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

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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

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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.

Discerning Celibacy

two-choices

Who does God have picked out for you to marry? From what I’ve seen, that is the number one question young adult Christian singles are wrestling with. They are going to seminars, reading books, going to singles groups primarily to find that one person God has waiting for them. They set out to prepare their lives to be proper husbands and wives, to be ready for “the one”. “Oh God, bring him to me now!” But is that the proper question to ask when you finish school and begin your life away from parents? No it’s not. The first question should be: Are you going to serve God through a life of faithful marriage or faithful celibacy? And this can only be answered after you have accepted Christ as your savior. That is a huge idea to ponder because most of the advice being given to singles today – whether from the pulpit or the written word – is not from the Christian perspective. Is celibacy still a viable option in a society that worships sex? Of course it is.

Some people have trouble reconciling the “be fruitful and multiply” command in Genesis 2 with the “it is good for a man not to touch a woman” in 1 Corinthians 7. Christ’s arrival in the New Testament did in fact overturn the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament. The biggest change was the allowance for celibate life without children. The eunuchs, who were once despised and considered unclean, were redeemed with these simple words Gabriel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Notice that Gabriel used the Old Testament title “the Most High” when referring to God. This is the same omnipotent creator of heaven and earth that we read about in Genesis. This is the same God who created Adam. This is the same God who said “be fruitful and multiply.” In this one verse, Luke 1:35, the greatest artist who ever lived dipped his brush into the paint of eternity and made a slight revision to his masterpiece. Since mankind had populated the earth and the people of Israel had enough soldiers in their army, he painted out “be fruitful and multiply” and replaced it with the option to marry or not to marry. He made sexual relationships optional. He replaced multiplying human children with multiplying spiritual children and making disciples of men. It’s also significant that Gabriel used the phrase “will overshadow you.” Overshadow is used throughout the Bible to represent the glory, presence, and protection of God. When the ark was completed, the glory cloud of the Lord covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34-35; Nm 9:18, 22). The word is also used in the stories of the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:34) when a bright cloud overshadowed Peter, James, and John. The creative forces of God himself overshadowed Mary so that she was able to become pregnant without any sexual relationship.

Those same forces of the Most High are still at work today when people become eunuchs for the kingdom of God. The power of the Most High can still overshadow the need for a male and female to make a baby. Christ conquered not only death with his resurrection, but life itself with his virgin birth. The reality of eunuchs was foretold in Isaiah 56:3-5: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 56:3-5).”

In order to keep their name from being cut off, Jesus had to give his disciples a few hard lessons in the gospel of Matthew. In fact, the lessons may be more relevant today than they were during the first century.  After Jesus told them “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adulteruy,” the disciples were incredulous.  “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry (Matthew 19:8-10).” The situation they are referring to may be the seemingly impossible level of commitment it takes to make a faithful marriage. They were accustomed to having the option of divorce in case things didn’t work out. They were trying to trip Jesus up and get him to say something that violated Mosaic Law. By “it is better not to marry,” they probably meant “we know there’s nothing better than having sex, so we’ll just do what is assuredly impossible and live our lives without sex.” I can hear snickers in the background. Little did they know that Jesus was going to take it to a deeper level with his answer: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.” Matthew 19:11.

My hypothesized version of Jesus’ answer in verse 11 is this: Yes, it is better not to marry in the long run and to accept the identity of a eunuch. It’s a straighter shot to eternity in heaven. But remaining faithfully unmarried is not something that everybody can do. So don’t kid yourselves. Remaining chaste your entire life is a special ability, just like all my father’s gifts. But only certain people are assigned to this one. Their DNA has been structured and their brain chemistry arranged in such a way that it makes something so impossible . . . possible. But they don’t just wake up one morning and exclaim to the world: “Wow, somebody gave me a bright and shiny gift of celibacy!” Some people have the makeup for marriage. Some people have the makeup for celibacy. You know, those sex hormones are very strong. My dad made them. It takes a miracle to overcome them. But sex is a very good thing. It takes a special grace not to give in to lust and other sexual immoralities people will face in their lifetimes. I know all about those desires because I overcame them myself. So yeah, there are people that have chosen to live without marriage and sex.  I know this is an issue of pride among you.  But there are people who have chosen to live like me and there will be until I return again. They look like everybody else. Their anatomy is intact. These men still have testicles and the women still have ovaries and reproductive systems. There are mysteries that you are not meant to understand. Accept them.

It’s interesting that Jesus used “only those” in verse 11, getting them geared up for something positive, and then going on to explain the three types of Eunuchs in Matthew 19:12. So they’re anticipating something extraordinarily wonderful.  But instead they heard this:  “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” I consider this to be one of the “shocker” verses of the Bible, one that is oft overlooked today. As he had done on several other occasions, like the parable of the three servants, Jesus used three people to tell his story. Fake, setup, left hook. Then knockout! Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking we he mentioned the word eunuch? “Whoa, dude! What’s so wonderful about that? Eunuch? Nobody mentioned anything about surgery!” The first type of eunuch described, those born that way, may have actually been a surprise for them. They didn’t have the medical laboratories and microscopes we take for granted today. They couldn’t do a sperm count and have the results back in 30 minutes. But I’m sure they caught his meaning with “made eunuchs by others.”  Yes, their imaginations may have conjured up a gruesome scene.  Much like the word does today.  After describing those two types of eunuchs, the disciples may have been thinking “what other type of eunuch could there possibly be?”  “Eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” was the knockout punch. They were probably so dizzy they had to sit down. They had to absorb what he just said. Jesus just compared celibacy for the kingdom of God to a man who had castrated himself. Jesus Christ! He was telling them in no uncertain terms that a life without marriage required no sex and that the possibility of having sex outside marriage would be as remote as a eunuch fathering a child, if that was the life they chose. In essence, I think the concept of Christian chastity and self control is introduced in these verses.

I think it’s rather apropos that Christ came to earth as a eunuch, the lowest of the low among men on the totem pole. Jesus always had a heart for those among the low ranks of society such as prostitutes, those with diseases, the poor, etc. Some of the eunuchs who were made so by men were assigned to guard royal treasures. But most were defiled, used as sex slaves, and avoided in pubic like someone with leprosy. Christ even tells us in Matthew 20:16 that that’s the way it will be when he returns: “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” When we choose celibacy today, we are standing in solidarity with all the eunuchs who came before us – all the men and women who were born without the ability to have sexual relationships and children, all those who were made that way by men, and all those who have chosen this life for the kingdom of heaven. More importantly, we are standing in solidarity with Christ himself.

We have a lot of Pharisees and misguided disciples giving advice to singles today. Many are led to believe “if marriage is that hard, we’ll just stay single.” The truth is – marriage is that hard and celibacy is that hard. I encourage Christian singles today to think about their options before they rush into the dating scene. Don’t approach the choice with the legal-mindedness of the disciples in Matthew 19, looking for the easiest way out. The celibate life of a eunuch is just as doable today as it was for Christ and Apostle Paul in the first century. If you think “only those” could never mean you, think again. You don’t know unless you consider it, pray about it, and talk to people who have chosen the celibate life. Some are in religious vestments. Some are not. Take time to discern. That’s a wiser route than getting married and then finding out you should have stayed unmarried. This week I will celebrate 54 years of celibacy.

A few questions to ask yourself:
– Can you think about love beyond the sexual?
– Can you define your manhood or womanhood without sex? Without children?
– Can you be a father or mother to children who need one?
– What’s your concept of time? Eternity?
– Can you accept your own mortality?
– Can you envision eternity in heaven beyond the concept of “pearly gates”?
– Can you see just as much beauty in something in nature as you can somebody of the opposite sex?
– Do you see beauty where others do not see it?
– Can you express yourself artistically? Have you found your artistic personality?
– Do you find yourself rebelling against this world and its injustices?
– Do you feel like you do not fit in?
– Do you feel comfortable taking risks that nobody else would take?
– Can you see Jesus’ face in your mind’s eye?
– Can you have a personal conversation with him? A real one on one talk?
– What do you want your legacy to be? Children? Or something else?

Chastity, For The Sake Of Civilization

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Everybody has heard the obvious reasons for saving sex until marriage – preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs to . . . because the Bible says so. Some of these reasons involve a lot more than just the two people in the relationship or even their families. They affect our entire civilization. When you look at all of the consequences of premarital sexual activity, both the obvious and not so obvious, God’s commandments begin to make more sense.

One of those consequences is blackmail. For instance, a woman could threaten to tell the whole world about her relationship with a newly married husband if she didn’t get XYZ. Just when the guy thought his past had been forgiven and forgotten, real skeletons fall out of his closet. What can he do about that? Nothing much, except bite the bullet and tell everybody the truth. Why didn’t she just forget about him? It’s because mileage and distance between two people cannot separate a sexual bond and its concomitant dependencies. There is more truth than we realize in the Bible’s description of two people becoming one flesh. Sex realigns brain chemistries in such a way that certain dependencies become very natural. That is what God intended and is beautiful within marriage. For example, a newly wed couple may take turns preparing dinner every evening. Imagine what would happen if the new husband took dinner to an ex-lover one evening because she threatened to send him the bill for her abortion, a woman that just couldn’t get him off her mind. Even if it’s outside marriage, the bonding that occurs with sex is still a lot more than skin deep. Actually, it goes so deep we can’t see it all. Just because we don’t see it does not diminish its reality. In marriage, some dependencies are a good thing. But outside marriage and the safety of exclusive space, these good dependencies can turn into a nightmare worse than Fatal Attraction.

Blackmail doesn’t have to involve favors of a sexual nature, though. It could be anything that a person may gain by having a relationship with someone that they would not have gained if they had not had the relationship. For example, if a couple had the same employer, one of the wife’s past lovers could ask her to cheat on the company’s tax reports. If the tables were reversed, she could demand the husband promote her to a new job over other people who were more qualified. Sexually-based blackmail doesn’t require a married couple either. It can happen any time there is sex outside marriage. It can happen to couples who are dating or even a couple who got together for a one-night stand. Sex lends itself to blackmail for a number of reasons. It’s not something you can hold in your hand or quantify. You can’t describe its color, it’s size, it’s weight, or even what it looks like. Outside of prostitution, you can’t easily put a price on it. For example, what seemed like a meaningless one night affair for a woman could turn into a very meaningful opportunity to cash in when she learns the guy is the CEO of a fortune 500 company. As I’ve said before, in a very real sense, there is no such thing as premarital sex. When you have voluntary sex, you are married. Everybody has the choice of doing it God’s way as a beautiful part of his creation or the world’s way with a path of destruction and regret. Everybody has the choice of doing it in the safety of marriage where it is priceless or in the danger zone where it is objectified and marginalized.

Chastity also preserves our communication. It dignifies our humanness. Not only does sex create its own chemical bond between two people, it also creates its own exclusive language between them, spoken and unspoken. What felt good during those 30 minutes serves as a template for what is good and right during the remainder of their lives and interface with humanity. Their level of acceptance of each other and generosity is carried on down not only to their children, but to the next generation. The language established in marriage is affirming and forgiving. Outside marriage, it is crude and explicit. Even worse, it can be abusive and humiliating.

For two people who love each to have sex, they must be civilized and peaceful. They have to want the best for each other. There is no anger, no violence, no jealousy. How much closer can two people be? Cooperation is not an option. In a very real way, the number of people practicing chastity and waiting until marriage helps define what civility is for society. Can you think of any couples waging war in their bedrooms. Could that be a reason we have a world of wars and terrorism today?

Chastity also serves as a check and balance on greed. Even though this world is opposed to black and white, there is only one alternative to having had sex – having had no sex. To put it in modern language, there are the haves and have nots. If that sounds condemning, it’s a fact of life. Get over it. God designed it that way. What would be the value of sex if everybody had it? About as much value as a lock of hair? God gives us one alternative to marriage – celibacy. There are people who have chosen a spouse and this world to meet their needs. And there are people who have chosen God and the world hereafter to meet their needs. Chastity gives marriage its value and we cannot have faith in God without faith in the priceless things outside this world. It’s the backboard in the basketball game. Civilization depends on both of them. It all starts with the Bible. There’s no need to crash a plane to figure out how it is built when you have the owner’s manual in front of your nose. For the sake of civilization, read it.

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.

What Does Celibacy Renounce?

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The Procession of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Julian Van Dyke

The King James Version of the description of the third type of eunuch in Matthew 19:12 reads “. . . made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” However, I’ve always felt this translation was inadequate because it leaves open the question of how they were made. “Made themselves eunuchs” does not explain Christ’s use of the eunuch metaphor to a society that still defines such a person on the basis of a surgical procedure and missing anatomy. Indeed, there are accounts of people who took his words too seriously. One such person was Origines Adamantius who was born c. A.D. 186 in Alexandria. He castrated himself and thus was denied the priesthood. However, the New American Bible interprets this verse as “some are incapable of marriage . . . because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” which I feel is a much better translation. It makes it clear that not entering into marriage, and thus a sexual relationship, is how eunuchs made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.

But why would anyone renounce sexual intercourse when it is morally acceptable within the bounds of marriage? When it’s easily obtained on any street corner and cheaper than a burger and fries? Apparently Paul had received similar questions from the new believers at Corinth. I think it’s possible that the words of Christ and instructions from Paul got misinterpreted into something totally different than they intended. Sort of like the game “telephone” where a message gets passed around a room, only to become unbelievably distorted when it circles the entire group. In the case of human sexuality, man has a tendency to twist language to fit his desires. Even with Paul’s clarification in 1 Corinthians 7, we still have the same misinterpretations today. Most research on the subject of eunuchism leads to an eastern oriental perspective that sees celibacy as an unconscionable evil, an emasculated male posing as a threat to all of mankind. And outside its linkage with homosexuality, that is the same convoluted perspective we have today of one of the most mysterious spiritual gifts. It might help to know that all of the things being renounced are not inherently bad, but are better for those called to this lifestyle.

