Celibacy, Discerning A Higher Love

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I have written about discerning the call to the charism of virginity (celibacy) on my blog before. Here I will try to add some new things to consider. Even though I use the word celibacy, I am addressing those who are virgins, both men and women, exclusively. I’m not talking about a period of time of not having sex or even someone choosing celibacy after having a sexual relationship. It’s just that celibacy is the word you’ll have more luck with when you research this subject. So if you read this post from the perspective of someone who has had a sexual relationship, looking for discernment, whether or not you should get remarried, etc., you will probably be lost. I happen to think it’s way past time for virginity to be given a little exclusivity. The biggest challenge when talking about discernment from a Protestant perspective is that it is a rare calling and so little is known. I usually have no idea how many people read my blog or what anybody thinks about it. I just try to picture an imaginary audience and go from there. So, how does one discern the call to celibate life? We first have to come to grips with the fact that Protestant churches, even the one you may be attending, have gotten it wrong since the Protestant Reformation some 500 years ago. So don’t expect things to change overnight.

One of the things you will definitely need is a rebellious spirit. I’m not talking about taking up arms against a rogue government or drag racing behind the liquor store. I’m talking about saying no to the idol of family worship and all the comforts and conveniences society has bestowed upon them; saying no to sex worship, mother and child worship, and all the materialism and comforts we associate with the American dream. We have to be okay with not having children to pass inheritances to. We don’t have to hate women and children, but we have to be able to prioritize their status when comparing them to eternity. So if the current status quo of “family church” makes you uncomfortable, don’t rule out celibacy just yet. Don’t rule out the chance to help bring the value of married life and celibate life more into balance. After time, you will be the one making families take a second look at their priorities. Yes, it is a rebellious lifestyle.

We also have to be able to say no to ourselves and any plans for nuptial bliss, while saying yes to a closer walk with God and serving as witnesses of the world to come. That means we have to look at our motivations very closely. If you’re in college, are you looking for a spouse? A choice for celibacy should not be made based on the notion that the opposite sex don’t find you attractive, that you can’t get a date, or that men don’t ask you out. It should be based on the realization that there are some things in the world more important than sex. It’s one thing to hear somebody say that. It’s quite another thing to live it out. When I was in college, I jokingly told people that I had so many girlfriends I couldn’t make up my mind about which one to marry. And I think that’s actually a good way to look at the call to celibate life. God has allowed us to have hearts that have enough love for more than one person or one family.

Timing. We are invariably comparing the timing of a wedding to the timing of . . . something that doesn’t even have a name in Protestant circles. The New Testament has only one mention of a wedding in Matthew 22, the marriage at Cana, where Jesus turned the water to wine. Nothing is said about the timing of the wedding or even the ceremony. What we have made of marriage today is exactly that – It’s manmade. All of the hoopla that we associate with weddings, including church ceremonies, bridesmaids, vows, dresses, cakes, marriage licenses, rings, is the product of manmade tradition. None of it is mentioned in the Bible. Does that make marriage or weddings wrong? Here’s how I answer that: Not necessarily. But to the extent marriages are undertaken with no regard for celibacy, with not even a fleeting thought given to a life with Christ, they are worse than the unfaithfulness and divorces to which most of them lead. I know that Catholic tradition is all we have to go on, but I don’t think celibate vows or ceremonies are necessary. So instead of timing a ceremony, I think it’s appropriate that we begin to tell our close friends and family of the decision we have made to remain as we are and devote our lives to other worthwhile (eternal) causes. And I think it would be okay to do that when you know you’ll never love a spouse more than you love the people you are forgoing marriage for. So it’s not about us having more free time to do God’s work. We actually have less time, because there is no free time doing his work.

It helps to understand celibacy’s role in relation to marriage. This is a big one and the one that took the most time for me. Of course, the biggest challenge is that we live in a married world. Celibacy has to be looked at with at least as much honor, value, and respect as marriage and family. If you know of a godly family, you can learn a lot by watching them in public with their kids. Watch their interactions, not only amongst themselves, but also with other people. There is a certain grace and dignity that comes with being comfortable in your own shoes. Watch a husband jump into action to protect his wife or children from harm. It’s like an inborn instinct. He doesn’t have to stop and think about it. He acts. Whether it’s pulling them out of the way of oncoming traffic or shielding their eyes from sexually explicit images, the drive to protect his family comes very natural. The same thing is true of mothers. So it is with a person called to celibate life. We are not saying no to paternal or maternal instincts. Rather, by sacrificing much more than is possible in marriage, we are taking them to a higher level. We ought to care just as much about marginalized people as a father cares about his family. Our hearts should be ready to respond in a heartbeat. If you feel that tug, a tug beyond passive empathy, then celibacy may be right for you. I’m not necessarily talking about being a missionary in a third world country. There are lots of needs all over the U.S.A. Needs that can only be met with the passion of a celibate person. Unfortunately, all that we’re likely to hear about virginity in Protestant churches is from the standpoint of true love waits on a spouse. It’s most likely to come from a very comfortable and frumpy married white preacher dude who depends on the tithes and offerings collected in church to take care of him and his family. So as far as discussing anything besides family life, he has a conflict of interest the moment he opens his mouth. I’ve heard many preachers claim that they can relate to the gift of singleness because “I was once single before I met my wife.” That is simply not true. Waiting on marriage as a single person and waiting on the return of Christ as a person with the gift of celibacy are not even in the same hemisphere. As far as someone in the Protestant church having insight into celibacy, the only exception may be a preacher who lived a chaste life into his 30’s-40’s before he got married. Then he might have a hint. So we have to be willing to educate, tactfully.

We have to understand celibacy in relation to society. One very common notion that is passed around when people talk about celibacy is that it frees us to do “greater service.” Well, okay. But that’s about as informative as saying the sky is blue. If all we understand about celibacy is that is frees up our time to do greater service to help greater numbers of people, we have missed the mark. We have become nothing more than a refried preacher. First, from a spiritual standpoint, we have to accept that celibacy itself is a higher calling than marriage. That doesn’t mean we are better than married people. It means that we have more responsibility, are better qualified to represent the love of God, and have a straighter path to heaven. If we just see celibacy as freeing up time, then it could very well become a means to an end. Our lives would be rated according to how much we did, how much we stayed busy, and how many people we served. We must see the gift of celibacy as something good in itself. Churches have to see it more than extended adolescence and a failure to “man up.” I’ve often wondered what families’ reactions to me would be if I treated them with the same suspiciousness and cynicism I see from them. “Well, congratulations on your 25th wedding anniversary Carl. How many women did you bang last year?” Or “Sorry to hear your wife has been dead 10 years. Have you found a homosexual lover yet?”

In discerning celibacy, we also must have our sexual desires under control and be content with living a life without sex. One word many Catholic authors use is sublimation, which just means that something is raised to a higher standard. For example, the short-term goal of sexual energy can be redirected to taking care of orphaned children in third world countries. The higher good has to be something we are passionate about and not just something to pass the time with until we figure out what we want to do. And we make the final call about what those other worthwhile causes are. There will always be people who will not see our long-term goals and higher values. It helps to have friends on the same journey to discuss these matters with. I think sexual desires tend to sublimate naturally as we get older, to a certain extent. When I’m with people I don’t know, I’m usually conscious about how I’m being perceived. It can be downright dangerous to be a single man in public today. I don’t want to come across as a monk in silent piety and prayer. But I don’t want to come across as a single man looking for a romantic partner either. Striking that balance is an ongoing challenge. Since I’m still the class clown, I’m always looking for ways to make people laugh. What I have found is that it only takes knowing a person is human to do that. I don’t need to know gender, age, marital status, race, or anything else society says is important. I have gotten to know several hermaphroditic/intersex-identified people through the years. It really is remarkable how people can relate to each other when cultural expectations are taken out of the picture. And it is even more remarkable how a small “hello” and recognition of another person’s existence can spark a conversation and a lifetime friendship. So if we are able to put aside our stereotypes and see all people as human beings in need of other people to relate to, God can take those desires and reshape them into passions and endeavors that far surpass romantic love.

Marriage – Turning The Tables

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If  I read one more article or hear one more sermon telling single people they need to get married, I’m going to be sick enough to require hospialization.  So in the spirit of providing a balanced perspective, here are the marks I see today of marriage and married people.

  1. Married people are prideful and greedy. They are concerned only with their own comfort and pleasure. From the biggest SUVs to the biggest houses and white picket fences, they want the whole world to see that they have it all. They invented the phrase, “keeping up with the Joneses.” Getting ahead and making each other happy is their religion. Who needs faith in God when they’ve got faith in each other? It should come as no surprise because the Bible tells us that married men are concerned with the world’s affairs and how to please their wives (1 Cor 7:33). They live lives that are out of control, in every way you can imagine.  They really can’t be expected to please God.   They can only see how “blessed” and wonderful their lives are. Their selfishness and pride prevents them from seeing the needs of other people, especially single people. Married, white, middle-aged preachers are the worse. They take pride in reminding unmarried folks how immature they are until they “man up” and get married. And single women? Well, they’re nobody until they take their subservient place beside a man.
  2. Married people worship sex. Whatever form it takes, the church believes in sex, and lots of it. And they want to make sure everybody gets their fair share. If bestiality came into fashion next year, the church would be handing out gift certificates for the Humane Society every Sunday morning, out of “convictional kindness” of course. Marriage is the holy grail of their adulthood. Preachers have even put their beds on their rooftops to show the world just how good sex is. To make it even worse, Bible thumping married people think the only way they can combat homosexuality is by glorifying their own heterosexual relationships, whether married or not. Fornication? There’s no such thing anymore. Now it’s cohabitation.  Just get a marriage license and “make it right.” They think that since God created everyone male or female that everyone has an obligation to have as much sex as possible, to show the world their maleness and femaleness. Idolizing the nuclear family and leaving no room for any other way of life except marriage is what drove scores of young people out of their churches and into the gay culture. I’m sure there are people in that lifestyle today that God originally tapped for the gift of celibacy. But with no acceptance and no support in their churches, they were drawn to a lifestyle that offered all of those things. The worship of sex through marriage and family has consequences we can’t even imagine.
  3. Churches have never defined what a biblical marriage is. Instead, they cling to the state’s definition of a legal marriage with marriage licenses and probate judges and divestments of assets after divorce. They would have everyone think that the longstanding tradition of marriage is what makes it biblical. Unfortunately, they have never come to understand that man-made traditions are not inherently biblical. As a matter of fact, there is nothing inherently Christian about families, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, grannies, grandpas, or white picket fences.  If you feel like you’re going into shock, you might want to call the paramedics.  It gets worse.
  4. Married people are insecure in their own gender. For them, a sexual relationship is the only thing that defines their masculinity or femininity. A man is not a man until he “mans up” with the right woman. A woman is not complete until she finds her Romeo and starts having babies to grow the offering plate.
  5. Married people worship children. Instead of seeing an eternity in heaven, they can only see the smiling faces of their children and grandchildren and how they resemble kinfolks long gone. “Oh look, he’s got Uncle Earl’s nose.” I have personally seen alters in churches made with baby bottles complete with stage lighting to add a nice warm glow to the throne of child worship. And I’ve also seen special services called to consecrate children’s lunch boxes and backpacks, complete with laying on of hands and mumbling incoherent “prayers” to Dr. Seuss.
  6. Married people don’t believe anyone has the self-control to live without sex. They didn’t, and they don’t expect their children too either. They believe we are at the mercy of evolutionary-mandated desires that are as necessary as food and water to survive. A man controlling his sexual desires would make him less of a man. A real man has to be ready when the time is right. He has to be ready to pounce on every woman to “lead her to Christ.” A real woman is one of who knows how to please her man.  If you mention Paul or Jesus and their sexless lives, they have ready explanations about how Paul was dealing with some crisis that made him forget women and Jesus didn’t have any thoughts about sex.  Right.
  7. The only salvation married people believe in comes through making sexual relationships right with a marriage license, wedding ceremony, and wedding rings. As the Baptists have said repeatedly, it is not our relationship with Christ that turns a boy into a man, but marriage to the right woman who can reign in his sexual appetite. (1) In other words, they believe their boys can have sex with as many women as they want until they decide on the one to “come to the Lord” with and get “saved.” Women are expected to remain sweet virgin angels until the right boys take them to bed.  It’s some twisted version of Mosaic Law.  This represents the highest standard of married sexuality in our present culture.
  8. Married people have very little faith. Instead of faith in God, they have faith in orgasms, fertile seasons, and making babies.   They have faith in 401Ks, bigger SUVs, and their daughters making the cheerleader squad. They believe lust is a guiding spiritual force in the world. Whatever everybody else is doing is what is right for them. If polygamy becomes popular in the next century, they will mandate that all men must have more than one wife. It’s called relative morality. The Protestants invented it. Married people have honed it to a fine art. They always want to be tuned in to the will of the people. The latest Pew Research Poll numbers fall somewhere between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Whether it’s cohabitators or people marrying later in life, they have the numbers at their fingertips to “prove” the sky is falling. They are always ready to tell single people they are out of step with the times and that everybody must bow down to the God of sex.
  9. Married people are judgmental. They look down on single people as “perpetual adolescents” and accuse single men of shirking from responsibility. The real problem is that, with all their adultery and divorces, they have no ground to stand on. They are not qualified to whisper one syllable of advice to people with the charism of virginity.
  10. Marriage people are dangerous. They commit the vast majority of sex crimes; whether it’s pedophilia, sexual assault, rape, incest, etc. According to the latest Bureau of Justice statistics, 6 in 10 of the people who commit rape and sexual assaults are married people. (2)

It is clear in the Bible that, unless given the rare gift of faithful marriage, celibacy is the more Christ-like way of life.   From the prophet Jeremiah all the way down to Christ himself, celibacy has been the only lifestyle sanctioned by God to be concerned with heaven and eternal matters. Apostle Paul himself said celibacy is a spiritual gift and that all those who are unmarried should remain so (1 Cor 7).  God himself ordained, sanctified, and consecrated celibacy as the foundational institution of human society.  We should pray that married people see the err of their ways and get out of bed long enough to see the needs of people around them. We should pray that they realize God only called the few people who cannot control their lusts to marriage, and the rest he calls to holiness and contentment going about the Lord’s business. We should also pray that churches lay down their ungodly idols of sex worship and perversion, and come to understand that the birth, death and resurrection of Christ abolished the Genesis command to reproduce the human species and, instead, requires us to reproduce new spiritual beings who have accepted Christ and are ready for his return.

 

 

  1. http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/04/21/from-boy-to-man-the-marks-of-manhood-part-one/

 

  1. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/SOO.PDF

Celibacy – Life Beyond Circumstances

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I’ve always found it interesting that churches consider marriage a sacred commitment and “singleness” a state of selfish abandonment and uncontrolled desires, when in fact the Bible talks more about celibacy than it does marriage. How did the church come to worship sex and toss out celibacy as an unfortunate circumstance? There are many reasons. But at the top of the list is the fact that the Protestant Reformation rejected not only celibate priests, but the whole idea of spiritual rebirth and fruitfulness, claiming that making babies was the only way the human species could reproduce. Unfortunately, the church never learned to think long term and never learned anything from what Jesus taught Nicodemus:

“Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.'” John 3:5-6

In other words, Protestants rejected the whole message of the New Testament because they refused to move beyond the flesh. Sex in marriage became just as important as food in the stomach. And babies became the holy grail of life itself. When they abolished monasteries and convents, they erased the identities of generations of people who had the God-given charism of virginity. Christ was one of those people. Protestants no longer saw their choice as between marriage and celibacy as outlined by Paul in the New Testament, but between marriage and “living in sin” as outlined by a culture of divorce. These are the circumstances they want you to forget. When the reformers established settlements in the American colonies, they brought the Old Testament and all of its sexual fulfillment and fruitfulness with them and burned the New Testament and spiritual rebirth to make way for a new sexual awakening. Marriage was no longer a right. It was a rule. As a matter of fact, weddings were founded on divorce, courthouses and redistribution of land. Marriage became the social expectation. Honorable singles became the dishonorable outcasts because, if young people were not married by a certain age, it was assumed they were either fornicators or homosexuals. With the choice of celibacy out of the way, any lifestyle besides marriage became viewed as an unfortunate circumstance. For the Protestants, church was not about salvation through Christ. It was about circumstances. It was about salvation through marriage and children, because that was the only way they could “redeem” their sexual desires. Their idea of an afterlife never got any further than the inheritance they left their children. Indeed, the foundation of Christianity today is not built on Christ. That would take an amount of invisible faith. Rather, today’s Christianity is built on a woman’s visible ability to give birth to children and a man’s ability to be responsible for them. Christ is not in the picture. The Southern Baptists make that very plain in their Faith and Message Statement: “God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.” Nowhere in the Bible does God grant any special privilege to the nuclear family or “persons related to one another by marriage.” As a matter of fact, it says just the opposite: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29. The Baptists’ “message” is merely the creation of a couple of preachers who had one too many drinks after a Wednesday night prayer meeting.  Sadly though, people still believe it.

But rejecting celibacy had long term consequences the Protestants were not aware of. While tooting their horns about how the commitment of a man and woman in marriage represents Christ’s marriage to the church, they forgot how the commitment of a celibate person represents total faith in God for the necessities of daily living and how it symbolizes eternal life in heaven where there are no marriages. The only problem is that celibacy is something that can’t be seen. For Protestants to have faith in anything, they have to see it. That’s why the invisible vocation of celibacy was replaced with the circumstance of an empty ring finger called “singleness.” They could see who had not “put a ring on it.” So the only commitment the church knows anything about today starts with “courtship” and ends with “I do” and a wedding night of sexual salvation.

Celibacy became a circumstance when the church replaced biblical truths with moral relativism and lowered their standards to the level of the masses. As Russell Moore of the SBC said recently, “We have a responsibility not only to speak truthfully. But we have a responsibility to contextualize not only to the present culture but to the future.” Contextualize?  That is so clever.  Leave it to wordsmith Moore to figure out a politically correct way of describing moral relativism. Protestants have for a long time based their beliefs on changing circumstances. They learned how to contextualize their pocketbooks too, and learned that talking about divorce and other circumstances in a “fallen world” was a lot more profitable than talking about the truth in a world that had turned its back on God or about the realities of hell.  Comfort sells. They learned that marrying a cohabitating couple with a child in tow was like money in the bank.  The church was no longer a body of believers, but a group of seekers with different circumstances. No one could claim to know the truth anymore, because the “gospel” changed with the times. DivorceCare was a lot more profitable than talking about uncomfortable subjects such as adultery and fornication. Circumstances make a lot of victims. Victims make the church a lot of money.  Can you imagine an older man standing up during a Baptist service today and saying, “I wish all men were like me”?  What a scandal!  Who does he think he is!  Celibacy is just a circumstance Protestants associate with the Catholic Church and the same sex marriage scandal.  When churches are seated at the golden calf of marriage and family, it’s not possible for them to live without sex. They must show the world visual proof of their marital bliss with wedding rings and marriage licenses, and how committed they are to their spouses until . . . they divorce. After all, it’s just a season of marriage, right?  It’s no longer about who a man is. It’s what he looks like. Who he’s married to. What his family looks like. How many children he has. Where he works.  People today believe all men have the capacity to reach the same spiritual significance, no matter what their station in life is.  That may be true if we didn’t have choices about our stations in life.  But all of us make our own choices, no matter how popular or unpopular they may seem to the rest of the world.  That’s why so many churches report the results of opinion polls and statistical charts and ring their hands over people marrying later in life. As unbelievable as it sounds, they claim to know how many people God expects to be married and how many people he expects to be single. They email a copy of the opinion polls and numbers up to God every 90 days or so and wait on his pronouncement.  I’m sure that will put a smile on grandpa’s face.  People know so little about the Bible that they buy into it.

For many Protestants, moral relativism started in 1 Corinthians 7:26 when Paul mentioned remaining a virgin because of the “present distress.” It was exaggerated to mean all of Paul’s writings in the New Testament, especially those dealing with sexual ethics, were dependent on his circumstances. They didn’t think it applied to them because they knew the “end of the world” was not going to happen anytime soon. Not only that, they really didn’t think they had to take anything Paul said seriously because it was “just his opinion.” So their solution was to consider what he wrote not even part of the Bible. That was a grave mistake. Paul was not just another bloke Christ called off the street to write some of the Bible. He wasn’t just a dude who happened to fall into these circumstances. He was heavenly inspired. God placed him in that place at that time for a reason. In actuality, Paul declared that God’s call to salvation reversed a person’s circumstances. People with the gift of celibacy pointing toward eternity are necessary for that to happen. They are necessary witnesses to spiritual rebirth and to the Christian slave becoming the Lord’s freedman and to those who were free becoming Christ’s slaves. A wedding is a very short-lived event. What happens after that? Paul did not fall into the unfortunate circumstances of celibacy because of some impending catastrophe. His choice between marriage and celibacy is the same as ours today. He had a right to marry, as he straightforwardly states in 1 Cor 9:5-6: “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?”  Paul was not secretly cohabitating with Timothy’s sister or getting free milk from a cow.  He wasn’t staying up late nights playing video games.  What “life group” class would you put him in?  What kind of circumstances would your church have to build up around him to make everybody comfortable?

My life of celibacy is something I also freely chose and something God has allowed me to do. Yes, I have the right to marry just like anyone else. But I have not denounced marriage as being evil, as popular thinking may have you believe.  I have renounced it for something better, for life beyond this earth. Denounced and renounced are two words that sound the same but have very different meanings. I know a life of sacrifice is hard to believe in churches today because their faith goes no deeper than a wet diaper and after school childcare. So while I may have not have a ring on my finger, I do know what commitment is. I ask that you keep an open mind for commitments you cannot see and levels of faith you cannot understand. While I may not have the trophy wife, passel of kids, and graduation pictures hanging on the walls, be mindful of children who are not the products of flesh, but of spirit.

http://christiandaily.com/article/russell-moore-laments-how-evangelicals-today-regard-politics-as-their-own-religion/56127.htm

The Twisted Marriage Idolatry Of Al Mohler And Southern Baptists

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Just when I think the Southern Baptists can’t sink any deeper in sex worship, somebody comes along and does even better. In this case, it’s Al Mohler. You can read his latest article, “Marriage as a Part of Adulthood,” here:

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/preparing-for-marriage/marriage-as-a-part-of-adulthood

There’s really nothing new because he has been preaching his marriage mandate for many years. He’s one of those mature Baptist brethren who think single adults over 23 are “living in sin.” And yes, he’s one of those “full quiver” men who do not think sex hormones can be controlled and recommends marriage at 12 and 13 years of age to prevent fornication.  I guess that makes sense on a primordial level if we assume men have no more self control than the apes.   And I’m sure he’s passing on his “wisdom” to the Baptist preachers of tomorrow.  He bemoans the current generation of cohabitation.  But what else can we expect from his generation, the generation of divorce and adultery? In this piece he does something I’ve written about before and, as always, I think it’s rather comical. He throws in the obligatory “unless given the calling of celibacy” footnote in one sentence, just in case somebody reminds him that Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus himself never married.

“For all these reasons and more, Christians must understand that, unless given the calling of celibacy, Christians should honor marriage and seek to marry and to move into parenting and the full responsibilities of adulthood earlier rather than later in life.”

“Unless given the calling of celibacy.”  Isn’t it wonderful what commas can do for you?  They make it look like everything that’s wedged in between them is a passing thought.  Not only is Bro. Al a full quiver man, he’s a full Oxford comma man too.   But Al, I have a couple of questions.  I visited your fine Baptist church recently and what you need to understand is that all of your single women leave a lot to be desired. That’s right. All of them are prostitutes, except the ones who are Christian women of course. They’re on the streets of Louisville every weekend making money to buy their next fix of drugs. Your women should honor their bodies as temples of God and become full time mothers. Then they can step into their role as responsible adults.  How would I know who the good Christian women of your church are? How would I even know you have any? Would they wear different colored dresses? Have a different hairstyle? I would have no way of knowing. My question for you is this: How would you know who does and does not have “the calling of celibacy?” Since you regularly throw in this “rare exception” clause when you write about marriage, you must know such a person. Can you give us a name? Have you polled the unmarried people in your church to see who has what calling? Has anyone helped them discern celibacy? Let’s take it one step further. I’m sure you can name thousands of married couples you’ve known over the years. Of the 7,125,000,000 people on earth, can you name two Baptist preachers who are called to celibacy? If you can’t, then you probably shouldn’t mention it at all. It really is pathetic.  I can only speak for myself as one of those people called to celibate life, but I do not wish to be included in such a sordid “family focused” soap opera and Cialis sponsored worship hour.

What The Gift Of Celibacy Is Not

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These points are from a Biblical perspective and not from the perspective of opinion polls, majority votes, church tradition, or doctrinal statements, etc.

First of all, celibacy is not a choice you make. It’s a supernatural ability (spiritual gift/charism) given by God to only a number of people. We can pray that we recognize and nurture it. But the choice we have is whether to accept it or not. Think of an athlete who was born with the body and balance for the high beam. She has the God given ability to win a medal at the Olympic games. But it’s up to her to start training and go for the gold.

Celibacy is not something that is instructed in the Bible. There is no formula and no special prayers. It is, however, affirmed as being a higher calling than marriage, in that heaven is higher than earth. It doesn’t matter whether or not your church respects it. It’s a Biblical fact.

The gift of celibacy is not the absence of sexual desires. It is the ability to control them. People who have it are able to remain unmarried without sex and not burn. However, they are not cold prudes with no appreciation for the mystery of sex.

The gift of celibacy (or singleness) is not what a person has while waiting for marriage. It’s not what a couple does before they get married. While God calls everybody to remain a virgin and celibate before marriage, the gift of celibacy is a long-term commitment, just like marriage.

Someone with the gift of celibacy is not going to fit any “life stage” group or similar gender/age/marital status-based group that a church may conjure up.

The gift of celibacy is not tied Biblically to the Catholic Church. It’s merely part of their church tradition. Considering the Protestant Reformation, this is probably the hardest truth Protestant churches will have to accept.

The gift of celibacy has nothing to do with monks, nuns, or any other religious persons. And it has nothing to do with living in communities such as monasteries and convents.

The gift of celibacy has nothing to do with homosexuality or same sex marriage. Many churches are simply replaying what they hear in the media because they don’t understand what the Bible says on the subject.

The gift of celibacy is not compatible with someone who has had sex. If we are to believe that a faithful marriage involves a husband and wife who have not had sex with anybody else during their marriage, we are compelled to believe the same about faithful celibacy. The Bible deals with ideals when it comes to sexual ethics. It does not deal with “should have beens.” Otherwise it would not contain the terms adultery and fornication. That does not mean a person can’t be forgiven and commit again to live without sex until marriage.

Celibacy is not a social status that affords people special privileges. It is not something given to only third world missionaries in order to do “ministry service.”

Celibacy is not perfection. If you believe that, you have fallen for a straw man.

Celibacy has nothing to do with having more time to do God’s work. Because there are so many things to do, it often results in less time.

A life of celibacy is not a life of failure. It is a life of faith and sacrifice that married life cannot attain.

Celibacy is not emptiness. It is a life that has been filled by something much more than sex.

The gift of celibacy is not a label you put on someone after their death and after a vote has been taken to determine their worthiness. If we’re going to do it that way, we should do the same for marriage – take a vote after both the husband and wife are dead to determine if they were faithful to each other and if they were really married.

Celibacy is not the denial of our maleness or femaleness and it is not the denial of our sexuality.

Celibacy is not a byproduct of some negative life experience, such as a troubled home life or a bad relationship with a mother or father.

Celibacy is not a life without commitment. It is a life with more commitment. Who is more worthy of sacrifice, a spouse or God himself? It reminds the world that there is more to commitment than the bells and whistles of a wedding ceremony.

Celibacy is not a default state a person enters when a single adult can’t find a spouse. It is an intentional choice and a positive response to God. It is made public for that very reason. It symbolizes our total dependence on God and eternal life in heaven for all believers.

Celibacy is not living selfishly for ones’ self. It’s just the opposite. It is living for everybody else. Marriage is about exclusion. Celibacy is about inclusion.

Celibacy does not lead to a life without children. That may be so from a biological standpoint. But from a spiritual standpoint, we have more children than anybody else.

