It happened again yesterday. I attended one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.
Last month I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.
First, a very quick history of congregational singing.
Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. Sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).
Reformers gave worship back to the people, in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes with lyrics that people could easily memorize. Some of the tunes came out of local taverns.
A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.
About a decade ago, a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.
At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.
But that began to change about three years ago. Worship leaders brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.
Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now. We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”
That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently today that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?
And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, and sing in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.
What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.
But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men?Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.
There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music.The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key here is familiarity. When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded. People sang. Even the men.
This post was written by David Murrow. You can find the original post here: http://churchformen.com/how-were-off-the-mark/why-men-have-stopped-singing-in-church/
BE A MAN.
As a young boy, Paul Christiano loved the world of girls — the way they danced, how their spindly bodies tumbled in gymnastics.
In adolescence, as other boys ogled classmates, he was troubled to find himself fantasizing about 7- to 11-year-olds.
His desires remained stuck in time as he neared adulthood. Despite a stable home life in suburban Chicago, he was tortured by urges he knew could land him in prison."For having these feelings, I was destined to become a monster," he said. "I was terrified."
In 1999, Christiano was caught buying child pornography. Now 36, he said he has never molested a child, but after five years of state-ordered therapy, the attraction remains.
"These people felt they could snuff out the desire, or shame me into denying it existed," he said. "But it's as intrinsic as the next person's heterosexuality."
In the laboratory, researchers are coming to the same conclusion.
Like many forms of sexual deviance, pedophilia once was thought to stem from psychological influences early in life. Now, many experts view it as a sexual orientation as immutable as heterosexuality or homosexuality. It is a deep-rooted predisposition — limited almost entirely to men — that becomes clear during puberty and does not change.
The best estimates are that between 1% and 5% of men are pedophiles, meaning that they have a dominant attraction to prepubescent children.
Not all pedophiles molest children. Nor are all child molesters pedophiles. Studies show that about half of all molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims. They often have personality disorders or violent streaks, and their victims are typically family members.
By contrast, pedophiles tend to think of children as romantic partners and look beyond immediate relatives. They include chronic abusers familiar from the headlines — Catholic priests, coaches and generations of Boy Scout leaders.
Other pedophiles are "good people who are struggling," said Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist who heads the Johns Hopkins Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit. "They're tortured souls fighting like heck not to do this. We do virtually nothing in terms of reaching out to these folks. We drive it underground."
Some of the new understanding of pedophilia comes from studies done on convicted sex criminals at the Center for Mental Health and Addiction in Toronto, where researchers use a procedure known as phallometry to identify men whose peak attraction is to children.
A man sits alone in a room viewing a series of images and listening to descriptions of various sexual acts with adults and children, male and female, while wearing a device that monitors blood flow to his penis.Like men attracted to adults, nearly all pedophiles respond most strongly to one gender or the other — females far more often than males.
In searching for causes of pedophilia, researchers have largely dismissed the popular belief that abuse in childhood plays an important role. Studies show that few victims grow up to be abusers, and only about a third of offenders say they were molested.
Scientists at the Toronto center have uncovered a series of associations that suggest pedophilia has biological roots.
Among the most compelling findings is that 30% of pedophiles are left-handed or ambidextrous, triple the general rate. Because hand dominance is established through some combination of genetics and the environment of the womb, scientists see that association as a powerful indicator that something is different about pedophiles at birth.
"The only explanation is a physiological one," said James Cantor, a leader of the research.
Researchers have also determined that pedophiles are nearly an inch shorter on average than non-pedophiles and lag behind the average IQ by 10 points — discoveries that are consistent with developmental problems, whether before birth or in childhood.
In a 2008 study, Cantor's team conducted MRI brain scans on 65 pedophiles. Compared with men with criminal histories but no sex offenses, they had less white matter, the connective circuitry of the brain.
The evidence also points to what Cantor explained as "cross wiring": Seeing a child sets off the same neural response that men typically experience around an attractive woman.
More evidence of brain involvement comes from scattered examples of men with brain tumors or neurological diseases affecting inhibition.
In one case, a 40-year-old teacher in Virginia with no history of sexual deviance suddenly became interested in child pornography and was arrested for molesting his prepubescent stepdaughter.
The night before his sentencing, he showed up at an emergency room with a bad headache. An MRI revealed a tumor compressing his brain's right frontal lobe.
When the tumor was removed, his obsession faded, according to Dr. Russell Swerdlow, a neurologist on the case. A year later he again became sexually fixated on children. The tumor was growing back.This post was written by Alan Zarembo of the Los Angeles Times. For the original post, go to: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/14/local/la-me-pedophiles-20130115BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
They [teachers] warn that the increased availability of pornography on the internet is warping school pupils’ ideas of sexual relationships and that children are often engaging in sexual behaviour on school premises.
Teacher leaders now believe the problem has become so significant that they want new policies to be drawn up on how to deal with the issue.
They are particularly concerned about the practice of “sexting” – which sees young girls being pressurised into taking intimate pictures or videos of themselves on a camera phone and sending them to others.
They are also asking for the introduction of new lessons on the dangers posed by pornography.
Helen Porter, a biology teacher who will raise a motion about the impact of pornography on pupils at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference next week, said: “Sexual activity in school is becoming more normalised because pupils are seeing it more. I’ve heard of a 13 year old girl taking part in an amateur porn video – it is really sickening. Research has found that 50 per cent of youngsters had taken part in some sort of webcam sexual experience.”
