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Blog of the Grateful Bear

ramblings of a freelance panentheist {"all things are in God, and God is in all things"} . . . musings on Emergent spirituality, powerlifting, LGBTQueer issues, contemplative prayer, mysticism, cats, music, healing, and more. I like my coffee and my existentialism dark-roasted.

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Location: Marietta, Georgia, United States

I'm an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), in private practice in Marietta, Georgia. My writings on queer spirituality have been published in Whosoever and several other magazines. I live in a house-in-the-woods (Bear's Hermitage) in Marietta with Leonidas (Lenny) and Guy, Mighty Warrior Cats, and way too many books.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Return from Tybee Island


I'm back from a 4-day sojourn with my friend Donnie to Tybee Island and Savannah, sunburnt lobster-red on both arms and part of one leg. The highlight of the trip was having lunch with two blog-friends that I have known for several years through email and phone calls but had never actually met in person until now. Here we are on River Street, three of the world's greatest bloggers: Tommy/Isaiah (isaiah knows nothing), Grateful Bear, Trev Diesel (The Sound of Diesel Musing). Tommy and Trev, along with another of the world's greatest bloggers, Jon Zuck (The Wild Things of God), are part of a great new website about music and spirituality, RockOm. Check it out!

Here are a few scenes of Tybee Island, including me in the motel pool, squinting in the sunlight. The top photo is from the back deck of Cafe Loco, my favorite restaurant on Tybee Island (the arrow pointing into the water says "Our Shrimp come from Here"):



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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Peter Rollins: Nothing Remains the Same


When Jesus spoke of being “born again” he was not referring to some proposition that could be considered through logic, religious sermons, Bible reading, or through some kind of reflection on religious experience; rather he was speaking of an event that opens up a whole new world of experience. Religious experience, in its fundamental form, is not then an experience at all but rather a counter-experience, one that transforms our mode of being in the world rather than being reduced to some strange feeling. With the incoming of this truth nothing necessarily changes in the physical world, no new object enters our horizon. But in its aftermath the person is never the same again, for everything has changed. This luminous life can never be captured, contained, or pulled apart; it is lived. This event in which nothing changes is an event so radical that nothing remains the same.

~ Peter Rollins, in The Fidelity of Betrayal

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

BookLog: Porn Nation


As a therapist I’ve been seeing more and more clients whose lives have been impacted by an obsession with internet pornography. I’ve seen clients who sit for up to 8 hours at a time in front of the computer screen, viewing porn, and I’ve seen clients whose partners have become distant and alienated because of their addiction to internet porn. So I was very interested to read this book, Porn Nation: Conquering America’s #1 Addiction by Michael Leahy, and to see if it might be useful in helping clients deal with this very real problem.

Porn Nation is a strange hybrid of a book. It’s part memoir, in which Leahy tells how his addiction to internet porn escalated into other behaviors and eventually destroyed his marriage. And it’s also part self-help guide, with some very useful information about recognizing the progression of pornography obsession and breaking the cycle of addiction. But it’s also part diatribe about the evils of our “sex-saturated society” – not too surprising, given that the book’s publisher, Northfield, is associated with the fundamentalist Moody Bible Institute.

I respect the author of Porn Nation, Michael Leahy, for his openness and candor in telling the story of his own struggle with internet pornography. He pulls no punches and leaves out no embarrassing detail, from his first accidental masturbation experience to his increasing obsession with pornography – and on to engaging in “peeping tom” behavior, cheating on his wife, and eventually alienating his family and divorcing his wife. He talks candidly about the pain he caused his wife and children, and even includes excerpts from his ex-wife’s journal (presumably with her permission) about how deeply she was wounded by his behavior.

Leahy also writes honestly about the long road to recovery from his addiction. The answer he found was in a “faith-based” (code for evangelical Christian) support group that defined healthy sexuality as only existing within the context of monogamous heterosexual marriage. That worked just fine for Leahy, but it’s no solution at all for those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – or unwilling to buy into an evangelical Christian worldview that views sex as basically evil.