Celibacy renounces the world order we know (anachoresis). It represents the separation of all believers from the traditions, customs, expectations, and social stereotypes of this world. It is an extreme response to the presence of Christ, a response that cannot be realized in a one-flesh union between a man and woman. Those who embrace the life say yes to platonic expressions of love in friendship and no to romantic expressions of love in marriage. By pointing to a world passing away, the eschatological urgency at the heart of Advent is made a visible reality. Celibacy renounces the natural for the supernatural. It is a supernatural-enabled advent awaiting the return of Christ, an exception to every expectation, and a reminder that the Christian life is not about comfort.

Celibacy renounces marriage and prepares believers for a heaven where there are no husbands, wives, sons, daughters, or grandchildren. It serves as a brief glimpse into an eternity where the social mores and unstable unions of today will give way to a perfect union with Christ. Thus, celibacy cannot be understood solely as a response to the failure of marriages. Celibacy is not reactionary. It is visionary. It respects faithful marriages. By rejecting the temporary for the eternal, it actually brings into focus the marriage between Christ and the church, the separation of the church from the world, and our complete dependency on him.

Celibacy renounces sexual relationships. At the same time it does not deny God’s creation of sex or our sexuality. It stands in stark contrast to a culture that believes sex is as important as food and water. Celibacy takes sex off the dinner table and puts it in a Christ-centered eternal perspective. It says no to insatiable human appetites and leaves more room for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It affirms the goodness of sex, but renounces the belief that all human relationships must be based on sex.

Celibacy renounces human reproduction and heralds a kingdom of heavenly bodies that do not age. It renounces the “be fruitful and multiply” command in Genesis 2 because human life does not need to be established and Israel’s armies no longer have to be replenished, thus explaining the seeming contradiction with Paul’s “good not to touch a woman” in 1 Corinthians 7. As Clement of Alexandria noted, Jesus taught monogamy for the sake of begetting children and oversight of the household and celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God. Note that the eunuch described in Matthew 19 and the unmarried woman described in 1 Corinthians 7 are one in the same. So eunuchs are not just men. Women are also included in the Bible’s definition. At the same time, it reinforces the link between marriage, sex, and reproduction because it defines the only alternative to a nuclear family.

Celibacy renounces the modern construct of time by validating the wait for Christ’s return and the wait for a spouse. Thus, it underscores the importance of salvation before marriage. Celibacy amalgamates seasons and cycles into into a continuum of eternity. If every tick of a clock is measured against eternity, what is a minute? What is a year? Celibacy takes out time zones and ushers in Eternal Standard Time.

Celibacy renounces the temporary and superficial nature of sex, especially when it is used outside of the will of God. Because they have not been joined in one flesh with a spouse, celibates are able to devote all of themselves to eternal projects. The sexually unjoined (or unbonded) nature of their body chemistry orients their passions to Christ’s concerns. However, celibacy does not renounce the goodness of marriage. Rather, it acts as a counterweight and confirms the difficulty in living a faithful marriage. Some of the disciples balked at the idea of such a marital commitment: “The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” They preferred the idea of temporary arrangements, not the permanent commitment that marriage requires. However, Jesus answered: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given (Matthew 19:10-11). The Greek word for “can” is dunamai, which is a verb and literally means “is able.” It is also dunamis, a noun from which we get the English word dynamite. The word denotes a miraculous (supernatural) power or ability that resides in a person, like the nitroglycerin found in dynamite. So celibacy is a gift that enables a person to live a chaste life without sex. Matthew 19 strongly suggests that eunuchism can be used as a metaphor for celibacy, both of which contrast strongly to the temporary nature of husbands and wives in marriage. Since sex is not a requirement for survival, like food and water, celibacy is not part of traditional social asceticism that aims for a higher spiritual existence through self-denial and penance. Hence, it can’t be compared to fasting, sleep deprivation, self-flagellation, etc. Though it may be a common belief, self-denial is not necessary to control sexual desire. The celibate sublimates it to eternal passions, such as ending female infanticide. A solitary life testifies that there is a world coming worth sacrificing human pleasure for.

Celibacy renounces mankind’s knowledge and affirms the superiority of God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:19). It represents the infinite mystery of God’s creation and man’s limited insight into all fields of discipline – including astronomy, chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, mathematics, etc. It reminds our mortal brains that there are things we are not supposed to understand.

Celibacy renounces sexual immorality and serves as a remnant of God’s creational design that followed Christ’s death and resurrection. Contrary to popular thought, it has nothing to do with same sex “marriage.” “Those who are born eunuchs” in Matthew 19 refers to those who are born with genetic abnormalities (whether it be sexual organs, hormones, physical anomalies, etc.). It does not refer to homosexuality. Being born a eunuch specifically indicates that the person is born not just without interest in the opposite sex, but also without any interest in sex of any kind – heterosexual or homosexual. This lack of interest in the opposite sex means no marriage. Celibacy reminds us that self-control is possible in a world of homosexuality, pornography, adultery, fornication, etc.

Celibacy renounces marriage and family idolatry and supersedes the Mosaic command to multiply with Christ’s command to make disciples of men. It reminds nuclear families that a marriage license does not represent the pinnacle of Christian values and that the family is not the foundational institution of human society. It renounces legalism, church constitutions and bylaws, civil servants and preacher pronouncements, probate judges and courthouses. Celibacy flies in the face of marriage-mandaters and other contemporary Pharisees who think the solution to sexual immorality is for everybody to get married as soon as possible – or else they will not be able to control their lust. Because it defines marriage as more than just legitimate sex, it recognizes another class of human existence other than fornicators and non-fornicators.

Celibacy renounces the barrenness of eunuchs and guarantees the inheritance of their spiritual children in the Kingdom of God, an inheritance better than biological sons and daughters. It ensures the survival of their lineage forever (Isaiah 56:3-5). It renounces their humiliation, objectification as sex slaves, impurity, and ambiguous gender and social identity in early Jewish and Grego-Roman history. There are ten different ways to refer to an eunuch in Latin. Soon there will be one. Even after the passage of two millennia, celibates today honor those who came before them and regard them as a class higher than guardians of harems or concubines. Christ coming as a eunuch affirms their pari passu relationship with marriage.

Paul on Marriage and Celibacy: The Hellenistic Background of 1 Corinthians 7 by Will Deming

Click to access Z5248G.pdf

http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2003/2003-10-12.html

Click to access 9781451465655Introduction.pdf

Family Values And Celibate Values In Perspective

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Photo montage by Kristoffer Relander. Paris, France.

The Bible presents two lifestyle choices – marriage between a man and a woman and celibacy. As Apostle Paul so clearly explained in 1 Corinthians 7, we can either choose marriage and the concerns of the world or celibacy and the concerns of the Lord. If we take his words seriously, we understand there is more difference between family values and celibate values than there is between male and female. But since we live in a pagan culture where it is unnatural for anyone to live a celibate life, that leaves only one option open in the minds of many – marriage and family. But what happens when a person doesn’t feel called to marriage and at the same time doesn’t feel they can faithfully live out a celibate life? The answer is quite simple. Family values become family idolatry. They choose a lifestyle that looks like marriage, but is rooted in hedonism. Look around and you’ll see plenty of marriage counterfeits – same sex marriage, homosexuality, domestic partnership, lifetime companionship, cohabitation, etc. Pairing off with . . . anything is the ultimate goal. Today, a person must not appear to be alone in public, or there could be dire consequences. Already, single people – especially men – are being banned in public places all over the world – Abu Dhabi beach areas, Israeli resorts, British parks. On the news recently was Puxton Park in London: “Puxton Park, a family-friendly theme park in a coastal town west of London, has a policy of not allowing single men or women through its gates in order to protect the children inside.” Quiet honestly, this only confirmed my feeling of not being welcomed in any “family friendly” spaces – especially those found in churches. I’m sure they will follow suit soon enough. After all, the people you find in theme parks are the same ones you find in churches. I can see a sign on the church door already: “Notice, no unaccompanied people beyond this point.” Of course, there will be a sign on the other door that reads: “We accept and affirm all lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.” Actually, that’s where we’re at today with the focus on the family. It’s just morphed into focus on sex, of any kind.

In the midst of singing praises to the family and sending their youth off to kids camp, the church forgot two major things – the definition of a biblical marriage and its dependency on biblical celibacy. Discerning between those two lifestyles became nonexistent when marriage became the norm. Consider this: Celibacy is 50% of the Christian lifestyle coin. How many sermons have you heard on it? How many have you heard that addressed marriage, the role of husbands and wives, two becoming one flesh, the husband being the head of the household, etc.? I would estimate 99.95% of Protestant pastors have never mentioned celibacy from a pulpit. I’m not saying that half of all sermons should be on celibacy. I’m saying that it’s sanctity, role, and social significance must be given the same honor and respect as marriage, beyond an obligatory sermon every 5-10 years. Because words are meaningless. That is not happening today.

That’s one of the major reasons biblical marriage disintegrated. Without the check on family greed, self-preservation, and sexual indulgence that celibacy provided, marriage became no more than a civil contract, a tax break, and ticket to sexual fulfillment. Without the balance of the Lord’s concerns with the world’s concerns, marriage dissolved into state-sanctioned greed and sex worship any way you can get it – as seen with the government’s recent acceptance of same sex marriage with all the standard tax breaks and benefits. It should be clear now to all theologians and students of the Bible that Christianity and civilization itself is grounded in sexual ethics. And these include both celibate and family values. For a family man or woman, the concerns of God do take a back seat to the concerns of the world and that is often a necessary compromise (1 Cor 7:34).

That is where celibacy comes in because it does not have to compromise. What the family may have wished they could have done if they had the time and resources and guarantee of safety, solitary individuals are often able to do, even risking their own lives. They are able to value all of creation on the same level with no conflicts of interests found in blood ties or economic barriers. More importantly, they’re able to value humankind with unconditional love. Their love is not limited by financially responsibilities. In addition, celibate people are able to see beyond the pressures of socio-political conformity and are able to provide a witness that is free from the bonds of sexual perversion and addiction and stereotypes associated with the American dream. They are not compelled to keep up with the Joneses. Oh, but it’s so rare, you say? Is anybody qualified to tell God how many people he needs on earth to perform a certain task? It could be one in ten people. Or it could be one in a million people. Do you really think God needs to worry himself with numbers and calculators? I think not. It is us who need to be concerned about performing those tasks.

Some people think celibacy is especially unfair to women, since they only have a limit number of childbearing years. Instead of being a repressive religious rule, the choice of celibacy is actually able to free women from the repression of objectification and sexual slavery. It is ultimate freedom, beyond that heralded in the era of feminism. It frees women from having to choose between a complementarian or an egalitarian role in marriage, a traditional or nontraditional role in society, having children or not having children. She doesn’t have to worry about patriarchy or hierarchies. It restores her dignity. Celibacy after the ascension of Christ stands in stark contrast to the patriarchal system seen in the Old Testament under Mosaic Law where daughters were owned by fathers, handed off to the ownership of husbands, and expected to produce heirs for the assurance of a man’s lineage. Celibacy testifies that man’s lineage is limited to this earth, that men and women are of equal worth, and that there are no marriages in heaven. It transcends any traditions found in Greco-Roman culture or 21st century America and reminds the human brain of a spiritual reality. Jesus was totally human. He had a human brain. Although he didn’t have a sexual relationship, he was a sexual being. The fact that the New Testament writers did not include these details for 21st century speculation is a testament to their divine revelation. Modern writers would have already ascertained that Jesus had a dozen gay lovers, another secret marriage to Mary Magadalene’s sister, and had been arrested once for possession of pornography.

One of the big problems today is the belief that celibacy takes a negative view of sex and that it denies a person of sexuality. How then can celibacy make sense in a world that worships sex? The answer is that it does not take a negative of sex. Just the opposite – It shows a reverence to the body that transcends our understanding of human sexuality. Celibacy is able to value a baby more than any pro life organization. It reminds us that a sexual relationship is not necessary to live a fulfilling and sexual life. In addition, it places the human construct of time under the light of eternal life. It takes the predictability and rhythm out of seasons. In short, it point us to heaven and eternal life with Christ.

http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2014/11/10/puxton-park-refuses-single-people-entry-over-paedophile-fears/

http://www.mainstreet.com/article/why-married-men-make-15900-more-annually-than-their-single-peers

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.

From Purity Balls To Sex Trafficking

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The fastest way for a society to plunge into sex trafficking and abuse of women is to hold the sexual standards of one gender higher than the other. This has been seen over and over again throughout history, all the way from the Greek and Roman Empires to the present. Today in America, girls are being held to a higher standard of sexual ethics while “boys will be boys.” Nowhere is this better seen than purity events, books, TV shows, T-shirts, etc. targeted to girls only (femino-purity). In the short term, they may seem innocent enough. After all, what dad doesn’t want his sweet little Cinderella to wait for Prince Charming? She receives affirmations and encouragement from her church, girlfriends, and of course her family. She’s made to feel special, a part of something bigger than herself. She has the safety of an instant group of friends. She’s following God’s plan. So how could any of this have anything to do with sex trafficking? More than I have space to write about.

First, femino-purity objectifies women by telling them their bodies are more valuable than men’s bodies. They see their bodies as something to guard and protect, which plays well to contemporary ideas of chivalry. At the same time, they are a source of danger for men, if you believe men are more visual than women. So women must make sure they’re not showing an inch of skin that would cause men to lose control in a rage of lust. Instead of creatures made in the image of God to help man, women’s bodies have become objects of desire. To that end, purity becomes no more than icing on a cake and a bonus notch on a bedpost. It becomes part of foreplay. In this view, virginity doesn’t have much to do with the purity of Christ and his marriage to the church. Rather, it has more to do with short-term pleasure and avoiding the commitment of marriage.