Official figures show that more than 3,000 pupils were excluded from state schools in 2010-2011 for sexual misconduct.
Recent research from Plymouth University also revealed that 80 per cent of young people are looking at sexual images online on a regular basis. The average age to start viewing pornography was about 11 or 12 while sexting was considered almost routine for many 13-14 year olds.
The academics warned that schoolchildren were becoming desensitised to sexual images after accessing hard core material.
The NSPCC has also reported a rise in the number of children being referred to its service centres across the country with “harmful sexual behaviour”.
Current sex education guidance, however, contains no reference to pornography or “sexting”, although the Department for Education is reviewing its content.
Mrs Porter said that easy access to pornography was changing the way young girls view their own bodies with some even wanting cosmetic surgery to achieve “unrealistic” body shapes.
“In many schools, pornography is never mentioned. But it needs to be,” said Mrs Porter. “If it is discussed children might begin to think about the damaging effects and they might realise that most of what they see is not what normally occurs between people.”
The charity Kidscape is calling for an automatic ban on adult content on the internet that would require adults who wanted to see it to “opt in”.
Peter Bradley, a spokesman for the charity, said: “Young people can access hard-core pornography 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they are doing so.”For the original post, go to: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9934792/Pornography-online-is-warping-childrens-minds-teachers-warn.html
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why? A study recently published in The Journal of Human Resources gives an important answer. Teachers of classes as early as kindergarten factor good behavior into grades — and girls, as a rule, comport themselves far better than boys.
The study’s authors analyzed data from more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.
The scholars attributed this “misalignment” to differences in “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently. As most parents know, girls tend to develop these skills earlier and more naturally than boys.
No previous study, to my knowledge, has demonstrated that the well-known gender gap in school grades begins so early and is almost entirely attributable to differences in behavior. The researchers found that teachers rated boys as less proficient even when the boys did just as well as the girls on tests of reading, math and science. (The teachers did not know the test scores in advance.) If the teachers had not accounted for classroom behavior, the boys’ grades, like the girls’, would have matched their test scores.
That boys struggle with school is hardly news. Think of Shakespeare’s “whining schoolboy with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school.” Over all, it’s likely that girls have long behaved better than boys at school (and earned better grades as a result), but their early academic success was not enough to overcome significant subsequent disadvantages: families’ favoring sons over daughters in allocating scarce resources for schooling; cultural norms that de-emphasized girls’ education, particularly past high school; an industrial economy that did not require a college degree to earn a living wage; and persistent discrimination toward women in the workplace.
Those disadvantages have lessened since about the 1970s. Parents, especially those of education and means, began to value their daughters’ human capital as much as their sons’. Universities that had been dominated by affluent white men embraced meritocratic values and diversity of gender, race and class. The shift from a labor-intensive, manufacturing-reliant economy to a knowledge-based service economy significantly increased the relative value of college and postgraduate degrees. And while workplace inequities persisted, changing attitudes, legislation and litigation began to level the occupational playing field.
As these shifts were occurring, girls began their advance in education. In 1985, boys and girls took Advanced Placement exams at nearly the same rate. Around 1990, girls moved ahead of boys, and have never looked back. Women now account for roughly 60 percent of associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and have begun to outpace men in obtaining Ph.D.’s.
There are some who say, well, too bad for the boys. If they are inattentive, obstreperous and distracting to their teachers and peers, that’s their problem. After all, the ability to regulate one’s impulses, delay gratification, sit still and pay close attention are the cornerstones of success in school and in the work force. It’s long past time for women to claim their rightful share of the economic rewards that redound to those who do well in school.
As one critic told me recently, the classroom is no more rigged against boys than workplaces are rigged against lazy and unfocused workers. But unproductive workers are adults — not 5-year-olds. If boys are restless and unfocused, why not look for ways to help them do better? As a nation, can we afford not to?
A few decades ago, when we realized that girls languished behind boys in math and science, we mounted a concerted effort to give them more support, with significant success. Shouldn’t we do the same for boys?
When I made this argument in my book “The War Against Boys,” almost no one was talking about boys’ academic, social and vocational problems. Now, 12 years later, the press, books and academic journals are teeming with such accounts. Witness the crop of books in recent years: Leonard Sax’s “Boys Adrift,” Liza Mundy’s “The Richer Sex,” Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men.”
In a revised version of the book, I’ve changed the subtitle — to “How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men” from “How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men” — and moved away from criticizing feminism; instead I emphasized boy-averse trends like the decline of recess, zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, the tendency to criminalize minor juvenile misconduct and the turn away from single-sex schooling. As our schools have become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, collaboration-oriented and sedentary, they have moved further and further from boys’ characteristic sensibilities. Concerns about boys arose during a time of tech bubble prosperity; now, more than a decade later, there are major policy reasons — besides the stale “culture wars” of the 1990s — to focus on boys’ schooling.
One is the heightened attention to school achievement as the cornerstone of lifelong success. Grades determine entry into advanced classes, enrichment programs and honor societies. They open — or close — doors to higher education. “If grade disparities emerge this early on, it’s not surprising that by the time these children are ready to go to college, girls will be better positioned,” says Christopher M. Cornwell, an economist at the University of Georgia and an author of the new study, along with his colleague David B. Mustard and Jessica Van Parys of Columbia University.
