Urban Faith would like to introduce our newest columnist, Dr. Minnie Claiborn, Ph.D. The licensed counselor, life coach and author will publish a new, monthly column called “Ask Dr. Minnie.” Feel free to submit any questions on a topic of your choice [email protected], and your question may be answered in a future column!
Hi Dr. Minnie,
My name is Wendy, I am a 26-year-old single, Christian woman. I recently went on a couple of dates with a young man. I liked him and enjoyed the date very much. I later found out that he is engaged. When I confronted him about it, he said he is “engaged,” not married. He said that he might want to marry me instead of her. Although he is right technically, I don’t feel right about this. What do you think, Dr. Minnie?
You don’t feel right because it’s probably not right. (Please refer to Proverbs 12:22.) To be engaged means to be ‘betrothed,” or promised, to another. If he is not sure that he is ready to be married, he should be a man about it and tell his fiancée. If she knows that he is still dating while she is planning a wedding, she will feel devastated and betrayed. You say you like him, but would you like for him to treat you the way he is treating her? You have to value yourself enough to know that you deserve to be treated special. If this young man practices unfaithful while being engaged, he may not change just because he gets married.
Do you have questions for Dr. Minnie? Post them below or email her at [email protected]
The sun is out and barbecue grills are fired up. The long-awaited summer season has returned. With longer days and hotter temperatures, everyone is filling their social calendars with vacations, local events, and outside activities to make up for time spent indoors during those dreaded winter months. We’ve put together a list of summer ideas that are sure to make this season one to remember.
1) Pick a Concert
What better way to enjoy the summer than attending concerts and music festivals. Major artists such as; Kirk Franklin, Beyoncé, Tina Campbell , Drake, Adele and many more will tour across the nation creating the perfect night out for fans everywhere. Many cities will also host music festivals, some that are nationally sought after and others that are local jewels. Newark Folk Festival, Made in America and Essence Music Festival are but a few of the many music events that parks and waterfronts across the nation will host.
2) Book a Vacation
Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day mark the beginning and end of the summer travel season. It is during this time that parents save vacation days for exciting family trips while kids are on break. These months also provide the perfect opportunity to take a girl’s trip, guy’s trip, plan a wedding, or explore a new city solo. This summer, set aside some time and plan a trip that fits your budget to gain experiences and make memories that are priceless. Travel to a new country and absorb the local culture. Visit a new and exciting city. Find time for some rest and relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of the regular work and school week. Now may be a good time to add new stamps to your passport.
3) Explore Your City
How well do you know your state, City or Neighborhood? The U.S. is full of popular, as well as less known, treasures unique to each state. Busy work, school, and family schedules often do not allow time to just be a tourist in our own backyards. This summer, take some time to explore the place you call home. Not sure where to go? Look up your state’s national parks, beaches, museums, campsites, community events and other tourist attractions for ideas on how to better enjoy your state.
4) Spend Some Quality Time
Summertime is the perfect opportunity to spend much-needed quality time with family, friends, and yourself. Whether you’re building your vacation around a family reunion, or picking out the best spa package for you and the girls, don’t let this summer pass without reconnecting with those that matter the most.
5) Take Up a Hobby
Have you ever wanted to try something new but can’t find time to do so? With longer days and warmer weather, find some time to pick up a new hobby. Group activities such as sip and paint classes have become increasingly popular for those that want to explore their artistic side. And for those that are interested in fitness, activities such as Destination Fit-Trip provide the opportunity to travel to a new country and participate in group fitness workouts with popular personal trainers. Hobbies can be expensive, however, sites such as Living Social and Groupon allow you to search for various activities at a discounted rate and participate in different types of experiences.
6) Work on Special Projects
Special projects, such as home improvement, are a huge task to undertake both physically and financially. Whether you’re completing the project yourself, or contracting outside help, this summer could be the perfect time to remodel that kitchen or bathroom, add the extra bedroom to the house, or re-do the deck just in time for barbecues. If special projects will be the task of the summer, make sure you utilize Fourth of July sales to save costs on supplies, and complete the work before the season changes.
Do you have any other great ideas to add to the list? Share them with us below.
Michael Eric Dyson: America is not a Christian-only nation.
During a recent interview on my radio show, Michael Eric Dyson, the social critic and author who is also an ordained Baptist minister, urged Christians to “get over” their opposition to President Obama’s decision to support same-sex marriage. Dyson, who is a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, said that particularly black Christians should be the last people to stand on the side of another group of Americans being denied their constitutional rights.
