Celibacy – Life Beyond Circumstances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twisted Marriage Idolatry Of Al Mohler And Southern Baptists

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

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

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

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

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

The Unholy Marriage License

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In Justice Kennedy’s majority ruling legalizing same sex marriage, he stated that, “The homosexuals’ hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” In his mind, homosexuals are not condemned to live in loneliness because they are homosexuals. They can have “sex” and get rid of that loneliness anytime they want to. He considered them condemned because they didn’t have what every pious church-going person has worshiped for the last 500 years – a marriage license. It just took that long for these sacred pieces of paper to be declared civil rights and erected as graven images. That shouldn’t be a shock. Churches have worshiped “holy matrimony” and “family values” for years, while turning a blind eye to the biblical meaning of marriage. What happened to the people who didn’t fit this nuclear family ideal? What happened to people who didn’t marry? Justice Kennedy couldn’t have said it better. They were excluded.

It’s interesting that he used the civil rights language of “excluded” in his majority opinion. To be excluded requires that a person be denied something they feel they have a right too. When any social construct reaches the level of mass acceptance that same sex marriage has, it doesn’t matter what the church says. It doesn’t matter what it thinks the rules are. It only matters what the masses think. And right now they think marriage just exists as a kind of financial contract, to divide up property in cases of divorce and to minimize tax liabilities. On a spiritual level, it has no meaning whatsoever. So it would be inhuman to exclude someone from all its glories, not to mention adulthood itself. So the Obergefell ruling was never about Christian marriages or any of that one flesh union kind of thing, because the church took sex out of the marriage equation decades ago. It also took self-control out of the single equation and replaced it with child marriages and acceptance of sexual immorality. According to the Southern Baptist’s Al Mohler:

“Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s. Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It’s battling our Creator’s reproductive designs.

The truth is, churches consider sexual restraint an impossibility. Their choirs break out in glorious exaltation if their members can make it from the parking lot to the pews without breaking out in mass orgies. But celibacy? That’s just an unreasonable expectation. Without faith in those who have the gift of celibacy, they can never have any faith in the gift of marriage. What do young people in church think about marriage? What is it that they are waiting on? It can’t be sex because that’s an unreasonable expectation. It’s a marriage license, of course. For just a small fee, they are granted full adulthood status and the men are even allowed to preach. So the marriage license itself has become the tradition in which marriage is based on, not the sacred union described in the Bible. Weddings came to be about “making things right” instead of doing things right to begin with. When a woman today is identified as a wife and serves as a role model in church, does that mean she has been faithful to her husband all those years or does it mean she has a marriage license? It has to be the marriage license because sex is too dirty to talk about in church. When a woman is identified as a single, does that mean she has been faithful to God and remained chaste all those years or does it mean she does not have a marriage license? It has to be the marriage license. What witness does that send to the world? How many county clerks defended marriage like Kim Davis did? How many churches have supported single adults? When Justice Kennedy effectively broadened the plaintiffs in the same sex marriage case to include those who did not have a marriage license, he included all single people who had been condemned to this horrific fate. Justice Kennedy merely turned the tables and used the church’s own traditions against them. The church killed biblical marriage, not the Supreme Court.

Marriage should never have been associated with the state or legal system to begin with. I’m not even sure how anyone can claim there is separation of church and state in this country. Preachers and priests are still acting as agents of the state and signing marriage licenses. I guess the display of nativity scenes is a much more grievance offense. The fascination with legal documents, distribution of wealth, inheritance claims, collection of tithes, and child custody have always served as the foundational building blocks of traditional Protestant churches. It has always been the marriage way or no way. In his majority opinion, Kennedy even stated, “Marriage remains a building block of our national community.” He copied that from the Southern Baptist’s own ethics manual: “The family is the basic building block of society and a biblical understanding of the family is essential for building a healthy society.” So the church killed marriage, not the Supreme Court.

Is there anything Christian about a nuclear family? Is there anything holy about a marriage? According to the Bible, there’s not. Jesus rejected the tradition of biological kinship: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:19-21, Matthew 12:46-50. So while Christ opened the doors for everyone to know him, even eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, the church closed their doors on everybody who was not a member of a nuclear family. They may have advertized “church family” on billboards, but reality was much different inside their church walls. Some of the faithful are even expecting Christ to visit courthouses first when he returns, so that he can check the marriage and divorce records. What a shock it will be when they receive even greater condemnation than the scribes and Pharisees and come face to face with a celibate Christ who doesn’t care who their families are. However, those who have been faithful celibates will have their spiritual children by their side. So, we may end up with a longer term marriage and more kids than all the Supreme Court justices combined. And Kennedy will look like a very lonely man. Who will be condemned then?

