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Showing posts with label promiscuity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label promiscuity. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New-Fangled Values May Hold Old-Fashioned Dangers

Downton Abbey, the BBC series showcasing the way of life of the English aristocracy and their servants proved to be a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic. For each of its six seasons, audiences would anxiously tune in to watch the Crawley family's exploits as they struggled to adjust from Victorian era mores to that of the modern age.

Part of the attraction of the show was just how foreign the manners and customs of the English aristocracy strike modern viewers. Imagine dressing differently for each meal in tuxedos! The show's expert historian, Alistair Bruce, strove to make the fictional series as historically accurate as he could, although the show is clearly written to reflect 21st century values. For example, the house royalty wouldn't give the servants much of a second thought; they were considered less like employees and more like tools to an end.1 Thus, there's a bit of a wink the writers share with the audience on how quaint and antiquated the customs of the old days were.

Victorian Prudes and Victimless Crimes

It can become easy to assume that old ways of doing things are backwards or naïve. Certainly, this seems to be the case with moral prohibitions concerning sexuality today. Over and over again I hear the claim that because our society is less repressive and sexually freer than in the past, making it somehow better. Casual sex, known as hook-ups, is exploding across college campuses, especially those where the number of female students outweighs the males.2 Sex outside of marriage is considered so normal that virginity is an oddity. Pornography has become rampant, and women are consuming more porn than ever before.3

But is all this really a good thing? Those who would question the sexual liberation and its aftermath are considered out of touch prudes. Sex is what always happens, they say. Porn is just being honest about one's sexual desires; it's one of those victimless pleasures that good people can do in the privacy of their own homes. If the person enjoys it, what's wrong with allowing them to consume it?

In reality, porn is harming a generation of people. The group Plan International, Australia recently completed a survey of teenage girls in that country and revealed some shocking findings:4
  • Seven out of ten Australian girls aged 15-19 believe online harassment and bullying is endemic
  • Australian females aged 15-19 do not want to share sexual photos of themselves online
  • 81% of girls believe it's unacceptable for boyfriends to ask for explicit content although they believe pressure to do so is now commonplace
According to a 2012 report in the scholarly journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity and reported by ABC Religion and Ethics:
Adolescent consumption of Internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes, including acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as "sexual playthings eager to fulfil male sexual desires." The authors found that "adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed."5
I recommend you read the whole article. But is seems pretty evident that our sexually charged culture is not helping people become better human beings. In fact, the results of porn are actually harming women and young girls. They are becoming more victimized and more objectified. Today's open sex culture is not advancing women, it's degrading them.

The old-fashioned folks of early 20th century England would never hear of such open displays of lasciviousness. They recognized the difference between a man's higher nature and his base nature. The higher nature consists of rationality, self-control, moral uprightness. Man's base nature is one that could be found in animals, consisting of satisfying appetites and desires, reacting based on emotion, and so on. Constraining those base natures requires diligence and practice. It doesn't come automatically. But not constraining them leads to the dehumanization of people. Just look at what those 15-19 year old girls in Australia are experiencing.


1. Lee, Adrian. "The Real Life Downton Abbey: The True Story of Servants." Express. Northern and Shell Media Publications, 25 Sept. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
2. Birger, Jon. "Unequal Gender Ratios at Colleges Are Driving Hookup Culture." Time. Time, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
3. Carey, Tanith. "Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 07 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
4. "Don't Send Me That Pic." Plan International. Plan International Australia, Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
5. Liszewski, Melinda. "Growing Up in Pornland: Girls Have Had It with Porn Conditioned Boys." Collective Shout. ABC Religion and Ethics, 8 Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christian Bakers Forced to Pay Fines; Here's What We Can Learn

This morning, the lawyer representing Sweet Cakes by Melissa reported that the couple was paying the fine of over $135,000 levied against them by Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries for not baking a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian doled out the heavy-handed fine, claiming the bakers were being immoral in their stance, inflicting emotional and mental suffering and violating the women's civil rights by discriminating on the basis of their sexual orientation.1 Avakian had prompted the payment by seizing every penny the bakers had in their bank accounts.2

It seems we live in a topsy-turvy world where wrong is called right and right is called wrong. But this shouldn't be a surprise to Christians. I understand that people have a tendency to think of the problems they currently face as new or unique. While for some things this may be true (substituting screen time for real relationships doesn't seem to be a problem of past generations), human beings are a remarkably consistent lot and the early believers faced many of the same trials we do today.