The Surprising Comfort Of Celibacy

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If I live to be 100 years old, the one thing I will remember about the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage is their assumption that gays were “condemned to live in loneliness” without marriage. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that they were just expressing what most Americans already felt and what most churches already taught – that a family and comfortable sex lives were required to enter adulthood in America. I’ve written for years about the church’s idolatrous worship of sex, but never thought I see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would declare marriage a constitutional right. But this didn’t happen overnight. So what was it that made Justice Kennedy believe that gay people were “condemned to live in loneliness?” The church. Not just the Catholics and Protestants, but all of them. Where do people get married? The church. What institution has traditionally set the standards for sexual ethics? The church. I believe Kennedy was calling out churches as hypocrites because the sexual ethics that they preached didn’t match the sexual ethics that they practiced. He packed a lot of punch into that one word, “condemned.” I can hear him asking churches, “Who are you to condemn those who can’t get married when you can’t remain faithful in your own marriages?” “Who are you to talk about marriage when half of your congregations will get divorced?” With “condemned,” he was also taking a stab at church weddings and the false separation of church and state that has existed in this country since its founding. Indeed, here we have a case where the church is not condemning the state. Rather, the state is condemning the church. So this contrived separation may get even wider. What condemned gay people to live in loneliness? Are we so naive as to believe that they didn’t have sexual relationships because they didn’t have marriage licenses and the blessings of church weddings? No. What condemned them was the church’s idolatrous worship of heterosexual marriages and families. What condemned them was the absence of any other alternative besides family life. What condemned them was the church’s narrow mindedness and inability to see reality beyond their own stained glass windows and rose colored glasses. What condemned them was their own pride, greed, and unwillingness to talk about such matters in their churches. So I think Justice Kennedy was also saying to the church, “You made some false assumptions. So I’ll make some false assumptions.” For instance, the church has also seen single adults as adolescents until they married. So, the Supreme Court lumped them in with gays too. Why not? They never had an identity to begin with. It was like Kennedy was giving the faithful a taste of their own medicine. He took the church’s own traditions and unwritten rules, twisted them around a bit, and threw them right back at the pulpits.

However, all of these assumptions and elevation of marriage to a civil right also underscore why lifelong virginity is a spiritual gift. Not only is it difficult in and of itself, society’s dismissal of it does not lead to a life of comfortable acceptance. Yes, I get lonely, very lonely indeed. But I don’t think I’m any lonelier than Christ was while on this earth. I don’t expect the state, church, or anybody else to do anything about my loneliness. I accept it. I relish it. And I dare say most of us with this gift would say the same thing. I realize that for a person to live today with unmet desires is unheard of and that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is sacred as scripture. But all traditions and family legacies were tossed out the door when Christ entered the world. I live by different rules. In a real way, I see my role today as making comfortable people uncomfortable and taking the padded cushions out of comfortable padded pews. I don’t look to a marriage to define me as an adult. God has already done that. I don’t look at surveys. I don’t take votes. And I don’t care how popular or unpopular I may be. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that just because the Bible allows for a life of marriage or celibacy that half the people must be married and half the people must be celibates. That will never be the case. Even if there have been only five people with the charism of virginity since the time of Christ, the Bible is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. God is not a God of democracy. He is a king. He does not have to consult a supreme court. He is the court and final judge.

What Is Marriage?

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What is the one thing that epitomizes sexual immorality, debauchery, greed, lust, unfaithfulness, broken homes, and selfishness? I think it’s marriage. What could be more hypocritical than lavish church weddings and a 50% divorce rate? The truth is, God was never present in most of these choreographed ceremonies. No matter how much money preachers were paid off, they couldn’t take his place. Did I mention the pineapple punch? Most weddings are nothing more than extended celebrations of greed and flagships of social class, cocktail parties with a twist. Did I mention gossip? How many children are they going to have? Who is his father? Has she been married before? What does he do for a living? Where are they going to live? Oh, the drama, the excitement. Oh please. How long is “’til death do us part?” The divorce culture is indeed largely responsible for the downward spiral of ethics in America today. It’s responsible for the emotionally crippled children who will carry the same patterns into future generations. What a price to pay for sex worship. Now there are children who don’t even know who their fathers are. Marriage has become such an expectation to enter adulthood that homosexual marriage has been accepted. Come one, come all. Get your marriage licenses today! Desire has become such a major part of the human narrative that it’s not natural for anyone to deny their sexual desires, no matter how perverted they may be. Is it any surprise that the number one group responsible for pedophilia in the U.S. is married men? Greed knows no end. Let’s not forget the women. After bored housewives read 50 Shades of Gray, many “master bedrooms” took on a whole new meaning. The big question now is whether traditional marriage between a man and woman is even relevant today. Its definition has changed so much that its biblical significance is not even recognizable.

Why am I so down on marriage? Because married people are down on celibacy. In recent years, the main context within which Christians have spoken about celibacy has been homosexuality. And since the SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage last year, it’s taken a more aggressive tone. You will be hard pressed to find anything positive written about celibacy today, especially within Protestant circles. Parents today are more worried about their children living celibate and lonely lives than they are about them getting an education and a job. It’s a fate worse than AIDS or any mosquito born disease. The only thing evangelicals understand about celibacy is that it’s what gays and lesbians are supposed to do to keep them in line with God’s word. “It’s what keeps them from sinning,” one older charismatic preacher told me. To them it’s abnormal and not natural. It’s the identity they can assign to any single person over 25. It’s the reason they feel good about avoiding them and excluding them from their church “families.” They are the people they protect their children from, those sinister celibate people. As one little boy said to his mother as they passed me on a hiking trail last year, “Mom, he must be one of those single people you talked about, one of those people who are lost and don’t know where they’re going.” Good job mom. But what about the gift of celibacy Paul spoke of in the Bible? Parents who call themselves Christians today don’t have a clue. All they care about is protecting their brood and looking out for their own comfort. They’re quick though to tell you celibacy is a Catholic problem and they want no part of it. Many of them think it’s a natural result of trying to enforce it on men who should have been married because sexual desire, as they repeat over and over again, cannot be controlled. Well, I guess they have a track record that proves that. The Southern Baptists have even become so paranoid that their Andrew Walker said it is “sinful” for young people to wait beyond their teenage years to get married and that it’s “impractical” to expect virginity beyond that age:

“The reality is, starting at the age of 12, 13, boys and men, growing up into maturity, are hardwired for something that God gave us a desire for and an outlet for. And so to suppress that becomes more difficult the older you get.”

Yes, it’s difficult for people like the Baptists because they idolize sex and marriage. They know no other way of life. Their “reality” has replaced any biblical principles they may have had at one time. It’s hard wired in them. It’s the same excuse they used for divorce. Faithfulness became too difficult after years of boring marriages, so they had to look for other outlets. No fault divorce was the answer. Yes, dear Jesus, it’s just too hard for people who are slaves to sex. I should have been married at 12 and here I am at 55. What would a good churchgoing, married-up, iron sharpened “man of God” say about me? I’m not sure I want to know. But I do know that this is what happens when a society places too much value on either celibacy or marriage. It happened 500 years ago with celibacy and the Protestant reformation and it is happening today with marriage and the idol worship of sex and children. So married folks and church “families,” I would encourage you to think before you speak and be aware of your history and legacies, or else you may be the ones “condemned to live in loneliness” as Justice Kennedy so eloquently put it. Just because something is traditional does not mean it’s Christian. As a matter of fact, there is nothing innately Christian about having children. There is, however, something innately Christian about the charism of virginity. Get to know the people in your congregations who do not fit your typical “church family” and see how they line up with your stereotypes. Allow your minds the possibility that celibacy may be possible in your children if they live beyond teenage years. And if you really want to expand your thinking, allow the possibility that celibacy may be God’s will for some of their lives. Accept the fact that it can be a very positive response to Christ and just as natural as your own marriages. Otherwise, just as you look at my biblical celibacy as wrong and sinful, I will continue to look at your adulterated marriages as state sanctioned sexual partnerships. If you can’t make room for exceptions in your narrow minds, I can’t make room for you.

http://www.npr.org/2015/03/10/388948950/southern-baptist-leaders-highlight-benefits-of-youthful-matrimony

The Christmas Gift Nobody Wants

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The Southern Baptists’ David Platt recently posted a transcript of one of his sermons titled “The Gospel and Singleness.” See the link below to his radical.net web site. At first I thought it was a spoof, like a standup comic routine, except I didn’t hear any laughter. Like most Baptist preachers, he denies that the gift of celibacy even exists, but now he takes it a step further and calls it the Christmas gift nobody wants. Platt has a long history of shaming single men and telling them to man up and get married. Here are a few excerpts from the sermon. He focused mainly on 1 Corinthians 7:

“It’s clear that, obviously, there’s Paul making a statement here about singleness being a gift and marriage being a gift. The discussion revolves around what kind of gift is he referring to? Some people think he is talking about a subjective gift, much like the picture we have in 1 Corinthians 12, when it comes to spiritual gifts. This divine enabling for someone to be a single. Just like you have another spiritual gift, you have a gift of singleness.”

As usual, Platt starts out ridiculing Apostle Paul and anything to do with the gift of singleness. It’s still “singleness” to the Baptists because they can’t bring themselves to utter the word celibacy. In their comfortable “focus on the family” worlds, they don’t think twice about mocking those with such a gift by calling them “divinely enabled.” There are some protestant scholars today who are so uncomfortable with celibacy that they believe Paul had been married before he wrote the epistles. To acknowledge that much self control would shed too much light on their adulterous marriages. See the link to Denny Burk’s article. Paul did not identify himself as having the gift of celibacy because he was widowed or didn’t have a marriage license, but because he was giftedly committed to God to live without a sexual relationship. Yes, he was indeed divinely enabled, just as some people are today. But Platt speculates he might have been a homosexual. Like most Baptists, he has to discuss these matters amongst his brethren to see how they match up with the Bible. It’s called moral relativism, where popular opinion determines if something is accepted as biblical fact or dismissed as a “subjective gift.” It’s a theology based on changing culture, which Platt so eloquently described:

“How many people with the gift of marriage sit around and wonder, ‘Well, do I have the gift of marriage?’ Don’t answer that too quickly. The picture is, of course, I’ve got the gift of marriage . . . the reality is Scripture said you’re married.”

Yes, reality is scripture for the Baptists. Not the Bible. And they need to sit down for this shocking revelation: Marriage licenses are not scripture. Marriage licenses are not required for salvation. It almost seems as if Platt’s treatise is a study in how to talk about a trojan horse (marriage licensees) without ever mentioning them by name. It’s unfortunate that our morally bankrupt and totally depraved and Calvinized churches today can comfortably assume that every adult who is alive and breathing either has a marriage license or is “living in sin.” As a matter of fact, the SBC’s Ethics Commission President, Russell Moore, recently said marriage “preaches” the gospel and that single people are lost without one. He even believes fornication is “more dangerous” than adultery for a man because it takes a wife to forgive him. See links below. If you’re caught in a Baptist church not preaching the gospel with sex, woe be unto you:

“Here’s what I mean. What if what Paul is saying here is not, ‘We’ve got to figure out whether or not we’ve got the gift or not’ – because let’s be honest, regardless of whether or not a single person in this room thinks they have the gift or not, the reality is they’re still single.”

They’re still single? Why is it so easy for Platt to peg everyone in his audience as married or single? It’s because marriage and celibacy are not spiritual or sexual issues for the Baptists. They are legal issues. Marriage to them means no more than a marriage license and a preacher collecting his fee and singleness means no more than the absence of a marriage license. God comes to them through courthouse doors. That’s why they still haven’t figured out there’s a difference between “single” people waiting on marriage and people with the gift of celibacy waiting on the return of Christ. That’s why they don’t recognize the difference between a wife and a virgin (1 Corinthians 7:34). They can’t see virgins. They can only see marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies, wedding rings and bridal registries. To believe in something they can’t see would take faith. How would a young man (or woman) even discern if they had the gift of celibacy today? Should they read their Bibles? Should they pray and ask the Lord for guidance? Should they talk to their pastor? No. The Baptists have some new advice for them: They should ask their frat buddies in college:

“What’s interesting is I remember in college talking with guys and this was often the topic of conversation – the gift of singleness – and guys would kind of talk about it and wonder, ‘How do you know if you’ve got it?’ And if a guy, you know, wasn’t getting a date or something, he was like, ‘Well, maybe I’ve got the gift.’ And they would talk about it. But the reality is, if we’re really honest, they were talking about it like they certainly didn’t want it. This was like the Christmas gift you didn’t want, that you would immediately return when you got it. It was like, ‘Well, I hope I don’t have the gift. You know, I hope this doesn’t mean I have the gift. And I started thinking, ‘Okay, well, how do you know if you have the gift? And if it’s a gift, then why does nobody want it?’ So thinking about this picture here, I don’t believe this is what Paul is talking about here.”

What a decision to make – a keg of beer or a weekend without sex. If you consider the divorce rate, I’d say marriage is a Christmas gift nobody wants. This is where the moral relativism and comfortable assumptions come to their rescue. Since none of his frat buddies had the gift of celibacy, he felt comfortable assuming nobody had it. Can’t get a date? The Baptists have you covered. Don’t want a date? Your fate is worse than hell itself.

“The reality is every single one of us has one of those two gifts. Some of us have the gift of marriage at this moment and some of us have the gift of singleness – not necessarily a gift of singleness that will last 60 years.”

That’s so comfortable. Everybody has to have a gift to unwrap under the Christmas tree at this moment, right? Paul wasn’t even saying that marriage is a gift. The truth is, society can never understand the commitment of marriage as long as they don’t acknowledge the commitment of celibacy for people called to that life. The disrespect for marriage has finally caught up to the disrespect for celibacy. That’s why I consider marriage today to be a “subjective gift” and a “divinely enabled” disaster. In Matthew 19, Christ made it clear that the gift of celibacy cannot be understood or accepted by everybody. That includes men with five degrees, like David Platt. It does not mean it cannot be acknowledged and respected, though. As long as there are people like him in positions of church leadership, the gift of celibacy will never see respect. I understand he’s now in charge of the SBC’s International Mission Board and has recently cut the positions of over 1000 missionaries in order to funnel the savings to one of his internet startup companies. Hypocrisy – It’s what a lot of churches do best. Maybe he’s found a new place to share all of his . . . Christmas toys.

It’s really no surprise that Platt christened himself as an expert on singleness because he’s been married all of his adult life, since he was 21 years old. The only thing that can be gleaned from his “The Gospel And Singleness” is how to make up something if you don’t know what you’re talking about and how to rewrite scripture when it becomes uncomfortable and doesn’t agree with popular opinion. We have to keep in mind, though, what “gospel” means to the Baptists. They’ve used it to describe everything from “the gospel and homosexuality” to “the gospel and the American dream.” I understand they’re working on “the gospel and fried green butterbeans.” It basically means, “This is our opinion.” There’s no telling what Platt will have his hands on next. Stay tuned, though. He could take a vote to see if Jesus was married.

http://www.radical.net/resources/sermons/the-gospel-and-singleness

Was the Apostle Paul Married?

Premarital Sex?

http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2016/02/pastors_should_refuse_to_marry.html

http://www.thealabamabaptist.org/print-edition-article-detail.php?id_art=35171&pricat_art=10

http://www.radical.net/sermons/sermons/the-gospel-and-homosexuality/

Chastity Education

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Sex education in high schools has been an ongoing discussion in this country for a long time. It’s actually disheartening to think that parents would relinquish that responsibility to schools. But many of them do, I would estimate over 80%. Even Christian parents. I think the main reason for this is because so many parents have sexual baggage that prevents them from talking about it. They’d rather remain silent than face the ghosts of their past. The freedom and empowerment they experienced as teenagers is now an embarrassment they wish they could forget. But they can’t. They can’t start over again. It still comes back to haunt them. Now the single mom understands why her dad wanted her back home by 10:00. Now the single dad understands why his dad wouldn’t let him stay over at his girlfriend’s house. They know they can’t be role models for their children. Because the hard truth is that chastity can’t be taught. No amount of books can come close. It has to be modeled with the lives and legacies of adults in an exemplary environment of open communication and honesty. Chastity is a moral truth that has to be practiced, not learned. To teach a subject only requires knowledge of it – like history. It only involves the written word, symbols, and reasoning. To educate about a subject, though, requires a person to be something more than a teacher. It requires a mentor that can guide a person with personal experience beyond what books can teach. It takes someone willing to open up and provide examples of the right way to do things, not examples of the way things should be. Ideally, this role model would be the parent. Oftentimes it’s not. The parent may be able to teach on a lot o subjects.  But there’s a big difference between teaching and educating. It’s a fairly easy endeavor to draw diagrams of the human reproductive system and demonstrate how to put on condoms. Any sex education program can do that. It’s quite another thing for a teenager to make these decisions in the backseat of a car when hormones are raging.  What we know as sex education is really sex teaching programs.  They educate on nothing. The true influence of an educator does not consist of what he says, does, or teaches – but rather of what he is. They give themselves as living models, as real examples of how to live. Most of them volunteer their time. But we live in a time when a man’s worth is determined by his job title and credentials.  Not who he is.

We live in a time when young people are strictly segregated according to age and gender. Churches and schools have gotten this down to a fine art. Maybe one day we will come to a point when we realize that the information found in textbooks is not a fraction of the wisdom needed to live fulfilling Christian lives. If young people stay boxed in with people in their own demographic categories, that’s what will happen, very soon. Each generation thereafter will gradually devolve until we’re back at the hunter-gatherer stage, living on wild plants and animals, where men take multiple wives and become his property. To put a stop to all this and get us back on the road to Christian ethics will take people willing to take risks. Make a difference. Get involved in somebody’s life.

To Burn Or Not To Burn

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When I was a boy, Paul’s use of the word “burn” for sexual desire in 1 Corinthians 7 probably did more to educate me about sex than my parents or anything I learned in school. During the Dog Days of Summer in Alabama, one of my jobs was to help my dad rake and burn leaves in the backyard. The raking part wasn’t fun. But I always liked the fire. My dad made sure I knew everything about it. The whole process would start with him watching the weather forecast that morning. The time had to be right. If it were too wet, nothing would burn. If it were too dry, it would be too dangerous. He would choose a day that was not windy. He would put the fire in a big open space, far away from the house, usually the same spots year after year. He also made sure there was nothing else close by that could catch fire; like overhanging limbs, trees, buildings, plants, fence poles, etc. He said the flames could reach a lot higher than the pile of leaves. He allowed nothing but leaves and limbs on the fire. No rubber, glass, metal, or any kind of plastic. He did include paper bags and cardboard boxes. He said those were exceptions because they were made out of wood too. Oh, and privacy was important to him.  He didn’t want anybody to see the black scars they left on the ground.  So he would build the fires out of view of company. So, we sat off to gather the fallen limbs first. He would drive his tractor around the yard and I would pitch them in the trailer in back. After the limbs were gathered, we would start raking leaves on top of them. When the pile got to be a certain size, my dad would say “that’s enough!” Only he knew when that was. Then he got the kindling, which was usually a few shavings of heart pine or a crumpled newspaper. He put that at the base of it, on the side with the least wind. Then he struck a match and we watched the tiny flame shoot up through the wood and into the leaves. O’er the ramparts we watched! It only took a few minutes and the fire and smoke was rising over the pine trees. My dad also lectured (taught) me how the flames could leap out of the burning brush and onto the surrounding leaves and “get away from you before you know it.” He said a fire left unattended could spread out of control into a bigger fire, and that he would be responsible for anything else it burned – including a house.  He also told me about how burning embers could also be carried by the wind, land in somebody else’s yard, and start a fire – all without you knowing it. That is, until the neighbor called. That was scary. That’s why he always had either me, my sister, or my mom standing guard with a hosepipe and buckets of water. We stayed with the fire until it was extinguished. It had to be completely out with cold ashes before we went to bed. If it wasn’t, he poured water on it, and finished it another day. My dad did everything he could to minimize the risk of a fire getting out of control. It seemed to me that he actually had them contained before he built them. He planned things so meticulously.  My dad wasn’t afraid of fire, though.  He respected it and understood its capabilities. He also spent time telling me how beneficial lightning fires were in the forest, getting rid of dead trees, and making room for the sun to shine on new growth.  In 1963, fire researcher Herbert Stoddard discovered that one of the most harmful things modern man has done to birds has been his attempt to exclude fire from fire-type pine forests.  As he said:  “Within a few years most forests choke up with brush, lose their prairie-like vegetation, and can no longer support birds dependent on periodic burning for their food supply and proper cover.” There are a lot of other things a fire can do too.

A warm fire is wonderful on a cold night in a fireplace under control. But if it gets out of control, that same fire can burn your house down. The fires may look the same, but one keeps you warm and the other kills you. It’s the same way with the fires of our sexual desires. They can keep us warm in the incinerators of our own passions while we wait on a spouse, burn our houses down if we don’t contain them, or they can be transformed into something entirely different than fire. When the flames of desire leap out of control, they can consume all of our lives – and leave scars of regret and heartbreak as permanent reminders. But controlling those flames still comes down to taking away at least one of the three things a fire needs for survival – oxygen, heat, or fuel. Take oxygen, for example. Lust thrives in the right environment. I’m sure you know of places where the flames will meet you at the door. There’s hardly anywhere we can go today that is not saturated with sex. That’s where we have to be vigilant and step away from the gases of superficial pleasures.  Taking lust out of the air will work wonders in controlling your fire. The same thing is true about the heat that ignites our fires.  We can follow the masses and ignite our fires with meetups in a bar, fuel them with pornography, stoke them with our imaginations, and let them burn out of control – destroying ourselves and anyone they come in contact with.   Or we can do it God’s way and wait patiently on marriage before having sex.  If your fire has already jumped over the line, it’s never too late to get it back under control.

Paul must have understood the nature of fires very well because the word “burn” so accurately describes what I felt as a teenager. It felt like my body was the pile of leaves, that my sexual desire was the flame, and girls were the sparks. I came to understand what Christ meant when he said it was good for a man not to touch a woman. I was certain one spark would do it.  But I knew there was nothing inherently wrong with fire if it was kept under control, and that God created sexual desire as a good thing. That seemed a little less daunting when I realized God expected everybody to keep their fires under control, whether waiting on marriage or waiting on his return, and that he wasn’t holding me to any higher firefighting standards than he was anybody else.

Burning was one of the most common ways of describing unfulfilled passion throughout Greek and Roman literature, as well as the Bible. Job 31:12 describes sexual immorality as “fire that consumeth to destruction”  I think this is the fire Apostle Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 7:9 when he said “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” He was talking about the sexual passion that can consume our time, energy, creativity, trust, and anything else that makes us who we are when we don’t moderate our fires with the outlet of sex in marriage. There’s a difference between the flame of natural sexual desire that is consumed (consummated) in marriage and one that is allowed to burn out of control with the heat of sexual immorality. With marriage, two unstable flames of desire come together to create one stable fire. They use each other’s oxygen, fuel, and heat. It consumes all of their energy and time and reproduces with the embers of children and the rhythm of life. It’s ignited with romance and fueled with committed love. In a marital relationship, the other person becomes the object of our love. In a celibate relationship with God, he becomes the object of our love. It is fueled with a passion to please him; whether that be meeting the needs of forgotten people or endeavors of a supernatural nature. For example, instead of the flames of passion burning your time and energy, the fire of celibacy could be fueled by a desire to end human trafficking, homelessness, or end an epidemic. Instead of being spread with human children and birthrights, it is spread with spiritual children. Of course, a married person can love both God and their spouse. But they can never love him with the same intensity and capacity as a person with the spiritual gift of celibacy can. That’s because the fire of romance is fueled by romantic love, not God’s love. Celibate fires often hidden behind the smoke of marriage, glossy photo packages, wedding ceremonies, diamond rings, and white picket fences.   Some work behind the scenes.  People who live celibate lives remind us that love is never satisfied on this earth, and that the transformation of human nature is possible through union with Christ.  The fire of romance propagates the earth.  The light of celibacy points us to heaven and propagates eternity.  Maybe it’s time to revisit the lessons a simple fire can teach us.

https://books.google.com/books?id=zMiV__25izEC&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&dq=%22elements+in+the+bible%22+fire+water++-.com&source=bl&ots=NWUp0wDMMX&sig=vn2eH8K67mJkwNVU3XxWRcnNvTY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwii7YeFkrnKAhXIYyYKHVuWDc4Q6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

https://books.google.com/books?id=q7R2NFp8mtwC&pg=PA63&lpg=PA63&dq=keener+unfulfilled+passion&source=bl&ots=c-agjPVLar&sig=FPcNMwb71BcsMsWxXL6_Ssrr3Dg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2zIfM1bvKAhWEOD4KHcVVAc4Q6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-timaeus/

Click to access Luther-on-marriage-relations.pdf

https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/12436318/0614%20proofs%2013%20Nasrallah%20FCNT%201%20Cor%20aca.pdf?sequence=1

https://books.google.com/books?id=s8ml0NOoOdQC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=%22place+for+sex%22+%22song+of+solomon%22&source=bl&ots=4GVotbrdkF&sig=IhAqsTwA90PgR2Wqx1mJbBs-i1U&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjzjdDUtsDKAhUB5iYKHfkQCGgQ6AEIOjAG#v=onepage&q&f=false

Do You Have the Gift of Singleness?

 

The Sacredness Of Celibacy

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No responsibility, no commitment, extended adolescence, wasting time. You can’t trust them. I know what the world – and the church – says about singleness. To understand the sacredness of celibacy, we first have to uncover the pretense of singleness. It all starts in church. Churches typically segregate members based on age and marital status, under the assumption that these criteria determine a person’s “life stage.” Division by age is pretty much a no brainer for kids. But things get a little more complicated with adults, especially adults who are not holding a marriage license. In a typical singles class, you could have a 20 year old virgin, a 30 year old divorcee, a 40 year old widow, a 50 year old transgender, and a 60 year old homosexual. How do they relate to each other? They don’t. It’s just more comfortable and more politically correct to pile everybody into the same boat. And it provides everybody with an equal shot in the dating game. You see, relating to each other and meeting each other’s needs doesn’t matter much to the church. What matters is that people keep coming back and putting more money in the offering plates.

But biblically speaking, what is marriage and what is singleness? According to Webster’s Dictionary, marriage is a legal contract between two people and singles are people who don’t have one. However we know in the Bible that sex initiates marriage, not a wedding ceremony or legal contract (1 Cor 6:16). Sadly, the church has adopted the standards of the world. It does not see sexual ethics as the responsibility of individual members, but of the courthouse. The courts define marriage, all types of marriages, and the courts define singleness. Sexual purity before marriage and faithfulness in marriage have been relegated to quaint old-fashioned ideas. So when Paul talks about marriage, he is not talking about our idea of a temporary living arrangement. When he talks about virgins, he is not talking about our idea of singleness. He says something else that is foreign to our ears, that everybody is either called to celibacy or to marriage between a man and woman. But if you choose celibacy, the U.S. Supreme Court will tell you that you’re doomed to loneliness. If you choose marriage, you’re expected to have kids and circle your wagon around the throne of the family. It may seem like a loose-loose situation. But it’s a decision that every Christian must make. If you enter marriage without considering celibacy, you are – in effect – denying the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ and casting doubt on salvation and spiritual rebirth.

When Paul talks about the gift of celibacy and remaining unmarried (a virgin), he is not talking about single people waiting on marriage. He is talking about a commitment between God and a believing Christian that is just as real as the commitment between any husband and wife in marriage. Matthew 19 and Jesus’ comment about eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven makes that a little clearer, I think. I know that many churches teach that if you’re single you have the gift of singleness and if you’re married you have the gift of marriage. That’s not true. When you consider the whole metaphor of the eunuch, it’s clear that choosing to be a spiritual eunuch concerned about the coming kingdom of God is much more than a default state of waiting on a spouse. Being any one of the three eunuchs in Matthew 19:12 requires an event; whether it’s a birth with genetic anomalies or an act of violence or a conscious decision. All of them preclude a sexual relationship required for marriage. In the case of a conscious decision to be a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven, it is intentionally chosen for a specific reason, much the same as husbands and wives choose each other in marriage. It is not the default state of singleness while waiting on a spouse. I would say celibacy is even a deeper commitment because it involves caring for the things that belong to the Lord, not the world. Notice also in 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul does not define those with the gift of celibacy based on their marital status and something they don’t have, but rather on something they do have. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33:

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.

I think it’s fair to substitute values for cares. The married person expresses his values for the world through marriage. The celibate person expresses his cares for the Lord through virginity. Viewed in this light, it’s easy to see why Paul considered it a better choice. So discerning marriage or celibacy comes down to a question of whom do you want to please – the world or God? That does not mean that a person cannot serve God in marriage. It means they cannot serve God with the same energy, insight, motivation, identity, or frame of mind that a virgin can. So in celibacy, a person remains totally devoted in Christ during his entire lifetime and his priorities do not change. However, in marriage, a person’s devotion is divided and his priorities do change. Change is consistent with the world. It’s not consistent with eternity.

