Why Do We Call God “Father”?

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It was hard to find any appropriate memes for this topic…
I get this question a lot when I go into the elementary school classrooms, however I can never give an adequate answer. The reason I can’t ever give them a real answer is because they are usually in about grade 5 and I think the only adequate answer is about sex. So yes, to your shock and horror I am going to sexualize God and the Bible and probably get everyone mad at me.

So usually I start out by telling the kids how God’s maleness isn’t just a sexist way to describe God but that God is called male for a reason. The Church is the Bride of Christ and Christ is the Bridegroom. This automatically makes God male and the rest of us female and not just in a metaphorical way. In a relation of human to human we have a type of female or maleness, but in a relationship on a supernatural level we are all female and God is male. I think this gets confused a lot because of modern society’s confusion with the distinction between sex and gender. Sex is a biological fact while (to the chagrin of the sexually liberated) gender is not an identity you choose, it is a type of person based on sex. The word Gender comes from the word “Genus” which means a general distinction (as opposed to a species or specific type). So gender is just a general category that we fit into based on sex. This distinction between gender and sex is not what this blog is about however…

So I want to argue that Sex and faith have the male female distinction and that God has used sex to tell us truths about Himself. I mean why wouldn’t He first of all? Sex is as close to Heaven, as close to bliss and ecstasy that we can get in our physical human form. It is a beautiful and wonderful gift that expresses the divine. The Bible expresses Jesus as the Bridegroom a lot!

In Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19 and Luke 5:34, the Apostles are referred to as the friends, guests, or children depending on the translation, of the Bridegroom commonly accepted to be Jesus Christ.

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”- Matthew 25:1-13

“Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” – Ephesians 5:22-25

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” -Revelation 19:9

The Bible is clearly using the relationship between husband and wife to represent the relationship between God/Jesus and His people (sometimes considered the “church” and sometimes considered the “city of Jerusalem”). There is an obvious ongoing metaphor so I’d like to take this metaphor one step further. I heard one time that a very devout Catholic couple referred to their marital sex as “Celebrating the Sacrament”. So why not bring in the sexual aspect of marriage into the metaphor from the Bible? I mean sex is a key part of marriage so maybe God is trying to tell us something by using this Bride/Bridegroom language all the time.

When it comes to male and female, we have to talk about sexuality, so we are going to get a little explicit here. What makes a man, a man is that he has a penis and what makes a woman, a woman is that she has a vagina (duh). So what makes someone male is the ability to literally and physically enter into the female. (See why I can’t explain this to elementary school children?) This makes the man the natural “aggressor” while the woman is the natural “receiver”. You could say that the man is offense and the woman is defense and we see this in stereotypical, traditional gender roles. Outside of just the sexual act we commonly see the man as the pursuer and the woman as the pursued. The man typically makes the first move while the woman decides whether or not to receive the offer. (btw I’m trying to make this sound less like a horror film but I can’t, so don’t think of “aggressor” and “offense” and “pursuer” in a violent or patriarchal way.)

In human to human relationship this is obvious, especially in the 50s. Now let’s take this analogy to God/Jesus’ relationship to His church. C.S. Lewis calls God “The hound of Heaven” and talks about how God pursues us. Just to make this blog post as sexual as possible let’s look at the naked picture on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel….

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Look how God stretches, pursues Adam who represents humanity. God is on offense while Adam (all of us) get to choose whether or not we want to receive God. We can take the sexual analogy and say that God is the one who “enters into” our lives, our hearts. God is incarnated as a human being; God penetrates our physical world with the incarnation of Jesus. I’d even go so far to say that Jesus enters into us in a physical way in the Eucharist. The body of Christ literally and physically comes into our body. You could even say that we become impregnated with the graces of God and give birth to the Good works we perform. Now you can say that is over-sexualizing God but so what? If we see sex as something dirty or perverted then this seems disgusting or sick. However if we saw sex the way God sees it, the way He created it to be and the way it exists in an ideal Christian marriage then this is a profound explanation of our relationship with God.

So to answer the question, this is exactly why we call God “Father”. Because we are the Bride of Christ and Christ is our Bridegroom. God has to be considered male because of what being male is (which I think we’ve lost sight of lately). I think this is more than metaphor or analogy, I think this is the fullest expression of love. In a human sexual relationship the goal is to become one.

