Thursday, December 14, 2006

I don't mean to bug you . . .

I received the following email today in response to one of yesterday's posts and the spoof ad "Reality for Men."

I've been thinking about this since yesterday, and I've decided I have to say something. I was completely offended by Wednesday's Blog. With all the junk on the internet, a person should feel safe reading their pastor's blog. Instead I found a very suggestive, inappropriate picture of a nearly naked man. I can't help wondering how a father of a teenage girl would feel if she logged on and saw that picture. I understand the joke, and it may be innocent fun for a bunch of guys, but I'm sure I'm not the only woman offended by this. My real concern is that your blog represents Grace Church and, worse, the Christian community. I'm not in general upset with you, but this act of poor judgment troubles me.

Here's my response. . .
Thanks, _______. I appreciate your perspective and your honesty and boldness in sharing it. I sure didn't intend to cause offense and didn't think I would since stuff like this has become so common place in the great majority of magazines. I had no idea that that picture of a pot belly and hairy chest would be suggestive to some. To me, honestly, it was pretty gross. I think the spoof was intended to make us evaluate how some body images are more acceptable and esteemed than others in our culture, but in reality most of us have bodies that are more akin to this picture. It sure made me think and laugh.

I have taken the initiative of cropping the picture a bit to avoid further
offense. I also will post your feelings and comments on the blog. . . with your name left off course, just to encourage some more dialogue.

I in no way want to be offensive at Life Together, but I do think that the medium affords the opportunity to deal with some issues that might not be appropriate in a Sunday morning worship setting. After all, we live in a real world and are confronted by it on a daily basis. Let's think about and confront it from a Biblical perspective. Let's be real Christians in a real world living together and different.

I hope that's helpful. Thanks for reading and thinking along.
Because of and for the Gospel. . . Pastor Tim

So, I'd like some more feedback. Did you think that silly picture was "suggestive"? Were others offended? Did you think that was "over the line"? If so, is the cropped picture (I trimmed a little on the bottom) still offensive? If its still offensive to you, how high up would I have to crop for it to become inoffensive?


(Bonus points if someone can tell me where the title of this post comes from . . . )

37 comments:

Brian Wong said...

Well, suffice it to say I was a bit surprised that you posted that picture up. It didn't bother me personally. I see a man's chest (albeit much less hairy) every time I shower. But I did think it was a little on the risque side.

I'm not sure that the question of "the line" is actually relevant. I forgot which Christian author it was, but I think it was Joshua Harris who wrote something to the effect that purity isn't about seeing how far we can go before we cross the line. It's about walking in the direction of purity.

So ultimately, was I offended? No. Am I surprised that others were? Not in the least.

GDL Wong said...

Personally, I can understand maybe the 'jarring' effect of the picture - suggestive? I would venture to say no. It's the same effect when I see an overweight, fifty-something year old woman slinking into a college student running outfit. GROSS.

I was amused by it. Is the pic tasteful? Not at all. That's the irony and point.

I think a more worthy consideration is the subject of transparency and reality about the world we live in. Do we not also give latitude for reality? I'm sure there would be people offended if a pastor openly cried at the pulpit and said, "I"m sorry, I'm so discouraged, I don't want to be here."

That happened with Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and he was being REAL, HONEST, and CONFRONTING reality. What happened after that? The spirit of humility and brokeness convicted an usher - who that very morning confessed he was stealing from the treasury. It was said after that day, the church of 20 was never the same.

How is the church doing? Just fine. 10,000+ in attendance.

I've also have learned, if at times we're so careful to live by the personal perspective of 'correctness' we tend to live 'safe, neat Christian lives'.

We all should learn that the Father's love is complete enough that we can walk by faith to fail. Perfect love casts out fear.

Missy Grant said...

Hi Tim - OK....you asked. I was also offended by both pics, actually. I would also agree with what you printed from an earlier email response which is now posted on your blog. What is the point? I've heard it taught this way, "..if you are a serious God-seeking believer who loves to laugh then you need to forsake the off-color humor and embrace merely the stupid humor." This was potty humor.

My challenge to you as a friend and my pastor is to make this blog different from anything else. I don't need to read in a blog which represents our church, our community and you what I can see in any trash mag from the market. Which also have written articles on advertising and marketing. I serisouly don't think you would put a picture of a woman, girl or child partially clothed or nude on your blog. The standard doesn't change just because it was a man (which can be said for the urinal pic as well).

I don't think this is about engaging in the world or living a closed protected christian life (all due respect to you Gordon). While I agree with where you headed in this most recent post on body image and what advertising has to do with that topic. What does that have to do with feeling contentment. I feel like as a blog reader we have drifted far away in these last few posts from what your sermon point was.

How about a dialogue on the history of advertising and comparing that to the gospel message. Or if one really wants to stir the pot lets have a dialogue on churches which are using marketing techniques for outreach and inreach.

I love your teaching, your ability to get me to think, your weekly challenges and your Humor! But modesty and appropriateness in our society is a huge challenge with all our children. I know you are thinking, hey Missy, that is my point. I don't think so. I think this was just bad humor.

Challenge us on the word, challenge us to be engaged but not live a worldy life, challenge us to be different. As the saying goes, "In order for us to make a difference, we must be different."

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Missy, for posting this. I agree.

--from the one whose email is quoted.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Missy, you hit it right on!

Pastor Tim Theule said...

Now we're thinking and discussing. That's a good thing. I think disagreeing agreeably is a very healthy exercise. I've at least engaged a few of you.

I'll let it lie until after the weekend to leave room for a few more perspectives, but I do have a few more thoughts to share.

Isn't it hard to share your mind and heart. I bet there's a whole bunch more folks out there that have thoughts, on one side or the other who are too timid to share. Now you know what I feel like everytime I preach and every time I post...

BTW, if posting anonymously on this issue is safer, that's fine by me. I'd rather hear the range of opinions, than not.

Have a great weekend everybody. See you on Sunday!

Brianna Heldt said...

