One of my favorite bloggers InsanityBytes wrote a comical and insightful essay the other day on relationships between men and women titled You Don’t Have to Lie To Me. There were so many good points in the article, but this one particularly grabbed my attention regarding the need for men to be vulnerable in a relationship:

“Nobody’s suggesting men must be all emotional and touchy-feely here, but if you can’t give something of yourself emotionally, how in the world can there even be any intimacy in a marriage?”

I agreed with her. But it took the majority of my ride home from work (it is a long ride, like two hours — don’t ask) to pinpoint what troubled me about the common perception of vulnerability in relationship we have, which InsanityBytes had effectively captured.

And then the light bulb went on: Vulnerability is not exactly the same thing as being “emotional and touchy-feely.” It can be. But vulnerability, in its strictest sense, is the ability to allow what is on the inside of us to be known to the outside world. Whether that manifests as emotional and touchy-feely or something else entirely depends on what is on the inside of us.

Granted, vulnerability can often be associated with being emotional and touchy-feely because, as a general rule (which I will be accused of being sexist for but at the moment do not care) women are much better at vulnerability than men are. So the vulnerability we often see modeled is coming from women. Further, vulnerability often is associated with weakness. That is, to be vulnerable is to be willing to open up about our struggles and insecurities. We tend to equate vulnerability with weakness.

But in the context of intimacy, vulnerability is so much more than this. It is, first of all, about sharing all that we are on the inside, not just sharing our weakness. Further, I would argue — just as I did recently that women are unique in how they lead — men are unique in how they are vulnerable. In response to InsanityBytes I put it this way:

I think we must make a distinction between men being vulnerable and men being vulnerable in the way women might be vulnerable. Jesus was (and is) both vulnerable and strong at the same time. We men in our vulnerability should be willing to show our weakness but also willing to show our deep passion and strength as well, something that is rarely modeled.

So there are two parts here, actually. The first is that men being vulnerable in weakness will look different than women being vulnerable in weakness; I say this only because no man necessarily wants to be accused of being “emotional and touchy-feely,” but all men have a need to be vulnerable.

Secondly, part of men being vulnerable is not only to admit weakness but also express strength in their vulnerability. Said differently, vulnerability is not just about weakness: It is in fact one of the greatest strengths in a relationship that men have to offer.

Most men, however, do not know how to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time. In fact, for many men strength is the exact opposite of being vulnerable.  Being strong means being stone-cold and emotionally distant. Men do not cry, do not show feeling, and do not get “emotional” not so much because they are incapable of it, but because they believe it is a sign of weakness. By this logic, to be strong is to be without emotion. Which, needless to say, is not what we see modeled in the Person of Jesus Christ.

But there is a reason for this: What often resides within many men in this fallen world is brokenness. So for most men, to be vulnerable at all is to run the real risk of showing weakness. The simplest solution for many of us men, therefore, is to cut ourselves off emotionally: Be tough on the outside, but unknown — and unknowable — on the inside, in order to maintain the appearance of strength.

This of course has its consequences. As InsanityBytes points out, “the number one reason for divorce today actually amounts to women feeling emotionally abandoned.” I would like to suggest the reason women feel this way is because men have abandoned their emotions long ago, and with it the capacity to relate. Relationships, in other words, require intimacy.

I have this crazy theory about women as it pertains to men — and perhaps not so much a theory as an idea. It goes something like this: Women are a tangible reminder to men of the intimacy they have lost. Women are both a reminder and an invitation back to the place of intimacy they once shared with their Creator, and were made to share with others.

And I am convinced that it is only by returning to that place of intimacy that the real strength men possess can be made manifest — a strength they were made to demonstrate to their wives, to their children, and to rest the world.  A strength that does not merely dwell on the outside, but dwells deeply on the inside. A strength like Jesus demonstrates to us: Wide open and vulnerable, deeply passionate, unhindered by brokenness, and characterized by unyielding sacrifice.

Going through some of my belongings this week, I found a poem I wrote to my wife that  that touches on this subject, which I now share with you in closing. Be blessed — and may all of us learn the strength and power of vulnerability.

The Bottle

I wrote this message and, in a bottle, threw it from the shore
that you and I might live as one, not two, forevermore.

I take you not to merely have or you to merely hold.
I take you as a dwelling makes a shelter from the cold.

I bear you up as one might bear a pearl within one’s hands
that ends the weary traveler’s search throughout the oceans’ sands.

I place you in your rightful place: A setting for a stone
That with its underneath embrace its beauty might be shown.

And if beat down the elements upon our vessel’s prow
along our sacred journey home, I will absorb the blow.

For I am yours and you are mine, and we are one, not two.
The dreams this bottle now contains are not for me, but you.

Photo by on Unsplash





The Christian Mind: Feminism

A little over a year ago, self-described feminist Samantha Johnson penned an editorial for the Huffington Post titled When I Became A Mother, Feminism Let Me Down. In it, she writes:

We are teaching our young people that there is no value in motherhood and that homemaking is an outdated, misogynistic concept. We do this through the promotion of professional progression as a marker of success, while completely devaluing the contribution of parents in the home. 

