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Thank you for saying what so many of us wanted to say and more. I couldn’t stomach reading the whole original article, but the quotes on Twitter gave me very culty vibes with language that reminded me of the male-centric sexual coercion of several cults I’ve studied- particularly David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. It also brought up imagery of stories of sexual abuse survivors who had their pastors describe their assaults of them with similar language- that this was holy, that they were receiving, etc.

It’s concerning that it was written and passed through all the checks and balances with no one seeing any issue with this. That’s the most haunting part of all this.

This quote summarized much of my own thoughts: “Figuring God as a sexualized human male is idolatry. It’s an insult to the glory of the immortal God.

While pagan cults used sex for ritual and worship, Israel and the church condemned the practice.”

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Mar 5, 2023·edited Mar 6, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Thank you, Beth! I remember when Molly Ivins joked after Pat Buchanan gave an off-the-rails speech at the RNC in 1992: It was better in the original German, she quipped. I've joked to myself over the past several days that the TGC article probably sounded better when it was a lecture given to Pi Kappa Alpha.

There's something really weird going on with evangelical hermeneutics more generally that results in this corruption of metaphorical direction. Back when I was able to run marathons, I'd always chuckle at the T-shirts quoting the Bible about "running the race" or "suffering producing endurance" or whatever, as if Paul was sacralizing athleticism instead of using some true if trivial point about athletic training to unpack something true and much more profound and beautiful about following Jesus. The truly demonic heart of the TGC essay, for me, was the attempt to make male ecstasy the epitome of self-giving love, reversing the great reversal of Good Friday. Thank you for taking the time to say *so much more* about what is wrong with the essay, and to speak frankly and hopefully in response.

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Thanks for this Charlie. Yes, I wonder if it has to do with a wooden understanding of “literal” readings of scripture.

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Mar 6, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

This whole article was beautiful, and articulate, and brought more coherent thought and generous theology to the TGC article than any other that I've seen. Thank you.

I was deeply struck by your footnoted comment-- "If “life” is counted in terms of discrete births, this couple’s sex life has been successful .00003 percent of the time. This is surely not the most human way to think about what openness to life might look like. But what if their whole life together is generative? All the sex and all the abstinence and all the loving and missioning and growing together in the fruit of the Spirit?" I think I'm going to be thinking about that for a long time.

As someone who works professionally with young people in church spaces, thanks for helping me find the language to talk about this faithfully with these students who I love so much, seperate from the shame and subjugation I was raised in proximity too when it came to the church and sexuality.

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Thanks so much Rachel (and thanks for reading the footnotes! :) ) I'm glad you found it helpful.

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Mar 5, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Thank you for this, Beth.

I read the whole chapter, and what was concerning to me was that his tone is very informal and friendly (which I’m sure he is a friendly, kind person in real life); so the reader can naturally put their guard down and easily pick up the bad, bad theology.

So this rebuttal outlining the harm in the article & pointing to the true & good is so, so important. I will be sharing.

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Thanks Marissa, I appreciate your words.

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Phenomenal, Beth. Thank you. Keep being you, please. We need your voice.

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Mar 17, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Hello-I read the original TGC article and was struck by what sounded like a putative version of some Theology of The Body concepts. This response was thought provoking. As a Catholic, I think that point 6 about the sacraments is mischaracterized. You are right in saying that "sex is not the locus of saving grace"; however, Catholics don't say that either. The consent that is given in marriage is the free pledge of oneself to a man or woman for as long as one lives. It is this objective act that is spoken with words given by the Church because they express perfectly what is being pledged. I realize the Protestants are uncomfortable with all 7 sacraments. I understand the sacraments to be personal encounters with God who gives Himself to us in love. It's a material way that God reveals himself to his embodied creatures.

I would like to offer this article on a proper understanding of Theology of the Body.

https://open.substack.com/pub/emilystimpsonchapman/p/no-you-cant-skip-to-the-good-part?r=aanzl&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email

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Mar 17, 2023·edited Mar 17, 2023Author

Thanks for engaging I did not mean to imply that Catholic theology holds sex to be a locus of saving grace, but rather to express my concern that some Protestant bowdlerizations of ToB may do so. As a Protestant, I still have disagreements with ToB but it's important to say that the Butler phenomenon is not fair to John Paul II.

