I wasn't sure what to expect, but if I'd been betting, my money was that he would stay in Cleveland. I hoped not. Whether it was the Bulls or the Heat, it would give me something to look forward to in the upcoming season, seeing as how our star, Chris Bosh, had already twittered his way to Miami.

The land north of Guelph consisted mostly of farms, and in the last of the fading light I could see the dark shapes of horses and cows grazing along the rolling hills, the land's gentle syncopation a startling contrast from the hue and cry of Toronto. It was a welcome break. The ESPN announcers were still waiting for LeBron to make his appearance twenty minutes later as I approached Guelph. The station cackled with static and broke off just as LeBron started to make his announcement. I grimaced in frustration. I'm missing the moment! About three minutes later the station broke back just as LeBron said "I'll be taking my talents to South Beach." I pounded my steering wheel in jubilation, and hollered at nobody out the window. LeBron. Dwayne Wade. Chris Bosh. Now THAT would be a fun troika to watch. Maybe it would give the league something to celebrate aside than the Celtics and Lakers. What intrigued me even more than the decision, which in my mind had played out as a great drama, were two things. The first, of course, was what story were the sportswriters going to write. The second was what it meant for the general public. Many people didn't realize it, but both questions had implications for the culture, including the non-basketball/non-sports fan. LeBron was more than an athlete, he was a celebrity capable of rippling the culture. It was the ripples that interested me.


The Story Behind the Story

"I'm cheering for my story."

Ask most sports writers who they're cheering for when it comes to covering players and teams, and that's the response you'll get. As someone who has spent more time writing fiction than non-fiction, I can tell you that sports writing uses more narrative than any other part of the newspaper, and most of the best work has its roots in myth making. One need only look at baseball, the relationship between it and one of its prevalent themes of father and son. (Explored beautifully in Field of Dreams) More than mere accounts of games played between adults, sportswriting offers a peek into a different world, a world that is often more fantasy than reality, a world created to offer us help and hope in our everyday lives. (And yes, my cynical friends, to get our money) When we understand it this way, we realize that basketball is not merely a game, which is why LeBron's decision wasn't – according to the sportswriters – a basketball decision. Although he spoke of playing (which means working) with his friends, Wade and Bosh, and winning championships, which is the ultimate goal for his type of employment, nobody believed him. Why would they? Reading a cross section of literally hundreds of reactions throughout North America from sports writers across the country, the unfailing tone of the articles was disappointment. Disappointment with how LeBron handled the situation, disappointment with his apparent ego, disappointment that he had chosen "the easy way", disappointment that a two time MVP switched teams to "create an all-star team". The only place where the disappointment made any real sense was for Cleveland fans, some of whom were seen soon after burning his jersey in effigy.

From a 'realism' standpoint, the response to LeBron's decision (and everything it included, like the hour long special to announce it) is ridiculous. That people would burn an athlete's jersey reveals just how well the sports writers have done their job the past hundred years in creating a mythological narrative to encase athletes. Their exploits are told and retold, as it was surely done in civilizations past, as a story around a fire. The myth story behind LeBron -- hometown kid from a poor home, perhaps the greatest of all time, leading his beleaguered, working class city to its first championship in nearly forty years -- was a powerful one. For seven years LeBron worked to bring that myth to its telling finale, but fell short. Instead of buying into his own myth however, LeBron changed the rules, and opted out of the narrative to play with his friends for a better shot at a championship.

"Not a leader." "Cowardly." "LeBron blew it!"

Those were the headlines the next day, and it seemed to me that most of the sports writers had made their decision. LeBron had gone from the hero to the villain, the greedy (though he took less money) and arrogant (his own show!) young superstar who preferred the rich, flashy night life of Miami to the good, hard working people of Cleveland. I understood their perspective. What choice did they have? They'd framed the story of the hometown hero for so long, spent so many years building a heroic narrative, there wasn't much else they could write, could they? It shocked me a bit how people accepted this verbatim, but sports have long since served as more than mere games in our culture. I remember the stories my dad used to tell me about the grace of Willie Mays and watching Mickey Mantle hit. Or how Roger Staubach would lead his Cowboys back from certain defeat. I remember how eagerly I read books and stories about my favourite athletes as a kid, how I'd get together with my friends and we'd all take turns being Ozzie Smith or Walter Payton or Larry Bird. In the shadow of these great narratives, of growing up and learning about life, the posters on my wall were about something bigger than the game or even my favourite player. They weren't true, necessarily, not in the strictest sense. But that didn't make them any less real or affecting, especially to a kid growing up in Welland, a small blue collar town just north of the American border.

So while I understand the "disappointment", most of it seems disingenuous to me. Sportswriters understand myth and story, and they do their jobs much the way anyone does their job. There's no mystique for them in the people they write about, although occasionally there is admiration. They're too close, for one thing. They see the humanity of the players, their selfishness and arrogance, their usual human foibles, on a regular basis. It's hard to hold someone up on a pedestal when you realize that they're a lot like you.

