Freud or Jesus? Who are we taking our cues from?
Last March we had some team days in Sheffield with teaching from Steve Timmis (author, pastor, and director of Acts 29 (Western Europe)) on ‘The Gospel and Pastoral Care’. It was a really interesting afternoon and he shared lots of useful and helpful advice, but one comment in particular has stuck with me. I can’t remember his exact words, so I hope you’ll forgive me paraphrasing, but I think this is an accurate-enough representation of his excellent point:
So often in Christian ministry we think that we are being radical and non-worldly in our views and practices but we actually are guilty of the complete opposite. A classic example is the way that we view male-female relationships. We’re warned against the dangers of being ‘tempted’ by the opposite sex and so we effectively segregate ministry: men and women have separate ministry, separate small groups, separate prayer groups, etc. We create a culture where a mixed-gender meeting (particularly one-to-one) is viewed with the utmost suspicion because of the ‘danger’ that this will cause one or both parties to give in to sexual temptation. This suspicion is painted as biblical and godly, but it isn’t. It’s Freudian.
Freud maintained that sexual desire was the primary motivation in all relationships.
The Bible says this:
“Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
1 Timothy 5:1b-2
I can’t help but think that we’ve created a culture where every relationship which crosses the gender divide (and some which don’t) is viewed with the utmost suspicion, and it doesn’t seem either helpful or godly, even if it is portrayed as both.
Some, in the circles I often find myself in, abhor the idea of men and women meeting together to talk, read the Bible, or pray, because of the concern that this will inevitably lead to said men and women jumping into bed together.
What is it about praying that is so very likely to lead to extra-marital sex?
Why on earth is it okay that we have created a culture that portrays all women as shameless hussies devoting all of their energies into luring hapless, fickle men into affairs, and all men as dangerous, lecherous beasts who are determined to deflower every naïve woman who crosses their path?
Obviously I’m not saying that people don’t have affairs. Nor am I saying that single-gender groups or 1-2-1s aren’t good or necessary. Sometimes they’re better, sometimes we need to talk about things that are gender-specific and it’s not appropriate, or useful, to try discussing them with the opposite sex. If I want to talk about hormones and sin and the fact that I’m a much more irritable and much less godly person when I’ve got my period then I’m probably not going to talk about it with a man; partly because they won’t have the understanding that another woman will have (since they don’t have the same types of hormonal changes going on), and partly because most men look like they’d like to jump out of the nearest window whenever the topic of ‘periods’ arises.
However, there are times when we need to realise that God’s words in Genesis 2:18 apply beyond marriage. It’s not good for man (or woman) to be alone, we’re made for community, complementary community, where we give help and perspective to one another. If I only hang around with people like me (whether gender, or race, or age, or background) then I will have a stunted, narrow understanding of the world and of God and his word.
So what’s the solution, and how do we find a healthy balance, where we recognise temptation and sensitivity, but don’t become weird, segregated or Freudian about the whole situation?
I’d appreciate your thoughts on this, O fine people of the internet. Comment below.
In summary: thinking.