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Mar 6, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

An excellent article, good words well spoken, "apples of gold in a setting of silver."

I was troubled all day yesterday, just shaking my head, aghast.

You articulated so well the ways in which that very bad article was so bad.

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Mar 5, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Hi Beth. I really appreciate this article. Thank you for your response. The one aspect I’m feeling uncertain about is the propriety of depicting God as a sexual being. Part of redeeming the picture of sexuality for me has been realizing that it was designed by God for good and says something about who he is. I couldn’t recognize it as evil when God himself used the metaphor of sexual intimacy to describe his relationship to his people (E.g. Ezekiel 16:6-8). It is quite shocking to me that God describes himself having sexual relations, but he does seem to use the metaphor… so what is the difference between this and the pagan sexualization of God to which you refer? Can you help me untangle that?

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Mar 6, 2023·edited Mar 6, 2023Author

Great questions May -- I'll try to respond briefly here, and I'm going to do a whole substack post on reader questions, where I'll say a bit more.

You're right that sex is not evil! It's a good gift from God.

And the problem with the TGC piece is not in using the metaphor, which scripture uses, but using it in bad ways.

In Hosea and other places in scripture, the marriage metaphor is used to emphasize God's FAITHFULNESS to us, not to describe God as a human male with genitals and not to associate males with God in a way that females are not. In Ezekiel, the metaphor uses the idea of desire, but this is connected to covenant faithfulness and not to imaging God as a human male.

In short for scripture, marriage is a metaphor for God (a beautiful one that does bless human marriage and sex). Sex does tell us something about God, but not what the TGC piece thinks it does. And scripture always maintains mystery, not phallic literalism.

In pagan thought, it's not a metaphor but a literal description of a God who is formed in the shape of a human man. Let me know if you want to add to your questions and I'll try to answer in my Q&A post!

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Thanks for your response and I look forward to reading that post!

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Thank you for your thorough, thoughtful response which clarifies, speaks truth in love for readers/students. I appreciate so much how you use your voice.

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This essay is a true expression of grace that overwhelms the evil done. Thank you for writing and proclaiming the goodness of God against mute idols.

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Mar 5, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Thank you for writing this thoughtful, biblically and theologically mature response.

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Thank you so much for the work you put into this. I appreciate all your points, and I am especially thankful for the way you spoke against the troubling idolatry and anthropomorphizing the Lord into a sexed deity (!!!). I'm not sure I'll ever get over that coming from Christian thought-leaders, but I am so relieved to see it so thoroughly named and rejected.

Also appreciate segment re: the problems with marriage-as-sacrament as well as clear articulation of the married state comprehensively, rather than the honeymoon eroticization. And I appreciate how the focus of your words model how to help cultivate an understanding of chastity (of all vocations). Thank you!

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Mar 5, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

That is a very good point of this undermining men seeing themselves as the bride of Christ and over identifying themselves with Jesus.

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It's such an easy, natural reaction, but we're called to better!

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Mar 5, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Thank you for addressing the TGC article. When I first saw the title of the article come across my feed this week my initial thought was oh this can’t be good. Then Twitter blew up, I read it and the cringe hit. Outside of several well shared threads this is the first long form essay I’ve read on it. It gives me hope that perhaps this moment will create unforeseen reflection and fruit in the church that essays like this can inspire.

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Mar 7, 2023·edited Mar 7, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Nothing original in that article by that Arizona "pastor." Remember the former Seattle church leader, a fugitive from the Gospel Coalition and church discipline who left the state and also set up shop in Arizona, several years ago who infamously characterized women's reproductive organs as "penis homes"?

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Mar 6, 2023Liked by Beth Felker Jones

Yes, the article had terrible theology, but another aspect is how in the world did it get so many endorsements and get thru multiple editor's filters to get published?

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