So I'll chime in and say I was not personally offended. That guy is just plain nasty (and therefore made me laugh), plus I think it does raise a good point about body image in our society. I CAN totally see where some might be bothered/offended by it, or upset to see it on a pastor's blog (those are probably two different issues).

As an aside I like the fact that this blog isn't too "sterile", or just about church-specific business, because really isn't everything we do in day to day life part of our Christian experience. I do believe we're bombarded all the time with images and things that aren't right for us to be looking at/watching (one reason the Heldts don't have cable TV.) The Bible says to flee sexual temptation. But if anything this picture just made me want to flee in general! :)

Jeannett Gibson said...

While I can see how someone would be offended, I also think that they're maybe being a little sensitive. I actually laughed out loud when someone said that the photo was suggestive...I must admit that the LAST thing I thought of when I saw the picture was anything inappropriate!

On a more serious note, I think that the post, while maybe not as safe as bunnies and unicorns, wasn't anything that I would suggest be taken off the site. I too,like that the blog gets us talking and debating and that it isn't sterile. That's not to say that I want it to be this crazy website with all sorts of awfulness, but I think that you can still be a christian and laugh.

Anonymous said...

Since Tim decided to post my email, I decided to post part of the email I sent him in response to his response (and thanks, Tim, for cropping the picture--I appreciate it):

"Tim, let me say that I do appreciate you as my pastor and don't want to disrespect you. I know you didn't intend to offend, but perhaps the fact that you didn't find it offensive is what worries me. And about your light-hearted question at the end of your new post, 'how high up would I have to crop for it to become inoffensive'... isn't that kind of like asking, 'how far can I push the boundaries before it's sin?'

Yes, it's fun to have a blog and discuss 'real' things. I want to be a 'real' Christian in a 'real' world. My problem is with the fact that you thought this picture was okay for your blog. Would you think it's okay to display this picture in front of the congregation on a Sunday morning?

And this is not about whether or not a hairy pot belly is attractive or 'suggestive to some'. I meant 'suggestive' to mean 'there's a naked body behind this picture'. Would you put the same picture up if it was of a female (forget the naked chest--I'm talking about how low the picture went)? Absolutely not. I don't care if it's an ugly man; it's a naked body. And I really don't care if 'stuff like this has become so common place in the great majority of magazines'. Since when are we 'of the world'? Just because it's common place doesn't mean it's okay. I get what the spoof intended. But that doesn't make the picture okay. To make matters worse, you posted a link to other spuff ads with even more racy pictures. Did you look at the site? There's a naked woman. This reminds me of pastors who reference examples from R-rate movies in their sermons. People hear their pastor reference it and then go see the movie."

Final thoughts: What's wrong with striving to be a little purer? What happened to trying to be Christ like? What about not temping a weaker brother? What about just plain being above reproach?

Andy Gibson said...

Honestly, I find it troubling that somebody would get that offended and find it suggestive. It irks me to no end, actually. It could show how members of the family are separated from reality, or trying to insulate from it too much; reality of which wrong or right or pure or unpure, we have no choice but to be a part of. We individually have to teach our families to insulate the bad (which is determined by each family or person, at their own discretion and opinion).

Why do you (not directed at anyone, but all) think your definition of suggestive or racy is better than Tim’s…or mine, and vice versa. It seems that some of the problem is why Tim thinks that the picture is okay for the blog. Well, ok, what makes you think that it isn’t? Which opinion reigns supreme? IMOP, if that picture is suggestive, than every time I walk out my front door I am suggestive, and I’m even suggestive at church; there is my naked body underneath my underwear and undershirt. Come on’, seriously.

Actually, I could be a pretty good fill in for that guy on the poster. I kinda have the belly, just not the hair!

It is the world we live in, and while as Christians, we should be different by striving for Christ, but we also have to be aware of the world we are in, and not be afraid or be offended by every little thing we see that we don’t necessarily agree with it. In my opinion, it is bad for Christianity and is part of what can give us a bad name.

I think the picture has lost something now. Before, you could get that it was a total spoof because of the Calvin Klein name at the bottom...it was an advertisement spoof. Now it is just a picture, and you lost the tie to it being an advertisement spoof. So honestly, just delete the flippin’ thing now, as it has lost it’s point.

IMOP, no harm was done, period. I don't want to see Grace turn into the ACLU here, lets loosen up a bit.

Maybe I’m being a little rough, I’m trying not to be, but I don’t know how to react to this whole thing and I know I’m in the minority, so flame away.…I’m WAY more worried about the reaction than some hairy guy on an advertisement SPOOF that has obviously had too many Sam Adams lately.

But it is nice to see people commenting. I know you’re all out there reading….

Colin Lewis said...

Tim,

Count me on the non-offended side. When I posed for that photo, I never thought it would make it to your blog...

We are shocked by the "Reality" man, and that should makes us wonder why we aren't so disturbed by the "Fantasy" man that is used to sell Eternity. The picture does a great job of waking us up to how much of this culture we just accept without much thought.

Advertising often uses gratuitous images (sex or violence or silliness) to get our attention, and to play upon our lusts, fears or desires. Including this particular image in the blog was not gratuitous, it illustrated the point.

Now, I do want to say that I am glad Anonymous spoke up. I think that cropping the photo was an appropriate compromise. I hope that she will bear with you and the quality of your judgment. And of course, we must bear with those who judge any particular topic differently than we do.

I think if we have different views on the issue but our love for each other remains intact, we are on the right track.

Oh, and for the bonus points, the title of the post comes from another preacher bringing up an unpleasant, potentially offensive topic. He had the gall to bring up politics and human rights at a rock-n-roll show. Bono has offended a few people in his day for his style of Christianity, but it sure seems to be from the heart.

"OK Edge, play the blues."

Anonymous said...

OK...I wasn't going to recomment, but I just couldn't let this go. I too am glad to see some of you speaking up. We know you are out there...

To add to my ealier response...please don't categorize me thoughts and responses as not living in this world and not living in reality or equating my Christian beliefs to the ACLU. Sorry Andy, but I think it is a little short sided to just say get over it...we all or naked under our clothes...we all have hair etc... That isn't what this is about. If it was then we wouldn't be reading the responses that have been posted.