And yet, only a few mentioned, for example, that four years ago Kobe Bryant lost nearly all of his sponsors when he was accused of rape (later settling with his accuser) and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Phoenix. That narrative has long since changed again (aided mostly when Jerry West stole Pau Gasol and gave Bryant another stud to play with. Not that you'll hear anything about that, because Kobe "stayed" in L.A.) This season, the writers went with the "Kobe finds a way" narrative, including game seven when Bryant was nearly invisible for most of the fourth quarter.

While I still enjoy sports narrative and the occasional dabbling into myth (go John Feinstein) we need to realize that LeBron is not a villain. For an NBA superstar, he is remarkably well grounded and an unselfish player who puts his team first. Yes, he has an ego. So did Jordan. (As did Bird, Magic, Shaq, and Kobe) If Miami wins multiple championships, the LeBron narrative will change again, as it did for Bryant. As it always does. What it does however, is serve as a stark reminder to be careful in how we create our lives and build our own stories. Myth making is not merely for celebrities, but for us too. How we interpret the events of our culture are just as important as the events themselves. Does the LeBron decision truly impact our culture that much? Even for people who don't follow sports? I think it does, but I'll leave that for you to decide.

Stay tuned for Part II


Sunday, July 18, 2010

One Myth that will Destroy Your Relationship: Part II

Rome, around 49 A.C.E.

Paul's letter to the Colossians is dated somewhere around 50 A.C.E., a couple of decades past the death of Jesus. In his letters we find the admonishment for men to be the spiritual leader in their homes, and for women to submit to their husbands. Children are to submit to their parents, and slaves to their masters. This 'family codex' is also found, in varying degrees, in his letters to Timothy and to the Ephesians. Rome was an advanced civilization, and for all that it is flogged as being a cruel empire, many of our modern ideals, such as democracy, find at least some of their basis in Roman society. Rome, unlike its neighbours to the East, believed in the equality of its citizens. And while there was still the sharp distinction between the rich and the poor, the concept of fairness had never before so permeated a great society. In the east, in countries like Egypt, caste ruled, and to whom you were born mattered more than your abilities or temperament. Rome's failing, in regards to its democracy, was in its patriarchal nature. (Unlike Egypt, where caste actually mattered more than sex) Its ideas about a republic mattered only if you were a man. Women had set roles. They were property. To be loved and cherished, yes, but as a woman you were not considered a full member of society. The concept of a woman with power was held only in the matriarchal nature of the home, and the mother's influence over her son or the wife's influence over her husband. (Caesar Augustus, in fact, created quite a stir by including his second wife, in some of his councils)

Back then, Christianity was still little more than a new Jewish sect, and highly misunderstood. Christians, those who claimed to follow the dead rabbi, Yeshua, were thought to be cannibals and worse. The Near East was a bubbling cauldron, for the Jews had never accepted Roman rule easily. Romans allowed people to worship whatever gods they wanted, Romans themselves held to a vast number of them, but some things were inviolate, the family code being one of them. They would not tolerate a new religion that sought to upset the balance of pax romana. Paul's inclusion of the 'family codex', according to many scholars, was as much to prevent the Romans (who saw the letters as they were passed from church to church) from persecuting this new religion as it was to instruct how families were to be construed.

Regardless, when Christianity was adopted as the state religion by Constantine, the family/slave codex remained in place. For nearly 1400 years, the idea of family, of slaves, and of a person's place in the world went without any great challenge. Three things happened however, that completely changed the way civilization was constructed. The first was the Protestant reformation, which was as political as it was religious. Martin Luther's idea that individuals did not need an intermediary between themselves and God was revelatory, and set in motion the concept of individualism something the world had never seen, at least, not in any great measure. It also signaled the continued fragmentation of Christendom, when the German church sided with Luther (or used him, depending on who you read) to establish their independence. As change swept across Europe, an important distinction between laws and customs was born. Feudalism and the old forms of governing shattered. Aided by the steady migration to cities, the ideals of Christian perfectionism were replaced by the dual forces of industrialization and capitalism. There is some argument as to when the Industrial Revolution began, but most historians' credit it to the textile innovations in the British textile industry in the 1760's. The Industrial Revolution changed everything, in that it replaced people with machines, and production increased so greatly it would lead to something else the world had never seen, the individual consumer. In the 1770's, the "fashion craze" made its first appearance (to the masses). In 1776, for example, the "in" color in London was something called couleur de noisette. Everyone who was anyone was wearing dove gray.

Capitalism proved to be a universal solvent, eating away at the social bonds between people in a given society as well as cultural barriers that once served to separate one society for another. In place of codes and doctrines, family or feudal ties, religious or caste codes, there was nothing left but the understanding of earned (not inherited) wealth that was available to all.

What does this have to do with gender roles? How does this affect my relationship?

