This is not a posting about somebody having a really bad religious experience, nor is it surreal poetry. Instead, it is about a pastor who has grasped the familiar “Bride of Christ” imagery that exists within the bible and then proceeded to run hard and fast with it as Christian Porn.
Beyond the bizarreness, it does also reveal something that merits some serious criticism. No, not the porn aspects, but something else.
Let’s first give you the basics.
“The Bride Of Christ”: what does this mean and where does it come from?
If you google the term “Bride of Christ” then you will discover that there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to the topic. I don’t intend to suddenly go religious on you. To be clear, I’m not religious. However, understanding this symbolic imagery may to some degree enable you to see why the pastor’s usage of it is way beyond normal.
There are various examples of bride imagery within the new testament …
- To paraphrase, when Jesus is asked, “Why don’t your guys fast like all the other religious guys” he symbolically refers to himself as a bridegroom and suggests that when the bridegroom is there they don’t need to fast, but when he is taken away, then they should.
- Then we also have the ultimate biblical rorschach test, the Book of Revelation. This also uses the symbolic image of a Bride. It refers to the “new Jerusalem” as a bride coming from God out of heaven. Regarding what that means or how to interpret it, well that’s where the various religious traditions will proceed to proclaim that their specific understanding of such imagery is the “true” one by saying stuff like “Well if you take this verse over here and apply it in this context and so this then means …“… whatever specific agenda they currently have.
Where you find the specific reference to the “Bride Of Christ” is within Paul’s letter to Ephesians.
Wait, sorry, did I say “Paul’s” letter?
It might also be worth understanding that amongst scholars Paul’s authorship of that letter is highly contentious and disputed. It has his name on it, so why are there doubts?
- The style is distinctly different than his normal writing style. Greek words used in this letter are not used in any of the other letters that are confirmed to be Paul’s.
If curious, you can read more details regarding why it might not be Paul’s at all. My point is this, the entire view of the Church being the “Bride of Christ” is contained within a letter whose authorship is deeply dubious.
OK, so what does it advocate, what exactly is the metaphor in play?
Here is the actual text …
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
In other words, the Church-Christ relationship is likened to a husband-wife relationship. That’s it, that is basically all there is.
It is this metaphor that the pastor grabbed hold of and then proceeded to run hard and fast with using a deeply sexual variation.
So let’s look at that now.
Prepare to be titillated.
Pastor Josh Butler: Sex and Salvation
There is no avoiding the observation that what Pastor Josh Butler wrote is deeply bizarre.
Here are a few juicy extracts (with my immediate occasional reaction embedded in brackets) …
…Sex wasn’t designed to be your salvation but to point you to the One who is … Sex is an icon of Christ and the church…sex is an icon of salvation.
[Sex gets you to Jesus … says every sex cult since the year dot.]
…the groom goes into his bride. He is not only with his beloved but within his beloved. He enters the sanctuary of his spouse, where he pours out his deepest presence and bestows an offering, a gift, a sign of his pilgrimage, that has the potential to grow within her into new life… This is a picture of the gospel…
[He appears to be claiming that the “gospel” is basically lie back and think of England while Christ thrusts his “gift” into you!!]
…Christ penetrates his church with the generative seed of his Word and the life-giving presence of his Spirit, which takes root within her and grows to bring new life into the world…
…the bride embraces her most intimate guest on the threshold of her dwelling place and welcomes him into the sanctuary of her very self. She gladly receives the warmth of his presence and accepts the sacrificial offering he bestows upon the altar within her Most Holy Place…
…She receives his generous gift within her—the seed of his Word and presence of his Spirit—partnering with him to bring children of God into the world…
[Basically this is the “Women are just there as incubators for seed and breeders” claim]
He also talks about other passages …”and Jacob went into her” over and over again … and laughed at the girl who had been reading that passage because she was embarrassed by it.
As you might anticipate, his article caused more than a little stir.
The Gospel Coalition, whose website he published this on, fired him, dumped him as a speaker at their conference, and also took the article down.
Ah … so the article is gone now?
Well yes, it is not on their website. However, fear not, for I bring thee glad tidings of great joy. You can still find it via the wayback machine, here it all is revealed in its naked glory.
It is indeed weird to find religious language being used to describe sex… “…Christ penetrates his church with the generative seed of his Word…” .
There is however an issue here. It’s the thought process involved, the modality of it all.
Within this pastors universe men dominate and women just submit. Sex as described here is a selfish act that involves the guy taking pleasure by injecting his seed into his baby incubator without any thought to what she might want or need. She is supposedly being “generous” because she allows him to get what he wants.
Some might quip, “but it’s a partnership“.
Well yes, that’s exactly what Pastor Butler says, but for him this is a partnership with a specific goal … “partnering with him to bring children of God into the world”.
In other words, this is not a relationship between equals. Apparently any such relationship would only be achieving its stated goal if “godly” babies are not being churned out on a regular basis. This is a view, if you will forgive the term, that consists of some truly fucked up thinking.
Here there is only one narrow way for sex to manifest and it has only one goal … babies.
This is to perhaps be expected.
Within some religious micro-cultures there exists very narrow definitions of what is and is not “moral”. Anything beyond that narrow restrictive definition is declared to be “immoral” and “evil”, not because it is actually immoral or evil, but simply because a religious text has been interpreted to say so. As for the view of human sexuality, well you know how that plays out. Apparently you can only be a male attracted to females, or a female attracted to males. Anything beyond that is declared to be “evil” … except life and reality is just not that simplistic, it never is, even for the supposedly “godly”. Here now we also have a very narrow definition of what sex is supposedly for and even how it should be conducted. Once again, life and reality is just not that simplistic or binary.
Beyond all religious fantasies, here in the real world, humans are complex. As a mirror of that reality, human relationships are also deeply diverse and complex. There is no exclusive one true way or right way.
One last Thought
Up until now I’ve always considered the phrase “Jesus Fucking Christ” to be an expletive that expresses deep shock when something truly astonishing happens.
It turns out that I was totally wrong about that.
Apparently it is also a theological statement of faith that describes (*checks notes) … “an icon of salvation“.