The reason for my offense at the picture is because it is at someone elses expense. The same way teasing is always at someone elses expense. It has nothing to do with the nudity of the pic. How do you think a man who might have body image issues, who might be as hairy as this gentleman, who might sit in our congregation would feel about the pic and the comments some of you have written which in a sentence or two were fairly cutting. Lets not say, get over it. It is just advertising. That is what the problem is. People don't want to take a stand against this type of stuff. Christian and non-Christian alike.

Trust me when I say I am not a prude, or stuffy or any other deeply conservative closed off title. Have you ever been to my house? I have a hard time keeping clothes on any of my kids! If they had their way they would be naked most of the time.

You are right in that I did question Tim's judgement. I didn't say that my opinion was better or higher than his. I just feel he could have used a different picture to get the same thought across.

And interesting enough those that disagreed with those of us who might have taken some offense don't seem want to respond to the question, if it was a picture of a woman or child how would you have responded? Now, you all know Tim never, ever would have done that. That being the case, what makes the use of this picture OK?

Missy Grant said...

Hey sorry my name didn't appear on my last posting comment. I thought I had typed it in. It is the comment that starts with "OK...I wasn't going to..."

Anonymous said...

We are to be in the world but not of it. Andy, I think your being a little harsh, what about the weaker brother? And isn't flippin' a replacement word?

Jeannett Gibson said...

I will answer for Andy (he’s still in bed)…yes, flippin’ is a replacement word…just as stinkin’ would be, or any other adjective we use to avoid using the F word. Just like we ALL say “Oh My Gosh” instead of using the Lord’s name in vain. But let’s not get side tracked here.

I will go ahead and answer the man vs. woman thing. Why would I be offended had that been a naked female model and not just a man’s hairy chest? Because that’s our culture/society. And I don’t mean that in a “our crazy culture that is so out of hand, we need to just accept it and move on”…I mean, that is how we all look at things because of the world we live in. Look, I’ll use Tim as an example. At the church campout, Tim didn’t have a shirt on while boating. Neither did Andy or David Grant or Wayne Lyons or most of the men on the trip. Was anyone offended and covering their child’s eyes? No. I, on the other hand, had a shirt on. As did every other woman on the trip. Double standard? Absolutely. Why or why not is a whole other topic that I don’t feel the need to engage in. But you all know exactly what I’m talking about. Tim was in the dunk tank at one of the Fall Kick Off’s and used the slip and slide. Most parents happily snapped pictures of our silly pastor really getting into the fun. I doubt that anyone was offended by his shirtlessness. And if they did, I would be appalled. But maybe if he weighed 50 more pounds and had a coat of hair, it would be different? Hmmm…

If Tim had posted a picture of a topless African tribeswoman while discussing missionary work to the far reaches of the globe, I doubt you would be offended either. If he posted a picture of a playboy playmate, we would all be offended. It’s called CONTEXT. And just as we get frustrated by non-Christians who take parts of the Bible, which are admittedly violent, or even lustful (Song of Songs anyone?) out of context, we are doing it now to Tim. Once you put the wars and sacrifices and Bathshebas of the Old Testament in context of the entire Bible, they make sense and they work. Tim’s context was trying to take this blog to the lighter side and look at advertising techniques. It WASN’T a Victoria’s Secret model or child pornography, let’s not act like it was. As I think is evident, Tim had no intention of being offensive or inappropriate. Give the man a flippin’ break.

And Tim, maybe you should just go back to some of the heavier topics again. Maybe we should be discussing AIDS in Africa? Although, sadly, I doubt it will ever hit 15+ comments on the blog. And to me, that’s the most telling thing of all…

Joe Pollon said...

I have a few points:

1) With all there is to cry, worry and complain about, I appreciate a good laugh. And I think this was a good laugh. It made a point worth making-maybe even a biblical one. The man in the picture could easily be joyfully celebrating the gifts he has and turning away from the pre-Christian, Greek obsession with the physical. G-d loves me, hair and all. This man is much more our brother than the model who entices us to be like him if we just purchase the right products.

2) Appropriate or not, a sermon or blog that doesn't push us a little further to wrestle with ourselves and clarify where we stand is a sermon or blog not worth our time.

3) Anonymous mustered up the courage to directly and non-anonymously hold her pastor accountable. That should be applauded. In addition, so should Tim for being open and vulnerable enough to invite criticism. That said, an apology may be owed to anonymous if she didn't first give permission to use her comments on the blog. Speaking from experience, getting slammed,even anonymously, on the blog is an unpleasant experience. Sorry Tim.

Anonymous said...

Offended is not the right word. I was disappointed in a way, both of the picture and your response to the person. I'm a girl and I struggle with lust. I want to live up to God’s command to show "not even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 5:3) and in this culture it is so hard. I read your blog because typically it is different from the world. A safe place I can let my eyes go to.

To be honest, if something "might not be appropriate in a Sunday morning worship setting," then maybe that is a sign to your conscience that it really isn't appropriate anywhere. You are our shepard, one who should always try to guards our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. I think you have been doing a pretty good job so far.

The picture was gross and unattractive, no doubt. But, it was still a naked man. A cropped picture of woman’s bare stomach (even if its slightly unattractive) would not be appropriate because it would bring to mind the rest of the picture. Just because we are "confronted by it on a daily basis" doesn't mean we have to live as the world does. We should be striving to rid ourselves of every sin and protecting others from sin as well... asking not where the line is and how close we can get, but to see the line and run from it towards holiness. That doesn’t mean those striving for purity are uptight or can’t laugh at things. But, sexual sin is serious to Him, right? So, why take this so lightly? Why do you really need to have that picture on your blog?

Pastor Tim, I encourage you (and your blog) to be different from the world.

Andy Gibson said...

Thanks, Missy, for clarifying your post.

And again, I'm loving the dialogue. However, I think we are going to be running in circles, but I have some parting thoughts.

