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love & erotica in film: 10 of my favorites

love & erotica in film: 10 of my favorites

For the next five weeks or so I will share 10 of my favorite love and erotica films. (Not pornography – there is a difference.) I am not giving them any particular ranking. Nor am I declaring with this series of posts that these are my top 10 of all time. Yet, as we produce Desire’s Kiss, a film that celebrates feminine sexuality and spirituality, these films come to mind. (To learn more about Desire’s Kiss, click here.)

image

from celeb.com

I kick off the series this Tues., Oct 9th. Which favorite film will I share first? 😉 I hope you will share your favorite films with me as well, along with any thoughts on my list and responses to my comments. I’m enjoying this already! 😉

(You’ll know best when I post the next film by subscribing to sexNspirit. Check it out to your right or below.)

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

“no.” – ok for men too?

“no.” – ok for men too?

Is it okay for a man to say no to sex without having any hidden agenda? What about when he is disinterested in it for some reason – can that happen without others thinking that he’s secretly gay or a survivor of some kind of sexual trauma? Can we create enough safe space for men to say no to sex just ‘cause they don’t wanna?

sexNspirit focuses on heterosexual single women’s sexuality and spirituality. Yet connecting with this topic means that men’s issues surface also, simply ‘cause that’s who we’re having sex with. 😉

After our final reading for our upcoming indie film, Desire’s Kiss, several people asked me about one character’s sexual orientation. Woodson has a gorgeous and caring spouse, Catherine, but his marriage of 10 years lacks intimacy and tenderness. When Catherine begins to grow in her sense of sexuality, Woodson is more than turned-off, he is incensed and considers her actions to be whorish. “Is he gay?” No. And he’s not on the down-low. And he was not molested or anything like that as a child. He’s uncomfortable with sex and hasn’t had enough safe space to work out any of his discomfort. That simple.

black man with glasses

The Crunk Feminist Collective, a few weeks ago, posted a couple of blogs related to this issue:

These posts sparked lots of conversation, some heated, about what happens when a woman asks for sex and the man declines her invitation. The blog’s author suspects that her intended lover harbors some hidden agenda or motive behind his answer, that it’s some kind of power play. Some comments agree and some disagree. The blogger also raises the question of women’s agency and how that plays out in any rights we may have to experience love, affection, and sexual satisfaction. What it means for a man to say no also raises the question of what it means for a woman to be denied sex when she issues the invitation. The blogger is “interested in having [conversations] around effective ways to express straight Black female desire in affirmative, sex-positive ways, and thinking about what kind of world (and relationships with men) we need to have to have the reasonable expectation that those needs can be met on a regular basis, without getting into all this philosophizing about whether we have the right to have our needs met.”

After my asking her what determines if an expression of desire is effective or ineffective, she shares that it involves having a “reasonable expectation” of having needs met that took some effort to express in the first place. (I am amazed at her sharing so candidly such intimate struggles.) I share my thoughts on effective/ineffective expression and reasonable expectations:

perhaps, then, effective expression begins with whatever needs to happen within each one of us to be comfortable, to be ok with asking for whatever we need &/or want to have a fulfilling life. for me, only when i’m okay with what i’m doing can i handle well other people’s responses to it without all the heavy feelings.

so before i ask, especially if it’s an area in which i’m not used to asking, i sit down w/ myself to determine where i am with it all and how i can best respond to their possible responses. like counting the cost before i make a purchase. of course, we can never always anticipate all of what another person will do or say, but what this provides for me is a sense of being prepared which boosts my confidence & sense of security.

then i also have to know undoubtedly within myself that whether they say yes OR no, their response is about them, not me. so, if i cannot approach my ask in this way, i’m not ready to ask & should not ask yet. the best thing for me to do is to wait until i’m ready to engage at this level of living. (of course waiting means actively doing so, working on whatever to become ready.)

when i am truly ready i have a clearer assessment of whether there is “reasonable access” to what i’m seeking AND i can be ok with a decline of access, even if it is reasonable. i also know & understand that being ok w/ all of this can be excruciatingly difficult when i’ve been existing in spaces of what is or seems like perpetual denial of fundamental goodness in living.

black man with dreads

To piggy-back on her question of the kind of world we need to create for reasonable expectations of met needs for women, I ask, what kind of a world do we need to create so that men can say no for earnest reasons that they no more have to share with us than we have to share our reasons with them – without any suspicion of hidden sexual orientations, agendas, or power moves?

