A sad and revealing laugh

I recently saw an unusual news story that made me laugh.

There is a video on YouTube that shows a “Pastor” in Zimbabwe kissing one of the female members of his congregation.  On.the.lips.

Why, you ask? 

Apparently his kiss is able to remove a “demon from her body”.   The concept is so absurd I laughed.   This sarcastic thought ran through my mind,

“Nice logic there, Pastor.  You discover a demon in the attractive woman’s body that only your kiss can remove?  Very creative.”

In the video, the “Pastor” places his hands firmly on the woman’s face and gives her a prolonged kiss – directly on the lips.  After a few seconds, he suddenly pulls away – makes an exaggerated motion and spits on the ground, as if he still had some of the demonic residue in his mouth.  In his native tongue, he says a few words to the woman (with the rest of the congregation standing nearby) and once again, grabs her face and plants another long, intimate kiss on her lips.  The 50-second long video is weird, awkward and hard to watch.

Given the disparity of power (between Pastor and congregant), it’s hard to know if the woman is a willing participant or simply being an obedient churchgoer.  We do not know if she also thought she had a demon or if that was simply the Pastor’s “professional” opinion.  I’m pretty sure he alone came up with the unusual solution as his demon-removing remedy is found nowhere in Scripture.  Interestingly, no one in the congregation tries to stop this behavior even as many seem uncomfortable with the exercise – except of course, the Pastor.

Finding the whole story bizarre and amusing, I copied the link and posted it on my personal Facebook page with this commentary:

“I’m pretty sure this ‘Pastor’ is taking the

“greet one another with a holy kiss” verse

completely out of context.”

It was meant to be a joke.  For those who are unfamiliar with this Bible verse, I was referencing one of several passages in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, Romans 16:16, etc) where the Apostle Paul instructs the members of the Church to “greet each other with a holy kiss”.  (For the record, scholars debate as to what Paul meant by that phrase or what makes a kiss holy.  No reasonable biblical scholar believes, however, that it has anything to do with the exorcism of demons.)

Within minutes of posting, several male friends also found it entertaining as evidenced by their feedback.  It wasn’t until several comments later, accompanied by an anger emoji, that got my attention.  The writer, a female friend, was clearly not finding any piece of this story humorous.  To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that reaction and it made me suddenly aware that perhaps my perspective on this event was “off”.   

As the post sat there on my wall for all my friends to see… I had a growing, gnawing “check” in my spirit.  Something suddenly didn’t feel right about it.  It was meant to be funny… but was it?  I mean, the guys laughed but the other gender of my audience clearly felt an emotion other than laughter.  

I sent the link and my comment to an advocate for abused women, someone who has experienced abuse as a woman and now counsels dozens in the thick of it.  I was curious to see how she would interpret this story.  As I expected, she sized up the scenario with alarming precision and speed.  She wrote back,

“It’s literally a video of real sexual and spiritual abuse.”

It is?, I thought.   

Her words were jarring.  Did I really just post a video showing abuse?  I actually found THAT funny??  I started to wonder, is this an issue of an overly sensitive woman or completely desensitized men?

Then she asked me,

“Why do you want to post that?”

Good question.  Why did I want to post that?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about this video and my initial response to it.

As a man who has never experienced sexual assault or abuse, I only saw  the ridiculous claim that a kiss can exorcise a demon.  Somehow, I missed the part where another human being was being placed in an objectified position by someone who is supposed to pastor/protect her.   A woman was being abused in the name of God or church or faith or healing and my knee-jerk reaction was laughter.  

I started to realize that it’s possible (if not easy) for some of us to stare sexual or spiritual abuse in the face and not even recognize it for what it is.

We shrug it off.

We laugh it off. 

We excuse it off.

We dismiss it away. 

We deny it exists. 

We call it by a different name. 

We view it under the guise of being silly or cute or playful or harmless.

But it isn’t.

Pornography is another great example of this type of verbal gymnastics.  We call it “porn” but when you think about it – it is really the abuse of vulnerable women (or children), caught on tape, for the pleasure of men. 

What would happen if we started calling it by it’s evil, ugly, detailed description instead of by it’s less damning, abbreviated four letter word? 

As a full-fledged sinner with some major league sins under my belt, I understand the temptation to name the wrong we do in more palatable ways.   It’s easier to think we “borrowed” that which we actually stole.