Have you ever noticed how married people sometimes become so one flesh that they even look like each other? I have known people whose very identities are tied up with their spouses. It’s even hard for me to think of them as individuals. They’re couples. That’s a good thing and I think it’s what God intended for marriage. Think about the ramifications though when that same “oneness” occurs in the gift of celibacy. Instead of taking on the image of a spouse, we are called to take on the image of Christ. It’s our job to change the meaning of procreation from childbirth to spiritual birth. It’s our job to announce his eminent return and to bridge the time between the ages, between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. Yes, marriage is sacred. But celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God is sacred and supernatural.

Misconceptions About The Spiritual Gift Of Celibacy

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“They’re Gay, They’re Christian And They’re Celibate!” the headline screams. I think I’ll write an article and title it, “They’re Horses, They’re Flying And They Have Four Legs!” There are so many false beliefs about the gift of celibacy I can’t keep up with them. The world has infiltrated the church and has replaced the word of God with opinion polls and statistics. In this blog, I’ll talk about some of the misconceptions surrounding celibacy.

First, the word “gift” that the world uses to describe celibacy is not the same “gift” that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 7. It is not something that is bestowed on a person for good behavior. It’s not a reward. It is not something that can be earned. It is not a lifestyle that is set against marriage. Biblical celibacy is freely chosen. It is not associated with vows. When understood from a biblical point of view, celibacy does not disparage marriage. It can’t exist without it and marriage can’t exist without celibacy. But many people refuse to acknowledge this biblical dichotomy and choose to follow whichever road gets them a seat at the right hand of God. If you do an internet search on “marriage and celibacy – which one is better?” you’ll be reading for a long time. To the question “which one is better,” I would answer: Which is better – Day or night? Summer or winter? Male or female?

At the heart of the gift of celibacy though is self-control. The real Christian lifestyle dichotomy consists of those who cannot control their sexual desires and choose marriage and those who can control their sexual desires and choose celibacy. Both of them require faith. I think this is one of the reasons Christ chose the metaphor of the eunuch in Matthew 19 to represent those who are called to celibacy. It’s just as hard for a man to castrate himself as it is for him to bring every aspect of his life under control, including his sexual desires – just like it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Of course, churches lean heavy toward the marriage and family side of the equation. When they do, they are denying the part of the Bible that’s called “The New Testament.” One of the gifts that the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ brought into the world was the spiritual rebirth of those who believe in him. We have a world today that is just as blind as Nicodemus in John 3:4 when he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” During the Old Testament, there was only one path to fruitfulness – procreation through sex. After Christ, it became possible to procreate through discipleship and making spiritual believers. The focus was no longer on having sex and making babies. It was on multiplying the number of souls for the kingdom of heaven. If you deny that, you are denying Christ. So really the only gift in this whole story is Christ himself. Unfortunately, there are still churches who teach the only way to be fruitful and multiply is to get married, heave sex, and make babies. They are living under the Old Covenant and creation order mandate. I would put over 90% of all Protestant churches in that category. Consider how big the wedding business is in this country – $55 billion dollars in 2014.

Even worse, instead of associating celibacy with self-control, sacrifice, rebirth and spiritual children, churches today associate it with homosexuality. In my opinion, that is an abomination. Non-Christians are constantly mocking and laughing at the church. And right now the world could sell front row tickets to a comedy show in most any church in America. If a young man or woman today feels called to the celibate life, they’re not going to find much support in church – because gay and celibacy are talked about as if they go together like a hand in glove. Here are a few recent headlines from churches and religious organizations:

Detroit Catholic Couple Provide Example Of ‘Gay Holiness’
New Dallas Episcopal Bishop Tells Gay Members To Marry
The Next Synod Battle: Married Priests?
Priest Paid His Male ‘Sex Master’ From Collection Plate
The Challenge Of Being Gary, Married, And Mormon
Why Gay Celibacy Is Not The Gospel-Centered Answer
Heterosexuality Is Godliness
The Plausibility of the Celibate Life for the Same-Sex Attracted
At Issue: Could it be celibacy, not homosexuality?
Celibate Gay Christians: Is That Biblical?
Finding Love In The Church As A Celibate Gay Christian
Gay, Catholic, And Doing Fine
Does God Have A Plan For Same-Sex Relationships?
Is Divorce Equivalent To Homosexuality?
Same Sex Marriage And The Future
50 Resources For Equipping The Church On Homosexuality

So if you had a daughter who was trying to discern marriage or celibacy, where would you point her? Who is even talking about celibacy as a spiritual gift? Not Protestant churches. If you do a Google search on celibacy and church, 100% of the first 100 results are about homosexuality and celibacy in the Catholic Church. On their Baptist Press web site in 2011, the SBC even conceded: “In today’s twisted world, Paul’s gift of celibacy would most likely be misinterpreted as homosexual tendencies.” I’ve got news for them. It’s way beyond that point. Let’s turn the tables a while. If I viewed marriage the same way Protestants view celibacy, I may be inclined to approach a married couple in the fellowship hall of your church and make a few observations:

“Gee, are you two still married?”
“How long did you wait before you adulterated?”
“You’re really faithful to each other? I don’t believe it. Sexual desire is just too powerful for that kind of commitment.”
“How can you be faithful with so much porn around?”
“You know, only a few people are truly called to marriage.”
“What are you really doing on the weekends dude?”
“How did you know marriage was really for you?”
“So, did you rape her on your first date?”
“Well, I’m sure ya’ll had to get married.”
“After you had premarital sex, had long did it take to get married?”
“Do you have a voluntary or involuntary marriage?”
“Are you two accountable to anybody?”
“Are you sure you’re qualified to teach a Sunday School class? There are single people in there.”
“You both are getting up in age. How long are you going to keep up this extended marriage charade?”
“Do ya’ll have a clerical marriage or common law marriage?
“Just admit that you can’t be faithful to each other and get a divorce.”
“Excuse me Mrs. Jones, but you’ve been spending time alone with your refrigerator repairman. Have you any shame?”
“Marriage goes against nature because all men play the field.”

Churches, if you feel compelled to offer commentary that links celibacy with homosexuality without offering commentary on celibacy as a positive response to God, be prepared to hear negative commentary about the state of your marriages. I’m doing it face to face. It’s never pleasant.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/04/gay-christian-celibacy_n_5649015.html

http://www.bpnews.net/35684/at-issue-could-it-be-celibacy-not-homosexuality

Celibate Sexuality

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The title of this post may sound contradictory. After all, how can a person be celibate and still sexual? The problem is that we have simplified human sexuality to mean one thing – intercourse. We have dumbed down male/female relationships to mean one thing – romance and pursuit of marriage. When I say dumbed down, I mean that the intelligence and culture of mankind has indeed been held back because marriage and the affairs of the world are valued more than celibacy and the affairs of the Lord. I’m not saying that the IQs of married people are necessarily lower than celibate people. But I am saying that a married person cannot reflect the omnipotent glory of God like a celibate person can. The immediate needs of a wife and children will always trump eternal aspirations. The Bible tells us that. The role of the monastic artists during the Middle Ages and Renaissance was to “transform the desert into paradise.” Rather than create art for a museum, they created art to transcend the everyday aesthetics of the monastery and bring glory to God. They defined beauty beyond the human figure. Their artwork made men think beyond tomorrow and into eternity. Hence, there is an entire field of study devoted to monastic arts. Monks didn’t lose any sleep worrying about their unmarried status or how old they were. They were monks – not husbands. At one time in the ancient world, these two ideals were given equal respect. But after the Protestant Reformation, the role of the monk was decapitated and the role of the parent was catapulted higher than the stars in heaven. Now, the very idea of a person living a chaste life without sex has been bastardized with an ongoing “national conversation” on homosexuality and pedophilia. Have you heard a sermon lately defending celibacy or the monastic ideals?

I know a lot of people probably look at my 54 years of age and think: The pressure is so great, he’s going to explode any day now.” Some people may think I avoid all contact with women and that I’m sitting at home all day taking cold showers and singing chants to myself. That’s the farthest from the truth. I enjoy talking to women – married/single, young/old, Catholic/Protestant/Jewish, whether neighbors in my community or friends in another country. I’m just as much in awe and wonder of them today as I was when I was 10 years old. In my mind, I have put the mysteries of women in the same category as Fermat’s Last Theorem. They’re not for me to understand. But that’s not what the world expects of a 54 year-old “mature” man. At my age, I’m expected to have been married at least twice, hold some kind of grievance toward all women, and have a passel of grandchildren back at home. I’m supposed to be wise to the ways of the world and know how to get what I want sexually. In that regard, I guess you could say I’m quite uneducated. Sometimes I’m embarrassed about that. That’s why I put a high a value on single women who don’t make those assumptions and who value me as a friend – not a romantic interest. Those are few and far between. Will they still accept me if I don’t pursue them romantically? Can they have an intelligent conversation with me without worrying about seeing me again? Can they enjoy a moment for a moment’s sake? Will they be able to look past my age or will they ask: “So you’re 54 and never married. What’s up with that?” Will they make me feel like a leper or a real human being? A loser or a man with dignity? Will they ask what I do for a living or delve deeper into the art I’ve been working on lately? I think human sexuality without sex is one thing that keeps us sensitive to the needs of the opposite sex, whether married or not. It brings us together and facilitates civilization. Yes, I’m attracted to the appearance of beautiful women. But I’m more attracted to kindness and gentleness, softness and gracefulness, and all things that make a woman a woman. I try to stay focused on what I can learn from them, not what I can get from them.  I am more attracted to virtuous women, but not in the kind of sexual way that the world associates with virginity. I want my legacy to encourage young people to understand the value of virginity, whether waiting chastely on the right person to come into their lives or living celibate lives for the glory of God, and I want them to understand that marriage and sexual relations are but a blink of an eye in the long run. I believe patience is still a virtue and that there are still men and women who understand the importance of waiting.

I’m still waiting too. Not for a wedding on earth, but for a marriage in heaven with Christ. So my celibacy is not about avoiding women, avoiding responsibility, getting ahead in my career, playing the field, extending my adolescence, getting the milk without paying for the cow, or getting the perks of a husband as a single man. It’s about renouncing marriage, sex, and family as the world knows it today in favor of an eternal kingdom where no one is given in marriage and no babies are born. Imagine a world with a stable population with no abortions, adoptions, birth control, infanticide, child support, deadbeat dads, or stay at home moms. I don’t just imagine it. I see it. All I can do is hope my friends see that in me and respect my renunciation as just as sacred and serious as their pursuits of romance and marriages.

http://abbeyofreginalaudis.org/art.html

Seeing Is Believing

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I recently posted something on Facebook that sparked a very interesting conversation. The other person has a name, but on the quote below I changed it to what he is, a preacher:

Me: If you believe in salvation by marriage or having children, as is taught by the majority of churches today, you’d better take some suntan lotion with you to eternity. You’re gonna need it.

Preacher: Who believes in salvation by marriage or having children?

Me: Take the population of the world, which currently is 7.3 billion, and subtract the number of Matthew 19:12c eunuchs you can name. That should give you a rough estimate.

Churches spend a great deal of time and money elevating marriage and family as the ideal lifestyle. Think of all the singles groups where people pair up and mate, the millions of wedding ceremonies every year, and all the wedding anniversaries that are celebrated. The married lifestyle is affirmed beyond recognition. I find this beyond ironic because a marriage ceremony is never described in the Bible. I can already hear people screaming, “but Jesus went to a wedding!” Yes, he did. But his attendance at the marriage in Cana is the only mention of a marriage in the New Testament. John 2:1-2: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.” What many people miss is that the wedding in Cana is not what is news here. It’s the fact that Jesus, a celibate man, chose a wedding to perform his first miracle, turning water into wine, thereby announcing his presence in the world. This was Jesus’ way of saying “I’m here.” I’m sure such a miracle turned many doubters into believers. He could have chosen any place in the world to do this. But he chose a wedding. In an instant, the ordinary nature of water and weddings was made supernatural by the presence of the King of Kings. You would think there would be many weddings to follow. After all, who wouldn’t want Jesus to show up at their wedding? But it’s the only one recorded in the New Testament. Could this in itself be telling us something? Could it be that Jesus had one hand on the urn of water and the other hand pointing to heaven where no one is given in marriage? I think so. He is telling us how insignificant marriage should be now. In an instant, he showed the “power of God” as described in the Gospel of Mark:

23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.

24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?

25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

So Jesus didn’t attend the wedding at Cana only to pronounce his blessings on marriage. He attended it to affirm celibacy and to show that the natural world of the Old Testament (water) had given way to the supernatural world of the New Testament (wine). The water of the well was transformed into the blood of Christ. Jesus could have written a letter to the couple at Cana, wishing them well in their new marriage. But he made his affirmation public by being there and taking his disciples with him. He could have gotten up and made a speech about the temporary nature of marriage and the importance of making spiritual children. But he chose this mellow transition of water to wine. It’s beautiful symbolism, but it’s been all but lost in a society today that worships sex and still holds marriage and family up to represent the be-all and end-all of human existence, one that still clings to the old Mosaic law of “be fruitful and multiply.”

It’s important to note though that Jesus found it necessary to attend the wedding. This should tell us something about the power of public commitments and the affirmation of witnesses. The names of the couple that got married that day in Cana have been long forgotten. It is Jesus’ presence and first miracle that are remembered today. He showed up to put marriage in a new perspective.

Which begs the question – How is celibacy being affirmed today? Who is checking to see if the water has been turned into wine? Are there any public ceremonies to affirm it? In the Protestant church, I don’t know of any. They have focused on the family so long that they’re walking around like blind zombies. Other than a few occasional words about how special “singles” are in mission statements, they don’t have a clue. It would behoove the church to remember that actions speak louder than words. If marriage and celibacy are of equal value, why should one be celebrated with ceremonies of public commitment and the other forgotten? Can you imagine celebrating a wedding anniversary in your church where the couple was not identified? The same thing holds true for celibacy. In order for it to be biblically affirmed and learned from, people have to be identified – whether that’s 3 in the whole world or 3,000,000. When the power of God is felt, the relationship between men and women is not governed by patriarchal marriages, sexual desire, or a man’s need to secure a name or heir. It is governed by worshipping the same God and respecting each other as equal in his site. Would you rather tell your children “it’s okay if you don’t get married” and that these people theoretically exist somewhere out there in the world or would you rather have them meet some in the real world? If you were at the wedding at Cana, would you be happy with the water, or would you want to taste the wine? Indeed, when a society is fully engulfed in idolatry, they’re not even aware of it. They know of nothing different.

Marriage And Celibacy – The Tragedy Of Hypocrisy

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What I’m about to say may make preachers uncomfortable. And in a way, I hope it does. I think much of the problem is that you’re too comfortable with your wives, two kids, parsonages, SUV’s, tax exempt statuses, and weekend retreats. As such, you can’t begin to relate to people who fall outside of your comfortable world, like adults who never married and Christ himself. Yes, I said it. I don’t even consider most church going people Christians. I consider them sex and money worshippers. One interesting thing about our sexuality is that God allowed us to choose between only two paths – marriage or celibacy. When preachers utter one sentence or do anything to affirm married life without a counterbalancing affirmation of celibate life, they are bowing down to the God of sex. When they celebrate wedding anniversaries, engagements, mother’s day, father’s day, childbirths, etc., without even acknowledging the existence of celibate adults, they are bowing down to the god of the nuclear family, not the family of God. There is nothing eternal about a nuclear family. There is nothing eternal about sex. Imagine if an alien visited your church and you told him all about how God made the sun and how it lights the earth during the day, but you didn’t tell him about the nighttime and the moon and stars in the heavens. You didn’t tell him about the delicate balance between night and day. That’s what you would call a misrepresentation of God’s creation. Imagine if a lost soul visited your church and you told him about the glories of family values, married life, and you introduced him to your wife and kids and all the deacons’ wives and their families; but you didn’t tell him about the never married in your congregation who subside only on Christ. You didn’t tell him about the delicate balance between marriage and celibacy. That is also a misrepresentation of God’s creation. The only difference is that it really happens every Sunday morning during every sermon, during every baby dedication, during every wedding anniversary, during every engagement announcement, during every family night, and hammered home with every “Family Life Center” plastered on your church buildings. By focusing on the greed of families, you are misrepresenting what Christianity is all about to those who don’t even know Christ. Since you hold out family life as the only option, is it any wonder that some of those lost souls wind up in the lifestyle of homosexuality? What alternative to the nuclear family and white picket fence have you offered them? When’s the last time you affirmed celibacy? You have focused on the family so long that your eyes have become crossed. When’s the last time you even mentioned celibacy in your pulpits? When’s the last time you visited Matthew 19? How do you even know who’s married and who is not married in your church? Would you have to go to your local courthouse and check the marriage license register? Would you have to inspect all ring fingers? What a comical thought. Would you call up your local community gossip line? If you take away the legal aspect, how do you even define what marriage is?

This will probably come as a shock for a lot of you, but the highest form of love on this earth is not between mother and child or husband and wife. It’s between Christ and the church. Since preachers have failed to communicate this and don’t see the world outside the comfort of their bedroom windows, we now live in a society that celebrates homosexuality, same sex marriage, adultery, cohabitation, and every other perversion known to man. Yes, it may be uncomfortable to talk about human sexuality on Sunday mornings, but look where silence has led us. If sex is just as part of God’s good creation as the moon and stars, why shouldn’t we talk about it? If you don’t feel qualified, find someone who can address these issues. You may be afraid of losing church members and their tithes to another church. Do you think God is going to count church membership and tithes and offerings at the gaits of heaven? Are you willing to pay that kind of price for comfort? What are you doing to integrate singles and celibates into your church and keep them from leaving?

Please keep in mind though that the opposite of marriage is not singleness. It’s not waiting on God to send a husband or wife. It’s not youth. It’s not college and career. It’s not waiting on a wedding day. It’s not a holding state. It’s not waiting on a marriage license. Singles are waiting on a spouse. Celibates are waiting on God and they represent the opposite of marriage. There’s a big difference between the two. I think it would help if we were consistent with terminology. I do not identify myself as a single person. The person who has been called to celibacy is not waiting for anything on this earth. That’s probably the most difficult truth for churches to understand. It’s hard to undo something that has been taught for over 500 years. Married people – Think about the commitment to your spouse and your wedding vows, “until death do us part.” Do you take your marriage and faithfulness seriously? I take my celibacy and commitment to chastity just as seriously. The big difference, though, is that death will not separate me from my spouse. I have the same lifestyle today as I will have in heaven. I encourage you take age, gender, and marital status completely out of the picture of your church’s vision. They will not be part of eternity. The higher the hedge you try to put around marriage and family without addressing faithful celibate people in your congregation, the higher you will fall from grace on the day of reckoning.

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?

Baby’s First Steps

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“Gay, celibate and Christian.” If I read it one more time, my nausea will force me to go to the hospital. Talk about an oxymoron. Putting the words gay and celibate in the same sentence only serves to prove how deep into depravity we have stumbled. Could it be another case of Christian people not defending biblical principles? I think so. How has the church defended and affirmed celibacy over the last 500 years? With more family alters? Family life centers? Family church? Do they even know what celibacy is outside the context of homosexuality? Honestly, the church today can’t even relate to a single person, much less a person who has the gift of celibacy. Just take a look at how Supreme Court Justice Kennedy slammed single people in his affirmation of same sex marriage: “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” What’s interesting here is that he dug himself into a whole by trying to play the “either or” game. Consider the alternatives here: Heterosexual marriage, homosexual marriage, and singleness. Heterosexual marriage was off the table. But the best defense he could make for gay marriage was to present its only Christian alternative, singleness, as a crime punishable by condemnation to loneliness. So for Kennedy, celibate and gay are the ultimate contradiction. Could the mere thought of a heterosexual person living without sex even cross through his brain cells? I doubt it. We would be condemned to live in loneliness. Actually, we could be convicted and sent to prison. It has been done in the history of mankind. Being lonely is just . . . too uncomfortable. It borders on torture. We all have a right to get everything we want and be comfortable, don’t we Justice Kennedy? The reason he looked at celibacy as a state of condemnation is that he never knew what biblical celibacy was. Most churches don’t. Most Americans don’t either.

To show you just how profound an impact our language can have, I have a suggestion. All new mothers and fathers, when your baby takes his first steps, refer to them as “first steps into perversion.” Isn’t that so sweet and innocent? For example, when you call your next-door neighbors with the good news, tell them “he took his first steps into perversion.” If they ask any questions, just tell them that your baby is evil. Every time. Tell them he sleeps in the backyard with the dogs. I highly recommend this for preachers. How did that idea sit with you? Did you ask yourself what’s a baby got to do with perversion? Did you get sick to your stomach? My stomach feels the same way every time you associate my celibate lifestyle with homosexuality. What does being a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven have to do with homosexuality? I feel sick every time you bow down at the altar of family values with no other alternative for non-Christians who may be visiting the church. When you don’t recognize the lifestyle and values of single people, you leave us to be condemned by the sodomized courts in this country.

But God, I don’t Want To Be Single Forever!

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I’ve been single long enough to see how other people deal with it and to spot common patterns that seem to effect us all. When I see someone about to make a mistake, I want to shout “do you know what you’re doing!” We all handle singleness differently. So in this post, I’m going to give a rough outline of what choosing celibacy was like for me. First, let me reiterate something I think is key to understanding this: The state of being single is not the same as the state of being a consecrated single. Just like a couple out on their first date are not married. These false definitions persist because they originate from churches that practice marriage/family idolatry. For them, no other commitment or sacrifice exists outside of family life. I really believe the church has no business suggesting what the future holds for any believer. It should be up to that person and God. Churches are so marriage/family centric and operate so much under the influence of age stereotypes, how could they possibly be objective and give biblical advice on an issue like this? Idolatrous families look at an older single and say “so when are you getting married” without having a clue what they’re talking about. And I think this is having a devastating effect on the numbers of people who are called by God to the celibate lifestyle. When they don’t see support by their church, they turn to another lifestyle, one that is now sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In actuality, accepting a life of celibacy has nothing to with age. Read over Matthew 19 again. Jesus did not insert age limits when talking about eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. So if you ever feel you are being singled out for any reason in your church, you can rest assured that it’s because they are under the influence of the world, not scripture. When I first felt the tug to celibate life in my late 20s-30s, I continued to date some. My reaction was like “Okay, God, what are you trying to tell me?” I didn’t jump up in my Baptist church one day and shout, “I’m going to be a monk!” I started searching the Bible for all the passages that had to deal with marriage and singleness. I read a lot of books. More importantly, I had the support of my mom and dad and a very special mentor. The thing I had to do was sort out how much of my desire was physical and how much was spiritual. As odd as it may sound, those two things got intertwined in my mind. Yes, I did bring the subject up in some small groups in churches. But they just looked at me like they didn’t have a clue. They had nothing to say. Here’s what I say. Take a deep breath and don’t compare yourself with anybody else. When you first discern God telling you to remain as you are, don’t stand in front of mirrors and question your attractiveness. Get rid of them. Instead, concentrate on the reflection of your love in the eyes of Christ. Then ask yourself: Will my love for a spouse ever be greater than my love for God and those things I feel him calling me to do?

Take a survey of the things you are passionate about. I’m not talking about your favorite food – but things like homelessness, refugees, child prostitution, hunger, natural disasters, etc. All the things that you feel could be lined up under “God’s concerns.” They could be issues that you feel drawn too, but feel they are neglected. They don’t necessarily have to be things you know a lot about right now – because if you commit to the celibate life, God can equip you beyond your imagination. He can provide resources that you don’t have. The number one ingredient that has to be there is passion and willingness to commit your entire life to making a difference in the lives of other people. You have to be able to put yourself on the back burner, to put your priorities behind those of the people who need you. If you had any dreams of recognition or fame, you have to bury those. You have to be content with being anonymous. I had a real problem with attaching my name to this blog.

This may sound like a cliche, but you really must have a servant’s heart. I think this is especially true for ladies. For men, I also recommend thinking in terms of being a guard. Just as the eunuchs of antiquity had the responsibility of guarding the king’s possessions and harems, we have the responsibility of guarding God’s possessions, those things that are so fragile that they would be neglected or broken in a world of only nuclear families. For me, it includes protecting God’s plan of human sexuality, which is being broken by a family worship society.

So you see, committing to the celibate life is just as real as committing to a spouse in marriage. It’s even more. I look at it as getting an early start on the marriage feast in heaven between Christ and the church. In a very real sense, our eternities start here on earth. Of the three types of eunuchs Jesus explained in Matthew 19, I think those for the kingdom of heaven do have a unique calling that is much different than the other two. The main reason is because the entire commitment rests on our shoulders. A genetic or physical abnormality did not make the decision for us. A surgical procedure did not make the decision for us. We make ourselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake (Matthew 19:12). When we do that, we are going against everything this world understands, much the same as when Christ spoke these words. Just as the disciples stood there with their mouths agasp, we live in a world that is reacting much the same way. “There’s something wrong with her!” “He must be gay!” When the world thinks of celibacy, it thinks of only “no.” No sex. No marriage. No kids. No white picket fence. “Do you mean you refuse to consider this good Christian girl as your wife?” “You mean you’re that selfish?” “You’re willing to be miserable and lonely your whole life?” “Who’s going to take care of you when you get old?” They don’t think of all the things we’ve said yes to, all the needs that are more important than their own spouses. So if you come to a point in the discernment process and say “but God, I don’t want to be single forever,” ask yourself whose voice you are listening to. Are you listening to the world or to your heart? Is it about what you want or what God wants? As Paul tells us many times, there is nothing wrong with either mrriage or celibacy. But if God is knocking on that inner door of your heart, you need to at least listen to his proposal.

Ageism’s Hidden Role In A Lost Generation

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When most people think of segregation and discrimination they think of civil rights for minorities and employment rights for women. Those may make the news and catch the public’s attention. But are there other types of discrimination we’re not aware of? First, let’s look at the definitions. According to the Oxford Dictionary, segregation is: “The action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things or being set apart.” And discrimination is defined as: “The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” Usually the consequences of discrimination are visible before the lawsuits are filed; like not getting hired, not getting promotions, and not getting a pay raise. There has to be evidence. What about consequences that are not so visible? Does all segregation and discrimination have to involve lawyers and money? In my opinion, the most damaging segregation and discrimination occurs in secret with no documentation. A prime example is ageism and its invisible consequences.

Children spend the first 18 years of their life segregated with kids their own age in school. They study with their own age group. They eat in the cafeteria with their own age group. They socialize with their own age group. Many people don’t realize that the K-12 system of American education was patterned after the child labor practices following World War I. Assembly lines became the classrooms. Production units per minute became grades. The system we have today has nothing to do with the best methods of teaching or learning; but everything to do with factories, production, child labor, and quotas. Students are, in essence, still production units today. Parents accepted that system because they abdicated their responsibility as parents to teach their children anything, including moral values. And then enter divorce. Single moms with daughters felt safer because their little Suzy Qs weren’t being influenced by those big, bad, dirty, older boys. As foolish as that kind of thinking was, it was convenient. I still remember the talk in high school about how seniors did everything. Some of the senior boys in my school reached legendary status because of their sexual exploits. The lower grades were even kept from passing by seniors in the hallways. They were just that bad. That was 40 years ago. How are our schools doing today? They’re one colossal failure, not to mention the debacle of common core standards.

Marketers and social scientists now label each generation . . . in hindsight. “Traditionals” were born between 1901-45, Baby Boomers between 1945-1960, Gen-X’ers between 1961-1981, Millennials 1982-2002, and the current “Z” generation 2003 until who knows when. These generations are defined by their shared experiences, feelings, activities, music, and movies. The only reason they’re identified is to help marketers identify sales demographics. Unfortunately, churches adopted the very same failed practices because they too saw themselves as companies with a product to market. When people today ask me what happened to the youth, I tell them “the church.” If you sat down with a calculator and tried to figure the numbers of permutations and combinations for age ranges and groups, you’d be better off looking at your local church of size. You’d probably find them all. Here are some examples:

“Ages 12-18 to do mission work.” http://www.scnow.com/news/education/article_3e358974-dd89-11e4-b802-0710360d5014.html

“Children’s Church for students ages 5-11.” http://tbcgraymont.org/assets/trinity_baptist_church_history.pdf

“Wee Wow is for students ages 2-6 and WOW is for students ages 7-11.” http://www.limestonefwb.org/ministries/children-s-church/

“Glory Girls is for students ages 6 grade through 12 grade. Glory Gals is for all women who are 18 years or older.” http://www.mudcreekchurch.org/

JAM & JAM JR. makes learning about the Bible lots of fun for students ages 3 through 4th grade, with skits, singing, games and stories. Club 56 (Grades 5 & 6), Junior High E.D.G.E. (grade 7 & 8) Senior High Reach (grade 9–12) also start at 6:30 p.m. http://www.chisholmbaptist.org/ministries/family-night/

Enjoyers – 75 yrs and up – Sunday School. http://www.fbcterrell.org/#/adults/sunday-school

College & Career (ages 18-25), Median Adults (ages 40-56), Adult 3 (ages 56-70), Adult 4 (ages 70+). http://sandspringsbc.com/adults/adult-sunday-school-classes

A new class for young singles only (Age: 30-50). http://www.valleybaptist.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=173354

This class is full of singles and couples ranging from ages 25-40. http://alcoafumc.com/sunday-school-classes/

There are literally millions more. Walk in as a first time visitor into any church in this country and you’re going to be asked one thing: “How old are you?” And probably: “Are you married?” Acturally, some “worship centers” look more like bars and night clubs than churches with their ear-splitting sound systems and light shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody walked up to a pulpit one Sunday evening and ordered a double on the rocks. They look and feel like the world. There are even churches like Edmond’s First Baptist in Edmond, OK that are proud of the fact that their age divisions replicate what is found in the world:

“For the purposes of Bible study and discipleship training, we divide into Connection Groups (small groups) according to age and grade. These divisions mirror those that happen naturally in life so that each class is comprised of small groups of peers who are facing similar joys, challenges, and experiences as others in the class.”

