Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism


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Meet Mr Smith – The Wiry Little Guy

Today is the day we finally meet the first member of the League. Chapter 4 describes Eric’s meeting with “the wiry little guy”.

So, Eric’s sitting at his favorite café waiting to meet the first member of the League (after getting an anonymous note with the date). He has no idea who he’s waiting for, but at some point, the waiter whom he seems to know well tells Eric that a man is waiting for him at another table – a ‘geeky dude':

I looked over toward the bookcase and saw a large, muscular man sitting snugly in a tall, wingback, leather chair only ten feet from where I sat. “You mean the big guy?” I asked Deuce [the waiter]. “No, the wiry little guy with big glasses and high water pants, sitting right there. And beware, my friend, he’s toting around a most awful smell.” (p. 33)

It turns out they are talking about the exact same man, and Eric walks over to find out what’s going on. The man tells Eric that he was the one who sent the note. Eric is puzzled – he has no clue who this guy could be. But:

The more I studied this man, the more familiar he seemed. His manner was reminiscent of something, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. He was hulking. His clothing covered it well, but as you looked at him more closely, it was obvious that this man was not just big; he seemed to be cut from marble with a Greek chisel. He was beyond Hollywood handsome, and his presence was truly statuesque and awesome. He smelled of Tide laundry detergent with a hint of peppermint. His jaw was square, his silvery-blue eyes were intense, and his grip, when he shook my hand, squashed my fingers. (p. 34)

Wow, talk about admiration! On a side note, am I the only one who is reminded of Christian Grey? Either way, this guy doesn’t sound like a wiry little guy. He sounds downright awesome, the kind of guy the other men want to be like, the kind of guy women want to date. Right?

Have you guessed who this guy is? I’ll tell you right now, it is (drumroll) Mr Purity.

Now, what we see here is a stark contrast between Eric’s perception of this guy and Deuce the waiter’s perception of that guy. Eric’s (supposed) authority in matters of faith functions here as an expression of the fact that worldly culture’s view is distorted. The reader is faced with an image of ‘purity’ that they have probably encountered before – after all, people might have pointed out their ‘nerdiness’ or at least ‘weirdness’ before. Eric’s authority allows him to say “It’s not you who’s wrong – it’s society failing to see the beauty and strength in you.” In this way, Eric tries to lift the doubts young people encounter if they try to follow purity teachings. While I agree that some people might see some things differently, I find that this stark contrast – especially in this context – is something very dangerous. After all, there aren’t just different ways to look at things, there are wrong ways and right ways, Eric’s way obviously being the right way because it is the (supposedly) biblical way. This right-wrong distinction makes it very difficult for any person to reevaluate personal convictions – the fact that Eric’s tale here mentions that Mr Purity is a messenger of the actual, real God of the Bible, and that Eric, as a believer, sees what he really looks like makes it almost impossible to reevaluate anything without being blamed of some sort of ‘sin’ causing a change of mind. That is, anyone who sees something that differs from Eric’s perception is by necessity mislead and suffers from a distorted view of ‘truth’.

Also, I want to add this one fragment of thought to this: Eric’s description here is very reminiscent of ‘secret knowledge’ type of groups and societies. Eric implies that certain things can only be seen if you follow XY or Z. That is, followers of his teachings can see things the average person cannot see, or only in a very distorted version. Apart from the fact that in this way, Eric excludes a large number of people from his group, it also creates a feeling of community and superiority. ‘Seeing truth’, in its most literal sense, becomes an ability that is exclusively given out to a chosen group of people, a sort of supernatural ability.

This also ties in with a statement that can be found at the very bottom of Leslie’s girl magazine homepage (Set Apart Girl): “In Every Generation There Are a Few” is what this little, sneaky line reads. Again, this is along the same lines of a selected group of people who share knowledge that is inaccessible to others. But back to Eric.