The man WAS NOT naked in the photo. He may have been naked when they took it, but IMOP, it was no worse, like Jeannett said, then my large butt sitting on Tim's boat.

I second Jeannett's thoughts on the Double Standard. I was thinking double standard before I had even read her post in response to Missy's comments, I think. Tim is wise to not post an "equal" woman, say with a sports bra on, because he would get RAILED, because of our culture's double standard. Shows how badly we are of the world, no matter how hard we strive to be of it.

Jeannett also makes a good point that if we talked about AIDs in Africa on the blog it would go with 1 or 2 comments. It is almost kinda embarassing and selfish that everytime there is an inconsequential blog topic, the blog flames up. Food for thought. I'm guilty too sometimes.

Anon, I understand that you may struggle with this in particular, and I do thank you for speaking up, because some dialogue is better than none, of course. The blog is a different medium than Sunday worship, and Tim is using it for the purpose of which it was designed for. It give us the capability to discuss politics, religion, music, culture, etc. Things that we can't do on Sunday morning. I don't want to see the blog turn into Sunday worship redux.

Husband of original offendee said...

As husband of the original offendee, I think it’s time I threw in my two cents.

First, let me say that I love each and every one of you as brothers and sisters in Christ. We may not agree on this topic, but we’re still family, so please don’t take anything I say too harsh or personally. (After all, we do have to spend eternity together.) J

To Tim, let me say that I think you are a wonderful pastor and Godly man. I think you made one small lapse in judgment, but please don’t think that it has affected my overall view of you as a good shepherd who is trying to lead his flock closer to God. I appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there through this blog and to allow yourself to be examined under a microscope.

Speaking of microscopes, I have to point out one thing before I really begin. In the original post, Tim copied my wife’s email and asked if anybody thought the “silly” picture was suggestive. It took me about 5 minutes after being married to learn that you should never ever refer to a women’s point of view as “silly”. I know it’s a bit overcritical, but I think it showed a lack of understanding of the real issue and it did absolutely nothing to pacify my already upset wife.

Now, on to the “real” issue. So much has been said regarding this that I can’t even begin to summarize and refute every point that I disagree with, so I’ll stick to the big ones. In her last post, Jeannett pointed out the fact that men are seen all the time without their shirts on and that the real issue here is CONTEXT. I agree with her in theory, but I would like to remind everybody that the original photo showed about 3-4 inches below the waste including the hip bones. People may not have thought twice about seeing Tim and others shirtless at the Fall Kick-off, but he didn’t have this trucks pulled way down. I can guarantee you that if he had, there would have been LOTS of phone calls.

Another point made, in one form or another, is that this blog is meant to push the limits a bit past where we can go on Sunday morning. I agree that this blog should venture past what is appropriate for Sunday morning in format, but not in content. Sunday is designed as a day of teaching, and by it’s size and setup it doesn’t allow for dialog and feedback. However, I would strongly disagree that a different moral compass should be used when determining content for this blog. As my wife mentioned, this blog should be a place where we can go and our children can go, without my even having to question the content. I already have to screen enough media without needing to screen my pastor’s blog. If Tim wanted to have a good discussion on porn and it’s effects, he could do so without posting any pictures (and I can guarantee you that he wouldn’t post any). I believe the same holds true in this case and that the picture posted was unnecessary to make his point (not to mention the link which took readers to a website with pictures much more inappropriate). Call me hyper-critical, overly-conservative or just plain “out of it”, but those are all labels that I wear proudly.

Now, on to what I see as the real issue. This may seem to be a divergent topic, but I believe it is, at it’s core, the same. Of all the things stated to date, the one that really gets me fired up was the statement Tim made in reply to my wife’s email. To quote, “I sure didn't intend to cause offense and didn't think I would since stuff like this has become so common place in the great majority of magazines.” No disrespect intended, but when did we start using society as a compass when making moral decisions? I wouldn’t cease to take offense at any given picture just because it’s plastered on every billboard, magazine and TV in America. I am being torn down on every side by society, and it is HARD to make a stand. I feel like a rock on the seashore that is getting pounded over and over with wave after wave after wave. What kills my spirit is the fact that out of every 100 battles, I may win maybe one or two. I feel despair, and I want to throw up my arms and say, “Who cares?” My flesh is telling me that I can’t run from the media and it’s influence, so I might as well accept it and stop fretting over it. I feel like all I ever do is find a new spot a little further up the shore where the waves don’t pound me so hard. But eventually, the waves come back. I feel like all I’m ever doing is retreating and surviving, never fighting. I’m sick of running, and I’m sick of compromising. I see the church (at large) making compromise after compromise and, given enough time, coming around to the world’s point of view. I have become so desensitized to the world and it’s influence that it took me a few days before I could even comprehend why my wife was so offended by such a seemingly commonplace photo. I look at where our country and society is going and I can’t help but wonder what will the church accept as “commonplace” in 10 or 20 years. Will we come to accept sex outside marriage as a “minor” issue? Will we finally give up the fight against homosexuality when 75% of the population agrees with it? Will we figure that abortion is a necessary evil to fight overpopulation? I can guarantee that every one of you is answering no to these questions, but it’s a slippery slope. I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes at me, but the path between now and that future isn’t a few bad decisions or laws; it’s about 1 million tiny little compromises that keep us retreating.

So in response to Andy’s comment that we should be spending our time discussing more important matters like AIDS in Africa, I would assert that there is no more important issue than this one. Where is the line between desensitization and modernization? Are we just coming around to the times, or are we compromising to the world’s standards? 200ish years ago women wore long dresses and were incredibly modest. 100ish years ago the church abhorred the thought of birth control. I will grant you that the church is behind society, but we always seem to catch up. That is what scares me because I know where society is going, and I fear that the church will continue in her patterns. I find it funny that we seem to be comforted by the fact that we’re slightly off from the world. We love to highlight and point to the 1% that’s different between us and the world, but seem to forget the 99% that we’ve compromised. I’m not suggesting that we go back in time. We’ve made a LOT of positive improvements over time and all change is certainly not bad. However, I’m convinced that unless I’m viewed as an absolute crazy conservative by the world and sadly, most of the church, then I’ve compromised too much.