A second reason is globalization. Richard Whitmire, an education writer, and William Brozo, a literacy expert, write that “the global economic race we read so much about — the marathon to produce the most educated work force, and therefore the most prosperous nation — really comes down to a calculation: whichever nation solves these ‘boy troubles’ wins the race.” That’s probably an overstatement, but we do know that the large-scale entry of women into the work force paid large economic dividends. It stands to reason that raising male academic achievement is essential to raising labor productivity and, ultimately, living standards.
A third reason: improving the performance of black, Latino and lower-income kids requires particular attention to boys. Black women are nearly twice as likely to earn a college degree as black men. At some historically black colleges, the gap is astounding: Fisk is now 64 female; Howard, 67 percent; Clark Atlanta, 75 percent. The economist Andrew M. Sum and his colleagues at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University examined the Boston Public Schools and found that for the graduating class of 2007, there were 191 black girls for every 100 boys going on to attend a four-year college or university. Among Hispanics, the ratio was 175 girls for every 100 boys; among whites, 153 for every 100.
Young men from middle-class or more comfortable backgrounds aren’t lagging quite as far behind, but the gender gap exists there, too. Judith Kleinfeld, a psychology professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, analyzed the reading skills of white males from college-educated families. She showed that at the end of high school, 23 percent of the these boys scored “below basic,” compared with 7 percent of their female counterparts. “This means that almost one in four boys who have college-educated parents cannot read a newspaper with understanding,” she wrote.
WHAT might we do to help boys improve? For one thing, we can follow the example of the British, the Canadians and the Australians. They have openly addressed the problem of male underachievement. They are not indulging boys’ tendency to be inattentive. Instead, they are experimenting with programs to help them become more organized, focused and engaged. These include more boy-friendly reading assignments (science fiction, fantasy, sports, espionage, battles); more recess (where boys can engage in rough-and-tumble as a respite from classroom routine); campaigns to encourage male literacy; more single-sex classes; and more male teachers (and female teachers interested in the pedagogical challenges boys pose).
These efforts should start early, but even high school isn’t too late. Consider Aviation High School in New York City. A faded orange brick building with green aluminum trim, it fits comfortably with its gritty neighbors — a steelyard, a tool-supply outlet and a 24-hour gas station and convenience store — in Long Island City, Queens.
On a visit to Aviation I observed a classroom of 14- and 15-year-olds focused on constructing miniaturized, electrically wired airplane wings from mostly raw materials. In another class, students worked in teams — with a student foreman and crew chief — to take apart and then rebuild a small jet engine in just 20 days. In addition to pursuing a standard high school curriculum, Aviation students spend half of the day in hands-on classes on airframes, hydraulics and electrical systems. They put up with demanding English and history classes because unless they do well in them, they cannot spend their afternoons tinkering with the engine of a Cessna 411.
The school’s 2,200 pupils — mostly students of color, from low-income households — have a 95 percent attendance rate and a 90 percent graduation rate, with 80 percent going on to college. The school is coed; although girls make up only 16 percent of the student population, they appear to be flourishing. The New York City Department of Education has repeatedly awarded Aviation an “A” on its annual school progress reports. U.S. News & World Report has cited it as one of the best high schools in the nation.
“The school is all about structure,” an assistant principal, Ralph Santiago, told me. The faculty emphasizes organization, precision, workmanship and attention to detail. The students are kept so busy and are so fascinated with what they are doing that they have neither the time nor the desire for antics.
Not everyone of either sex is interested in airplanes. But vocational high schools with serious academic requirements are an important part of the solution to male disengagement from school.
I can sympathize with those who roll their eyes at the relatively recent alarm over boys’ achievement. Where was the indignation when men dominated higher education, decade after decade? Isn’t it time for women and girls to enjoy the advantages? The impulse is understandable but misguided. I became a feminist in the 1970s because I did not appreciate male chauvinism. I still don’t. But the proper corrective to chauvinism is not to reverse it and practice it against males, but rather basic fairness. And fairness today requires us to address the serious educational deficits of boys and young men. The rise of women, however long overdue, does not require the fall of men.
This article was written by CH Sommers for the New York Times. The original article for this blog post can be found by clicking HERE
BE A MAN.
The world is a getting safer. For centuries, violence has been subsiding.
Really? Most people find this hard to believe.
But consider evidence presented by Stephen Pinker in his fascinating book, The Better Angels of our Nature
(a Lincoln quote), published by Viking in 2011. Pinker teaches psychology at Harvard University and has won awards for his prior research.
The book is subtitled, Why Violence Has Declined.
Pinker argues, “The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species. Its implications touch the core of our beliefs and values—for what could be more fundamental than an understanding of whether the human condition, over the course of its history, has gotten steadily better, steadily worse, or has not changed?” (692).
Pinker argues that in point of fact violence has
declined over time and continues to do so.The Evidence
Pinker takes the long view, covering many millennia. But his primary focus is the last 2000 years. He marshals a wide range of data to prove his case that as a long-term trend, human violence has dropped dramatically.
Can it be? “Wasn’t the 20th century the bloodiest in history?” Pinker asks. “Haven’t new forms of war replaced old ones? Aren’t we living in the Age of Terror?” Yes, but
, he says. “[F]or all the dangers we face today, the dangers of yesterday were even worse.” Unlike the past, most people today “no longer have to worry about abduction into sexual slavery, divinely commanded genocide, lethal circuses and tournaments, punishment on the cross, rack, stake, or strappado for holding unpopular beliefs, decapitation for not bearing a son, disembowelment for having dated a royal, pistol duels to defend their honor, . . . and the prospect of a nuclear world war that would put an end to civilization or to human life itself” (30).