Athenagoras gives us one example. In the second century AD, Christians were being persecuted in various cities across the Roman Empire on trumped up charges. Different city official and citizens objected to Christians not bowing to their gods, which basically meant rejecting whatever morality they themselves deemed appropriate. The officials would put the Christians on trial under false accusations, such as being immoral or being atheists, condemn them in a kangaroo court, and use it as justification to persecute them and seize their belongings.

Charges of immorality are as old as Christianity

The injustice of this all disturbed Christian philosopher Athenagoras so much that in AD 177 he wrote a letter to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the Emperor of Rome himself and argued the case for the Christians. One of the charges brought against Christians was they were engaging in immoral sexual acts. Athenagoras writes, "they have further also made up stories against us of impious feasts and forbidden intercourse between the sexes, both that they may appear to themselves to have rational grounds of hatred, and because they think either by fear to lead us away from our way of life, or to render the rulers harsh and inexorable by the magnitude of the charges they bring."3

Athenagoras goes on to argue that Christians are not immoral at all; they are actually more moral than even the belief systems of their accusers, pointing out how gods the officials worship, such as Zeus, were adulterers and incestuous. He writes that Christians held to a high view of the sanctity of marriage. He then goes on to compare Christians and their accusers. Notice how modern the charges in this paragraph sound:
But though such is our character (Oh! Why should I speak of things unfit to be uttered?), the things said of us are an example of the proverb, "The harlot reproves the chaste." For those who have set up a market for fornication and established infamous resorts for the young for every kind of vile pleasure—who do not abstain even from males, males with males committing shocking abominations, outraging all the noblest and comeliest bodies in all sorts of ways, so dishonouring the fair workmanship of God (for beauty on earth is not self-made, but sent hither by the hand and will of God)—these men, I say, revile us for the very things which they are conscious of themselves, and ascribe to their own gods, boasting of them as noble deeds, and worthy of the gods. These adulterers and pederasts defame [people choosing to remain unmarried for life] and the once-married (while they themselves live like fishes; for these gulp down whatever falls in their way, and the stronger chases the weaker…), but it is incumbent on us to be good and patient of evil.

Two Lessons from Athenagoras

While the persecution of Christian bakers is not nearly as severe as what second century Christians faced, I think there are lessons to be gleaned from the parallels between this event and what Christians faced in Athenagoras' day. First, charges against Christians on grounds of morality won't go away. Christian values are not those of the world and no one should be surprised when those who are in charge come against Christians and successfully use the law as a hammer against them. Jesus himself warned us of this when he said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:18-19. ESV).

Secondly, we must make certain as Christians that we consistently live up to our own moral standards. Athenagoras' argument is anchored on the fact that Christians really did value marriage. They held it in the highest regard and shunned things like divorce and adultery. He states Christians are opposed to immorality for entertainment, such as was common in the gladiatorial events.

How seriously do Christians take their entertainment choices? Do you hold your marriage in the highest of regards, seeing it as inviolable until death? Does your life help make the case against persecution or is it undercutting the contrast? We must live as Christ has told us to live, for we will certainly suffer if we bear his name.


1. Rede, George. "Sweet Cakes Owners Pay Damages While Continuing Appeal of $135,000 Bias Case." Oregon Live LLC., 28 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.
2. Starnes, Todd. "Costly Beliefs: State Squeezes Last Penny from Bakers Who Defied Lesbian-wedding Cake Order." Fox News. FOX News Network, 29 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.
3. Athenagoras. "A Plea for the Christians." Chapter 31. Translated by B.P. Pratten. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. Web.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Rebelling Against the Lovable Lothario

Entertainment has an enormous impact on our understanding of the world. It's important that we not only watch with a critical mindset ourselves, but that we talk with our kids about what they see.