So, if anything happens “naturally in life,” well . . . glory hallelujah! It must be good!” I don’t naturally hang out with people my age. And who is my peer group? On the surface, it would seem that these kinds of age divisions in churches would be harmless. Most church members would probably say they just provide a way of dividing everybody up into neat little teachable groups. So innocent, they say. The problem is that the consequences of age discrimination usually don’t show up until years later, like the Millennials have shown up today. Only in the last 50-60 years have age groups become segregated and institutionalized. That may be because our country was not rallying around a common cause, like war.  Millennials, however, are rallying around one thing – sexual freedom and same sex “marriage.”  Why didn’t they get the same sexual ethics instilled in them as did the WWII generation?  It’s because the Millennials’ parents (Gen-Xer’s) and grandparents (Baby Boomers) didn’t have a legacy of sexual integrity to pass to their children.  And age segregation outside the home (i.e., church) prevented the few adults who did have sexual integrity from reaching them.  Their parents were too busy working and getting ahead. Children became unplanned mistakes, moms married their careers, and dads went missing in action. Parents turned over responsibility of discipline and moral guidance to the government and school system. That’s why age stereotyping became the norm. The school system became their parents, nothing more than a glorified child care service. How did the Millennials turn out? Age segregation outside school allowed them to become completely socialized by the surrounding culture instead of by parental discipline.  They learned nothing from previous generations, nothing about biblical principles and sacrifice. It became more about them, their education, and their personal goals.

So instead of generations lasting 50 years, like the greatest generation of WWII, we now have generations lasting about 15 years because values have not been passed from one generation to the next by parents.  And mentoring became a punch line for late night TV jokes, since it died at the hands of age segregation. Instead of a human touch, Millennials have grown up with the touch of a mouse, computer screens, and cell phones. That’s why they have no respect for authority or their elders. They look up answers to their most profound questions about life and the universe on the internet. They basically can’t communicate one on one. And the church has swallowed it all hook, line, and sinker. They typically have typically have youth classes, young adults, college and career, young marrieds, middle adults, senior adults, or some combination of those. It’s so bad now that some churches further segregate based on marital status and gender – “just to keep those old men from thinking bad thoughts.”

The idea of comprehensive age segregated discipleship and youth ministry is foreign to Scripture. It is not commanded by God. It is not identified as a godly pattern. It is not illustrated or legitimized by biblical principles. It is quite the opposite. It contradicts New Testament patterns and everything Jesus taught about the unimportance of age. Age segregation subverts the role of fathers, it turns the hearts of children away from their parents, it places youth in peer environments, it facilitates bullyng, and it leads churches to create offices that are not biblical. Even more tragic, it separates adults from the youth who need their help when parents refuse to be parents. And of course, it prevents mentoring, a biblical concept sanctioned in the Bible.  Consider what Moses told the people of Israel after he received the law. Deuteronomy 31:10-12:

10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,
11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
12 Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law.

Moses wasn’t their father.  But he was a man led by God who knew where he was going. The children learned with the adults, men with women, even strangers with the local people. There was no children’s church. Comfort and entertainment were not high on their list of priorities. I don’t think they had movie nights and beech weekends. They were not segregated in any way. If groups must be formed in churches, there are better ways of going about it, like study topics. It all goes back to the definition of segregation, setting someone apart from other people. With ageism, there are two groups being set apart – the younger and the older. In school, children don’t learn at the same age. So the K-12 system should have been abolished years ago. In churches, you may not even see the different ages together. That makes it even more of a conundrum. And of course intellectual maturity has nothing to do with spiritual maturity. I was recently trying to explain this to an older man in my church. He looked at me rather puzzled and I told him, “In other words, if I have something to say that your grandson needs to hear, he will never hear it because I will never be in his presence. And if he has something to say that I need to hear, I will never hear it.”  When man intervenes in something without biblical guidance, especially something so critical to our survival, he always makes a mess of it.  Like Moses, now we are looking at generations that have been lost for years.

http://www.fbcedmond.org/age-groups

https://ncfic.org/resources/view/the-un-foreseen-consequences-of-age-segregation-of-youth

http://www.truthaccordingtoscripture.com/documents/church-practice/age-segregation.php#.Vbp22EXWSo8

Single And Condemned

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Here is the summation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s ruling which gives same sex couples the fundamental right to marry:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

“No union is more profound than marriage.” How did the marital union get to be so profound? How did marriage, of any form, become a civil right? There’s only one answer – Marriage had to be exalted and celibacy had to be marginalized. Of course, Protestants have become experts at that. They are still protesting celibacy just as they did over 500 years ago when the Protestant Reformation started. They hate celibacy. There’s no way to get a preacher running any faster than to mention celibacy. They believe self-control is something out of man’s reach and that it’s not part of their new Calvinism. The few churches that do whisper a few sentences about it say that the gift of celibacy Paul was referring to in 1 Corinthians is merely the state you’re in while waiting for marriage and that there can be no commitment to the celibate life. Protestants, by and large, believe if you’re not holding a valid marriage license, you’ve got the gift of celibacy. That’s an upgrade from bar-hopper status. They believe all men are called to marriage. To reinforce this, many Protestant churches sponsor “man up” conferences, “father and daughter balls,” marriage conferences, family nights, etc. Then there are the Catholics and their 24-hour continuous news cycle of priests and sexual abuse. Instead of claiming celibacy as a viable alternative to marriage, it seems they spend a great deal of time defending it; defending something that, to the world, already seems gravely disordered. And that adds to the negative image of celibacy. However, they have always held marriage and celibacy in high esteem and have penned most everything that has ever been written about celibacy and the religious life.

However, our world is obsessed with marriage and family life. It’s obsessed with sex. It’s even reflected in the TV shows we watch: The Bachelor, Couples Therapy, The Virgin Diaries, Dating Naked, A Dating Story, A Wedding Story, A Baby Story, 19 Kids And Counting, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, etc. They fall right in line with classics like All In The Family, Sanford And Son, The Jeffersons, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, The Waltons, Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, etc. But when you take away the glitz and glamor of marriage and take down the smoke screen of romantic ideals, what’s left of marriage? Not much when you consider the divorce statistics. Contrary to what Mr. Kennedy may believe, marriage is not the most profound union in the universe. And it certainly does not embody the highest ideals of fidelity and devotion. The most profound union in the universe is God’s union with his church. What grape juice has he been drinking?

“Marriage . . . embodies the highest ideals of love.” He probably reached that conclusion because our society doesn’t know any other kind of love but the romantic kind as expressed through sexual intercourse. How does that ideal of love stack up with 1 Cor 7:32-33: “But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” Which is a higher ideal of love? Caring for the things of the Lord or caring for the things of the world? Is it caring for your homosexual lover or caring for your neighbor? According to Kennedy, it’s caring for your homosexual lover. It’s whatever makes the masses feel good, whether it’s sexual perversion today or assault on religious liberties tomorrow. Does he even know what the Bible says about the highest ideal of love? Mark 12:30? “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Kennedy might have watched a bit too much Love Boat growing up.

This is a profound change in American culture. We now have a Supreme Court whose definition of love no longer revolves around God; but around homosexuality, gay pride, civil rights, and self fulfillment. Pope Frances even remarked: “The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized.” Instead of love being patient as God instructs in 1 Corinthians 13, love is now defiant. Can you see the image of rainbow flags being raised proudly in the air over American Streets? That has happened in every city in this country. Instead of love being kind, love is now belligerent. Can you see the image of preachers being beaten for holding signs at a gay pride parade that read “Repent or Else” and “Jesus Saves From Sin”? That happened in Seattle on June 30th. Instead of love not envying, love is now jealous and spiteful. Isn’t that what the whole same sex marriage argument is all about? Homosexuals envious of the identity and status of marriage? About money and inheritances? That’s what Anthony Kennedy says. But wasn’t the real goal to give validity to the claim that homosexuality is a matter of human genetics and evolution and not of human choice? That’s the bigger picture. More important than the redefinition of marriage is the redefinition of God’s creation to include the abomination of homosexuality and to grant homosexuals the same civil rights protections as ethnic minorities. And if we can add things willy-nilly to God’s creation, where does it stop? Why don’t we throw in pedophilia and polygamy? Kennedy fits in rather well in the land of Sodom, doesn’t he? I know he claims to be Catholic. But if he truly believes what he wrote, can he even claim to be a Christian? I don’t see how.

“In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” All Kennedy did was validate what churches have been preaching for at least 50 years – marriage superiority. They have been preaching that married couples are something greater than single people since the Protestant Revolution. Psychology Today had this to say about Kennedy’s statement on marriage:

“What all these people are swooning over is all-out matrimania (the over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings and coupling). The message is that marriage is magical, transforming unremarkable unmarried people into “something greater.” It is an unapologetic declaration of the superiority of the marital bond over every other bond and every other relationship that humans hold dear. And it is a crass degrading of single people as “condemned to live in loneliness.”

What I feel is sadness in knowing that my life is a few extra light years away from relating to anything in this world. Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been telling his students for years that married men are greater than single men: “Both the logic of Scripture and the centrality of marriage in society justify the strong inclination of congregations to hire a man who is not only married but faithfully married. If they remain single, they need to understand that there’s going to be a significant limitation on their ability to serve as a pastor.” So the Baptists shouldn’t be surprised by Kennedy’s logic. Single men have always been lesser than married men in their eyes. Single men are even banned from preaching the word of God in their churches. And I’m sure they would agree that sodomites represent a higher form of love and sacrifice and have more civil protections than people who are completely devoted to God. Gee. Thanks, church. I don’t know how I will repay you.

It’s been said that for a man to get married, he makes a lot of sacrifices for very little in return. That has a ring of truth because most single adult men have already had sex. So for them, there really is little to gain by a marriage license. They’re not waiting on anything. Their fires have already been quenched. However, for the single men who have not had sex, the chaste men who are biblically single, there is a lot more to gain by getting married than just a marriage license. Their sexual desire is being met. They have proven that they have the self control that is needed to be a real man of God. They set themselves apart by not objectifying women. For them, finding a woman with the same values who is also waiting is like finding a pot of gold. In other words, there’s a big difference between biblically married people and biblically single people. Maybe that’s what Anthony Kennedy and his kind have not been able to see. What’s the difference? Well, I don’t bring up the subject of sexual ethics with every person I meet. I don’t have a V tattooed across my forehead. I don’t have a “virgin diary” to share with the world. All I can do is conduct myself in a way I think is pleasing to God and pray that people see that I have found fulfillment in Christ. So married people, break away from your comfortable cliques and get to know us. Chaste Christian singles: Remain strong and do not let the Supreme Court of this land define who you are. You are invaluable in the eyes of God.

What troubles me the most about the Supreme Court decision is its besmirchment of singles with its assumption that all of us are “condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions,” that we have no dignity, and its underlying assumption that a sexual relationship and marriage are the only way to not live in loneliness. Well, let me tell you Brother Kennedy, if that’s how you define marriage and fulfillment, I am surely condemned, so guilty that a trial is not even necessary. And I’m more than just excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. I have completely said no to the decadent affairs of this world and yes to the affairs of God. That means that our values are on opposite ends of the universe. It also means that my dignity is not based on the world values that you espouse. It’s based on my value in God’s eyes. So let me know when my sentencing date is.

In case you’re still wondering, celibate love needs just as much a dramatic witness as married love in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision. I would even say a more dramatic witness. I urge you to make your presence known and free yourself from the misguided stereotypes of the Supreme Court.

http://www.singleness.org/pr_celibate.shtml

http://1548.sites.ecatholic.com/supreme-court-decision-on-marriage

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/what-is-being-proposed-is-not-marriage-pope-calls-for-defense-of-family-12766/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201506/gay-marriage-ruling-is-matrimaniacal-shames-single-people

http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/25/must-a-pastor-be-married-the-new-york-times-asks-the-question/

http://arleenspenceley.com/the-questions/

Would Martin Luther Be Celebrating Marriage Today?

ssm posters

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on same sex marriage, I’ve asked myself a lot of questions. Like how did we get here? I don’t think we arrived in the land of Sodom overnight. Our country has been sliding down the path of moral decay for several years. What was Martin Luther’s role in all of this, the leader of the Protesant Reformation? Since I’ve been in Protestant churches all my life, I can only speak from that standpoint. I think our problems do indeed go all the way back to the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago and their rejection of celibacy. Just think, one little misguided man – Martin Luther, who thought he had the gift of celibacy, is responsible for the misplaced theology of over 150,000,000 Protestants in the United States today. Was celibacy abused in the Catholic Church in 16th century Europe? No doubt it was. But that was no reason to completely abandon a biblical principle. I’m sure there were a lot of priests – and married people – who had inappropriate sexual relationships. Imagine if Apostle Paul’s followers came to him one day and said: “Hey, I thought you should know that some of the men in Corinth claiming to be eunuchs for the kingdom of God have been caught having sex with children.” Would Paul reply with something like: “Oh no. I guess the Big Man really got it wrong on this one. Tell you what, just go back and tell everybody that celibacy is really not possible. We’re all bent toward sexual sin. It was just a little miscommunication.” The reality is that not all Catholic priests have the gift of celibacy and not all people who have the gift of celibacy are Catholic priests.

I’ve always thought the world had two realities – man’s reality dictated by tradition, legalism, ceremonies, pride, greed, majority rule, comfort, and pleasure – and God’s reality dictated by the Ten Commandments, The Holy Bible, chastity, sacrifice, commitment, patience, and denial of self. The biggest thing that separates these two realities is language. Take the word marriage for example. Do you think it means the same thing today as it did when Jesus attended the marriage at Cana and turned the water into wine? I don’t think so. When Jesus returns as the ultimate judge of this world, do you think he’s going to stop by all the courthouses first to check the marriage records? I don’t think so. Do you think he will tell eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, “Sorry, but I can’t find where you ever signed up for the priesthood. Are you sure you got a package that was marked celibate gift?” Or would you expect him to say: “Geez, a 40 year old virgin? You mean you didn’t find the one I had picked out for you?” See what a fantasy world we live in? Even worse is the fantasyland churches live in. They don’t even talk about sex. It’s just too dirty. The only sexuality they know is “premarital sex,” “same sex,” and “can’t deny your husband sex.” It’s always something negative. Churches can readily identify for the world what they consider sexual sin, but they can never seem to identify their own sins. Worse yet, they can’t even model Christian lives of sexual integrity. They continue to assume that all single people are “fornicators who haven’t made things right yet.” As a matter of fact, that’s the only definition they know. If you die before you get married, well . . . you might have had the gift of celibacy. They can’t fathom celibacy as a positive response to God and a commitment equal to that of marriage. If anything, celibacy today is seen as disordered and sinful. If I find a Baptist guest envelop in the back of a pew with “eunuch” listed as a choice under marital status, I’ll let you know. In an article titled “Dismantling The Cross” in First Things, Patricia Snow recently made the following comments while reflecting on the life of St Francis:

“But once the struggle was over, and the miracles and answered prayers began to appear, the celibate in former times was reclaimed by the human family, because he had proven himself fertile after all. Resistance gave way to acceptance, and acceptance to passionate acclaim. Then everyone wanted a piece of the saint; everyone wanted access to his body and his prayers. Then the one once coldly spurned for choosing heavenly over earthly goods was joyfully embraced for bringing heavenly goods to earth.”

I’m certainly no saint. But I think the same kind of prejudice happens to celibates today. Isn’t it unfortunate they have to die first in order to be accepted? That’s one of the big reasons biblical marriage has dissolved into a quagmire of same sex marriage and decadence beyond comprehension. A society cannot have a healthy view of marriage without a healthy view of celibacy. If Christian sexual ethics are taken off the table for either one, both will fail. This is especially true in a society that has no distinction between married life and celibate life, other than clerical clothing. As John Chrysostom said, quoting CCC 1620: “Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.” In other words, if we consider the only good in marriage is to keep us from lust and fornication and other evils, then we appreciate only half of God’s intention in human sexuality. The good of marriage can never outweigh the bad of those evils. Only when we acknowledge that there is something better than sex waiting in eternity will we understand the true meaning of both marriage and celibacy. The only way to do that is by placing proper value on celibacy today, not in a cemetery tomorrow.

There’s a quaint little slogan going around that many churches have adopted: “Celibacy in singleness, fidelity in marriage.” On the surface, that may sound biblical, but it’s not because it’s not half the story. The Bible never defines something called “singleness.” Go to any local bar and you’ll see how the world defines it. Could it be that Paul had the worldview of today in mind when he specifically addressed marrieds, virgins, widows, and divorced? He did not define his gift of celibacy as a default state because he never found someone to marry. Did Paul ever lament not finding “the one” or “manning up” because he wasn’t attractive enough or smart enough? I don’t think so. But that’s how the world would define him today. He defined his unmarried state, or celibacy, as concern for the Lord’s affairs instead of the cares of this world. Before Eve was created, imagine what Adam would have said if you had asked him: “So Adam, how long do you plan on living in that celibate state?” What do you think he would consider the default state to be, celibacy or marriage? How could he even make a “covenant commitment” and marry without first being unmarried? The same thing is true today. How is it possible to have marriage without celibacy? It’s not. How is it possible for a society to put all their focus on the concerns of the world and forget about the concerns of God? It is only possible when man thinks he knows more than God. That’s where we are today. With condoms, contraception, abortion, and fornication, he has tried to completely disconnect sex from marriage and procreation. Can you imagine God saying: “Okay, you practiced safe sex and wore condoms. That’s good enough. Come right on in.” I don’t think so. Neither can I imagine him saying: “So, you had unnatural desires for the same sex? That’s okay. At least you lived in a committed relationship. Oh, wait a second! You lived in the United States after 2015? That means your committed relationship was actually a marriage. Come on in and have a seat. I’ve got a special table for you over in the rainbow room.”

So the Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriages grieves me just as much as any couple with a biblical marriage. It reinforces the strong belief, both by the world and by the church, that celibacy is not possible, and that marriage is the holy grail of adult life – in whatever arrangement you choose. And I’m sure Martin Luther would be very pleased. After all, he believed that to reject God’s gift of marriage, or to require celibacy for priest and monastics, was to court the sins and crimes of destructive lust. When you consider just how happy he would be, you get an idea of just how wrong Protestants continue to be.

http://www.bpnews.net/39818/the-bible-and-sex-debated-at-seminary

https://books.google.com/books?id=I5pJAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA168&lpg=PA168&dq=%22self+absorption%22+marriage&source=bl&ots=BuN4dc59SX&sig=D3thcl4wHKqu5gBw4l1Y9TxMOeY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HqWRVfmmA4nj-QHemKOAAw&ved=0CEcQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22self%20absorption%22%20marriage&f=false

http://arleenspenceley.com/marriage-crisis/

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1851129

Celibacy – The Commitment You Never See

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Once in a while after reading something I will say to myself “you mean people really believe that?” I found myself saying that after reading “Five Questions With Author Andy Crouch” on Boundless. You can read it here: http://www.boundless.org/blog/five-questions-with-bestselling-author-andy-crouch/. Thanks goes to Julia Duin for forwarding it to me. After giving a rather vague answer to the question of gay marriage, he was asked question #2. This is the one I want to focus on:

2. “Unwanted singleness among Christian women is becoming more and more normal in the church. Based on your journalistic work in the church, you have a 10,000-foot view that most of us don’t enjoy. Do you see any way for us to turn this ship around and rescue a generation of families that we are losing as young men wait indefinitely to get married?”

Unwanted singleness? When did a spouse become a religious right? God never promised marriage to anybody. Note the other assumptions built into the question; that all singleness must be unwanted, that singleness is not normal, that to remain single is to head in the wrong direction, that propagating more families is more important than propagating children of God, that waiting indefinitely to get married is to lose out. And to top it all off, the person who asked the question believes that someone with a history of “journalistic work” is the most qualified to talk about marriage and celibacy. Brilliant.

Oh, and I should probably mention that Andy Crouch is a 47 year old married man who had his ship rescued by marriage years ago. So that makes him uniquely qualified to answer questions about celibacy, doesn’t it? After I read the question posed to him, I started searching my Bible for the chapter and verses that dealt with “unwanted singleness among single women.” Well, after some searching, I found it in the book of Bathsheba, chapter 13, verses 27-29:

“Now, all those women suffering with unwanted singleness, they have a right to claim a man for themselves. The nuclear family must be exalted above everything else. They cannot be allowed to suffer the pain of watching other married women parade around with children in tow. They cannot let their fertile years slip them by. If lazy men don’t want to marry, they must be forced to pay extra taxes and shunned from society – because these are beautiful irresistible women. I, Bathsheba, veto everything Apostle Paul says about singleness in his letter to the Corinthians.”

This is what happens when God’s commandments are tossed out the door and replaced with our wants and perversions. A woman wants a husband? We can’t let her wait. Get her a husband now! Diagnosis: Unwanted singleness. How excruciating. Is it any more painful than what Christ did on the cross? It’s less than a mosquito bite on the back of an elephant. We cannot take the broad stroke of cultural norms and demographic data and try to overlay that on top of God’s word. Marriage is not the answer to fornication. Self control is. Even more predictable was his advice for women dealing with “unwanted singleness.” First, he said single men are lost and need “evangelism and discipleship.” This fits in with current Protestant theology that says the only way to salvation is through marriage. It’s actually in the SBC’s Faith and Message Statement. Then he offered this scathing condemnation of single men:

“The key to changing the current patterns is to unapologetically call men to greater risk and sacrifice, including what is in many ways the greatest risk and sacrifice a man can make, binding oneself to one woman in marriage.”

Yes, let’s raise that golden sex calf higher on the altar. So he thinks single men are not sacrificing? Well, in his view, as so many other church leaders, the greatest sacrifice a man can make is not to God. It’s to a woman. In this day and time, God takes second place to self-pleasure. That’s because Crouch doesn’t include celibacy with his definition of a single man. His definition of singleness depends on one thing – the absence of a marriage license. A single man to him is just a guy who is jumping from bed to bed every night with different women. He’s the guy who doesn’t have a ring on his finger. He’s the guy who has been lucky so far and not gotten a girl pregnant. He’s the guy who likes to party and waste his time on cheap entertainment. He’s the guy not committed to anything. He’s the guy who is concerned about no one but himself. He’s the guy who has no responsibility. He’s the guy who we can’t let pastor a church. This stereotype of the single man is why I don’t like to use the word “single” to describe myself. Then Crouch does something that is so predictable for these marriage-mandate articles – he offers an exemption clause:

“Frankly, given the disparities of available men and women in the church, I don’t think many men should question whether they have a “calling” to singleness or to marriage — I think that barring clear guidance otherwise from God and your community, you should assume that you are called to marriage and fatherhood and proceed as quickly as possible in that direction. And for God’s sake, stop playing video games. Spend that time getting to know a real woman instead.”

Note that he disparagingly put “calling” in quotes, like it’s something that just can’t be in the Bible. And note how the assumes all single men are dealing with prostitutes, telling them to get to know a “real woman.” Forget Christ’s affirmation of the Eunuchs. Forget about the possibility of following Paul and remaining unmarried. It’s all about my daughter who wants to get married. It’s all about more single women than men. It’s all about having your piece of the pie. It’s all about family pride, family estates, family money, family jewels . . . family inheritances. It’s all about getting what you want. For those irresponsible singles – let’s throw them a bone. Then he chimes in with the “barring clear guidance from God” exception clause. Tossing out one-liners like this doesn’t work for several reasons. First, you would have missed it if you sneezed. Second, the Bible tells us that both marriage and celibacy are equally important and valid. Equal means they each get the same validation and affirmation – 50/50. As with most articles dealing with the subject, this one gives marriage 99% coverage and celibacy about 1% coverage. Like it or not, we live in a world where the value of anything is determined in large part by the amount of time and energy talking about it. This is particularly true in the age of the internet. How much validity does homosexuality have in the Bible? Zero percent. How much validity does it have in the media? One hundred percent. Then turn things around. How much validity do eunuchs have in the Bible? One hundred percent. How much validity do eunuchs have in the media? Zero percent. What was right has become wrong and what was wrong has become right.

If you want to know why, Crouch’s article is an example of why – It’s because the church has become part of the world. They’re indistinguishable. Their talking heads are not qualified to write a second grade essay on turtles. The main reason marriage-mandaters should sit down and be quite is that there are young people listening to and reading such babble who do not know what the Bible says about marriage and celibacy. Such false teaching could lead them down the wrong road. There have been many young men who chose the homosexual lifestyle because they did not fit in with family idolatry society and churches. Discussing marriage in a religious context and not including an equally weighted discussion on celibacy is only telling half the story of Christianity. In my opinion, this goes beyond lying and almost enters the realm of blasphemy. It’s malpractice.

Telling all single men they should marry unless they have a direct message from God or their community is sort of like saying: “Unless you have had a visit from the Angel Gabriel who told you to enter a monastery and you got a followup visit from the pope, you should get married as soon as possible.” I wonder how many guys read this and thought, “Oh gee, I haven’t heard a message from God! I need to get on the stick and start making some phone calls! Got to find that wife!” Not too many. I wonder how many men in churches have had guidance when he comes to discerning the call to celibacy? How many Protestant churches actually have older adults called to celibacy counseling young people in this regard?

Paul’s marriage exception clause has been in the Bible for over 2000 years. In contrast to the marriage-mandaters, he actually said single people would do best if they remained as they are and not look for spouses. More importantly, he spent more time talking about celibacy than he did marriage. All these marriage-mandaters accomplish is alienate younger unmarried men from the church and throw more suspicion on the older unmarried men, especially those who have been called by God to celibacy. And of course they help to bolster women as the moral authorities in the church. I guess they will have to revise their teachings 50 years from now when there are more single men that women.

The protestant churches are set up so that the identities of men and women called to celibacy are not known. It’s part of their ongoing protest against the Catholic Church. Plus, it keeps any questions about their marriages at bay. Paul did not define the celibate gift as waiting indefinitely. He defined it as focused on the kingdom of heaven and God’s concerns and as a positive response to God. So even though you may never know us or know what we do, we are still here. We are just as committed to the affairs of God as married people are to their husbands and wives. And we have direct communication with God every day.

The Golden Calf Of Child Worship

colette-golden-calf

The crowd noise died down a bit. The spotlights hit the baby bottles that were meticulously arranged around the stage. Their warm glow lit up the outline of baby blue glass and yellow nipples. You could see stuffed animals and tree houses on stage with palm trees and images of children dancing all around. The speaker took to the microphone and blared: “Lord bless the children! Precious are the children! Oh, praise God for the children!” The people started chanting, “Oh bless the children.” Can I get a burp? This wasn’t during the time of Leviticus and graven images in the Old Testament. This was during a mainstream “First Baptist” church service last Sunday morning. I witness it firsthand. As a boy, I remember reading about graven images in the Bible. But I never thought I’d see them during my lifetime. Unfortunately, golden calves have become the norm in the majority of Protestant churches in the south. They have become centers of child worship. A nice diversion from their lives of perversion. As a matter of fact, many of them are in the childcare business, with “church” on their marquees just as good business strategy. For it is not God they are worshipping. It is children. Most of their budgets are allocated toward nursery and youth programs, with senior citizens sometimes getting a consolation of what’s left over. I refer to them as grandpa/grandson churches.