“and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Mark 10:8

The goal of our relationship with God is also that we should become one with the divine and that happens when God enters into our bodies, hearts and minds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why is Pope Francis quiet on Abortion?

Don’t worry, this post is not about the Donald at all…he’s just click bait!

Ever since Pope Francis has been leading the Catholic Church, he has been surprisingly quiet and even it would seem, dismissive about the most grave issues of our time, Why is that? First let us look at what Pope Francis has said. Here is one of his quotes in an interview with an Atheist reporter,

‘Pope Francis tells me: “The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the worst is that they don’t even look for them any more. They are being crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live when you are being crushed by the present? Without a memory of the past and without the will to go forward into the future to build something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, I think, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”’

Pope Francis is also quoted as saying that the church can become “obsessed with the abortion issue”.

Youth Unemployment and the Loneliness of the Old

Why would the Pope put these two issues on such a high pedestal? Young people not having jobs is obviously not as serious as abortion or euthanasia, or is it? I believe the Pope sees evil as a domino or ripple effect. Some sins can ripple out and get bigger and bigger creating more and more waves. A young girl gets pregnant from her boyfriend, she has a minimum wage job and lives at home, her parents kick her out when they find out she got pregnant. What is she supposed to do? Abortion, to her, seems like the only option! But if she had a decent job, she wouldn’t be living at home, she could afford to care for another human being and if she felt safe, stable, independent and thought her work was meaningful, she just might be more responsible when it comes to her sexual choices (this goes the same for the man although I realize it’s typically only the woman who has to deal with this issue) or if she gets pregnant she can choose to keep the baby since she is in a more stable position.

I would argue that youth unemployment makes young people feel stressed, depressed, hopeless, anxious and afraid. These feelings make it more likely that they would turn to more grave sins like suicide, high risk activity like drugs, binge drinking or unprotected sex, which leads to abortion. Similarly elderly people who suffer from Loneliness are more likely to feel these negative feelings as well and therefore more likely to turn to euthanasia. See how this ripple effect happened? We don’t think of elderly Loneliness as very serious or urgent, but we here a lot of talk about the consequence which is euthanasia.


The Wider Perspective of Pope Francis

I believe Pope Francis is being incredibly insightful and purposeful in his words. What he is trying to tell the world in the statement he made above, is that conversion happens in an order. Here is what we need to do, in this order, if we want to change an individual persons ethical choices…

  • First, Take care of a persons practical needs
  • Then, Take care of a persons spiritual needs
  • Only then are they able to make good ethical decisions (no matter what their religion or belief system!)

    A person is not open to the gospel message if they can’t make ends meet. If your in a cage with a hungry lion, you aren’t considering whether or not it’s right to kill animals… That issue is irrelevant to your situation at that particular time. Once people are stable and secure, then they can think about faith and their spiritual needs. How can we expect someone to be pro-life if they don’t understand the dignity of a human person or the theology of the body? And how can they care about any of it if they haven’t yet had an encounter with Christ? Many times Jesus himself helped someone before preaching the gospel to them. Heal the blind man, talk to the outcast… Only then did he preach to them and let that change their moral decisions. I can feel the Atheists rolling their eyes at me… But even from an Atheists perspective we can agree to first take care of people’s immediate practical issues, then they can philosophize about right and wrong, social constructs, all that fun stuff.

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    Pro-Life Focus

    Now I want to criticize the Pro-Life movement, but it may just be the way things are shown in the media. Why aren’t we more focused on ways to prevent abortion or alternatives like adoptions? The Pro-Life movement seems to spend all of its energy on changing legislation. If we spent more time preventing abortion by fighting for social justice and taking care of people’s spiritual needs, I believe we would make much more headway in being pro-life from a wider perspective. Now I hear people saying, “we do those things!” But I’ve been to Pro-Life events, like the March for Life. The only thing I ever hear is that we need to change legislation and promote abstinence from sex and wait until marriage. I’m saying that those are both ethical actions that only apply to the already converted. As a Christian I believe we should be more concerned with a persons soul than with their personal moral decisions as grave as they may be. There is nothing so serious that God can’t forgive it right? But we don’t act as if that was true. Legislation cannot change people’s hearts, Jesus never passed a single law! He simply let people encounter him and then said sin no more….the rest was up to them.

