#BuddhistSex is the reflection for October 4, 2015. The Adams Rib story; what a crazy story! Does it really mean that women are inferior to men? If so, what does that say about male ribs? This and so much more in this provocative reflection about how we should treat one another. Listen here in this reflection by Mark Kurowski: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #ChristianSex #BuddhistSex #Nietzsche #SelfGift
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/4/2015 The 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Genesis 2:18-24.
When I was a campus minister, my students used to love to have me tell the story about my trip to the coffee shop when I was a pastor in Gary, IN. One student, remembering a certain talk I would give on every retreat, would stop me and ask, “Did you tell THE story?” It is a story that has its roots this passage from Genesis today. So, I thought I would tell it once again, in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., who used to tell stories again and again, like hits on the top 40 of MLK.
A not so long time ago, before Starbucks existed, there were local coffee shops that had their own vibe. They also had some really catchy names. The Marquette Park area of Gary, IN was no different. It was a liberal bastion in the Red State of Indiana. Beach people in the midst of urbania opened up the coffee shop right next to their stain glass shop. The old gas station had been fashioned in such a way as to allow the old lobby to be a quaint little coffee shop called, “Marquette Perk.”
Every morning, on my way to the Church, I would go a little out of my way to get a cup of Kona coffee at Marquette Perk. I had my clerical collar on and would walk in and greet everyone.
One morning, I opened the door and took one step into Marquette Perk and the only word I heard before a deafening silence was the word “sex.” It had been said very loudly and my presence in my clerical collar had made the word “sex” be the last word as my mere presence brought the entire conversation about sex to a screeching halt. To put people at ease, and be a little snarky, I said, “Oh, you don’t have to stop talking about sex on my account. In fact, I could make the case that Christian sex ought to be the best sex there is.”
As I was waiting for my Kona to be brewed and served, a woman at the end of the counter was brewing herself. She was getting more angry by the second as she saw me in my clerical collar waiting for my coffee. She waited until I had gotten my coffee and had my back up against the door to leave when she said, “And I suppose that Buddhist sex isn’t good sex!” I admit the words, just kind of flew out of my mouth when I said, “I don’t know. I have never had sex with a Buddhist.” Then off I went!
My students loved that story. It is a true story. It arises out of something that I think needs to be affirmed today. Being a man is a good thing. Being a woman is a good thing. [You may sit down.] Sex is a good thing. The rib story is a good thing. It is a very important thing.
I know that for millennia women have hated this story because it was used, rather inappropriately, to say that women came from men and therefore are inferior to men. It is also a story that was used to say that women are to help men as if men get to call all the shots. Men domineering over women, hmmm, yes, it is a problem. Women domineering over men, hmmm, that is also a problem. My children, especially my sons, tell me that it is now common for women to act with power in relationships.
In so many ways, we are Nietzsche’s children. Everything is about the exertion of will to power for the individual, as the German philosopher Freiderich Nietzsche proposed. When we talk about being in business in this country, we are usually talking about ascending to the highest profit margins, regardless of whether or not we treat others properly or pay them fairly. In fact, if we can get to the top and not pay them fairly, that is a credit to us!
When we talk about male-female relationships, it is all about power. We argue over whose viewpoint is truth. We argue about equal pay for equal work, which is just ridiculous that we wouldn’t pay person what they are worth, not what they will take. There is so much more than this, but the denial of someone equal pay for the same work is about power more than it is about anything else.
There is nothing I hate more than having a conversation with one of Nietzsche’s apostles. These are the people who constantly question Christian generosity because there MUST be some power grab behind things. Yes, if we read and apply the story from Genesis as a statement of power, that men were first, women second, therefore, power is first to the man. Yet, the foundational principle of the Scriptures is NOT power! The exegetical lens through which we read the Scriptures is NOT power! The foundation of the scriptures; the foundation of reading the Bible, is love.
Genesis is a collection of stories that tell the meaning of things. God created the Universe and created humans in a special way. God mixed up the languages because humans after the Fall are always about power instead of living in harmony. Joseph was given into slavery so that he could save people from famine from his position in Pharaoh’s cabinet. So, the story of Adam’s rib from Genesis is a story, when founded in love, we can see that it is telling us that men and women are indispensable to each other. It is not telling us that women are inferior, it is telling us just the opposite. It is a story that says that women are of the same substance of men. Women are to be so valued that men will leave all they have to get them. I would be remiss if I didn’t add that the goal of sex, is not personal satisfaction, it is gift.
The goal of giving of the self is union with the other in the most perfect gift of self we can give. Full of pleasure, full of desire for the other, and full of love, I hope, should be all sexual activity. When it is not, when power rears its ugly head in the bedroom, then it is not sex properly called. It is exploitation.
The relationship between man and woman ought not be exploitation. The relationship between man and woman, founded in love, should be rooted in love that supports and experiences all things as one. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not rejoice at the wrong, but rejoices in the right. It is a right, good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to be thankful for our opportunity to give ourselves for the other.
So, as we approach our own relationships, we need to ask ourselves, have we allowed power to seep into how we treat the men in our lives? Have we allowed a warped view of what it means to be a husband and wife distort our kindness toward the other?
When God created us, he did not say “good”, like he said about creating the heavens. When God created us, he did not say “good”, like he said about creating the earth and moon. When God created us, he did not say “good,” like he said about the oceans, the mountains, or all the beautiful flowers, plants, and amazing animals that crawl and fly. No. When God created us, he said, “VERY good.” [Can you repeat that after me? VERY good.] Every day, every morning, we ought to get up and say, “God made me VERY good. Who is anyone else to say otherwise? Yes, I am sinful. Yes, I let the desire for power and control to seep into my relationships, but before I do any of that, I will acknowledge that I was created a man and that is very good. I will acknowledge that I was created a woman and that is very good. I will acknowledge that I was created a person, with the dignity of being God’s creation and that is VERY good. Furthermore, I acknowledge that I was created by God and I am not him.
So, back to my coffee shop story. The reason that Christian anything ought to be the best that exists is because we should always do everything out of selfless love. We should give ourselves to our customers out of selfless love. We should give ourselves to the clients, the patients, the people we see in the grocery store, the drug store, in the car that just cut in front of us, in the rude comment made to us, the power grabbing co-worker, the impatient boss, the person who is trying to destroy us; we should give ourselves to everyone, especially our spouse in selfless love.
If we would love selflessly, then we could wait for anything to honor our future spouse. Think about it. If we are giving ourselves selflessly, then we ought to not only think about what we need to say ‘no’ to in preservation of our dignity as God’s creation, we ought to also think of how we ought to preserve the dignity of everyone around us. Husbands and wives ought to preserve each other’s dignity the most because, as the passage from Genesis shows, husbands and wives are actually part of each other. They have joined together physically and should join together spiritually. It is a precious thing; a positive thing, a thing that should not be made dirty or bad or awful by our desires, by power and exploitation. It is why we have marriage. We have marriage to protect the honor and dignity of each other. THAT is the point of the passage from Genesis today.
If we were more concerned with protecting the dignity of the other, then imagine what our relationships would be like. Imagine what our church would be like. Imagine what our marriages would be like. So, the question remains, how will you change your life, you way of responding to your spouse, your coworker, the idiot on the road so that God’s creation may be given the proper dignity it deserves? It ought to be the best response, no matter what the activity. We are Christians, we give our best, always. Amen.
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