Society, Sex, and Sanctification

Lately I’ve been doing a lot thinking, primarily regarding faith, family, and culture. In the last year l became a dad and that has been one of the most impactful experiences that continues to alter my perception of the world. The thinking I’ve been doing has led me to research, which led to more thinking, and eventually writing it down, so here we go. You all know me in different capacities, so as a precursor I am in no way an authoritarian- I have strong opinions on things like morals, truth, and how one should live, however I don’t believe such things should ever be forced, we must all be free to our own opinions and lifestyles. This deals with some touchy issues but my goal is not to offend but to inform and perhaps challenge some of our perceptions and intellectual prejudices.

”What would our society look like if it accepted and embraced the Christian/biblical view of sex?”

Here is the question I have been pondering: What would our society look like if it accepted and embraced the Christian/biblical view of sex? That is that sex is a great gift from God to be enjoyed exclusively in the context of consensual, loving, covenant between husband and wife. Jesus even went so far as to say that even lusting for someone out of that context is wrong. Now this view of sexuality probably pushes against and steps on the toes of the vast majority of our generations viewpoint, why would anyone even want to live in a way that denies them certain pleasures? But before you write it off completely there are many topics to consider:

I don’t think there is a need for me to go into any detail about how horrific sex slavery and rape are, or how terrible adultery is for families. Most of us are in agreement here with the Christian position whether we are Christians or not.

I’m not going to spend much time on birth control but there is at least one important thing worth noting on the matter, and that is our unique position in history. Throughout the thousands of years of human history, sex and reproduction/marriage/family have gone hand in hand- if you want sex be prepared to take care of children, that’s the way our bodies work. The last few generations are really the first in world history to have effective contraceptives, and be free(ish) of the responsibilities that go with copulation. I’m not at all in the “contraceptives are evil” camp, in the right context they can be a great thing but something that our generation seems ignorant of is that the primary purpose of sex from a biological, evolutionary, and biblical perspective is procreation. Biblically speaking, one would have a tough time (and need an biblically ignorant audience) twisting scripture to make it say that birth control is immoral and I have no intention of doing so. Contraceptives can be a great thing and sex is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures, but we must be cautious not to mix up its purpose (reproduction) with it’s side effects (pleasure).

For the sake of time and focus I will not get into ethics or morality of abortion. Both sides of the debate agree that it is a negative thing, and never ideal (no little girl grows hoping to have one some day), some just see it as a necessary evil others as an unnecessary one. Something I found in my research that is very surprising is the large percentage of abortions performed on women who are on birth control. Britain’s largest abortion provider recently did a study and found that 60% of women who had abortions were on birth control at the time of conception, and in America, the Guttmacher Institute found that 54% of women who chose abortion reported that they were on birth control the month they became pregnant. Many theorize that contraceptives (although statistically quite effective) give people a false sense of security.  Obviously abortion is no ones “A” plan, but a frightening statistic on women’s health is this- women who have had abortions are 81% more likely to suffer from mental and psychological disorders including (but not limited to) anxiety, depression, drug abuse, and suicide than women who have not. Many times abortions are performed in the name of “the good of the mother” but what is best for her is not as black and white as it may seem considering the potential damage of the after-effects.

Nearing the root of the problem, 74% of women who have an abortion do so primarily for financial reasons and 72% of women have abortions are unmarried. With these statistics in mind, it is reasonable to say that fornication is the prominent underlying cause of abortion (I will support this further as we go on). Another well studied reality in regard to fornication is the correlation between multiple partners and divorce- statistically the more partners you have before marriage the higher probability your marriage has of failing (it rounds out at 5 then again around 11). Another related topic that I’ll be brief on is stds. 50% of Americans will contract an std by age 25. Am I saying we are going to get burned every time we fornicate? No, but clearly there are many risks. What would our society look like embracing the Christian view of sexuality? Even if we were to just reject fornication most if not all STDs would vanish over a few generations, we would cut abortions by almost 3/4ths, greatly reduce the amount of women suffering from various mental disorders, and on at least one front cut the divorce rate.