It is not uncommon for me to receive a phone call from several male friends who ask for prayer or accountability because of their “struggle” or “thorn” or “lack of purity”. 

What if these prayer requests and admissions of guilt were more specific in their vernacular?

What if the phone call went something like this,

“Rod,

  • “I’m tempted to watch videos of really vulnerable women get abused sexually.”   OR
  • “I get turned on by watching naked men treat naked women with disdain and cruelty.”  OR
  • “I secretly enjoy watching videos of prostitution.”  OR
  • “I like to go into a dark room, pull my pants down and watch other men hurt and degrade women.  This experience brings me pleasure.”

It’s not easy to read those sentences (or write them!), let alone admit this vice might tempt you.  And yet, until we see abuse for what it is, we’ll never really address it.  And we can’t address anything unless we recognize it for what it is.  I mean, this is 12 step process 101.

Step 1: Admit you have a problem.

 

I have to do better in this area.  

We, as men, have to do better in this area.  

We have to see what’s going on, under our noses, in broad daylight.  We have to be willing to call out our friends, neighbors, co-workers, parents, relatives, Pastors or any other person perpetuating abusive situations, even those perpetuated by ignorance.  Our ladies need this from us.  The gospel requires this of us.  Our Christian witness is begging this from us.

Somehow I stared sexual and spiritual abuse in the face and laughed at it. 

If I missed this, what else am I not seeing?

May God open our eyes and allow us to see people (especially those on a video we will never meet) through His lens and grant us the courage to stand up and defend those who are vulnerable or defenseless.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

 

For the record, I took down the post from my Facebook page.

Holy Kiss

If you have read the Epistles (letters in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul), you will find 4 similar verses in 4 different letters:

  • Romans 16:16 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:20 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:12 – Greet one another with a holy kiss.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:26 – Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

What is this holy kiss anyway? Is this a kissing someone in church? Kissing while holding a Bible? Praying while you kiss? Kissing while you pray? What exactly makes it holy?

Greeting one another with a holy kiss is foreign to us because we are generally not a kissing people.  I mean we kiss our spouses or children or parents or our Italian Uncle or our cousins (That was for my Southern friends).  But for the most part, we don’t usually “pucker up” for our greetings.

So, as this might sound strange to us, Luke 7:40-48 shows how common a greeting a kiss was back in the first century.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house.  You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

As you can see, Jesus rebukes Simon (a member of the leading religious organization called the Pharisees) for not greeting Him with a kiss when He entered his home. From what we know about Jewish culture, the kiss would have been delivered on one or both cheeks. We see this again in Luke 22:47-48 when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  Even today, in that culture – most everyone still greets with a kiss.

So, what do we do with these verses today? If you have never greeted anyone with a holy kiss, have you been sinning?  Yes. I mean, No. I don’t know! Here is what we should take from it.

  1. Greet other believers! I know it sounds elementary but we should make sure we are greeting other believers every opportunity we get. What does it communicate to a non-believing world when they see us greet other believers of different churches, denominations and colors? Though we are different and diverse, our bond is in Christ and that unity just baffles a non-believing world.
  2. Greet your enemies! Jesus makes it clear, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:47). What does it communicate to your enemies when you greet them, in spite of how they treat you? When you ignore those who persecute you or withhold your greeting from those who bother you, your actions become Gentile-ish, in the eyes of God. Remember, knowing that Judas was about to betray Him unto death, Jesus greeted Judas and allowed a kiss from the ultimate betrayer.
  3. Greet appropriately. If an older person enters the room, respect for their age should cause you to rise to greet them (Leviticus 19:32). While you are greeting, you should always maintain eye contact and smile alot. The use of titles (such as “Mr.¨ or “Mrs.¨ or “Sir¨ and “Ma’am¨ are always appropriate, particularly with those older than you.  The woman’s kiss (in the passage above) was appropriate given Whom she was kissing.
  4. Greet affectionately. If you know the person well (family, close friend, etc) greet them with a holy kiss on the cheek. When they ask what you are doing, simply say “Romans 16:16 baby!¨ and make them wonder what kind of verse that is!   If you know the person more casually, greet them with a holy hug or holy handshake or a holy high five.  If the person is a true enemy, perhaps you should toss them a holy hand grenade.  If you don’t have one, a warm greeting will do.

Regardless of how you greet, be sure that you do.

After all, who wants to disobey the kissing verse?