“Some black people are mad at Obama over the same-sex marriage thing. Get over it. Get beyond your bigotry. Black people are the last people on earth trying to tell somebody who to marry, when we need to get our numbers up, No. 1,” said Dyson, who supported President Obama’s reelection.
Marriage rates among all groups have been declining over the past decades but remain the lowest among blacks. According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies only 52 percent of black women will marry by age 33, compared to 81 percent of white women and 77 percent of Hispanic women. Meanwhile, an estimated 70 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers.
Dyson continued: “And No. 2, if we’ve been victims of oppression, why extend that? Forget your personal religious viewpoint, there are some people who don’t have your religion and guess what, there are some people who don’t even have religion at all. The nation should protect everybody – the religious believers and the non-believers alike.”
Click to hear the entire interview.
Dyson repeated a position that I’ve written previously here on UrbanFaith concerning the same-sex issue. It’s true that the Bible does not affirm homosexuality and therefore doesn’t bless same-sex marriage. No effort to reinterpret biblical relationships such as, Jonathan and David’s or Naomi and Ruth’s can change that. Claiming that Jesus never discussed the issue doesn’t cut it either. If John1:1-14 is true “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” then Jesus in fact did discuss the issue such as where homosexuality is mentioned in Leviticus 18:22. (This page offers a comparison of contemporary thinking on the Bible and homosexuality.)
If John 1 is false, then we’ve got an even bigger problem. All that Christianity is predicated upon — the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins — falls apart; the world that God so loved that he gave his only begotten son for, is equally doomed (John 3:16).
We Christians ought to remember that our calling as disciples is not to be agents of doom, but of hope. We are to be on the side of freedom, justice, and equality. That freedom includes the free will to make good and bad decisions. If God allows humans this free will to choose his way or the other, who are we to advocate denying this right to fellow citizens?
As Dyson correctly points out, Americans are blessed to live not under sharia law but in a nation that recognizes the freedom of religion and insists on the separation of church and state. The “state’s” (federal, state, and local governments) responsibility is to protect all of its citizens’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless to their religious or non-religious views. The government sets laws to regulate how we interact among each other, so that our rights might be secured. You can’t run a red light in your car without punishment because to do so puts other fellow citizens at danger. You can’t just pull out a gun and shoot someone because you’re obviously taking away their right to life, while potentially putting other citizens at grave risk. Do two taxpaying adults deciding they want to legally commit to each other by marrying under the laws of a state meet the test of putting the rights of other fellow citizens at risk? Besides, people can marry and divorce in America without the church ever being involved.
Sins violate divine laws that separate humans from God. All sins should not be violations of local, state, or federal laws because not all citizens believe in God. If all sins were illegal, divorce, which God hates (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:6; Matthew 31, 32), should also be against state and federal laws. Catholics annul (invalidate from the beginning) marriages, but typically divorce proceedings are not conducted in churches. However, in America, Christians divorce in state courts and often for good personal reasons. How would we feel if the state denied us the option to divorce?
We Christians tend to cherry pick the sins to get riled about when it suits our own personal interests, agendas, or traditions. However, life in a pluralistic democratic society is too complex for that. It’s full of a lot of gray, blurry areas. Perhaps this is why God reserves grace and mercy for everyone, but our judgment for him alone.
Dyson urged that Christians should not aim to make America a Christian-only nation, but use Christian principles to help make America a just nation for everyone, regardless of their faith.
As the apostle Paul said, the greatest of these principles to apply is love.
My wife, Rita, has begun reading the first volume of the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy with her book club. Fifty Shades has been wildly popular because it features scenes of an unmarried couple’s explicit erotic sex that also includes elements of bondage. Published reports say the book has gotten a lot of wives excited about sex and their husbands are reaping the benefits. So, of course, that’s what grabbed my interest.
As my wife cuddled in bed reading her iPad, I asked her about the book. She was tight-lipped, as she shifted her body so that I couldn’t see the screen.
“It’s just what the club is reading now. I’m not really into this sort of thing,” she said. Then she cited some “confidentiality agreement” among her book club sisters, effectively ending our conversation.