Such evils still exist, of course. But Pinker points to statistics. It’s true many people today—in some cases, millions—face lethal dangers like betrayal into slavery or the threat of genocide. But over centuries, and continuing today, the incidence of such horrors has been declining.
This can look like a cold, heartless analysis. Who cares about statistics when one’s six-year-old child has just been gunned down in her own classroom? And yet the very horror and immediacy of such violence can immunize us to the truth of larger trends. Or so Pinker argues.
Pinker focuses on the centuries-long decline in violence, particularly homicide, in Europe. He shows that in England murder rates have dropped dramatically since about 1200--“from the 13th century to the 20th, homicide in various parts of England plummeted by a factor of ten, fifty, and in some cases a hundred” (60). Unearthing this data, he says, “confounds every stereotype about the idyllic past and the degenerate present. When I surveyed perceptions of violence in an Internet questionnaire, people guessed that 20th-century England was about 14 percent more violent than 14th-century England. In fact it was 95 percent less violent” (61).
Today Europe is the safest place in the world to live.Violence and Human Culture
Pinker discusses violence within the larger context of culture and “the civilizing process.” As societies get organized into larger units, violence gradually comes under control—partly through government action (police or military, law codes) and partly because more civil behavior gradually becomes the cultural norm.
Drawing upon (with some qualification) the work of Norbert Elias (1897-1990), Pinker describes what happened in Europe over the past 800 years or so. “Europeans increasingly inhibited their impulses, anticipated the long-term consequences of their actions, and took other people’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. A culture of honor—the readiness to take revenge—gave way to a culture of dignity—the readiness to control one’s emotions.” This shift first took hold among “aristocrats and noblemen,” but these new values “were then absorbed into the socialization of younger and younger children until they became second nature.” The new norms also “trickled down from the upper classes to the bourgeoisie that strove to emulate them, and from them to the lower classes, eventually becoming a part of the culture as a whole” (72).
More pacific values and norms got increasingly internalized.
This change brought an array of cultural benefits, Pinker argues. “Across time and space, the more peaceable societies also tend to be richer, healthier, better educated, better governed, more respectful of their women, and more likely to engage in trade” (xxiii). “Since violence is largely a male pastime,” he adds, “cultures that empower women tend to move away from the glorification of violence and are less likely to breed dangerous subcultures of rootless young men” (xxvi).
Pinker’s basic argument is that “we enjoy the peace we find today because people in past generations were appalled by the violence in their time and worked to reduce it, and so we should work to reduce the violence that remains in our time” (xxvi).Kingdom of God Reflection
Pinker’s evidence seems pretty convincing. It is important precisely because it is so counterintuitive. It is a reminder not
to take for granted, at face value, what we hear on the news. We all know that bad things make news in ways that good things don’t.
Pinker misreads history, however, in at least one important respect. He largely ignores the role of Christian faith and ethics as a key factor in reducing violence, and more generally in “the civilizing process.” He engagingly describes the results, in other words, but misreads the causes.
My point at the moment, however, is simply that we—Christians and non-Christians alike—easily misread our own culture. All of us are caught up with the news of the day and our current concerns. Necessarily so. We simply don’t have the data nor the historical perspective to see the big picture or know how to read it.
This is a key reason why we need constantly to immerse ourselves in Scripture and keep company with the saints, not only of our time but of the ages. Aside from everything else we can say about the Bible, we can say this: It wasn’t written in the last ten or one hundred years! It’s not of our age. It breathes other ages and cultures and stories. It (so to speak) operates on different assumptions. That is its strength, not its weakness; its relevance, not its irrelevance. It teaches the way of love and shalom
through Jesus Christ; the peaceable kingdom.
Plus, the Bible is the inspired, once-for-all written Word of God! We need it in order to “read” our own time and place.
The Bible of course doesn’t answer the question of whether violence is really increasing or subsiding over time. The Bible promises both that evil will increase (2 Tim. 3:1-13) and that God’s kingdom will come. His will done on earth.
The Bible leaves us with that conundrum.
But really, it’s not a conundrum. It is a challenge and a call to kingdom faithfulness. The two ways. The world will get better or worse, or both at the same time. A whole lot depends on the faithfulness of God’s people in responding to God’s grace and power and being agents of God’s kingdom coming in our world today.
Meanwhile, let’s not buy into the popular pseudo-Christian myth that our world is inevitably and irredeemably going to the dogs. The gospel is more powerful than that.This post was written by Dr Howard Snyder. For the original post with comments, go to: http://seedbed.com/feed/the-world-is-getting-safer/BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
The crime of human trafficking is one of the most egregious human rights violations, and it is happening in our own communities. Its victims are individuals lured into this country under false promises of legitimate work, only to be forced into the sex industry on arrival. They are domestic runaways taken in by traffickers and forced to trade sex for a place to sleep. They are also girls being baited into “the life” by a presumed boyfriend who later reveals himself as a pimp. Much like victims of domestic violence, human trafficking victims are trapped by fear, isolation and brutality at the hands of their traffickers and those who purchase them for sex.
An estimated 1 million children worldwide are sexually exploited annually. The average age of girls forced into the sex trade is 12 to 14. Within the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly 300,000 children are trafficked for sex every year. The cases involve tremendous violence, such as a recent case where the victim was beaten, forced naked into a cold shower, covered with ice and then made to stand in front of an air conditioner for 30 minutes.