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll put my soapbox back under the bed and try to stay off it for a while. Until next time…

lover of grace said...

thats it.....i'm leaving the church!











just kidding!

no wait a minute i think i will...hmmm!

na, I think I'll just love others with my heart, think with my brain and enjoy Jesus.

-lover of grace

Andy Gibson said...

Well, my comment about other topics was taken out of context, I meant it as specific to this blog, that there are so many topics on here that go without comments. And yes, husband, we have proven that this one is important, but past precident has suggested that others aren't. It's a fact that us life bloggers can't really argue with because Tim has his archives right to the right.

Regardless, my point is I respect and cherish your and your wife's opinion even though I do not agree. But if we agreed, what would there to blog about and argue about. The world would be lame. Dissenting opinions are what lead to better solutions.

Anyways, I officially stick a fork in this one. It's cooked and done.

Lara Laity said...

Sorry Andy, but I have one last thing to say since I just read this today.
I think on this issue preference should be given to the women that find this suggestive. Of course you men do not find a these pictures suggestive! Just as young women often don't realize they are being suggestive by wearing tiny tank-tops.
To the men who don't realize, the pose itself IS suggestive. The hairy chest is not attractive to many younger women, but if I am correct, hairy chests were all the rage in the 70's. So I agree with anonymous. You should be sensitive to what might make a woman stumble, just as you would be sensitive to what might make a man stumble.
-Lara
P.S. I HATE Victoria Secret commericials and I hope to do something about someday.

Andy Gibson said...

I forgive you lara, since you live 2,000+ miles away.

I commend you if you read through all 21 comments, probably 5 of which could have been dissertations.

Jeannett Gibson said...

So THAT's what was wrong in the 70's!

Raskell Party of 8 said...

So, I have to say it is disheartening to finally catch up to blogs that I follow to find this conversation. I agree with husband and missy - since when did the world desensitize us so much is ok to post ANY nakedness on an obviously Christian site. When did it become ok to purposely throw out something that may cause "discussion"? That is our way of saying "OK, Satan, come on in. Our minds our open for you to plant doubt seeds." We are to holy and set-apart from the world. How does posting any picture of nakedness make anyone holy, or become holy itself? I am not a lustful woman but I have to say, I don't even like men walking around without shirts on. As Christians, we are to build each other up do and I don't see how the earlier post did.

I do understand the topic of advertising. You could have had the same discussion without the photos. I am married to a fantastic, wonderful, loving, beautiful and godly man. He is similiar to the man that was innappropriately posted on this blog. I also have a weight problem due to health issues. I find it completely unchristian-like to hear people say that the man or even a "fat naked woman" would be GROSS. Since when did children of God become GROSS? How does that build one another up in Christ?

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Col 3:1-4

So, I ask, how is this glorifying God just as Paul commands us to do? Why did Christ die? For this picture to be posted on a blog? Do you think He looked at it and laughed at the expense of others who are self-concious about it? As a pastor, you are to build the congregation up in teaching, love and support. I don't find this as a tool to help.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified th sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Gal 5:22-26

All I see is a lot of hurt feelings and unfortunate justification and diminishing of these hurt feelings. Yet, I have not seen ONE apology from the pastor for his inappropriate posting. Even if one, just one person is offended you should seek forgiveness - Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matthew 18:21-22 Instead, the topic was open for "discussion". Isn't this provoking. I find this topic only producing bad fruit and not the the fruits of the Spirit. I am saddened for the beliefs of Christians that this is ok. How does it make me feel that my husband and I are GROSS? Yet, we are to believe we are beautiful?

I apologize if I have offended anyone by my response. I write this out of love for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I only want the love of Christ to be built up for those who don't know.

Thank you for listening to my post. I apologize if there are any misspelled words.

Pastor Tim Theule said...

Happy Monday, brothers and sisters in Christ! Two posts back, I asked for your perspectives and you sure shared them. Thank you all very much, for sharing your minds and hearts on this relevant issue. While vulnerable, scary and potentially divisive, I do believe in the concept of passionate dialogue and principled debate. For the most part, I think that is what we’ve experienced around this issue. Nothing got out too out of control or too personal. I trust our relationships and fellowship are intact.

I am resigned to the fact, that my calling in life as a pastor involves lots and lots of communication. I honestly get very tired of hearing my self talk. (If you do, too . . . just keep that fact to yourself please.) I have made matters worse by starting and maintaining a blog. (What was I thinking?!) As I preach and post regularly, I have resigned myself to the fact that it is inevitable that I will, at times, offend, upset, and/or disappoint some (many?) people. Its not my goal and I sure try to avoid it, but its reality. Pastors need to have tough skin, but a tender heart. I try to maintain both.

Sometimes I know when I’m about to step in a hole, and I pridefully choose to step into it anyway. Not in this case. When I posted the original post, I honestly did not recognize it as a hole, but now that I’ve fallen in neck-deep, let me humbly share some final thoughts. I hesitate to do so, because I have little confidence that I can sway, convince or comfort some of you, but I promised some additional thoughts, so here goes . . .

Let me begin with some apologies:

First, to Original Anon: I’m sorry for posting your email to me without asking you first. I regret doing that. I missed a step in asking if I might post your comments. I wish I would have done that. I understand now there was a reason you emailed me privately instead of leaving a comment. I’m publicly asking for your forgiveness. Will you forgive me?

Second, to any others out there for whom the original or cropped ad might have been a cause of stumbling or a cause for sexual temptation: Please forgive me. I had no clue that the photo held that kind of potential for you or anyone. I have come to believe that men and women are wired and aroused very differently. . . men are aroused by the visual while women are not aroused visually, but in other ways (words, touch, romantic niceties). While perhaps this is true generally, your sharing has convinced me that perhaps this not true across the board. Will you please forgive me?

Please hold on to my apology as you read all that’s written below. It in no way negates the apology above . . .

Why does "life together" exist?