Film and television can manufacture characters through whom we see ourselves. Sometimes the characters live an idealized life, such as super-hero stories or spy adventures. Mostly, though, the main characters are put into situations where while they have a heart of gold, they must struggle and work through those flaws they will eventually overcome with enough persistence.

Sitcoms like Friends and How I Met your Mother work off this premise. Both shows start with a young, educated but struggling to make it group of 20-somethings carving lives out for themselves in greater Manhattan. Both series follow an arc showing how each person in the group eventually achieves success, usually an unbelievably high level; of success, in their professional lives and how their friends have carried them along the way.

Friendship is a key element in many of these shows, so it should be no surprise that they are highly attractive to teenagers, whose emotional development begins to rearrange the priority of their relationships. As children reach puberty, they start to try and define themselves as individuals and place greater emphasis on their own friendships while lowering their reliance on their relationships with their parents. Thus, when adolescents watch these shows, they naturally fantasize about living a similar life: hip, urban, independent with their friends surrounding them.

Of course, sitcoms have another purpose, too. They are designed to make the audience laugh, so they need to build in outrageous situations and characters, too. Generating jokes each week is no easy task, and many series have leveraged a sure-fire way for generating a multitude of jokes—what I call the lovable lothario. Characters like Joey Tribbiani or Barney Stinson are persons who sleep around and generally treat women more as trophies to be counted than human beings worthy of respect. They're attractive and skilled in the mechanics of seducing women and there's an endless supply of cheap floozies ready to agree to their advances.

Of course, the shows don't want to give too much credence to demeaning women, so we see them get slapped in the face or rebuked by their friends with a wag of the head and a disapproving "tsk, tsk" as well. But the friends know that underneath it all they really have a heart of gold and they just need to grow up a bit and they'll be fine. The message is subtle, but it reduces the terrible act of manipulating another person to get pleasure with no regard for their feelings or their future to a character flaw akin to being too geeky or being a perfectionist.

Who Would Really Stay Friends with Such a Person?

None of this is a revelation to anyone. Yet, I must wonder how many of us have asked our children if such a person is worthy of being called a friend in the real world? What would happen if we discovered that one of the people in our clan behaved in a way similar to the lovable lothario? Is the well-being of those women valuable enough to distance a person of that Ilk from their group? Would their reputations suffer simply as a result of befriending such an individual? Would it matter if it was their sister that was being manipulated so? If not, why does television make it seem the lothario is basically a good person? How many times does one person have to use someone else before he should be considered not loving but dangerous? These are all great questions we should be asking our kids.

I don't think the lovable lothario exists in real life. If one is that crass and selfish to take the most intimate of acts and leverage it for nothing more than personal pleasure, I see no way anyone like that can maintain a heart of gold. Real people cry real tears from being used. And to be fair, I don't think sitcom producers want anyone to model themselves after the lovable lothario, either. He's an extreme persona, but he helps demonstrate that the regular carnality of the other characters can be excused as being not so bad in comparison. We need to counter that message by really talking with our kids and asking them to think through real world perspectives. Such will go a long way in helping them to spot and reject the problematic values entertainment seeks to inject into their lives.

Friday, June 26, 2015

C.S. Lewis on the Drive for Sexual Happiness

For today, in the wake of the expected but still tragic Supreme Court ruling regarding homosexual unions, I offer two C.S. Lewis quotes. The first, taken from God in the Dock, is Lewis’ expounding on our drive for the erotic concept of love above all else. He was concerned with the rise in divorce rates and the ever-present excuse that people "deserve to be happy." Yet, by reducing love to erotic passion, it paved the way for this morning’s decision by the Court. Lewis explains:
If we establish a "right to (sexual) happiness" which super­sedes all the ordinary rules of behaviour, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it. Hence, while the bad behaviour is real and works miser­ies and degradations, the happiness which was the object of the behaviour turns out again and again to be illusory.1
Such a view coincides with the plans of the Devil, who seeks to corrupt and usurp the institution of marriage and the blessings it holds. In his famous The Screwtape Letters, Lewis in the voice of the demon Screwtape, explains to his young apprentice that the forces of evil cannot create pleasures in and of themselves. Thus it has always been the objective of the Evil One to twist and malign marriage until it becomes something unrecognizable:
Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfy­ing form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not OURS. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the plea­sures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any plea­sure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it's better style. To get the man's soul and give him nothing in return—that is what really gladdens our Father's heart.2
My country has now crossed a threshold where we have taken the natural good that is marriage and shaped into that in which it is least natural and least redolent of its Maker.