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announcing candi’s 2nd book!

who told you that you were naked book

Who Told You That You Were Naked? by dr. candi dugas

Who Told You That You Were Naked? Black Women Reclaiming Sexual & Spiritual Goodness

Sex is a good thing! And the Church ought to celebrate it and preach/teach about it more.

Traditionally the Black church tends to teach more about religion than spirituality and is virtually silent regarding sexuality. Who Told You That You Were Naked? focuses on how Black women’s experiences and other sources for theological ethics can inform their desire to reconcile sexual and spiritual goodness. With this exploration, we can reverse the adverse effects of this tradition, thereby improving the single, heterosexual Protestant Black woman’s understanding of herself as a sexual being.

Pre-order your copy today! 

only $14.99 + S&H (please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.)

Who Told You That You Were Naked? includes an interview with Pearl Cleage, best-selling author and award-winning playwright

“[M]any of the painful things that . . . happen in our romantic lives happen because we are still not behaving as free women. . . . I encourage women to seek out churches that address their concerns rather than trying to revolutionize a church that might not be open to these ideas.” ~Pearl Cleage

To learn more & pre-order your copy today!

As always, thank you for your interest in sexNspirit and your support of candi dugas, llc.

© 2012, candi dugas, llc

a possible answer: are we being selfish and manipulative?

a possible answer: are we being selfish and manipulative?

There’s a certain comfort in following the rules. We believe rules keep us safe. And to an extent they do. As more people join the conversation about alternative and authentic faith-based approaches to sex and sexuality, one concern continues to rise to the surface. What if we’re just making all of these (alternatives) up to suit our own selfish desires?

We have the same freedom and authority as others who have gone before us to approach the Divine with questions and declarations regarding how we’d like our lives to be. The stories of these others are what we read in our sacred texts. I read somewhere recently, I think on Facebook, that these texts become scripture only once we adopt them as guidelines for our thoughts, beliefs, faith, and choices.

How can we embrace and activate our freedom and authority?

The selfish fabrication/justification question seems to be particularly troublesome regarding sex and sexuality. This question persists even in the presence of acknowledging that there is an inexhaustible list of things we don’t do that were done in ancient eras. There’s a host of beliefs to which we no longer subscribe. And we have indisputable data that following antiquated ideologies doesn’t guarantee happiness and fidelity and salvation and G~d-intimacy any more than doing so in days gone by – well, when we can look at the past without our romanticized, rose-colored glasses.

How many tried-and-true isms have you successfully determined worked better for your ancestors?

Not only do we live in the present, we were designed and made alive to co-create with G~d. Really, it’s not beyond our place as human beings. It’s not sacrilegious, blasphemous, or disrespectful. There are times and seasons to rely heavily on G~d. Then there are times to grow and then times to act on all that we’ve learned. Like our children, if we’ve done our part as parents, they become independent and self-sufficient. This simile works with our relationship with the Divine as adult human beings.

If G~d has done G~d’s part, what keeps us from being spiritual adults?

Rules ought to be called boundaries, a better word that conveys structure, yet allows for flexibility as contexts and circumstances change or shift over time. As they modify, we can reallocate the boundaries to be more or less of what’s needed. Then maybe as we grow we won’t feel so damned guilty for “breaking the rules.” Instead it’ll be more about shifting the boundaries. Isn’t that better?

hedges

intricate hedges

“Planted in neat, straight lines,
designed to keep divinity in
or the world at bay?
Who can say?
They are thick and intricately tangled,
exquisitely manicured
by God’s officials
who have had long training
in the finer arts of hedging.

