Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Writing through Sex God, 2

Chapter Three: Angels and Animals

This chapter is an interesting chapter on living within the tension between our physicality and our spirituality (which is a tension that needs to be understood in more than simply the context of sexuality). We are not mere spirit (angels), sexuality is an important part of who we were created to be. On the other hand, we are not mere body (animals), sexuality is not all we were created to be, but should be mastered.

Now while Rob talks about the good of mastering our desires he doesn't give us any methods of doing so (the book isn't a book of methodology so much as meditation). The furthest he goes here is by saying that, yeah, lots of us struggle with being pure. Or the way I like to put it, "Good luck, suckah."

A good chapter, however, if only for us to be continually reminded that we are human not animal, not angel.

Chapter Four: Leather, Whips, and Fruit

This chapter deals with the issue of lust and its failure to deliver what it promises. A lot of Edenic references here. So if indulging our lusts doesn't satisfy, then, Rob contends, we must find our passion and let it.

Chapter Five: She Ran into the Girls' Bathroom

Rob gives this illustration from his own life of being 14 and crossing the empty dance floor to ask a girl to dance with him. In response ... the chapter's title. Now, what I want to know in the rest of this chapter, and what Rob never says, is how the hell do you get over something like that? I'd need serious counseling. Anyway, I don't even know what the rest of this chapter is about, I'm so shaken. Something to do with the riskiness of love - even for God.

Chapter Six: Worth Dying For

A good chapter on submission. And apparently it's not just for women either. (That's a joke at the ladies' expense. My apologies.)

Chapter Seven: Under the Chuppah

There is some good criticism by Scot McKnight about this book today. Some of which (concerning Rob's use of Rabbinic literature) I just am not qualified to give. And most of that scholarly criticism concerns this chapter.

Now I enjoyed this chapter, even taking into consideration Scot's criticism of it. While perhaps Rob should not have used the Rabbinic literature as he did, the point he makes is obviously valid. The chapter discusses what must take place under this controversial(?) prayer shawl (HOO-pah) and how it is a picture of our relationship with God. God and us, bridegroom and bride - that's the basic image here and will be more powerful for some and less for others depending on where we are on our faith journeys and what we're looking for in Bell's book.

I'm going to finish writing through Sex God tomorrow. In the meantime, this book is Rob. Some people won't get it, perhaps, but this is him and his heart is evident in it. It is a poetic meditation on agape more than eros, after all is said and done. And I enjoyed it.


Dan said...

I've read through to chapter five so far, and I've enjoyed it so far as well. It's not what I expected it to be. I'd agree with your assessment that it's more a meditation rather than a methodology. I'm surprised how tangential our sexuality is to what he is discussing much of the time. More than anything, I'd say it's a discussion of the human condition, and our relationship with God Almighty, and how our sexuality reflects this.

I see echoes of C.S. Lewis throughout. A passage that discusses how we fundamentally know that something's amiss in the world (I think in the Eden section) makes me think of Lewis's analogy that we would know that another environment must exist if we were to find a flapping fish found in the middle of the desert, and had never seen an ocean before.

And his admonition to find something that is a stronger desire for us than the lusts of the flesh recalls Lewis's admonition where he says that the problem isn't that our desires are too strong, but rather they are too weak.

I personally appreciated his discussion about what Paul says to the thief: steal no more, but do something useful with your hands, and be generous to those around you.

One discussion on the heels of this comment was quite poignant. Rob mentioned his friend who was quite the "player" in his past, knowing how to prey upon and take advantage of needy women. This man became aware of the fact that he was turning into a "monster." His decision to aid in helping shut down a child prostitution ring in Africa as a sort of penance was powerful for me to read.

I think his methodology lies here: finding another desire to fill the void. But you're right--he's not mapped out the path.

But I like the broader approach, because for me, step by step processes have never worked in anything I've attempted, whether it be shedding pounds are fighting lustful thoughts, so the lack of a methodology is quite liberating to me, rather than leaving me wishing for a technique or a 12 step program. Lord knows the battle against lust will always be with me, and I like the idea of "giving back" in some way. I've heard the concept before, of course, but it's presented in a new way here.

Of late, I find myself thanking God for the beauty I see in the women who get me all hot and bothered. I'm a very thankful and grateful man, and thankful many times a day! I do find that it spins the thinking in another direction, towards trying to deobjectify (is that a word?) the women around me, and connecting them in my mind as God's creation.

I find his discussion about connectivity=sexuality somewhat of a stretch. I see his point, but it's strange to say that some of the most sexual people he knows are single. Is that how a priest or a nun view themselves? Of course not.

One final thought: this is one book where the footnotes are important to read. Much of the footnotes refer to scripture passages, but many of them expand on his reflections and give greater insight into what he's thinking. I'd definitely encourage anyone who plans to read the book to follow along.

Scott Lyons said...

That's a good point, Dan, about the lust/thief issue. Rob does point the way and does it rather well - especially in relationship to how the book is put together to begin with. And you're right, a map is not what we need - we're too individual.

Good points about the footnotes as well. They are important to following along the story - more than just the usual technical/bibliographical fare.