Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rooting Out the Problem

Believe it or not I am posting about my plumbing again. Yes, yes, it feels like yesterday that I was shelling out $300 for a guy to come to my house and push a metal cord down my pipes, but I had to do it again yesterday. This time the bill was "only" $210. It would have been 50 bucks more if I had not pulled out the toilet myself. I'd never removed a toilet before, though I had seen it in a movie. My experience was almost as awesome. Well, not really.

So, the plumber clears the line (turns out that it took 75 feet of snake from the basement floor, which makes me feel a little better since my snake is only 50 feet and I tend to go in from the roof). Shortly after he leaves, however, the drain backs up again. So I called them this afternoon and they came are re-snaked the line. This time the problem was about 100 feet down and it didn't cost me anything. A 6 month warranty is much better than a one month. In short, don't go with the expensive guys. Sure, they treated me okay, but I still feel ripped off for a couple reasons.

So, we're able to do dishes, wash clothes, and flush the toilet as often as we want instead of only once every hour or so. And, the basement isn't flooding again. All good things.

But just like there's been buildup in the pipes, there's been crap flowing through my life too. One of those things is, of course, porn. I checked out yesterday and decided to give their x3watch software a "go". It's free and cake to install, so why not try it?

I've always thought that "accountability software" was a dumb idea. I mean, it's not really going to stop me from masturbating or looking at stuff I shouldn't. It may slow me down and limit my access, but it won't really help anything. Right?

Well, that was my thinking not that long ago, but my opinion has shifted a little.

Limited access may be the point. Sure, it's not going to stop my sexually charged body from desiring porn or stop me from finding images that get me going. But what it will do is stop me from going to explicitly pornographic sites. Now that my wife will be getting a web history of my browsing I won't be visiting obviously bad places on the net. So? Does it stop me from finding "innocent" places to whack off? No. So, what good does it do?

It stops me from getting into the really bad, destructive crap. Does it fix all the issues of the crap flowing through me? No. But it does take out some of the roots growing deep down in the "pipes" of my soul.

But now that I've let my wife in on my web history, she wants in everywhere. That's why I started writing this post in the first place: She's in the basement searching my computer for objectionable content. And that makes me upset. How does she know there is questionable stuff on my computer? Because I told her. What does she want to do with it? Delete it, of course. But I don't want her to, and figuring out why might be a really good thing to do.

1. I have only gathered stuff that intrigues me and I think it beautiful. I don't have any hardcore porn at all. I do have pictures of girls in very little, and even some showing a little more than that, but I kept those images because I liked them more than because I could use them to get off. Most of the images don't show any more than you would see at a beach. Am I just trying to fool myself? Perhaps. But the next point could indicate otherwise.

2. I have been conducting an experiment. Of all the porn I look at, I only really like pictures of a few girls, and only a handful of their pictures. So, for all the girls I've seen on the internet, I like a dozen or so pictures. They are pictures I'd like to return to, not because they are the most effective, but because they are the most appealing images I've seen. It's like the classic nudes of art, in a way. Erotic? Sure. Pornographic? Hard to say. So, I have kept them around to see if they would stop being porn and turn into something closer to art. The results? I look at the images rarely, consistently weed out the ones I don't really like, and rarely use them as "inspiration". So, does it make a difference? Yes, I believe it does. No longer are they the "bad" images online, but the pictures of female beauty on my computer.

Now, to be completely honest, there are times that I open up that folder just to use those images for my own purposes, but it isn't nearly as often as I log onto the internet to look for other stuff.

So what has my wife found on my computer? I'm not sure, but I'll have to go check on her in a minute. Not looking forward to that. For how much I like to be open an honest about stuff, it's hard to do with an irate wife.

What has she done to my prized images? Hard to say since she hasn't returned triumphantly from her quest as of yet. Is she still rooting for the problem? If she is, she's in the wrong place. The issue isn't my hard drive. The issue is me and our relationship.

I've held onto many of these images with a desire, a hope that I could share them with her. Not because I want her to sit down and watch porn with me, but this isn't even porn. I want to share with her what I find beautiful. I want to be able to share with my wife the things about women that excite and move me. But I haven't, and now I won't be able to. Why didn't I just show her the video with nudity the moment I watched it instead of downloading it? Because she'd make me delete it, and the reasons she would have nothing to do with my reasons for keeping it. But how would I go about explaining that one? I can't. It's unjustifiable. And that feels like it has to be wrong.