The stated purpose of “Life Together” is up top on the masthead. . . “to explore, contemplate and pursue life together at Grace Church, SLO.” In other words, my aim with the blog is, in some small way, to facilitate our Christian community. I believe this involves, among other things, exploring the ties that bind us in Christ; our place IN the world but not OF the world; and how the Gospel applies to every area and sphere of our lives and the whole universe. I believe these ends require us to think long, hard, critically and Biblically about the cultural context we live in and challenge that culture where appropriate.

I believe that humor and even satire can be a means by which that critical thinking happens. (Anybody familiar with the Christian publication The Wittenburg Door?) In addition, I believe its true that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and that images sometimes have the power to expose lies and convey truth. Furthermore, I believe that laughing is a part of “life together.” Frankly, I need to do a lot more laughing in my life.

I think all that has happened over this post fits well into the stated purpose of "life together."

What was the point of the post?

A few commenters asked, “What was the point of the original image and post?” Stated above. The series of advertising posts was intended to be an exercise in critical and Gospel thinking.

In my message on December 10, I talked about how the prevalence and sheer volume of modern advertising plays upon and fuels our natural discontentment. I thought it would be valuable to pursue that rabbit trail a bit here at “life together.” I believe, with all due respect to some, that the exercise had everything to do with the Gospel, contentment in Christ, and the original sermon.

The post in question referenced a website aimed at challenging modern advertising which was also my original intent in the series of posts. I clicked over and looked at a few things on the site, but not a lot. Nothing struck me as offensive, inappropriate or impure. In fact, much of it struck me as very insightful and quite funny, including the pictures I posted.

The first spoof was chosen because it built upon my grocery store example in the sermon and humorously showed where things might go next. Potty humor, to me, has no point. That spoof made a poignant and funny point. . . . to me and a few others. Apparently a few, did not find it funny, but offensive.

The second spoof was chosen, as I have stated, because I thought it insightfully exposed the modern infatuation with the physical and our valuing of some body types over others. While that spoof may have unintentionally caused the stumbling of a few, I think we can agree that was not the original intent of the spoof (or my posting it!) Nor, in my opinion, was the original intent of the spoof to insult men who have shapes or hair like that. The original intent of the spoof (and my posting it!) was to lightheartedly challenge the lies of modern advertising and our cultural values of body image. The image and my posting was meant to be funny. Its obvious that it wasn’t to some, but it was meant to be and it was to me and others.

(Incidentally, my use of the word “silly” was not in reference to Original Anon’s point of view, as Husband asserted, but in reference to the picture itself. The picture, I believe, was intended to be silly, as in humourus . . . . not provocative or offensive.)

What about the weaker brother or sister?

So we've recognized (I, the hard way!) that some of us think that picture is offensive, while others don’t.

That’s the rub, is it not? We all have different sensibilities in these matters. Depending on our backgrounds, experience, personalities and make-up, what’s appropriate to some is inappropriate to others. What offends me, doesn't necessarily offend you. What makes one struggle, isn’t a problem at all for someone else. What’s sin for one is not sin for another. We see this in the area of language, social drinking, movies, music, financial stewardship, etc, etc, etc. I would call these many areas, “matters of conscience.”

In both Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, 10:23-32 where these “matters of conscience” are addressed, Paul seems to argue for three guiding principles:

1. Our Freedom in Christ. It is broad and sweet.
2. Our Acceptance of One Another. We are not to judge, but leave the judging to God. We are to respect one another's differing convictions.
3. Our Concern for the Weaker Brother/Sister. We are to curb our freedom for their good.


The weaker brother, as I understand the text, is the less mature Christian who has not fully come to know and understand our freedom in Christ. Their conscience is bound, not because of some direct command of Scripture, but because of some background experience or other reason. Having said that I think its possible for mature believers to differ on matters of conscience.

When we are in the presence of a weaker brother and we know it, we are to limit our freedom in Christ in order to keep them from stumbling. When we are in the presence of mature believers, we are free.

Its hard to hold the three principles together. I think we must stridently argue for and teach our freedom in Christ because legalism is a threat to and contrary to the Gospel of grace. This is the point of Galatians and Colossians 3:16-23. Mature believers are to give one another great latitude in matters of conscience for this is mark of Christian maturity. Mature believers are to willingly and eagerly give up their freedoms while in the presence of less mature believers who we know struggle with particular areas. At the same time, without flaunting or abusing their freedoms, the more mature are to gently instruct the less mature in the principles of Christian liberty.

Its easy to fall into license. Its safe to run to legalism. Paul challenges legalists, but cares for weaker brothers. It’s a constant battle to hold the three principles together: freedom, acceptance, concern for the weaker brother.

Not only that, sometimes its difficult to tell the difference between a legalist and a weaker brother. Sometimes its difficult to know when a weaker brother is present or where a weaker brother might struggle. This is the case in the present situation. I honestly was not aware that the original photo was something that might cause offense or stumbling to some. (see Second Apology above) I don’t think that was poor judgment, but ignorance on my part. Call it poor judgment if you prefer.

However, when Original Anon, brought that to my attention, I cropped the photo, but I was curious and wanted to explore this some, which is why I posted her email to me and invited more dialogue.

In the course of events, I think I’ve smelled a bit of legalism among us; some mature believers with differing convictions; and also the presence of weaker brothers and sisters among us. Its been a terrific learning process. Hopefully valuable for us all. I remain steadfastly committed to all three: 1. challenging legalism, 2. accepting those with differing convictions and 3. caring for the weaker brothers and sisters by limiting my own freedoms for their good. I believe that the Gospel demands all three.

In retrospect, had I recognized the potential for weaker sisters to stumble, I would have refrained the orignal spoof. I would have limited my freedom in this area.

My thoughts on a few other issues that were raised. . .

What about the kid readers?

Not only do we have different sensibilities in these matters of conscience, but we also have different parenting styles. I want “life together” to be something that all the generations at Grace feel safe to read. As I have stated, I did not find the spoofs posted offensive, but funny and instructive. . . for folks of all ages. (I have come to see otherwise!)