The two of them chat some more about Mr Purity’s appearance, but it’s just more of the same old, until we get to the point where Mr Purity gives the following remark:

“I know you contacted Great Sex. That was a bold and brash move on your part. I realize you and Leslie have a special relationship with him in regard to your marriage; however, Great Sex is very private, and God has very strict authority over his public presentation. He called me into his office last week and told me you are writing a book that aims to prove his existence. I don’t need to tell you how delicately this must be handled, Mr Ludy!” (p. 35, emphasis mine)

Note the bolded parts. Why would God be concerned over people knowing that Great Sex exists? Why does it need to be handled delicately? Again, is this some sort of secret knowledge? Secret society? Is knowing about the existence of Great Sex something that unbelievers must be barred from? If so, why? So they don’t… become believers? I mean, if you knew that you would have Great Sex if you were a conservative Christian… wouldn’t you convert or something? Become a Christian? Isn’t this completely illogical and weird? I honestly have no clue what to say about this other than the fact that I believe Eric is trying to imply that this is a very secret knowledge, and that even believers have to (secretly) work to get it. Of course, I realize the God of the Bible wouldn’t be too hyped if you presented great sex in public – the act, that is. But in Eric’s tale, it wouldn’t be an act that is being presented – hence there wouldn’t be a display of, say, naked bodies or defrauding images. It would be an actual, living person, waving at the crowd saying “Hi guys, I’m great sex, look at how awesome I am!” I really can’t see why this must remain so secret, and why Great Sex would be so concerned that his existence stays a secret.

Also, why would Eric want to prove the existence of Great Sex in the first place? Has anybody ever doubted that he exists? It’s not like unbelievers think sex sucks – in fact, most people would probably say that they’d had great sex at least once. The distinction between what unbelievers think of as great sex (that ugly, mean guy, the Imposter) and what believers think of as great sex (Great Sex) has already been made earlier in the book. I thought Eric wanted to expose the Imposter, who, by the way, was admired by all unbelievers in the café in the first chapter. So, obviously, it’s totally unnecessary to prove that it exists. But again, I can’t help but think of this as a tool to form a secret society/community type of feeling.

Continuing with the conversation Eric has with Mr Purity, Eric learns that Mr Purity is the bodyguard of the League:

You see, Mr Ludy, I am the official bodyguard of the inner life. My responsibility is to protect the ever-maturing Christ-life within the hearts of God’s children. (p.39)

Now here, purity is about more than just sex. It’s about the whole inner life of a believer. That, in turn, implies that sexual purity (which is not present in unbelievers) ties in with the entire inner life (of an unbeliever). So… a lack of sexual purity weakens your entire inner life to attacks from evil forces. Sounds a bit far out? Well, this is actually what I believed in. There is no real difference between sexual purity and a purity of the entire being. It’s pretty much the same mechanism. This is one of the reasons why sexual impurity is such a big deal: It opens you up to all kinds of attacks on your spiritual life.

Now, Mr Purity doesn’t want to let Eric meet the rest of the League until he taught him a lesson or two (what what, Eric needs lessons in purity? no way!). Next up: The Deal!

 


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Jonah

Why do people leave behind everything they ever knew, people they love, security, their entire life? What makes you take such radical steps? Are you not afraid of whatever will happen next?

Of course I was afraid – more than that. I was terrified. Making the decision to leave an entire system of beliefs, relationships and home, without an idea of how life could possibly work, that’s not easy. No one said it was. The question that remains is what could possibly scare you so much that jumping off that cliff into the unknown – without knowing if there was a net to catch you, with the very real possibility that this might end really, really badly – was better than staying and trying to change things slowly.

For me, that was god. It sounds counter-intuitive, but my fear of god made me leave.

When god calls Jonah to be his prophet, Jonah reacts very differently than all the other prophets before him. He doesn’t obey. He doesn’t stay. Instead, Jonah leaves everything behind and boards a ship, with strangers, to a place he doesn’t know. Why did Jonah leave?

Sometimes I think that Jonah and I have a lot in common. Staying meant obeying for both of us. The fear of what god would do to us if we stayed made both of us get on that ship. The fear of what god would do to us. Not the belief that there is no god, the pain caused by relationships, the sad memories. No. The knowledge that god wasn’t done with us yet, and that whatever he had in store for us would not be any good.