Second, femino-purity leads to sexual slavery because it tells boys they are not responsible for their actions. It reinforces in their minds that lack of self-control is the norm. “If they thought this stuff was important to us, why didn’t they include us?” And their answers will include: “It’s just a girl thing. I mean, how many guys wait anyway? Come on, let’s see if Stacy is home yet.” Unfortunately, the organizations that sponsor femino-purity events do not realize that these questions and assumptions resonate all the way down to future generations, to their children’s children. Once sexual values are imprinted, it’s hard to change them. Femino-purity is especially harmful because it is often church affiliated. Most young people go to church to socialize. So whatever peer pressure they’re facing continues right there in youth groups. Few have role models at home. So when young men, who are often confused about their own sexuality, see church, purity, and girls in the same sentence, they are being provided a false picture of God’s creation and human sexuality. They are led to believe that men can act on all of their urges and that it’s the woman’s job to set moral boundaries. Would you take your 5 year-old son to see a same sex “marriage”? Would you want him to go out on his first date with no idea what his sexual standards are? Or would you feel comfortable with his girlfriend calling the shots? Real men do not ask for sex because it’s saved for marriage. Men cede their moral authority and leadership role to women when boundaries have to be defined in the backseat of a car with a yes or no to zippers and straps. “I’m just gonna take all I can get. It’s up to her to say no.” This kind of logic leads men to lose respect for themselves. It places them in a position of moral inferiority. Hence, it’s one of the reasons we have a feminized church today. In the security and commitment of a marriage, these boundary questions don’t come up at all. They’re not supposed to. But since parents don’t discuss sex with them and they are excluded from the femino-purity world, boys never get to discuss self-control or hear how other people deal with it. They grow up to be men who prey on women and see them as objects to own and commodities to be traded – with a price tag attached.

Third, femino-purity tells men that all women want one thing – sex. It tells them that they’ve got what all women want – a body part to fit theirs. “I mean, assembling all these virgins in one room for a purity ball, what else could they want, right?” “We know what they need.” “Those girls must want it want it really bad.” Since it makes marriage and sex the be-all and end-all to their existence, femino-purity does not allow for girls who are not called to marriage. They will be dismissed and bullied as prudes. It doesn’t allow for girls who are waiting on something grander than marriage and sex. They’re purity will “just go to waste.” Sexual trafficking depends on an inaccurate definition of purity and womanhood. It depends on girls who feel unloved and under-valued who acknowledge the compliments and attention of pimps. If a girl doesn’t know her worth and is living in a bad situation at home, with an abusive father for instance, she is more likely to sell her body for food and shelter. Throw in some new clothes and spending money and a pimp’s proposition becomes irresistable.

Fourth, if approached from a non-Christian standpoint, femino-purity devalues girls who have already had sexual relationships, especially if they find themselves in the middle of such an event with girlfriends or for whatever reason. They may look at it like: “Since I’ve already made mistakes, I’ve got nothing else to lose” or “who’s going to want me now?” Instead of using their witness to help prevent other girls from making the same mistakes, they end up on the streets selling their bodies to the highest bidder. When her total worth is defined by her history or past abuse, she becomes quite a bargain.

Fifth, by leaving guys out of the equation, femino-purity allows boys to grow up to be boys – not respectable men. Men who can’t control themselves do not make good fathers and they can’t begin to live a celibate life. With no self control, they can’t afford the price of a Christian marriage. So they either satisfy their sexual desires on the streets or enter into a marriage with the memories of those street flings permanently imprinted in their brains, which greatly increases the chance of divorce. So it’s a vicious cycle. Men don’t know what self control is and women don’t expect it. Thus we have the perfect ingredients for sex trafficking.

Sixth, femino-purity does not allow girls to see what they’re waiting for, if marriage is for them, because purity does not exist in the sterile vacuum of one gender. They never see what a chivalrous man looks like. The prince of their childhood becomes a fleeting fantasy. Then when their knight in shining armor doesn’t appear in early adulthood, they ask themselves “what have I waited for?” They begin to doubt if godly men exist at all. Their dreams of children, the white picket fence, and the American dream start to disappear. What can a femino-purity conference do at this point? Not much. They can’t inject hope into empty shells of heartbreak. Many leave church because they didn’t get what they were “promised” and were never able to put sexuality in its proper perspective. Most churches are reluctant to play any kind of matchmaking role today (which is a shame) because they have no clear standards of what marriage and family is. The best they can do today is fend off same sex marriage. Since many of these disenfranchised girls can’t discern good guys from the bad guys, they are easy prey for smooth-talking pimps.

Seventh, femino-purity places too much emphasis on female anatomy because it excludes male anatomy. The popular opinion today is that guys don’t even have a virginity to lose. And since their purity is never affirmed or valued from a Christian perspective, why should they wait until marriage? Who cares? He’s got condoms and two tickets to paradise. And she’s got contraception. Even if pregnancy occurs, who will pay the heaviest price. The girl, of course. So what’s his incentive not to bang every girl on the street he encounters? Who has told him that the purity of a penis is just as important as the purity of a vagina? Who is reinforcing in his mind that sex belongs in marriage and that marriage is a lifetime commitment? Probably not his parents. Not his church. Not the guys he hangs out with. In his mind, sex is what makes real men. Marriage is just too heavy of a price to pay for sex when it’s cheaper than a loaf of bread on the streets.

Yes, the jump from purity balls to sex trafficking may seem implausible. But the social dynamics made possible today by the internet and other means of communication make such connections ever so possible. It is only to our detriment that we forget young men are social creatures too. Their expectations and behavior are shaped by everything they see and hear. They talk, surprise. Even the bad boys will stop and take note of a room full of virgins. But they don’t have to live by those standards. Did you hear them shout hallelujah? How are you going to control where their mind goes? You can’t, as long as they’re left out of the purity equation. Are you comfortable with your ballerina balls today making pimps for tomorrow? Are you comfortable with your princesses today becoming prostitutes for tomorrow? Put guys back in the equation.

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

The Land Of The Gray

Photo by Charles Bonham

Photo by Charles Bonham

I think everyone would agree that Americans are a people of comfort, people who will sacrifice anything for convenience. We also like choices – menu choices, lifestyle choices, education choices, religious choices, multiple choices, etc. We don’t like to choose between A and B. We like to choose between A, B, C, D, and E. We don’t like to choose between black and white. We like to choose from an infinite spectrum of gray. But can our preference in making decisions be carried over to the spiritual realm? Hardly. The land of the gray is not compatible with Christianity. Unfortunately, society today doesn’t even believe in good and evil, but in a vast expanse of uncertainty where sin has been replaced by imperfect examples of good and there are no standards. Hence, the popular concept of gradualism has entered the lexicon of sexual ethics where everything is 50 shades of gray. How did we arrive here? I think much of it can be traced to valuing the world-centered nature of marriage above the heavenly nature of celibacy, family greed above self-sacrifice. Without the perspective of celibacy, marriage devolves into a greed-centered dust cloud of power and pleasure. One without the other is like day without night, ocean without desert, or a body without gravity.

The same has happened to biblical standards. The Ten Commandments have become ideals floating in space; subject to change based on a person’s skin color and socioeconomic status. There’s no right and wrong, only shades of gray on a continuum of relativity, with banners of comfort and acceptance leading the way. And there can be no positive reference to the quaint ideals of virginity and chastity, only mercy and forgiveness and stories of brokenness. Political correctness thrives in a land of gray where marriage has no meaning. Instead of symbolizing God’s marriage to the church, we have a society today where marriage means no more than a free ticket to sex. We have a church that is lost in a land of gray, much like the people of Israel wandering in the land of Egypt. We have a world where sexual sin is met with comfort and affirmation; because political correctness requires a word of hope, never a word of condemnation. Conversion from a life of sin has been cast aside because there is really no sin in the land of the gray. Only redemption. As John Lennon said: “No hell below us. Above us only sky.” We are currently seeing that in the same sex marriage debate. The church is no longer turning to the Bible for answers. They’re turning to opinion polls and surveys. The tragedy is that the lights of evangelism cannot be seen if they have been dimmed to match the gray of the world.

A lot has been said recently about “all or nothing” thinking, especially as it relates to sexual purity and saving sex for marriage. The truth is that the idea originated in the Bible: “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 (Matthew 6:24).” That’s what you call all or nothing. A comfortable area of gradualism and relativism does not exist between serving God and serving Satan. Likewise, a comfortable area of gradualism does not exist between marriage and celibacy, between the affairs of the world and the affairs of God.

Meanwhile, the church – ever so afraid of voicing judgments of value – offers up another dose of appreciation, affirmation, love, and acceptance. “Come one, come all, receive blessings of hope.” Many church leaders have even wandered so far out into the gray area that they consider all relationships virtuous and all committed relationships biblically ordained, whether they’re between a man and woman or a man and a panda. If it feels good, it must be right. And they can’t point out wrongdoing – only positive values they perceive to hold any semblance of a Christian value. Unfortunately, the common core curriculum has come to our churches, where everybody’s opinion is of equal value and all definitions are up for grabs. Indeed, a marriage idolatry society has no clear definition of marriage – only shades of gray between strangers and lovers, meetups and hookups. It only knows how to take, not receive. If you can relate to it, it must have a common good. Many religious scholars today consider “relationality” a virtue in itself because they can’t fathom life outside marriage. They cannot comprehend the binary opposite of marriage – the solitary nature of celibacy. Instead of two clear lifestyle choices of marriage and celibacy, moral relativism allows for multiple choices – homosexuality, cohabitation, polygamy, common law marriage, divorce, remarriage, etc. Whatever arrangement feels good, just raise your hand when the church takes the next survey. After all, marriage is just a piece of paper you get at the courthouse, right? With no definition or defense of marriage, attributes of it have been counterfeited and used to support sinful lifestyles. For example, same sex marriage has been defended because it offers a level of stability, commitment, public bond, deep affection, mutual aid, sacrifice, and responsibility to offspring. Sound familiar? But no one can point out wrongdoing, only the positive aspects of “imperfect” relationships. “Ah, look at that deep level of commitment. Can we get another amen!” Just two animals bumping against each other in a cage and – presto – you’ve got a marriage. Bump again and you’ve got a family.

The same thing has happened to the virtue of purity. It has devolved into a gray area of dirty tape and damaged flowers, worthlessness and shame. You would think those who advocate purity before marriage today were mercenary terrorists, out to destroy the world. Those evil virgins . . . for the love of God! Christianity is not a club offering varying degrees of membership. It is, like virginity, all or nothing. Christ is either accepted or rejected. This is where human sexuality transects the sacred, where two become one flesh. If parents can’t pass these values to their children, it’s not everybody else’s responsibility to make them comfortable. It’s not everybody else’s responsibility to dim the lights to a neutral gray.

Straw men accusations of shame and worthlessness thrive on gray areas in youth culture. But sadly these areas become more black and white when forgiveness doesn’t relieve them of the responsibilities of children they’ve brought into the world, when their STDs are not cured, when they don’t have the money to pay for college, and when their memories are not forgotten. Most tragic is when they realize their sexual history will permanently affect (not doom) their capacity for intimacy in a future marriage, when the tape metaphor makes a little more sense. Maybe it’s time for a little more shame and duct tape to clear the gray area out of chastity and reinforce the permanent nature of the sexual union.

http://www.ignitumtoday.com/2013/09/09/just-dont-say-it-chewed-gum-spit-cups-and-duct-tape/

Rape/sex abuse is not addressed on this blog.

National Sanctity of Human Life Day 2015

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President Reagan signed the National Sanctity of Human Life proclamation in 1984 to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It is remembered every year on the third Sunday in January. A tragedy celebrated. But should the sanctification of human life even start with the thought of murdering a child? Should it start with the decision of whether or not to have an abortion? Should it start with the decision of whether or not to use contraception? Should it start with whether or not to give money to a crisis pregnancy center? Should it start with the testimony of someone who was nearly aborted? Absolutely not. The value we place on human life begins with self control, with man having enough dignity and civility to honor the women he comes in contact with. It begins when men realize that sexual ethics do not hinge on a woman saying yes or no. Men must place the same value on themselves as they do potential sons and daughters – as they do life itself. By surrendering control of sexual desire over to passion, man puts himself a little lower than the animals instead of a little lower than the angels. That’s why sexual assault and rape are not just isolated crimes. They are crimes against humanity. As tragic as the Holocaust was with an estimated 6,000,000 deaths, abortion has been even a greater holocaust in this country with over 50,000,000 deaths since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

When you think about the miracle involved with creating life, you begin to see how human sexuality is at the heart of Christianity. The two are intertwined so tightly you can’t see light between them. When the value of human life is diminished, so is Christianity itself, along with all of civilized society. That is what we are witnessing now in America today. Man is unable to respect himself because he can’t respect life. As Mother Teresa asked: “If a mother can kill her own child, what is there to stop you and me from killing each other?” Actually, there’s not anything. The potential for new life is what balances the boat of humanity.

We need to go back to the basic question, one that most Americans can’t agree on – When does life begin? Don’t we need to know the answer to that before we pay heed to the sanctification of life? I think so. In my opinion, life begins at conception. It does not start when a fetus reaches a certain size, takes its first breath, becomes viable, reaches a certain gestational age, etc. All of these are manmade legalities to obfuscate the responsibilities of life. In addition, it is our responsibility to see that all sex is open to life. That’s something that many Christians have a hard time accepting because . . . it requires us to risk the creation of life – even when it is inconvenient or unaffordable. Taking contraception out of the picture requires us to surrender control of our lives to God alone. Our plans for the future, finances, job status, education, and social standing itself are put completely in the hands of God when man and woman are joined as one and jointly risk making a new life. When the potential for new life is taken away with contraception and abortion, mankind denies God’s creation of life.

So men, we demonstrate the sanctity of human life every time we are in the company of a woman. We have the choice of either treating her like an object of pleasure or a creature of God to cherish and protect. And likewise, Christian women have the responsibility of treating men with respect, as joint creators of life. And we all have the responsibility of discussing sexual ethics, especially in our churches.

So this Sunday, I hope your church does more to commemorate Sanctity of Life Day than reviewing Moses and the Ten Commandments or bringing in guest speakers to incite drama with horror stories of near abortions. Hollywood can do that. I recommend that we commemorate Sanctify of Life Day by honoring self control and putting more focus on positive reinforcement for our young people – and a lot less on coathangers, contraception, and abortion. Honor the single men and women who understand the value of our creation, have not had sex outside marriage, and have not gambled with human life. Honor those who have not bought condoms or paid for abortions and the women who have not bought contraception pills or rendered their bodies sterile with surgical procedures. Embarrassing, you say? Look at the price we’ve paid for comfort and feeling good. Life is so much more than that.

