Beginning the Academic Journey

A little more blog housekeeping today. You’ll notice at the top of the page, next to “Home” and “About the Blog,” is a new page called “Smartypants Stuff.” That page has links to papers I’ve written for grad school. I try only to write about the things I’m interested in, so I hope that makes them interesting enough to read.

I might talk more about these subjects in depth later, but if you have spare time and nothing better to do (like dental work or a few hours of accounting), you can check them out. They are:

  • It’s All About Sex” – This is the paper about which I posted yesterday, comparing the parallels between the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis 2–3 and what that means for how we interpret the Garden of Eden narrative.
  • Bloody Bridegrooms and Angry Deities” – Another short paper (we were only allowed to do 2-3 pages for these first two), this one about the crazy story in Exodus 4, in which God – after calling Moses to help free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt – then tries to kill him! Specifically, we were supposed to take two forms of critical scholarship and compare/contrast how their respective methods would treat the text.
  • Tattoos, Sexuality and Holiness” – The big semester-end Old Testament exegesis paper. I chose Leviticus 18, particularly because of my interest in what the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality, especially homosexuality as it’s practiced today (i.e., monogamous and consensual). The paper essentially argues that the Holiness Code of this chapter and its companion, chapter 20, is so screwy that it was never intended to be followed literally, and that we need to look deeper for how its use was intended.

Another smartypants thing that I’ve already posted is the text of the midterm paper we wrote. The prompt was essentially to argue why we should study the Old Testament, with paragraphs devoted to specific elements of what we’d covered in class to that point.

If you note these papers all seem to be tied in some way to sexuality, you’re very perceptive. I’m interested in how the Bible treats the subject of sex, in large part because I think Christians have gotten it badly wrong over the years, and that the better we can figure out how to discuss it, the healthier we all will be – especially our children.

I’m posting this because on the one hand I think maybe someone will enjoy it or find it useful in their own faith journey, and on the other because I started this blog so my friends could follow my trip through grad school, and I know at least one or two of them are just as nerdy as I am and will actually enjoy reading these for the content they contain. Whatever category you fall into, I hope you find them constructive and edifying.

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2 comments on “Beginning the Academic Journey

  1. I am appreciating your writings on sexuality; as the dad of a 9-year-old boy, it’s starting to become a topic of some of our conversations, and I have a lot fewer clear answers than I used to. I actually find myself wondering how hard I should push the No-sex-before-marriage thing. Any thoughts on that??

    • Paul says:

      Hi John,

      As the father of three girls, I can’t help but think about that! No answers yet, but I have been thinking about how much has changed culturally from biblical times, when children were given in marriage almost as soon as they reached adolescence, right when their hormones began kicking in. Now, many people wait until they’re 30 or even later, which is more than a decade of expected abstinence. I also think a lot about how we treat sexual sins. The Bible focuses a lot on sexual immorality, but it focuses even more on greed and oppression of the poor.

      My main hope is that we create an atmosphere where our children can talk to us about any problem they have, and that their struggles with sexuality are seen no differently than struggles with anger or pride or gossip. On the actual question of sex before marriage, there’s a point at which I can’t even hope to control what they do with their private lives, and I think the more productive argument is that the primary function of sex is for procreation, and that they shouldn’t sleep with someone unless they’re willing for that person to be part of their lives forever as the father of their child (never mind the actual child him or herself). Further, I’m pretty convinced just saying, “Don’t have sex!” is not terribly effective without explanations why, as well as “just in case” explanations of birth control and other protection to help prevent STDs and pregnancy. Mistakes happen, especially among teenagers, and acting as if they don’t seems unwise.

      The final piece of the puzzle is on me and my wife, to make sure we blatantly love our girls and let them know that they are beautiful and special, so that they don’t feel a need to validate themselves through the attention of others. I think too many people conflate a mistake or a decision to move in/begin sleeping with a committed boyfriend or fiance with a series of one-night stands or intentionally provocative behavior. The former isn’t ideal, but it’s not the same as acting out sexually to achieve validation or self-esteem, which is a significant problem.

      Not sure if that’s helpful, but it’s what I’ve been kicking around lately! Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you keep commenting!

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