Category Archives: marriage

Yet another woman caught between West and Islam!

This morning I was watching the film “Women on the border to West(ern societies – free translation of me) a film from Dilsa Demirbag-Sten on the PLAY Axess TV channel, via the web. Among the ones whose situation was addressed was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman whose viewpoints I recently wrote about (here). The reason for showing this movie on Axess was the newly released book by Dilsa called “The Fatherland – Fosterland”.

Dilsa Demirbag Sten born 10 October 1969, is from Kurdish background and was born in southeastern Turkey. In 1976 she came to Sweden and was raised here. She is an author and freelance journalist. At early age she was “given” to be engaged against her will but broke the engagement and escaped a forced marriage. She moved to Stockholm, where she worked for the National Theatre, Amnesty International and became advisor to Minister for Integration, Leif Blomberg. She has committed to the fight against the oppression of women and honor related violence. Demirbag-Stone is a liberal and Islam critic. She is involved in the atheistic Humanist Association and claims to work for a secular, democratic and equal society.

I appreciate her fight against Islam fundamentalism and the way women and girls are abused within that system. The film is an eye-opener which should be “compulsory viewing” for every politician and people working within areas of social welfare and integration.

While I was still reviewing some of the pictures and stories in my mind, I met an older woman in Tensta this morning. She also was born in Turkey, like Dilsa. However, she was born in an Orthodox Christian tradition. “Pray for us” she told me, “because it is so hard for us here in Tensta as Muslims take over more and more. You Western people have no idea how they think and how they do… we have some experience from that back home; that’s why we are here. Now the same thing is going to happen here!” (For the reader; an Arabic prince Adbul Aziz Ben Fadh, son to Saudi Arabians former king Fadhwants wants to build a mosque in this part of the city by donating 400 million Swedish kronor, (60 million dollars). The prince already helped to built mosques in Los Angeles and Edinburgh.

When will we learn and when will we listen? This older Turkish woman’s cry for help (and prayer) was resembling the cry of thousands of unheard voices of women (and men) who are entangled in the web of exclusion of Muslim faith and control, removing more and more people into isolation and segregation.

That’s the Way I experienced it…

John

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Vårdnadsbidrag; conviction, trap or reaction?

The daily Christian paper Dagen and other media (here and here) write about how many parents use the special financial support of 3000 kronor which they can receive during a three year period if they take responsibility and care for their children instead of enrolling them in a pre-school.

There are big differences between the different districts in the greater Stockholm area. As my wife and I raised our children we wanted to remain at home as long as possible with them because of conviction; we wanted to give personal input and time for our children. This time we would never be able to give again in the same way in the latter stages of their lives. Svenska Dagbladet describes the Jenemark family which has a similar approach as ours. In the Stockholm area 7% of the parents have chosen for this opportunity.

vårdnadsbidrag

The findings also show that in the inner-city area of Stockholm many parents have decided to use this chance, I have to add though that for many people “living in the inner-city implies having a good income”. Many of the inner-city dwellers are high-educated, well paid professionals. They have the possibility and extra resources to make ends meet based on one (higher) salary and the 3000 kronor extra. Many others, middle class families, who might want to use this possibility, will not be able to make ends meet since they might have lower salaries.

The same research shows however that in the (poorer) suburbs many parents take the opportunity which is offered. As I spoke the other day with a person responsible in one of the mentioned suburbs this issue came up.

  • After out talk I considered this issue and realized that many especially Muslim families use this as an opportunity to maintain their traditional / cultural lifestyle where the mother remains home with the children. I find this also to be true among (conscious) Christian families who want to spend more time with their children. However, there is more to it than the eye can see… among the immigrant (Muslim) families it is not the traditional women-trap (as different political parties might call it), there is the segregation trap where women are kept away from society and thus from culture and language learning which enhances the element of isolation.
  • Another element that I consider is that of the strongly secularized (anti-belief) attitude which we find in our schooling system which is a threat to traditional values that many of our immigrants carry with them out of conviction or cultural background. Thus leading them to react against “the way of doing things in Sweden”, pushing them in a fundamental role and position.
  • This is one of the elements that influence the growth of- and return to fundamentalism; the threat of secularism pushes them into the opposite direction further than they have ever experienced before!

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

Svenska Kyrkan – The Swedish Church – Politics as usual! Please: R.I.P

Svenska Kyrkan is top news again (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). In the “dry-spell of news” during the summer a discussion has blown up again about the acknowledgement and praxis of having same-sex-marriages performed with the Church context. It was ignited because of reaction from representatives of the Anglican Church in England who warn against a potential isolation because of this issue.