1. Lewis, C. S. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology. Cambridge: Eerdman’s, 1970. Print. 351.
2. Lewis, C. S. "The Screwtape Letters." The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002. Print. 210.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

How Rational Are Rationalists When It Comes to Sex?

In his book God is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens writes, "Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason."1 It seems one of the more popular slogans that modern atheists like to banter about is the claim that they are not motivate by "ancient superstition" but by "logic and reason." There is even a t-shirt that says the same. The popular 2012 atheists’ conference was even named The Reason Rally. The claim to uphold reason above all is frequently repeated to me by those in the freethought movement.

Yet, there seems to be something else going on. More and more prominent atheists hold to a very liberal sexual ethic, announcing their "sexual orientation" shuns monogamy for multiple sexual partners,2  or have had their fair share of promiscuous flings.3 The American Atheists and the Backyard Skeptics co-sponsored a billboard proclaiming "Atheists make better lovers. (After all, nobody’s watching.)" Spokesman Bruce Gleason states, "Atheists make better lovers because they have less guilt about sex, while people believing in religious superstitions attach a negative aspect to sex. We do not think a supernatural deity is watching us — neither in life nor in bed."4

Aquinas on Reason and Passion

I want to stop here and clarify what I'm trying to say. I am not saying that just because someone is an atheist it means he or she is more sexually loose than others. But the claim to hold rationality seems to be contrary to the positions taken by the examples above. Thomas Aquinas recognized over 800 years ago that human beings had certain biological drives for sex, hunger, and other natural impulses—Aquinas called these "passions of the soul"—that we share with animals. These are necessary as they provide the drive for species to thrive and reproduce. But Aquinas also recognized that human beings have a unique aspect of the soul that animals do not have: the ability to reason. We have the ability to see our actions and to measure their ultimate ends. Will certain actions enforce rationality and self-control or will they simply strengthen the animal appetites? Aquinas holds in order to express one’s full humanity, reason must rule over and control the passions.5

Appetites are not good and bad in themselves, but they must be subjected to and governed by the faculties of reason, and they must help to strengthen our rational souls. Allowing any carnal desire or passion to become the driving force in a person’s life is inherently antithetical to reason. I agree with this. Today, if one lives to satisfy his or her urges or biological desires, we would classify that person as uncivilized.  But succumbing to such drives doesn't demonstrate that a person is more rational. On Aquinas’ view it would show quite the opposite.

The Irrationality of Atheist Sexual Promiscuity

Now, here’s the problem. If atheist principles "rely solely upon science and reason" as Hitchens claims, then why are so many atheists bowing to those animal passions as a driving force in their lives? How is the claim of polyamory as a sexual orientation applying the principles of logic and reason? Are groups like the Godless Perverts placing their passions under the control of their reasoning or are they seeking to express their animal desires? As more atheists identify with a loose sexual ethic, are they bolstering reason or strengthening the animal impulse?

In Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Reality, Darrel Ray writes, "Fear is the foreplay of religion. If done right, it interferes with all aspects of human sexual pleasure."6 One may claim that religion done right interferes with all aspects of human sexual pleasure only if one assumes that any sexual predilections are good and should be acted upon. But this is contrary to reason, which allows us to master our activities and keep our sexual urges under control. When Christian theology teaches that we should keep our animal passions in subjugation, it elevates humans to beings that are capable of living above their animal passions. Sexual restraint and monogamy demonstrate just how reasonable Christianity is.