Gender roles in our society are largely determined by our continuing commitment to pre-modern ideas, those that existed in both the time of Christendom, and before. This is true regardless of your religious affiliation. The idea that a man or a woman has a certain role to play was created in cultures where the roles were not only protected by custom, but by law. Whether you believe the apostle Paul was including a codex to protect the young sect from Roman persecution or not is irrelevant. How could Paul instruct equality, such as we understand it, in a time where women were neither allowed to engage in the political process or hold lands in their own name? And certainly the understanding that slavery is wrong is equally at play here, since it is included in the codex. And yet, while we have (largely) rejected slavery as immoral, we continue to define a woman's role by the same text of Scripture. And to do so now, in a culture that praises and promises individualism, we are destined to create havoc in relationships.

It is one of the greatest follies of our culture. From the time little girls and boys go to school, we define them by their own consequences, by what they do and what they become. And yet, when they enter into relationships as adults, we look to books regarding gender to better understand them! Why? Because we lack the surety of having our role dictated to us. Freedom is nice, but often it is easier to accept "my place" than to fight for a place of our own design. The other aspect, of course, is that men like the authourity that it gives them, which often makes their commitment to "individualism – equal rights for all" – less than enthusiastic.

Individualism is not perfect. I hate feeling as though everything I see is a commodity. That everything, including my faith and friends, are all for sale. Such is the destruction of capitalist individualism. However, it has brought some good things with it. And the greatest of these lie in our personal relationships. Why, for example, would we continue to choose "GENDER" as a dividing line on which to base our relational questions, when we have learned that INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITY is a far better tool for getting to know our partner. And why do we insist on divisive language? "Different" is a word we use easily, but it is nearly always used pejoratively when it comes to relationships. Women and men are not different, people are different. So long as we think of our partner as being "different" simply because of their gender, we will continue to miss opportunities to get to know them better. (A great help is for both of you to take a personality test, which you can find here.)

There are some things that I'm not good at. Like cars. Yes, I'm male, but I've never quite understood the fascination with cars and trucks. My wife, however loves them. She's also more adept at fixing things around the house and understanding finances. Me? Well, I tend to be a good communicator, and I am inordinately empathetic. I am not less of a man, nor is my wife less of a woman, but by the standards set in most 'relational' books, we would fail most "relational" tests. And so I did, many times, and almost always because I insisted on identifying myself as a man, and not as an individual. Not as someone unique and special and loved by God, but as someone born with certain physical attributes. So long as we hold to the myth, long developed and still powerful, that men and women are different, we will continue to have difficulties in our relationships.

People are people. Change your language. Stop thinking in terms of gender. ("Oh, you know those boys!" or "You can't figure women!") Find out who your teammate is as an individual, and focus on those things. You'll notice the difference, and wonder why you hadn't seen it before.


Authour's Note: I know that I am guilty of what historians call reductionism, but in light of the vast amount of material that I was wading through and the space on a site like this, I did the best I could. That said, the historical material is there to simply give you a better arc, a bridge, if you like, between ancient and modern culture and the role it still plays in how we determine gender roles.

One Myth that will Destroy your Relationship

Spring, 1989

The sun was high overhead and hot, and it beat down as I played with two of the dogs in the run area, the early spring heat mitigated only slightly by a light breeze blowing in off the canal. The dogs, both German Shepherd mixes, had their tongues out, but they looked over at me, ready for more. They didn't get to play very much, and even in the heat, they had a lot of energy. The slate gray building next to us, with its blue aluminum roof, had always evoked sadness for me. The Welland Humane Society was a place of suffering. Most of the animals would never find a home. Like the two dogs now sitting in the grass with me, people weren't interested in the adults and the mixed breeds. Purebreds, on the rare occasion when one was dropped off, would sometimes find a home. And puppies and kittens had a good chance of being adopted. But the adult female cat, with her ear slightly torn and raggedy fur, would not attract much attention. Neither would the eight year old Shepherd/Collie mix. Walking through their kennels, listening to their steady cries, was upsetting, so unlike my mother and sister (who I admired), I rarely came out to help. It was too painful.

I brought the dogs back inside and made sure they had water before locking them up again. The vet, Doc Paulson, was in the cat room, and I wandered over. He was checking a new group of kittens. He lifted the tail of each one and jotted something down on his clipboard.

"What are you doing, Doc?" I asked him.

"Checking to see which one is a boy and which is a girl."

I bent over behind his shoulder.

"How can you tell?"

"Well, just lift their tails. The boys look like they have a colon. The girls have a semi-colon."

I checked, and sure enough, it was the best way to describe it.

"What if they have an exclamation mark?" I said.