I’ve had great and open conversations with my computer savy-children about these spoofs and the storm raging at “life together.” We tend to be very open with our children because we’re committed to inoculating them against and preparing them for life in the real world. I want my children, too, to think long, hard, critically and Biblically about cultural matters of all sorts, so they might live the Gospel and impact the world. We, at the same time, endeavor to train our children the importance of modesty in dress and behavior.

What about the double standard?

If men and women are aroused differently, then there’s not a double standard, but a different standard for good and obvious reasons. If, however, as I’m hearing, bare-chested men are a real struggle for some women, then I better put a shirt on at the lake. Of course, a picture of a woman similarly clad and posed (and hairy?) woman would be inappropriate and offensive to all.

I have posted pictures of my partially naked sons in the tub here at "life together." I didn't think twice about that. You better let me know if that causes you to stumble.

What about offensive Biblical material?

I agree that there is much in the Bible that is offensive to at least someone. Christmas is the story of how God impregnated a young, poor, unwed peasant girl. That’s pretty offensive and scandalous! When Paul calls all his life before Christ “excrement” in Philippians 3:8, is he using potty humor or is he making a point? Jesus contemporaries were appalled by the people He hung out with, the places He went, the things He said, and what He did and didn’t do on the Sabbath. The concept of a dying Messiah was offensive to the Jews and foolishness to Greeks. Paul ate meat sacrificed to idols. Paul scrapped circumcision. Paul encouraged Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach. David danced before the Lord. Proverbs openly references female body parts. All these examples were/are offensive to someone or some culture at some time. (At least I’m in good company!)

I don’t think our goal is merely to not be offensive. Its much more ambitious than that. Our goal is to believe and embody and glory in the Gospel of God’s grace, which obviously involves a lifestyle of growing holiness and Christ-likeness.

What’s the difference between what’s appropriate in worship and what’s appropriate on a blog?

My own view is that the blog medium does allow for differences in format (dialogue, comments, referenced articles), but also in content. I agree that a different moral compass should not be used in the two mediums. I did not say that in my initial response. When we worship, our focus is far more narrow in scope. We come to God with song and prayers and offerings. God comes to us through Word and sacrament and our fellowship together. There’s a whole lot I talk and blog about in the whole sphere of life that I don’t talk about when I preach. For example, I would never show that “silly” (there’s that word again!) baptism video from the last post in church.

In Conclusion. . .

I think I’ll leave it at that. Once more, I apologize to those for whom recent posts were a cause for stumbling or sexual temptation.

I can say with confidence that "life together" will continue to be engaging, thought-provoking, occasionally offensive to some, Gospel-centered and messy. I will strive to keep it wholesome for readers of all ages.

Thanks for reading and thinking along. . . Pastor Tim

Oh yeah, Colin rocks for pegging that the "I don't mean to bug you . . . " is a Bono quote from Bullet the Blue Sky off the Rattle and Hum album.

real world said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian Wong said...

Is that sarcasm coming from "real world"? Or is that just plain offensive?

Andy Gibson said...

Wow, and I've been told I'm harsh on the blog. While harsh and possibly offensive, I think real world has a very good point reagarding the strict fundamentalism at the very least. Reading a post like raskels scares me to death because I think they are SO bad for Christianity. How do you expect to get new people in the church and convert them when your looking down on everybody as not as good or "pure" as you? Your opinion DOES NOT reign supreme.

And you look at a hairy chest and freak out? I could go on and on over and over again, but I rant. End rant, I ended this already, remember. Cooked and done.

real world said...

brian wong,
probably a dash of both!

Andy, i agree w/ you, their post scares me...that does not represent the real world Christianity I see in my Master.

I feel Tim was carefully trying to make a point.
I think we should listen to him and his words. He apologized for offensiveness, cropped the fat off the big hairy boy, and further tried to explain the purpose of his post as well as the larger scope of Life Together.

either we could heed it and move on or continue to talk about how fat men with hairy chests are a potential stumbling block for that .0001 percent of the female (or for that case, heaven forbide... male) population.

...remember, "just break the wrist and walk away!!"


-real world

Anonymous said...

To Real World
I try to stay off blog sites because of the opinions that are conveyed on them. However, after reading your response to raskell party of 8, I would like to ask you what kind of christian you claim to be? The response you wrote was attacking and malicious. Do you know anything about Raskell party of eight? Do you know that this person homeschools or pumps out kids and raises pit bulls? If not, then how can you be so judgmental? I read your response with a heavy heart because this is not the way christians are supposed to be. This kind of response and/or attitude is why I walked away from christianity for a long time. Raskell party of 8 is entitled to what may or may not offend, just as you are...what is offensive to one is not always offensive to another. In reading your response, I just keep wondering who you are to be judging others feelings, thoughts or reactions. I understand what was supposed to be humor, on the part of Pastor Tim, but I can't understand the attacking responses in response to someone who might find this offensive. I guess, though, this must be my ignorance due to the fact that I, too, live in the backward non-real life world of Spokane, as you so eloquently put it. I can tell you first hand how far off you are on your perception of who/what Raskell party of 8 truly is.
I apologize to you for this harsh reply, but it hurts when "Real Christians" are hurting other Christians when we should all be banding together for the real fight in this embattled world.
I seek your forgiveness for this response.

Joe Pollon said...

Real World,

Obviously you have some biases to reexamine. I don't know much about Spokane, but what resentments are you harboring about big families? And I can tell you there are several homeschoolers who have participated in this very conversation and their positions have been pretty equally divided.

One of the points of this particular discussion has been to apply a little critical thinking to the messages we are bombarded with. They feed our discontent and our biases. It seems you have bought into the mass media's characterization of those who choose to walk a different path with regards to education. I hope you will take some time to investigate yourself and reach an informed opinion.

dyezoo said...

Just a few comments from a first-time reader (what a doozy of an issue to come upon in this my first look at Pastor Tim's website)

1. Weaker Brother - I'm not sure it's valid to apply the weaker/stronger argument to issues of purity. In such matters the apostle Paul was unyielding. As an earlier post reminded us, Ephesians 5 says: "among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place..."

