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Hi Friends, it’s me, Joy and I have some thoughts. Er, well someone smarter than me has some thoughts and I thought I would share those thoughts and you could tell me what you thought, or think, or thew. Coo?
Yes, even you creepers who always read and never comment. I want to hear from YOU.
Dale S. Kuehne’s book, Sex and the iWorld, (odd title I know, but it makes sense when you read the book) is an interesting proposal of how sex and culture could harmoniously and purely intersect in the future. He presents his idea by first looking at sex and its role today in a postmodern society and what it was in the past traditional society, or as he calls it the “t”World.
One of the reasons he believes sexuality is misunderstood and misused is because of how our current culture has created an “i”World. This is one of individualism which diminishes what could be in his proposed “r”World. The rWorld creates a broader view of healthy and nourishing social relationships where the most fulfilling context for sexuality and relational well-being can take place.
I have talked about how hyper-individualism and technology has created many “me-monsters” these days and was intrigued by this point in the book.
“According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the concept of personal identity doesn’t show up in the English language until modern philosophers first used it in the seventeenth century. Prior to that point in Western history, the fundamental assumption was that humans shared a common nature and that the individual search for fulfillment was focused on comprehending and living in accordance with who humans are by nature. Understanding human nature was believed to be of greater importance in knowing ourselves than was awareness of our individual characteristics. Beginning with the Enlightenment, the search for self-understanding became a more individualistic quest. Understanding individual characteristics became more important than human nature in seeking to answer the question of who we are. In other words, beginning with the Enlightenment we became less likely to ask, ‘Who are we?’ but more likely to ask, ‘Who am I?'”
I believe one of the positive impacts of this shift to asking “who am I?” enabled people to think and be more introspective. But this perspective, along with increased consumerism has distorted how we view our happiness and our relationships. What do you think? What should we do?
How has the societal transition towards individualism had positive (introspection) and negative (“Me-Monsterville”) impact on the church, humanity, sexuality and how we relate to one another?
And how do you think the church we see in Bible times viewed themselves, humanity, sexuality and how they related to one another?
I realize there are many angles to take your thoughts and comments on so just pick your favorite! Annnnnd Go…
*Momma is a self imposed nickname.
And, you’re welcome:
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I don’t want to make “individualism” a bad thing (because legally that’s all we can be, individuals). The introspection we do is more about our own wants & desires than how we can use our talents to benefit others. As such, we quickly turn the page to action, “how can I achieve my wants & desires?”. We are impatient and see no wisdom in sowing long term seeds. We quickly achieve a goal , “rinse and repeat” the process.
Basically, the introspection is negative because we place our-self and our desires at the center of the universe, thereby destroying many relationships (church, family, etc). Instead of being vulnerable towards each other and being willing to give and take as appropriate (see Grace & Forgiveness) , we clamor for the security of secrecy and the quick fix.
It seems to all stem from emotional insecurity brought on by unrealistic expectations in life (that each be wildly brilliant and successful, and short of that is utter failure).
I think the Biblical church sees itself as imperfect. This gives it the latitude to be vulnerable to one another, allowing for offense to be followed by forgiveness. Failure is a part of the learning process that helps us to understand our own boundaries and the societal norm we live in. The Biblical church understood the concept of edification. They prized unity and genuinely apologized when offending another, out of respect for their fellow imperfect human.
Today, society’s cup has gotten so shiny on the outside, that we dare not even consider apologizing, lest we tarnish our shine. (Did I just parable-ize the point?)
The whole Enlightenment period (where individualism came into play) was inspired by the Roman Empire’s propensity for humanism (secular influence, science over faith, etc.).
So the concept of individualism (or indy, because I’m tired of typing already) started wayyyyy before the 17th century. The concept of indy isn’t new, nor is the collectivism thought by Dale Kuehne.
All that being said, I do think you’re spot-on about indy becoming an easy trend for Westerners fall into, because we’ve pretty much always been ABLE to do that. Our culture has always fallen in and out of love with what we see in the mirror. Indy thought has encouraged us to take whatever we want out of each other for our own purposes, and it’s a real shame.