Jonah was haunted by god, and god did terrible things to make Jonah return. So Jonah does, and he obeys the lord, and subjects himself to things he doesn’t want to do, things he doesn’t feel are necessary or right. And finally, it turns out that everything Jonah did was just a big game. Nineveh wasn’t destroyed (which is a good thing), but Jonah can’t help but ask why god would do such terrible things to him. God, Jonah says, is compassionate and loving. Jonah knew that God wouldn’t destroy Nineveh. Why was all this necessary? We never find out (yes, you could argue that without Jonah, Nineveh would have been destroyed – but why Jonah? Why not pick a person who would want to do it?). After all things are done and over, Jonah sits outside the city and wishes he was dead. Jonah is empty, angry and has lost all hope. But God isn’t done with him just yet. God let a plant grow for Jonah, so that he could sit in its shadow. And Jonah is happy about that. But then God destroys that plant just to lecture him some more. And Jonah? Well, he is angry, and he still wishes he was dead. We never find out how Jonah’s story continues, but me, I never expected Jonah to jump up and praise the lord. I don’t think he did.

Unlike Jonah, I didn’t return. And god didn’t haunt me (of course, I’m not a prophet). Unlike Jonah, I managed to escape god’s grasp on me. I think that returning would have resulted in similar feelings for me. I believe I would be like Jonah, sitting in my small hut, asking god why I of all people have to be in a situation I really don’t want to be in, why my prayers aren’t being fulfilled (but my husband’s are). I think I too would wish I was dead, angry at god.

Jonah’s life after returning was bleak. Unbearable. Jonah had a choice, though: He could have decided to die that night on the ship, or in the fish. He decided not to. On that night on my ship, I made a different decision: I would rather die than return to whatever god had in store for me.

It’s not about a lack of belief, or about things in the bible that just don’t add up. It’s about a genuine fear of what he would do to me if I obeyed his every word.


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Meet Mr Smith – The League

Sorry for the delay – I had a family emergency (nothing bad though!) and was needed to keep the show running at my aunt’s house. It’s over now, so I’ll get back on track asap!

Chapter 3 is called “The League”, and, to be honest, not very interesting. It’s just 5 pages long, and all Eric does is describing that ‘Great Sex’ has agreed to be interviewed, but not after letting Eric wait for 12 weeks. Eric describes being lead into the middle of nowhere by a blue Pontiac. After arriving at the final destination, a muscular guy tells him

“Mr Ludy, you’ve got your wish. You’ve earned yourself an interview with Mr Smith.” (p. 29)

Eric explains that this 12 week wait seemed rather long, and because he absolutely needed something to publish, he interviewed others during that time. This turned out to be a good thing, he says, because:

“Great Sex, contrary to popular myth, is not a singular force as is Imposter Sex. In a manner of speaking, Great Sex is part of a team. […] Great Sex is the leader of an entire band of superheroes. […]

Those interminable twelve weeks forced me to investigate this oft-overlooked band of superheroic cohorts.” (p. 29-30)

This band of ‘heroes’ is what Eric calls “the league”. What stands out to me in this passage is that it’s actually not that bad of a passage in some ways. For most people, good sex doesn’t come through a singular force (the physical aspect), but please note that it can, and that’s alright too. For most, there’s more attached to it. For some, this might be love, trust, respect, for some it will include commitment, for others it will include being spontaneous, and others again don’t need love and trust, but rather adventure or the unknown. So yes, for each and every person, great sex doesn’t consist of the bare physical aspect, most will find that a number of aspects will add up to what one considers “great”.

What Eric fails to acknowledge is that there isn’t a fixed band of superheroes for each and every person. Sex is as individual as the people who have it. Eric tries to sell this as a “one size fits all” kind of deal when it really isn’t. He also fails to acknowledge that some people are simply not compatible. You can’t expect to invite all those “superheroes” Eric will interview in the following chapters into your bedroom and everything will be fine. That’s not how humans work! Because, I have to say it again, different superheroes for different people.

Additionally, Imposter Sex is described as a singular person, whereas great sex is not. This is a very clear description of what Eric believes of ‘worldly’ relationships: There is only one singular aspect, the physical aspect, which corresponds to the “root of evil” – Jimmy the Shrimp aka selfishness. Eric doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility that non-christians can experience what he supposedly experiences. And this leads me to one of the major problems of this book (sex books of any type, to be honest): If you choose one of these binary options, you can’t possibly experience the other. If you experience ‘biblical’ sex, that necessarily means that you haven’t experienced ‘worldly’ sex. If you did, in fact, experience ‘worldly’ sex, then you can’t experience the ‘biblical’ version because you have lost too much. It’s impossible to objectively contrast these two, but then again, can you ever compare and contrast sexual experiences, especially those of different people?