He looked at me and smiled slightly, but kept on with his examinations. I chuckled at my own wit, and decided to head home. Semi colon and colon, I thought. That was funny, and completely different from people. Girls were so different from guys, they were like another species. I'd heard that a number of times from both my peers and adults, but I'd experienced it the past year for the first time when Nat had broken up with me suddenly to date another guy. Just thinking about my ex-girlfriend soured my mood, and when I got home I immediately went to the two pictures of us that I'd kept. We were smiling and holding each other. I was a bit of a late bloomer, and at seventeen, Nat had been my first girlfriend. I was sure that we'd be together for a long time. I still didn't know what had happened. I looked at the sheet which I'd folded the pictures into, where I'd written my last good bye. I'm sure I will love again, but I will always miss you. I'd penned it in my scratching printing. I held the photos in my hand, feeling the catch in my throat, as my gaze drifted to the Richard Marx mixed tape I'd made for her sitting on my desk. I'd never had the chance to give it to her. Women? Who could understand women? They were so different, and, I thought, just a little bit cruel.

Spring, 1996

The email sat on the screen in front of me, and I stared at it uncomprehendingly. Normally I liked getting email, it was one of the coolest new things about the whole technology thing. No more stamps or long letters or waiting for a reply. You simply clicked SEND and it showed up in someone else's mail box. This email, however, made my throat clench and my eyes well up. It was my third year of Bible College, and I'd already started my ministry. I'd pastored for two years and was speaking to crowds and conventions around the province. I hadn't "made it" yet, but I was making progress. God had great plans for me. Well, for me and *Diane. At least, that's what I'd thought. I stared at the email. How could Diane be breaking up with me? We were supposed to be together forever. Isn't that what it meant when you told people that you loved one another? I could feel all the energy drain from my limbs, and I sat there for a long time before the sobs started coming, slowly at first, but faster until I was weeping into my pillow.

The next day I was distraught. I knew that we'd been having some issues, knew that I wasn't perfect, but there had to be something for me to do. I thought about all the movies I'd watched where the couple had broken up, only to be reunited in the end. Yes. That's what I would do. I would win her back, woo her and court her the way a man was supposed to love a woman. Clearly, I'd failed somewhere. Women were different than men, I needed to remember that. I skipped my morning class and headed to the campus bookstore, where I found a treasure. It was an older book, but I'd heard the authour's name before. Gary Smalley. If Only He Knew. As I read through the small, but dense, text, I realized just how little I knew about women. They weren't just different, they WERE another species. According to Smalley, they responded to things in a manner that was completely foreign to men. I took out my red pen and underlined all the things about women that I had never really known. (Which was a lot) Of course Diane had broken up with me, I thought! I gritted my teeth, and sent a long email back to her. I'd screwed up. I listed fifty two things from the book (that I needed to change) and waited anxiously to hear back. A week passed. Then another. Yet another, and still no word from the love of my life. I was a wreck, and I shuffled through my days, despondent and broken. I thought about my professors, who'd all agreed with Smalley, that men needed to be the spiritual leader in their relationships. All my professors but one. Ron, who was stout and balding, insisted that he and his wife were equal leaders, whatever that meant. We all kind of laughed at him, but he was a nice guy, and we didn't give him grief about his unbiblical view. No, the others were right. I had not been a strong spiritual leader in our relationship. And now, I was paying the freight.

Finally, after about a month, I received an email from my love. I could feel my heart thundering in my chest as I scanned it, and just as quickly, felt my stomach dive. It was polite and short. She asked how I was doing and about my family. There was nothing in her email about my revelations from Smalley's book. There was nothing about our future. There was, it seemed, no future at all for our relationship. The tears came quickly this time, but I didn't try to hold them back. I'd failed to be the man, according to Smalley and my professors, so how could I hope that she could feel right as my woman? If there was one thing I'd learned, it was that the differences between men and women were legion, but if a man did not take charge of his relationship, well, that was the greatest crime of them all. As the months passed I thought about the email, thought about how different women were from men, and wondered, mostly, how they could be so cruel.

Spring, 2010

They sit on my shelves still, and even here, in the quiet library I've started to call home, I can see them if I close my eyes. Battle of the Sexes. Strong Men, Weak Men. His Needs, Her Needs. Lovebusters. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Men, Women, and Relationships. How to be a Real Man. Even the first relationship book I bought back when I was twenty two, If Only He Knew, as still there, marked with my scrabbly red pen. For nearly a decade I read every book I could get my hands on in trying to understand the opposite sex. I had good motivation. After my break up with Diane, I convinced another girl to marry me, only to watch that dissolve as well. Something was missing in my understanding of women, I knew that, I just didn't know what it was. And so I read, listened to sermons and talks on relationships. None of them helped very much. At least, not until after I was divorced. There had to be a secret, a key to relationships, something I could do to change things. I didn't like being single very much. It was okay, but I was never much of a 'player'. And I liked women well enough, I just didn't understand them. I was dogged though, because I knew that if I didn't figure them out, I was destined to be single (or in a bad relationship) for the rest of my life.