Let’s think about lust, as that is the internal issue behind sexual addiction, adultery, objectification, rape (although that’s not the only one) and other various forms of sexual brokenness. In my trade I work primarily with men, something like a 75:1 ratio; one of the things I routinely observe (and at one time would have condoned if not participated in) that now bothers me more and more is the rampant verbal objectification and utter disrespect of women, it’s like women cease to become people in the minds of men and only exist only as something to consumed. Why are we like this? Why must we reduce one another to mere objects? Our words are a representation of who we are and what we believe, hence verbal objectification is outward display of lust and open disregard for human dignity.

”Statistically most boys have almost five years of watching porn under their belt before they ever actually have sex.”

Let’s talk porn. Nearly all men regularly consume it (and a growing rate of women) and now 40% of it involves women being abused- slapped, spit on, raped, punished, and verbally degraded, and this is the norm. Statistically most boys have almost five years of watching porn under their belt before they ever actually have sex. Think about that for a minute.  Porn literally trains boys to use and misuse women as a currency and trains girls what standard by which they should be treated. We are training ourselves to be takers and users of people. I see many speaking out against “rape culture” and I agree that it is a horrendous problem, however I don’t see many of those people speaking out against pornography or promiscuity, instead I see many of those condemning one and praising another. It seems very inconsistent if not full blown hypocritical. You don’t have to open your eyes very wide to see that porn damages and destroys those involved, but if you do a little research you may be surprised to know that over a quarter of divorces list porn addiction as the primary cause of the divorce and many more consider it a secondary or tertiary factor. Studies repeatedly show that regular indulgence of pornography (especially in men) makes us more likely to act violently toward women, “animalify” women, and actually alters the brain decreasing one’s ability to be satisfied in a monogamous relationship, training us to get bored of our partner. This growing dissatisfaction is one of the primary factors that causes men (in particular) to “check out” on their families, leave them, and/or grow to despise them. Indulging in pornography is simply another outward way we display and feed our inner lust.

The above issues are some of the primary causes of possibly the worst epidemic in our culture. It is an epidemic that would not be if we embraced this old fashioned and narrow minded view of sex I speak of: fatherlessness. 40% of American children now grow up without a father active in their lives. 44% of children raised by their mother only live under the poverty line compared to only 6% of children in married couple homes. Fixing this would almost fix poverty in our country. As I mentioned before, most abortions happen because of financial hardship, this statistic is further proof that married couples’ homes are drastically important to a financially secure society. Children without fathers also have double the suicide rate and are at a significantly higher risk for mental disorders, depression and external behavior problems. 71% of high school dropouts are fatherless and fatherless boys are 20 times more likely to end up in prison. Teenage girls are drastically more likely to become sexually active and get pregnant in high school, I could go on but I feel that I have gotten point across here. Fear can be a powerful motivator but I don’t share the above stats to scare or shame anyone, I have always found love to be the best motivator, and I will unpack that shortly. I share these statistics to inform you of a reality that seems to be getting more and more prevalent, yet it is somehow routinely or perhaps intentionally overlooked due to its unpleasant nature. It is also worth noting that “the presence of a father” does not necessarily mean the biological father- I am raising three children that are not of my blood and I know many men who are “manning up” (biblically speaking a man’s responsibility is to serve, protect, and provide for those in need starting with his family) and doing the same in a variety of situations.

The two leading causes of fatherlessness are divorce and pregnancy out of wedlock (caused by sexual activity out of wedlock). As we have explored, embracing the Christian view of sex would entirely eliminate pregnancy out of wedlock, it also eliminates many of the causes of divorce, therefore greatly reducing fatherless homes. Fatherlessness goes deeper than that though doesn’t it? Many of us had fathers in the home physically, but that’s it. Indeed having a father present in the home is not good enough, we need fathers who are there physically, mentally, and spiritually.