Hmmm, more on that later …
The exchange reminded me of a talk I recently had with a Baltimore-based licensed pastoral counselor (who also happens to be my sister). Minister Pamela Bell of Serenity Pastoral Counseling & Consulting recently hosted “Teach Me How to Love You,” a conference to teach Christians how to develop healthy relationships. One of the topics included God in your sex life.
God and sexual intercourse?
Bell’s point is that God clearly created us to have and enjoy sex. One of the reasons why so many Christian marriages are in trouble, singles are fornicating, and pedophilia, adultery and homosexuality are common in churches, is because leaders aren’t teaching forthrightly about godly sex. Natural urges are suppressed and hypocritical and deviant behaviors are covered up. The church has allowed the world to turn into “the nasty” what God intended to be beautiful.
“According to most Christian teachings, sex is referred to in the context of procreation or as a marital duty,” Bell said. “I talk to people about making love and bringing God into the experience, instead of having some gymnastic event where orgasm is the finale.”
WELCOMING GOD INTO YOUR SEX LIFE: “While having sex, thank God for the beauty of the body of your mate,” says Christian counselor Pamela Bell to married couples. “Making love is an expression of gratitude.”
At the conference, Bell, who has been married for more than 25 years to the same man (they have three children), said attendees seemed surprised when she asked how long they thought the average orgasm lasted?
“Oh, they got real quiet,” Bell said.
The answer is about 18 seconds for the average woman and 20 seconds for a man. Once intercourse begins it takes the average women about 12 to 14 minutes to reach an orgasm and about 2 to 3 minutes for a man.
“So we spend so much time and often make bad decisions about our sex partners over a few seconds of pleasure. When we talked about sexuality within the confines of marriage, that’s when people got comfortable and we got a lot of questions.”
Like, what do you do when your husband or wife wants to have more sex than you do? Singles asked question like, what do you do when your urge for sex is high?
“Particularly when you look in the King James Version, the word ‘know’ is used to refer to sexual intercourse,” Bell said. “God intended sex to be about intimacy.”
But for many people it’s hard (no pun intended) to think about a holy God, while having sex. Intellectually you know that God created and commanded us to be fruitful and multiply. But is a man supposed to be thinking about Jesus while he “knows” his wife?
Bell said it’s about a paradigm shift, adding that she often refers couples to passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:4.
“While having sex, thank God for the beauty of the body of your mate,” she said. “Explore how your mate’s body is made. Each aspect complements the next. Making love is an expression of gratitude. You’re thanking God for the person He gave to you. Take your time, be present in the moment, and enjoy your spouse. Remember, love is patient according to 1 Corinthians 13:4.”
For singles, there are ways to feel God’s love without a physical partner, she said.
“It’s a better experience than conjuring up some dude or woman in your mind that you were with back in the day, or that you want to be with and having some counterfeit experience,” she said. “You can have an ongoing spiritual orgasm rather than a five-second deal, followed by feeling unfulfilled afterwards because you’re relying on a fantasy to give you pleasure.”
Bell said she felt led to host the conference because she sees too many Christians who are having major sex-related problems tied to church. As the church fails to deal honestly with sexuality, it is effectively leaving lambs to be slaughtered.
“It’s heartbreaking what is happening,” she said. “Many pastors simply don’t teach this.”
Not all pastors are afraid to “go there,” Bell said. There are Christian books on the topic. There’s even a biblical response to Fifty Shades called 50 Shades of Black and White. But in general, churchgoers seek information elsewhere, such as on cable TV, the Internet, or in erotic literature.
As for my wife’s reading of Fifty Shades, she’d rather not fantasize in that way — but she won’t judge others who like it.
And if I reap some added benefits from this month’s book club selection, I won’t complain.
A few more passages from Scripture related to godly sexual love:
Remember the days when Christians used to blush over conversations about sex? Sermons on the Song of Solomon left us avoiding eye contact with our pastors and safe sex talks in public school meant guaranteed giggling after class. I guess we’re all grown up now. The generation of kids who once kissed dating goodbye and held fast to the promise that True Love Waits is no longer hanging its moral hat on the hook of sexual purity.
According to the National Association of Evangelicals, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical Christians between ages 18-29 admit to having had premarital sex, a shocking figure when measured against the number of pledges made in youth ministries and wristbands worn endorsing abstinence around the country throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s. For a generation fed a steady diet of “just wait until you’re married for sex,” why are so many of us losing our virginity before we say “I do”? What is causing the growing chasm between our Christian belief and sexual purity?