1. Hitchens, Christopher (2007-05-01). God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 8). Twelve Books. Kindle Edition.
2. "Coming Out Poly + A Change of Life Venue." Richard Carrier Blogs., 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
3. Lee, Adam. "The Wall of Silence Around Michael Shermer." Daylight Atheism., 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
4. Mehta, Hemant. "Atheists Make Better Lovers, Says Billboard." Friendly Atheist. Patheos, 115 Feb. 2012. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
5. Aquinas, Thomas. "The Summa Theologica: I-II.24.1." Summa Theologica. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 11 Jan. 2007. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
6. Ray, Darrel. Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Reality. Bonner Springs, KS: IPC, 2012. Print. 26.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Let’s Change Our Message on Sex

This blog post is about sex, and it's the first time I've written about it directly in my years of posting. Is sex an apologetics topic? Absolutely. One's understanding of sex reflects one's worldview and many times actually helps shape the worldview of the individual. I think that the church hasn't done a very good job in expressing exactly what the Christian position on sex really is, and I'd like to try and provide a different approach from what you may have heard before.

In his Deeper Waters blog post this morning, Nick Peters talked about running across some online comments regarding sex and chastity. The poster said he was on "a bit of a 'sex' kick" and asked the mixed Christian and non-Christian audience "How important is virginity?" I think that both the Christian and the non-Christian are both really confused when it comes to understanding sex. Nick reminded me of the old joke, "I was told two things about sex growing up. #1. It's dirty. #2. I should save it for someone I love." Obviously, that sounds a little bit contradictory. How can sex be dirty and special at the same time?

Defining Sex as Holy

I think one of the real difficulties we have when trying to present the Christian viewpoint on sex is the language we use (maybe Wittgenstein was onto something!). Because sex is uncomfortable or embarrassing to talk about, we try to communicate its value by using words like "private," "special," within marriage but "dirty," "inappropriate," "foul" or some other negative term in public. I want to inject a new definition into the discussion. Ultimately, sex is holy. Now, some may recoil from that statement, but I believe it's true and it can be supported biblically. Sex is a God-created union that joins a man and a woman in a way that no other act or speech could. The Christians in Corinth had a sexually permissive attitude, but Paul tells them, "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.' But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him" (1 Cor. 6:15-17).

So, Paul says sexual relations joins people together in a spiritual fashion, just as becoming a believer joins one spiritually with Jesus. Sex is therefore a spiritual union. It's holy. This idea is not new; in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel would often sin by worshipping foreign gods. Their actions are consistently referred to by God as "playing the harlot." Even in the book of Hosea, there's an extended analogy of the prophet Hosea's wife sleeping with other men, and God compares this to Israel's idolatry. If worshipping foreign gods is harlotry, then it stands to reason that worshipping the one true God is akin to the sexual union within marriage. It is how God designed us to behave. Sex is holy, and it should only be exercised within a context of holiness.

How Seeing Sex as Holy Changes Things

If we define sex as holy, it can radically alter our perspective. Just as the desecration of a holy object should naturally cause shock and revulsion, so to taking the holy act of sex out of its context and using it casually, for recreation, or to see how many times one can score becomes repulsive. Pornography takes on a whole new dynamic as besmirching and degrading that which we should hold in honor. Even lust can be seen a bit more clearly as deviating from the way we should be looking at one another. Marriage is a holy bond, a covenant made by two people before God. In this context sex becomes exclusive and focused, and it serves the purpose of drawing those two people together in a way that nothing else will. To run it through the mud by saying that it can be used with anyone interchangeably makes no sense. Chastity sounds reasonable and appropriate.

The holiness of sex is why infidelity is so damaging to a couple. Even if one person no longer desires sex, to learn that his or her spouse had sex outside of marriage is devastating. Infidelity intrinsically violates the entire marriage bond between husband and wife. It reduces one's commitment to frivolity. It's considered dirty because it damages the relationship. In other words, the misapplication of sex is a corrosive that breaks down the very bonds of marriage itself.

A Good Start

I recognize that sexual temptation is an absolutely huge problem, inside the church as well as outside. This one blog post is not going to change that anytime soon. However, if we make a mental commitment to use the language of holiness whenever we talk about sex, it may actually help up to begin really seeing sex in that way. This won't solve the problem by itself, but the more we reinforce the concept of sex as holy, the more we will begin to naturally understand it to be such. Anytime we can see things more as God sees them, we're one step closer to holiness ourselves.
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