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.

Are Homosexual Thoughts Sinful?

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The words heterosexual and homosexual suggest that we are assigned sexual orientations at birth just as we are assigned male or female. They suggest that God gets it right sometimes and God gets it wrong sometimes. More accurately, such a vocabulary gives legitimacy to evolutionary theory of the 19th century, where homosexuality becomes but a genetic mishap by a benevolent mother nature. But are homosexual thoughts just as sinful as homosexual behavior? Does the Bible even address such thoughts? If we consider sexual attraction an invisible force that was created when God created Adam and Eve, then the Bible does specifically addresses this in Romans 1:20-21:

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

I think these are verses that can only be correctly understood using the King James Version of the Bible, as quoted here. Note that verse 20 ends with a colon, so the same thought process is carried to verse 21. When combined, the two verses can be read: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen . . . when they know God.” In other words, human sexuality cannot be understood unless you know God. It’s divine creation and function cannot be understood unless you have a personal relationship with God. Even though we live in a world that glorifies science, we can never know more about sex than God does. It’s his creation and his means of reproducing the human species on this earth. He could just as easily created us to reproduce by stepping on each other’s toes, shaking hands, or spending five minutes together under a moonlit sky. Social scientists have conjured up many words and phrases that seem politically (and financially) correct. For example, where did he idea of sexual orientation come from? If we go back to the Garden of Eden and ask Adam about his sexual orientation, what do you think he would say? He would probably respond with “what are you talking about.” Even the idea of a “sexual orientation” is a concoction of man-made science. There is nothing in the sexual proclivity of man today that did not exist with the earliest humans and descendants of Adam and Eve. Neither man nor evolution has added anything to God’s creation. Textbooks can describe it, online articles can make it sound like the truth, academics can sing its praises all day long – but all the science we know is but foolishness to God. As 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 tells us:

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”

I’m afraid we have deceived ourselves. We have bowed down to the God of science and regard God’s word as narrow-minded and hateful. In Romans 1:26-27 we read one of the strongest indictments against homosexual thoughts:

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

The “them” that is referred to in verse 26 is the ungodly and unrighteous referred to in verse 18. How can God give them up to vile affections? In their quest to Christianize and redeem “vile affections” (1 Cor 7:26), many today have argued that we should separate homosexual orientation from homosexual behavior. They put sexual sin in the same boat as any other sin – including greed, envy, pride, covetousness, etc. And of course man and his legalism have discounted such thoughts unless they are acted on. For example, you can think about stealing your neighbor’s new car all day and night. But you won’t get in trouble unless you act on such thoughts. You are still sinning though by coveting what you do not own. But our bodies are not cars. The “vile affections” of homosexuality and other sexual sins are in completely separate categories because they are sins against our own bodies. They are sins of a heart out of control. “Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:18-19).” The word “fornication” comes from the Greek porneia, which refers to any sexual relationship outside of marriage. It also applies to heterosexual marriage. So God is just not targeting those with homosexual thoughts. He calls all of us to sexual chastity outside of marriage and fidelity in marriage. Since homosexuality is a sexual relationship outside of marriage, it is sin. And the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” includes fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, unnatural lusts; and unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections. So not only is homosexual behavior sinful, but homosexual thoughts are as well.

There may be some who claim that all thoughts are natural, neutral variations in the evolutionary process. Just because it seems normal in our minds does not mean it is Godly in the eyes of God. So why doesn’t God specify heterosexuality as being the natural expectation? It may be because there are no other Christian alternatives. Why didn’t he specify theft as being anything over $100.00? There’s no need to. Stealing anything is theft. We cannot overlay man’s reasoning on top of God’s commandments.

So, even if a person has an attraction to the same sex, that does not mean they are doomed to fight their “natural” urges for the rest of their life. While God does not create homosexuals, he can give up a person to “vile affections” if his ungodliness and unrighteousness reaches a certain point. In other words, if your temple has reached a point of decay and decadence where you don’t even notice it, then God may not be knocking on your door so often. When he gives you over to homosexual thoughts, it may take a lot more effort on your part and your friends part to clean out your house and hand you back over to God. Conversion to Christ will result in a complete makeover of your temple – your body and mind – including homosexual thoughts.

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.

Single And Breaking The Rules

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I have a few confessions to make:

Over my 53 years, I’ve never lived with anybody, but I’m not a lonely man.

I’ve never slept with anybody, but I can fall asleep on my own.

I’m a solitary man, but I know who my neighbors are.

I don’t have a family, but have lived a fulfilled life.

I’m an independent spirit, but I have more responsibilities than most married men.

I’ve never married, but have been successful and own my own house.

I will never “settle down,” but I’m not hitting the bars every night either.

I am beyond mature and have switched over to senior vitamins. But I don’t need anybody to care for me.

I’m not looking for a wife, but I don’t have a poor view of marriage.

I’m not looking for a commitment. I have a permanent commitment to Christ.

I’m not drifting aimlessly in a world of utopia. I know who I am and where I’m going.

I’m not waiting to finish school. I have a college degree.

I love all children, but I’m not a pedophile.

I don’t plan on having a family, but I do know what love is. My maternal grandfather had 17 brothers and sisters.

I can appreciate feminine beauty. But I don’t need a woman to affirm my manhood.

I have a roof, food, and clothes. And more. I’m not waiting on anything.

I’ve never bought condoms because I’ve never had to “protect” myself.

I’ve never “known” a woman sexually. But I haven’t figured out why that makes me less holy than married preachers who live adulterous lives.

I don’t have a better half. I am a whole person. I’m not bitter.

I don’t mirror God’s love for the church, but rather the church’s separation from the world and a new world order.

I’m not waiting on God to bring me “the one.” I’m secure in who I am.

I don’t go out on “dates.” I spend time with friends.

I don’t consider my singleness a problem or disease to be cured. I feel very well. Thanks.

I don’t bring home the bacon to anybody. I buy and cook my own.

I don’t mind talking to anybody, anytime or anywhere. But I won’t chase you.

I don’t expect to fit in. If that’s your definition of a loner, then that’s me.

I don’t expect anybody to relate to me. That’s okay. More than likely, I don’t relate to you.

I love married people. But I don’t listen to their advice.

I’m not always loving and kind. But that’s not something you can’t fix. It’s the way I am.

I have friends who fall under all three types of Matthew 19 eunuchs, including true hermaphrodites. God made them that way. Did he make you with a tongue ring?

I’ve been celibate my whole life, but I’m not gay.

I believe homosexuality is a sin. But that doesn’t mean I hate homosexuals.

I’m not “age appropriate” and never will be. Where did your mind go on that one?

My values do not adapt to a changing cultural environment. I believe biblical standards are the same today as they were 2000 years ago. If you don’t like me today, you won’t like me tomorrow.

I go to church to meet people, not to get more religious.

I do not guard my heart. I go where it takes me.

I’m somewhat of an expert on Praying Mantises.

John

Advent And Celibacy

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Most people think of Advent as waiting for the Christmas tree to go up and presents to be opened. Do you see Rudolph on radar yet? Many in the family idolatry church today think it symbolizes waiting on Christ’s birth, being fruitful and multiplying, and everything good about family life. Breaking news: Avent has nothing to do with family life. Jesus was the first baby born and the last baby born. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. For those who choose celibacy, Advent not only recognizes those who waited on Christ’s birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but also those who wait on his second coming today. Preparation for this second Advent is one of the “affairs of the Lord” that Apostle Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 7:34. I’m not saying that married people can’t understand waiting on the rapture. But I am saying they can’t understand its full reality and immediacy. Their fire and longing has been extinguished. Their need for comfort and pleasure has been answered. Their time goes no further than the clock hanging on the wall. No matter how heavy their spiritual concerns may be, they are easily trumped by a wet diaper, a hungry spouse, a bigger house, and a bigger inheritance for their children. That’s why Protestant churches are plagued with weak pastors. They can’t preach the truth because they’ll lose their job and starve their children.

But for those of us who have foregone marriage and wait on the Lord in all things, Advent has a much deeper meaning. We are able to testify with our lives that this world is passing away and point towards a new heaven and a new earth where no one is given in marriage and no diapers need to be changed. We are able to renounce earthly inheritance for life everlasting. We can hang a shingle on our souls that reads: “There’s something better to come.” In a real sense, our whole lives are an advent – not just the four weeks leading up to Christmas. It is our responsibility to make sure everybody knows the baby is coming back with full unbridled Godly authority, not as a sacrificial lamb. His vengeance will be swift and final. For a lot of people, that means they are waiting to die. I’m waiting to live.

Our pessimistic world knows only how to live in a moment of pleasure, where men have to get it up and women have to put it out – a dumbed down society. Consider the paradox of Christ’s poverty – a man who had everything but owned nothing in this world. As Jesus told the scribe in Matthew 8:20: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” How do you think Jesus would fair in the business world today? Imagine if the American dream was to be homeless. Could you get on board with that? Would you be willing to bet that God’s plan is bigger than our individual lives? He was a homeless man. Yet he was the wealthiest man who ever lived. He was an unmarried man who never had sex or children. Yet he passed everything to his children. He was a man who lived a short while on earth. Yet he defined time out of time. He was a radical man.

Celibacy is just as radical today. There are still Pharisees among us who scoff and worship the idols of marriage and children. Instead of conforming their lives to Christ, they cling to Old Testament and Mosaic law and throw the New Testament out the window. The only thing they know how to wait for is the next fruitful romp in the hay, the next moment of pleasure. As someone who has chosen the Lord’s affairs, I see Advent as anticipation and preparation rather than waiting. For the lost world, waiting is a passive thing. We wait in line at Walmart. It’s a waste of time. Instead, we who are celibate actively anticipate and prepare for the new world. By renouncing marriage, we are actively affirming the expectant arrival of our King Jesus. We point not just to the next generation or next millennium, but to a time beyond this time. Celibacy is like the Hubble telescope on steroids. It peers as deep into space as man can see, but still can’t see all of eternity. It can’t see all the preparations that are underway in heaven.

So how do we actively anticipate? One way is by making sure all the grain is brought in from the fields. Do you know lost souls who don’t even know the true meaning of Christmas? This is the time to remind them that . . . time is short. The tablecloths are being spread on heavenly tables. The candles are being lit. Make sure all of your friends have their names in the Lamb’s book of life. It’s also a good time to affirm the consistency of God, the fulfillment of his promises, and how the Christ returning is the same Christ that Simeon and Anna met in the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2). Serve as a reminder of their patience and faith. And realize that the more things we don’t have, the more room we have for Christ’s concerns. Light a candle so that the world will see you are here.

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.

True Singles Versus True Widows

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I’ve asked the question before – What is a single? Fifty years ago they were people who had not married. They were those who made up singles groups in churches. The word “single” had a biblical basis. They were expected to be chaste and to have had no visitors in their temples. They were honored and respected by church families. Single men and women were given responsibilities in church, like mentoring young people. Not anymore. Singles groups have given way to the divorced group, divorced again group, newly widowed group, I left my spouse because of abuse group, single parents group, “I think I might be gay group,” etc. Today, to remind someone of their past is synonymous with making them feel uncomfortable. And sadly churches reinforce the notion that histories don’t matter and that when Jesus forgives sins he erases everything from your memory – sin with no consequences. Yes, for the politically correct church, that’s the goal – to make you feel comfortable and good about yourself – like a glorified support group. “Single? Step this way. Are you widowed or divorced? Door number two.” But is it really possible to separate one’s marital status from their sexual history? Socially yes. Biblically no. Because the Bible makes it very clear that if your vessel has been inhabited, you have been married (1 Corinthians 3:16). That becomes your history, regardless of church attendance or good works.

The Bible also talks about the issue of past histories. In 1 Timothy 5:3-9, Apostle Paul addressed the role of widows this way:

3 Honour widows that are widows indeed.
4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.
7 And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.
8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.

Widows indeed? In some versions (NKJV, NAB), they are referred to as “true widows.” Why did Paul qualify them with “indeed”? Because the word widow cannot be defined without a past history. According to the Oxford Dictionary a widow is: “A woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.” Notice that Paul listed four qualifications for a true widow: 1) She did not have children or other family that could take care of her. 2) She did not live in pleasure. 3) She was at least 60 years of age. 4) She had lived without sex since her husband’s death, the wife of one man. The word single cannot be defined without a past history either. With the exception of the minimum 60 years of age (which is irrelevant), what’s the difference between a true widow and a true single? There is none, exceed that a widow has had sex and a single has not. In our family idolatry culture today, the widow is a “known quantity.” The single is not. The widow will leave a legacy of a husband and/or children. The single will not. That’s a good enough reason to punish true singles, isn’t it?

“Liveth in pleasure” can only be interpreted one way. A true widow has lived without a sexual relationship after her husband died. She had enough dignity and class to honor him even after his death by remaining chaste (wife of one man). How did a community determine that? There’s only one way – Sexual histories and reputations were discussed in homes and synagogues. Reputations are not made with gossip, but with facts. Verse 10 even states that a true widow is “well reported of for good works.” Her history mattered that much. What does the history of singles matter? Not too much in churches today. “Taken into a number” in verse 9 suggests that true widows were part of a special social order. If there was a special order, and I think there was, their reputations were the only way of determining who could put their name on the roll. Imagine what would happen today if churches followed the recommendations of Paul and identified the true widows that were qualified to receive assistance from the church. Imagine what would happen if a church set out to determine who had lived a life of chastity after their husband’s death and who were false widows. I don’t think many churches would have to worry about their financial status. I tend to think that the true widows of the New Testament were not only honored – but also had authority in the Christian community, had designated functions, and had leadership roles before the churches came under city/state control. What kind of leadership roles do true singles have today? Outside the Catholic church, single men are not even allowed to be pastors in most denominations. That’s a lot of honor, isn’t it?