Odd how messy this all is.

Wait. It's not odd at all. It's just like the drainage main in my house: A few little roots and crap is literally floating in the shower.

~Luke Holzmann

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Flirting with Sexual Jerks

Okay, so I'm writing a book with my best friend. It pretty much rules. Because of this, Jason sends me stuff all the time to consider and reflect upon, and to which respond. It's good because it helps keep us up-to-date with what the Christian culture is saying and how we need to respond to it. Jason just sent me an article and asked for my thoughts. These certainly belong in our book, but that's not coming out for a while so I'm just going to spout out a rant here and now.

First, a disclaimer: This is written in anger, frustration, and is not going to go through several readings to make sure that it says exactly what it should. Thus, there may be a twinge of un-love coming across. For that, I am sorry. However, despite the untold number of editors of the original article, it is equally, if not severely more, un-loving and destructive. ...hence my need to get a response out now... and the flaws of this post. 'nough said.

I do not know John Thomas. I've never met him, nor have I read much of his stuff. This is not coming from years of bitterness and build up. In fact, it is entirely possibly (though extremely unlikely based on the article I'm responding to) that he has some really good, solid stuff to say. Due to the fact that John holds the copyrights to this, I don't think I can post the whole thing here. Please go and read it so my comments will make more sense.


The first question John responds to comes from a woman who is "happily married" and has been for almost a decade. She met a guy who plays on the worship team, and spends quite a bit of time talking and "texting" with him, and even has planned to hang out with him and some friends for coffee and such. She wants to know: Is this inappropriate even though they are both aware of their relationships with others.

The reply? "Of course it's inappropriate."

John starts with a discussion of age. He's not that much younger, so an affair is totally possible. It's wrong to hang out with a guy this close to you in proximity "unless he is your twin brother". For me, this should have been a huge, gigantic red flag for John as he wrote. In fact, it feels like it was because that's where John leaves it. It's as if he said, 'Wait a minute... what if it was her twin brother?'

Since John didn't entertain this thought, I will.

If it was her "twin" brother (must be identical since the age thing is there... a-hem, okay, I admit it, that was mean) then somehow that is okay for John. Why? My guess: Because it's family. What difference does that make? Again, I can only assume: Family members don't screw. This is certainly not true, but may be infrequent enough that John can have the point. And I'll give it to him. But John won't let me give him the point because he goes on to accuse this woman of being in an "emotional affair".

So, back to the brother thing. If I was a woman and had a "twin" brother with whom I talked and "texted" all the time, would John have a problem with it? John probably wouldn't. Why should he? Well, because I would be spending so much emotional time with my brother that I would have to be having an emotion affair with him and my husband should be angry. Which, I guess, begs the question: What in the world is an "emotional affair"? An affair with emotions... which means what? That I have transfered some of my emotions to another person besides my husband? And when has that ever not happened? Even as a guy I share particular emotions with others, some that my wife doesn't experience with me (like the major testosterone boost I got with the guys in my family when we went to see 300).

John here sounds like a man throwing around sensationalistic terms to make the situation sound dire. It's unfair, mean, and completely wrong. I may even agree that affairs often happen when you get emotionally close to someone. But, they also happen because you are pissed off at your spouse. Affairs happen not because you get another person to talk to, but because you no longer are emotionally close to your spouse. An "emotional affair" does not cause an affair; a disconnect between you and your spouse may lead you to find connection with another. But just because you find connection with someone else does not mean you will (or are even likely) to run off with them.

To say so shows just how insecure John is in his own marriage. Again, I don't know him, but he married a girl 6 years younger than he. No idea why, but probably because she was cute, nice, and thought the world of him. Great reasons to marry her. But it would be the same thing John did to this poor woman writing in if I were to, legitimately, claim that John has serious issues with his marriage because if another, younger girl came along he would dump his wife that instant for the newer model. John should tell me I'm wrong. I probably would be. Why? Because John is, I hope, happily married. He does not leave his wife every time he sees a younger, nice girl who thinks the world of him. But John, in his attempt to "affair-proof" his marriage must avoid all younger, nice girls who like him because, oh man, it could lead to an affair. If he does not, then he should never have written to this woman the way he did. Even if he does live what he preaches, his preaching is still wrong.