. . .

So engrossed are they
in their tending of theological topiary,
they fail to notice
God popping on her walking gear
and slipping out the back garden gate,
heading for the hills,
quietly whistling.”

~Nicola Slee, “Ecclesiastical Hedges,” in Praying Like a Woman

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

sexuality in the news: down ass chick, gay marriage & catholic censure

sexuality in the news: down ass chick, gay marriage & catholic censure

Over the last week a number of articles and blog posts have crossed my desk that make wonderful contributions to our sexuality and spirituality discussions. I share them with you in this edition of sexNspirit.

What are your thoughts on these perspectives?

 The Evolution of a Down Ass Chick ~Crunk Feminist Collective

“Down Ass Chick: a woman who is a lady but she can hang with thugs. She will lie for you but still love you. She will die for you but cry for you. Most importantly she will kill for you like she’ll comfort you. She is a ride or die bitch who will do whatever it takes to be by your side. She’ll be your Bonnie if  you are her Clyde. Thugs love these bitches and they show this by showering them with stacks of cash, flashy jewels and rides. (Urban Dictionary)

I taught a class on black masculinity during the pre-summer session and the course covered everything from black man stereotypes, and the patriarchal requirements of black masculinity to big black penis myths, homophobia, and hip hop.  One of our most recent classes on romantic relationships between heterosexual black men and women inspired an interesting conversation that stayed for days. Forgive me for a quick (perhaps academic) summary.” Read more.

Baptists on Gay Marriage ~Tom Sabulis, Moderator, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“When President Barack Obama voiced his support for gay marriage, it set off another lively debate, some of which was captured on our pages last week. Today, two Baptist ministers on opposite sides of the issue hold sway.

. . .

By Randall C. Bailey – The basic understanding of marriage in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament is one man with many women. Polygamy is the norm for marriage in both Testaments. The only ones to be limited to monogamy in the Bible are bishops and deacons, according to 1 Tim 3:2, 12. We in the church today have evolved from the biblical view of polygamy and embraced monogamy for all, not just for bishops and deacons.

. . .

By Bryant Wright – When President Barack Obama came out for same-sex marriage last month, it was greeted with pure elation by gay rights advocates. It was just 43 years ago that homosexuals fought back against the police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, in New York, marking the beginning of the gay rights movement.” Read more.

hiding to make love and being violent in broad daylight, john lennon

image from k. ballinger’s facebook photos

Then after the Dr. Bailey posted the AJC blog post, he reposted an article from 2006.

Sanctified Hatred: Why Amending the Constitution to Ban Same-Sex Marriage Is Wrong ~Randall C. Bailey, Center for American Progress

“When I first heard of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, I opposed it with heart and mind as an ordained Baptist minister who holds a Ph.D. in Biblical studies and as the brother of a gay Black man, Mark Aaron, who died of AIDS-related complications. My training and tradition helped form my theological beliefs and perspectives. My brother helped me with my spiritual journey and my understanding of culture.” Read more.

Vatican Censures US Nun Over Sexuality Book ~Ms. Magazine

“The Vatican censured a US nun, Sister Margaret Farley, on Monday because she wrote a book on sexuality. The book, “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” focused on sexuality and veered from the Church’s teachings on masturbation, homosexuality, remarriage after divorce, and gay marriage. According to CBS News, Farley said that she had hoped to study sexuality through a variety of theologies, religious traditions, and the human experience. She stated that the book was not intended to be a reflection of the views of the Catholic Church.” Read more.

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candi’s words – © 2012 candi dugas, llc

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

“I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with liquid myrrh, . . .” (Song of Songs 5:5 NRSV)

The Shulammite is my hero! (I don’t like gendered words like heroine or shero.) Her orgasm represents a full expression and enjoyment of feminine sexuality, a sexuality that is not adjusted to socialized masculine behavior or thought patterns (thinking like a man). Neither does she allow it to be shaped into society’s prescriptive mold of femininity (acting like a lady). She is who she is, in and of herself, created in the feminine image of G~d – dark, beautiful, and so hot for her fine lover that she can’t stand it!