So how would our society look different if it accepted the Christian perspective of sex? Let’s start out by saying it would immensely reduce fatherlessness. Reducing fatherless homes is directly proportional with reducing poverty, abortions, mental illness, crime, and teen pregnancy (assuming teen pregnancy hadn’t already been eliminated by rejecting fornication). The other social benefits of embracing this view include ending sex slavery, stds, pornography, and sexual objectification. Considering these statistics and realities, it is incredibly reasonable to conclude that society would be almost unimaginably better off embracing the Christian view of sexuality. Surely you can see that there is plenty of evidence to support this claim whether you are a Christian or not, so why then do we scoff at it and look down on those that hold this view?  I’ve come with two possible reasons: selfishness and pride.

”It’s selfishness that says “I want it now” with no regard for the future, and as we take it we prove that we are slaves to our desires.”

Selfishness because when it comes down to it, we care more about satisfying our temporal desires than we do about our own good in the long run, the good of others, and the overall good of society. A plethora of studies show that we have become a society overwhelmingly made up of people who prefer $50 now over $100 in a year. We just love instant gratification. Many times I ask people going through a difficult time with a relationship or starting a new one the simple question of “why are you together?” or “why do you want be with this person?” and the most common answer I get is “because they make me happy”. Is this not extremely selfish? How well is any relationship going to work if both individuals are just in it to get something out of other person? We use each other to get what we want then wonder why it doesn’t work out. If you want your spouse to despise you, make the relationship all about you. If you want to be hated in the work place, make all about you. If you want your children to resent you, make their lives all about satisfying you. Selfishness destroys us. On the topic of a Christian view of sexuality it’s selfishness that says “I want it now” with no regard for the future, and as we take it we prove that we are slaves to our desires.

The other reason we scoff at such a value system is pride. This value system tells us what to do and what we may not do with what we believe is ours (our bodies). We hate that. We loathe the idea of submission. If we’re honest we might say we’d rather have our society go to hell than submit. Am I wrong? We worship ourselves and rebel against anything that attempts to usurp our authority.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

Even among Christian circles pornography, fornication, divorce, and teen pregnancy are present realities. Why would we ever expect a secular society to live up to a standard that those that verbally claim to embrace routinely fail at? For one thing, the majority of Christians (in America at least) simply aren’t. Maybe that sounds like a cop out, but hear me out. Statistically about 75% of Americans claim Christianity as their faith, one study divided them into three categories; the first category was cultural Christians, those who check the “Christian box” when asked but have no affiliation with any church and no outward attempt at growth or service, Christianity is just something they can relate to to some degree. The second category were those who are affiliated but not committed, they have a “home church”, but again no pressing commitment or tangible attempt at spiritual growth or service- they likely got married in their home church and perhaps attend a service or two a year if convenient, but similar to the first group there is no evidence of any real commitment. These two groups constitute anywhere from 60-80% of American “Christians”. That leaves us with under 1/3rd of Christians who are actually committed. Many people think Christianity is dying, but when you look closely at those “losing their faith” or leaving the church, the vast majority of them never really had any commitment to begin with, it was just something easy and convenient for them. Now that Christianity no longer has its favored status in our culture the bandwagoners are jumping off. The committed Christian population is something difficult to measure but one study’s results indicated that since the beginning of our country’s history the committed Christian population has never been over 15% of populous and usually fluctuates around 10%. Even when dealing with this minority of people commitment and understanding the Gospel still do not always go hand in hand. Let me be very clear about one thing here- morals and values do not change you, they won’t make a Christian, they won’t cancel out the bad things you’ve done, they will not justify you, they do not have the power to save you. That being said a little perspective and conventional wisdom can steer us away from pain and protect us and our children from many heartaches.