The library is quiet this morning. There is the quiet clicking from the front desk, and a murmured conversation in the corner. Mostly though, it is the hum of the air conditioner reverberating through the shelves and desks, along with the faint smell of books I love so much. The revelation about relationships did not come in a single moment for me, but it was processed over time. The reading helped, but not the way I imagine it would. The more I read, the more I realized that the books I was reading were inherently wrong. They all talked about the differences between men and women, as if these differences were cast in stone. Yes, men and women were physiologically different, that much I understood. But whether it was John Gray or Gary Smalley, there seemed to be a presumption of personality as well. Men were like this. Women were like that. Sometimes, when I'd read the sections about men, I wouldn't be able to identify with them at all. In fact, there were a number of ways in which I identified with the women, at least as they were described in the books. Some of the books did give some nuggets, such as the one that talked about our "emotional bank account", which has helped me enormously through the years.

But by and large the relational books all made the same mistake. They all held to the premise that men and women were different, and in so doing promulgated the greatest and most destructive myth of them all: That if you wanted your marriage to work, you needed to understand the opposite SEX before you could have a healthy relationship.

The widespread nature of this casually accepted myth was not only powerful, but held sway over the hearts and minds of a culture that should know better. The reasons for that however, were easily explained. Unfortunately, they were often disregarded, especially by those who had built their lives (and relationships) on a wrong ideal, and were loath to admit otherwise. To understand it better though, we needed to go back a ways, to previous civilizations.

-Steve (Go up to see Part II)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Still Not Sure What happened

Hey everyone,

Well, at least one mystery was solved last night. One of my friends (thanks, Mike!) sent me this link to help explain what Fbook was doing when it considered my site 'abusive'. As to why I could not login to this site I have no idea. The paranoia, if you can call it that, stems from the whole Fbook melodrama earlier this summer with some idiots from my hometown leaving nasty comments and spamming me.

Hope you guys are having a great day. I'll be posting my next article either later today or tomorrow. Enjoy the weather.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Big Brother Strikes

If you're reading this, you're one of the few. For whatever reason, I have not been able to pull up my site since early this afternoon. Apparently Facebook, in all of its glorious wisdom, decided that my last post on my fitness blog was "abusive." I have no recourse. Or do I? Why would that blog be considered abusive? There was nothing in it but an urge to get fit?

If you can read this, please let me know. And if you have any ideas why my site has been shut down, please let me know.

Thanks, everyone.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding Mr./Mrs Right: Final Thoughts

It had been a hot summer, and today was no different. I could feel the sweat sliding down my stomach as I walked, heading south along Yonge street towards my client's condo. The huge buildings seemed to cradle the heat in the mass of concrete and steel, but a cool breeze that somehow managed to sweep past the man made towers helped make the walk bearable. My sunglasses had snapped apart a day earlier, forcing me to squint at the people traveling the sidewalks and the ones relaxing on the various patios that lined the street.

The past three days had been interesting, if not exhausting, as I'd waded through the large and emotional reaction my last article had generated. I'd thought it blunt, to be sure, but the anger had been visceral. Triggering an emotional response was usually a good thing for a writer, as it usually meant that you'd managed to engage your readers, but this time I wasn't sure. Twenty five hundred words was not enough space to include everything (you really needed something book length) about a topic like finding a partner. It had been written as a guide for singles, but I found a great deal of the responses coming from married and divorced women with children. I still wasn't sure what to do with that.

Up ahead, I noticed a couple of university age girls crossing the street. They were both slim, with long dark hair. The one on the left was wearing pink booty shorts cut so high that there wasn't much left to the imagination. Her t-shirt was rolled up and pulled tight. Her friend was wearing white corduroy shorts, also rolled up into her cheeks, and a black, low cut shirt with a V-neck scoop that almost went to her navel. They were laughing as they walked, seemingly oblivious to people around them. They passed through the Starbucks patio on the corner, walking between the packed tables. I watched the men as the girls strolled past, and without exception they all looked (one of the guys was not so subtle and simply stared at them) at the girls. Everyone noticed them, I thought. Like they were merchants with goods. Or female versions of Matthew McConaughey. I thought too about my article, and how many women found a man's analysis always tinged with either boorishness ("Oooh… those young women… soooo hot!")or disingenuous protestations that they preferred modesty ("I saw them, but I was disgusted. They should cover up.") I figured they were probably right. And since I'd mentioned in my article that my wife was a very fit size 2, a number of the people who'd read it had taken offense to my seemingly shallow capitulation. (Steve must be the boorish one!)