It’s not what a person says that matters – it’s what he does. And often it’s what people don’t do. Because we all leave a legacy on this earth, no matter if that legacy is good or bad. Churches also leave legacies. If you take away the Sunday morning rhetoric, what do you have left? A pizza party on the way to youth camp? Vacation Bible School? Praise band rehearsals? It all comes down to our priorities. Anything in our lives that takes priority over God is an idol. That includes youth. There are many more needs in our world than changing wet diapers. The Bible even warns about this: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37. What has your church done for people with mental illnesses? For the people who can’t afford their next power bill? If there is a warning in the Bible against something, we should take it for granted that our human minds have the propensity to do it. Otherwise, the edge would be taken off of the sword of the spirit, God’s word, and it wouldn’t be in the Bible. A lot of time is spent in the Bible nullifying age, gender, marital status, children status, class – and pointing to a time when none of this will matter, when family will not matter. For example, when the Bible mentions age, it is only to shatter any stereotypes that we have about it. For example, these mothers in the Bible gave birth in old age: Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Rebekah gave birth to Esau and Jacob. Hannah gave birth to Samuel. The trend continued in the New Testament when Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. Then Jesus shattered any stereotypes about age when he told us: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3. The key word in this verse is “as.” Jesus is not talking about chronological age. He isn’t hanging a hanging a “3-5 year olds” sign on the nursery door. He isn’t hanging a 19-35 year old sign on the young adult door. Instead, he is telling us that we all should have the faith of children and that our birth certificates will matter very little in the long run. So why should they matter now? They shouldn’t.

But the church today has not heeded these warnings. It has carved golden calves out of youth buses, glitzy youth centers, extravagant youth budgets, and birthday parties. Everything the youth can’t find at home, the church tries to be for them – including family. Most youth in church today don’t even have parents who attend. They’re just dropped off or picked up and taken to church. Then when they graduate from high school, they disappear faster than a bird in a hat because they fall outside the age bracket on the youth door and there’s nothing to graduate to. Their only idea of adulthood is little old men wearing pants up to their chin and little old ladies with powder perfume and purple hair. There’s nothing in it for them anymore. Sadly, churches must face the fact that they’ve caused the problem. Because what do they have to offer them after graduation? Practically nothing, until they’re married. So really, the church’s only role in a young person’s life is to serve as a baby sitter and worshipper. After the youth wears off, the gold becomes tarnished on the golden calf. Then it’s time for more fruitfulness and multiplying. And the cycle continues. As far as learning how to be an adult, married or not, and communicate with adults older then them, that’s fantasyland. They don’t even have parents who are adults. Daycare with a cross on top and a golden calf out front. Life is so comfortable in church today – if you’re under 19 or over 65. Because let’s face it, that’s the only time when most humans think about God — just out of the mother’s womb or with one foot in the grave.

The Danger In Virginity

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“Christian Celibacy In The 21st Century – Straight Renunciation.” I thought it was a pretty clever title for my blog. But there is probably a bit that needs explaining. First off, my definition of Christian celibacy has nothing to do with homosexuality or same sex marriage. A more accurate title may have been “Christian virginity,” but since the definition of virginity today does not include guys, I went with celibacy. I may change it in the future. Straight renunciation was meant to be a bit of a pun on the word “straight.” If you don’t get it, don’t worry. I have a dry sense of humor.

So what’s the danger in talking about virginity on a blog? First of all, I am one. But I don’t fit the definition you’ll find in the dictionary. I’m a guy and I’m over 21. I’m 54. One of the biggest dangers is people misinterpreting the reason for my blog. I am not advertising myself as a man looking for a wife. That has nothing to do with my blog. I am not giving dating advice. I am not encouraging men to “man up” and get married. I am not telling single women that it’s their fault if they’re not married by a certain age. What I am trying to do is encourage three groups of younger people – those who are waiting until marriage to have sex, those who are discerning a call to the celibate life, and those who have accepted the call to celibacy. This blog is part of my renunciation of marriage as a Matthew 19:12 eunuch. That in itself probably puts it out there in a near earth orbit. It is not meant to demean marriage or to elevate celibacy to a level of celestial supremacy. I am trying, with my limited theological abilities, to balance those two lifestyles. Because, as it is now, marriage has been awarded idolatry status in our churches.

So how would anybody misinterpret my blog? Well, when most people see the word celibacy, they automatically think of homosexuality and the Catholic Church. The two are linked tighter than bark on a tree. And when people see the word virgin, they think of locker room graffiti and young women waiting for their Boazes. As I’ve discussed before, not defending the Christian vocabulary will have consequences that we can’t even imagine today. So with this blog I’m trying to reclaim the language of the Bible, to bring back the dignity of celibacy, and to support all people called to be eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, whether male or female.

This blog has another connection to danger. I almost died in 2010 and spent about six months in the hospital. When I got out, I starting asking myself some serious questions. Like what are you doing with your life? Why are you wasting time? What are you doing for God? What have you done to help anybody? What do you want to be remembered for? I came to the conclusion that if I continued on my current course, I would be remembered at best as a big question mark in a lot of people’s minds and at worst as a bitter old single man who never found his pot of gold. I didn’t want either one.

Another danger I sensed was opening up about this part of my life. Outside my family, I had only discussed it with one other person – my mentor. It was really embarrassing for me to write about virginity and celibate life and still is. Not because I’m not content with this lifestyle, but worrying about opening myself up to needless attacks from people I don’t even know. And yes I have seen my fair share since starting this blog. On top of that is the fact that I have always interpreted no response as a negative response, whether out in public talking to people or on the internet. Most everything I had read on the subject had been written by young millennial women, the majority Catholic, who didn’t define virginity beyond its value in preparation for marriage. And sadly, that is still the trend. I read about the 20-somethings confessing their virginity to the world, the young ladies who had all but given up on waiting for their Boazes, and the ladies who saw all men as bug-eyed pigs – hunting for their next victim. If they were “coming out” as virgins in their 20s, what was I doing announcing my virginity to the world in my 50s? Confessing to a crime punishable by death? So, my questions were, how will I overcome these stereotypes and will anybody even read my blogs and respond to them? I’m not sure. But I do want people to know that I’m a regular guy. I don’t live in a monastery. I find all girls beautiful and just as mysterious as when I was a little guy. For me, celibate life is the only way I know to respond to God. If the world considers it dangerous to say no to sex, then I will live as a dangerous guy.

Emotional Chastity?

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Emotional chastity. It’s one of the new buzz phrases of our times. But what does it really mean? That depends on the person you ask and what you read. It seems to be a take off of an idea St. John Paul expressed in Love and Responsibility:

“The [emotional experience for a woman] may be connected with, for instance, an impression of ‘strength’, the [emotional experience for a man] with an impression of ‘charm’, but both are connected with a whole person of the other sex, not only with that person’s ‘body’. This susceptibility (which is different from sensual excitability) to the sexual value residing in ‘a whole person of the other sex’, to ‘femininity’ or ‘masculinity’, should be called sentiment.” (page 110)

The word “susceptibility” is a little confusing here because it generally means influenced or harmed by a particular thing. It’s used in our language as something negative. Susceptible to what? Rape? Is he saying that every male-female encounter is risky business? I don’t think St. John Paul was using susceptibility in a negative sense. “Awareness” might have been a better choice. It might have been clearer if he had said: “This awareness of our femininity or masculinity should be called sentiment.” I would just call it sexual awareness. I think it’s a natural component of wisdom and discernment. If you’re comfortable meeting people and are walking in God’s will for your life, you don’t have to stop and check your emotions every few minutes. You don’t have to whip out a rule book and wonder “did I cross the line here and there?”

It’s interesting that St. John Paul never mentioned “emotional chastity.” But rather defined an emotional experience with the whole person of the opposite sex as a sentiment. But sentimental does not mean the same thing as emotional. Later on in the book he referred to it as an “affection” and wrote that: “Affectionate love is not indeed focused on the body as is sensuality. For that reason it is so frequently identified with spiritual love.” Ah, spiritual love. Isn’t that a Christian virtue? Isn’t that the kind of love all celibate people should strive for? There has been much written over the years on the four areas of compatibility that are needed for marriage – Spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical. And of course the lines between these are often blurred. For example, some writers put the role of sex hormones under physical and some put them under emotional. Does it really have to be this complicated? It’s as if we have absolutely no control over our thought processes and we have to turn to sources other than the Bible to lay down the rules for us. Are men and women always “susceptible” to something happening every time they communicate with each other? Or is it just part of the larger ongoing public discussion that means nothing? To me, the mere phrase “emotional chastity” sounds like an oxymoron. It’s like saying “I’ll have a sirloin sunny side up. It makes no sense. Has mankind devolved to the point where we think all of our emotions are of a sexual nature? That all sexual thoughts are evil? The Oxford dictionary’s definition of chastity is: “The state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse: vows of chastity.”

I hope we haven’t devolved that far. It seems to me that “emotional chastity” is just an effort to put a Christian spin on distrust and suspicion. What would be its opposite? Emotional sex? Can a person have sex without emotion? Honestly, I think it’s a phrase used by cold-hearted single women to rationalize their fear of the opposite sex. For example, a gentleman could be talking to a woman in Waffle House over breakfast one morning about global warming. But to reinforce her superiority over him, she could walk out the door at the drop of a hat chanting “emotional chastity.” And he’s like “what?” It’s a phrase that acts as a sword in women’s battle for moral superiority. It’s so vague she can whip it out anytime. It’s so stupid who will even know what it means? Let’s not forget that a man’s capacity for love is just as great as women’s.

“Emotional chastity” also gives single women an excuse to act cold-hearted and to turn their shoulders on all men, including Christian single men. Is that doing unto others what you would have them do unto you? I’m afraid not. It’s the epitome of selfishness and arrogance. My image of femininity is one of acceptance and support. It’s not one of competition and pride. But I don’t know many real women today, especially single women in their 20s and 30s. Even if a woman was sexually abused, raped, assaulted, or whatever, that does not give her a license to treat every man she meets in the future with disrespect. I have seen these attitudes over the years. They reach 35-40 and all of their friends are girlfriends. Then they realize that men have memories too. I’ve seen a few of these attitudes change in older age when they realize God did not guarantee them husbands. Some men are willing to forget. Some are not. Christian guys who respect women don’t need to be taught sensitivity regarding rape. They don’t need sexual sensitivity training. I know I’ve said this before on my blog, but I will say it again – I do not believe a woman can “lose” her virginity through rape. The idea of forcing a woman to do something against her will makes me literally sick. So if there are any women reading this who have been through such trauma, don’t worry about a Christian man’s response to it. If it’s ever discussed, don’t think that he’s going to hold that against you. He won’t. And just think, we haven’t even brought in the question of whether or not a person is open to marriage. That’s the worst thing about this whole conversation. It assumes that all men and women are called to be married. It assumes that all single men are looking for sex. It assumes that all women are looking for sugar daddies. It especially saddens me when I hear “emotional chastity” because it tells me that the person is not capable of being my friend, only a date.

I think this bizarre concept of emotional chastity does explain a lot of the distrust I see today. It explains why the word date now means to have sex. It explains why asking for a phone number now means asking for sex. It explains why a simple “hello” can be construed as sexual harassment. It explains why the coldest single girls are often the ones sitting in church pews, wearing their chastity rings, guarding their precious hearts of every emotion that might come there way. Should they stop and help the dying man on the side of the street? It depends on how chastely they could do it. I mean, if he’s a good-looking dude, we can’t expect them to render any help. They might have an unchaste thought. Where in the world are we going? The differences between men and women are so much greater than anatomical variations. There are so many more things to talk about. Why are we stuck on sex? Why are we using sex to stop the progress of human civilization? So single ladies, remember that if you can’t treat the men in your lives with dignity today, you can’t expect a man with dignity in your future tomorrow. And if you are called to celibacy, you better get used to talking to other ladies.

What about emotional chastity in guys? Did you just ask yourself if there is such a thing? Guys? Chastity? I think that’s an underlying theme of this whole “emotional chastity” discussion, to reinforce the idea that only women are capable of chastity. After all, do an internet search and see how many chastity sites you find that are written by men. It’s less than 1%. See how many chastity books you find written by men. It’s less than 1%. So single ladies, yes I believe you should guard your hearts. But if you lock them up and throw away the keys, I guess you should pray that the Supreme Court rules in favor of same sex marriage. Because you will only have each other to marry.

https://books.google.com/books?id=TNRY9HkssDQC&pg=PA112&lpg=PA112&dq=sentimentality+love+%22love+and+responsibility%22+john&source=bl&ots=szZj_HxUC-&sig=HMMCP6_EewSgb5O5XdAbrcBAG8o&hl=en&sa=X&ei=foFsVYLHJsOyggSLlYHwCA&ved=0CD8Q6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=sentimentality%20love%20%22love%20and%20responsibility%22%20john&f=false

Virgins – Without A Care In This World

Travelling-Alone1

32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord. 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33.

What would your friends think if you told them you didn’t have a care in this world? They’d probably think you were a lazy slacker. But Apostle Paul said just that. How many “likes” do you think that would get him on his Facebook page? He is responding here to a letter he received from the church at Corinth. I think this letter brought up many areas where they were confused. But the main question was: Is it better to marry or remain unmarried and is it even possible to choose celibacy just as one chooses marriage? Isn’t it interesting that we are still debating the same issues today? We’re still debating what marriage even is. With that in mind, look at verse 32. First, notice that Paul recommended the unmarried and celibate life himself. Why? On top of providing more people with undivided devotion to Christ, it may be because he liked the idea of more celibate friends. I can relate to that very, very well. He also lived in a marriage and sex worship society. Few people were choosing to live without marriage. Therefore, few people were concerned about the Lord’s affairs. Few understood that what they did with their sexuality determined what route their hearts would take – permanently. Few understood that celibacy was an honorable option.

We have to remember too Paul’s definition of “cares.” He would rather have his followers in Corinth be “without carefulness” because he understood that choosing sex and marriage linked us to God’s creation (world) and that choosing no sex and celibacy linked us to God’s creation called heaven – because there are no marriages in heaven. Contrary to what theologians believe today, there is nothing innately evil about this world. I’ve always wondered why the idea of celibacy is so divisive. Every time the subject comes up, people think they have to take sides. It’s like we’re still debating Matthew 19 and Jesus’s explanation of eunuchs. I’ve noticed that if I mention the word celibacy, especially around preachers, they automatically assume I’m making disparaging remarks about marriage. They assume that I’m putting myself on some “holier than thou” level of existence. “Wait a second now John. There’s nothing wrong with marriage.” If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be a millionaire. Why is that? I think it’s because many church leaders have reverted back to Mosaic law and believe everything in the world is evil, especially sex. They think every intention in a man’s heart is evil. In 1978, Margaret Clarkson even remarked that: “Singleness is a result of sin in this world – one of a host of evils in which we all share.” Calvinism has taken a strong hold on churches today. On top of that, many Protestants today are still fighting the Protestant Reformation. They still think they are at war against the Catholic Church and celibate priests.

There have been many theologians through the years (including Charles Spurgeon) who have interpreted Paul’s “without carefulness” no further than singles waiting on marriage and the absence of sexual responsibilities to a wife and raising children. That is a grave error. If that were the case, then the gift of celibacy Paul recommends would go no further than what a person did or did not do in a bedroom. Yes, a life without sex is part of celibacy. But there is a whole lot more to “without carefulness” than “Single and Feeling Good.” Just as there is a whole lot more to caring for the things of the world than worrying about the next time you will have sex with your husband or wife. I think this mindset came about because of the popular belief in the separation of the body from the soul. This theology is a hallmark of Calvinism and “reformed” thinkers. Paul is clearly telling us here with the open-ended word “careth” that our bodies and souls are divinely connected. Thomas Merton wrote a book titled “No Man is an Island.” In 1 Cor 7:32, Paul is saying that no sex is an island without consequences. Paul is not describing what a married person should do or what an unmarried person should do. These verses are not instructions. They are reality. He is telling us how the Holy Spirit operates in the world, not what an ideal world should look like. “The word “careth” in verse 32 is a verb, not an adjective or noun. He isn’t saying, “husbands should be concerned about . . . ” or “single people are free to do . . . ” And he certainly isn’t saying that all people with the gift of celibacy are called to serve in some church-sanctioned, publically identified, nonprofit, tax exempt “ministry” or to set up a tent in a third world country. I realize many authors have contributed to this way of thinking, including William Isley who saw celibacy as a “charism appropriate for missionaries.” One of John Piper’s blog followers recently asked him what’s the point was in getting married if that meant she now served the world and not God. He tried to explain what Paul meant by things of the Lord: “He has in mind a focused, more formal, official ministry effort of evangelism and nurture.” I don’t agree with that. I read nothing about a formal suit and tie ministry in the words of Paul. Actually, complete devotion to the Lord requires no specific activity. It sounds as if Piper is trying to overhaul the Protestant’s miserable track record of dishonoring celibates by making them all out to be Billy Grahams. How quaint. He went on to make these disparaging remarks about Apostle Paul and 1 Cor 7:

“Does he really want us to think that the effort to please the Lord is only possible in singleness and that in marriage all the dynamics are different? We don’t please the Lord there, we please each other there. He can’t mean that because he said it is not a sin to marry and it would be a sin to marry if we didn’t try to please the Lord while we were married. That is what sin means is not pleasing the Lord . . . Those are very striking, strange depictions of how to live.”

Yes, that’s exactly what he means. This is another classic example of why married men are not qualified to give advice about celibacy. The reason Paul sounds so striking and strange today is because he defines marriage based on a one-flesh union through sexual intercourse. We define marriage based on courthouses, legal contracts, wedding vows, and a string of cans tied to the bumper of a car. Likewise, Paul’s definition of singleness is based on virginity – not the absence of a marriage license or wedding rings. Given those dynamics, the differences between the married and unmarried are that striking. Very striking indeed. I think Mr. Piper’s thoughts on the subject are fairly typical for a 21st century Calvinist Baptist Preacher. They don’t even know what celibacy is any more. They wouldn’t know Paul if he knocked on their church doors. If we enjoin our bodies back to our spirits, we’ll understand how what we do with our sexuality determines what road our hearts take, the road of human reproduction or the road of spiritual reproduction. The concerns of the world still take a backseat to the concerns of the Lord.

So where does marriage licenses and wedding vows fit in? They really don’t. Man’s world is an ever-changing maze of legalese, formalities, and courthouses. God’s world is made up of natural laws that are as true today as they were 2000 years ago. We can attach any definition to any word. But our words don’t matter. Only the word of God does. He’s much more in control than we think he is. Spouses who live under one roof have to listen to each other. Compromises have to be made. They don’t have a choice. Their chemistries have been merged into one vessel. The same thing happens when a person with the celibate gift is united with Christ. They have no choice but to respond to God and they respond in different ways. Some remain at his feet – like Mary of Bethany, some enter monasteries and continue lives of prayer, some reach out to young people by encouraging sexual purity, some hit the streets of inner cities, some take care of animals and endangered species, etc. Some even choose to be hobos for the kingdom of heaven and travel the globe with no job or steady source of income, etc. I think of my friend Meg Hunter-Kilmer.

There will always be Marthas yelling from the kitchen, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” I’m sure Martha thought Mary didn’t have a care in the world. We have to remember though that Martha yelled out of ignorance. Either she did not know what Mary was doing or didn’t understand the importance of it. Mary could have been with Jesus simply because she didn’t want to leave him alone and with no one to talk to. A sensitivity based on social order and dinner schedules would not be able to do that. Only a celibate like Mary could have understood how important this moment was in time. Likewise, there are many moments today that only those with the gift of celibacy understand and have insight on while those who are married and have families, busy in their kitchens and garages, and maintaining the rhythms of life do not. When they complain, remember what Jesus told Martha: “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42. He could have been a bit more harsh and told her “Martha, you chose marriage and a family over me and with that comes the responsibility of feeding those in your house. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Mary chose to be fully devoted to me. She can stay right here at my side as long as she wants to. You can’t take that away from her. She makes me comfortable. She makes me laugh. Likewise, she can’t take away what you are about to put on the table for us to eat. We would all starve.” So when someone is complaining about you not settling down with a husband and having children and asking if you have a boyfriend, remember what Christ said: It will not be taken away from you. When someone is complaining about you not manning up with a wife and becoming a responsible and trustworthy man, remember what Christ said: It will not be taken away from you. No one can take our lamps. The world is still upset about many things. It defines maturity based on the number of sexual partners. Those bowing at the altar of sex are very uncomfortable with the idea of someone renouncing married life. At the time of the reformation, celibacy was under attack because it was associated with the rules of the Catholic Church, which is ironic because such a charisma can only be freely chosen. Today celibacy is under attack because it is associated with homosexuality and same sex marriage. In eternity, it will be the norm.

So, is there a difference between the concerns of a married person and a single person? Probably not. A person can hop from bed to bed and still claim legal single status. Plus, singles are just in a holding pattern waiting for marriage. Much is written for them. They are lonely, bitter, can’t find themselves, and blame God for their misfortune. This is the dichotomy the world operates under. And sadly, it is the world the church has settled for. But is there a difference between a married person and a virgin? Yes. It’s in the Bible. Take a look at verse 34 in 1 Corinthians 7:

“There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”

You won’t find these verses mentioned in too many self help books. The only time virginity sells is when it is discussed in relation to waiting on marriage, or waiting on Boaz. This is fine and good. But it’s not half the picture. Notice how Paul interchanges “virgin” and “unmarried woman.” He uses the same language when talking about men in verses 25 and 26. Think about that. A man who had lived a celibate life understood the profound effect of a eexual relationship. He knew it far beyond a few minutes of pleasure. That it affects a person’s soul. That it guides what their heart cares about. It’s interesting too that “there is difference” in verse 34 is singular. I think this indicates that there are many differences rather a singular difference and that there are too many differences to allow the use of the pleural “differences.” Because using the pleural would lead to questions about what the differences are. That’s not possible because the cares are so different from person to person; just as the cares in marriages can’t be true for every couple.

Much has been written about the gift of celibacy allowing extra time and freedom to do the will of God, freedom from sexual need, liberation from family responsibility, freedom to love all people, ability to take more risks, etc. While all of those may be true, they don’t begin to adequately explain the difference between a wife and a virgin. Paul is not talking about the situational circumstances of a person not holding a marriage license, which didn’t even exist at the time he wrote this letter. He is talking about how every cell of a virgin is realigned to Christ’s needs. I’m tempted to use the word genetic because that comes very close to describing the celibate charism Fr. Thomas DuBay described in his book “And You Are Christ’s: The Charism of Virginity and the Celibate Life. Just as brain chemistry (i.e., oxytocin) bonds a man and woman’s cares when they have sex, I believe people who have the gift of celibacy have brain chemistry that bonds their cares permanently to Christ. But don’t look for that discovery on the cover of Science magazine. What do you care about?

http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-marriage-eternally-futile

http://www.piercedhands.com/

https://baylor-ir.tdl.org/baylor-ir/bitstream/handle/2104/3004/russell_hobbs_phd.pdf?sequence=4

The Language Of A Eunuch

john waiving-web2

A single life, single parent, single thread, single take, single entry, single row, single line, single player. Life is full of singles. The problem is that when a word becomes so ubiquitous it completely loses its meaning. But our society likes ubiquitous words, words that keep everybody on the same level. They are the comfort buffers of a politically correct world, especially one where socialism is the norm. Comfort words don’t single out anything or anybody and allow everybody’s opinion to have equal value. They serve the same function as cardboard cutouts of angels, feather dream catchers and scoops of ice cream with chocolate drizzled on top. Convictional kindness, diversity, inclusiveness, transparency, it takes a village. They’re supposed to make us feel good about ourselves. They also play a big part in a society’s moral standards. A society that worships sex doesn’t change its values to meet the Bible’s standards. They change the Bible to meet their standards. The fastest way to do that is through language. The media know that all too well. How fast did churches adopt gay, transgender, LGBT, equal rights, age of consent, diversity, and committed relationship? They have used the church as the biggest patsy in the history of humankind. In a world where the meaning of marriage goes no further than a courtroom, a bag of rice, and a couple of memorized prayers, the sacredness of sex has all but ceased to exist. The idea of God calling someone to live without sex and focus exclusively on his concerns is a foreign concept. It only follows then that churches define singles strictly on the absence of a marriage license. The pharisaical language of legalism is the only one they know. When it comes to celibacy being a spiritual gift, even the thought is offensive to most Protestant churches. Consider the First Baptist Church of St. John’s, MI:

“When Paul speaks of singleness as a gift, he isn’t speaking of a particular ability some people have to be contentedly single. Rather, he’s speaking of the state of being single. As long as you have it, it’s a gift from God, just as marriage will be God’s gift if you ever receive it.”

The Bible does not tell us that we choose our own spiritual gifts. God does that. We live in a world though where no one can have a “particular ability” that everybody else doesn’t have. That wouldn’t be fair. People would feel left out. It would be uncomfortable. Wait a second. She got more cookies than you? Let’s take some off her plate and give to you. Socialized values. They fit in rather well with a socialist state. Acknowledging spiritual gifts would acknowledge God’s presence in the world. Churches today can’t do that, especially when it comes to human sexuality because they think they know more than God. Every topic related to sexuality that comes up in churches has to be discussed, debated, and voted on. Take the Southern Baptists, for example. They’ve talked so long about affirming, loving, and accepting gays that their feeble “it’s a sin” holds as much water as the idea of one of their marriages lasting till death do us part. Plus, today’s Calvinist-leaning churches are so totally “depraved,” the mere thought of chastity falls way outside their glorification of sex in the “marriage bed.” Many of them even believe that the only way to salvation is through marriage. That’s why you won’t find an unmarried Protestant preacher.

As those know who are familiar with this topic, Jesus addressed the topic of the gift of celibacy in Matthew 19 by using the metaphor of eunuchs. Protestant churches deny the existence of “only to those to whom it is given” for the kingdom of heaven as described in Matthew 19. Their theology is quite elementary: If you don’t have a marriage license, you have the gift of singleness. If you have a marriage license, you have the gift of marriage. That doesn’t take much thought, does it? It’s quite comfortable. Isn’t it amazing that courthouses have been given the power of dispensing spiritual gifts? This is what happens when the sacredness of sex is separated from the commitments of marriage and celibacy. They become mere paperwork. Apostle Paul makes it clear that there are only two lifestyle choices for the Christian, both of which have equal value: Celibacy as a eunuch or marriage as a spouse. But look at where churches are today. Instead of eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, we have support for singles meat markets. Instead of one-flesh unions, we have support for committed relationships, covenant commitments, civil unions, same sex couples, young couples, childless couples, cohabitating couples, engaged couples – and the perversion continues.

Many more comfort words have been used to replace biblical principles. How are your “family values” holding up? Who talks about fornication anymore? The church latched onto the world’s language of “premarital sex” and never looked back. Who talks about sodomy? That’s just hate speech. The church latched onto the world’s language of “gays” and never looked back. And “convictional kindness” glossed over every abomination imaginable. Where are the eunuchs Jesus spoke of? I’m starting to wonder how many pastors even know what a eunuch is. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, MI has an article on its web site that I think is representative of their insight. Their pastor Shaw states that:

“I don’t ever remember entertaining the thought that I might not be married. Diane and I met when she was 16 and I was 18 and we were married two years later. Looking back, that seems crazy. What were we thinking? But, after almost 34 years, I have no regrets. Yet I would not recommend the choice we made for everyone. Not because I don’t like being married but because of the words of Jesus. In our text for Sunday (Matthew 19) Jesus reminded the disciples that some people can “accept” being single and some cannot. (It appears the weak ones get married :)).”

At least he acknowledged he was married and not the best person to write on the subject. It’s interesting that he thinks everybody who does not choose marriage has automatically been granted the status of a Matthew 19 “single.” There’s only one tiny problem with that: Jesus never used the word “single.” He used the word “eunuch.” In verse 12, he used it three times. Do you prefer God’s language or the world’s langugage? Jesus tried so hard to make it clear that there was an alternative to marriage, yet so many professing Christians today, especially preachers, don’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. For most, the only alternative to marriage they can think of is homosexuality. So the big question in life is who to marry. As Rev. Shaw said: “Yet I would not recommend the choice we made for everyone.” What choice is he talking about? Which girl to marry? When to get married? Whether too continue in sexual sin or “make it right” in the eyes of the Lord? It could be all of them. But his choice was not between marriage or celibacy. “I don’t ever remember entertaining the thought that I might not be married.” And since he never understood he had a choice between marriage and celibacy, he never really understood marriage to begin with. A committment requires a default state. We come into this world alone. That is our default state. We cannot choose marriage if we don’t know what the options are. The big choice is whether or not to get married – not who, when or where to get married.

