Celibacy – Are Vows Necessary?

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Take a close look at how celibacy is being discussed today and the terminology used to ridicule it. Mandatory celibacy, vows, solemn oaths, compulsory celibacy, homosexuality, same sex marriage, antiquated idea, should be abolished, sexual abuse, etc. The Bible describes living without sex as a spiritual gift, not a worldly pursuit. That’s a big difference. Jesus himself in Matthew 19:12 actually said there were “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” He did not say that there would be men who take vows not to marry. He did not say men had to remain unmarried to be preachers. He did not say celibacy is what gay people do to keep from sinning. No, Jesus didn’t say any of those things. Misguided men say those things. Unfortunately, celibacy has been so thoroughly catholicized today that there is no 21st century word to describe the gift that Apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 7. And since Protestants are still riding on the coattails of Martin Luther and John Calvin, a life without marriage and family is not even part of their sexual ethic. In other words, most Protestants, as well as Catholics, don’t even know who Jesus is or what he taught. The reason that “lifelong celibacy” is so revolting today is because sex is considered a civil right. Being gay is the new black. The marriage license is the new bus. Because, let’s face it, we can’t deny ourselves of any personal pleasures. Add to this the fact that marriage and family have become idols of church worship and it’s easy to see why celibacy is the new waterboard treatment.

Actually, the origin of the word celibacy can be traced to the 1660s and it has nothing to do with vows. It comes from the Latin word caelibatus, “state of being unmarried.” Vows are NEVER mentioned in conjunction with marriage in the Bible and they are never mentioned in conjunction with celibacy. It’s all about commitment. We’re either committed to a spouse or committed to God. Let me say this very plainly. If you have to take a vow to refrain from sex for the rest of your life, you do not have the gift of celibacy that Jesus talked about, whether your a priest or not a priest, whether your a Protestant or Catholic, Jew or Gentile. You are not a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. When you get married, do you take a separate vow to refrain from sexual relationships with other people? Authentic gifts are freely given and freely chosen. They are not compulsions. I freely chose celibacy. I could get married tomorrow. I choose not to. I could have gotten married 30 years ago. I chose not to. Even though society may not have a word for me, it is as natural for me as marriage is for husbands and wives. Even if I am one in a thousand, or whatever figure Martin Luther tossed out, that does not negate the reality of my existence. God does not operate by popular vote. He doesn’t take opinion polls. So it’s your choice. You can either live your life based on the Bible’s eternal truths, as bizarre as they may sound today, or you can live your life based on the popular vote of the masses. A eunuch for the kingdom of heaven is who I am. I don’t have to take cold showers everyday. I don’t question my manhood. Even though it may seem supernatural for the world, celibacy is very natural for those who have chosen this life. If Christ returned tomorrow, who do you think he would better relate to, the precious family on the third pew or the celibate looking in from the outside?

What Happened To Purity Culture?

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Really, the question should be what happened to the image of purity? What happened to the image of chastity? What happened to the image of virginity? Who took it upon themselves to change the meaning of these words in the first place? The short answer is that a culture of family idolatry derailed purity. Take a look at the intentions of the two men who created the whole idea of abstinence pledges and created the largest purity movement in this country, True Love Waits. The two family men who started it had one agenda – the future marriages of their teenage daughters. In all honesty, the name of the campaign should have been “True Love Waits For Marriage,” because marriage was assumed to be the ultimate goal. So what happens when teenagers wait and wait . . . and are still waiting past youth groups and pizza parties? Disillusionment. Do they wait? Why do you think the age of first marriage is increasing? In the absence of a Christian ethic, why would any man sacrifice his entire life for something he can get in 10 minutes on any street corner? Actually, what happened with all the “pretend” waiting is that the whole marriage/family worship culture came down like a house of cards, falling flat on its face in a cesspool of gay marriage, pornography, and Ashley Madisons. A single man waiting on marriage to have sex? Why, that’s funnier than a 40 year old virgin. But that’s where the family idolatry church culture has led us. While they kissed their babies and bowed down to the golden image of children, their single adult men were out on the streets putting more notches under their belts. After all, it’s not a marriage unless they make it official in a courthouse. Right? I always laugh when I hear church leaders say, “Oh, but marriage is not respected like it used to be.” “Look at all these good Christian women with no decent men to marry.” Churches – You killed marriage by placing it on a pedestal of idol worship. You killed marriage when you failed to show respect to people who chose celibate life. It’s a medical fact that a person can kill themselves by consuming too much of anything, even water. It’s also a fact that the church overdosed on sex and still doesn’t even know why it’s close to death. Even while congregations sit in “family worship centers,” they have no clue they are sitting in their own coffins.