So, you probably guessed what’s next: Before Eric lets us in on his interview with Mr Smith (aka Great Sex), he’ll tell us more about his interviews with the other members of the League. Next up: The little Wiry Guy!


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Meet Mr Smith: Jimmy the Shrimp

So Jimmy the Shrimp. In this chapter, Eric wonders why God would create sex in the first place. If Eric (and the reader) were to create the world, this is what he would consider:

So when the Garden of Eden comes into view and it’s time to craft our very first human being, it just makes sense – knowing what we know now – that we should leave out the excretory and reproductive systems. (p. 15)

I don’t think I have to say all that much here, let me just… So there are two really gross things about being a human being – sex and… shit? The major problem here is the association of sex with something that most young women (the major audience of this book) will find very gross. This creates an image of sex as something very undesirable – would you want to touch the excrements of another person in any way? No? Well, having sex is very, very similar to that. At least that was my first idea when I read this passage, and I bet I’m not the only one who was put off by the thought of sex in connection to the excrement image.

What follows is Eric’s recollection of a particularly cold morning. He put on warm clothes – even long underwear (he stresses this three times, I am clueless why this is so relevant as opposed to the jacket and gloves he was wearing) to go to the gym. So he gets out of the car in front of the gym, and there’s this guy wearing shorts. Eric is surprised (he put on long underwear, after all) and observes the following:

I gasped with horror, and before I could analyze and thusly quash the words I was about to launch from my squack box, I blurted, “How do you pull off those shorts?” – Sex creates problems we certainly wouldn’t have if it didn’t exist. (p. 16)

Seems like a weird train of thoughts? It is! So why is sex to blame for the shorts-situation? Here’s the solution:

As far as he [the man in shorts] was concerned, I was not only a sexual deviant but a rather rude one at that. My point is, sex caused that very uncomfortable scene! (p. 16)

Ok, Eric, listen: Sex did not cause that uncomfortable scene. Your (and the man’s) perceptions about socially appropriate behavior and stereotyping caused that scene. Your belief caused that scene. Don’t blame sex. It didn’t force you to ask that question, and it didn’t tell the man who you were probably gay. What really, really, caused that scene is the fact that you can’t take a single step in this world without thinking about penises and vaginas, because you were taught that you are supposed to be thinking about penises and vaginas at all times. This is not what normal people do.

Back to creation. So, why did God create sex again? Eric states that, if you’re not just going to leave out sex in creation, why not make it really really painful? There wouldn’t be rape, or unwanted pregnancies or VDs if sex were painful. However, Eric believes that this wouldn’t solve the problem behind the whole sex debate. Here’s why:

You know how in mobster movies, you find out that the Mob has been laundering money through a series of front companies. and no one knew that Jimmy the Shrimp from the west side of Chicago was actually the deviant behind the whole murderous affair? The problem with Sex is a lot like that. There’s a Jimmy the Shrimp behind this whole Sex thing, and it’s making the whole bottle of milk go sour. And whether Sex was removed from the picture entirely or the act of Sex actually became painful, the problem (aka Jimmy the Shrimp) would still be at large, finding himself a new flunky and creating a new front behind which to hide his deviant behavior. Sex just happens to be his chosen front. (p. 18)

I think this is a very accurate comparison. Eric is right, sex is not the problem. But who, exactly, is Jimmy the Shrimp?

Selfishness. Yep. That’s the sickness; that’s the problem. It’s that’s (sic!) simple to describe. Selfishness (aka Jimmy the Shrimp) is the essence of everything wrong, not just with Sex, but with everything else on planet earth. (p. 19)

The concept of selfishness vs “dying to self” is a huge one in conservative christianity in general (cf. JOY – Jesus first, others second, yourself last) and the Ludyverse specifically. It shouldn’t surprise that Eric sees selfishness as the root of all problems – or, as he mentions a page later – the Flesh. The Flesh is what makes us do all evil and bad, and, due to our fleshly nature, human beings are bound to follow their fleshly desires, aka to sin, to do bad, to be selfish. On top of that, there is no stopping it. You can’t just be a good person, as Eric explains:

You see, the catch is, you are free as a bird to do bad, mischievous, crude and debased things, but you are not free to do godly things. Being loving, pure, kind, and good-hearted doesn’t seem like much of an ambition until you realize that no matter how hard you try, you can’t pull it off. You are stuck on a one-way street called Sin, and there’s no going the other way. (p. 21)