As we turn to discuss how Christianity fits with the modern idea of feminism — arguably a topic that covers a lot of territory — I wish to zero in on those three words I have bolded above for emphasis, for the purpose of this essay. Continue reading “The Christian Mind: Feminism”

The Christian Mind: Marriage

On February 15, 2017 a remarkable thing happened. Pastor of St Mary’s Church, Maidenhead, UK Sam Allberry addressed the Church of England General Synod in London. The General Synod is the governing body of the Church of England, and the topic of same-sex relationships was on the agenda.

Allberry’s remarks on that day were brief but compelling as he challenged the assembly to uphold Christianity’s traditional teaching on marriage. What is even more astounding, however, is that Allberry, by his own admission, has been same-sex attracted his entire life.

The remarkable thing here is not simply that Allberry stood up for traditional marriage at a time when it is unpopular to do so. More importantly, Allberry gave voice to those within the church who are same-sex attracted at a time when it is also unpopular to do so. No matter what your views on marriage, such courage is admirable.

Today what I would like to do is to approach the arguably delicate topic of Christianity’s position on homosexuality and marriage in light of Allberry’s story. We set out in this series to tackle some of the hardest questions that face Christianity, and this topic certainly qualifies. Increasingly, same-sex marriage has become a stumbling block for many both inside and outside the church, as they wrestle with the question how a faith that allegedly condemns and excludes a whole group of people can possibly be called good. So it is vital we address this topic.

It is also vital for those who are same-sex attracted. For without a clear understanding of how the Christian faith fits into the issue of homosexuality, the church will by default fail to address the needs of these individuals.

Does Christianity Exclude?

If there is an elephant in the living room, I generally prefer to point it out up front. The elephant in this discussion is the fact that those who support same-sex marriage and those who hold to orthodox Christian beliefs will ultimately disagree when it comes to human sexuality.

But as Allberry demonstrates, there is a big difference between saying Christianity and same-sex marriage advocates disagree and Christianity excludes. In truth, the supporter of same-sex marriage will exclude Christianity just as much as Christianity will exclude the supporter of same-sex marriage. They will condemn one another — or at least have opportunity to — equally. And unfortunately we see this happening today.

The reason this is happening at all, however, is a failure on both sides to embrace differences in a tolerant, pluralistic society. We spent time last essay discussing the Christian roots of our modern-day concept of tolerance. The basis of tolerance is the belief in the worth and dignity of every individual, despite their beliefs or practices. The same holds true with those who support and practice same-sex marriage.

Does Christianity Condemn?

Someone might say at this point, “But Christianity’s belief on homosexuality is more than just a difference of belief. It actually condemns homosexuals.” This is categorically not true. Scripture does not condemn people; it condemns practice. Which is the same as saying it affirms the sacredness of marriage and Christianity’s doctrine concerning  human sexuality.

At some point in the debate over homosexuality, however, practice became identity (we shall discuss this below). On this basis alone can the claim be made that Christianity condemns people. But the idea that we are what we practice is a concept wholly foreign to Christian thought.

The truth is, before God we are all condemnable based on our moral condition. This is why Jesus came to die on a Cross, so that we might be forgiven and no longer be held accountable for our sin. And in Christ (that is, by receiving Jesus) we are all forgiven.

Is Christianity against Same-Sex Marriage?

Not necessarily. We mentioned that Christianity is the foundation for our modern-day idea of tolerance. Thus, from a Christian perspective, tolerance toward those who practice same-sex marriage is not excluded. This is no different from Christianity allowing Muslims or Hindus to practice their own beliefs in society. Christianity does not agree with the claims and practices of these religions, but it does not seek to prohibit.

Granted, we rarely saw this side of Christianity in the recent debate over same-sex marriage. The reason, however, is because — intentionally or unintentionally — same-sex marriage advocates, in their effort to extended the same status to same-sex couples, sought to redefine marriage itself — an institution with deep theological implications for many people. Most supporters seemed more interested in condemning Christian belief than actually making a distinction between the theological and legal definition of marriage.

Is Same-Sex Marriage Sacred?

This may seem like a strange question, but this is why I ask: Imagine a practicing Muslim baker being forced to bake a cake that says “Allah was not a prophet of God.” Most would agree this would understandably be a violation of conscience for them to do so, and very few would argue the Muslim must be compelled to do it anyway. In other words, we typically hold sacred the right of every individual to practice their religious beliefs according to the dictates of their own conscience.

But if a right-wing extremist seeks to endanger lives according to the dictates of their own ideology, we do not. The reason is that the protection of life is sacred — more sacred than the right to religious freedom.

This is why I ask whether we believe same-sex marriage is sacred. For this, as far as I see, is the only justification for not only violating but also condemning the beliefs of all religious faiths holding to a traditional view of marriage. It is the only basis by which a judge can rule in favor of a same-sex couple to sue a Christian baker for not making a cake for their wedding.

For if the issue was simply about the sacred right of same-sex couples to marry, it would be no different than granting people the right not to believe in Allah. They would have that right, but it would not extend to violate the religious rights of others.