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    Youth Group`s NOT Dead

    Below is from a blog I read, the italics are my thoughts and the application in youth ministry, the rest is not mine. I only took the part about Adolescence because I think it is particularly important. They go through each age group. The bolded bullet points and underlining are done by me to draw special attention to them. To read the full blog, please click the link here, it is a great read!

    Phew! It’s Normal. An Age by Age Guide for What to Expect From Kids & Teens

    Adolescence

    • Friends will be more important than family. You’re still important, but there’s something they have to do – find who they will be when they step into the world as a healthy, independent adult.  Just like you had to do at their age.

    One of the best things a parent  can do for their teen during this stage is give them opportunities to make and build good healthy friendships. The church is a great opportunity for parents to allow their teen freedom and independence while not having to worry about the risky behaviours that get mentioned below.

    • What their peers think of them will be a source of stress to them for a while, peaking for girls at age 13 and for boys at age 15. They might go to extra lengths to try to fit in with their peers. This might involve making silly decisions or putting themselves in risky situations. Breathe. It will end.
    • They will become more argumentative and will push against you more. This is perfectly in keeping with their adolescent adventure and their experimentation with independence.

    Youth Ministers (both volunteer and a CYM) can be an excellent catalyst by simply listening to teens complain about their parents while reminding the teen not to be too hard on their parents. Well formed volunteers can be the stepping stone between parents and teens so that teens feel an adult is hearing them and taking them seriously but not joining them in blaming everything on parents. It is dangerous for people in youth ministry to take sides but important that teens feel they have an ally.

    • May become more emotionally distant from you (don’t worry – they’ll come back but maybe not until they leave their teens).
    • Might not want to be seen in public with you – however cool you are.

    This is the most important point for churches to hear. According to the NSYR (National Study of Youth and Religion) teenagers said they want to spend more time with their parents. However it is important to note they do not want to be seen in public with their parents. This is key because we can promote family ministry without focusing solely on family events. Our desire to promote family ministry can cause us to do only “Family Events” which alienates teenagers.  This is the exact reason why High School youth groups are still relevant, given the NSYR. If we are connected to a teen’s parents, if we encourage communication between teens and parents, then we are achieving our goal of family ministry without alienating teens by doing only “Family Events”.

    • Will experiment with their image, their identity, and the way they are in the world.
    • They may become sexually active.
    • They might be impulsive and they might start taking risks. (For a full explanation of why they do this, see here.)
    • They will be more creative and will start to think about the world in really interesting, different ways.
    • They will act like your opinion of them doesn’t matter but it does – as much as ever.
    • They will often misread your emotional expressions – reading anger, hostility or disappointment when you feel nothing like any of that (See here to understand teenage emotional flare-ups).
    • Their sleep cycle will change. Their circadian rhythm will move them about three hours past where they were as kids. This means that they will fall asleep three hours past the time they used to and unless they are completely exhausted, it will be biologically very difficult for them to fall asleep earlier. They will need about 9-10 hours sleep so will need to sleep in for later.
    • Will want to make their own decisions about the things that affect them.

    What to do

    • Don’t be judgemental or critical – they need your love and connection more than ever.
    • Understand that they need to find their independence from you. Give them the space to do this. Over time, their values will be likely to align with yours.

    Youth group is a safe space for teens to grow in their independence while under the supervision of responsible adults and in an environment that promotes positive values.

    • Know that your teen isn’t rejecting you, but is finding their own way in the world – it’s an important, healthy part of being an independent adult – even if it feels bad.
    • Let go of control and go for influence. The harder you fight to control them, the harder they will push against you. The truth is that when it comes to adolescence, we have no control – they will decide how much they involve you in their lives, how much they tell you, and how much influence you have. Make it easy for them to come to you when something happens or when they need guidance.
    • Give them information, but don’t lecture.
    • You may or may not know when they start to become sexually active, so it’s important that they have the information and guidance they need to stay physically and emotionally safe. See here for an age by age guide for what they need to know.
    • Don’t buy into arguments – ask them to state their case and talk to you about the pros and cons of what they want. By nature, teens will overstate the positives and underestimate the negatives. Encourage them to tell you some of the cons – nothing is ever black or white.
    • Be the calming force – breathe and wait for the wave to pass over you. It takes 90 seconds for an emotion to be triggered, to peak and to start to fade, provided you don’t do anything to give it oxygen.
    • Help them to plan ahead and see around corners, but without judgement.
    • Encourage their social connections and give them space to strengthen their relationships. An important part of their development is to decrease their independence on the family tribe and to do this. To do this, they will feel an increased need to strengthen their affiliation with a friendship tribe. Encourage and support this wherever you can.