This is quite a bleak outlook on life, but it captures very well the essence of conservative christianity: It is simply impossible to be good in any way. You are governed by your flesh and there’s no escaping it – your flesh, your selfishness, rule everything you are. The only way (which Eric also mentions in the following passage) is making God your only master. That means that your flesh must die (aka “dying to self”) in order for God to use you for good things, to make you pure and noble. This is an either-or decision, which also means that if you do not believe in the God of the Bible, it is absolutely impossible for you to do anything good in your life – even those acts you might think of as good and noble are perverted by the underlying selfishness of the flesh. Eric explains this problem in connection to sex:

Sex is a carrier for Jimmy the Shrimp’s agenda. You may want Sex to exhibit the beauty and romance of heaven in your life, but as long as the Shrimp stands behind it, Sex will always only be selfish, lust-driven, and perverse. (p. 23)

Basically, what this boils down to is that without a clear belief in the God of the Bible, all sex you have will be perverted, and dirty. Even if you remained a virgin untill marriage. Even if you never looked at porn or had sexual thoughts. Only through believing in God in a particular way can you make Sex something acceptable and fulfilling.

Now, taken all together, it is very hard to criticize Eric on these ideas. If you did have sex outside of these belief systems, you might go ahead and say that Eric is wrong, that you are very satisfied with your sex life and whatnot. But you see, this chapter and the one before it serve to build up a defence system against this argument: YOU see Imposter sex and, like the women at Starbucks, think he’s the hottest guy in town. Your opinion is invalid because you have no idea. Eric knows what really great sex feels like, and you’re just going to have to go ahead and believe him. And if you don’t… well, that’s probably your flesh trying to stop you from becoming a believer.

Next up: Eric’s steps to really great sex.


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Meet Mr Smith: The Imposter

As I mentioned in the introduction post, the first part of the book is exclusively Eric’s tale. After Leslie’s short preface, he starts his section with a chapter called “Imposter Sex”. Now, I wasn’t sure if I should dedicate an entire post to this chapter because it is both very short and very rambly, but I couldn’t think of a way to incorporate it with the following chapter, so I finally decided on an individual post.

The major reason for this is because this first chapter sets the stage for the entire tale, yet is somewhat unconnected to it.

In this first chapter, Eric described the ‘process’ and ‘reason’ for writing this book:

“Just yesterday I sat down at a Starbucks in downtown Manhatten and had a very uncomfortable three-and-a-half minute conversation with Sex.” (p. 3)

As you can see, this is very much a narrative – as the entire construction of Eric’s tale is. What strikes me in this first sentence of the book is the way he manages to incorporate and enforce common stereotypes about sex with his choice of words: “very uncomfortable” and “three-and-a-half minute”. Why is this relevant to him you ask? Well, because he doesn’t express this as a stereotype about sex in general, but about imposter sex. What follows is a several pages long (fictional) story of how Eric wrote a letter to “Sex” (an actual, living person in this narrative), asking for an interview and some rambly thoughts about the word itself. I’ll spare you the details, because he really doesn’t say much. Let’s jump to the day Eric is sitting in that Starbucks, the day of the meeting:

“Although the environment wasn’t much to sex’s liking, seeing as how I had threatened to expose his impostership, he arrived, nevertheless, with two bodyguards and a haughty smirk splattered all over his face, as if he had left the lid off the blender that morning when mixing up his daily dose of self-importance.” (p. 6)

Sex doesn’t seem so nice now, does it? Note how Eric connects Sex to self-importance here: This is a very frequent image (or connection) in the purity culture. Sex, or better, having sex, is not an expression of love, emotion, physical connection – it is merely an act of glorifying the self above anything else. This focus on self-importance vs denial of the self is a central theme in all of the Ludy’s writings, and we didn’t have to read more than 10 pages to arrive at the point where Eric points out just that – the very first thing that strikes him about “imposter-sex” is self-importance.