Clearly, then, we think same-sex marriage is not just a right but a sacred institution: For anyone who violates that right — does not believe it is and wishes to voice or practice such belief —is condemnable. And in a way, this is the real allegation leveled against Christianity.

And now we must ask the most important question of this essay: Why do we feel same-sex marriage sacred?

Most people support same-sex marriage out of compassion. They think (or, rather, have been told to think) having different beliefs about marriage is hateful toward same-sex couples. Compassion is arguably sacred. That is, it is a virtue that most recognize is universal. But compassion is somewhat misplaced in this discussion. We are not asking whether we should be compassionate to all people: We are asking what we believe marriage fundamentally is.

Others support same-sex marriage because they feel two consenting adults should have a right to do what they want. This is the principle of tolerance, which we have already discussed and is regarded as sacred in our society, also. But tolerance is equally misplaced in this discussion. The question again is not whether two consenting adults should be able to do what they want, but what we believe marriage fundamentally is.

I am driving home this point because if we are to properly address the allegation that Christianity is evil for its definition of marriage, we must know what the correct definition of marriage is. To determine this, we must have a basis for such knowledge beyond mere emotion and irrationality. Hopefully this is not asking too much.

Enter Allberry

Allberry’s answer to the question of how we define marriage is quite simple. To his colleagues at the Synod, he said: “I was bullied as a child for having same-sex attraction. But now I feel I am being bullied in the Synod for being faithful to the teachings of Jesus on marriage.” By this statement, he draws out an extremely important point in our discussion: Our definition of marriage will always be defined by what we hold sacred.

Most supporters of same-sex marriage, if pressed, will point to the fact that same-sex attraction is not a choice as their reason for supporting same-sex marriage. Allberry rejects this for a remarkably simple reason: What we feel and what we are attracted to are not necessarily reliable indicators for what is ultimately virtuous and good.

Allberry elaborates:

The Bible says that as sinners all our desires are disordered, so it’s actually the case that all of us are fallen and broken in our sexuality. For most, that fallenness will be manifest in an opposite-sex direction; for me (and not a few other believers), it is seen in same-sex attraction.

What Allberry is doing here is not only fundamentally Scriptural but also sheds light on an implicit argument same-sex advocates are making: That our natural impulses and desires equal the good. That is, human virtue — whether related to sexuality or any other area of life —  is defined by what comes naturally to us. In other words, what we both feel and desire is sacred.

But from a rational standpoint, there are a few things problematic with such an idea. The first is that this idea does not seem to apply to other areas of our life. For example, if you find yourself sexually attracted to someone’s wife, does that make it good?

The second thing is that it fundamentally confuses what is with what should be. We have spent a good deal of time discussing moral values in this series. The conclusion we have drawn is that morality requires a Moral Authority outside ourselves dictating what is right and wrong; it is the very opposite of what we may desire.

Lastly, attaching moral virtue to our natural desires has the effect of making virtue itself non-transcendent. That is, morality and virtue simply become a byproduct of how we feel and what we want, not a thing to which we strive or are destined to become.

This last idea is wholly foreign to Christian thought. As Allberry points out, the foundation of Christianity is that by God’s mercy and great love, we are being restored to the standard of moral perfection. In fact, the only prerequisite is to admit our brokenness. To assert instead that what we feel and what we desire as sacred is to essentially reject God’s gift of redemption.


In summary, Christianity does not exclude or condemn. It simply holds to a standard of human sexuality that current modern thought rejects. What we are witnessing in our day is not the sudden realization that Christianity is not good. Rather, we are witnessing a move in modern society to redefine what good is, and in the process condemn those who disagree. And this New Morality is — at best — on a shaky footing.

Granted, the moment we reject the idea of tolerance and mutual respect for differences of belief in a pluralistic society and seek instead to make the human condition the mandated standard for human virtue, a transcendent morality like Christianity is bound to fall into disrepute. But such virtue hardly has moral force; taken to its logical conclusion, it is no different from lawlessness.

Lastly, I should point out my defense of Christianity here should not be construed necessarily as a defense of the modern Christian church as it pertains to the the homosexual community or those with same-sex attraction. As Allberry alludes to, we have much progress to be made to make those with same-sex attraction feel as God feels toward them and see themselves in our congregation as God sees them: Infinitely loved, deeply valued, no different from the rest of us except in particulars, and vital to the overall health and well-being of the body of Christ. In short, they are not only welcome but irreplaceable.

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

The Question of Divorce

I am taking a break temporarily from our series on the Christian Soul in order to address an issue which was very relevant to my Christian journey several years ago. It pertains to an issue that in many parts of the church is a settled matter, and this issue is the question of divorce.

By the question of divorce, I mean not so much whether divorce is allowable but whether remarriage after divorce is. And to set the proper stage for this discussion, I would like to begin with a story. Continue reading “The Question of Divorce”

Emotional Safety For Men?

The following is a great article by a fellow blogger on the topic of traditional roles in marriage. You may recall not long ago I wrote a piece titled The Day I Put My Wife in Her Place, providing a husband’s perspective. This article serves as a great complement to the discussion.