In Matthew 19 where Jesus described the three types of eunuchs, the disciples did not complain about whom they should marry, when they should get married, or if they should marry the girl they had sex with. Instead, they complained about the idea of not marrying at all! In verse 11 after hearing his prohibition against divorce, they said: “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” Jesus’s HUGE revelation here is that the opposite of committed marriage is committed celibacy and that all of us, like the disciples, have to choose between a life of sex as a spouse or a life of no sex as a eunuch. The disciples were familiar with the langugae of sex and the choice of marriage. But they were not familiar with the language of no sex and the choice of celibacy. Like today, it hardly existed in their world. Jesus communicated this with the metaphor of a eunuch, someone incapable of having sex. It probably knocked the disciples over, just like it does us today. Can you think of a better metaphor for someone with the gift of celibacy? It effectively strenthened marriage by ruling out anything short of a one man and one woman sexual relationship for life because the alternative is so difficult Apostle Paul considered it a special gift. The eunuch metaphor also did away with the option of divorce or any other infiedlity in marriage. What has always struck me about these verses is Jesus’s succinctness and matter-of-factness. I’m sure the disciples’ mouths were left gaping as they scrambled to digest what they heard. “Have sex and I’m married? Oh no! But I don’t know if I can do the eunuch thing.” A couple of them might have gone to a “man up” conference that night to think things over.

Jesus did not tell his disciples that some people can ‘accept’ being single and some cannot. The verb “accept” in Matthew 19:11 specifically refers to eunuchs, not singles who just haven’t found the right one yet. Eunuchs accept a permanent commitment to Christ, just as married people accept a permanent commitment to each other. Are there public vows? No. Wedding cakes? No. Wedding rings? No. But there other things in the spiritual world we do not see. There is a big, big difference between how the world defines “singles” and how Jesus defined eunuchs. The biggest difference is that eunuchs live chaste lives without sex. This is one of the biggest reasons it is not talked about in churches today. It reminds married people of the faithfulness God expects in marriage. I also think eunuchs include women because Jesus didn’t say anything that would exclude them. I think the metaphor of the eunuch was mainly used to signify permanence, not any specific gender or body part. Single people who don’t know Christ live as single as the absence of a wedding license allows them to. Meetups, hookups, one-night stands, friends with benefits, etc. You name it. As long as they don’t visit a courthouse, they’re legally single. But there is absolutely nothing biblical about a courthouse document.

When Jesus spoke of eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, he was not insinuating that a celibate life was as impossible as a man castrating himself. Rather, I think he was trying to explain why celibacy is a gift given only to some, because it is that difficult. In other words, God didn’t deliver a dozen truckloads of apples to my door with a note: “This is my gift to you. God.” Instead, he delivered a small box with a note: “In the box you will find enough seeds to plant 1,000,000 apple trees. It’s up to you to buy the land, till the soil, plant the seeds, and harvest the apples. God.” I hope that puts gift in perspective for you. So, do I walk about with a bright shiny “halo” of celibacy over my head? No. Do I go through life never feeling alone or that I need someone to talk to? No. Do I never notice the beauty of a woman? No. If you’re married, think about all the things your spouse does for you. Think about how much you depend on him or her. I depend on God for those same things everyday. I’m committed to him just as you are to your spouse. You may not find the marriage license in courthouse records. But it’s just as real.

Click to access newsletterapril2015.pdf

http://www.calvarygreenville.org/blog/46-green-pastures-still-waters/400-single#addcomments

http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabambc/construct-species-page.asp?sp=spring-azure

He Who Makes A Paradise Of His Bread . . .

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In her new book Chastity Is For Lovers, my friend Arleen Spenceley includes a quote (p. 36) by Argentinian poet Antonio Porchia (1885-1968): “He who makes a paradise of his bread, makes a hell of his hunger.” For most Americans today, hunger is a foreign concept. Whatever your appetite, you have a civil right for it to be met. Your paradise could be drugs, porn, sex, sports, etc. Anything. Whatever your heart desires. Not only that, you don’t have to wait on anything. That would be unloving and cruel. You have the right for your pleasure to be met on a moment’s notice. That sounds like a pretty good description of addiction, doesn’t it? That’s because we live in a culture of addiction and debauchery. The biblical truths of chastity and self-restraint have been replaced by whatever it takes to bring pleasure and happiness in the short term. Anticipation of eternity has been replaced by big dreams for tomorrow. Anticipation of the wedding feast in heaven has been replaced by a hookup on Saturday night. I think few people realize that God does not promise us happiness on earth. Only in heaven will we find eternal happiness. That requires waiting. We are called to live as faithful servants of Christ while awaiting his return. And we are called to live as chaste men and women awaiting marriage – whether on this earth as husbands and wives or in heaven as brides of Christ. As a matter of fact, Christianity is based on waiting, on the advent of Christ’s return. It is based on hunger for more than can be fulfilled on earth.

Passing up paradise and leaving a portion of bread in our bowls requires us to acknowledge we are never alone at the table and that we have a responsibility to care for those in need. We have to take the “me” out of our worlds and replace it with serving other people and bringing glory to God. We have to show the humility that Christ showed on the cross. We have to show the humility that he does every time he gives us his body in the Eucharist. As St. Augustine said: “If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts our meaningless.” When a person is humble and recognizes where his bread comes, he does not feel the need to make a paradise out of it. He realizes that, by providing him sustenance, it becomes part of the process of glorifying God. It allows us further service in his name. This kind of humility leads to faith and dependence on God for everything. Not just food. A better approach to our bread might be: “Dear Lord, bless this food to our bodies and our bodies to Your service.” Thankfulness and faith allows us to see our bread bowls completely empty and that we are nothing without Christ. Not only that, it should allow us to see the empty bread bowls of our neighbors. Do you think you would notice the crumble of bread on your neighbor’s plate if your stuffing down a three-course steak dinner? Humility serves to keep our paradises grounded in reality. This would not be possible while floating in the paradise of a more than satisfied appetite. So we must first give thanks for our daily bread and acknowledge God as the provider. And instead of completely devouring what we do have, we save a portion for those who don’t have anything to eat. If we lead lives of gluttony and pleasure for the here and now without knowing what sacrifice is, then our bodies will expect quick satisfaction in the future when we don’t have a full plate. Self-control is a discipline that requires us to see beyond what’s on the menu today.

Just as we should be able to picture an empty bowl of bread, we should be able to picture our lives without sex. Just as a paradise of bread is not promised to us, a paradise of sexual fulfillment is not promised either. We are not promised sex in marriage, outside marriage, with a man, with a woman, or on top of a courthouse. Nada. As a matter of fact, Paul advises us to live as if we had no spouse: “From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not (1 Cor 7:29).” Since God included the sex drive in the DNA of our creation, remaining chaste before marriage or until Christ’s return takes a level of self control that the world does not know. This hunger makes room for unconditional love. Those who are saving sex for marriage know the importance of self-control. And they also know how moderation plays a role in every aspect of our lives. It’s part of who we are and our witness to the world. A lot of times, the paradise of our bread is made in the recesses of our minds and unrealistic expectations. We have bought into the world’s view of Prince Charming sweeping us off our feet and Cinderella being the babe of our dreams without first discerning if marriage is God’s will for our lives. In other words, we don’t start with an empty bowl. We assume it’s filled with marriage and work towards that end. Tragically we have bought into the notion that our lives are supposed to be one act drama-packed reality shows where emotions rule. Emotions are nothing more than hazy chalk marks on the expressway of life. They are strictly temporary. I can hold a baby and feel the “father gene” in me wake up. I can talk to the loveliest girls in the world and feel the “mating gene” in me wake up. But that doesn’t mean that God has called me to marriage. It doesn’t mean that I’m ruled by those emotions. It doesn’t mean my bowl is full of anything. It means that emotions take a backseat to the long-term will of God when he’s in the driver’s seat. As good and holy as marriage and sex are, they are part of this world. The temporary romantic love they represent is fading faster than moonlight on a summer’s day. Celibacy for the kingdom of God, however, is an eternal lifestyle choice. It involves a sacrifice that goes way beyond that found in dating, mating, and procreation.

If you are in the process of discerning marriage or celibacy, think about this: The next time you feel the need to have sex, to be a mother or father, to have someone at your side, to have someone to wake up with every morning – ask yourself what your feelings would be if you had no one else to compare your life with. What would your thoughts be if your bowl of expectations had no frame of reference? How would you define hunger? The next time you’re at a theme park and sandwiched between couples waiting in line for rides, don’t think of them as couples having a paradise of sex while you’re not. Think of them as individuals – just like you – waiting in line for the same thing you are. If they are Christians, they’re supposed to be living like they had no spouse anyway. Right? Don’t let what they may have be a reminder of what you don’t have. Better yet, put yourself in Adam’s shoes in the Garden of Eden before eve was created. What will be your answer when Adam asks “What’s a woman?” Now how do you feel about being alone? What’s alone? Let your celibacy be a reminder of what you do have – Total reliance on God to meet all your needs and God’s total reliance on me to have an undivided heart. Married people may not have the paradise you think. Honestly, they could be the unhappiest couple on earth and you may be the person they envy. Don’t start a narrative about a couple where one doesn’t exist. Just like you don’t want them to make assumptions about you as a single person, don’t make assumptions about them. Really, I doubt many couples look at me and say: “Oh, that poor single man. He would be so much happier with a woman by his side.” Being coupled in public or being alone in public doesn’t make much of a statement about our marital status or happiness. And it certainly makes no statement about our relationship with God. “Oh, but what if they don’t see God in me and just see my lonely pitiful self?” Do your best to mirror God’s love at all times. Loneliness is part of the human condition, whether married or not. Show the world that love exists outside the world of When Harry Met Sally. Show them that your completeness does not depend on a spouse and that you are able to be content with an empty bowl while waiting for the real paradise.

I think hunger is a natural part of every Christian’s life. We can never be too satisfied with this world because we know there’s a better world waiting. This is magnified for those of us called to celibate life, where waiting takes on the complexity of multidimensions that only the crew of the Enterprise could appreciate. But it doesn’t mean we lack passion. My love for God is made deeper by longing for what I don’t have. And I think my capacity to love mankind is deeper as well. Don’t let the world define who you are. If you’ve chosen celibacy, tell others about your choice of a higher love. Let them see just how you depend on Christ to meet all of your needs. Use your solitary completeness as a radical witness to the time coming when there will be no marriages. As incomprehensible as it may sound, remind couples that what will satisfy your hunger in the future will be better than the sex they are having today; that the paradise they are having with their bread today will one day be no more tastier than a stale wet cracker bouncing off their lips. So, eat the bread you do have with moderation and thankfulness. And make heaven, not hell, out of your hunger.

https://www.avemariapress.com/product/1-59471-480-0/Chastity-Is-for-Lovers/

What Is Love?

john waiving-web2

A lot has been written about love, from a romantic point of view. So I thought I would write something about my personal perception of love, from a platonic point of view. Actually, I prefer the term Agape – the all encompassing, sacrificial, love for God and neighbor, the kind of love God has for us. Back in my 20s and 30s, I pretty much took it for granted that everybody was aware of and respected those called to marriage as well as those called to celibacy. I took love for granted, whichever path I chose. I envisioned a Sunday School class door that read “eunuchs for the kingdom.” I had hope for acceptance. Since my background was Protestant, there was very little information in my church on celibacy. Everything centered on nuclear families – wedding anniversaries, birthdays, Father’s Day, etc. My dad kept telling me don’t worry about everybody else. From about the age of 16, he included something about singleness in our devotions at bedtime. “Apostle Paul. You can be like Apostle Paul. There’s nothing wrong with that.” I would read the scripture and he would explain. I listened. Okay, so I was taking a different path to love. I would be able to love everybody in a way that married people couldn’t. The only problem I didn’t count on was that the church would not love me back. I never dreamed that the Southern Baptists would ban single men from preaching or serving in the church. After youth group and college and career, whatever love they had turned into suspicion and “what are you waiting for,” “the right one will come along,” “you’ll know her when you see her.” And of course I didn’t have the money to put in offering plates to buy their love. I began to ask myself “does the Catholic church have a monopoly on the gift of celibacy?” I’m not sure you would call it a monopoly, but they are the only church I’m aware of that has any insight on the subject. That’s why I find myself in my 50s contemplating changing churches.

I have not give up on love, though. I can look back over time and recognize people that showed an uncommon love towards me. The key word there is showed. They went beyond just talking about it. For example, I put a high value on talking to people one-on-one, not on texting or emailing. But that’s almost unheard of today. “If you don’t want to be with her, what’s the point in calling?” What is shocking to me is how many church people have bought into this perverted mindset. We have a culture today where fathers warn their daughters at a young age to be leery of all men, especially older men. But when they end up barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, the church asks “why couldn’t anybody reach out to her?” Truly sad. I would go as far to say that parents are the biggest obstacles in their children’s lives today, especially if those children are single adults and have chosen the celibate life. Once the child becomes older than they were when they married, they are in uncharted territory. Parents often think they can rely on their own judgment to lead them in the right direction. They think parents always know best. Breaking news: Parents don’t always know best. Their advice will mean very little at a certain age. While I’ve always loved and respected my parents, they were not qualified to counsel me on celibate life. Making the decision, yes. Providing guidance, no. So the big question for parents is what’s their definition of love? Is it limited to the family-centric romantic love that will bring them grandchildren? Or does it extend to the unlimited agape love found in celibacy? I’ve thought about this quite a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to faithfully travel the road of celibacy, a person must have mentors outside family. It is absolutely mandatory. I had one in particular who I related to like a sister and still do today.

So what is love? The world will tell you it’s about hooking up and having multiple orgasms. The church will tell you it’s about nuclear families and the maternal instinct of nurturing and the fatherly instinct of providing and protecting. The Bible will tell you it’s a balance of both. Most of my closest friends are elderly, widows and widowers, and people who have lived through tremendous tragedies. I can see how the loss of a spouse can redefine a person’s concept of love. And others like myself who have survived near death experiences have had their definitions of love altered and priorities rearranged. For me, love is about the small things. Things so small you would never think they matter. It’s about being sensitive and not making assumptions. Stop and talk to me, leave an empty chair for me in your family at church luncheons, call me, write real letters, tell me my life means something to you, tell me you love me, show me you trust me, ask me something about art or nature, invite me along on your next family adventure, invite me to your church, ask me to talk to your children. Treat me like a real member of your family and not like an unknown anomaly that requires an obligatory “singles sermon” every couple of years. Tell me you understand what celibate chastity is. All I’m leaving on this earth is a legacy of memories. Does my legacy of celibacy mean anything to your family? If so, what? Assure me that you’ll remember my life and that my love is just as significant as any member of your family. Show me that blood is not thicker than water. Is that too much to ask?

Extraterrestrial Celibacy

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Ultraviolet image of Andromeda from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer

Imagine for a second an extraterrestrial sent you a tweet asking what the climate is like on earth because he’s thinking about moving here. Limited to only a few lines of text, you tell him we have 24 hours in a day, a giant sun that is 10 times bigger than earth, all the light needed to sustain life, enough warmth to keep us comfortable, and that we are working on harnessing the sun’s power for solar energy. Are you missing something in your description of earth? What about nighttime? Don’t you want to squeeze in something about the other half of the 24 hours? Many nocturnal species including the Leatherback Turtle, Great Horned Owl, Blacknose Shark, Grey Mouse Lemur, and firefly depend on the nighttime for their survival. Their migration, mating, and even food sources depend on cycles of day and night. It’s a delicate balance such that even artificial lighting has been shown to disrupt their natural cycles of life. So I would suggest you give just as much information on our nighttime as on our daytime to the incoming visitor. You can’t have day without night. And you can’t have night without day. That makes sense. It’s an example of the natural dichotomies God set into motion when he created everything in the universe. A dichotomy is “a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.” I think it’s the perfect word to describe the sharp contrast of day and night and many other opposing forces in nature. The key is that they balance each other.

It’s also the perfect word to describe the difference between God’s call to marriage and God’s call to celibacy. How much more difference can there be between a man called to the concerns of the world and a man called to the concerns of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)? They have totally different values and chemistries. What makes it so unique though is that it’s our choice. When God created Adam and Eve, it was not a one-time event. He continues to create life today. We become part of the ongoing creation process when we bring babies into the world. However, we become just as much a part of the creation process when we propagate God’s family by regeneration of eternal fruit through faith in Christ. We can’t do too much about the other dichotomies in nature, like day and night and hot and cold, but we do have a choice about the lifestyle we choose – faithful marriages or faithful celibacies. Apostle Paul went to great lengths to explain the changes that the arrival of Christ and shortening of time would bring into the world. 1 Corinthians 7:29-30:

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away”

Note in verse 29 that Paul does not say this is his opinion. He plainly states, “What I mean.” Then he uses a series of striking social dichotomies to illustrate how life should change in the short time left after Christ’s ascension into heaven. His use of the word “should” indicates there will be consequences if we don’t make an effort to revert to our normative solitary lives and leave the world behind. All of these dichotomies are fairly easy to spot in society, except one – the presence or absence of a wife (spouse). Take a look at 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 and it may be easier:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The man with no wife has not been united with anyone. He has had no visitors in his temple. The same thing applies to a woman. She is the queen of her castle. If he’s had other occupants in his temple, then he is a man who has had a wife. In verse 16, Paul makes it plain that there really is no such thing as prostitutes, but adulterating wives. Did you read anything here about a wedding? Marriage licenses? In a very real sense, we don’t control our spiritual marital status. God does. We can’t create marriages in the eyes of God in courthouses and church buildings. But we can control who we let into our temples. Tufts University recently published an article titled “The Neuroscience of Love” which actually explains how a man who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body:

“Finally, our infatuation produces a decrease in the brain areas associated with “mentalizing” and “theory of mind,” namely the prefrontal cortex, parieto-temporal junction, and the temporal poles. These are the structures responsible for being able to identify other people’s emotions and ascribing reasons for them. Zeki (2007) explained this finding by highlighting that these areas are implicated in the conceptual distinction between the self and the other, therefore their deactivation is necessary for reaching the merging and unity lovers seek with each other. As the popular salsa song Me Repito says “ya no distingo entre tu cara y la mia” (I don’t distinguish between your face and mine anymore).”

It looks like love really is blind. We greatly underestimate how much God is in control of this world. So what’s different about a man who has not had a wife? For one thing, he does read other people’s emotions better. He has all of his original identify. Take a closer look at his temple. Explore his brain chemistry. Does he have bonding potential? Does it look like he has plans to build additional rooms? Is he trying to develop the qualities of a Christian husband? Father? Can he adapt to someone else’s lifestyle? Can he lose some of his independence? Would he be willing to sacrifice his life for his wife and children? If so, then he may be a man looking for a wife.

On the other hand, it could be a man who has had no visitors in his temple and he doesn’t wany any. He is just as honorable, respectful, honest, focused on you, and forthright as the guy above. He will think you’re just as beautiful, but he may not “come on” to you any other guys would. Where are his real passions? Does he seem to have a mission in life that is bigger than he is, out of this world? Is he a rebel? Does he seem to be living in a different time period? Is he a dreamer? Has he mastered self control? Does he have unusual creative abilities or other means of expression? Does he like to spend time alone? If so, then he may be a man called to the celibate life.

You can’t see all of these characteristics between the married and unmarried man from a distance, can you? They’re not as easy to spot as happiness and sadness. You can’t see them on a text message. You can’t see them on an iPhone. Could this be why Boaz’s are so hard to spot? I think so. You’ve got to look much deeper than what you see on the surface. The paint on the outside of his temple may be new and all gaits gaits polished, but on the inside you may find memories of other women that have tarnished his expectations for the future and clouded his ability to trust you. Is he able to distinguish your face from another lover’s face? The differences between men with wives and men without wives are as great as night and day, but their value in God’s eyes is 50/50.

Imagine for a second that an extraterrestrial sent you a tweet asking, instead of climate, about the human experience on planet earth. Limited to only a few lines of text, you replied back that our God had ordained marriage as the glorified and sanctified foundational institution of human society. That it represents the highest ideals of mankind, the ticket to salvation and eternal life in heaven. You could include a few lines about Adam and Eve and fruitfulness and multiplying. Describe how man can’t control his lust and must get married as soon as possible in order not to displease his God. Oh, and you might want to include something about our newfound passion for same sex marriage and gender neutrality. Yes, one big cosmic orgy floating in space. Is that an accurate representation of the human condition? What about people who don’t get married and have children? Should they be part of the story? I’m sure you’re aware that nocturnal creatures slowly die off and become extinct if exposed to too much light.

Could that be the case with celibacy today? Could it be that it is slowly dying off because it’s not valued as much as marriage? Until the church recovers the proper teachings about celibacy and its goodness in Christ and stops its idolatry of the nuclear family, it has no business pontificating about chastity, courting, dating, marriage or its blessings. Until it understands that faithfulness to Christ determines the value of human life, not the faithfulness to a husband or spouse or the love of a child, it will continue to come under the wrath of God. Homosexuality? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. So churches, if you don’t want to acknowledge all of God’s creation, even the least of his children, then your comfortable corner of the world may be shipped off to a place much hotter than the sun. And that does not mean that you give a one hour lecture on the merits of marriage and family and throw in an obligatory 30 second sound bite: “But Paul says singleness is a gift too. So don’t worry. If you’re single, you’re gifted.” That is not what he says. And that is not how it works. If you can’t think of anything to say, just have an equivalent moment of silence.

So what are the extraterrestrials going to think of us? They will probably declare the earth uninhabitable because it has a 24 hour blistering sun and so much fruit crawling on the ground that there is no place to land. They really can’t deal with an over-populated planet. “Let’s move one of the cars out of daycare. No, there’s still not enough room to touchdown.” What did ET enter in his logbook about planet earth? They turned around and set a course for Andromeda.

http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2005/09/jesus-and-paul-on-singlenessmarriage.html

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffryett.org%2Ffiles%2FSinglenessMarriageAndFamily.doc&ei=-TEcVfSuDomggwSbxoKQAQ&usg=AFQjCNEZSzm02q3k7xKfh8oIwom3Ifvkqw&sig2=2HmBQVzaFsb5kFISE1AG9g

https://chizadek.wordpress.com/category/singleness/

http://thosecatholicmen.com/supernatural-fatherhood-and-the-renewal-of-the-priesthood/

http://www.catholicdoors.com/misc/marriage/matri.htm

http://www.sbts.edu/family/blog/marriage-celibacy-and-the-hierarchy-of-merit-in-the-jovinian-controversy/

https://sites.tufts.edu/emotiononthebrain/2014/12/08/the-neuroscience-of-love/

Celibacy – Time Out Of Season

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The ruins of the Bagrati Cathedral, pre-restoration, painted by Aleksandr Fyodorovich Peters

Those of us who grew up in church know that marriage is supposed to be a sacred covenant between a man and woman. Married people’s identities are wrapped up in commitment. They’re committed to each other, to their children, to their family, to their school, to their church, etc. And of course today with the same sex marriage controversy, the family values flag is held up higher and higher to represent the highest form of Christian values. But where do singles get their identity? What commitments have they made? What affirms their adulthood? What responsibilities have they been given? After college and beyond, I’m afraid singles get their identify from the same place married people do – from the county clerk’s office in the local courthouse. Indeed, the absence of a marriage license is what defines a single in today’s church culture. It’s the epitome of political correctness. However, people called to celibacy are the epitome of political incorrectness. They cannot be defined by something they do not have. They have been given a special charisma, a spiritual gift that is just as important as all the others in the workings of the Holy Spirit. Instead of being contained in seasons, it survives through eternity. And the gift of celibacy usually comes with other special abilities. It’s not just an empty vacuum floating around spreading sprinkles of love and contentment. Even though I’m not a Catholic priest and haven’t taken vows, my consecrated celibacy is just as much a commitment to Christ as a couple’s commitment to each other in marriage.

Consecrated virginity is the oldest recognized form of consecrated life in the Catholic Church. It’s much older than their religious orders. It was discontinued in the Middle Ages because of the rise of monastic communities. But it was revived again in the 1950s with Vatican II. I find it ironic that women who are members of the Catholic Church’s Order of Consecrated Virgins today do not live in a cloistered community, but out in the real world. They do not wear habits or veils and do not refer to themselves as sisters. So if Martin Luther were alive today, what would he be protesting against? He wouldn’t find them in a monastery. He couldn’t find them in churches. He couldn’t identify them on the streets. And if the Catholic Church believes all their priests have the gift of celibacy and are not forcing it on anybody else, what are Protestants protesting today? The idea of not marrying and having sex? That seems weird. If they are protesting extended adolescence and delayed marriage, then their theology is not grounded in the Bible. Martin Luther eventually left the monastery and got married. But one man cannot undo what God ordained. Does that sound like marriage language? It’s supposed to. What was a spiritual gift 2000 years ago is just as much a spiritual gift today. Unless a church has identified members with the supernatural gift of celibacy, they need to leave open its door every time they discuss the vague issue of “singleness,” especially if they refer to 1 Corinthians 7; even more so if they might have a member who is discerning a call to celibacy. I’m not aware of a church that has done this. Maybe it’s time they should. I dare think what would happen if churches expended as much energy on building up lifestyles that are biblical as they do on battling lifestyles that are evil. What would happen if they found out there were singles who lived holy lives outside traditional seasons of singleness of marriage? Who are doing what Martin Luther could not do? It would probably blow their minds. Look at it this way: I don’t argue with my spouse all the time.

My friend Justin Campbell, who blogs at More Than Don’t Have Sex, recently wrote a post about how celibacy is not a season. I completely agree. We should not use the word single as a catch-all for everyone who is not married. And this should be especially true for churches. Yes, single requires no thought. Don’t have a marriage license? That’s simple. You’re single. Single is easy. Comfortable. It’s politically correct, right? Everybody wants to be married, don’t they? The answer to that is no. That’s what makes sex the idol it is today. Our society makes room for nothing else but marriage. Young people who have the potential to live fulfilling lives of celibacy get no encouragement or counseling and end up drawn into the homosexual lifestyle. I’ve seen this firsthand. Yes, you can point to Paul in the Bible and go back to the Old Testament and read about Jeremiah. But their witness has all but disappeared from the face of the earth. The younger generation today have to see it to believe it. What they get in the church instead is another seminar on marriage and another sermon on the glories of children, with maybe a story about Lottie Moon thrown in every few years.

So churches, the fact that you don’t know who we are and don’t have a tidy label for us is not our fault. It’s yours. You have spent years decrying the evils of celibacy and linking it to homosexuality. You have spent years telling guys to man-up and telling girls to stay pure and procreate. In doing so, you threw all celibates under the bus, including Christ himself. You are the ones who need to grow up. You need to get your language together and be consistent. I’m as much a “single” as a husband is just a guy who is having state sanctioned sex. That’s right. Since my identity is just a pitiful old man who hasn’t found the right woman to turn him on, I consider marriage licenses no more sacred than a fishing license. There are a few exceptions, of course, like Justin Campbell who accurately points out:

“Paul essentially says that there are those who should get married and those who shouldn’t. He says some have one gift and others another gift. But the gift he is talking about is not the gift of singleness, he is talking about the gift of celibacy.”

Yes indeed, there are single people waiting on a mate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In time though, that waiting could term into long term celibacy. It’s an important thing to discern, but I don’t think there are any age deadlines. And married people are not going to be able to help with that. What is critical is leading a chaste life. That way, you’re prepared if you say yes to marriage or yes to celibacy. It’s really a requirement for both lifestyles. I’ll never forget the day I met an elderly man in the grocery store. He was in a wheelchair and I was trying to help him get a carton of milk. He asked me where I went to church and if I was married. When I told him I thought the Lord had called me to single life, he said: “Really? Well, I am too. Yes I divorced my third wife last year I’ve been as content as all get out.”

I think the main thing people miss about 1 Corinthians 7 is that Paul is not describing a person’s present circumstances or pondering the merits of married life vs. single life. He isn’t hanging “singles” signs on Sunday School doors. He is describing the reality of the only two lifestyle choices God gives to every Christian – marriage and celibacy. Given by him and freely accepted by us. Marriage can’t be urged by parents at an early age because they’re afraid their children are going to fornicate. Marrying a particular person can’t be seen as a last resort because there are no other prospects. Marriage can’t be assumed the norm by youth pastors when they could have a student with the disposition to celibacy. Likewise, celibacy can’t be forced on priests who do not have that gift. I have several Catholic friends who have accepted the call to celibacy. I support them. Most everything I have read on the subject has been written by Catholic writers. The Protestants remain mute on the subject, like they have for the last 500 years.

