Domination-free communities: learning to live other-centred shared lives?

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The very nature of God is both communal and other centred - God is in eternal community of one nature/will in three persons. They do not not try and hog the stage for themselves but instead turn the spotlight on each other. There is no hierarchy, there is no ego, there is no fear, there is no dominance - there is mutual acceptance, delight, laughter, creativity as each one bows to the other and loves to see the other lifted up.

I have on my blog been reflection over a number of posts of Walter Wink's thought that the kingdom of God can be expressed as a "dominanation-free order" and in particular what that might mean for some of our thinking around sexual conventions/mores, the bible/God and our own expression of faith.

In this post I would like to explore with you how we, as christian communities, can live out something of God's eschatalogical future and of our origin as being God idols - created in the image of God. I would like you to imagine with me what it would be like to be communities where we could be open to each other in a way where it was other centred - not stuck in the hiarachies and domination systems that we as humans have created out of fear, or the need to control or be controlled. Instead let us imagine together how we were created in the beginning - in the image of this tri-une, fear free other focused God - and how it will be in the end when we are known and fully known. The hope now of begining to walk in a Spirit filled life that looks forward to when we receive our fully restored humanity in bodily form and finally experience an eternuty of liberated, dominion-free living.

I am not sure I can imagine this myself, or think that clearly - particulalry as the flavour of this piece is on community and taking the example of something we all hold in common in our communities - the issue of sex and sexuality and how we can live that out in other centred WAYS - than i am going to need your help to ground it in practical outworked reality. Firstly, i am a man and only have my own experiences - whereas it is is men and women that jointly together are God idols, created and shaped in the image of God by God. Secondly, it takes interaction and joint ownership, otherwise this becomes either just my wishful thinking or a new system of dominance that is the 'right' way we all have to conform too.

We all have a sexual nature

My thinking has been shaped by a number of recent conversations that although we all have our own sexuality we need to explore how as communities we share this with each other [if we do at all]. I think we need to start with the fact that we all have a sexuality and whether that is heterosexuality or homosexuality [however we express that in emotion, thought, actions -whether domination filled or free, whole or broken] it feels to all of us that this is our nature, this is who we are in this moment - and whether that is a result of genetics or from our own experiences it is not really that important.

We need to start with acceptance as communities: that we are who we are and resolve that we will love and care for each other as we are. I might be uncomfortable with that but if we start with a postmortem we will need a dead body and if we start with a change programs, we are saying you are not accepted unless you change. All of us come into relationship as we are, with our nature the way it is and that is the reality of the situation...

Another way of approaching this is for me to say of my nature as I express it - this is who i am, is just ok, or is it the best? To turn the spotlight not on others actions and natures but my own - where am i hurting and broken? And if we as christians want to continue saying that there is something better which might involve say not practising a form of sexuality how much are we prepared to be communities where:

a) we can all share our sexual issues in an accepting way knowing that we need each other and God to help; and

b) i am prepared to give up some/all of my rights/freedoms -to be other centred rather than self centred?

For example: Cherith Fee-Nordling has suggested that if i am a single christian maybe what i have to do is to give up what it is that i am asking my gay friend to give up and not get married, or indeed having sex. Instead we dedicate our lives to support each other not as gay/straight but as 2 people trying to live this out together - with all else that it might also cost us in terms of career, where we live etc...

I think too often we heterosexual christians sound like:

a) we are better people just because of our sexual orientation [when so often the practice of our orientation shows that we are no better or worse]; and

b) that because we're straight have a right to sex and you because you're gay don't have that right? [Is it just me or does the term 'straight' seem to apply a betterness to our morality just because we are attracted to the opposite sex to us?].

I look at my own life and ongoing sexuality confusion and think that i am at least if not more messed up, same as a large chunk of the world, and if the rest of that chunk isn't messed up about sex they are messed up about something else.

Jesus has a sexual nature

I also look at Jesus, as a man who is a fully human male i.e. he has a penis which works and therefore celibacy was something he chose because he was other centred: he was obedient to the father and it wouldn't have been loving to drag a wife into what he had to do.

The film, the 40 yr old virgin, captured something of how strange this is in our sex focused culture but it must have also been very strange in Jesus time too - with its Hebraic expectations of family - how Jesus must have faced questions about his choice of staying single, how he must have faced pressure to get married, and be misunderstood about why he wasn't - after all a wild prophet like John might be able to get away with it but the village carpenter what was his excuse?

And I am sure it was not because there weren't women who Jesus was attracted too - but somehow when he saw them and felt his own humanity stir in that moment he gave them back their humanity and refused to treat them as sex objects but instead saw their beauty as part of the reflected glory of his Father as fellow image bearers of God. Jesus must therefore understands the emotions and consequences of making choices about our sexual expression.

Jesus must have faced choices all the time to give life/humanity back to people rather than treat them as sex objects/means of gratification and therefore has not only been to the no sex place but understands sexual feelings. Jesus also shows how he is for the other and therefore whether gay or straight, male or female etc we need to learn to be affirming and appreciative of each other rather than being so scared of not being able to keep it in our pants that we cannot do this.

Can we learn to be honest and open about our feelings? Are we gonna live in an environment where we are scared about falling sexually that we can no longer relate to the opposite sex? Or an environment where we can share and confess our sexual feelings and learn to give each other our humanity back - not flirt for affection or need sex to make us feel good about ourselves but live in communities where we feel good cos we are loved, where it is normal for us to appreciate each other and the image of God that we each reflect in personality and our bodies?

More than that can we start to grasp something of what it means to have the ascended Christ interceeding for us before the Father, still with his humanity and his comprehension of all that we feel, go through in thoughts and emotions? That Jesus in his resurected body is not only a symbol of hope that one day we too will have our full bodily humanity restored but is also the means that we get this - and that God loves us no more now than they will when we receive the fullness of our humanity back - not just our souls but who we are in the flesh too. We won't be sexless androgynous beings either - God's plan is not to turn us into eunuchs but to make us restored creations - "we want to see the people we created to be fully in our image not to make them in a new image" is their heart's cry and "we will not stop, give up, give in, walk away until we have..."

Can we walk this out as communities in the the light?

I mean writing all this sounds weird - it makes me feel way uncomfortable cos i have been taught that once married its all about building barricades, about being careful, about not mixing with the opposite sex - all my worries kick in and i go man is this not asking for trouble?

Maybe another way to think about it is trouble is already there? Temptation is already there but cos we keep it hidden and in the dark it just goes on its merry way. Maybe we need to bring it out into the light? Maybe we need to to think about how as communities we need each other? How married people aren't better or single people people aren't better but that we all need each other and can learn from each other and help each other to reflect God to each other and affirm and care for each other.

Jesus said it was for our love for each other not our fear people would know that God was real. If we practise being for each other in the same way the trinity practise being for each other - where it becomes not about me and my rights but about mutually living for each other then maybe we'll have something that is not just an argument based on reason but a way of life that encompasses love and experiences the Spirit at work amongst us, shaping us more like that?

What do you think?

I think what I am asking is:

• how can we do this? • what would it look like to live other centre lives not just asking people to give something up but asking what can i give up to help them? • would you change your views on homosexuality if it meant you being prepared to surrender your own sex life and live with them as a friend and companion who together shared a life of celibacy and its related struggles? • do you feel weird about men and women as the joint image bearers of a communal other centred God finding ways to affirm and share each other and be for each other? • what scares you? excites you? • do you think that if we do something we'll be at least starting to bring light and life and if we do nothing all the things we are afraid of will still continue to happen but they'll be some body else's problem?

Paul