“My beloved thrust his hand into the opening, and my inmost being yearned for him.” (Song of Songs 5:4 NRSV)

If we both cum during intimacy – not necessarily at the same time – then we’re experiencing great sex, what Christian Ethicist Miguel De La Torre calls “orthoeros.”

“Mutuality is a characteristic of orthoeros. It is with mutuality, rather than the requirements of covenant, like marriage, that we ‘gain full security. Only by giving of oneself can there be hope of fully possessing another. . . . Mutual giving (rather than taking) presupposes autonomy. . . . Total surrender, each to the other, cannot be achieved as long as one of the two parties is holding onto power over the partner.'” (Candi Dugas and De La Torre in Dugas’ Who Told You That You Were Naked?)

Now we’re talking – intimacy in a relationship without hierarchy, patriarchy, and ossified gender roles. A woman isn’t adjusting to a man. She is herself. He is himself. They come together as full human beings when the two connect well. They connect in ways that can be transcendent and newly experiential of themselves and G~d. We miss this most amazing life-experience when we become distracted by antiquated gender roles, rules and games.

The wonderful box office success this weekend of Act Like a Lady . . . Think Like a Man, unfortunately, only signals that we are stuck in antiquity. I celebrate its success and I am thinking about what it means for women and the genuine fulfillment we seek in relationships with men. On Twitter, Roland Martin encouraged Black people to stop hatin’ on the movie; go see it and just “laugh”: “All of these haters of the movie @thinklikeaman are ridiculous. It’s a MOVIE! You know, fiction. Do some Black folks know how to laugh?”

I do intend to see the film for several reasons, including simply that I enjoy Steve Harvey’s humor and I’ve read great reviews from moviegoers. Yet it remains a work that celebrates a book which reinforces antiquated gender roles, rules and games. And that is not simply a laughing matter.

Many women take seriously the advice in Mr. Harvey’s book of the same title. Yesterday I read several women’s comments on Essence’s Facebook page lauding the movie, identifying with certain female characters, pledging to change her ways accordingly, and following up with a purchase and read of the book to reinforce her new relationship ways. Mr. Martin and everyone else who thinks similarly, it’s not simply a laughing matter.

When I listened regularly a few years back to Mr. Harvey’s “Strawberry Letter” segment of his morning show, I found his responses humorous with the kind of rings of truth good humor has to have to make it absolutely hilarious. My issue begins with the book and women’s acceptance of it to create the relationships they believe they’ve always wanted. My issue begins when we perpetuate traditional gender roles, rules and games that at the end of the day do not advance the quality of relationships.

If we want to keep the same-ol’-same-ol’, then this type of advice, I suppose, will help us do that. Well, Mr. Harvey, almost guarantees that it will from the title of his book’s  introduction – “Everything you need to know about men and relationships is right here.” (Harvey; Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man)

But if we want something more and something else, as I hear from women, then we need to think, understand, and act differently.

As I study what keeps women from enjoying sex, I find orgasm among the top reasons. The more I think, the more I find that it makes for the perfect symbol of equality in intimate relationships. Pretty much men will get their satisfaction – erection to ejaculation – from an intimate encounter. Women? Not so much. If there is no unhealthy circumstance (physiological dysfunction, sexually related trauma recovery, etc.), orgasms elude women for very solvable reasons. A woman may not get the amount of time she needs to build up her arousal or the kind of stimulation in/on areas of her body or with ways that are pleasing. She may not even know for herself what gets her off. Furthermore, she may not have the ovaries (guts/courage) to communicate to her partner what feels good, where, and for how long. So she takes what she can get (settling for saying she enjoys the entire act/foreplay is more important/it’s not just about orgasm), endures the rest, and maybe satisfies herself later on.

Does anyone agree with me that this is totally unacceptable?

What are we gonna do about it?