The large majority of the Swedish church, with the exception of a minority of local congregations, has lost its spiritual identity since many years ago. I remember discussing the process of the separation of Church and State with students from RMI Bergs the renowned commercial communication school enhancing different disciplines. Students of that school were to develop a marketing plan for the separation of Church and State (at that moment in time until the 1990ties, The Lutheran Church was the State Church).

As a number of their students and I were meeting, I suggested that a big advertisement campaign would be launched with photos and text displaying the funeral of the former State Church with the clear message R.I.P. (Rest In Peace). The students of Bergs were quite excited about that idea, but, as they later met with representatives of the Church, the idea was discarded. It was too radical, and it was probably too painful to admit that the Church needed a death to be able to resurrect.

RIP

The problem with the Swedish Church is that it never was separated from the State… It was done in name only and it is therefore that political powers and lobbying organizations like the RFSL do everything within their might to push their political and social agendas. (RFSL—The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights).

I personally look forward to an isolation of the Swedish Church! The Church with an agenda run by politicians and lobbying organizations needs to be isolated from the rest of the “Body of believers” to not spread its unhealthy unbiblical message poisoning the rest of Christianity. You don’t need to be a prophet to be able to “predict” where the Swedish Church is heading… and although there will remain a remnant of faithful and Biblically sound pockets of believers in the different congregations and fellowships, the Church as movement needs to undergo the long awaited and necessary funeral to be able finish the grieving process so that the ones who are still alive will be able to move on.

Without a death and funeral there will be no resurrection and new life! We will continue to see the rise of discussions, dissensions and frustrations as long as we don’t acknowledge the true state of the Swedish Church (and, let me add the spiritual state of many of our other churches as well!) Without that recognition we will continue to use the spiritual arena to fight our political and social battles. Jesus once said to people who were wondering about paying taxes (and fulfilling the obligation as a citizen): (Mark 12: 17) “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

For me, the idea of being an errand-boy of the State is far removed from my call to be faithful to God as His child, His son and His servant. I am for the implementation of keeping marriage sacred between one man and one woman… and to keep it as sacrament within the church where it belongs. Other, legal and juridical matters should be where they belong; in the hands of our government.

That’s the Way I see it!

John


What have same sex relationships and kleptomania to do with each other?

There are so many different opinions and interpretations about the present theological “hot potatoes’ that one easily looses one’s way in its jungle. (Here, here, here, here and here… People question the way I relate to Scriptures where the Apostle Paul writes about homosexuality. Their statement is: “What did the apostle Paul really know about same-sex relations? There are so many new things that we have learned since New Testament times about the complexities of sexuality!”

They make a good point. By the Way: after having allowed myself a “slumbering blog state” for a number of months (it was hard to find time to write and express my deepest feelings), I am encouraged by different people to NOT GIVE UP writing blogs. I feel that the discussion on same sex relationships needs yet another perspective and I am motivated to use this occasion as a re-entry to the blog sphere.

“They make a good point”, I stated earlier. It is true that since the writings of the New Testament many more things have become clear to us; the (dark) wrestles of life and our soul have been brought to the surface and have been examined, analyzed, evaluated, and explained like never before.

I know that not everything we need to know about sex is right there on the pages of the Bible. Many authors who have written about sex and who researched sex had an awful lot of good things to say. Yet, I dare say that the Bible is my only and supreme authority on the subject of sex.

With that I don’t mean that it is our only source on the subject. There is a whole lot to learn from tradition, experience, and reason (including scientific investigation). But these latter mentioned sources are not authoritative. While they can provide important information and insights, it is clear to me that what the Bible is actually teaching us on a given subject supersedes all other sources. Again, we know more about sex in general, and about same-sex relations in particular, than the Apostle Paul did. It would be unwise to ignore what we can learn, there is a whole lot to learn from what people tell us about the experience of same-sex attractions, and what scientific investigation tells us about the complex issues of attraction and sexuality. All different aspects of humankind as expressed through our genes, cultures, social circumstances and theological insights need to be brought together to help us understand the question at hand. But yet… how do I dare to say that the Bible supersedes all of our insights by speaking with authority to a subject like sexuality?

Well, here we finally come in on the subject of kleptomania…It is at this point that a parallel can be drawn to sexuality. The majority of the people living in the world today have probably a greater insight and knowledge about stealing than Moses ever had. In the Ten Commandments a simple and straightforward commandment is given: “You shall not steal!”

There is really no nuance nor is any explanation given about the way this should (could) be considered. There are no links to praxis, history, experiences or principles. You shall not steal. That’s it. Don’t steal; IT IS WRONG!