I suspect much of our early understanding of sexuality is at fault, being reduced to just saying no instead of developing a holistic view of human sexuality through a person’s entire lifespan, fully integrating it with God’s plan.
When I moved to New York City in the years following college, I was devastated to learn how many of my Christian friends were regularly hooking up at bars and sleeping with boyfriends and girlfriends with no plans for marriage. And more than that, they didn’t seem to feel bad about it. The subcultural sentiment was that abstinence is worth preaching through the college years as parental influence wanes and students bumble through the early years of adulthood. But for twenty and thirtysomething Christians, for mature adults who had yet to find the one and had been battling hormones for a decade-plus, waiting was child’s play. Celibacy amongst my Christian peer group was viewed as cute and commendable, but certainly not crucial.
Despite the disappointment I felt over my friends’ behavior, there wasn’t much room for judgment. At the core they were simply living out the compartmentalization of sexuality that was also present in my heart. From the day I received my True Love Waits Bible in junior high school, I locked up my sexual desire to be opened only in case of marriage. Like Prisca Bird wrote for the Good Women Project, I wore my virginity as a badge of honor, latching onto “the image of myself as the radical abstinence practitioner” and one who would remain chaste to “fight the good fight.” I was unable to view human sexuality as a gift, holy and blessed by God. By failing to embrace my sexual identity in the midst of tempering my desire, I inadvertently called evil what God had deemed good.
You see, promiscuity and abstinence can be two sides of the same coin. Both can hint at an insufficient understanding of God’s intention for sex, his blessing of it in the context of marriage, and his creation of his people as sexual beings. So preaching only abstinence is not the answer.
Harder Than the Olympics
We need a new conversation around sexuality in the church — one that doesn’t insist on the wait without the while. We need a conversation that acknowledges our sexuality along a continuum and prepares men and women of Christ to engage in their own sexual development, desire, and growth while they move throughout the seasons of life and relationship. It can’t be left at telling 15-year-olds to “just say no.” We need an open discussion around what it looks like to abstain at 33 when marriage is nowhere on the horizon or at 27 when engaged and just days from saying I do.
That’s why it’s helpful to have a new wave of Christians coming forward to reengage the public on the topics of sexuality and faith. This past May, when 29-year-old Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones talked about the difficulty of being a virgin into her late twenties, saying it was the hardest thing she’s ever done in her life — “harder than training for the Olympics” — we could almost hear the shouts of “could the Church get an Amen!” (See the video below.)
Jones’ acknowledgment of the tension of feeling sexual desire while also affirming a commitment to abstinence revealed an important dynamic in the vow of purity: it’s not easy. There will be temptation and desire while waiting. But as believers, we endure the struggle because we know that the testing of our faith always produces perseverance leading to godly character and a hope for the future (James 1:3, Romans 5:4).
Good Enough to Wait For
On the flipside, there can be joyful anticipation while waiting. One of the best examples in recent years of this is bombshell actress Meagan Good, who has long since been a movie vixen playing sexy roles in Jumping the Broom and most recently Think Like A Man. This spring Good, a Christian, publicly shared her commitment to abstain from sex until she wed her Seventh Day Adventist pastor and film executive husband DeVon Franklin. Despite her commitment, for the past year she has been able to exude sex appeal onscreen. Chastity doesn’t have to mean wearing a habit and ignoring our sexual identity. Though we exercise self-control, as responsible adults we are free to tap into our sexuality, own our appeal, and recognize our desire. Good’s story shows us that true love doesn’t wait; it develops.
Christian adults must carry on the conversation of abstinence to the next phase. It’s not just a youth issue. If we could more openly discuss the tingling we feel, the occasional knockout attraction we have to the opposite sex or the times where our sex drives lull, I believe we might find that we’re able to maintain purity much later into adulthood. Because when we don’t talk about it, we allow the normal ebb and flow of sexual desire to become associated with shame and guilt over what we’re experiencing. And since the desire won’t go away, we’re forced to relieve the shame by separating our morality from our behavior.
We’ve got to get talking and see ourselves afresh as sexual beings, moving gradually and prayerfully through stages of sexual expression until marriage where it’s fulfilled. Because “not yet” is much easier to digest than “no.” Our sexuality, today, is an integral part of who God has created us to be, and like all things must be celebrated while also put in submission to Christ.