Truly, I am a fan of Mr. Harvey’s work. I also applaud him for doing something to try to make things better between women and men since we all want, need, and deserve to be desired and fulfilled. Stating so is not enough. Something needs to be done to make it happen. He is one person who did something.

But we must keep going further and deeper.

Can we start moving beyond conceding to socialized gender roles that leave both women and men stuck in thought and behavioral patterns that continue to leave women responsible for the man’s stepping up and for the success of the relationship?

“He [Mr. Harvey] essentially advocates sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy as truth. He supports, then, the objectification and commodification of women masked as empowerment. . . . Her [the woman’s] call to be prophetic is not only to get rid of these issues, but to offer a better alternative.” (Dr. Miranda Pillay, Presentation of Paper in Response to Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA – 13 December 2011)

I [woman] am not responsible for his [man] stepping up. I am not responsible for creating conditions to force him to step up. I am aware of what pleases me and I am willing to communicate that to a man whom I choose as a lover.

We are more and capable of more than traditional teachings from the Church, society, and family have conditioned us to know, believe and understand.

Are you restless too?

Are you looking for something more and something else?

What are your thoughts? Is mutuality in intimacy even important to you? What about orgasm?

Leave a comment, anonymous, if you’d like.

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(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

body beautiful

body beautiful

“I want to help show my people how beautiful they are. I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.” ~Alvin Ailey

Mr. Ailey certainly accomplished this goal with me. I’m sure that I saw his dancers perform in my youth, but witnessing their beauty and talent when I chaperoned a field trip for my daughter’s grade-school class was like seeing them for the first time. That’s the performance that’s burned into my brain.

“I want to help show my people how beautiful they are.”

ailey dancers

Ailey Dancers - Matthew Rushing and Linda Celeste Sims. Photo by Andrew Eccles

At that time I’d begun to dance at church, a ministry that I never thought I’d ever be a part of – LOL! I’ve always loved to dance at parties and at home – but as a child I didn’t have much rhythm. Even as I developed rhythm growing up I couldn’t quite always get the more complicated, trendy moves. Yet, I always loved to dance! So, at church, I was grateful for the development of a prophetic movement ministry, which emphasized conveying a message through movement rather than specific steps that I would forget because I would get caught up in the music or lose count of the beats. Not to mention, even in my late 20s/early 30s, my body needed a LOT of work to stretch and reach like our traditional liturgical dancers.

Then the fateful day arrived – an Easter Sunday morning. A liturgical dancer had an emergency or had become ill or something that caused her absence. She and I were about the same size and at rehearsal on Easter Saturday I was summoned to take her place. What?!? The leader assured me the movements were simple. Yeah, right. She insisted that they had to have the exact number of dancers with whom they’d practiced. Okaaaay.  Well, it was a lifelong dream and here was my chance . . ., but, “Y’all do remember I’m the one who spun around and collided with the tithing box, right?” The leader said, “Just follow me.”

“I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.”

By the end of four Easter Services I was exhausted (no collisions with sacred items – or people) and very fulfilled – I did it! I did not, however, join the traditional liturgical group. I figured that G~d had granted me some level of grace in a pinch. I didn’t want to press it! 😉 Then came the day that I sat in the audience of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre watching Mr. Ailey’s dance company, totally enraptured by more than the grace of their movements, but by the exquisite beauty of their bodies. And I remembered all the layers I had to wear on Easter, covering up my very beauty – so as not to offend in the house of G~d. I actually grieved that the beauty I saw on the Fox stage was banned from the pulpit. “That’s not right,” I determined.

It’s about more than skin. It’s about freedom and openness, the kinds of fruits of the Spirit (no, not explicitly the ones listed in Gal. 5:22-23) that our faith/belief systems are truly about at their core. After I’d been dancing awhile with my prophetic movement group, I’d experienced incredible patience – rehearsal after rehearsal – from our own leader and other dancers. I tended to be the last one to get our choreography, as simple and flowing as it was. We also genuinely celebrated each other’s contributions to the ministry. And I learned to depend on others, something that’s not easy for me to do. These fruits began to spill over into the rest of my life. I grew in confidence to speak my mind when my thoughts disagreed with the majority or my truth might hurt another’s feelings. I reclaimed a freedom of expression that I’d allowed outside opinions to rip-off.