So what’s left of purity culture today? What are people saying about it? Unfortunately, if a person is not Catholic and female, they don’t have a voice on the subject. So we are left with the same old age and gender stereotypes we have dealt with for the past 250 years. Have you heard of a Protestant conference on celibacy lately? As far as I know, there are no other 50+ year-old men “coming out” as virgins. Who wants that kind of disrespect? Honestly, it would have been easier for me if I had came out as a homosexual Mormon married to three men with a child by a previous marriage. Just think – If I were a 20-something Catholic girl, I could be lining up my next book signing tour, scheduling my next speaking engagement, mailing out T-shirts, writing my next advice column, etc.; all the while looking over my shoulder for Romeo. Oh, but I’m content with who I am. I know I make a lot of people uncomfortable. For those of us who have chosen the celibate life, I think challenging the status quo is part of our responsibility. Whose going to take the babies off the pedestals and put equal attention on people who are homeless, in prison, disabled, hungry?

The Social Status Of Celibacy

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When the world talks about celibacy today, their minds focus on one thing – not having sex. They see us as cold-hearted, indifferent, unlovable people. Their minds conjure up images of priests, pedophiles, and homosexuals. I have prayed years for that to change. When I first accepted the call to celibacy about 25 years ago, I resisted anything I read that said all humans are social creatures. “I can do this on my own,” I thought. “What do I need people for? It’s just me and God.” Well, on some levels I was right about that. But on other levels I was wrong. Some of my concerns require me to be around people. There are many other people I would like to know. I have found very few married people that have time to get to know me. And I have found even fewer single people who can tear themselves away from the dating scene to get to know me. I’ve even signed up for some dating sites just to meet people. Is that odd or what? On some levels I have considered my aloneness to be part of the celibate gift and for people to see just how insignificant marriage will be in eternity. When Jesus spoke of not everyone being able to accept celibacy (Matthew 19), I think he was including our capacity for solitude. The world doesn’t accept solitary people. They are viewed as loners, drifters, and suspicious people to stay away from. I’m very comfortable with solitude and couldn’t live without it. It’s like a well-worn baseball glove. It fits me. I think there’s a difference between being lonely and being solitary. Lonely implies that something is missing. Solitude implies that the time alone has been filled by something of greater significance – like getting to know God, pondering the mysteries of the universe, and coming to understand how God can use me in the world. If we are eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, doesn’t than mean that our roles have already begun on this earth? What are we waiting for? Wasn’t Christ himself a solitary man? He spent a lot of time alone in the desert, on mountaintops, in the temples, and in the gardens. Look at how far we’ve drifted from him. The word Celibacy is actually Latin for “alone” and Christ set the standard for it. It bears witness to the fact that we are all solitary people and that we will stand before God alone in judgment one day soon. We will not have a family to stand by us and give a testimony. There will be no jury and only one judge. But we are not called to defeat.

I think we severely under-estimate what God can do and how much he loves those who seek his will. I can testify to that firsthand. I think we tend to think of God as either a party-pooper or prize-giver. Neither of them could be further from the truth. God created us and knows what makes us tick. He knows what’s best for us. And he can align every cell in our body to do his will, including our brain cells. He can change your way of looking at something you thought was unchangeable. He can reroute destructive desires so that they build up instead of tear down. God is the ultimate social planner because he is concerned about our relationships with our neighbors. In Mark 12:31, he plainly tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So no matter who we are, where we live, whom we know, or what we consider our social status to be, we are called to treat everybody with decency and respect. Isn’t that how we would want to be treated ourselves?