John, in his second point, accuses this woman of keeping this secret from her husband. The woman said no such thing, but let's say that she is. Let's say that when her husband comes home from work and says, "What'd you do today?" she responds, "Oh, you know, this and that." Her husband, being like me, takes that as a complete answer. And then Sunday rolls around and while at church this woman avoids "worship guy" because she "knows" that she's doing wrong. Her husband is completely clueless. Yes, that would be bad. But why? Because it shows a disconnect, a lack of trust, and a problem between the happily married couple. John should have said, "If your husband doesn't know that you really like talking with this guy, or even that you do, then you should tell him. If you keep the communication doors open then you will not be in danger."

Instead, John said, "I can't imagine that your husband approves". Some help.

Now John turns the tables: Well, what if it was your husband with a younger woman? Huh? Nobody'd be okay with that, so there! To be fair, John actually said, "I doubt you or anyone else would call that appropriate behavior".

First, I'm somebody else. So is my wife. I see no problem with spending time talking and "texting" and even going to coffee, on a walk, or even to the movies with another girl. My wife wouldn't be okay with it if it was "exclusive" or hidden from her. I've been to the movies, since getting married, with a girl without my wife, to dinner with a girl and her friends without my wife, and danced with a girl last night while my wife went off with someone else. In summary: If she knows about the relationship and can observe it, she has no problems with it. Again, openness and communication is the issue, not constantly and exclusively being together. Shoot, if that's the case I couldn't go to work and ever talk to one of my female co-workers. John, do you do that?

John's solution to this woman's problem: You need to tell the guy that you're both being "entirely inappropriate" and you need to limit, if not completely sever, contact with him.

How does this solve the problem? First, it makes it impossible to be so emotionally "affairous". Second, it... it... umm... yep, that's it. In fact, John shows his ignorance (or something) to what is going on by suggesting that this woman find a trusted female friend to keep her accountable to not talking with him ever again (if it comes to that). Why is that wrong? Because why should she get a female involved when this is an "emotional affair" within her marriage? What's the female friend there for? Shouldn't she go confess this to her husband (if she's been keeping it a secret) and make right with him? She should, but John doesn't suggest that at all. Why?

I have no idea. My only guess is that John has no idea what really causes affairs because all he has read was the same stuff that he writes: Sensationalistic crap that sounds really, really holy and completely lacks Biblical backing. John does not include a single Scripture. To be fair, neither have I. But so far, I've had nothing that requires more than a high school class in Psychology to know. There has been no talk of God yet at all. But wait, it's coming.

John ends his response by saying, "It sounds like God has helped you and your husband make it through some difficult times"... it does? Where did he read that? It's certainly not in her "happily married" bit. In fact, it's an assumption that John makes that because this woman shows any interest in another man then she must have had some rough times with her husband. What crap. John is one of those guys who would probably tell me that he never notices when another girl is cute who is not his wife. That's a lie. Yes, I just called John a liar. True, I've never spoken with him, but to say that it "sounds like" this woman and her husband have marriage problems is a lie.

Finally, John suggests that she enter her "prayer closet and fight for your marriage and your love for your husband". He also suggests that she do what God shows her to do. I wonder what John thinks that would be. My prayer is that God will tell this woman that she is okay, that she does not have a sick and lustful heart, and that she should continue to have a good, pleasing, and edifying relationship with this guy and continue to be a good wife to her husband.

In sum: John makes this woman's concern that she might be doing something wrong into a super sexual encounter. That's all this is about: You might have sex with this guy! That's true. She might. But if she is happily married and talks about it with her husband, she won't. There's no reason to.

My wife had a crush on a guy once. Being raised on the same stuff John has read she was nervous about telling me. I smiled and said, "So?" She likes another guy and finds him intriguing. Her vows are still good, and she's not about to go have an affair with him especially since she told me. John has a problem, and I wish he had not passed his problem on to this poor woman. John's problem is this: He wants everyone to appear so holy that he accuses them of being a friend of sinners, if not a sinner out right. Time for some Bible references: Luke 7:34; Isaiah 53:6.


The second answer John gives ticks me off even more.

The question: Isn't it wrong to have an opposite gender roommate?

The situation: A girl living with four guys in a house.

John's response: "It is a very poor witness for Christian singles of the opposite sex — in ministry no less! — to be living in the same house together. They are damaging their credibility as Christians and especially leaders in ministry."

John's support to all this:

1. We wouldn't let a guy and girl move in together, so why would it be okay because there are more of them?

Answer to point 1: Because the reason it's not good a for a guy and a girl to live together is because it's far too easy for sexual problems to develop. Why do we encourage people to go on "dates" en masse? Because more people means good "accountability". Same with many people in a house.