What can be done to prevent other children and teens from being victimized? A first step is addressing the truth about trafficking. Put simply, human trafficking is the selling of human beings for profit through forced labor, sexual exploitation or involuntary domestic servitude. Experts estimate 27 million people are trafficked worldwide annually, reaping $32 billion in illegal profits, which makes it the second-largest and fastest-growing black market in the world.
Human trafficking is a crime that can be difficult to identify and track. The Internet and websites such as Backpage.com have only exacerbated this problem, by taking the sex trade off our streets and into hotel rooms — out of sight of law enforcement and social services. Our computers provide access to a variety of sites that promote prostitution, which make millions of dollars by offering anonymity to traffickers, further facilitating the victimization of children.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act passed in 2000 became the first federal law to emphasize the need to protect victims and offer legal protection for victims of trafficking. States have responded by passing comprehensive human trafficking statutes and updating existing statutes. Today, all but one state have some form of anti-trafficking law. While momentum against trafficking is increasing, however, more must be done. Our work to reduce the demand for commercial sex is built on a simple, solid foundation: Societal change requires information. Just as a movement against drunken driving helped the public understand the danger of drinking and driving through a concerted campaign of public awareness and powerful testimonials to reduce deadly accidents, our work seeks to spark positive change. Moreover, just as domestic violence all too recently was a topic broached only behind closed doors, bringing the tragedy of human trafficking to the public eye is the first step of many.
Those who receive messages from popular music, movies and television that selling sex is just another career choice should know that most prostitutes are, at the very best, selling themselves for the lack of other means to support themselves. In fact, those used in commercial sex lead an extremely dangerous and often violent existence. Epidemiologists report that individuals used in commercial sex live only to an average age of 34. Many aren’t willing participants. The stark reality is that many aren’t even old enough to consent to sex. If apprehended, johns increasingly face serious criminal prosecution. These basic facts, if widely understood, should reduce the demand for commercial sex and thus lessen the number of human trafficking victims.
Is the effort to reduce demand for human trafficking a misguided moral crusade or an imperative to protect young people and others from those who profit from illegal, often involuntary, servitude? Decide for yourself. The answer seems pretty clear.
If you wish to join the effort, consider offering your time and financial support to charities that provide services to victims. Men can speak out against johns who purchase individuals for sex. Parents, parent-teacher organizations and schools can help educate children about how to protect themselves online. Doctors, nurses and hospitality and travel industry workers can seek training to identify victims and help them access services.
The fight to end the exploitation of human trafficking victims continues.
This post was written by Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II who is the attorney general of Virginia. For the original post, go to: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/15/the-truth-about-sex-trafficking/#ixzz2JH96Z6rr
BE A MAN.
Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction
When Dr Oord asked me to review this book, I was in a bit of a quandary. Why would a theologian want my opinion about his newest book? Theology is just a hobby of mine, like my interest in cultural anthropology. I think maybe because I had written him about I much I enjoyed his earlier book, Relational Holiness and have engaged in online discussions with him, he must have thought I would have something interesting to say.
Being a counselor educator by profession, I am frequently evaluating the writings of my students, the research pertaining to my field and am trying to incorporate my hobbies into my professional life, looking for overlap. This book did bring together my profession and my hobbies.
I was glad to write this short review. I am new to the field of Relational Theology. Hopefully without being offensive, I would retitle the book, Relational Theology for Dummies. I don’t say that because I think that the book is not worthy of reading, I say it because it is a perfect book for someone like me: someone who is not a professional theologian, but someone who wants to understand the Relational branch of Christian theology in a simple format
This is a very easy read and covers many different areas of Relational Theology. It contains 31 chapters that are short and heavily edited. These chapters are grouped into four sections: 1) Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective, 2) Biblical Witness in Relational Perspective, 3) The Christian Life in Relational Perspective, and 4) Ethics and Justice in Relational Perspective. There were several contributors I recognized and even some with whom I have been personally acquainted: Callen, Oord, Lodahl, Flood, Winslow, Thompson, Peterson, Leclerc, Salguero, Mann and many others.
To give you a flavor of the book, I’ll share with you some of my favorites sections:
- “God is understood to be truly personal, loving, and not manipulative (7).”
- “God’s grace works powerfully, but not irresistibly, in matters of human life and salvation. God empowers our “response-ability” without overriding our genuine responsibility (8).”
- “God created humanity to be in responsible relationship with Him, and to find its identity – the “image of God” – in relationship. Yet humanity sought to become independent of its Creator and claim self-sufficiency (15).”
- “God is love, and if we truly live in relationship with God, we will live in love with others and all creation (16).”
- “When we explore relationship through the notions of love and trust, we see that faith and relationship become inseparable (34).”
- “A relational interpretation of the Christian faith proceeds on the assumption that God has created us human beings to be loved and to love … sin is a term that may be identified with any falling short of God’s ideal for us: a life of love (37).”
- “Through intimate union with God in Christ in a living personal relationship, we are transformed into His likeness. We do not merely follow His example. Rather, we become Christlike through abiding in Christ, through living in God (41).”
- “To read Scripture as the Church means that we read with God and with one another. We listen to what God calls of us as the people of God. We also listen to one another, as we discern what that call might even mean for us, at this time and in this place (60).”
- “Prayer is waking up to the presence of God (67).”
- “Too many of us function like atheists when it comes to prayer. We claim belief in God, but we do not act on it (68).”