Following Paul’s line of thinking, I think we can just as well say there are true singles today and false singles or, biblically speaking, true unmarrieds and false unmarrieds. True singles are authentic solitary people who have had no visitors in their temple. They have had no relationships and have waited on marriage to have sex. False singles live in pleasure and have not waited. Yes, I’m a true single. But the sexual component is not a fraction of who I am as a whole. There are more profound things that separate me from social singles today. Probably the greatest thing is my solitary life. I like peace and quiet. I fix my own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I wash my own clothes. I shop for my own groceries. I pay my own bills. I clean my own house. I schedule my own activities. I go to bed by myself and wake up by myself. Nobody knows when I leave or come back home. I go to church by myself. And I still live in the dark ages because I don’t have a portable device. Don’t worry. I feel fine. Having an empty vessel has allowed me to do things I would not be able to do if married. My interests are not divided. I’m able to get to know people on a level deeper than most spouses know each other.

Most people today couldn’t comprehend such a solitary life. If true widows were desolate, how much more are true singles who don’t even have children? I think true singles today are even more desolate, trust God just as much, and continue to pray night and day. I have known churches to help widows by establishing dependant funds, providing them with food and clothes, adopting their children, visiting them during the holidays, providing volunteers to help them with ADLs, teaching them new skills, getting them jobs, sending them cards and letters, helping them pay bills, building them new homes, helping them clean their homes, visiting them in the hospital, helping them clean their yards, visiting them, helping them connect with Godly men, taking their children to and from school, giving them a listening ear, assigning deacons and wives to care for their emotional needs, helping them connect to the rest of the church family, creating support networks for them, and helping them with transportation to doctors offices and grocery stores. What has your church done lately to honor true singles?

Purity – The False Witness Of Today

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about purity or, as the critics like to call it, the purity culture. Purity balls have especially come under fire. Here are a few snippets from recent writings on the subject:

“They also assert that purity balls define a woman’s worth by her virginity rather than her whole being, actions and attitudes, and emphasize her role as a possession to be passed by her father to her husband.”

“Instead, the father/daughter purity culture feeds the idea that girls are only valuable inasmuch as they are valued in the eyes of the men around them, be that their boyfriends or their fathers.”

“But what message does it send to that same girl (to have) Daddy publicly announcing to the world in her presence that he alone controls her sexuality until marriage?”

“Purity culture is, at its heart, a shame-based approach to sexual ethics. It creates a world where secrecy, silence, and shame surround sex, all in the name of God. And it harms women.”

Did you notice something missing in the above comments? Yep, that would be boys. Where did the guys go in the purity equation? Let’s take a look at the definition of purity. According to Merriam-Webster it is: 1) Lack of dirty or harmful substances. 2) Lack of guilt or evil thoughts. The giant elephant in the room is this: It is not gender specific. It is not just a girl thing. Not only is purity not gender specific in our dictionaries, it’s also not gender specific in the Bible. Fornication is never defined in scripture as applying to women only. But that is the witness the church is sending out to the world today, a visually based system of ethics that befalls women simply because pregnancy is visible to man’s eyes. Imagine what society would be like if a man’s hair turned purple after he had sex the first time. God could have very well made us that way. But that doesn’t give us the right to abdicate responsibility for sexual ethics. Rather, it should remind us that God created us with an intellectual capacity above that of animals and the ability to control our desires. That means purity is just as important for us guys. It should be MORE our responsibility than the girl’s. So when we’re not included, a false witness is sent to the world; that includes every purity ball, purity conference, abstinence class, etc., not to mention the jewelry and other paraphanalia that sells purity today. And it begs the question – What are the girls waiting for? Is all of your manhood wrapped up in the fact that you have a . . . tool? There are too many girls only purity groups to name all of them. Here are just a few:

Radiant Purity Conferences For Girls
Pure in Heart Conferences For Girls
Power of Purity Conference For Girls
The Pink Lid – A Girls Conference
Girls of Grace
Pure Freedom/Secret Keeper Girl – Dannah Gresh
Hannah Elise Girls Conferences
Life In Progress Purity Conferences For Teen Girls
Strong In The Lord Conferences For Girls
Purity Talks Girls Conferences For Girls
Vertical Love Retreats For Girls
Generation Keepsake Conferences For Girls
SHINE Girls Conferences
Pure Excitement Conferences For Girls
Tina Marie Griffin Conferences For Girls
American Heritage Girls Conferences
Girls On The Move Conferences
Wellspring Girls’ Conferences

There are literally hundreds more. How many purity conferences did I find targeted to guys only? A grand total of zero. What message does that send to a lost world? I’m afraid it sends one message loud and clear – The Christian community endorses a double standard when it comes to sexual ethics: He’s a stud, she’s a slut. Boys will be boys, girls will be Cinderellas. Women are hoes, men are players. Nearly everything the church does today in regards to purity reinforces this double standard. Conferences for girls only says that it’s okay to objectify women, that it’s okay for guys to have sex with as many girls as possible, that it’s okay to revert to . . . being an animal. Traditional thinking faults men for these double standards. But when you consider all of the events targeted to girls and the involvement of churches, I’m afraid that is not the case. In my opinion, the cause of the double standard falls on the shoulders of women just as much as men – maybe even more. Every time one of these gender specific events takes place, every time a purity ball is scheduled, every time a church schedules a purity conference for girls – it’s worse than a chapter of the Bible being ripped out. Apostle Paul talked about the perilous times he lived in. We live in world that is probably darker than what he saw. Lost souls have no clue what the Bible says about sexual ethics. They have no sexual standards to pass to their children. The ONLY thing they know is what they see and hear in the media and how they’re treated by “church people.” They are looking for something to point their fingers at. I’m afraid the double standards reinforced by the purity movement today is giving them quite enough to point at and laugh about.

Churches, think about it this way: Would you consider offering an alter call for women only? That sounds silly, doesn’t it? It’s just as ludicrous to hold women accountable for abstaining from sex before marriage while expecting boys to be boys. Christianity is based on sexual ethics. That’s why we’re in a moral crisis today in America. Sex has been separated from spirituality, thanks to a church that idolizes marriage and family and frowns on solitary lives and celibacy. Sex has been separated from marriage, thanks to man made weddings and state involvement. Sex has been separated from reproduction, thanks to contraception and abortion. And now sexual ethics have been separated from self control thanks to a purity double standard reinforced by the church. Being a real man today means having sex and making babies. Self control is not even in the picture. So men of virtue, I encourage you to speak up on these issues.

Everything the Christian community does that comes under media spotlight does one of two things: It builds up the body of Christ or it tears down the body of Christ. There is no comfortable fence in the middle. Even things that we think are insignificant, like a purity conference, become ammunition for those who wage war against us, the principalities and rulers of darkness. I much prefer an honest witness to the world, a witness that says it is just as much (if not more) the responsibility of guys to master their self control and not define sexual ethics as “whenever she says no.” I prefer a witness to the world that says it is the responsibility of girls to not view their bodies as only objects of man’s desire and to define their value as creatures of God and not just ladies waiting for a man. Dads – What if marriage is not in your daughter’s plans? Do you still want to walk down a church isle with her and promise to protect her virginity until she finds a husband? As Genesis tells us, male and female he made them – not husband and wife. One is not more valuable than the other. Did God guarantee your daughter a husband?

Ageism’s Effect on Virtuous Women

Sycamore Tree by John Morgan

Sycamore Tree by John Morgan

Isn’t it odd that virginity is not supposed to exist today after 30, especially for guys? The result is a lot of lonely girls looking for Mr. Right and the typical “I’m too good for you” man-hating language infiltrating the internet dating profiles. How does the virtuous guy interpret that? Not too good. Here’s a sample from a 23 year old girl:

“I’m a virgin and plan on staying that way till I get married. You shouldn’t message me if you’re older then 28. I’m not gonna date you. I’m really not even comfortable being your friend at that point. You better be ready for a conversation. None of this 20 question crap. It’s uncomfortable. I won’t play. You best be ready for a friendship first. That’s right, I only date from my friend zone pile. That’s how I know your character. You are fine with the fact that I will not be willing to meet up with you for a while. I’m wary and if you don’t get why, turn on the news. i don’t wanna hear you aren’t like that. How am I supposed to know that?”

I guess in her world those of us over 28 and waiting don’t exist. This is what happens when even the eyes of decent girls get fogged over with the ways of the world, when they spend so much time in front of TVs watching the rape and murder stories on the local news that they can’t discern reality. Fornication becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you expect no better than that, you will see no better than that. If you expect all Mr. Wrongs, you will see only Mr. Wrongs. Have you ever come across a deer in the road at night? Have you watched it jump around in the glare of your headlights? I’m afraid this is what’s happening to girls today. They are running scared, afraid of men, hunkering down in front of computer screens. Then when they reach 30 or so, they panic and fall into a ditch, broken and battered – with not even a mentor to turn to for encouragement. No matter what the news stories or what the statistics show when it comes to waiting until marriage, you must allow room for impossibilities – for miracles that only God can perform. When you close your mind to the existence of Godly men, become so frozen with paranoia that you can’t say “hello” to a stranger on the street, and have a sign hanging out your window that says “how am I supposed to know,” you are going to reap what you sew – a dry field; or even worse, no mentor to turn to. Sure, there are guys who are jerks out there. But if you know what your standards are, ignore them. Why allow them to pour dirt over your expectations? This may be a surprise, but virtuous guys see the same thing.

How are you supposed to discern the good guys from the bad? First, watch very carefally what goes in your eyes and ears. As 1 Phillippians 4:8 tells us: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We cannot think about what is pure and lovely watching the evening news. Turn it off. We also have to fellowship with other unmarried believers. For most Christians, that means church. You can’t sit at home and pick out Mr. Right from an onlight catalog. And, most importantly I think, we have to be open to the guidance of someone older than ourselves. That is not possible when you put a world-defined age limit on virginity. Your parents may be able to encourage you up to a certain age. But if they married at 21 and you’re 25, it will not be too convincing.

This is why you see ages attached to virginity headlines, book titles, and movie titles. 21, 22, 23, 24 . . . 28 years old. It becomes more and more difficult. It is an accomplishment that is measured and valued in years. But like anything else, the glass can be half full or half empty. You’re either grateful that God has gotten you this far or your dreading another day without a husband. God did not promise us a spouse. In my opinion, chastity is more of an intellectual achievement than it is of controlling hormones. Can a 20 year old virgin authentically teach and inspire a 40 year old virgin? Not so much. Can a lady who doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle teach another lady how to fly the space shuttle? I don’t think so. And yes, I think that is a valid analogy. When the 20 year old that spent her younger years talking about how all men are jerks reaches 40 without a husband, she looks around and says “why am I the only one?” I wonder if the Godly man who she brushed off earlier would have stuck around a while longer if she had given him some encouragement? Plus, why am I the only one shouldn’t even be a question to ask. You’re only following God’s will, whether you’re the only one or the one-thousandth one. That’s right. If we did things God’s way, a 60 year old virgin would be as common as leaves on a tree, not even newsworthy.

I just think these choices in life should be made from a position of strength, not from a position of weakness – from a position of hope, not from a position of defeatism. The only time age is mentioned in the Bible is to shatter the early Christians’ expectations. How would people react today if a 91 year old woman gave birth? That’s how old Sarah was when she gave birth to Isaac. In eternity, where will all the clocks be?

How Does God Define Sex?

True Love When Two Become One by Anthony Falbo

True Love When Two Become One by Anthony Falbo

Women who are waiting until marriage are virgins as pure as the driven snow. Men who wait until marriage become crippled with sexual confusion and permanent awkwardness . . . or worse. This double standard has existed for as long as men have walked the earth. It’s as deeply rooted in human reality as the sun coming up in the morning. Consider this opening paragraph from a recent magazine article: “Hours after posting a terrifying YouTube warning, a murderous, misogynistic, 22-year-old virgin killed six people and wounded 13 more near a California college. ” Those murderous virgins are at it again! Even if his virgin status was the reason he went on a rampage, what does that say about our society? But how does God define sex? Most people would be surprised to know that the word “sex” does not appear in the Bible in any translation. The word “marriage” also does not appear in the Bible. You can put the word sex between two pieces of bread and eat it with your chips and dip. The closest the Bible comes to defining sex is found in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16:

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take Christ’s members and make them the members of a prostitute? Of course not! Or do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For the two, it says, will become one flesh.” What was Paul referring to when he said “it says, will become one flesh? He was referring to Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” When two people become one body in marriage, it’s not possible for one to have something the other doesn’t have. That includes sex. The mere concept of sex as we know it today is one hundred percent manmade mango marmalade. It is not possible for sex to exist outside of marriage. When it does, we have created our own reality outside God’s creation and added another word to the pagan dictionary. Comfortable euphemisms like “premarital sex” and “cohabitating” fool only those who use them. There is no such thing as premarital sex. God’s term is fornication. Just as someone in a tanning booth really didn’t get a suntan – but a tanning booth tan, someone having sex outside of marriage really didn’t have sex – but a fling of fornication.

No matter if we’re married or single, God’s expectations are very clear. In Romans 13:13 we read: “Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.” In other words, our behavior in the day should be the same as at night – proper and transparent, not hiding anything. We can pretend to be playing the world’s game with our careers, money, politics, etc. But sexuality is the area of our lives that will definitely separate us from the world. In a Christian society, the only people who might need a definition for sex may be doctors. Otherwise, how two people become one flesh wouldn’t be anybody else’s business because each couple’s experience is unique and there is no reason to compare their sex life with any other couple’s sex life. It would be like a doctor asking to remove your heart to see if you were still alive. Our language of marriage has sunken to the level of primal bestiality. Man can’t even see civilization on the other side of the fence because he’s on the side where the animals are, walking on all four limbs.

I guess those of us guys who are over 30 and waiting should be rounded up and shot for the protection of . . . innocent civilians. Maybe if other men who are waiting until marriage talked about it more and churches were open to conversations about Christian sexuality, tragedies like this wouldn’t happen. Maybe he wouldn’t have felt so crippled or tormented if he knew he was not alone. Maybe if other women who are waiting affirmed and encouraged virtuous Christian men and told them they were worth waiting for instead of spending their time at purity balls and women’s conferences, they would find the number of Godly single men in their churches increase. Virtue can’t survive in a vacuum or in a zoo cage.