2. Christians who think it's okay agree with Feminists.

Answer to point 2: I looked up a Feminism site and found this:

"Feminism uncovers the ways in which social and cultural assumptions and structures are shaped by gender.
"By focusing on the extent to which traditional questions, theories and analyses [sic] have failed to take gender into account, Women's Studies (as a field) adopts scholarly and critical perspective toward the experiences of women."

John, you're wrong. Feminist's arguments that men and women are the same (which based on what this site says in their mission statement is not the case) are not the reason people of opposite genders move in together. If you can show me research that demonstrates this, I would be happy to consider it, but my guess is that this is your sensationalism again.

3. Christians must build each other up.

Answer to point 3: John said, "In a college setting, where the hook-up culture is doing everything it can to tear down healthy relationships between guys and girls, Christians should be making every effort to live as counter-cultural to that as possible."

There is nothing in this entire paragraph about building each other up. It is about how we need to show the world how evil it is (not Christ's message at all). In short, John's use of Scripture is null because he doesn't even talk about the passage he just cited. Why in the world is that?

John's conclusion is that this person should "keep urging them to change their living arrangements, for their sake, for the sake of those who are watching them, and for the Lord's sake, who commands us to 'do all to the glory of God.'"

Again, John has made this issue instantly about sex (what else could be wrong with living together?) even if sex was not ever an issue. What if it was a 90 year old granny who opened her house to these guys? That would be okay. So, this is about sex. John, I know sex is always on our minds, but we don't have to filter everything through it.

As for those watching them: This is an excellent opportunity to discuss with someone who asks why they should not live/sleep over at their boyfriend's house. This is very good for the "sake of those who are watching them".

And as for "the Lord's sake"... that's just lame. It's a pathetic attempt to make this about God and not about his own misconceptions. God does not ever, anywhere, talk about how you should not have a mixed gender living arrangement. He does tell us that if we sleep with a girl we should marry her [Exodus 22:16] and not to commit adultery [Dueteronomy 5:18].

For the record: My wife and I had a girl our age living with us for almost a year without incident. There are far too many examples of this working for John to be right. Should you be cautious? Sure. Should you live with your lover? No. But this isn't lovers we're talking about.

All in all, this just reminds me how messed up our current Christian culture's mindset is about sex. We need to get this book written.

~Luke Holzmann

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Children and the Arrow

I recently finished reading "The Tipping Point" and it got me thinking. There were several thought-worthy ideas in the book, but I'm only going to touch on one of the last impressions: The idea of parenting.

Gladwell, and others whom I have read, all point to research that indicates the complete lack of "parental influence" on children. Studies have shown that it doesn't matter who you are as a parent, or what you try to do, or how much time you spend with your kids, they will turn out differently from you. In other words, what I learning in High School Psychology was wrong, at least partially. The Nature via Nurture idea does not apply to parents. Rather, it is one's peers that define who you become*.

This has been bothersome to me. Parenting is extremely important, right? "Well, sure," these researchers say, "just not in any of the ways we typically think." Whatever that means.

Then I took a shower this morning. This is hardly abnormal behavior for me, and perhaps I learned it from my parents, whom, I'm quite confident shower every morning as well. My wife does not. I have not spent enough nights at her family's house to gage whether she got that from her family or not either. But, I digress, slightly.

In the shower I remembered a sermon I heard, oh, years ago. In it my pastor described parenting like being a good archer, taken from the passage that says that children are like arrows. The goal of the archer is not to make the arrows, that's the work of a fletcher; rather, a good archer positions the arrow so it flies in the direction it should go. Thus, parenting is not molding your children into something, but rather recognizing who they are, what they are designed for, and then pointing them in the direction they should go and letting go. Good parenting is recognizing who your kids are and encouraging them in that.

This opens up a whole new response to the current research. Of course you can't make your kids turn out a certain way. That's already set in motion by who they are. The purpose of parenting is to gently, carefully, point the children in the right direction for who they are. Sure, instill values in your kids, teach them, encourage them to do good, but ultimately the job of a parent is to see where the child is designed to go, point them in that direction, and let them fly.

I've got more thoughts on kids bumping around in the back of my head, but I have to go to my nephew's first birthday party. I guess I'll have kids on my mind all day.

*These studies do not mention Homeschooling, so I'm curious to see how a kid whose peers are his family turns out.

~Luke Holzmann