    Youth groups are a safe space for kids to strengthen their friendships and make new friendships. We would assume the friends they are bonding with, and new friendships, are with teens who have similar values and morals and are (hopefully) not going to lead other teens into risky behaviour. However there is never a guarantee that any friends they make will not lead them into risky behaviours. Don’t assume because a teen goes to youth group they are not into risky behaviour. With church events, teens can be one person at a youth group and another person outside of it. 

    • Help them find safe ways to take risks such as sports – competitive and non-competitive.

      Meeting new people is a risk, a positive and relatively safe risk . Parents should encourage their child to make new friends, especially in a positive environment like a church youth group.

    • Let them know you will always do whatever you can to collect them from any situation when they want to come home – regardless of the circumstances and how late or far away it might be.
    • Let nothing be off limits when it comes to what they can talk to you about.

    Many times parents don’t give teens the freedom to talk about anything or the teens don’t FEEL that freedom is there even if it is. Youth groups help to give them a safe place to talk about anything. If we are connected with parents and encouraging that type of “no limits“ communication with parents, the youth group can be a real asset in this area.  

    • Wherever possible, let them sleep in to catch up on sleep deficits.
    • Listen more than you talk.
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    Democracy is the Opium of the People

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    In the United States there has been a lot of problems culminating with Donald Trump being elected president. People who want real and significant change in the U.S. voted in Obama where he did very little in terms of real change. Obama himself has come on after each school shooting and has said basically, “we need to do something, but I don’t have the authority to do anything.” As much as I love Bernie Sanders and everything he campaigned for, if he was elected he would be able to do the same as Obama, very little. So why can’t these well intentioned humanitarian politicians do any real change? Well there are a lot of reasons that are all political and have to do with who is really running things, the rich and powerful. Hillary Clinton is the perfect example of this Elitist group. She is the status quo and caters to the billionaires who support her. Donald Trump is rich enough to be a part of this group but for some reason is not, probably because he is too selfish to do anything to make anyone happy besides himself.

    America has their police killing black people in the streets for no absolutely no reason. They have mass shootings less than 100 days apart from one another. (see below)

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    Now if you think that standing in line and checking off a box is going to fix these things, you are out of your mind. Change will not happen through the illusion of democracy. That’s right, I said democracy is an illusion, Democracy is the real opium of the people (So there Karl Marx!). Everyone in a democracy feels like they have a say in what happens when really they don’t. They say it’s your civil duty to vote because it makes you feel like something is in your control… it’s not! The rich and poweful want you to vote because they want the status quo, Donald Trump is the closest the people could come to rebelling against this system. Donald Trump is like when you light off a firework in your hand, you do it just to see what would happen even though you know it might blow your hand off.

    So how does real change happen if voting doesn’t change anything? Well in other countries that are “less developed” than America, they take to the streets in protest. They start a civil war if their government won’t listen to them. Watch this trailer below for Winter On Fire, a documentary about the Ukrainian people taking to the streets to fight for what they want. When people don’t get what they want, they rise up and force their government to listen to them. All democracy is doing is making false promises about how to fix things and about how much say we have. Fix school shootings, that seems like priority number one, but no one can because of Democracy!

    Now there have been some rioting and protesting after Trump was elected. I applaud the fact that people are passionate enough about issues to actually protest. I disagree with those who say protesting doesn’t do anything, for Martin Luther King Jr. it seemed to work very well, where did that mentality go? The problem is that the protesting going on is against something, Donald Trump, but what is it for? MLK protested FOR equality, not just against racism. That movement had specific things that they demanded happen in an immediate time frame. That is what we need now, unity over certain important issues. Gun control would be first on my list, if you don’t want to see more children get shot then organize a rally for some specific gun laws to be put in place. Lobbyist have shown how much power they have, but that power is really just the power of protest. When the suggestion of a new gun law comes in, the NRA squashes it down by protesting (mind you they have lots of money to back them up which is why politicians don’t dare go against them).