“I was quite surprised at his appearance. Seeing as how this guy is all about glitz and glam, I’d expect a handsome, well-formed leading man sort of fellow – you know, Tom Cruise meets Russell Crowe. However, this guy was more like a smarmy Elvis impersonator. He was almost cartoonish in his form – tall and lean, but with a blubbery beer bulge up front. Although he had a rather attractive face, his hair was greasy black and he even had a set of long sideburns a la “the King”.” (p. 6)

Bet you didn’t see that one coming! So, what I get from this description is that Sex really can’t be as hot as you would think it is. I find it fascinating that a book targeting young women for the most part would work with such descriptions. I don’t know about you, but after reading this, I can’t help but imagine a guy like this in my bedroom – and it’s not a very nice image. Clearly, the major idea is building negative associations. So, how would you react if you saw a guy like that? Stay away from him? Let’s see what the people sitting at Starbucks do:

“As Sex entered, it seemed the entire room stopped and looked. You would have thought a Greek god was humbling himself and dining among mere mortals. “He’s gorgeous!” I heard a woman whisper from somewhere behind my right shoulder. “That dude is a dude!” said a male voice near the coffee pickup counter. I thought it odd that someone so unimpressive to me was receiving such accolades from these coffee trinkers.” (p.8)

Ok, so it seems Eric is the only one in there who can see Sex for what it really is – that greasy, disgusting figure. The rest of the world – or at least a large portion of it – sees this Sex guy as someone impressive, sexy, desirable. This small section has something very patronizing about it. Eric implying that he can see the Truth (something he states a few lines later), but most others don’t. Eric has the authority to speak because he can see the world for what it really is. In what follows he has a conversation with Sex, telling him that he met his “nemesis” and experienced “his work firsthand”. This makes Sex very angry, and he leaves, telling Eric that he will never go away.

“Sex. Strangely, these three letters weren’t always smarmy, conniving, and falsely debonair. I know this may be difficult to believe, but Sex wasn’t originally coupled with strip clubs, nudie magazines, adulterous antics, and sipping rum punch in a penthouse apartment near Hollywood and Vine. In fact, there was a time when Sex was a clean-shaven gentleman, mature, dignified, bearing roses, and speaking in poetic rhymes with a hint of a British accent. There was a time when Sex worked humbly and selflessly to bring about something good, pleasurable, fun, noble, and pleasing to God.” (p. 11)

Alright, where do I start? I hate to say this, but I have a feeling that Eric hasn’t really read the bible. When was that supposed age where Sex still was the way Eric describes here? In genesis, with Noah? With Tamar? With Sodom and Gomorrah? Or maybe after Jesus died, and Christianity started to form? We have plenty historical proof that this is not true. Prostitution is one of the eldest businesses on earth. “Strip clubs” have always existed in some form.

Also note that “real sex” speaks “poetic rhymes”. I find this interesting in the light of the warrior-poet-construct. There’s another similar line, right after Eric explaining that he knows true sex because he has experienced his work:

“He doesn’t have an Elvis-like flop of hair and long side-burns, he doesn’t have a jiggling bulge around his middle, and he doesn’t swivel his hips – I’d say he’s more William Wallace meet Lord Alfred Tennyson, with a dash of Jimmy Stewart and a dripping dollop of Sidney Poitier.” (p. 12)

What’d I tell you? This is an even clearer rendition of the warrior-poet image, clearly linked to good sex (also note the twisted Braveheart-reference!). As I mentioned in the introduction post, Eric has a very specific image of what this warrior-poet is and uses the term consistently. I will go into details in another post, but I just want to point out very clearly how important he feels this image is in connection to good sex.

After some more rambling about the word sex, Eric concludes this little chapter:

“Imposter Sex thrives off ignorance. But he shrivels up and fades away when we expose him for what he really is – a shameless wannabe.” (p. 14)

So, what can I say to conclude this chapter? Honestly, I find it very difficult to sum up anything other than Eric obviously believing he knows the truth, and that “imposter sex” is gross while “real sex” is super-awesome, warrior-poet style. As I mentioned earlier, this chapter is more an introduction than anything else, but since it stands quite isolated and really doesn’t contain anything, I had to post this separately. What I can promise you is that in what follows, we will finally find out more about that warrior-poet-sex guy, and it’s going to be good. Next up: Selfishness! That’s always a good one.


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Meet Mr Smith: Introduction/Preface

Ludy, Leslie & Eric (2007). Meet Mr Smith. Revolutionize the way you think about sex, purity, and romance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Available e.g. via amazon, around $13. I purchased my book with my own money some years ago. I am not being payed to review. I have no affiliations with the authors, editors or companies. All opinions and views are my own.