“Dance is fuel for the soul. I would feel lost without dance. When I found dance, I found myself.”~Antonio Douthit, Ailey dancer

dance is for the soul ailey dancer quote

Ailey Dancer Antonio Douthit. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

The highlight for me this Easter (2012) was seeing a woman I’d know in years past help lead a dance celebration, on stage! The look on her face of pure, gleeful joy was contagious – no one was having a better time this day than she! YES!!! Also, it was obvious that she’d shed some pounds from the last time I’d seen her. Maybe her leg didn’t extend like some of the others, but she was out there AND she was front and center. FABULOUS!!! By the way, all of the dancers had on the same body-fitting pants despite their sizes – yea! – which reminds me that I also celebrate the Dove soap commercials. This campaign reclaims “real beauty” from the snares of male-dominated marketing that only regards certain body types as acceptable for promoting brands, products and services.

CELEBRATE YOUR BODY!

And dance with it. By the way, today, my dance of choice is salsa ;-).

© 2012 candi dugas, llc

what scares us so about sex?

what scares us so about sex?

A little over a year ago a friend sent me a link to the following blog post:

Single, Saved, and Sexin’: The Gospel of Gettin’ Your Freak On

This very well-written piece left me with a desire for a biblical exegesis on the issue because I knew that the saints who continue to cling to conservative sexual theology would be armed with chapter-and-verse quotes from the Bible to counter her very real and truthful perspective – despite her salvific testimony. She explains in later comments that she didn’t use Christian scripture in her post because she “ultimately decided that I didn’t want to misrepresent scripture, or attempt as I said in the original post, to force a loophole where none exists. Furthermore, the levels of engagement with scripture in much of the commentary illustrate the ways in which scripture can absolutely be taken out of context to support one’s point of view.”

Sharing with a colleague last week my own work on sexuality and spirituality, I received the same request for more scripture to support this liberative sexual ethic for women [people] of faith. The difference between my colleague and those who commented on the blog is that my colleague is open to reconfiguring a faith-based sexual ethic. The blog commenters are closed to that possibility, seeking to prove that the blog’s author is “deceived and losing her salvation.” They are “saddened” by her post and desperately want “to pray for her.”

While I include scripture in my work, it doesn’t rest on it. Just as we progressives and liberals may state that conservatives take scripture out of context, they levy the same charge. So engaging our sacred texts alone becomes a futile quest for truth. Hence my continued love affair with the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. To make good ethical decisions we must engage scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

Our single, saved, and sexin’ sistah continues in her later comment, “I think we can have a conversation about the relationship of sexuality to spirituality, and how we as Black women and women in general negotiate those conversations when we live [in] a context very different from the Bible. And I think we have to be honest about the fact that our experiences matter, and that they tell us something about how to engage the world. I think it is dangerous to keep telling Black women to deny the reality of their loneliness, aloneness, and sexual desire based on the fear that they will displease God. When we engage in rhetoric like that, our religious despotism and zealotry has become a tool of control and domination rather than a source of liberation. In fact, many of the posts above strike me as being nothing short of Pharisaic in their zeal.

Finally, I think we have to have sexual ethics that allow us to live and thrive in the moment in which we find ourselves, and I

fear

What scares us so about sex?

take issue with anyone using religious jargon to silence women into submission (which has been done for centuries, especially to black women) around their sexuality. So I’m especially thankful for the sisters in this post, who have the courage to ask tough questions and imagine other possibilities for themselves, without the fear of an angry wrathful God nipping at their heels.”

Reading the impassioned pleas from the conservative commenters left me with the question:

“What scares us so about sex?”