2. Holiness - Related to this is the issue of His holiness, relative to ours, and His command to "Be holy because I am holy," one of the Father's commands which is repeated in both the old and new covenants (e.g. Leviticus 11, and I Peter 1, among other places). Again, the New Testament writers and Christ Himself were unyielding here. They demand a standard of holiness humanly impossible to attain, yet commanded nonetheless. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord," He has rescued us from this body of death and made such holiness ours through His imputed righteousness. Yet He does not leave us alone to revel in our rescued state. He demands a very high standard of conduct.

3. Legalism - This modern day "Woe to you Pharisee!" epithet is a good one when used properly. But we have an even higher calling; and that is to bear fruits of the Spirit. Please, dearest brothers and sisters, be gentle. As the Raskell family urged us in recounting the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." And what does the Spirit require? That we "love one another deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Raskell Party of 8 said...

To those of you that feel my post was legalist, fundamentalist or scary I am sorry you feel that way. I live a life for Christ. I am a sinner - I am not even close to being pure. I never claimed I was. I expressed my heart feelings of the hurt that was caused to me by the posts on this blog. I was made to feel unworthy, unwanted and ugly. I believe Christ died for us and that He is the Son of the one and only Living God. I do not feel any of my views of God's word is wrong.

I debated on posting my blog link here for a few reasons. I honestly do not agree with a lot the views posted here. I also didn't want what happened with real world to happen. I did not come here to judge, but only to offer my opinion as Pastor Tim asked. If anyone felt I judged him or them, I apologize. I was trying to explain what I am called to believe from God. Who are any of you to judge my beliefs of our Lord?

To the real world - it is unfortunate that you wrote what you think you know about me (a person you don't even know) but then claim I am not talking about a "real word". If this world you talk about is full of hateful words as you were towards me, then no I do not want live within this "real world". So, to answer anyones questions about this "pure strict fundamentalist" this is who I am (which if you would have read my blog you would have known). I do not homeschool (although I wish I could!), but I work 40 hours a week, take care of my hubby and 6 kids (one is gone to the military). I have born no children - I have 4 adopted children and two stepsons. I used to be addicted to alcohol and partying, cigarettes and anything else bad for my body. I have been divorced. I live in the city and my dogs are a great dane and shepard/lab mix (no we don't breed them and I personally don't like pitbulls). I shop at Wal-mart and buy mostly generic brand items. I am convicted daily that my thoughts, my words and my actions are unchristian. I gossip (eventhough I try not to) and I hold on to anger and bitterness. My house is a mess, I never get anything done in the day, and I have numerous to do lists. Spokane is a beautiful area full of wonderful people. Oh, and we are working on our next adoption to make it a family of 9. We will continue to adopt as long as God calls us.

Eventhough I am a sinner (I woke up didn't I?) I rejoice in my salvation. I rejoice in the resurrection of our Savior. I love my life - all of it. I love who I am, my husband, my kids and where I live. I am filled with joy when I think of the blessings I have received in my life. Thankfully these joyous moments cover days like today where I feel things were turned upside down.

I was hurt greatly by yours and andy gibsons judgement and harsh words toward me. If I offended you, I apologize. I look forward to the day we meet in heaven where disagreements, hurt and bitterness are not going to be part of our lives.

With that, I will end this post. Once again, I am sorry if I offended anyone or caused anyone to stumble in their thoughts or actions.

Pastor Tim Theule said...

I have taken the unprecedented step of deleting "Real World's" first post above. Regular readers know that I have a pretty high tolerance for different viewpoints and do not like to moderate in most cases. However, in this case, I feel like "Real World" crossed an unspoken line of acceptable interaction here at "life together."

Andy Gibson said...

raskell, I have not seen your blog, nor can I find a link. Can you provide one?

I did not mean to judge you either, but I took offense to your post because it had a very "holier than thou" attitude, IMOP. I do still agree with the strict fundamentalism in my post, and it sill scares me, but that goes for about 20 of the 30 something posts here. I'm the one in the minority. Nor was my post directed at you, but those 20 posts. I possibly bit a little hard in my post either way and I apologize for that, but I did note that I only agree with the fundamentalism aspect, and that tone is present in my other posts as well. Don't toss me under the bus (or boat)...I wasn't going to touch real worlds other assumptions. Those seem to be the ones everybody is upset about.

bryan said...

I have read this post and its responses for a few days now. In general I like to just be a silent observer in these fields and drop a penny in the bucket when it's passed by.

so heres is my penny worth of thoughts.

-hearty dialouge should be good-
as often as these types of forums become filled with firm opinions they can equally be matched with strong emotions. These emotions can often leave some hurting and others haughty.
However, this is precisly why graceful words are appreciated and harsh words, resented.

I feel it's very important for us to allow someone elses brush to comb thru our logic/understanding...you never know there might be a bit of unseen bedhead.

-stereotyping is not good-
As was seen in a couple posts but in particular realworlds. Yet, lest we think its a harsh reality is a plague unique to our American culture alone we need to only remember that its twin brother is found in the bible. The 1st century Jews had stereotyped Samaritans. And in someways Jesus sought to unwravel that horrible knot in the parable, we call the "Good Samaritan" (i do not believe this was Jesus' main point however).
In short when we hear a word or a statement without hearing the fullness of that persons intenet or heart and we pre-judge on the basis of that limited information was are prone to stereotpe. Too, we can tend to think that our particular way of seeing things is the "correct" way. This however is not bad, afterall we heroize men like tyndale who "knew" he was right even if it meant his life. Yet, this 3 legged stool of dialouge, understanding and love come in handy whever we sit down to communicate.

- love, love, love-
*Tim - I love you bro.....i love your heart for the Lord, for his body (which includes your willingness to apologize where necessary and even crop a pic) and for challenging us to think beyond our compfort zones.

*Raskel 8 - I love your tenderness in your post....God bless you and your family.

*Real world - I love your boldness, let the Spirit of God harness it for God's glory!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!