In dealing with this group of committed Christians, many have very serious doctrinal/biblical errors or a deep misunderstanding of the Gospel- some among this last group believe that they are Christians because they prayed a certain prayer or attend a particular service or participated in a sacrament such communion or baptism. Many err on the side of guilt driven service and sacraments while many more embraced “prosperity theology”, a view that essentially views God as a cosmic karma machine that can be manipulated for money or health. “Name it and claim it”, some say, “if you sow into this you will reap this blessing”, say others. This kind thinking is not only unbiblical, but heretical and a scam. Speaking for myself, I was raised in church and pretty much my whole life identified as a Christian but was probably not truly a follower of Christ until somewhere around 2011 or 2012. I intellectually agreed with  Christian values but it was really just self righteousness- I held these moral standards and thought myself better than those who didn’t.  Many falsely believe they have “tried out Christianity” and it wasn’t for them, but this not so. If you’ve had experience with Jesus you are forever changed, if you can walk away from him it was something besides Jesus you were trying out, religion and morality tend to common counterfeits we are (as I was) deceived by.

”Committed Christians are still hypocrites.”

Committed Christians are still hypocrites. People are still hypocrites. MLK cheated on his wife, Moses blatantly disobeyed God, Gandhi molested his grandnieces yet surely these people have had a powerful impact on the world. Being a Christian and being a perfect person are not synonymous, you might even say they are opposites. The gospel is primarily news, accepting that news is to be a Christian- not just mere intellectual assent but paradigm shifting belief that results in actions. As James says, “faith without works is dead.” Acceptance of this “Gospel” news is to accept love and forgiveness, receiving forgiveness causes us to forgive, and receiving love causes us to love. Being loved changes our desires and it is our desires that dictate our actions. Sometimes this change is an immediate thing, sometimes it takes years or decades before we start seeing the love and forgiveness being reciprocated, we all have different stories. To be excruciatingly clear, being a Christian is not and never has been, despite the common misconception, about being a “good person” or adhering to a moral code. In the west, Christianity is frequently reduced to “principles for a better life”, but nothing could be further from truth. Being a Christian means that we are marked by a lifestyle of repentance, that our mistakes and sins no longer bring us shame but instead now serve a purpose, that our desires have shifted and continue to shift from glorifying ourselves to glorifying God. Instead of asking “what option will be best or more pleasurable for me?” we begin to ask “what option will be most glorifying to God?” (which I fully realize sounds super lame if you don’t know Jesus). Again I don’t wish to give the illusion that committed Christians are perfect people or that we only make good decisions; I sin and behave in a dishonoring and unrighteous manner frequently and even when I don’t my tendency is still to become self-righteous which is just as bad. However, the Grace of God is at work in my life and as I continue to receive and comprehend this love and forgiveness it continues to mould my desires. The counterintuitive yet central message of Christianity is this: those who are in Christ receive not what they deserve and not what they earn (standing opposed to every other religion) but that they receive what Jesus earned; that he, by his brutal and unjust death (unjust in the sense that he is the only truly innocent person and didn’t deserve his death), paid in full for the debt that we incur. The great news of Christianity is this: “it is finished”. There is nothing left to earn, no penance to offer, no sacrifice make, it is finished. Our freedom has been bought with blood. The Gospel is not a list of rules or principles but historical news. The work of one man justified the many, and it is grasping the fullness of this that frees us to live and love the way were made to; it is when our identity is in Christ that we are free from putting our self-worth in our status, job, income, spouse, or anything else that drives us into the damming trap of comparing ourselves to others. Like a little girl who knows she is loved, provided for, and protected by her parents, she is secure in them and doesn’t need to seek the attention and affection of others, she doesn’t feel the need to act up, desperate for a response, she knows who she is in them. This is but a taste of the freedom we find in Christ and this freedom creates in us the desire to embrace and find fullness in God’s ways, including (as it relates to this topic) the Biblical view of sexuality.

We all have mistakes and hurts in our lives, no one truly has “the ideal” situation, I encourage you with this: where the ideal situation lacks, grace abounds. You are never beyond the reach of the Grace of God, my friend. “Tis a more glorious effect of power to make that holy that was so depraved and under dominion of sin, than to confirm holiness on that which before had nothing of the contrary.” – Jonathan Edwards

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