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.

Marriage And Celibate Singleness – The Ultimate Paradox

HeadSpace by Kevin Chupik

HeadSpace by Kevin Chupik

A paradox, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “a person, thing or situation that has two opposite features and therefore seems strange.” The “thing” I’m going to explore is the two sides of the Christian lifestyle coin – marriage and celibacy. A worldly marriage and socially sanctioned sex represents the pinnacle of Christian values in 21st century American culture. Indeed, the word “family” has become synonymous with the word “Christian. Misplaced priorities in marriage have become the basis of cliques along socioeconomic lines and the downfall of America’s education system. In contrast to the Greatest Generation, Americans now believe everybody has the right to have it all; that a man’s good faith goes no deeper than the number of hungry children in his house, and that sex is just as important as food and water. There are many benefits bestowed on those who marry and often these are more important than any perceived love or commitment. First, there are tax breaks. The “marriage penalty” is mostly history. More than half of couples today benefit economically when they marry. For single taxpayers in 2013, the standard deduction was $6,100. But for married couples filing jointly, the deduction was twice as much at $12,200. Another big bonus is children. They are like tax gold. A newborn infant was worth $3,900 in 2013. Then there’s the child tax credit, another $1,000 per child, unless you earn over $100,000 a year. For the lowest income earners, the amount of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) increases significantly with each child they add. In 2013, $6,044 was awarded to families with three or more children earning around $13,450 a year. So for the people who are uneducated and poverty stricken, it pays to have kids. What do you call that? A welfare state. Then there are estate transfer benefits. If a person dies with a hefty nest egg (over 5.25 million), they can transfer all of those assets to their spouse without paying one dime of federal estate tax (called the marital deduction). Add to this the tax exempt status for gifts from spouses. Of course we can’t forget the IRAs. Under certain conditions, a person can pay money into their spouse’s IRA and deduct up to $11,000 on their joint tax return. Married people also benefit when they sell a home. If you’re a single person and pass both the time and residency tests for a long term investment, you’re allowed to earn up to $250,000 in profit from the sale of your home tax-free. If you’re married, you can make up to $500,000 in profit from the sale of a home without paying a cent in capital gains. This all makes it a little easier see why many marriages are not motivated out of love and commitment, but out of financial gain and convenience.

Paradoxically, a biblical marriage is a witness that we are not promised all of our dreams, that we must often wait to have more than we’ve got, that the kingdom of God is not yet come, and that the love between a husband and wife is but a hazy reflection of the love between Christ and his church. Marriage witnesses to the familiar rhythms of life, to the natural order of God’s creation, to the seasons, and to the expected. It symbolizes commitment and sacrifice in a world that can’t see beyond tomorrow. It requires planning, timing, schedules, multiple priorities, and compromise. It also requires the kitchen be ready 24/7 (i.e., Martha) and transportation ready to go anywhere anytime. A Godly marriage also testifies to the self-sustaining nature of human existence. It produces babies. And unlike other babies in the animal world, human babies require consistent care for the first few months of their lives. The paradox: The world says married people have it all; two kids, two car garage, a dog, and a white picket fence. The American dream. In contrast, the Bible says husbands and wives have to wait for the wedding feast in heaven to see all of their dreams fulfilled and what real love is all about.

Likewise, worldly singleness is regarded as a life of unfulfillment, a sacrifice of sexual relationships and heirs, barrenness, bitterness, and loneliness. Our society laughs at the idea of sexual restraint. Movies and TV portray sex as being available on every street corner, with girls being prudes if they say no and guys being desparate and always on the prowl. Distrust reigns supreme because your an unknown quantity until you reveal your heterosexuality within marriage. It’s a world where bodies are a mere means to an end, as a means to arrive at sexual ecstasy. With the help of the pharmaceutical industry, sex has become a recreational sport; something that you have “to be ready” for anytime. Everybody is just one pill away from the crowning golden calf of orgasm, to having all of their dreams fulfilled. And no need to worry about passing along STDs. Men can be safe with latex and women can abort if they don’t want. After all, there’s a “pregnancy crisis center” on every street corner ready with the diapers, bottles, and formula – and a scripture on the way out the door. No price to pay, right? Our society has become so porn saturated that even the word “date” now implies a sexual rendezvous. What used to be a meet in the park and a two hour conversation over coffee has now become a click on a singles meetup page and a 30 minute workout in the backseat of a car. Just shop to your heart’s desire. Don’t like blondes? Here’s a brunette. The church encourages this mindset because it regards singleness as a problem to be solved, a holding station for people who haven’t reached adulthood. Many churches assume that we have a mate waiting out there somewhere. It’s just our job to find them. Even worse, some churches teach that you will not find that someone special until you are walking closer with the Lord. And if you reach some arbitary age around 35-40 and are not married, woe be unto you. After that point, the church sees only two long term possibilities – either you’re fornicating or your gay. Worldly singles today are like the five foolish virgins (Matthew 25) who went to meet the bridegroom with no oil in their lamps. Once they saw the other five virgins with lamps that were burning, they became jealous. As Matthew 25:8-9 tells us: “And the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.’ But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.'” In today’s society, a virgin has become an obstacle to self pleasure; a source of jealousy for those who couldn’t wait until marriage and did not bring oil with their lamps to meet their bridegrooms. And if you’re not sexually satisfied, the world will do anything to please you. Not happy being a man? Not to worry. Become a woman. Believe God created another garden with Adam and Steve? Not to worry. Become a homosexual. Hit a road block when she says no? Find a girl who will say yes. The spiritual nature of sex has been separated from the physical. So what seems like a free choice today will end up costing untold amounts in the long run.

Paradoxically, celibate singleness for Christians is actually a witness to eternity in heaven, to being able to live without sex or having it all, and of living and loving within the boundaries of biblical principles. Celibate singles put a higher priority on mastering self control. They have no expectations and make no assumptions. Even though our Declaration of Independence lists the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the celibate single testifies that not all dreams come true and that there is dignity and meaning in suffering and sacrifice, even for a stranger. In his book Yearnings, Craig Barnes noted that: “Some married people will yearn for a better marriage or for a different marriage, or no marriage; and some singles will yearn for any marriage.” Desire is built in to the sexual process. It can be a good thing or a bad thing. The determining factor is self-control. Celibate singles do not depend on sexual pleasure for contentment or meaning in their lives. And they don’t depend on sex or children to define their manhood or womanhood. To be a child of God in the New Testament is to born of the spirit, not of a woman – which explains why all the Old Testament genealogies are not listed in the New Testament.

Christian marriage and celibate singleness should point to one thing – eternity in heaven with Christ. Unfortunately, it looks like the world’s view has superseded basic Christian beliefs. The church has swallowed the Freudian view that sex motivates everything a man does and that something is always lurking in his subconscious mind, something of a sexual nature that controls his every thought and action. The church needs to repent of this world view of singleness and come to the realization that platonic friendships cannot be overlooked in the Christian community, that some people do think about other things than sex, and that celibate singles have something priceless to offer – love that goes beyond blood lines and a point of view that is not dependent upon financial status or the size of a house.

More Than Words

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“Testimony” is a word steeped in religious and legal overtones. Church-goers know it traditionally as an emotionally charged story to convict people to get right with the Lord. It usually involves sexual sin, out of wedlock pregnancies, STDs, drugs, rehabilitation, and everything else that defines a free for all society. And on the internet, you can read “How I Turned Sexual Temptation Into A Blessing” and “Delivered From Sexual Addiction.” The same soap operas can be heard in churches today. Should we take it for granted today that everybody has had sex by 14 and that the idea of chastity can only provide punch lines on late night TV? That’s the message teenagers are getting. They are being tossed words that provide them with only entertainment. Unfortunately, many parents think sex-laced, broken but forgiven drama is the only way to keep them on the straight and narrow. If you didn’t know better, you would think Tom T. Hall was leading every church service with “Faster horses. Younger women. Older whiskey. More stories.” Testimonies are certainly effective witnessing tools. But it seems today that the Christianity presented to the world is less about saying yes to Christ and modeling our lives after him and more about recovering from tragedy and having a story to tell and about making sure not to make anybody feel uncomfortable. As blogger Libby Anne recently wrote:

“I was one of those good little evangelical children who listened to speakers talk of pasts full of drugs and sex and their changed lives and wished that I could have a “testimony” as powerful as theirs. Christianity had the power to change lives, to completely transform people—or at least, that’s what I was taught. And those whose lives reflected that—those who were in the past addicts or criminals but whose lives were changed by Jesus—were the proof of the transforming power of Jesus.”

We have indeed reached a low point when purity is not considered a powerful testimony or the transforming power of Jesus, when Christianity requires a fall into the depths of depravity to be authentic. For youth groups, hearing about another person’s sexual exploits often plants the seeds of what they’re missing in their impressionable minds. And when these “times of sharing” come around, it is only those who engaged in premarital intercourse or other illicit activity who come forward to rehash their sordid tales — not those with no sexual history. But it’s about more than words. Let’s face it. There are not too many teenagers who are going to get up and tell their non-story of waiting on sex after hearing the details of sexacapades in the city from their peers – because it leaves them even more self conscious about being different. Not many are going to walk out on a limb of chastity in such an environment– especially guys. They will always see personal testimonies of sexual behavior as sexual conquests, just with a little guilt written on their faces. Even worse, experience-based testimonies reinforce the widely accepted belief that fornication and adultery are inevitable for everybody and that you get a lot of attention when you do “stumble.” Breaking news for the church — Teenagers love attention. Most don’t get it at home.

These stories also validate the error of visually-based ethics. “I know it when I see it” replaces all standards set forth in the Bible. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart would feel quite at home today. They also present men as being inherently unable to control their desires and reinforce the belief that women are objects as well as victims. “Well, I met this guy” becomes as predictable as the doxology. In these fallen and repentant testimony roundtables, purity is presented as an ideal, a “project” to keep working on, something to dream about – as a way to prevent STD’s, teen pregnancies, and to uphold family (i.e., church) honor. But that’s what happens when the world comes into the church. The spiritual nature of sex gets detached from the physical body, the logic behind waiting is never addressed, everybody gets homogenized into a nice rainbow, and the truths presented in the Bible become hazy relativity. After hearing Brother Mike retell his alcohol binge out on the streets with a different prostitute every night and waking up in an emergency room after falling into a gutter, the definitions of “purity” and “self control” become quite hazy indeed.

Premarital sex today is glorified in all shapes and forms; from the bedroom to the boardroom, from the streets to the pulpits. But testaments are about more than words. They’re about more than what we do. They’re about more than what we see. They’re also about what we don’t do in the process of reflecting Christ’s love in our lives and respecting the dignity of other human beings and God’s creation. They’re about remaining faithful if you accepted Christ as a child and about the capacity to serve as mothers and fathers for those children who don’t have them. I encourage everybody on the journey of chastity before marriage to stand up and let your voices be heard and church leaders to step away from the world and reconsider the witness of inexperience, the witness of something more than words.

On a personal note, I thank Kerri and The Coffee & Christ Show in Huntsville, AL for asking me to share my story. You can watch it here: http://kerrichronicles.com/the-coffee-christ-show-talking-celibacy-one-of-gods-greatest-gifts/

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2014/07/everybody-has-a-past.html

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/

Does Man’s Virtue Have Any Value?

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An interesting phenomenom I’ve noticed lately in the world of singleness is that nearly all personal testimonies include a sordid tale of sexual sin and redemption.  No stories about self control and righteousness.  And it seems the more selacious the story the bigger the audience.  It all falls in line with a morally corrupt society, one where a story of purity becomes more and more uncomfortable.  Where does purity fit in a society that worships sex and marriage?  Purity today is seen as emptiness, immaturity, self righteousness, lack of responsibility, adolescence.   Not worth much for the masses.  It won’t sell car insurance, can’t express your freedom, doesn’t need protection, and doesn’t sell on a street corners.  In short, it doesn’ have a story to tell a sin filled world that would rather hear about adultery, fornication, pedophilia, homosexuality, and all other kinds of perversion.  And unfortuately this trend has worked its way into churches and other religious circles.   Here’s a sampling of singles’ “testimonies” from the internet:

Then all of a sudden one day our eyes were opened and we realized that our bodies began to notice things about each other physically and that’s when sex happened.”

“I had PRE MARITAL SEX I AM CONDEMNING MYSELF and I can’t forgive the guy. After I gave everything to him , he dropped me and choose the other girl.”

“I’m pregnant and I don’t know what to do. I intentionally sinned when I made the decision to let my desire control me and have sex last month”

” . . . my boyfriend who i met in church is also active in church we have managed to remain pure until today the temptation was so much and we gave in . . . “

Apparently many people today think that a tragic story of downfall is required to become a Christian, that you’ve got to go through Sodom to get to heaven.  Of course that is not a requirement.  It is possible to accept Christ at a young age and live a life of self control and righteousness.  Consider the story of Joseph in the Bible.  He committed his life to God and purity at a young age.  Even after being sold into slavery to Potiphar, his committment to sexual purity did not change.   According to Genesis 39:12-20:

“When Potiphar’s wife “came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.  When she saw that she was holding his cloak and he had fled, she called out to her servants.  Soon all the men came running. “Look!” she said.  My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us! He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me.  She kept the cloak with her until her husband came home.  Then she told him her story. “That Hebrew slave you’ve brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me,” she said.  “But when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!”  Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her.  So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.”