I find it ironic that Protestants have forgotten that their entire identity is wrapped up in protesting celibacy. The only celibacy Christians of the 16th century knew anything about was institutionalized in the Catholic Church and expressed through vows taken by priests, monks, nuns, and other religious. Protestants today don’t even know what they are protesting about. They can’t fathom a commitment to something so radical as never marrying. It’s even more ironic that Martin Luther himself, the leader of the Protestant reformation, was a monk at one time and acknowledged those with the celibate gift:

“The third category consists of those spiritually rich and exalted persons, bridled by the grace of God, who . . . voluntarily remain celibate . . . Such persons are rare, not one in a thousand, for they are a special miracle of God. No one should venture on such a life unless he be especially called by God, like Jeremiah [16:2], or unless he finds God’s grace to be so powerful within him that the divine injunction, “Be fruitful and multiply,” has no place in him. (p. 21)”

Celibacy is a long term committment, not a season of short-term singleness. Those who have said no to marriage and have consecrated their lives to the service of Christ are committed for life. Even though we may never see it reflected in church ministry groups, there is more difference between the lives of married people and consecrated celibates than between male and female human beings. My unique committment to Christ is not just for a season. Are people committed to each other in marriage for a season? More importantly, is the only meaning marriage has in the 21st century derived from the county courthouse or does it have any more sacred meaning? If its meaning goes beyond a state-sanctioned marriage license, does the meaning of singleness go beyond the absence of such a license? Does it go beyond “extended adolescence?” Does it go beyond seasons of waiting? If sex can be consecrated to God in marriage, can chastity be consecrated to God in celibacy? I think it can. And I hope this encourages others who feel they have no identity in the church. Even though our biblical identities may have been lost with time, out witnesses continues to endure.

http://justinmcampbell.net/2015/03/24/celibacy-is-not-a-season/#comments

https://books.google.com/books?id=1bLvAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA227&lpg=PA227&dq=%22consider+early+marriage%22+%22denny+burk%22&source=bl&ots=6ReNLIpE2W&sig=ZwBrqATTjs2rnjnBfq_6DY4Sgog&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eF4ZVdXZFsilNun4gegP&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=%22consider%20early%20marriage%22%20%22denny%20burk%22&f=false

http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/08/23/why-arent-emerging-adults-emerging-as-adults/

http://consecratedvirgins.org/prepare-FAQ

All Married People Are Adulterers

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What do you do when you want to know the definition of a word? Do you do a quick internet search and look at the results on the first few pages? If you answered yes and you’re married, you’re an adulterer. Here’s why: According to my Bible, there are only two holy lifestyles choices for the Christian – either marriage or celibacy. There have been so many thousands of books and articles glorifying marriage that I couldn’t begin to list them all. If you do a Google search on marriage and the church, the first 100 results will tell you how wonderful it is, how it holds the world together, and how to find your perfect spouse. You can read material from Focus on the Family, Crosswalk, Marriage Builders, Today’s Christian Woman, The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints, The National Marriage Project, The Marriage Center, National Organization for Marriage, Smart Marriages, and on and on. You will think marriage is very holy indeed. You might even think it equals salvation.

However, if you do a search on celibacy and the church, the first 100 results will tell you about Catholic priests and pedophilia, ending mandatory celibacy for priests, a San Francisco church dropping celibacy requirement for gays, priestly continence, church cover-ups, church membership open to LGBT people, enforced celibacy, sexual dysfunction, endemic levels of child abuse, church dogma, homosexuality, celibacy rule, celibacy law, obligatory celibacy, and on and on. On the Google search I did of marriage + celibacy, 99 of the first 100 results were about such perversion. That’s 99%, which is more certainty than that required in most medical research. It’s enough to say that you will think celibacy is the most evil thing on the face of the earth. You might even think it’s as close to hell as you can get.

How close is the world’s perverted definition of celibacy to the freely chosen lifestyle described in the Bible, the spiritual gift that enables a person to focus on the Lord’s affairs, the lifestyle that Paul and Christ himself chose? I would say it couldn’t be further away from the truth. But this is what the world believes. This is what many church-going people believe, especially Protestant. Their definition of celibacy goes no higher than a pedophile serving time in prison. Do they view it with the same respect and holiness they do marriage? I’ll let you answer that.

This is the life I’ve chosen, though. If you’ve got a better name for it, please enter it into a dictionary and let me know. It’s just as holy and spiritual as any sanctimonious marriage. I’ve sacrificed just as much of my life as any married couple my age. And I’ve been as faithful as Mr. and Mrs. Jones in your church who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It’s just that I’ve lived 54 years of chastity. But if Mr. Jones met me on a street corner, bragging about his big bouquet of flowers and standing ovation, and asked if I was married, what would be the first thought to pass through his mind if I told him I was celibate? Holiness? Virtue? Honor? Respect? I don’t think so. More than likely, he will be reminded of the story he heard on the evening news about a sex scandal involving a Catholic priest and run the opposite direction. His thought processes will go no further than gay rights parades and same sex marriages. He may mutter something like “God help us, Sodom and Gomorrah have arrived.” After all, church culture has adopted world culture. They wouldn’t know a biblical word if it hit them over the head. Eunuchs? Who wants all that blood? Plus, the Protestants have got to keep on protesting what they started 500 years ago – those evil monks, nuns, and priests taking over the world. Martin Luther would be proud. Somebody might want to send them a text, though, to let them know the medieval period has passed and Henry VIII is no longer King of England. To be “relavent,” churches expend a great deal of energy making sure their language matches that of the brothels on the west side of town. Got to keep everything seeker friendly and oh so comfortable.

Since I can pretty much count on these assumptions about celibacy to be as certain as the sun rising in the morning, I think it’s only fair that I adopt equal assumptions about marriage. So, to be fair and treat everybody with equal respect, I am henceforth assuming that all married people are adulterers and fornicators who prowl the streets looking for their next victim. When I see married couples in churches, I will try to sit as far away from them as possible, for my own safety. If I see them hanging around children, I will have to call law enforcement, because you can never be sure about their intentions. Statistics have consistently shown that married men are the ones who sexually abuse children, not single men. To put it simply, I can’t trust husbands and wives. I really can’t think of a couple that mirrors Christ’s marriage to the church. What a joke. They’ve destroyed the institution of marriage with divorce and adultery and are working on the acceptance of same sex marriage. Now they want to destroy the institution of celibacy with fingerpointing and stereotyping, covering any dignity that was left with truck loads of suspicion and doubt. I can’t let them do that. One day soon they will see how important marriage is when they’re standing in front of a holy God, all alone.

And Then There Are Singles . . .

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The Arnolfini Marriage by Jan van Eyck

Quotes from recent online sermons –

A Christian marriage is when a marriage union takes place between two Bible believing Christians.

This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.

The purpose of Christian marriage is to make men and women holy.

The Christian marriage is so ennobled and raised to such a level, that it appeared to the Apostle as a great sacrament, honorable in every way.

A Christian marriage is characterized and governed by Christian principles that are taught in the Bible.

Marriage is a real supernatural calling. A great sacrament, in Christ and in the Church.

Christian marriage is proclaimed as a sacred covenant reflecting the Baptismal Covenant.

Sex within Christian marriage is a shared self-giving between equals.

The aim of Christian marriage is eternal life in Heaven with Jesus Christ.

Living out a Christian marriage is a tremendous witness, a tremendous testimony to the power of God, particularly in today’s culture.

For one, a Christian marriage is a blessing and we ought to rejoice when we see the blessings of the Lord.

In this way Christian marriage is not only sacramental, but it also must reflect the permanence of Christ’s covenant.

Christian marriage is intended to be a sign of God’s presence and love in this fallen and broken world.

There is no more lovely, friendly or charming relationship, communion or company, that a good marriage.

Christian marriage is a symbol of the covenant that unites God and people.

Living out a Christian marriage is a tremendous witness, a tremendous testimony to the power of God, particularly in today’s culture.

The premise of Christian marriage is that two people are filled with the Holy Spirit and are committed to serving one another.

Therefore what a beautiful and godly thing Christian marriage is, a promise of lifelong fidelity and self-sacrifice.

Christian marriage is not only total commitment; it is also accepting commitment, learning to love and value the other for the imperfect person he or she is.

Christian marriage is a light to the world by reveling in the gift of being created male and female in the image of God.

In fact, a Christian marriage is the greatest picture on earth of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church.

Christian marriage is based upon a God-given faith, hope, and love, which only the true believer possesses.

Christian marriage is intended to point beyond itself, to make two people so secure in love that they can reach out to others.

Christ’s total commitment to us, to be with us in life and death, shows us the kind of total commitment upon which Christian marriage is to be founded.

For one, a Christian marriage is a blessing and we ought to rejoice when we see the blessings of the Lord.

Christian marriage is not rooted in “philo” love but in “agape” love.

Christian Marriage is the cornerstone for happiness in God’s family.

The heart of Christian marriage is to form a relationship bond in which “two are better than one.”

Christian marriage is God’s doing because it is God’s design.

Christian marriage is more about self- denial than self-fulfillment.

A Christian marriage is part of discipleship to Christ.

Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.

A Christian marriage is a lifelong building project that begins on the foundation of God’s Word.

And then there are singles. God says that’s okay too.

50 Shades Of Violence

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Sketch by Raj Birdi.

Beheadings are reported on the news today like the numbers on Wall Street. And the graphic videos are played around the world like they were just another horror flick. We sit comfortably in our abodes, knowing they happen on the other side of the world. Have you ever wondered how an entire country could be taken over by barbarians? It starts with sexual immorality. When a man steps outside God’s plan for marriage or celibacy, the psychological and social consequences are so profound that they often go unnoticed. One of those consequences is violence triggered by sexual sin.

Today’s generation of enlightenment has replaced good and evil with 50 shades of gray and believes that the Bible is an outdated book of rules, that marriage is a contract of convenience, and that celibacy is a fantasy – something so rare it is considered extinct. Unfortunately, we’ve already arrived at this point. God has been taken out of schools. The Ten Commandments can no longer be displayed. Over half of marriages end in divorce. The majority of single people cohabitate before marriage. Homosexual unions are celebrated as civil rights. And religious leaders and “ethicists” still sing a chorus of love and affirmation – in order to keep their jobs. After all, they’ve got to keep the family fed. No matter how deviant your lifestyle may be, they’ve got a spot just for you. In short, instead of God’s special creation, human beings have become a mere means of pleasure and sources of revenue. This is all that is needed for human life to be devalued. We have seen it for quite a while with abortion, contraception, and euthanasia. Now we can add homosexual unions and sex trafficking. Sexual immorality usually takes the form of doing something out of order – like sex before commitment, doing something unnatural – like homosexuality, doing something unfaithful – like adultery, or doing something out of greed and lust – like rape. All of this wreaks havoc on the psyche of a man. God designed us with the capacity to be peaceful and civilized, content with what we have, and secure in our destinies if (big IF) we follow his instruction manual – The Bible. When we don’t, we have no control over what happens to our brain chemistry. I believe the most profound parts of God’s creation are invisible and cannot be measured with a cause and effect graph on a computer screen. The working of our brain falls in this category. For instance, scientists have known about the phenomenon of imprinting for many years. This happens in the first few hours or days of an animal’s life when it bonds to the type of animals it meets at birth. There are birds today in wildlife rehabilitation centers that have been “psychologically disabled” because of human interference. This happens when they are picked up at birth, taken home as pets, and then are not able to survive on their own in the wild. They didn’t learn to be baby birds. They learned how to be baby humans. It is considered in the scientific world as a phenomenon because it can’t be measured or recorded, or explained away as an evolutionary process. It’s accepted as fact, but the mechanisms behind it are not understood.

Likewise, it’s an accepted fact that chemical bonding occurs when two people have sex. But has anybody studied what kind of chemical reactions occur when that bonding takes place outside of God’s natural design of marriage, especially when it does not lead to a lifetime commitment? I wouldn’t count on the next Nature Magazine to cover that. Sure, we know about jealousy, anger, rage, and bitterness. But these emotions are the natural result of a brain that has been mishandled by an owner who didn’t read the instruction manual. And they don’t just effect the individual. They effect the whole of society. They are evidence that God’s chemistry is still in charge. You can send a man to anger management class, but you can’t order his chemistry to realign. You can send him to church. But if you don’t believe in miracles, how will he change? Just as surrogacy can be imprinted at birth, so too can anger and violence be imprinted with sex outside God’s design, outside the biblical instructions we’ve had for over 2000 years.

How did we throw out the Bible? When pride and arrogance defined humanity along with the belief that an individual’s actions affect no one but himself. It also started with a country willing to throw out Judeo-Christian values in exchange for multi-cultural diversity. And it’s reinforced by the belief that everybody’s opinion is of the same value, which fits nicely in with this country’s recent lean to socialism. Not only everything, but every idea, has been hewn down or brought up to the least common denominator or, as Obama puts it, “middle class economics.” The middle class is right there in that middle gray zone. Illegal alien? No worry, here’s your citizenship. No health insurance? No worry, your neighbor will pay for it. No money for school? No worry, your neighbor will pay for a two-year degree. Don’t have enough money? No worry, your neighbor will give you some of his. Not enough sex? No worry, your neighbor will buy your contraception. Your daddy don’t love you? Hit the streets and you’ll find somebody who will. Somebody make a higher grade than your kid? No worry. Common core will make everybody just as dumb as your kid. Equalizing the playing field is the role of opinion polls and surveys, which are driven by one thing – discussion. The digital world has made it all too easy. Discussion has become its own virtue, regardless of whether it involves Christian ethics. Just as diversity is not a virtue, discussion is not a virtue.

But did you know discussion is the key ingredient in Sharia law? The religion of Islam is based on the discussion of tribal traditions and Mosaic Law. No Christian principles, just infinite shades of individualism and relativism. The most it can hope for is to maintain social norms based on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In other words, the survival of the fittest depends on who has the biggest guns and is the most violent. It depends on who can protect their property. One of their most prizes possessions is a woman. Individual rights do not include women’s rights. No discussion about that. There sole reason for existence is to serve the men who own them and, of course, talk favorably about them at all times. So guess where a big hunk of their violence is directed? You guessed it – women. Kicked, punched, slapped, stabbed. It’s all just a way of life for Muslim women. Sound familiar? Have you heard of 50 slashes from the master’s whip?

Unless America wakes up soon and climbs out of the cesspool of moral decay, we will not need the internet to watch live streaming videos of beheadings. They will be happening in our backyards. We will have a government system based on the best of both worlds – Hitler’s Third Reich and Muhammad’s Sharia Law. Just exchange the gas chambers for something a little more violent. Prison sentences will be replaced by flogging, stoning, chopping off hands, and . . . well . . . use your imagination. The brides of the future need not worry about getting chewed out for burning their husband’s steak. Instead, they’ll get a few fingers chopped off. So my advice for single women today who don’t care about Christian ethics is to go see 50 Shades Of Gray. It will groom you to be the perfect wife, a piece of property, a means of pleasure. Just take whatever violence Hollywood glamorizes and multiply that by a hundred to get an idea of what awaits you in the future.

Who Is That Single Man?

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As I’m sure everybody is aware, the word “single” is never used in the Bible to describe someone who is not married. It’s a modern day word of comfort. Oh, but you say just because it’s not in the Bible doesn’t make it bad. Well, sometimes that may be true. But in this case it’s not. Being single today is a legal/social status, not a biblical status. Much of it has to do with the insufficiencies of the English language and the breakdown of sexual ethics. For example, the Christian community used to expect faithfulness in marriage. Even though most couples never lived up to those expectations, marriage has been built up to represent the crown jewel of responsibility. Singleness has been built up to represent the crown jewel of adolescence. You can take your pick of any church on Sunday morning and attend a wedding or celebrate the wedding anniversary of two people who share the same last name. The longer they’ve been married, the longer the applause will be. Fidelity? That’s such a quaint old-fashioned idea. The bar for marriage today is to not get divorced. For many couples, an anniversary could mean they haven’t been caught in adultery yet. Remember the little couple that celebrated 50 years together and got the cake and pink carnation? He could have committed adultery every one of those years with a different woman. But faithfulness doesn’t matter. What matters to the church is that they are still legally married. Even the pagan world concedes that adultery is justification for divorce.

Does the Christian community expect faithfulness from singles? Has anybody in your church ever thanked you for remaining faithful to God and serving as an example of chastity for the next generation? Forget for a second what you’ve heard in sermons and read in Sunday School books. Does the church really respect singleness the same as it does marriage? The person who is genuinely and honestly single not only does not experience the respect of others for his/her singleness, but is now stigmatized even more because 1) the non-Christian liberals on the left judge him to be a prude or not normal and 2) the Christians on the right judge him to be engaging in sexual immorality since sex is so cheap and available. A priest or nun has experienced a celebration in which the church, state, family, and all the world affirmed the meaningfulness of singleness. It allows them to fellowship, socialize, form friendships, work, teach, and belong in close relations with both sexes, married and single, young and old, without their intentions being looked at with suspicion. Such an affirmation is denied the single who is not in a religious order. The lack of any formal affirmation of the adulthood of the single effectively makes marriage the only way to attain adulthood or, as we see today, the default idol of the age. If singleness ever had any meaning, it was tossed out the door when the church surrendered to defeat on cohabitation, no fault divorce, remarriage, abortion, contraception, homosexuality, and every other sexual immoral arrangement you can think of. Society’s ongoing redefinitions of sexual standards and idol worship of the nuclear family has separated sexual relations from the married state and celibacy from the unmarried state. Not only that, it has separated sexual relations from life itself. Any church can sit back and smugly proclaim the goodness of its members and offer comfortable commentary on a “fallen” world. Most don’t have to worry about homosexuality amongst their members. In all but mega-churches, everybody knows everybody. After all, parents bring their children to daycare on Sunday mornings. But the church does live in the real world. They see the same news everybody else sees. They read about the Jersey City priest who was sentenced to prison for molesting three boys. They see the same statistics for the number of singles who have opted for cohabitation instead of marriage or celibacy. In short, the church has become the world. What kind of support has your church shown to those who have renounced marriage? Or do they even know what that means?

The church, like the world, takes it for granted that even unmarried people enjoy some kind of marital relationship. Why have they limited every man’s self control to the level of a predatory alpha male? Could it be that the church has alienated authentic single men of God with their low expectations? Meanwhile, church members continue to hunker down in family “prayer rooms,” trying to think of ways to protect their children from the evils of the world. When a society idolizes the family and starts circling wagons around children, the world becomes everybody who is not their spouse or one of their kids. Life becomes us vs. them. If you’re a single adult and have no history of marriage, divorce, adultery, fornication, children, sex trafficking, prostitution, soliciting prostitution, or sexual abuse – the church today does not know you – because you haven’t fallen from anything. You don’t have a remorseful story of hookups and heartbreak. You don’t have drama. You don’t have a need that can put money in the church’s coffers. Most preachers today don’t even believe sexual impulses can be controlled because they don’t believe in salvation and conversion from a sinful life. Churchgoers have given in to Calvin’s idea of “total depravity” of man and to the world’s belief that chastity is not even possible – inside or outside marriage. They believe that Adam and Eve bent the whole world toward sexual sin forever and that every man is a walking sexual time bomb. All that a man can do is warn women and children when he walks the streets. As the SBC’s David Platt puts it:

“The reality is we are all born with a heart of pride and we are all bent towards sexual deviation, every single one of us. Every single one of us is bent towards sexual deviation . . . If you have gone through adolescence in our culture today you are guilty. You are guilty of looking for sexual expression or sexual fulfillment outside the design of Genesis 1 and 2. Every single one of us is in this boat.”

What I find particularly humorous is his expression “bent towards sexual deviation.” Not quite broken, but bent. How comfortable. I wonder, what would Platt consider a sexual thought that is not bent towards sexual deviation? A statement like that has to mean one of two things: Either man is totally incapable of controlling his sexual desires or that every sexual thought a man has is sinful. Considering he’s a Calvinist-bent Southern Baptist, it’s probably both. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word bent means “sharply curved or having an angle.” Accepting Christ straightens even the most crooked tree. Even if the tree had bent to the point it had fallen, a salvation experience would redirect its straight up. At one time in Protestant theology, a conversion experience caused a man to completely change direction. I still think it does. After that point his natural tendency is to please God and continue growing upright – not lean in the direction of sin. Hanging everybody on the same bent tree reflects the church’s new theology of accepting and affirming sexual depravity. A new low standard for mankind.

The Southern Baptist’s ethicist Russell Moore, who is known for his attacks on singles, even takes it a step further and says that fornication and sexual immorality are inevitable:

“The preparation for fornication happens when we are young. And we are never beyond the point of being destroyed sexually even when we are old . . . God has hardwired men for sexuality. Sexuality is not like addiction to cigarettes. Sexuality is always and continually raging within a man because God has hardwired a man to be husband and father. Every aspect of sexual desire is to drive you toward that one flesh union that God has designed you for.”

Yes, hardwired with hormones raging and ready to bang every woman he meets. Such a glowing opinion of mankind. I need to keep my batteries charged. How unfortunate today that the Protestant church doesn’t even consider Paul’s celibate exception other than bring it up in the same sex marriage debate. Rather than representing the only Christian lifestyle choice other than marriage, celibacy has come to mean nothing more than the remedy to a homosexual lifestyle. Even though Jesus lived it and Paul recommended it, the church today has turned its back on it. Celibacy, a thing of honor in one era and a thing of dishonor in another. This change in our vocabulary is profound. Christ himself was very aware of the importance of our words. He tried to redefine the word “eunuch” for the skeptical Pharisees in Matthew 19 by taking sexual anatomy out of the definition and making it equivalent to a person who chose to live a celibate life for the kingdom of heaven. “And there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake (Matthew 19:12). But have we learned anything from Christ’s English lesson today? I’m afraid not. The church today is more ignorant than the Pharisees who questioned him along the coasts of Judaea 2000 years ago. Introduce yourself to a new church as a eunuch and see how many dinner invitations you get. Rather than asking Jesus if it’s okay to divorce their wives, the Pharisees today would ask him: “What is marriage?” “Can I marry a goat?” “What is a man?” “Who is that single man?” Somebody disconnect my wires because I’m feeling so . . . bent and out of control.

http://www.radical.net/media/series/view/188/the-gospel-and-homosexuality

http://www.godandculture.com/blog/dr-russell-moore-on-male-sexuality

Virginity – Beyond The Mechanics

"The Revelations of Eve and Adam" by Kevin L. Miller (2004)

“The Revelations of Eve and Adam” by Kevin L. Miller (2004)

I think everyone who follows my blog would agree that we live in a world today where right has become wrong and wrong has become right. Nowhere is that more evident than in human sexuality. Homosexuality is glorified while virginity is vilified. Unnatural abominations are cheered while natural processes in God’s creation are ridiculed. Why is it that even Christian people can accept their bodies as part of creation, but see sex as something so dirty it’s unspeakable? It may be because we don’t understand how sex, and thus virginity, fit in with the bigger picture of creation. Why is waiting until marriage so important? Why is sex before marriage, biblically known as fornication, so detrimental to our development as mature adults?

First, we need to understand the mechanics of virginity. I know, that may sound like a contradiction in terms. But we’ve come so far from God’s original design that we need to step back to square one. One of the main things that is tripping us up is our language. Take for instance the word “waiting” itself. Does that sound like a positive term? It doesn’t to me. Did Adam and Eve feel a sense of waiting for each other in the Garden of Eden? I don’t think so. Did Eve wait until her princess started a pursuit before she gave him her cell phone number? No. Did Adam consider his age and how much longer he could hold out for sex before he asked her to marry him? No. Did he consult statistical charts to tell him what age he needed to get married? No. Did they set a date for a wedding and commit to wait until that time? No. When you strip off 21st century eros-driven culture and consider man as a part of God’s creation and “a little lower than angels,” our vocabulary in the area of human sexuality begins to sound like babble. Adam and Eve were married the moment they had sex. They did not go to the courthouse to sign a license and did not call a preacher to officiate a wedding. They did not have premarital sex. When they had sex, they were married. Isn’t that simple to understand? Have you ever wondered why there is only one brief mention of a marriage in the Bible recorded in John 2, where Jesus attended the marriage at Cana and turned the water into wine? It’s probably because the idea of a state sanctioned wedding and marriage with all the formalities was a foreign concept to them. Their understanding of a covenant marriage between a man and woman was a million miles from our understanding of secular marriage and a legal contract between two people in a “committed relationship.”

Back then it was pretty simple: After getting to know each other, a couple agreed to accept one another for life, announced it to their village, had sex the same day, and were joined (married) as one flesh for life. No formalities. No legal bureaucracy. No courthouse. No church building. No preacher. No candles. No vows. No rice. No honeymoon. As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church did not recognize marriage as a sacrament until 1215. It took them over a thousand years after the birth of Christ to formally declare its spiritual significance. That may have been because its significance was obvious. Protestants never even defined marriage and simply adopted it as a means to divorce. They left its control up to states, with preachers becoming “civil servants” and wedding ceremonies becoming part of the local economy. I find it ironic that many denominations today, including the Southern Baptists, include separation of church and state in their official “faith and message” statements. Yet, their preachers sign state contracts for weddings everyday. Church and state can’t get more bound than that.

What does all of this have to do with virginity? A lot. When you take away waiting, weddings, engagements, true love, romance, lawyers, preachers, civil servants, marriage licenses, wedding rings, and flowers, what’s left? God’s magnificent creation is left – A man and woman coming together as one flesh, in a holy union forever. Desire becomes something good, not something to be scared of. Trust becomes something earned over time, not something you miserably wait through. We can play gymnastics with the English language from now until eternity. We can conjure up all the “feel good” terms we want. Anybody want to “separate?” But in the end, we will not be able to change God’s natural laws or commandments.

Since God invented sex, he also invented virginity because it’s what works best for us. His commandments against fornication and sexual immorality are not stifling rules that we must follow. They are guidelines for our benefit. He made every neuron and axon in our brains, enabling our capacity for memories. He invented memories! Can you think (or dream) of a more permanent memory than first time sex? Breaking news – Two virgins are necessary for that to happen. That is not shaming anybody else. It’s not intentionally making anybody uncomfortable. It’s not calling anybody else dirty chewing gum. It’s a fact. Scientists are aware of the chemical bonding that occurs with oxytocin, dopamine, and other endorphins in our brains. Virginity maximizes that bonding and provides the greatest chance for marriage to last a lifetime, for both guys and girls, whether officially married or not. Those chemicals bind us to a spouse in marriage and to a prostitute in fornication (1 Corinthians 6:15). Can you see how glue or tape may have come to be used as an analogy? There are some biblical concepts that have no easy comparisons.

We have denied virginity its dignity, its sacredness, its spiritual dimensions – all in the name of physical pleasure, uncontrollable hormones, and “try it before you buy it” mentality. Virginity is viewed as nothing more than a new car sitting in the dealership lot, something to be sold to the highest bidder. It’s seen as the embodiment of naitivity, when in fact it’s the foundation of wisdom. We don’t just live in a “fallen” world. We live in a world where sex has devolved into mind-numbing, self-serving primal mechanics. We are at a point now where mankind doesn’t even trust himself. Indeed, single men are being banned from theme parks because those not carrying valid state marriage licenses are assumed to be pedophiles (http://nypost.com/2014/11/10/family-theme-park-bans-all-single-people-to-prevent-pedophilia/) and chastity is denigrated as being part of a “purity culture.” Yes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to think on those things that are true, things that are honest, things that are just, things that are pure, and things that are lovely. But it doesn’t matter what labels society puts on me. I know who my creator is and acknowledge that he knows more than I do about sex – because he made it.

The Euphemism Of Marriage

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According to the Oxford Dictionary, a euphemism is “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.” We hear euphemisms everyday: Correctional facility instead of prison, collateral damage instead of accidental deaths, enhanced interrogation techniques instead of torture, pregnancy termination instead of abortion, etc. We can add one more – marriage. Turning to the Oxford Dictionary again, we see that marriage is: “The legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or, in some jurisdictions, two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship.” In short, it’s a legal sexual relationship recognized by the state you live in. The legality of marriage via a marriage license and wedding ceremony give it its formal social recognition. But it does not in any way reflect the relationship between God and his church. Do you think a state that recognizes a homosexual relationship can honor a same flesh union in the eyes of God? Of course not. That would be like casinos giving half their proceeds to the church. The dictionary’s definition of marriage is a far cry from the union described in the Bible. Oxford even now leaves room for the union of “two people of the same sex.”

There is an increasing attack on Christian virtue today and church leaders have no clue what to do. They have, in large part, brought it on themselves – whether through pride or just plain ignorance. Many of the inroads the homosexual activists have made can be traced back to the fact that the church has never defined marriage – other than a courthouse visit, a sprinkle of rice, and a preacher with a few talking points. When compared to the biblical description of a permanent one-flesh union, marriage today is but a euphemism – a punch line in a world that can’t even agree on what is male and what is female, a world where the norm is adultery and fornication. It is but a mere ticket to free sex and legal disposition of inheritance at the time of death. And it has come to mean no more than a marriage license, a wedding ceremony, and a tax break. Oh, and don’t forget the honeymoon. So if marriage is just a euphemism today, what is the more harsh word that it’s replacing? What is the biblical terminology that has become too uncomfortable in the 21st century? Could it be the biblically based “one flesh union.”

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:24.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31.