For the sake of completeness, here the text on the back:

Meet Mr. Smith offers a radical alternative to the over-romanced, casual-sex lifestyle popular in today’s world.  Reawakening the ancient ideas of sacred sex, purity, and holy love, relationship experts Eric and Leslie Ludy introduce a new language and framework for our sex-in-the-city culture. Meet Mr. Smith exposes and tackles hot topics like:

  • What does God think about pre-marital sex?
  • What about oral sex and self sex?
  • Why would God give me a sex drive if He didn’t plan on me using it?
  • How far is too far?

Meet Mr. Smith is a funny, fresh, romantic conversation about the true nature of love and sex. So go ahead. Open the pages of this book and prepare to meet the companion of your dreams. You’re about to enjoy an encounter that could transform your relationships – and life.

The book is written by both Eric and Leslie, however it is structured into two major sections: The first is Eric’s tale – this is simply called “Eric” in the book, but since it is a very particular writing style (it is more a narrative than anything else), and because referring to it as “Eric” is confusing, I chose to call this first section Eric’s tale from here on out. Eric’s tale makes up a large portion of the book. Leslie’s section follows Eric’s tale, and consist largely of a question and answer section. About half of Leslie’s section consist of appendices without authorial reference to either Eric or Leslie. I chose to include them in Leslie’s section for two reasons: The structure of the contents page indicates somewhat that this section was written by Leslie, and the topics of the appendices are very clearly aimed at a female readership – this is characteristic of Leslie, not Eric.

The book starts out with a short preface written by Leslie. She shortly describes her hesitation about writing (and co-authoring) this book in the first place. Luckily, Eric convinced her to write this book in the end. Finally, she reassures us that the following section (Eric’s tale) is a true story – with minor tweaks for dramatic effect. I know you can’t see right now why she would say that, and why it’s supposed to be funny, but once we are through the first chapter of Eric’s tale, you will understand this reference. So, after this short technical instruction on the book, let’s get started!

 


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The Ludys: An introduction

Can I get a B-U-S-Y to describe my summer? Phew. I’ve been feeling inspired for a long time but I simply could not find enough time to actually write a full post. Today’s the day! So let’s get started.

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I know most of my readers follow a large number of similar blogs (I follow the same ones!). Now, a ‘trend’ on these other blogs is (and has been for months and months) a focus on certain teachers from the P/QF movements, often closely linked to book reviews and the likes. One blog may be very strongly involved in the Godhard-side of things, another may be more focused on Vision forum. I really really enjoy reading these condensed views, reviews and collections. I personally never felt compelled to focus on any specific leader in my writings, simply because I don’t know that much about them (e.g. their personal histories, affiliations etc.). Another factor is that I never got deep into reading their materials, so I can’t really speak in such a knowledgable way about Godhard & co. What I’m trying to say is that I always thought that I never followed a specific leader religiously in my past life, and that means to me that I should not be spreading pseudo-knowledge when there are so many good (and knowledgable) resources.

Recently, however, I have noticed that I did follow a specific group religiously. I did soak up materials like a sponge. I did listen to sermons and talks and all that, took notes, marked their books, etc. And that group is – Eric and Leslie Ludy. Funny I never noticed how obsessed I used to be (and still am, avid reader of Leslie’s magazine here!). Additionally, I find that the Ludys take very much a backseat in the discussion of hurtful theologies and ideologies. Seriously, it’s very hard to find a critique of the Ludys on the webs. Why is that? Here are some thoughts:

As opposed to many other leaders in the evangelical community, the Ludys are a couple. Now, obviously Mr Phillips is also married, but his wife never played a major role in his projects. When she did appear, she very much seemed in the role of a supporter. Godhard was never married, so there’s that.

Finally, we got the Pearls. Now, the Pearls are also a couple, but the constellation is very different from the Eric-Leslie Ludy constellation. The Pearls enforce the exact same values and ideas, the only difference being that Debbie’s books are labelled “For women” whereas Michael’s books are labelled “For men”. At the end of the day, they talk about the exact same stuff, the exact same ideas. Michael and Debbie Pearl are not so much a couple as they are the same person (at least concerning the books they produced) in male and female respectively. This is a huge difference to the Ludys, and I think it is this difference that sets the Ludys apart from the majority of ideological leaders in the evangelical world.