The idea of someone being fit as being more attractive to the opposite sex is not exactly a breakthrough in thermonuclear physics. However, getting fit solely to attract a partner isn't healthy. When I was a young Fundamentalist zealot, I would have looked at those girls, enjoyed the view, and then buried those feelings in dark, self-righteous comments about how "women should be modest" and "women shouldn't act so sleazy." As some of you who have read the comments from the previous article would know, back then I was hyper about my girlfriend being fit (who did the right thing by um, releasing me, and marrying a great guy who had the guy-girl thing better figured than I did at the time), and also about controlling what she wore. And that, I think, is one of the dark sides of not only the fitness industry, but culturally as well. When we (read:men) regard our partners as sex objects designed for our fulfillment.

Fitness should be used primarily as a tool to lift up someone's sense of well being. Unfortunately, under the dishonest gaze of most religions, fitness and sexuality are inevitably linked, and it's always destructive. Some cultures require women to wear a robe (e.g. a burka) that covers their entire body, or states that a woman can not, for example, swim with men. The woman is akin to the serpent. She is the temptation. Men are pure, but are tempted by women, who CAUSE them to sin. This is patriarchal garbage, on any level, and I refuse to accept as valid any religion or culture who so demeans half of humanity. Women should wear what they want. So should men. And as soon as we say, well, "she was advertising sex" we might as well drape a robe over her body. We are just as guilty as those in the Kingdom (Saudi Arabia) and or other places around the world that refuse to acknowledge basic human rights. That said, while fitness is needed to attract people of the opposite sex, it cannot be the primary tool of attraction. As soon as a woman has to, essentially, sell her body to find a partner, she ends up in a relationship that promises to be one sided.

Elizabeth Eaves, a journalist and former stripper, documented in her memoir, Bare, that she learned at a very early age that she could control men's reactions by what she wore. Loose baggy clothes when she wanted to be unseen. Tighter clothes and more skin if she wanted or needed to be noticed. However, she could never trust men because she felt like they were simply responding to her sexuality. (That she worked as a stripper only heightened that revelation.) Being fit is not solely about sexuality. It plays a role, because biologically, the more muscle you have the more testosterone your body produces. (And yes, that's true in both men and women) But sexuality is, in my mind, a minor role, although fitness magazines use it FAR too often to sell their products.

Being fit is about being whole, about not separating our 'flesh' from our 'soul'. Who we are on the inside is partly reflected by what others see, and partly by what they hear. And when fitness is directed towards ourselves, towards who we are and who we want to be, it is healthy and attractive. When it is directed outwardly, it becomes a product, something we sell or use to acquire things, and it becomes unhealthy.

It is a difficult line to walk, but I refuse to back down from this idea that to celebrate fitness is to celebrate boorishness or sleaziness. We may not like the fact that our fitness level matters to people of the opposite sex, but it does, and whether that is evolutionary or cultural should make no difference, because that's not what a healthy idea of fitness represents anyway. Just remember that taking care of what we look like is still about us, about figuring out who we are and what we want, and about honouring what God has blessed us with. How we do that is up to us, and while others will see the difference, I think you'll find that the biggest change will not be in how you look or in how others perceive you, but how you feel about yourself. Single or not, that's something we should all be working towards.


AUTHOUR'S NOTE: I hadn't intended on writing a follow up to the past article, but felt the response somewhat demanded some clarification. I am working on the next 'original' article, The One Myth that will Destroy Your Relationship. Hopefully I'll have it up in a couple of days. Thanks everyone.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Key to Finding Mr./Mrs. Right… is Selfishness

They were nuzzling each other in the checkout line directly in front of me, to the point where I turned slightly so as not to impugn on their moment. We've all witnessed the embarrassing teenage couples clinging to one another in outrageous public displays of affection, but this couple wasn't young at all. They looked to be in their mid-forties. He was short and balding, the woman even shorter with thick black hair and a tired, happy face. Their son, who looked to be about five, was quietly dragging a foam sword near the cereal aisle, and he responded quickly when his dad called him over and gave him a hug. I couldn't help but smile. This is what we all wanted, I thought. More specifically, I thought about my female friends and their frustrations in finding "Mr. Right", someone who they could count on as a partner and teammate. For all the advances we'd made towards equality, the most chauvinistic portion of our population was young men between the ages of 16-22. What that said about our culture, I could only speculate, but what it meant for young women was less abstract. It meant sifting through a populace that was not only increasingly disinterested in equality, but one in which violence continued to play a major role. Conditions in the church were no better. In some ways, the situation was worse, as young men purporting to be Christians did not seem to perceive a contradiction from their faith and their tendency to raise their hand against their wives. So many of my friends and acquaintances had given up, either marrying someone who was 'okay' or ending up with a man they were not proud to be with. It was better than being alone. Or was it? And why was it so hard for women to find "Mr. Right"? There weren't that many jerks, were there? Or were my friends simply being too picky. Whatever the answer, it was something worth looking into, if only so that I'd have something to say to my friends when they asked me yet again where all the good men had gone.