I hear straight-up fear in their written voices. It’s the same fear I see in the eyes of folks with whom I engage in person. “So you’re for people doing whatever, whenever, however?” “No,” is my answer, insisting that there must be at least one option between nothing and everything. What freaks us out so? What keeps us from pulling sex out of disappointing and hurtful equations to see that it was the lack of birth control that created the unplanned pregnancies – the lack of safer sex practices that exposed us to diseases – the void of meaningful conversation that prevented the intimacy that we sought? Blaming all the bad stuff on sex is way too easy.

Another bad thing, as the author states, could be a loss of favor with G~d, a loss of communion, a loss of salvation which translates into condemnation and a post-life-sentence in hell. In this almost frenzied and obsessed pursuit of holiness and righteousness we miss the very thing that we seek. Grasping tightly to the letter of the law leaves us without true communion, missing the spirit of the law. For Christians, this behavior is heretical.

Reconsidering Christian Discipleship and the Text

“Then Yeshua [Jesus] told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?'” (Matthew 16:24-26 NRSV) {Reconfiguration – If we want to follow Yeshua, allow ourselves to let go of all that we think will save us, be real about our issues and believe the unconditional loving and liberating access to our Creator that Yeshua provides. The more we seek to benefit in the way of guaranteeing health, prosperity, and eternal salvation from adherence to more than 600 laws and the label of “good Christian,” the more we sacrifice the actual benefits of G~d-intimacy, like a slow leak. We may very well achieve the label of “good Christian” as the world and Church define it today, but lose an abundant life with G~d.}

“A lawyer asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your G~d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'” (Matthew 22:35-40 NRSV) {Reconfiguration – List all the laws you like and debate which one is the biggest one to obey, like abstinence and celibacy in singleness, but it all boils down to loving G~d with your whole self and loving others as well as you do yourself [assuming that we self-love well]. The most important law to follow is not specific or prescriptive or detailed and that’s where we find true love, the kind that leads to liberation and full abundance of life, the kind that overflows to others.}

contemplative fear

Let's reconfigure our discipleship and our sacred text.

“Yeshua said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. . . . But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. G~d is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.'” (John 4:21, 23-24 NRSV) {Reconfiguration – The time is over for haggling over details like whose church is the correct one and which worship style is more sacred and whose doctrines/creeds/dogma will best succeed in producing holy Christians. The time is now that those who really love G~d and sincerely seek to hang out with G~d will do so in for-real ways, without any regard to the shoulds and ought-to-bes of contemporary life. These are the life-companions that G~d seeks to hang out with, ones without pretense and anxiety over rightness; these are the kind of folks with whom G~d can have a ball!}

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Yeshua. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For G~d has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to G~d; it does not submit to G~d’s law – indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please G~d.” (Romans 8:1-8 NRSV) {Reconfiguration – If we follow the simple, liberative, and transforming teachings of Yeshua, we are no longer beholden to follow the 600+ laws that we find in the Hebrew Bible. All of these laws don’t work; rather, Yeshua’s example leads us to the greatest law – loving G~d with our entire selves. This law leads us to another – loving our neighbors as ourselves. With these two laws as exemplified by Yeshua, we need no others. When we insist on the others, we die to the life that is possible and we are without peace as well as being at odds with G~d rather than flowing with G~d on our life-journeys – unable truly to make G~d happy.}

“Who will bring any charge against G~d’s elect? It is G~d who justifies. Who is to condemn? . . . Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, or things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of G~d in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:33, 35, 37a, 38-39 NRSV) {Reconfiguration –  Ain’t nobody that can sentence us to hell -that is eternal separation from our Creator – nobody. Neither can any law or reality or non-reality. Ain’t nothin’ or nobody that can do that. Simple. Love extends beyond any obstacle or barrier that we can conceive or beyond what we can conceive. Love is stronger than death, the only inevitable experience we all must face. Soooo, be free!)

It’s not cheap grace; it’s taking G~d at G~d’s word (through scripture, tradition, reason, and experience). Be in relationship with G~d; don’t be scurred. Live! Live! Live! Live like we’ve got a faith and a connection that liberates us from the law and the limits of this world. Live according to what we say we believe – or else what good is it?

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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