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.” 1 Corinthians 6:16.

This may come as a shock for many, but a biblical marriage has nothing to do with a marriage license, wedding ceremony, exchange of vows, justice of the peace, preacher, or three day cruise. But wait a second, you say. If you take away all of those things, then what is left? That’s just my point. What we know as marriage today is not even remotely akin to God’s original plan. A biblical marriage is a man and woman becoming one person in Christ; witnessing together, making decisions together, raising children together, reading the bible together, etc. They move in one accord. Their love is unconditional. They sacrifice for each other. Divorce is a foreign concept to them. A more accurate noun today may be “covenant.” This word is used to refer to marriage one time in the KJV in Malachi 2:14: “Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” While the Bible supports marriage being a covenant of one flesh between a man and woman and God, it does not support it as a contract between a “committed relationship” and a state government. The marriage license today is but a means to an end, a means for men and women to objectify each other and enhance social status. It’s seen as a way to get ahead, a way to ecoonimic prosperity, the Coupe de Ville status symbol. Those marrying young without adequate education and income find out it’s a quick road to poverty with their first child. For many churches, marriage has become the means by which a person gets to heaven. This is especially true in conservative denominations such as the Southern Baptists. Men are taught to “man up,” get married, and have children as soon as possible. The SBCs Albert Mohler has made this one of his talking points. Men are taught that marriage is the only way to become a responsible citizen. The fact is that marriage and family are worshipped today just as Baal, the pagan idol of the Phoenicians, was idolized in the Old Testament. The marriage license and its ties to the state are the very means by which the Defense Of Marriage Act was struck down in 2013. So now we have a legal contract on the civil state side and a sacrificial covenant between two baptized people on the church side. Is it time for preachers and priests to quit signing marriage licenses and retire their roles as civil servants? Which side would it help, those holding to a traditional view of marriage of a man and woman for life or those in favor of redefining marriage as any “committed relationship”?

The meanings of words do change over time, regardless of whether or not they are biblical. Consider what happened to the definition of “saint.” It went from meaning someone the Roman Catholic Church deemed holy in some way to a person who is particularly good. But biblical principles do not change, regardless of prevailing terminology. Apostle Paul explained this clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:19: “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” The same thing is true of marriage. Marriage is only as important in so far as it observes the commandments of God. The marriage license has no inherent value. The vows have no inherent value. Wedding rings have on inherent value. But the witness of loyalty and commitment does have value that transcends courthouses and joint tax returns. If you would need a marriage license and church service to legitimize your marriage, then it has indeed become no more than a euphemism.

The Woman At The Well – Revealed

"Samaritan Woman At The Well" by He Qi New Gallery

“Samaritan Woman At The Well” by He Qi New Gallery

The story of the woman at the well found in John 4:1-26 can be read here. I encourage you to read it: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4. It’s one of the most misunderstood and misused stories in the Bible. The first thing to notice is the significance of the first three verses. Jesus is paying a visit to the Pharisees in Galilee to dispel a rumor that he was baptizing more people than John. Contrast what was heard with the facts – Not only was it not Jesus who was baptizing, it was not John either. It was all of his disciples. Pharisees customarily dealt in rumors. After all, they were lawyers. It’s interesting that Jesus chose not to bypass Samaria on his way to Galilee. Samaritans were about as strict as Pharisees when it came to adherence of the law. Jews traveling from Jerusalem often crossed the Jordan River just to avoid Samaria. The woman that Jesus encountered was at Jacob’s well in Sychar, a well that tapped into the Jordan River. All of these details were not coincidences. They serve to underscore Jesus’ bigger mission of bridging the rift between the Jews and Samarians and offering his life saving water to all people.

Understanding that the woman at the well had a Pharisaical disposition is critical in understanding the story. She is a follower of the law and has not accepted the reality of Christ. When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, she revealed her contempt for all Jews: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Don’t confuse this woman with the good Samaritan. She is far from good. Even after Jesus revealed who he was, she takes on the role of a Doubting Thomas. “Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob?” She’s got to see proof. She’s got to see the evidence. She’s a lawyer. Did Jesus give her the proof? You bet he did. He directed a beam of truth into her love life. “Go, call your husband and come back.” Marriage and family life were apparently so much the norm in those days that he could casually assume that she had a husband. At this point, Jesus is “playing dumb” in the dark so as to maximize the brightness of the light that is about to hit her.
Her response was “I have no husband.” Then he flipped on the switch – “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” My interpretation of what Jesus said is this “You are right, legally speaking, because you haven’t produced a wedding spectacle or marriage license that would identify anybody as your husband. But your definition of husband is based on legality and the court system. It’s based on the world. My definition of husband is based on a sexual relationship where a man and woman are united and become one flesh. Nice try with those legal words. But your husbands do include every man you’ve ever had sex with. In your case, you’ve had five husbands and you didn’t marry the guy you’re sleeping with now.” Note that Jesus said “and the man you now have is not your husband.” On first glance, it seems this story could have been told without the five husbands. But the word “and” links her illicit sexual affairs with those five men to the affair she is currently having. That one word dispels any notion that they were husbands in honorable marriages. It may be a simple conjunctive connector and source of noise in the English language, but it is a dividing sword in the mouth of God. Notice also that Jesus used the possessive “man you have now” when describing her present lover. She has him because she is married to him. He has been her husband since their sexual rendezvous, regardless of whether or not they had a state sanctioned marriage. I also think Jesus placed emphasis on the present tense “now,” drawing a line to her present tense “have” no husband. I hear sarcasm in his tone and I think this is intentional.

I would estimate that over 90% of people who claim to be Christians today define marriage the same way as the woman at the well – a state sanctioned legal contract – instead of a one-flesh union between man and woman for life. We live in a culture that has taken the sex out of marriage, taken sex out of reproduction, and taken sex out of the sacred. These changes have not occurred overnight. They took a lot of political maneuvering and overcoming basic tenants of churchgoers in major denominations. Several denominations have key Pharisees, like the SBCs Russell Moore, who are working to change the meaning of marriage to suit a more “progressive” and left-leaning agenda – including support for divorce, adultery and a “third way” option of homosexual marriage. According to Moore: “Do they repent of this adultery by doing the same sinful action again, abandoning and divorcing one another? No. In most cases, the church recognizes that they should acknowledge their past sin and resolve to be faithful from now on to one another.” So the man in charge of ethics for the second largest denomination in North America (Baptist) would tell the Samaritan woman to go on back to her sinful relationship and keep on living with him. I’m sure he would tell the woman caught in adultery (John 8) the same thing.

For Pharisees like the Samaritan woman and Moore, appearances and legalities are what are important. He went even further and stated: “Still, we acknowledge that the category of a remarried person after divorce does not, on its face, indicate sin.” http://www.russellmoore.com/2014/09/24/is-divorce-equivalent-to-homosexuality/. My comments can be read at the end of his article. Instead of the woman at the well, Jesus would more than likely encountered the preacher at the pulpit today. Think of all the money (for the children) they would lose when people started leaving their churches. The ERLC would organize another seminar for convictional and redemptive, gospel butterbean centered tithing.

Celibate Singleness? Can I Get A Witness?

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I’ve noticed a new trend lately. Some churches are amending their mission statements to include “celibate singleness” in addition to heterosexual marriage. Here is an example from the First Baptist Church of Monroeville in Pennsylvania:

“We believe that God calls us to either of two patterns He has designed for us: celibate singleness or a faithful heterosexual marriage. We believe that marriage was instituted by God as a sacred and permanent covenant between a man and a woman for the purposes of companionship, enjoyment, completeness, fruitfulness, protection, and illustration of Christ’s relationship with the church. We believe that parents’ chief responsibility is to raise their children to love and serve the Lord.” http://www.fbcmon.org/we-believe.html

Churches, I can go through your Sunday bulletins, sit through your sermons, read your announcements in the local paper – and give you thousands upon thousands of examples of “faithful heterosexual marriages” through wedding and death announcements. However, I can’t find one example of celibate singleness. I can’t find one living witness to the lifestyle Paul encouraged in 1 Corinthians. Do you think that is . . . odd? I do. Do you think a couple of obligatory words in a mission statement is enough to reverse the idolatry of marriage and family in this country? I find it interesting that when church leaders talk about the gift of celibacy, it is always in terms of some theoretical misionary serving Jesus in some dangerous far off land. It’s never a real person, just some rare individual that may exist . . . somewhere in the world. I guess this makes some churches feel better about themselves and more inclusive. Some of them probably look at the addition of this language as a defense against homosexuality. For some of them, their theology on celibacy gets no further than same sex unions. To them, celibacy is just “something gays do to get right with the Lord.” To see celibacy as a vocation of at least as equal proportion to marriage would take a major theological upgrade. Notice that the above mission statement from Monroeville only included the word celibacy. They did not elaborate on it as they did marriage. So in essence, 99% of their statement on family is . . . marriage and family.

My challenge to churches: For every wedding anniversary that you announce in your church, in your bulletins, in your local newspapers, on your local radios, find at least one celibate single, affirm the godliness of their lifestyle, and announce the number of years they have been celibate – just as you do wedding anniversaries. Who are they? Have you ever asked? Want that make some people uncomfortable? Look at the price you’ve paid for comfort so far – abortion, contraception, fornication, adultery, pornography, prostitution, homosexuality. In a few short years, every church in this country will be required to persom same sex “marriages.” Most churches have a repuation already as “just a bunch of hypocrits.” Words are but ink on paper. Witnesses serve as living testaments to the grace of God. If you can’t affirm celibacy as you do marriage, your not qualified to include celibate singles in your mission statements.

What Killed Singles Ministries?

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Before the 1980s, nearly every large metropolitan church had singles ministries. They had their own Sunday School classes, Sunday School books, spring retreats, and singles conferences every year. It was taken for granted that singles had never been married and never had sex, which served as a relational common denominator. Most did not go to church looking for mates and their groups were not thought of as “meat markets.” There were very few widows and divorced in those groups because they customarily went into the married classes or found something else to do during Sunday School time.

Things started to change drastically around the mid 1980s. Singles groups that once had 200-300+ dwindled to a few dozen. At one time, Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL was using their old sanctuary for singles classes and it could hardly hold them all. If you wanted a seat, you had to get there early. But now only a handful remain. Their youth have taken over the empty space and all have kneeled at the feet of the children.

But what killed off the singles from churches? One reason is because they lost support from other church members and from leaders of their denominations. One of the key factors that played a part is divorce. Because of their sex drives and desire to find other mates, divorcees gradually found there way to singles groups and threw a kink in the common bond that the never marrieds once shared with each other. All discussions then had to be filtered for sexualized ears. After all, biblically speaking, once you’ve had sex, you’re married. And once married, you can’t become “single again.” But churches, in their effort to be politically correct, happily stuck singles labels on everybody. They became content in hunkering down behind the barracks and murmuring “everybody is sleeping with somebody.” Instead of defending those who were virtuous, they decided to yell “the sky is falling” every Sunday morning from their pulpits. Instead of addressing the problem of sexual sin head on, they waited until their singles groups got the reputations of “meat markets” and withdrew funding and support. Then single adults were left with the choice of going to adolescent pizza parties or going to old time gospel singings with the senior citizens.

Another factor was rampant fornication, which was made easier and more accessible with the advent of the internet, social media, and pornography. Every church has a rumor mill and this just added gasoline to the fire. The respect that the marrieds had for the unmarrieds slowly eroded away with the stereotyped image of a greedy selfish single sitting in front of his pornography screen ordering up all the sex he wanted. Church leaders began to view anything to do with virginity with skepticism and spite. Many preachers blatantly launched attacks against virtuous singles who were saving sex for marriage. A prime example is the Baptist’s controversial Russell Moore. He openly criticized a chaste female for being concerned about the sexual history of her husband to be on his blog: “You are not ‘owed’ a virgin because you are. Your sexual purity wasn’t part of a quid pro quo in which God would guarantee you a sexually unbroken man . . . Jesus was a virgin. His Bride wasn’t. He loved us anyway.” His bride wasn’t? See, you have to understand that Moore does not believe Christ died for our sins and does not believe that the church is the virgin bride of Christ: http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/03/10/how-much-do-i-need-to-know-about-my-potential-spouses-sexual-past-my-response/ My sister, Julia Duin, wrote about this in a recent article. You can read it here: http://www.ebireflections.com/2/9/6j.

One of the biggest factors that has killed singles groups is homosexuality and its perceived threat to the golden calf of family. Many denomination leaders, like the SBC’s Moore, believe that it’s not possible to live without sex – that if you’re not married by a certain age, you’re a fornicator, homosexual, or pedophile. In Moore’s words, we are all “sexually broken.” He has even trashed singles further by stating that fornication is worse than adultery: “This makes fornication even more dangerous, in this sense, than adultery. Both fornication and adultery are acts of infidelity. But a man who has committed adultery, if he is repentant, understands something of how he’s broken trust, attacked a covenant.” Yes adultery just brings so much immediate insight and understanding. It’s the Christian thing to do. But those fornicators – they are so dangerous. Even more shocking is the Southern Baptist’s recent statements that marriage is required for salvation. Jeff Medders, pastor of Redeemer Baptist Church in Tomball, TX, and member of the Biblical Council On Biblical Manhood And Womanhood (which Russell Moore also serves on) made this recent statement on his blog: “The post-Edenic lure of perpetual boyishness, fun, frivolity, and zero responsibility is the ultimate space for “lost” boys —not for men who have been found and are relocated ‘in Christ.'” Lost boys until we are relocated in Christ? This should make it clearer why single men have lost respect for their churches. http://cbmw.org/men/manhood/manhood-marred-the-peter-pan-syndrome/

Another interesting phenomenon is the perceived gap between the sexual ethics of men and women. Following the lead of the world, churches began to equate sex outside marriage with men only. And church women gladly reinforced it. “Why should he buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.” “The more women men have sex with, the higher their status. The more men women have sex with, the lower their status.” The church gulped in all the worldly stereotypes, not seeing the importance of separating themselves from the world. Indeed, they took a Masters and Johnson approach to all their ministries. “Let’s just target what the surveys identify as the majority and forget about the rest.” More and more preachers started quoting the sex surveys, wringing their hands that “nobody is waiting for marriage anymore.” “Men need to man up and get married.” God’s word was replaced with pie charts and Pampers. Many churches today are nothing more than daycare centers with a steeple on top of the building. And the drama. Did I mention drama? How many single men would want to sit and listen to preachers call them “sexual atheists” and “overgrown adolescents”? http://www.christianpost.com/news/sexual-atheism-christian-dating-data-reveals-a-deeper-spiritual-malaise-117717/. So the bottom line reason for the demise of singles ministries is that churches, for the sake of political correctness and comfort, threw all categories of singles into one barrel. They were unwilling to give never marrieds a space of their own. More importantly, most churches still define the initiation of a marriage as the exchange of vows during a wedding ceremony and tossing of rice instead of the biblically based coming together as one flesh during sexual bonding. Without understanding what marriage is, they will never understand what celibate singleness is.

For a more in depth look at what killed singles ministries, please see Julia Duin’s book, Quitting Church – Why The Faithful Are Fleeing. http://www.amazon.com/Quitting-Church-Why-Faithful-Fleeing-ebook/dp/B00D39ZFIC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399480201&sr=8-1&keywords=duin+quitting+church

What’s The Difference Between Purity And Virginity?

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There’s been a lot written lately about the difference between purity and virginity, with those opposed to virginity pledges crying how purity is so much more than physical mechanics. I think the biblical intent was for them to be one in the same because the virginity that two people bring to marriage is symbolic of Christ’s purity and his marriage to the church. When you look at the big picture of what God expects, virginity before marriage actually underscores how we can never measure up to Christ’s purity. It’s a goal that we aim for, but never attain. It reminds us that, even at our best, we are very inaccurate representatives of what real purity looks like. But at the same time, it does publically identify us as people who are trying to live like Christ. More importantly, it symbolizes that we understand the relationship between human sexuality and Christianity itself and how the act of sex cannot be separated from the spiritual realm, whether that be pure good or pure evil. As his creation, physical virginity also confirms the binary, black or white, all or nothing nature of God. Of course, this stands in stark contrast to a world that tells us everything exists in shades of gray. Have you ever wondered why it was necessary for the mother of Christ to be a virgin? It’s actually very simple. He had to be both from man and from God, spiritual as well as physical. But how many times have you heard that discussed in church?

In traditional Christian culture, it was an unwritten expectation that the bride and groom were virgins at the time of their marriage and that they were both bringing empty temples that had not been occupied through fornication and that they were equally yoked, starting a life together on the same level. This necessitated already accepting Christ and understanding the metaphor of the church being the bride of Christ. It was also a common belief that marriage brought with it the concerns of the world, chiefly because of the responsibilities of raising a child. This makes perfect sense. To feed a baby, the new dad had to be of value to men in the world. There was also a common understanding, as explained clearly by Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, that not all people were meant for marriage, and that those who could live without sex and not burn would do better focusing on the concerns of the Lord. So it was understood that marriage and making babies was not the most important thing in the world and not mandatory for a Christian life. In contrast, many people today are still living in Old Testament times when we were commanded to “be fruitful and multiply,” quoting Old Testament scripture saying that “it is not good for man to be alone.” They still have Jesus dead on the cross. They still see marriage and reproduction as the center of the world.

This is where the cart got put before the horse in contemporary purity movements like True Love Waits because already being a Christian was not an expectation.  These concerned parents who started such organizations assumed all who had not had sex were children “waiting” on marriage. Since many of them couldn’t provide a personal testimony of chastity to their children, they tried to fit their children’s virginity into the world’s landscape of support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous. Indeed, singleness is still seen as a disease, a forsaken place of eternal waiting, something to be cured. That’s one reason singles have fled churches in droves. They have no identify unless they are married, unless they are fruitfully multiplying – of no spiritual value to the church.

Churches still fail to understand the connection between the physical and the spiritual dimensions of sex.  Just sign this pledge card and stand in this holding booth.  This shortsightedness with regards to purity groups reinforces the worldview that defines virginity as a mere adolescent prerequisite to marriage. It provided the world with so many straw men they didn’t know what to do with them all.  And focusing on one gender reinforced the belief that women should set the religious standards in society.  But they had not counted on the world’s reaction to “purity culture” and could not defend biblical standards when challenged. Hence, today we live in a world where virginity is still defined in terms of adolescent teenage girls, purity balls, boundaries, pledge cards, and “committed” same sex relationships. The more girls a boy has sex with, the higher his status. The more boys a girl has sex with, the lower her status. And the double standard cycle continues, all because of a culture that worships sex, parents who never knew what purity was, and churches that think it’s their responsibility – not God’s – to define sexual standards.

Thankfully, there are a few churches and parents who are the exceptions.  It should be our responsibility to bring the believing world out of Old Testament times and sacrificial offerings of pure lambs and into the world of  New Testament times when the ultimate purity sacrifice has already been made.

The Middle Of Which Fence?

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Can people straddle the fence on social/moral issues of the day and still claim to be Christians? According to the Bible, we cannot. As Matthew 6:24 tells us: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” In other words, you have to choose God’s side of the fence or Satan’s side of the fence. You can’t sit in the middle and claim “I don’t have an opinion.” And in the case of homosexual unions, you can’t say “What does anybody else’s sexuality matter to me? It’s not my business.” This may come as a shock, but it is your business if you’re a Christian. Taking the neutral road appeals to our popularity-driven culture. You may think it prevents you from making enemies. You may think it shows you’re a “sensitive” person. Did Jesus make enemies? Did he try to hide his identity? How can anybody hide under a cloak of neutral comfort knowing what Christ did on the cross? If we are going to affirm he is our savior, then we must be willing to defend him and sit on his side of the fence.

Which fence are we talking about though? When it comes to sexuality, the lifestyle choice for a Christian is not homosexuality or heterosexuality. But’s that the choice the news media play up to and churches have bought it. However, the fence is not between a committed relationship in marriage or a committed relationship in a homosexual union. It’s between choosing marriage or choosing celibacy. For some, that will seem too divisive, too black and white. But it is biblical. Those are the only two lifestyle choices offered in the Bible. No gray area. Unfortunately, many churches today do not see those two choices. They only see one – marriage and family – because that’s the vote of the majority. They’ve drawn the wrong line in the sand. The only other choice they comprehend is homosexuality, because so many church leaders and pastors have had their noses buried in newspapers and 7-Eleven tabloids and haven’t spent enough time reading God’s word. Some churches even take current culture into account when teaching their younger generation sexual standards. For example, this is how the Southern Baptist’s Ethics Commission described Jimmy Scroggins’ recent remarks at their 2014 leadership conference:

“He pointed out that today’s culture is marked by morally ambiguity, access, radical autonomy and that porn is a given, sex is expected, Gay is Ok (he lamented that even when he gave a very sensitive talk on homosexuality in his church that teenagers saw him as a bigot), and marriage is a capstone not a cornerstone). Scroggins challenged that these cultural trends have to inform how we teach and train teens in our churches and homes.” http://www.dennyburk.com/a-point-of-agreement-with-matthew-vines-and-the-future-of-evangelical-reflection-on-same-sex-orientation/

It may be news for the Baptists, but cultural trends do not change the word of God or alter how it’s presented to teenagers. It is twisted thinking like this that has put a Christian principle like celibacy in the same camp with pornography, fornication, and pedophilia. Idolizing sex while ignoring celibate singles is just as bad, if not worse, than straddling the fence between Christianity and Satanism. It’s the primary reason women are viewed as objects, why we have a staggering number of abortions every year, why teenagers have turned to premarital sex, and why pornography is the biggest business in this country. Young people only see their options as heterosexual sex or homosexual sex, instead of marriage or celibacy. The wrong fence. The wrong issues.

Marriage and celibacy both fall on the Christian side of the fence. It is a beautiful design and choice that fits in nicely with the other sacred dichotomies. However, recognizing both lifestyles does require a little more thinking than the secular marriage/homosexual stereotype. It requires more openness about sexuality than the taboo approach it receives in churches today, where silence is the norm. It requires us to face the reality that marriage and family is not the only valid Christian lifestyle. It requires churches to loosen their grip on the golden calves of sex and children and to reexamine their definition of marriage. Recognizing celibate values does not validate homosexuality or reinforce the middle of the Christian/non-Christian fence. Instead, it strengthens families in the long run because it balances the celibate’s concerns for Christ with the married person’s concerns for the world. It’s not a fence. It’s a personal choice. And a Godly one. The word “celabacy” may smack of catholicism and homosexual scandal. But that’s the best word we’ve got at the moment in the English language. The word Apostle Paul chose was “unmarried.” How would that be defined today? How wide is your fence?

Family Idolatry And The Dictionary

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Every language has a dictionary. And most people think of definitions as set in stone and definitive as the Bible. No where is this more untrue than in our religious vocabulary. Take love for example. In biblical times, love was defined by agape love – God’s love for man and man’s love for God. Today, love generally means one thing – sex. Making love is as easily understood as making pancakes for breakfast, a feat of mechanics. Beauty is as deep as a tanning bed. But platonic love that transcends the beauty of any individual has been replaced by romantic love, by an undefined system of marriages and hookups not found in the Bible, intermittently legitimized by a church wedding and nuclear family.

Unfortunately, a society with an out of balance platonic/erotic system of interpersonal relationships cannot accurately define many biblical concepts. A society that is so focused on the family cannot comprehend the eternal. A classic example is True Love Waits. First, it communicated to teenagers that true love was represented by a marriage to the right person instead of a relationship with Christ. Second, it communicated to them that love was erotic and all about sex. Third, it told them that they were not loved until they found their true love. Fourth, it told them that waiting was only for teenagers. Fifth, it told them that everybody was destined to be married. Fifth, it put the horse before the carriage by assuming a godly marriage could be done without accepting Christ first. And sixth, it separated the sexual from the spiritual by not including God in the equation. True Love Waits was indeed started by two family men concerned about their daughters not fitting in at school; by family men who did not have the proper insight and balance between the married and unmarried, between the erotic and platonic, between God’s concerns and concerns of this world. Unfortunately, it gave the sexually immoral society we live in more ammunition. It gave them enough straw men to last a lifetime. The headlines were not about waiting for marriage to have sex – but chewing gum, dirty glasses of water, and half eaten chocolate bars. Purity balls became incestuous father and daughter relationships. Even worse, they took boys out of the equation, the ultimate affirmation of sexism. This is what happens when the family is idolized, when parents get a hold of biblical langugage they do not have the insight to define, when they think their priorities and their children’s trump everything in this world.

The families that do have their priorities in order and that can see beyond the erotic concerns of this world need to speak up on these issues – or the word “platonic” will soon be removed from the dictionaries and the word “purity” will become a four letter word. I’m afraid this is a natural result of the ageism, sexism, and marital statusism that is prevalent in churches today. There is nothing biblical about youth groups, family worship centers, Vacation Bible Schools, women’s conferences, pastor and wife teams, or children fitting in at school. All of this and a lot more has presented a warped idea of Christianity to the world and a wrong picture of God’s love. Does something have to be in the Bible to be a good idea? Not necessarily. But good ideas are based on wisdom, not on family comfort. What is your true love? I hope you can see it’s more than wedding planners or engagement rings, more than the ideas of a few misguided men and the worship of their children.

Imagine that your TV preacher of choice announced to the world that he had invented a little battery operated box called “Honest Abe” that glows a green light when someone tells the truth and red when they lie. The good old fashioned Christian virtue of honesty in the palm of your hand. But when the 5 million people that bought it the first day get it home, they discover that Honest Abe only works between people who are first degree kin. I would imagine that a lot of buyers would be happy with that. After all, PaPa Smith just wanted to know if Uncle Earl was telling the truth about that land purchase. Would it be surprising if the very concept of honesty became associated with a box called Honest Abe? Then we would live in a purity culture and honesty culture.

The Inconsistencies Of Southern Baptists

Published by The Alabama Baptist Newspaper March 2014.
By John Morgan

As President of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC), Russell Moore has been trying to straddle the fence on same sex marriage since he took office in May of 2013; reassuring his flock that the church opposes it, while telling the homosexual community that they will be loved with “convictional kindness.”  Moore, who had been the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, took over the helm of their ethics commission after Richard Land’s tenure of 25 years.

Moore has complained about the disappearance of biblical language from our vocabulary:  “In the most recent issue of Touchstone magazine, I argue that the loss of the words “fornicate” and “fornication” implicitly cedes the moral imagination to the sexual revolutionaries because the words “fornication” and “premarital sex” aren’t interchangeable.”  However, in response to the issue of same sex marriage, he said:  “The increased attention to the question of marriage also gives us the opportunity to love our gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus does.”  Merely using the unbiblical terms gay and lesbian made him the poster child for their internet blogs that week.  Not to mention the fact that in the Bible they are homosexuals and sodomites.  Not gays.  So the ERLC is uncomfortable using the unbiblical phrase “premarital sex.”  But on the other hand, perfectly comfortable using the unbiblical word “gay.”  The inconsistencies add up.

When a Christian photographer expressed his misgivings about photographing a same sex wedding, Moore agreed with him.  And he reassured the photographer that his “situation takes place at a moment of concerted cultural revisionism on the question of marriage as conjugal union.”  I didn’t know Baptist ethics changed with the culture and each passing moment.  However, he passed his blessings on to other unbiblical marriages (unequally yoked, divorced, etc)  because they they are not “obvious deviations.”  Even though Moore supported the photographer’s boycott of the same sex marriage, he did not support the boycott of Starbuck’s Coffee that ensued after their affirmation of same sex marriage. 

With so much freedom and acceptance, the ERLC is hosting a “sex summit” in April in which “breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin.”  I’m not sure which version of the Bible they’re using now, but the gospel has nothing to do with redeeming sexual desire.   They probably need to worry a little less about the redemption of sexual desire and more about the redemption of mankind from his sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.  There is no easy way to the stars from the orbit of the world and moral relativism and acceptance.

breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf
breakout sessions will focus on how the gospel shapes a person’s sexual identity, redeems sexual desire and sets free people held captive by sin. – See more at: http://erlc.com/article/erlc-to-host-leadership-summit-on-the-gospel-and-human-sexuality-in-april#sthash.saVXDacU.dpuf

http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/03/26/breaking-news-russell-moore-elected-next-erlc-president/

http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/01/03/premarital-sex/

http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/06/26/how-should-same-sex-marriage-change-the-churchs-witness/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/23/conservative-christians-selectively-apply-biblical-teachings-in-the-same-sex-marriage-debate.html

http://www.russellmoore.com/2014/02/23/are-christians-hypocritical-on-weddings-and-conscience-protection/#more-15222

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2009/10/is-it-wrong-that-i-dont-care-if-im-an-evangelical

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/02/20/should-a-christian-photographer-work-at-a-same-sex-wedding-ceremony/