- “God not only created us for relationship, God also seeks to restore and strengthen that relationship when strained (81).”
- “Love is at the heart of ethics (89).”
- “God is love. Love attempts to care for all people. Love considers how power affects the lives of people (94).”
- “Holiness only exists in it expression, which is love (102).”
- “God has freely created all that is … creatures are free because they have been created by God to reflect and embody God’s loving freedom (108).”
- “Obedience, which reflects love and gratitude, cannot be forced, because the nature of love requires freedom to obey (112).”
- “When freedom to obey means freedom to disobey, the relational God pursues the exiles from Eden. God reminds them they could choose restoration and peace (112).”
- “All creation is interrelated and creation is ongoing. God is both Creator at the beginning and continues to create today (114).”
This book is an exciting compilation of the best of today’s Relational Theologians that quickly became very meaningful to me as I ponder my relationship with God. I could easily have quoted many more sections of this book and would heartily recommend that you read it as well.
One of the things that I like about this book is also its biggest weakness. This book is edited so that the chapters are short, less than four pages. That made it easy for an armchair theologian like myself who needs time to digest concepts and not feel overwhelmed in jargon. However the short chapters, in an attempt to explain concepts, at times seemed a bit disjointed, jumping from one concept to another within the same chapter, reading a bit choppy.
One suggestion for the reprint as I’m sure that this book will become popular: I would suggest that each chapter reference the author's recommended bibliography. This would help the reader follow-up in more detail the chapters that interest him/her more.
My grateful thanks is extended to Dr Oord for providing me with a copy of this book. I would recommend you purchase this book if you desire a cursory overview of Relational Theology. It is the first serving of a theological meal that won’t completely whet your appetite but leave you hungry for a bigger helping.BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Alain de Botton made a surprisingly theological argument against pornography. He argued that pornography often functions like an addiction. It inflames a particular species of pleasure and, over time, can order all of life to the pursuit of this pleasure.
A brain originally designed to cope with nothing more tempting than an occasional glimpse of a tribesperson across the savannah is lost with what’s now on offer on the net at the click of a button: when confronted with offers to participate continuously in scenarios outstripping any that could be dreamt up by the diseased mind of the Marquis de Sade. There is nothing robust enough in our psychological make-up to compensate for developments in our technological capacities. We are vulnerable to what we read and see. Things don’t just wash over us. We are passionate and for the most part unreasonable creatures buffeted by destructive hormones and desires, which means that we are never far from losing sight of our real long-term ambitions.
Drawing on the thought of St. Augustine, de Botton argues that true freedom is the freedom to pursue what is necessary for the good life, a freedom that pornography and similar addictions can practically destroy. De Botton concludes by saying that we should heed religion’s (and here I think he has Christianity mostly in mind) call to limit our sexual drive, not because sex is bad but to keep sex ordered to our overall well-being.
De Botton essay is an important commentary on the reality of contemporary life. As Pamela Paul research indicates in her book Pornified:
A good friend of mine I think summarized the situation best, “You used to have to exert an effort to view pornography. Now you have to exert an effort to NOT view it.”
- Overuse, pornography, infidelity, and risky behaviors are among the most frequently treated Internet-related problems by mental health professionals
- Over half of all spending on the Internet is estimated to be related to sex
- The best estimates indicate that 77% of Americans view pornography at least once a month
- 75-77% of males have downloaded porn in their lives
- 20% of males consciously abstain from viewing pornography
- 70% of 18-24 year-old males visit porn site monthly
- 47% of women believe pornography harms relationships while 33% of men said the same
- 33% of all Americans believe that pornography will not harm a relationship
- During a six-week experiment the statement, “marriage is an important institution,” was affirmed by 60% of men who viewed no pornography during that period, but only 39% of those exposed to heavy viewing of pornography during the same period affirmed the same statement
- 58% of women believe that pornography is demeaning to women while only 37% of men agree
- Both men and women who were exposed to pornography were significantly less likely to want to raise a daughter than those who had not viewed pornography
Pornography is not just addictive and ubiquitous though. It is also a story about how we should relate to people. In her article “Love your Enemy: Sex, Power, and Christian Ethics,” Karen Lebacqz describes pornography’s relationship script as follows:
Pornography would suggest that men are socialized to find both male power and female powerlessness sexually arousing. In pornography, domination of women by men is portrayed as sexy. It is the power of the man or men to make the woman do what she does not want to do—to make her do something humiliating, degrading, or antithetical to her character—that creates the sexual tension and excitement . . . . In pornography, women are raped tied up, beaten, humiliated--and are portrayed as initially resisting and ultimately enjoying their degradation. (Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics 10 (1990) 8)
The only addition I would add to this “relationship” narrative is the one Ariel Levy notes in her Female Chauvinist Pigs, women and men can switch roles, either one playing the submissive role or taking the assertive role. Either way, the pornography script makes rape not just acceptable but the norm. (I think Jana’s recent post makes a very similar point.)
Finally, it seems important to remember that pornography is also a business, with the lowest estimates making it a billion dollar a year business. It is not only taking advantage of an innate human drive, as de Botton argues, but also forming people in this perspective to generate a steady revenue stream.
Screwtape’s quip about the best way to corrupt a person seems to capture the cumulative result of the pornography industry, “An ever increasing craving for an ever dimensioning pleasure is the formula. It is certain; and it’s better style. To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return.”