I have a confession to make. I'm happily married. And oh yeah, I've been married before. We were both miserable. Fortunately, my ex-wife met someone great after we broke up and became happily married. So we're both happily married now, just not to each other. I mention that because undoubtedly someone will read this and dismiss it because my credentials are 'impure.' Of course, my credentials are already impure because I'm male, and my advice is (largely)directed towards women. A couple of weeks ago however, I received an email from a reader/friend, who was frustrated by what she'd witnessed in the dating world and in her friends' relationships. "What's wrong with all these men? These so-called Christians are mean, ego-driven and often violent. What do I do?" Her letter touched a chord in me, because it was something I'd seen often the past decade in my work with youth and families. Especially young women in their twenties who were looking to the future. I'd seen the things she mentioned in her letter in my Seminary, supposedly the training ground for young pastors, in everything from the books we were forced to read to the attitude of many of the male students. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that whatever answers I did have were not going to be well received, and in many cases, would upset a lot of people. Would in fact make some people very angry. But I've never been good at hedging, even when it's pushed me into rocky waters.



Tyndale College University & Seminary is a red bricked building set amidst a series of quiet, rolling streets just north of Toronto. Million dollar homes are the norm in this largely Asian suburb, each house more precisely manicured than the next. About the size of an elementary school, it has evolved into the largest evangelical seminary in Canada, with over two hundred full time students and eight hundred part timers. When I moved to Toronto for graduate studies in the fall of 2007 I wasn't sure what to expect. Having long since given up my patriarchal zealot days of my early twenties – when I would talk about spiritual leadership and men (only)in the same breath – and having witnessed the tragedy of patriarchal tendencies, I was pleasantly surprised by my professors. Coming from a wide variety of Christian traditions, they were almost universally progressive and thoughtful. By the time I'd picked up the textbooks for my course on Leadership, I'd long since given up the fear that I would be subjected to content that promoted a 1950's domesticity and inequality towards women. That ended however, upon my reading of the text, Being Leaders by Aubrey Malphurs. In one of his 'helpful' appendices, he documented two leadership checklists. One for men. One for women. I still remember the way my stomach clutched at my throat upon reading about a woman's 'love for her children' and her 'support for her husband' (among others) as qualities necessary for leadership. There were no such checks for the men of course. For the men, the book listed things such as the necessity of being the husband of 'but one wife' and 'intellectually capable'. Even more disturbing than the book was the reaction by most of the male students, the exception being my best friend and one other, who didn't see anything wrong with the textbook and rolled their eyes when I continued to hammer my professor about it. "It's just a book, Steve. It's not a big deal." The women in the class were split nearly down the middle. When I expressed my outrage at the sexist ideas expressed in Malphurs' work, not a few of them shrugged. They'd seen it a million times. It wasn't THAT big a deal. That was, without a doubt, the saddest part of it all. The women who either refused to see the sexism or had seen it so many times before had given up hope of change.

Hard Truth: So long as we believe that we do not deserve equality in our relationships, we will never find it.

Hard Truth 2: Young pastors and young Christian men continue to be taught that misogyny is an acceptable part of the Christian faith. Unless women recognize that they have to apply their own 'filter' for sifting out men who will look down on them, they will continue to end up in relationships with preening, self-righteous jerks who treat them badly.

Sound harsh? Probably to some men reading this, men who honestly believe that they consider women as equals. Meanwhile, these are the same men who would never accept a female pastor or talk about spiritual leadership in the context of women. (Women should be silent!) They follow self styled leaders like John Piper who counsel women to stay in abusive relationships. Make no mistake, while there are some churches working hard to see equality and teamwork between the sexes, most churches teach male superiority, though they will clothe it with words like "function, not value", or that they are just "following the Bible."(The next time someone says that to you, ask them what they think of slavery. If slavery is not acceptable, although Paul specifically orders slaves to submit, then why are women supposed to be silent?)

Therefore, you need to develop a check list of your own for prospective suitors to answer. Frame your questions around things such as spiritual leadership and gender roles. If he/she shows an inclination towards a set roles for either gender, and believes spiritual leadership is for men, get up and run away. Do not look back. Forget how good looking he is. In five years you will be miserable, if not sooner. Don't ignore the warning signs ('shouldn't women take care of the kids, they're like, made to handle them.") Trust me, you won't regret it.


If my wife was twenty pounds heavier I never would have married her.

Sounds gross, doesn't it? Alas, it's true. And she's a size two, sometimes a zero.

What's also true is that if I hadn't lifted enough weights over the years to develop my body so that I can push three hundred pounds above my head, she wouldn't have been interested anyway. We laugh about it, but her interest was peaked as much by my arms as by my smile. (All I can say is thank you, Lord, for getting me to the weight room when I was seventeen.) Yes, her intelligence, kindness, faith and strong sense of self were just as important. But they weren't more important. They still aren't. The same is true for her. In all the church blather about the importance of a woman being 'godly' (whatever that means), and our rejection of the commercialization of sex and female bodies, we bury an important truth: that how we look matters. And not a little. It matters a lot. Being fit not only increases our likeliness to attract others, it speaks to something else, especially in an obese culture like this one. I watch how my wife treats herself, how she cares for herself, how hard she works to stay fit by eating healthy and working out hard, whatever her schedule. I've known a number of women through the years who are looking for a partner, and while they remain smart and kind, they have physically let themselves go. Unfortunately, they've been taught a set of lies, usually by obese men behind a pulpit who hammer away at the importance of 'spiritual' qualities and 'selflessness' without ever telling women that they need to be a little selfish. That they need to focus on taking care of how they look so they can stay independent and strong.