@Hayden, Good insight. Have you read Kuehne’s book? I think his point is what you expanded on that the individualism that was a manifestation of the enlightenment period was in the vein that you describe due to the schools of thought at that time.
While his rWorld or collectivism isn’t necessarily a new idea (one could say it’s Biblical…(-:) his point in the book is that no one knows how to make a good premise or argument for the WHY behind this argument.
Many grow up in the church hearing, “yeah, sex is something to be valued. And marriage and family are important because…and…” but few people in our generation can say WHY they actually subscribe to that thought. If they recognize they can’t say WHY they often walk away.
This may totally be a tangent and if so I do apologize ahead of time….
My small group is currently going through ‘The Truth Project’ video series. I have been through it a couple of times and it has been a great study every time. With this whole “i” world has a lot to do with Self-Actualization*. Who am I, why am I here, what is the purpose of life…. These are a lot of the questions the youth and more and more adults are trying to answer. Sadly a vast majority of them are looking in the wrong place; they are looking to science, psychology, love, sex, drugs, rock & roll and/or whatever else is available at their time of need. We need to be looking to and seeking from God what His plan and will is for us.
*Self-actualization: Humanistic psychology theory that advocates getting in touch with one’s inner-desires in order to help develop or achieve one’s full potential.
We went through Tour 3 last night on ‘Anthropology; who is Man?’ It was as always a total eye opener. If anyone would like more on this here are a couple resources:
Abraham Maslow’s bios:
Maslow’s Hierarchy Pyramid:
Key terms used in the study:
If the links don’t work, let me know an I will download the materials and provide others.
@Aron, I havent’ seen that but have heard good things. I do think it needs to be a balance. I would say that asking questions about our potential and purpose can lead us to a deeper understanding of self and God. God designed us uniquely and it would be pretty boring to be carbon copies. That’s why I love the Strength’s test so much!
But the beautiful thing is that when people recognize that their design was for a purpose, then that is when I think it’s easier to die to ourself and make this life about something much bigger – all the while functioning in that design to contribute to the whole.
Thanks for the resources!
I think that one of the biggest changes that we see in the church is that we go to church each week with the mindset that we need to get something out of it. After each Sunday morning, we drive home and talk about whether or not the sermon was relavent to us or if we liked the music. It is more like going to see a movie than it is a community of Jesus followers coming together to worship and hear from God. And if we don’t think we are feeling inspired after several weeks, we might even consider trying out a new church that fits our wants and interests better. This is so drastically different from the way the early church functioned (or at least how it was meant to function). I think it’s time for us to stop being concerned about what the church can do for us, but instead how we as individuals can come together as a community and spur each other on as we learn.
Loved the quote about moving from asking “Who are we?” to “Who am I?” … It’s hard to change your mindset when individualism is the air we breath as 21c. westerners, but I like the direction the author is going.
I think we’re called to strongly identitfy ourselves with the people of God, rooted in history and stretching all the way back to Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, and Adam. As those who have been grafted in to the people of God, we’re supposed to inherit the collective memory of God’s actions in history as memorialized by his people in the Scriptures (the Scriptures are a lot more than that, but they definitely involve remembering God’s activity in the world). That also involves taking on, and praciticing, the characteristics and likeness of God’s people, as those who are set apart from the world. So our authority is no longer our personal experience (a la romanticism) or our rational logic (a la Enlightenment fall-out), but rather God himself as revealed in the Scriptures. (I think there’s a danger in turning to community as our sole source of identity. Yes, we’re definitely supposed to strongly associate with the church, but that association is grounded in God. Also, there’s always the Greg Laughery relation/distinction going on. God did create us as individuals AND groups after all).
So maybe one way that works itself out is by saying, “I’m a Christian, and WE don’t commit adultery” the way your dad would say, “You’re an Eggerichs! We don’t act like that!” regardless of your personal inclination at the time. We-the children of God-are supposed to be walking in the ways of our Father. That’s how the world is getting to know Jesus as King these days.
I feel like I’m getting esoteric, but those are my off-the-cuff thoughts just now. I think this could start a much longer discussion thread, and maybe will need to be broken down into smaller chunks, but this is a really important issue and an exciting one as well.