Three powerful words – tore himself away.  Imagine that, a man rejecting sex!   Notice though that Joseph didn’t get to tell his story.   Potiphar believed his wife with no questions asked.  Men’s virtue in those days didn’t have much value either.  Just as today, it was a woman/child worship society where women were expected to set the sexual standards.   How many testimonies do we hear from men today who tore themselves away from seducers and defended their purity?  Unfortunately, men of character today have to deal with false accusations just as well – from homosexuality to irresponsibility.  Not only is their virtue considered worthless, it has fallen onto the negative side of the balance sheet.   Virtuous Christian single ladies – I encourage you to listen to the stories of men of honor, set aside your suspiciousness and listen to the Josephs in the real world today.  Not all their testimonies sound like sex in the city.  There are men today who accepted Christ at a young age too and are saving sex until marriage.  Potiphar’s wife screamed to the masses and they believed her.  You are going to have to communicate to the world the value you place on virtuous men and stand up to Potiphar’s wife and say “shut up and sit down woman!”  Should stories of brokeness and forgiveness be worth more than stories of self control and righteousness?  Who have you listened too lately?  How much is a virtuous man worth to you?

Voyeurs of Virginity

voyeurism

Attacks on virginity have become pretty commonplace in the digital world.  But what is amazing is the level of voyeurism being used today.  It’s almost like “virgin hunting” has become a new sport.  And support groups on the internet have become their hunting grounds.  When one of their members mentions virginity, they are quickly called self righteous and intolerant.  Unfortunately, these guilt trips are often effective on blog administrators who suddenly feel the need to be tolerant and politically correct.  This is especially true in closed support groups.  Whatever qualifications were in place for potential members are tossed by the wayside.  “Waiting until marriage” has been downgraded to “waiting since the last time I had sex.”  The pesky issue of virginity is just so offensive.  What kind of message does that send to singles who are really waiting?  For a lot of them, it sends one message – “Virginity is not as important as you think.”  In recent days, purity groups and blogs have become nothing more than Sex and the City confessionals and child abuse/rape counseling sessions.  Singles who joined them in hopes of getting encouragement from like minded waiters have gotten a few surprises.  Here are a few examples from one of the largest “purity” blogs on the internet:

“There’s an ex of mine when i was 18, him 30, who abused me sexually and financially. i ran away from him but now i have been feeling like re-opening the contact.”

I’m 46 years old & my boyfriend of 5 months is 51. We’ve both been married twice in ungodly marriages & have come to know Christ in a very intimate way through the pain of divorce.”

Well after my addiction to drugs came i started selling to pay for my addiction and then came to where i started fooling around with different girls and then my addiction to porn came along so finally after the age of 22 i hit rock bottom.”

In the area of sexual ethics, a society chooses which groups are granted exclusivity and respect.  And that choice reflects its civility and Christian values.  Are you divorced?  There are hundreds of “Divorce Care” groups in churches.  Do you have a problem with pornography?  There are “Porn Free Initiatives” being setup by countless churches.  Are you an unwed teen mother?  There are hundreds of tax-payer funded “crisis pregnancy centers” in your county to choose from.  There are even parents in charge of pregnancy crisis centers who set up purity sites and pose as virgins to raise money for these centers.  Can you say twisted?  Isn’t it obvious that the family only approach to purity does not work?  Is everybody still so gullible to think that mama knows best?  Good old family values, apple pie, and dirty toothbrushes.  These same “struggling parents” give lip service to purity within the confines of a church building, but mock and call it offensive within the anonymous world of the internet – especially when they’re trying to raise money for their pregnant daughters.  Churches – If you think “divorce care” programs or “porn initiatives” support the virtue of virginity, you are badly mistaken.  If you think they will open up a discussion on virginity, you are delusional.  Can the sexually broken and forgiven be encouraged in the same room as the righteous and self controlled?  As hard as it may be to accept, the answer to that question is no.  Sexual sin has consequences that forgiveness cannot undo.  Unfortunately, the only testimony your likely hear in a church today is from the broken 18 year old with two children who started having sex with her boyfriends at 14 and has had three abortions and managed to wean herself off alcohol and crack cocaine.  A good story sells.

In a few short years, “virginity” will be so offensive it will be removed from the pages of the Bible.  Gabriel will have to settle for the “best secondary virgin” to proclaim the birth of Christ.  After all, the girl who lived next door to Mary might be offended and feel shamed.  There will be no more Virgin Marys in nativity scenes.  No.  That would be too condemning.  What about the guys?  Are they expected to wait until marriage?  No, I’m afraid they’re also peeping through windows.

Dads can continue to take their daughters to purity balls for entertainment.  But on the way home they should explain gonorrhea and other STDs to their little girls and stop by a pharmacy to pick up Doxycycline and Zithromax – because none of the boys will have waited.  Is it not obvious that Christianity is rooted in sexual ethics?  Some virtues in this world call for respect and exclusivity.  Virginity is one of them.  If we can’t defend it from voyeurs and respect its privacy today, it will be gone tomorrow.  Parents – If you feel the need to talk about sex and purity outside your marriage and family, I suggest you visit your local porn shop.  Or, if you still have issues, a counselor may be able to help.

Virginity – Pure And Simple

Hercules

A culture in crisis brings a language in crisis.  And this is so true today, especially in the world of sexual ethics.  Purity, chastity, virginity, abstinence – Definitions all up for grabs.  The reason is simple – The rock that the church was built on has turned into shades of gray.  Basic Christian principles have crumbled like an avalanche down the side of a mountain.  White?  It’s relative.  Black?  It’s relative.  Purity?  Let’s don’t hurt anybody’s feelings.  Truth?  You believe what you want to believe.  The basic truth that we’ve compromised on is found in one verse in the Bible, Matthew 6:24:  “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.”  This is the definition of a mandatory dichotomy, one that has no shades of gray.  The Christian tradition is filled with polar opposites.  For instance, the mere act of accepting Christ involves stepping from a black world into the bright light of Christ in the blink of an eye.  Our rebirth is instantaneous.  There is no gradual progression from dark to light.  In the blink of an eye, man is transformed from a life of sin and shame to one of grace and redemption.  The marriage and celibacy dichotomy is another example.  As Apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 7, every Christian makes a choice between a life of marriage and concern for the affairs of this world or a life of celibacy and concern for Christ’s affairs.  There is no gray area between the two.  You can’t commit to a life of celibacy and allow the exception of one affair per year.  Another one is male and female.  But perhaps the best example of a mandatory dichotomy is the virgin and nonvirgin, the unknown versus the known. In the time it takes for consummation, two people become one flesh (Mark 10:8).  This dichotomy highlights a word that is ever morphing in the world of virtue today – Purity.  It has traditionally been a well understood reference to virginity, someone who has never had sex, male or female.  It is even used as such in the bible – I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”  But there are circles today where it means no more than a comfortable “doing good.” Even in abstinence programs, the word has been hijacked and used as a straw man by those who operate in shades of gray.  The setup is fairly simple – Underhandedly set virginity up as perfection, throw in the straw man of purity, and scream “purity culture!” in a crowded theater – or should I say, abstinence rally.   It seems to be a fairly effective technique today.  You can read numerous stories of how dirty chewing gum and toothbrushes have “shamed” so many people.  The purity of a virgin has become so offensive.  What people forget is – you can’t shame a shamed/repentant person.  So if that abstinence talk at church is attended only by Christian students, it is not possible for one person to shame another.  However, a convicted conscious might cause someone to feel uncomfortable and try to defend themselves with an accusation of shame.  Black and white.  Night and day.  Pure and impure.   Basic Christian dichotomies.  It’s simple.  Can we give the virgins back their purity?

Are Straw Men Purity’s Biggest Enemy?

Why Do Straw Men Arguments Work?

Why Do Straw Men Arguments Work?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a straw man as:  An argument, claim, or opponent that is invented in order to win or create an argument.  In other words, you misrepresent a person’s argument and then knock it down.  It is traditionally used in public debates because the intelligence quotient is scaled down to the least common denominator.  The person using these tactics, ironically, is not convinced of his own position.  It’s nearly always used by the weaker opponent because a straw man is easier to defeat than a real man.  The reason they are effective in attacking purity is because most people do not have adequate biblical knowledge on which to defend it.  Nonbelievers are aware of these weaknesses.  For instance, when the “objectifies the woman” argument is used, the Christian is defenseless unless he understands that sex is not the only thing that makes a marriage.  It also turns the tables because objectifying women is one of the main things Christians rally against.  So when they’re accused of doing the same, it appears as if they are pouring salt into their own wounds.  “Slut-shaming” is an interesting example because it exaggerates the Christian’s expected response to sexual immorality.  People expect their reaction to be one of disapproval.  “Slut” just exaggerates this disapproval large enough to knock down purity.  Same thing with “shaming.”  Turning the noun shame into an adverb with shaming just makes the argument large enough to knock down it down as well.

The straw men arguments almost always exaggerate either the importance of virginity, put words in somebody’s mouth, involve false accusations, or are just outright lies.  Notice too that a lot of them actually turn the person who committed sexual sin into a victim, a poor crying broken victim of hateful Christians who is not happy until someone hands her a blue ribbon too. I mean, she can’t feel left out, can she?  She can still feel special by being a second class V card carrier, can’t she?   Sexual sin really has no permanent consequences, does it?  Accepting the fact that there really are people who are sexually pure is too divisive, isn’t it?   The church has compromised inch by inch, turning a head that way and turning a head that way.  Now sexual virtue is seen as quaint notion from days gone by.  When men still respected themselves.  When women could walk the streets safely at night.  And to think this carnage was brought on by a poor little weak straw man without a spine, by people who did not have the spine to defend the Christian lexicon, by parents who didn’t care to get educated and who put the welfare of their children above the social status of their lives.

Some words and phrases that have been used as straw man arguments to attack virginity.  All are direct quotes from 2013/2014.

Purity culture.

Wait so it’ll be great.

Fortress of denial.

Someone must die.

Imputing guilt.

Slut-shaming.

Objectifies the woman.

Damaged goods.

So dirty and filthy.

What’s the big deal?

Her only value is between her legs.

Made her feel worthless.

Fetishizes purity.

Damages women.

Moral center is their crotch.

Their bodies are only bargaining chips.

Devalued like a new car.

Virginity trumps intelligence.

It’s medieval.

Most valued goods.

Dehumanizing.

Old piece of gum.

Judgmental.

Rape isn’t a woman’s fault.

May still be good, even if her stock has decreased.

Not easy for Mormon couples.

Taken out of context, some are quite comical.  But you’ve probably seen them all used in the context described above.  We need to put the spine back into straw men.  We need men with enough spine to defend purity from clever wordsmiths.

Maidens Waiting For Marriage In A Fallen World

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This post is to encourage ladies who not only believe in saving sex until marriage, but are also living the life.  It is for those who have waited, are waiting, and will wait.  If you’ve made mistakes, are forgiven, and waiting again – that is perfectly fine and I tip my hat to you.  But this message is for those who are still waiting.  The difference in the support needed is like comparing apples to oranges.  It is in no way meant to be judgmental.

For those of you who have publicly identify yourselves, created blogs of encouragement for men and women who are still waiting, written books on purity, even spoken to groups on chastity and abstinence — Thank you so much.  My hat not only tips, it goes off to you.   I am very aware of your security concerns.  I had the same about a year ago when I started this blog.   I know many of you have had to deal with everything from email attacks to blog bombs – demonstrating perseverance and courage beyond the call of duty.  Your visible witness not only matters to a few men today, but it defends the future of Christian virtue for your children and grandchildren.  Silence in the midst of a dark world will always be filled with noise and decadence.  Thank you for speaking up.  It matters.

If you ever come to a point where you think “I’m the only virgin left in the world” or “there’s not a guy my age waiting anymore,” remember that you’re not the only one left and that there are still guys who treasure you.  In the world we live in today, I know that is difficult to believe.  When you look out a window that’s  layered with fog, specks of light become very difficult to see.   There are Christian guys looking out the same window, who see the same fog.  So no matter what the statistics tell you and when you want to throw up your hands and say “that’s a one in a million man,” be conscious of how you present yourself in public because . . . he could be there.  No matter if it’s a service station, grocery store, post office.  Real men live.  God still intervenes to bring people together.  You may have to decide which is more important – his career and financial success or that he is a man of God waiting with you, waiting to be equally yoked with you.

I do realize that for some of you publicly identifying yourself seems impossible – whether it be from embarrassment, security issues, privacy, etc.  You may find it more comfortable to graze from blog to blog, hiding in the shadows of anonymity.  But we are in a war and darkness needs to be exposed to light.  If ugly words hurled at you bring you to your knees today, you need to rethink your commitment to wait.  It’s going to take tougher skin than that.  In order to affirm something, you must be willing to defend it.  At one time in history, knights defended maidens at all costs.  It was known as chivalry.  So every chance we get, let’s show the world what it is missing.  Show men with dignity and self control that they are worth more than a distrustful glance, an anonymous email, or adolescent games.  There really is no gray area here.  You either build a guy up to what he can be or you tear him down to what he used to be.  It’s your choice.

So to all of you who are waiting – Carry your commitments just as strong into 2014.  It’s God’s design.  And it’s what’s best for us.  Be bold.  Be strong.  Wait.