Eric and Leslie Ludy populate vastly different spheres. Their books are very different: Their styles of writing differ greatly, so it’s actually possible to guess very easily who of the two wrote a text (as opposed to Debbie and Michael, you would probably not be able to tell who wrote a piece of text in a blind test). Most importantly, however, their topics differ greatly. Leslie Ludy has a strong focus on clothing, style, make up, family life, children, housekeeping and all things “feminine” (eg. gossip, texting, Internet, etc). Eric Ludy, on the other hand, has not published as many books as his wife to begin with (possibly due to the fact that Leslie’s books have a different target audience which happens to simply consume more books of this sort), and those that he did publish are on topics such as missioning, theology, religion in daily life, etc.

I think this short list gives you a pretty good idea that there is very little chance of the two getting in each other’s way, meaning, they will never repeat what the other one has stated before because they do not intrude each other’s spheres. This also means that the Ludys come across not only as very complementarian (“perfect match” anyone?), it also gives them a quality of respecting each other and each other’s roles in life without reflecting a pattern of “submission” of the wife. In fact, Eric never talks about submission at all – that is entirely Leslie’s job (though she does not like to use the term “submission” at all; Leslie has developed a whole array of terms to cover for it). That may make Eric look like the perfect husband, but whether this reflects his actually state of mind or if this is simply a relatively smart way to solve the problem of a man telling a woman about her place in life is a completely different story.

The very few hints Eric’s writings and sermons give us is his usage of terms like the anecdotal “warrior-poet” (I’m serious, direct quote). This is something I will go into in more detail in a follow-up post, for short a warrior-poet is a man like King David: A brave warrior as well as the shepard who write poems and plays on the flute. Now, warrior-poets are leaders by definition, and, because they are not just brave but also incredibly romantic (the poet part), women are to trust the warrior poets to lead the relationship. I think this very short description gives a good glimpse into the idea of “letting a man lead”. The whole point of this is, though, that the idea represented by the Ludyesque warrior-poet differs in no way from the man in the good old purity/courtship culture. Not one bit.

Eric Ludy hardly ever talks about relationships outside of this warrior-poet-symbolism, and that is, in my opinion, what distinguishes the Ludys from everybody else and ultimately makes them seem extremely liberal while extremely complementarian – this sounds like a contradiction in itself, but it is not, as I hope to show a bit clearer in the next few posts.

Now, Leslie, as opposed to Eric, is very much into the strong representation of female qualities in her writings. Leslie has published a number of books on beauty, style, love, relationships and the like. In her writings, Leslie often takes a very critical approach towards women who fall out of the line of what she deems “godly behavior”. In fact, without ever stating this specifically, she often implies that a woman truly saved will look just the way she expects you to. Everyone who does not meet this ideal of the perfectly made up and styled woman fails to do so because they lack faith. In a sense, Leslie differs very little from other leaders in this field, except for the lack of involvement of her husband in these issues. This lack gives her an authority on these issues that is unmet in the evangelical circles: She speaks truth without her husband being involved in this at all. She speaks truth because she herself does not need her husband’s input on it. This makes her believable and uniquely authentic. She undermines this seemingly god-given perfection of the feminine sphere of Christianity with her magazine “Set Apart Girl” (available for free online, just google set apart girl), in which she uses beautiful layout, beautiful photos and beautifully arranged texts. You may say I’m overinterpreting here, but as a matter of fact, Leslie manages to publish and honestly beautiful magazine, while looking beautiful herself, sitting in her beautiful house, with her perfectly clean kids (rosy cheeks and all) – this is what attracts the young female reader. Leslie turns into the perfect role model because she has it together (or so it seems), because her husband is so immensely proud to have a perfect wife (and he didn’t even have to publish a book on how to be a perfect wife because his wife already is perfect).

These things are exactly what drew me towards the Ludys (and still does), so bear with me while I go into more detail on a number of the things I mentioned (and some others). I think it’s going to be interesting, and I also think it’s going to be a nice addition to the rest of the “evangelical leader” publishing field.

By the way, since book reviews are so popular, I went through the small stack of christian living books I still own (They are all Ludy books). I came across “Meet Mr Smith”, which is a book on sexual and emotional purity in relationships, written by Eric and Leslie together. I thought I’d offer this up for a review because it’s one of the least-known Ludy books and it’s actually a very interesting read. Thoughts?

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