I would probably despair of this situation except for two things. First, practically, the beginning of a solution to this problem is simple: stop (or do not start) viewing pornography. If help is needed with this, there are countless effective and free filters available for routers. This one was recommended to me by two of my tech savvy friends.
Secondly, theological, God made us such that in our hearts we desire much more than what pornography offers, we desire to love and to be loved. This is the heart of the Church’s sexual teaching: that sex should always be life giving, not destructive, dominating, violent, or commercialized. This is why the metaphor Jesus frequently uses for heaven is the wedding banquet, friends and family singing, dancing, and eating in the celebration of love. Pornography cannot ultimately compete with this joy for which God made us.
This post was written by Jason King. The original post can be found at: http://catholicmoraltheology.com/porn/
BE A MAN.
In mid-2006, the world of porn underwent a transformation. The major players all introduced YOUtube-style streaming videos. Before this momentous event, you had to download the video, then open it, and risk getting a virus. Sometimes you didn't have the right software, so you spent a lot of time making sure it was what you wanted to see before downloading it and 'enjoying' it, or you would go to a specific site whose content you liked, watch the one or two new videos and leave it at that.
More recently, porn delivery evolved in the direction of video gallery sites (increasingly referred to as 'tube sites') which aggregate pages of thumbnails of streaming tube videos from different porn sites. No guesswork, no pause while downloading. You look across a matrix of thumbnails of videos with maybe 100 or so screenshots, see a picture that floats your boat and click on it.
However, porn purveyors want hits, so your click may take you to that video, or it may take you to another site that you didn't intend to visit, often another gallery site, which is giving the first site a referral kick-back. Now you've got two pages of thumbnails open. At first, you find that annoying and close one, but after things deteriorate, something on the new page catches your eye and you click on that, making a mental note to go back to the first thumbnail. ....and so on until you find yourself with 20 tabs open.
There are two parts to a physical sexual experience: the build-up of arousal, and then the sex. In "normal" porn there is usually more emphasis on story. It often conveys some intimacy and touch etc. (Even though you are not physically experiencing it, you are mentally connecting more with those thoughts.) But on a tube site a clip is often a mere 3-5 minutes long. You go straight from 0 to 100mph. Arousal isn't a slow, relaxed, teasing build-up of expectation.
Guys all over the Web are complaining of extreme sexual performance problems and other symptoms. While the advent of Internet porn, and then the arrival of highspeed and torrent downloads of porn, increased rates of porn-related problems, many guys didn't notice severe problems until the rise of tube sites.
- Because tube clips are so short, you do a LOT more clicking to novel clips for various reasons: one is way too short to build up arousal; you don't know what will be in the clip till you watch it; endless curiosity, etc.
- The variety on tube sites is limitless.
A professor in the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, Sheri Pagoto PhD, writes:
Studies on appetite show that variety is strongly associated with overconsumption. You will eat more at a buffet than you will when meatloaf is the only thing on the table. In neither scenario will you leave hungry but in one you will leave regretful. In other words, [if you want to circumvent overconsumption and its problems] avoid the buffets of life.
Professor Pagoto points out that,
By frequently seeking extreme forms of sexual stimulation, the porn addict will eventually develop an inability to experience sexual pleasure from normal sexual activity; and if the habit goes long enough, an inability to experience pleasure from anything except porn. This pattern of behavior actually changes the brain’s “baseline” of what turns them on. As you can imagine, serious problems develop. First sexual problems, then relationship problems, and then work problems.
It's not that food or sexual arousal are "bad." Things go awry when an activity "become[s] necessary, a 'go to,' preferred over normal life experiences." Not surprisingly, a 2011 study (USA) found that, "Higher frequencies of [porn] use were associated with less sexual and relationship satisfaction."
"Uh-oh...where's my erection?"
Endless in-your-face variety not only promotes higher-than-usual consumption, it typically also decreases sensitivity to pleasure. One common result is decreased feelings of satisfaction; the brain wants more and more.
In the case of porn buffets, another effect men often report is loss of sexual responsiveness. Decreased response to pleasure is common in all addictions, both behavioral and chemical. As erections and orgasm depend in part on sensitivity to dopamine in a key part of the brain, it appears that a decreased sensitivity to dopamine is making some users less sexually responsive too.
But a numbed pleasure response is probably only one factor, especially for the younger guys. They appear to be wiring their sexual response to sexual cues that are so different from human sexuality that they don't respond normally to the "real deal" when a three-dimensional partner turns up.
As with some other technological advances, humanity has apparently outsmarted itself with the creation of tube sites. One insightful observer commented,
If people have the right to be tempted—and that’s what free will is all about—the market is going to respond by supplying as much temptation as can be sold. Market incentive continues well beyond the point where a superstimulus begins wreaking collateral damage on the consumer. —Eliezer Yudkowsky
What makes tube sites the Bermuda Triangle of porn? Judging from men's self-reports we'd say:
- Using a tube site, users seek for, and consume, more novelty per session than ever. They tend to overconsume, and risk numbing their response to sexual pleasure.
- Tube sites offer videos, rather than stills, so the viewer doesn't use his imagination and becomes a passive voyeur, no longer imagining himself as protagonist.
- Clips are shorter than normal sex and "cut to the chase," rewiring users' sexuality to an unnaturally hasty sexual rhythm.
- Hotter thumbnails/clips, endless novelty and abundant material that violates expectations constitute supernormal stimulation, and may rewire users' sexuality to pixels that goose the reward circuitry more than real mates.
- Searches for the perfect clip tend to ratchet up anxiety.