John

Thank you to –

http://forteebello.com/

http://www.juliaduin.com/

http://www.arleenspenceley.com/

http://www.susanmires.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Godswomaninwaiting – Rachel Hamilton

http://www.silverringthing.com/

https://www.facebook.com/PrincessesPrincesPursuingPurity

https://www.facebook.com/abstinenceuntilmarriage

http://www.timtebowfoundation.org/

http://www.runlolorun.com

Sexual Purity And The Youth Stereotype

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In my humble opinion, it’s the biggest mistake made by today’s churches and is the number one contributing factor to our society of sexual immorality  — assigning the virtue of sexual purity to youth while dismissing its importance for never married adults.  This stereotype is so all encompassing that it makes me dizzy thinking about all the layers that have to be peeled off to expose the biblical truth.  There’s been a lot of talk about sex lately in the news which, unfortunately, shines a bright light on this hypocrisy — thereby weakening the church’s stand on social issues such as same sex marriage, abortion, adultery, etc.   The Bible never puts an age limit on sexual purity and never mentions youth groups, youth pastors, college churches, purity balls for teenage girls, sex education for teens, etc.  But they are so engrained in church tradition today that it’s hard for most people to separate tradition from obedience.  You may be tempted to ask:  “But does it have to be in the Bible to be used today?”  My answer is – when it comes to teaching and modeling sexual values in the 21st century, all of them have to be based on the Bible.  What this limitation does, in effect, is add to the bible.  God’s word clearly tells us we cannot do that:  For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” Revelations 22:18.  The addition of age-based purity is just as grave as adding another disciple to God’s word.  The consequences of this have been devastating over the last 20 years.  It reinforces the notion that sexual purity is not possible in adulthood.  It denies that many of the saints reached adulthood.  It denies that Jesus reached adulthood.  What we have left is strictly an adolescent Bible, one that is cute and cuddly and friendly to women and children.  One that is politically correct and comfortable to all.  A Bible as palpable as cotton candy.   What we don’t have is an adult Bible, the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, slicing through contemporary debates.  God’s infinite wisdom and truth gets no deeper than children’s church, no deeper than the golden calf of marriage and family.  Standards are lowered, expectations are lowered, and the cycle continues.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the written word today.  The subject of sexual purity in books and magazines is almost always approached from the perspective of a concerned parent (True Love Waits, etc).  And in the blogosphere world, 90+% of all articles related to purity are covered by young emotionally charged Catholic girls, 20-somethings who see themselves as experts on all things purity.  Even the negative phrase “purity culture” has been coined to describe them.  It has it’s own language, mindset, and personality.  Since they don’t know what purity is in the adult world, these young writers are typically judgmental, distrustful of all older single men, and bash single men every chance they get.  Most pervasive is the distrust of older single men.   On these blogs, men have been reduced to no more than a drunken bloat sitting at a bar looking for his next skirt to chase.  The patience and self control of older chaste single men has become . . . fantasy.   There are exceptions, of course.  One blogger even remarked that:  “If we lower the bar, he doesn’t have to exist.”  In many ways, we don’t exist today.  Some of these young writers have even stated that it’s inappropriate for 50-60 year old single adults to date.   Many churches have left the job of setting standards of virtue to women.  That’s the main reason so many churches are feminized today, driving real men away, older single men who are just as pure as the purity ball queens.  If these double standards are brought to their attention, their number one defense is numbers – “There are just so few of these men.”  I know I’ve said this before — God’s power and faithfulness is not limited by statistics and numbers.  All of us who are living lives of purity must allow for the supernatural and number-defying workings of God.  We must respect and trust each other, whether it’s in day to day encounters or in the digital world.

Beyond Singleness – The Solitary Life

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There has been a lot written recently about singleness with advice on everything from how to find your perfect match to dining alone.  And there are thousands of products marketed to us – cars and books to dating sites and cruises.   What does “single” really mean anyway?  Not too much today I’m afraid.  And the inconsistencies with which it is used are puzzling.  For instance – Surveys and various forms break it down into single, divorced, widowed, or separated.  But socially (as most churches) it’s never broken down further than a one size fits all single.  The word “single” has taken on so much negative connotation today that the majority of them have left the church.  It would be sort of like walking into a room that’s labeled “lepers.”  I think that is especially true with men.  In a sex worship society that expects them to “have some” all the time, they don’t want to take the chance of being ridiculed amongst strangers or accused of living an alternative lifestyle.  I’ve heard this from many men and I think we can thank the media and priest scandals for much of this paranoia.  Only in a pornographic could it be considered wrong to be a solitary man.

Whereas a husband and wife depend on each other, the solitary man depends on Christ.  For everything.  Most people would probably have difficulty comprehending that fact, especially those not familiar with the Bible.  “Oh no, you can’t be serious.  You mean you’ve never had s&%.  How can you stand it?” You have to give “it” a name first.  It’s called celibacy and is all in God’s hands.  He is the master of self control and balance.  Look at the living creatures around you.  Some reproduce sexually.  And some asexually (tulips, dahlias, strawberries).  For the Christian single called to the solitary life, children can take the form of those they mentor and lead to Christ.  As you can see, when viewed in the right light, celibacy can become quite an intellectual pursuit.

Solitary.  Alone.  One.  Uno.   Celibate.  No Sleep Number bed.

Could you walk up to a strange man on the banks of the Jordan River and comfortably sit down beside him and have a long conversation?  If you can’t feel comfortable with Apostle Paul, you’re probably not going to make it to his door in eternity.  Of course, you would never feel comfortable with Christ either.  One.  It’s a real number.  It’s a real way of life.  A solitary life.

IAre you willing to demonstrate Christ’s love by pushing aside your suspiciousness and inviting a solitary friend to a Christmas event this year?

Thank you CE.

True Love Waits No More

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Clayton King

In an unprecedented move, the Southern Baptists have dropped their True Love Waits program in favor of a grace and forgiveness project for gays and lesbians and others dealing with sexual sin, emphasizing that “perfect behavior” is no longer part of God’s design in marriage. Starting around December 15th, it will be known as the “True Love Project” with sexual health and healing also being on the ticket. According to Clayton King of Crossroads Ministries who wrote all of the new material, the new “product” will “communicate God’s design for relationships to a new generation of students and young adults who may be struggling or confused about love, dating and sex.” But the number one reason True Love Waits is being dropped is because it “elevated virginity as the ultimate goal” according to King. “Repeatedly, I say that the goal is not to be a virgin on your wedding day.” “I want people to know they are pure because Jesus purified them from sin, not because they have perfect behavior and have never had intercourse or looked at porn.” I’m not sure when the Baptists redefined virginity as perfection, but it does take the straw man to a whole new level. And more puzzling, the original True Love Waits did not include “ancient and unchangeable truths of God’s word.” It was never a Billy Graham evangelical crusade. This shift marks the first time the SBC has taken the position that there is no spiritual component within human sexuality. It is rather unfortunate to see the pledges of purity until marriage that millions of teenagers and young adults made belittled as “temporary physical pleasures.” TLW was one of the largest abstinence campaigns in the country, started some 20 years ago by Richard Ross and Jimmy Hester. These changes are in keeping though with Russell Moore’s (SBC Ethics Commission president) call for all Baptists to “love our gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus did.” In a time when Christians are losing the culture war and teenagers need consistent standards of values, the Baptists continue their tradition of mixed messages. Answering the backlash that the new program has already received, the Project’s Ben Trueblood acknowledged “sexual purity is an important issue for students,” but “that alone cannot drive the conversation.” As it did with marriage and the DOMA debacle, the SBC is willing to affirm the Bible’s message on purity, but not willing to defend it. I wonder who is really driving the conversation? The SBC or the majority of teens who could not wait until marriage and feel uncomfortable with the idea of purity? The profit margins they contribute to Lifeway? I’m thankful I was not a teenager in the “new generation” and that I learned early from my parents that sexual purity is not a “temporary pleasure.” We can only pray that the “projects” don’t force American taxpayers to pay for more contraception and abortions.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2943018.Clayton_King/blog
http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/6955173061.html
http://www.christianpost.com/news/lifeways-true-love-waits-movement-to-launch-new-updated-sexual-purity-campaign-110046/
http://www.claytonking.com/blog/TLP/‎
http://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=4639
http://www.sbclife.net/Articles/2013/12/sla12.asp‎
http://http://baptistcourier.com/2013/11/king-true-love/

Virginity – Don’t Be A Question Mark

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Even though we live in a culture that believes waiting until marriage is only for girls, please remember that purity is a two way street. Young ladies – If marriage is in your plans, you shouldn’t expect anything less than your future husband also being a virgin on your wedding night. I know most of the purity campaigns today are for girls only and will tell you that “boys will be boys,” and that it’s up to you to draw the line. That is simply not true. Real men know how to wait. Some people may tell you that’s being “judgmental” or “self righteous.” The fact is, that’s the way God intended it to be. Your marriage will have the best chance of surviving ’til death do us part if both of you start with no baggage. And even a one night stand is baggage.

Let everybody know that your standards are high. Our society today may tell you that you’re living in a fantasy world. Just remember that there are others who have gone before you who lived it in reality. Waiting until marriage before having sex has nothing to do with age. God does not put a stopwatch on virtue.

I’m just thankful this Thanksgiving 2013 for his guidance in my life – and knowing that I have not fathered a child without a dad or contributed to the number of unwanted children in the world. And I have peace of mind that I’m living in God’s will for my life. Stay strong, be patient. Encourage each other. And above all – Be bold. Don’t be a question mark. John Morgan, Virgin 52

Simeon – A Lesson In Waiting

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In Luke’s account of the birth of Christ, the stories of Simeon and Anna have disappeared behind manger scenes and Christmas trees.  But when you think about what Advent really means, the significance of their role in the story takes on new meaning.  They are only mentioned once, but this brief walk across the nativity stage can serve as a standard for an Advent frame of mind- in essence, a lesson on how to wait for the return of Christ.  Mary and Joseph had taken the Christ child to the temple to present him to the Lord, which was in keeping with Jewish law for all first born sons, and Simeon and Anna happened to be at the temple that day.  The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would see Christ before he died.  But the Holy Spirit didn’t reveal two key facts – when and where.  His faith was sufficient enough though that he didn’t need other details. Is our faith ever that sufficient?  The knowledge that he would see him was enough.  But this day in the temple brought the answer to when and where.  One may be tempted to think that Simeon just happened to be at the right place at the right time, on the right stage, and in the right city.  But no, there was more going on here.  Simeon was a devout man of God, faithful to the very end of his life, and arrived at the temple with the “Holy Spirit upon him.”  He was a common man, a poor man by social standards.  At first glance, he may not have appeared to the kind of man who would be called on for this performance of biblical proportion, part of a story that would be told for eternity.  There are several key points in this story that are often overlooked.  First, Simeon was a man in mourning who was also “looking for the consolation of Israel,” for the arrival of the messiah, waiting for that appointed time when God’s son would be revealed to him.  So he was not waiting Idly.  He was preparing his heart and the hearts of Israel for that consolation.  I’m sure he had expectations of what form that comfort would take, what kind of man would be needed to alleviate the pain of a grief-stricken nation, and had carefully studied all of the Old Testament prophets and their descriptions of the messiah.  Leading a life of devotion, faithfulness, and constant watching prepared him to be sensitive to the presence of the Lord, to recognize Jesus’ face when he saw it, and boldly proclaim his presence to the world.  He arrived at the temple filled with the Holy Spirit.  Are we filled with the Holy Spirit while we wait?   Yes, Simeon was chosen by God for this unique role in the nativity story.  As in Mary’s case, you could say he was “favored.”  But his role of waiting and preparation didn’t have the longest script and certainly wouldn’t have won him an Oscar.  So it is today with Advent, expectantly awaiting the return of Christ for his people.  Not just passively waiting, but expectantly waiting with study and preparation.  Instead of Simeon and Anna, one group today uniquely qualified to wait on the Lord are the never married singles.  In this sense, they take waiting to a whole new level – one which a married couple could never reach with divided concerns.  So during this Advent season, remember there are preparations being made behind the scenes and far away from sleigh bells and snowmen.

Perceptions – Do They Matter?

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“But there’s nothing in the Bible against doing it.” If parents had a nickel every time their children sang that song, I’m sure they’d be rich. It’s been used to defend everything from tattoos to twerking. If a parent tries to explain the importance of perceptions, he may in turn receive a lecture on its alter ego, stereotyping. But is there anything in the Bible that addresses perceptions and whether or not they should be part of the Christian lifestyle? The answer is definitely yes. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, perception is “the way you think about or understand someone or something.” It’s everything unsaid. And stereotype adds a negative dimension with its definition being “to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.” Unfortunately, the English language has no accurate substitute for “stereotype” and the word is notoriously misused. The key word in its definition is “unfairly.” Unfair to who? Here’s a classic example of subjective definition. Unfair to Mr. Webster? Wouldn’t your perception of fairness depend on your personal values? And wouldn’t that be different for everybody. What’s fair to you may seem like a crime punishable by death to me. If Mr. Webster took out “unfairly,” there would be no difference between the words “perception” and “stereotype.” But people continue to misuse both words. The truth is that stereotyping is not always unfair or evil. As a matter of fact, most of the English language is based on associations and stereotypes. The English language also includes that found in the Bible. I’m sure terms like fornication and adultery would be attacked out on the street as being unfair, narrow minded, judgmental, and stereotypical. But they are biblical terms, just as real and God inspired as any other in the Bible. There’s a big difference between stereotypes and facts.

But the Christian community has bought in to this belief that all stereotypes are unfair, thus forming the basis for political correctness. By taking biblical terminology out of the English language for the sake of comfort, we have allowed it to be used against us. For instance, consider the woman caught in adultery in John 8. She is never identified as a prostitute or as Mary Magdalene. Screenwriters today even have her pegged as Jesus’ wife or lover. Biblical terminology disappeared and world terminology took its place. Where is the Christian outcry?

Even Jesus himself demonstrated the importance of perceptions in the story about the woman caught in adultery. “But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not (John 6:6).” He did not doodle, draw animals or stick figures. He wrote words he could not speak, although he doesn’t tell us what they were. Whatever he wrote, it apparently saved her from stoning.

Perceptions are also found in the Bible story about the woman luring a young man to her bed: “And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.” How did the author of Proverbs know what the attire of an harlot was? Because he had seen it enough times before to make the common sense association or, in today’s terminology, stereotype. This detail is included in the story because it’s the first mistake the young man made, the red flag that he ignored. Her attire might not have been a tight black cocktail dress, high heel shoes, painted up and decked out with sparkling jewelry. Whether she’s a harlot in the Bible or prostitute today, identifying characteristics (i.e., stereotypes) about her appearance and behavior are just as important for young men to understand today as any other virtue in the Bible.

An identifying characteristic can be anything under the sun, as innocent as grandma’s apple pie. For instance, I think there is still a strong association between tattoos and the street drug culture. Gangs use them to identify themselves. This identifying characteristic is one a Christian would not want to be associated with. On the surface, tattoos seem harmless, nothing in the Bible against them. But they have been associated and stereotyped with something non-Christian. That’s reason enough for parents to prevent their children from wearing them. Next year, smiley faces may be all the rage with the homosexual community. I would say no to them as well. It’s not the item per se that is evil. It’s the association linked to it.