I love how the author is breaking out of the trauma of self-as-authority/the tyranny of a Me-Monster. I like the move toward community/relationship, but with the primary relationship to and with God taking authority over the individual and over the “we”.
@Val, well said. I really don’t think I can add much. I’m glad you highlighted the importance of all three questions–Who is God? Who are we? Who am I?–as well as the necessary hierarchy of those questions: I can’t know who I am without some base knowledge of who we are, and I can’t know who we are without some base knowledge (which sometimes includes the Imago Dei) of who God is.
To reiterate my reply to this on Facebook, the dangers of completely decrying individualism is being washed away in communism (political or otherwise); in other words, replacing an overemphasis on the individual at the cost of the community with an overemphasis on the community at the cost of the individual.
As far as sex is concerned, there are lots of community/family-oriented societies that have just as horrible and unhealthy views and experiences of sex and sexuality as we Westerners do, even if actualized differently in some ways. It seems to me that the rWorld (which I presume to mean Relationship World) would have to have some form of Judeo-Christian moral standards at it’s narrative foundation (even if only vaguely) in order for the mere emphasis on relationships over individuals, or better yet, individuals in relationship, to make any real difference.
I should also add, even among Judeo-Christian-based community/family-oriented societies, without a sexual ethic of mutual love and respect (ie. societies that wrongly base their oppressive patriarchal norms on the biblical narrative), the sex is still unhealthy and unfulfilling.
“Post modern society”, “past traditional society”, “individualism”, “enlightenment” “most fulfilling context for sexuality and relational well-being” are not well defined talking points. The masochist, godless philosophers, me-monsters, any religious person with a label can come from any direction, like you say and declare what they “feel’ is right. But what does God have to say about this topic? Then we can begin asking, “Whose am I” or a people can ask “Whose are we? I submit Colossians 2 for discussion.
Colossians 2:2-4 “My purpose is that they (the church -made up of individuals who have entered into covenant with God through faith, baptism and being raised) may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. ”
Colossians 2:6-8 ” So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you “captive” (taken like “booty” or spoils of war)through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. ”
Colossians 2:18 “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head…”
Colossians 2: 20-23 “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” These verses were taken from NIV 1984.
Throughout history there seems to be extremes and then a shift to the opposite extreme. It seems like we are constantly on a pendulum, one way or another. The pendulum isn’t necessarily bad in something things, but in others its absolutely horrible.
It seems that prior to the Enlightment that community was the focus, but mainly for survival. They didn’t have the creature comforts we have today nor the opportunities. Sons typically did the trade of their father, so there was no direct “need” for the place of individuality. The place of community, of looking out for the best interest for everyone, was paramount. It’s obvious that we are at the opposite side of that now, but it seems that community focused and community minded things are so much more prevalent than even 10 years ago. Maybe the pendulum is swinging back?
I think that individualism, in the sense of God’s calling on our individual lives, is imporant. If we seek Him to figure out what that is and He places absolutely crazy dreams in our hearts and we begin to dream with Him there is a shift in the believer. If there is a shift in the believer, there is a shift in the church. If we dream with God and begin to develop those dreams, speak them out to trusted friends/leaders (who may or may not think we’re crazy) we are able to take the place of individualism off of us and be vulnerable. If we vocalize what’s going on, we may be able to see that God is working in the hearts of others for the exact same thing. An example, I sat in a meeting with a few leaders from my church one guy pipes up and says that he and his wife are supposed to start a foster home and adopt some more kids. They had built their dream home and are selling it to buy something more functional. I looked around the room and saw jaws dropping, but it wasn’t because of the unselfishness of this family. They chimed in and said that that is the same thing He has been placing on their hearts to go after.
If we seek the Lord on the individual basis for what He dreams for us and what our identity in Him is, then become vulnerable, open it up for criticism, we may find ourselves being drawn into the place of community in order to establish something that He is doing on a larger scale in each of our communities.
This comment has nothing at all to do with your post but it’s not every day that one runs across a diy tutorial for a UNICORN…so naturally, I thought of you! 🙂 http://www.lilblueboo.com/2012/04/paper-mache-animal-heads-a-tutorial.html Thanks for speaking truth and sharing the awesome sense of humour God has given you! I love your blog!