That view of sex comes through most tellingly when Leahy writes about the progression of sex addiction and introduces “a new term – sexual compulsivity syndrome, or ‘Sex Syndrome’ for short” (page 138). He goes on to equate ‘sexual compulsivity’ with ‘sex’ itself, in a very important section of his book. This is more than just a matter of semantics. Words matter. Leahy’s words reveal the anti-sex bias inherent in the evangelical Christian worldview. (To be fair, that anti-sex bias can be found in every other world religion as well.)

I do not believe pornography or erotica itself, as long as it is without coercion and between consenting adults, is inherently bad (although it can definitely be misused, or used compulsively, by some). I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU who still believes in the First Amendment. So I’m sure Leahy would lump me in with the “academicians and sex workers alike [who] will defend their conviction that there isn’t enough wide-open sexuality yet to liberate our repressive society” (page 113). Leahy goes on to dismiss that caricaturized view without serious consideration. He goes on at length to lament our “sex-saturated society,” mentioning, at one point, one of my favorite TV shows, Sex and the City.

But even though Leahy misguidedly equates “sexual compulsivity” with sex itself in his discussion of “Sex Syndrome,” I believe the syndrome he describes is an accurate portrayal of what many sex addicts go through. As a therapist, I appreciate Leahy’s emphasis on the need for total honesty, accepting responsibility, and confronting the core beliefs underlying sex addiction. And I appreciate his lengthy references to Dr. Patrick Carnes, a well-respected expert who has outlined the indicators of sexual addiction (discussed in detail in Chapter 12 of Porn Nation, “Am I a Sex Addict?”).

So would I recommend Porn Nation? Yes, but only to a very limited clientele:

1. Those who already hold to the evangelical Christian worldview and who need help understanding sex addiction, either for themselves or their loved ones;

2. Those who want to read a compelling personal account of one man’s struggle with – and recovery from – an obsession with internet pornography.

For everyone else who is struggling with this issue, there are better alternatives available.

(By the way, Sex and the City: The Movie was absolutely fabulous – it was like an extended episode of the series, with its main theme being the importance of forgiveness. Very enjoyable.)

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Rumi: Since I Nourish a Seed Named Love


i am no lion
to overpower my enemies
winning over myself
if i can
is enough

though i’m of lowly earth
since i nourish a seed
named love
i’ll grow
lilies of the field

when i’m pitch-black
lamenting separation
i know for sure
i will break through
spreading light on the dark night

i am on fire inside
but look grim outside
since i want to rise
like smoke through my cell

i am a child
whose teacher is love
surely my master
won't let me grow
to be a fool

~ the Sufi poet/mystic Rumi, ghazal number 1523

translated by Nader Khalili
in the book
Rumi: Fountain of Fire
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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Communion in the Rubble


My friend Dan Ra has posted a blog entry about last Sunday night's service at The Living Room, an Emergent Christian church that meets at Tilt Coffeehouse in Atlanta. He has included some photos of the communion service we held in an abandoned lot, following a prayer walk through the downtown Atlanta neighborhood of Castleberry Hills. Check out Dan's blog entry.



Above: Donnie Ray, playing the flute at the beginning of the prayer walk
Below: Grateful Bear


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Friday, June 06, 2008

Lesson

the cat sits
and watches the trees
and the birds and the flowers
outside the window

while lesser beings
sit
and watch TV


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Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Gospel of Judas, Continued

For all you Gnostic Gospel Geeks (G3) like myself, here are two recent and worthwhile articles about the continuing controversy over The Gospel of Judas:

Betrayed by the Media: GetReligion blogger Mollie Ziegler takes a look at a recent analysis by The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Case for Judas, Continued: Harold Attridge reviews two books about Judas for The New York Review of Books

Kato the Gnostic Cat appears unconcerned about the controversy. He is calmly doing his morning yoga routine on the sofa.

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