    But I would argue that the real power is public opinion. I am addicted to documentaries lately, and I see how much impact a simple movie can have. Look at Black Fish, a documentary about Sea World and cruelty to the Orca Whales in captivity. That movie had a major hand in the closing of Sea World’s across North America! How can a movie have such an impact? Public opinion. If the general population agrees that something is wrong then the government has no choice but to act. However when the majority is only 51% that really isn’t a majority. That is the real failing of the U.S. political system, split the country into two groups, make them hate each other and the rich and powerful can decide whatever they want because Republicans and Democrats are too busy fighting over what they don’t agree on to unite against the things they do agree on. There are things that everyone hates and everyone loves (or most hate and love). Not many people think racism is good, no one thinks school shootings are acceptable, not many like the death penalty… but those issues never came up in the debates.

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    So America, I encourage you to take to the streets and organize protests. The Black Lives Matter movement is one of the best things I’ve seen from the States in a long time. Just look at the people in that picture! It is inspiring to see people marching in the streets for something important like equality. Support these movements! And even if you don’t agree with the intricacies of the specific protests, appreciate the courage and the passion that is behind these protests. To sit in your chair and criticize people who love their country enough to go out and actually do something is cowardly. Don’t be a coward, go stand up for what you believe in!

     

     

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    Black Lives Matter




    Racism

    There has been a lot of controversy over NFL players protesting racism in America. Now there definitely is systemic, institutionalized racism in the United States, that is a fact. It is clear in the schooling system where some schools are rich and white while some are poor and black. It’s obvious when the overwhelming majority of the prison population is black and yet white crimes are equally (if not more) prevalent yet less likely to get punished. Look at the Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort made a career out of his crime. Even after he got caught he served a minimal sentence and now is cashing in on his previous crimes with books, a movie and seminars that teach people how to be better scam artists. A high school in Jackson Mississippi had a segregated prom until 2008, changing that caused an uproar in the town (see the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi). Racism in America is a very important, very relevant problem that needs to be addressed. Colin Kapernick is doing what every American should be doing by peacefully protesting racism and using his elevated platform to do it is all the better. 


    What’s Really Going On?

    Ok, well let’s lay it out… Cops are shooting black men in the streets for no reason. Are they racist for doing that? Yes, but so are you and me and everyone. The uncomfortable truth we don’t want to deal with is that we all make assumptions based on skin colour, nationality, religion, sexuality and gender. Part of what makes humans more advanced than animals is that we have evolved to have the ability to make judgments about our environment very quickly. Like a deer that assumes every noise in the woods is danger, except our assumptions have evolved to be much more complex. It isn’t necessarily wrong for a person to think that maybe a black guy is armed and dangerous. Given the media we consume where every black man on TV is armed and dangerous, given the cops frequency of dealing with armed and dangerous black men, given the fact that prisons are filled with black men (unjustly) and that most black men are in poor desperate neighbourhoods where crime is the norm (unjustly), I think it is pretty reasonable to think that. Those are true facts, which is why I said racism is institutionalized, so how do we fix it?  Furthermore I think all of us would make those assumptions too. The police officer isn’t being racist, he’s scared. The problem comes when you give that person a gun, tell them they  have to use it to defend themselvess and their community, then militarize them with tanks and swat gear (Jon Oliver video) and pump them full of fear. 

    The Root of the Problem

    Many claim Racism is the root of the problem but that’s not entirely true on its own. The real root is fear. Americans are terrified of Islam and ISIS, guns, crime, schools shootings, Y2K, killer bees, SARS, west Nile, Zika, bird flu, suicide, car accidents, heart disease… You name it and Americans are afraid of it. They have an alarm on their locked house and a safe in a locked room inside that house. The media reports every scary thing that ever happens, which causes fear, which causes everyone to assume the worst which causes more scary things happening and the cycle continues. When people live in fear, they act out of that fear and act in irrational (racist) ways. 

    The Cure

    So what cures fear? Peace. The only way to have peace in society though is to find an inner personal peace. A peaceful heart brings about a peaceful mind, which can bring about a peaceful society. Now I sound like a Buddhist…. I work in a Catholic Church because I believe it is the answer, or one of the answers to this problem of fear and this unpeacefulness we all feel. We are focused on the wrong things, power, money, honour, fame… Rather than faith, family, friendship, truth, goodness and beauty. Parents will bring their kid to hockey 6 nights a week because they care more about having the next Sydney Crosby than having dinner with the family. What are we teaching the next generations? The good news is that we have the power to change all this, so let’s get started!

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