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Power and the Misuse of Love

A note - Blogging isn't free. Right now I provide gifts to my writers as a way of thanking people for writing. I would like to be able to afford to give them some sort of renumeration, even if it is small, for making this blog what it is. I'm in talks with a friend who may be able to help connect this blog, which has been in existence for one year now, with more religious communities dedicated to interfaith dialogue. Your donation will do a lot toward making that happen.


A little note: This was originally intended as an essay about liberation theology. It became something else. I hope it doesn't seem too rant like. It is a blog post, after all.

I have a religious guru in my life. It's someone I met out of a strained friendship and the friendship we have is unorthodox. I've gone in to churches and church establishments many times in my life and been met with pleasant formalities but never really got the opportunity to trade in the nitty gritty of ecclesiastical debate, possibly because they never intended to do that at church.

My friend has exposed me to unificationism. At first I got rebuffed by the unflattering characterizations of a church that holds mass weddings and holds an older Korean man as their epoch. Once I actually read some of the material, I found it very engaging. The interpretation of Adam and Eve especially was refreshing.

Like a lot of Christian sects, however, there is a tiptoeing around the causes of many social problems. Money and power has a lot to do with sex and to explain that, I think it's best if we look at extremes.

I've been in the developing world and can attest that it's just really difficult to explain how different the developing world is to someone in the developed world. No matter how poor you are in the developed world, there is generally enough wealth so that you would be able to sustain yourself on a day to day basis.

In the developing world, however, resources can be so scarce that whole entire families are vulnerable. Imagine having a large family at a young age and spending each day of your life trying to feed them. It's not just about your individual survival but group survival at this point. Even if you are uncomfortable with it, selling drugs or your body will begin to seem like a logical solution to poverty.

In environments like that, the capitalism that provides iPhones and expensive cars in the developed world takes on dark dimensions. The drug trade is large especially in Latin America, especially Central America, where the natural growth of the drugs and the control of other resources by developed countries naturally lead people to take opportunity where it's most available.

In Asia especially, it takes even darker paths - paths that should make most Christians shudder. One of the first things I was presented with when I was in Southeast Asia was a prostitute. She tried to milk me for money pretty aggressively but was a nice enough woman otherwise, with a child to feed at home. I could tell this was not something she wanted to do and she even warned me that most people where she's from hustle simply to survive.

"Why does God allow prostitution to exist?" is a question that Pope Francis was asked by a woman in the Phillipines. Stories come out about sex rings in the developing world often. Sex tourists from the west seem to love Asian women especially - for the mix of perceived traditional submissiveness and the economic disadvantages these women come from, which make them much more pliant to male intentions than a western woman would ever be. All too many women from these areas find no choice but to comply - no one may have put a gun to their head (although I'm sure that has happened) but they look for money and survival where they can find it.

There were strip clubs throughout Guam, of which my uncle took me to. It wasn't hard to see who they cater to - it wasn't Chamorros. U.S. servicemen would often have a big grin on their face while island girls would grind on a pole lifelessly. A few catered to Japanese tourists too. Strip clubs exist everywhere of course but it was all too clear how exploitative and sick the whole thing was in a poor environment. Whereas a young woman may strip in the U.S. in order to pay off student loans, in the developing world she does it to feed her family.

One of my favorite passages I've read in the material I've read had to do with the Unification interpretation of Adam and Eve, which adopts symbolism that makes much more sense than the more literal interpretation:

Through the fall, Adam and Eve, the first human ancestors, lost their purity and acquired an inclination toward selfishness which they passed on like a hereditary disease to their children. The consequences were tragic: Abel could not share God's blessing with his elder brother, and Cain's jealousy led to the first murder in human history. This was the beginning of a cycle of hatred and violence that has continued to this day.

The original fall of man was actually the distortion and destruction of true love. True love for the sake of others was meant to be the very center of human life and the essence of the kingdom of Heaven on earth. Instead, selfish love has become the way of human life and has created a kingdom of hell on earth. Sexual relations were to be the most beautiful and holy expression of the eternal love between a husband and wife. Sadly many people think that love is sex and thereby reduce both to a purely physical act. Whereas sexuality can be truly fulfilled only through the sacred relationship of marriage, today love has been so distorted that sex has become a casual recreation. Because of the misuse of sexual intimacy, celibacy has been practiced in various religions as a means to come closer to God.
 
The degradation of sexuality has always been a tragic phenomenon in human society, but the problem has perhaps never been so acute as in our modern age. Today, while parents, teachers and religious leaders may strive to instill the value of sexual abstinence in young people, they have to contend with the formidable influence of the commercial entertainment industry, which often relies on sexual themes and images in order to sell its wares.

If sexual immorality, the hook up culture and the destruction of marriage and commitment between men and women is a genuine concern among Christians then they cannot continue to nod in approval of unrestrained global capitalism. It makes absolutely no sense that we would be instilled on Sunday to always use moral judgment in our everyday decision making but to cease to do so once money is involved - it seems like a copout to preach but refuse any heavy lifting in a society in which money itself forms nearly all of our decision making to begin with. Is sexual immorality a problem only for individuals but something to gloss over when it is industrialized?

When it comes to sex, religious conservatives often get things half right - they rightly see that things have gone wrong. People are confused about their sexual identity, unable to form lasting bonds despite wanting to and children grow up in broken homes. However, they do not go deep enough to see what modern sexual immorality is about - power.

The ultimate differentiation in good sexual relationships and bad sexual relationships is power. Good sexual relationships are an exchange of love, while rape, molestation, abuse and pornography have power written all over them. In order to make sure children grow up truly knowledgeable about sexual health, it's not enough to just tell them to be abstinent or to inform them through sex education - they need to be able to recognize the currents behind desire and to differentiate when love is occurring, when lust is occurring and when, of course, power is occurring.

Power over others is the core of all abuse and since money is power in this modern world, money has to do with all abuse we encounter, sexual or otherwise. If our children can recognize power in sex, they will be able to recognize it everywhere else in our social world because the same power I saw in the eyes of that soldier at the Guam strip club is the same power seen in those who step over the poor and forgotten.

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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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