During my years as pastor in New Life Church Stockholm (www.newlife.nu) I have had to deal with some people who were compulsive thieves. When meeting with them, one thing they told me was the fact that they could not help doing it… they stole things that were of no interest or value to them, and yet, time after time they stole even if it meant that their relationships and trust with other people and friends got broken. The surge to steal was like a beast within them they could not handle.

In regards to this matter, there are major drives and issues which drive people into such destructive behavior. There are psychological, social and other issues involved… YET, time after time again I had to come back in my conversations with them to that same statement, or commandment: You shall not steal!

That statement did not give me room for interpretation, or nuances. It did not give room to wiggle. It was one of those “one liners”, almost too clear, too obvious… It was unnegotionable. A cold fact… You shall not steal. No explanation, no excuses. Although much reasoning and information could be brought into the matter, only one thing remained the same: “You shall not steal!”

The point I want to make is the following: when it comes to the basics, what is right and what is wrong; the Bible supersedes all other sources. It is our authoritative guide on ethical issues. Of course we will have to consider where the rubber hits the road; that’s in the praxis in our pastoral dimension. I know there are people who steal because they have nothing to eat, others because they have a responsibility for their families. Others because they have been abused and victimized by greedy economic systems (I will in the near future write more about greed and such systems). But no matter what we can give as explanation for our actions, stealing was, is and remains wrong!

In some occasions we choose to forgive and forget, in other occasions we counsel, yet in others we send people to jail. But no matter what the cause and circumstances might be the basics are: It is wrong to steal! In the discussion on the so-called “sin catalogues” which were used by Christians and churches 30-60 years ago we have heard time after time again how insensitive the Church has been. OK! Many leaders have crawled to the cross a number of time and affirmed their guilt in these matters… But we have to realize that the large majority of the people using “the sin catalogue arguments” have not received the kind of insensitive treatment they are relating to. It’s “hear-say” in most occasions. The Church, because of its historical guilt complex has gone the opposite direction and has allowed everything without nuances as an appeasement to the guilt memory.

In days past, conservative Christians have often done a terrible job in dealing with the complexities and nuances of human sexuality. But no matter what these complexities and nuances might be… the fact remains the same: the word of God remains true and it supersedes all other sources, whether they are endorsed or not by our society or ideologies. I might be politically incorrect but I will continue to follow His Word and Truth as a basic authority yet, with a heart open to be touched to be able understand the complexities people experience.

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

The lure of the Internet; porn addiction and can there be found intimacy on line?

COLD FACTS:

55% of all men and over 30% of the women surf for porn on the internet. According to Aftonbladet, Swedish national daily that did a research among 60.000 of its readers.

People’s addiction leads to the break down of their lives(see article in the Christian Daily Dagen).

A major reason young people go on line (besides the search for facts and information for studies) is to find intimacy and relationships. However, soon after one starts surfing the web, unwanted site and pop-ups might appear luring you to places and addresses you never intended to visit in the first place!

For quite some years I have been dealing with the consequences of the lure of the Internet. I have met dozens of men and women who have become entangled by the poisonous tentacles of the ever-widening and aggressive porn industry sucking out all life from them. Teenagers, young single men and women, but also (many) married ones who have become totally addicted to visiting pornographic sites and the temporary release it seems to give them when needed.

I meet with people who have destroyed their relationships and families and they became more and more compulsive in their behavior as a direct result of their dependency on pornography.

Personally I believe that we are standing on the verge of an epidemic outbreak that will demand our full attention since it affects people’s life and relationships so deeply that it may handicap them for life!

Like I said before I believe one of the major reasons people go to the internet (and here I want to include the different chat rooms) is the search for intimacy. Our society has estranged people from each other and a sense of “aloneness” has made us feel alienated from our surrounding. Next to that we are dealing with the consequences of the break-down of relationships and marriages that leave deeply ingrained wounds in all persons involved (including the children!).

With that in mind and the reality of a strongly individualized society that we live in, it is not strange that we are encountering a “vacuum of intimacy” in our life.

The chat rooms.

A logical step to try to fill that vacuum would be to go on the internet and look for the “lost intimacy” in a non-threatening environment where we are interacting with other people in such ways that we could never do in “real life”. In the chat rooms where people communicate without the relationship having to be based on looks, people go much deeper. Yes, faceless communication on the Internet allows us to bypass a lot of shyness and awkwardness. The most socially handicapped person can become the star of the chat room! The chat rooms allow us to hide our weaknesses and exaggerating our strengths. It is easy for people to feel close to someone who is always able “to put their best foot forward”. After all, we all want to be able to grow close to someone without having to expose our worst sides. The Internet allows that. It is not uncommon for people to fall in love with faceless strangers only to discover that their princes / princesses were wolves in sheep clothes!