- Tube sites are intense brain-training--but not for real sex, as demonstrated by viewers' unreliable erections with partners.
Another piece of secular research. When will Christians stop hiding their sin?
Even the world has caught on a little bit:
Porn isn't good for you.
Porn isn't good for relationships.
Porn isn't good for society.
This blog post was adapted from an article found on the Psychology Today website:
BE A MAN.
I used to think I had my stuff together. Then I got married.
Marriage is great—but it rocked everything I knew. I quickly realized my basic goal in life, prior to getting married, was to simply remain undisturbed.
This “disruption” came suddenly and was disguised as a 5-foot-nothing Swedish-Filipino woman. When I decided I’d rather not live without her, I proceeded to ask her to marry me—that is, to officially invite someone who wasn’t me to be in my personal space for the rest of my life.
This decision introduced my most significant experiences and most challenging experiences—none of which I would trade for the world.
However, I wish I’d had a bit more insight on the front end of our marriage to help me navigate it all.
According to most research, more than 50 percent of people who say “I do” will not be sleeping in the same bed eight years from now. And though Scripture alludes to the fact that adultery and abuse may be reasons individuals might end a marriage, I’d be willing to bet that most challenges experienced in marriage are the result of unawareness. Most people—myself included—jump into marriage with suitcases full of misconceptions and bad theology, entirely unaware of the unique beauty and paradoxical intentions of marriage.
The following are three thoughts on marriage that friends and mentors have shared with me. I remind myself of them often in hopes of keeping this anomaly called marriage both enjoyable and healthy.
1. Marriage is not about living happily ever after.
Here’s the truth: I get annoyed at my wife. But this is more a reflection of me than her.
I’m intensely certain that nothing in life has ever made me more angry, frustrated or annoyed than my wife. Inevitably, just when I think I’ve given all I can possibly give, she somehow finds a way to ask for more.
The worst part of it all is that her demands aren’t unreasonable. One day she expects me to stay emotionally engaged. The next, she's looking for me to validate the way that she feels. The list goes on—but never ventures far from things she perfectly well deserves as a wife.
Unfortunately for her, deserving or not, her needs often compete with my self-focus. I know it shouldn’t be this way, but I am selfish and stubborn and, overall, human.
I once read a book that alluded to the idea that marriage is the fire of life—that somehow it’s designed to refine all our dysfunction and spur us into progressive wholeness. In this light, contrary to popular opinion, the goal of marriage is not happiness. And although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight. It is designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.
When we’re willing to see it this way, then the points of friction in our marriages quickly become gifts that consistently invite us into a more whole and fulfilling experience of life.
2. The more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.
Over the past year, a few friends and I have had an open conversation about the highs and lows of marriage—specifically how to make the most of the high times and avoid the low ones. Along the way, we happened upon a derailing hypothesis that goes something like this: If one makes their husband or wife priority number one, all other areas of life benefit.
It’s a disorienting claim. Disorienting, because it protests my deeper persuasion that success as an entrepreneur, or any professional, requires that career takes the throne of my priorities and remain there for, at the very least, a couple of years.
However, seeing that my recent pattern of caring about work over marriage had produced little more than paying bills and a miserable wife, I figured giving the philosophy a test drive couldn’t hurt.
For 31 days, I intentionally put my wife first over everything else, and then I tracked how it worked. I created a metric for these purposes, to mark our relationship as priority, and then my effectiveness in all other areas of my life on the same scale, including career productivity and general quality of life.
To my surprise, a month later, I had a chart of data and a handful of ironic experiences to prove that the more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.
Notably, on the days my wife genuinely felt valued, I observed her advocating for me to invest deeply in to my work. She no longer saw our relationship and my career pursuits as competitors for my attention, and as she partnered with me in my career, I have experienced the benefits of having the closest person in my life champion me.
Of course, marriage requires sacrifice. And sometimes it will feel as if it takes and takes. However, when we return marriage to its rightful place in our priorities, it can quickly turn from something we have to maintain and sacrifice for into the greatest asset to every other layer of our lives.
3. Marriage can change the world.
John Medina, the author of Brain Rules and a Christian biologist, is often approached by men looking for the silver bullet of fathering. In one way or another, they all come around to asking, “What’s the most important thing I can do as a father?”
Medina's answer alludes to a surprising truth.
In my previously mentioned experiment, I measured the effect that making my marriage priority number one had on different areas of my life. One of those areas was my 16-month-old son’s behavior.
What I found in simply charting my observations was that the majority of the time, my child’s behavior was directly affected by the level of intention I invested in my marriage.
Re-enter John Medina, the Christian biologist. After years of biological research and several books on parenting conclusions, what is his answer to the question, “What’s the most important thing I can do as a father”?
“Go home and love your wife.”
Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, the authors of Babywise, say it this way: “A healthy marriage creates an infused stability within the family and a haven of security for a child in their development process.” They go on to sum up their years of research by saying, “In the end, great marriages produce great parents.”
The point is that marriage has a higher goal than to make two people happy or even whole. Yes, the investment we make into our marriage pays dividends for us. But, concluded by Medina and his colleagues, the same investment also has significant implications for our family, our community and eventually our culture.
So men, women, the next time you find yourself dreaming about living significantly or succeeding in your career or being a better parent than yours were to you, do the world a favor: Go home and love your wife. Go home and and love your husband.
This post is written by Tyler Ward. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/3-things-i-wish-i-knew-we-got-married
BE A MAN.