Virginity – The Great Equalizer

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Virginity. I know it’s a word that’s not politically correct these days. Pedophiles get more positive press coverage than virgins. It’s unbelievable that we live in a world where virginity is ridiculed and homosexuality is celebrated, where “purity culture” is put down as condemning and and Ashley Madison is hailed as the next best thing since day after pills. And the ultra-religious right and chastity advocates are getting in on the action. For many of them, true love doesn’t wait any more, and chastity successfully integrates with whatever feels good at the time and what you need to be popular. Yes, we live in a time where a personal history does not exist. Whatever you did last week, just ask God for forgiveness and all is forgotten. After all, why should a pesky little thing like virginity get in the way of your self-discovery and the guy or girl of your dreams? Chastity doesn’t remember your past, right? It does for Christians. How can we learn and grow without a past? There are those today who are trying to remove any remnant of the Confederate Army from America’s history. They are comfortable with repeating all of our mistakes. As uncomfortable as it may be, all of us have histories. Just because a person has not had sex does not mean they are perfect. I am not trying to condemn anybody with my post, because I know that most people do not accept my belief that marriage begins with sex, regardless of the legal and social formalities. I am trying to point out that sex changes a person at all levels of their existence – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. And that the state before marriage is just as important as the state after marriage. It doesn’t matter if we accept it or not. It doesn’t matter if we call virgins “holy rollies” or “40 year old fruitcakes.” God calls everybody to wait on marriage before having sex. And there are people who are waiting. That’s a biblical fact. The world hates the idea of sexual innocence and praises experience of all sorts, from bed post notches to orgy score cards. Its idea of sex has devolved into a cage of groping animals. The deeper it sinks into perversion, the more uncomfortable it will be with virginity. We don’t have to answer to straw men. The Bible stands on its own.

It’s always been interesting to me that the subject of Christian sexuality usually goes no further than what rules not to break, how far is too far, and what to do if you get pregnant – a two-part dumbed-down view of human sexuality. But what can we expect from a society that believes a wedding ceremony is the same thing as a marriage? It’s my belief that sex is a divine mystery, the magnitude of which we will not completely comprehend until we get to heaven. For me, over the years, virginity has become less and less about the physical – and more and more about the spiritual. That’s one of the reasons why it’s part of God’s plan for marriage. Virginity is the great equalizer that ensures two people take off on the same level and that leads to the greatest chance of a successful marriage. It neutralizes any male or female stereotypes and allows two people to interact on a spiritual level. It nixes objectification and doesn’t allow any baggage on board. It gives a couple comfort knowing that one doesn’t have any knowledge or experience that the other doesn’t have. It takes age off the table. That’s hard to believe for a world that equates virginity with adolescence. It also allows a level of communication and trust that cannot be reached if one person has already become one with another. In essence, virginity closes out the influences of the world and protects marriage from unseen calamities.

Virginity is also a paradox because inexperience becomes the one thing that results in the greatest chance of a lifetime experience with marriage. It’s also the one thing that orients a person with the celibate gift towards God’s concerns. It’s not a matter of “I think I’ll take a vow of celibacy and try to be about God’s concerns.” Those of us who have accepted it are about those concerns. It’s who we are. Just like a married person is naturally concerned about their spouse. We are naturally concerned about our spouse. Am I knocking you over the head with that? No. Am I saying celibacy is right for everybody? No. Read the Bible. Get your answers from the Bible, not from public opinion polls.

When looked at in light of God’s word, how can virginity just be about the physical? That’s where many of us have fallen to the world’s straw men. We have to articulate the divine mystery of sex. We have to explain the spiritual nature of sex, because we have separated it from marriage. For me, that involves telling the world that I have said no to sex. It involves telling the world that I believe every word of the Bible is true and that there is a life beyond the temporal pleasure of this world. My renunciation of marriage does not mean that I think marriage is a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that I’m any better than anybody else. It means that I have faith that there is something better beyond what this world has to offer. Since I do not have the sexual relationship that everybody else takes for granted, it equalizes me to be able to relate to any human condition, no matter what they have or don’t have.