Pornography on the Internet.

Another way to search for intimacy is to create a fantasy world with pornography. It creates an unreal world that brings a person deeper and deeper into a dependency (NOT unlike drug and alcohol addiction!!!) that influences us throughout our development stages and that sets the tone for our further life. The problem is that an addiction is developed that forces us to find sexual relieve through masturbation and can (and often will) develop into compulsive sexual behavior / masturbation. Emotional and sexual needs are geared towards the encounter with “airbrushed models and porn stars and “nameless strangers” estranging us from our reality and our relationships. Torbjörn Fjellström who runs Sweden’s only state acknowledged clinic for”relationship abusers” (relationsmissbrukare) categorizes compulsive masturbation and Porn dependency as addiction!

All of us develop habits that are either good or bad. It takes a lot of energy, power and support to actually change habits that have been developed over time. For some it seems at time impossible to do so.

However, as many former drug-, alcohol- and sex addicts can testify: God, through Jesus Christ, can set us free from every destructive habit and sin! He is not only able to do that; He can also fill the void; the empty space and vacuum that led us in the first place to seek for that intimacy! He is able to renew us, change and transform us from the inside out. He is also able to help us deal with past issues and to build a platform for new meaningful relationships. Are you entangled in the web of dependency? Take the time NOW to take a stand and ask for help before you sink deeper into this quicksand.

It’s not an easy road to go, there are many obstacles, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel; dare to recognize that!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

It’s horrible – and yet not the end! – A view on divorce.

Newsweek has the last couple of weeks spend quite some leverage on issues of divorce as the looked back on what they called the “Divorce Generation”. It was 1968 when my (our) dad left home with a good friend to the family. I remember my reaction; although I was loathed by the way my father had been treating us in the family, his departure shook our existence because families (couples) did not divorce and especially not in the Southern part of Holland where I came from and where people had a Catholic background.

The shame and isolation one went through was unprecedented and seems to be totally ill-founded when compared with the consequences of divorce and the way we look at it today. However, since then I have been confronted with many different divorces and people getting together again after having been divorced.

In my hometown everyone knew about the divorce and people showed little understanding for the consequences in the lives of the members of the family. After I became a Christian, the hate towards my father for leaving us and his negative influence in our family (I cannot describe this here in public), was dealt with by Jesus Christ and in a miraculous way I got healed from wounds on the inside of my being. The young kid who had to grow up too quickly, too soon and who had lost his years as a child playing was brought back to life!

The whole concept of divorce has since then played a major role in my life as I met and got involved in many different counseling situations addressing this issue. The sanctity of marriage and the depth of commitment meant to be given and experienced in it have directed my mind on this matter to such depth that I even today refuse to watch a film where adultery and divorce are portrayed as entertainment. The fact is that there has been a radical shift in attitudes toward divorce in a matter of only a few decades. I realize that. Having seen it up close now so many times, I have gotten used to divorce as a fact of contemporary life. But I have not changed my theology of divorce. I still see it as a terrible thing. Unavoidable in many situations—but still terrible.

I checked the figures from the Barna Group which does intensive research and polls in many different areas and who specify decisions and lifestyles by Christians…their information shows a chocking reality on the area of divorce among Christians. Personally I think that we in the church need to rise up to the occasion and talk, teach and pray more on this and many other matters where we as Christians have gone astray from the specific guidelines God gives us in the Bible. Without trying to put blame on people who have already gone through divorce and who are aching under the trauma of it, I still want to say that divorce is serious and horrible! A person who had gone through two different divorces came to an acquaintance of me and said: “You know what I want?” he asked, with tears streaming down his cheeks. “I want to hear two things from the church. One is that divorce is a horrible thing, that it is one of the biggest failures a human being can experience. The other is that this is not the end of my life—that God may still have good things in store for me.”

That, my friends, is also the Way I see it!

John

Population Segment

Have Been Divorced

No. of

Interviews

All adults

33%

3792

Evangelical Christians

26%

339

Non-evangelical born again Christians

33%

1373

Notional Christians

33%

1488

Associated with non Christian faith

38%

197

Atheist or agnostic

30%

269

All born again Christians

32%

1712

All who were not born again Christians

33%

2080

Protestant

34%

1997

Catholic

28%

875

African-American

36%

464

Hispanic

31%

458

Asian

20%

128

Conservative

28%

1343

Moderate

33%

1720

Liberal

37%

474