Now when a man says that a woman needs to stay in shape, it comes across, at the very least, as presumptuous, and almost always condescending. Unfortunately, the truth is that a woman who allows herself to become overweight gives up something far worse than simply her conditioning or her ability to choose better looking guys.

We don't think of fitness or being in shape in relation to our spirituality, mainly because we've spent the past two thousand years dividing our body from our mind and our soul. (These are Greek ideas.) But everything we do reflects what we believe, including how we take care of ourselves.

Hard Truth 3: If we're not willing to work hard (and it is VERY hard work) at staying fit, how can we complain when people do not find us attractive?

Hard Truth 4: The irony is that while being fit increases your chance of finding a significant other, you can't make fitness something you do for someone else. It has to be something you do for yourself.

A great part of the appeal in people who are fit are all the traits we unconsciously assign to them. Discipline. Self-control. Strength. Independence. Now these traits may not all be present, and not in every area of a person's life, but there is tangible proof that in least one area, that person is strong and consistent.

Start today by taking control of your life. Insist on creating time in your life for yourself to workout. Learn about eating healthy. Remember, you're not doing this to attract a partner (that's a side benefit), you're doing it for yourself. As a trainer, I've watched women come back into their own as they have taken ownership of their bodies, and consequently, their lives. You do not belong to someone else, and while you may one day share your life with someone, no one owns you. Treat yourself as you deserve, and watch the difference it makes in your life.


Waiting on God is difficult, especially when it comes to relationships. Through the years I've met a number of people who insist that God will provide them with a partner, that so long as they keep their faith, their long dreamed romantic relationship, fed through the commercialized Hollywood apparatus, will suddenly appear. The idea saddens me, especially as it relates to my fellow Christians, in so much as it's inherently pagan.

Hard truth 5: The idea that we offer up a sacrifice (our time, prayer, very specific prayer, singing) so that God will mysteriously bring a stranger to our small town, to our closed life, is a great load of bunk and has nothing to do with faith, and everything to do with people manipulating us so they can use us for their own ends.

I hear this a lot in church circles. I have friends who can tell me exactly what they want their wife to look like, or what their husband's accent will be. They have been taught (wrongly) that God answers specific prayer. That God is nothing more than a plaza for us to peruse. Another shopping mall for us to line up and get things. And they'll look you in the eye and tell you that faith is enough. That God will bring so and so just like Pastor Bobby Joe said. Frankly, the whole thing is insulting.

Hard Truth 6: How in the world can we expect to meet someone when we live in the same house, the same small town, with the same people? It's utterly baffling. We expect God to bring someone to us because we are too lazy or too scared or too comfortable to change our geography or go to a different church.

The problem is more perilous if there are children involved, obviously. In which case we have to be as proactive as we can to initiate contact with possibilities. The internet is a good example. I'm not a huge fan of internet dating, but it's better than doing nothing.

I believe that meeting my wife was God ordained. I honestly do. But if I hadn't left Ottawa to take on a new challenge with new people, it never would have happened. I'm not ashamed to admit that originally I'd hoped to meet somebody at Tyndale. Why not? We need to change this mentality that God wants us to be submissive waifs, refusing to move or change unless we hear the voice of Thunder calling from heaven.


Hard Truth 7: If you want to meet someone new, you have to meet new people. And that means adjusting your life so that will happen.

More than anything, we need to be more selfish. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but we need to do a better job looking out for ourselves if we hope to find someone else. We need to ask prospective suitors difficult questions, ensure that they believe in equality, and then walk away when we realize that they do NOT believe in equality. We need to guard our time selfishly, and stop saying yes to people who will rob us of our chance to be fit and healthy. People will always be grabbing for our time. Don't let them. And finally, we need to stop waiting around for God to do something and MOVE. Be active. Watch God move, but you go first! Our lives are more than relationships, so while it is wonderful to be happily married, your life is so much more than that. Waiting on God does not mean waiting as we would do in a doctor's office. Push forward, follow your passions, and don't get stuck when people try to hold you back. (Because believe me, families love to do this. And Christian men love to do this to women.)Live for God by remembering he created you and is happy with you and has plans for you OUTSIDE OF ANY RELATIONSHIP. Pursue those, and then watch as God brings people alongside you. One of them may even be suitable as a life teammate. Just remember, you have a few questions for them first.