Click to access Witte_Freedom_Christian.pdf

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/fixgov/posts/2015/06/26-obergefell-v-hodges-same-sex-marriage-rauch

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/14-556

http://www.albertmohler.com/category/topics/singleness/

https://baptistnews.com/faith/theology/item/8107-redeeming-fornication

http://www.hunewsservice.com/news/view.php/50567/Atlanta-Church-Leads-in-Accepting-LGBT-C

http://www.frontstreet.org/preschool

How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church’s Witness?

The Shadow Of Death

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Code in Ambulance by Daniel Sundahl

When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. Actually, I didn’t know who I was. I felt dizzy. Nauseated. Everything was spinning. Where was I? It was a big room with a lot of whirling machines and bright lights. I was freezing cold. I could smell rubbing alcohol and plastic. There was a lot of clanking metal. I could hear people talking. Then the faces of two ladies came into focus as they leaned over my bed. “Mr. Morgan, everything went just fine. We’ll be sending you back to your room in just a minute.” I was in an operating room. They were the anesthesia team who had put me to sleep for the first in a series of electroconvulsive therapy treatments. I was waking up. “Oh God, I’m not still alive am I? I want to die.”

I have bipolar I disorder. Medicines had failed to work on this cycle of depression and the ECTs were a last ditch effort to bring me out of the darkness. I’d rather have both arms and legs cut off than to have to go through this again. Don’t worry though. I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for about 30 years. Hospitals have become a way of life, or should I say a tortured way of life. Everybody knows me in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. My art work is hanging on their hallways. The nurse sees my stretcher coming down the hall and yells, “John! You’re back again?” I call it making the most of a bad situation. They roll me into my room. Some of my memory is coming back. I’ve been here before. Hope I have a quiet roommate because I don’t want to deal with anybody. Wait, what year is it? Who are the two old people in my room? The lady bends down and hugs my neck as she wipes away tears. I know that perfume. “Just remember that mama loves you.” Mama? Is that my mother? They walk out of the hospital room and I wipe tears from my eyes. Oh God, why me? The evening wears on and some of the other patient’s gather in the day room to watch T.V. One guy walks in with a guitar. Everybody gets quite. I remember this young man from a previous admission. He’s really sick. Somebody turns the T.V. volume down. He tunes it up a bit and looks up and says, “Would you like to hear a song?” Everybody cheers him on. For about the next hour I listened to a classical guitar performance that I should have paid money to see. The most gifted people I know live in psych units and long term psych facilities.

I wake up the next morning and cannot move. “Time to get up!” the nurse yells through my door. My roommate groans. I drag myself down the hallway to the third door on the left to get in the shaving line. When it comes my turn, I step up to the same little piece of metal bolted to the wall. I always miss a real mirror. I splash water on my face, shave, and then go get in the breakfast line.  Many people question whether miracles still happen. I can tell you they do. I’m still alive. I have spent years of my life in hospitals and psych facilities, seen enough doctors to start my own medical clinic, taken enough medicine to start my own pharmacy, and had enough electrical energy passed through my brain to build my own power grid. I’ve been launched into the stratosphere of bipolar mania and buried under the shadow of death. I should have been dead a long time ago.

But wait a second. This is a celibacy blog. People with bipolar disorder have wild sex lives, don’t they? They can’t control themselves and the men rape every woman in site. You probably believe that. Unless you or someone in your family has been affected by mental illness, you’re at the mercy of public ignorance. Just based on my bio, most people would have me pegged as just another free frolicking “John” living the good life as a single dude. Some may even think I know all the girls on the streets by their first names. Chalk my case up to a miracle. I would even say that having bipolar disorder has given me insight into mental illnesses and developmental disorders I otherwise would not have. Most of my best friends live with them – schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, and OCD, etc. I try to keep up to date on the latest research and treatments and am a mental health advocate. I work with NAMI, crisis centers, and speak to classes in high schools about our brains and what can go wrong. What I really miss is my memory.

So if there are still any romanticized ideals out there about people with the gift of celibacy being highly exalted and honored and perfect people, I hope this serves to break that stereotype. I’m not a bright and happy shiny person. If you still have me pictured as a monk floating blissfully over a field of “celibate service” while performing 15th century Gregorian chants, please replace that with reality. Reality is not always pretty.

Dear 32 Year Old Virgin . . .

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There’s a recent article on Boundless titled “An Older Virgin in a Sex-Crazed World.” In it, a young lady complains about an “interrogation” she endured while undergoing x-rays to treat a ruptured lung. The technician asked her if she was on birth control, how she knows she’s not pregnant, and if there was any chance she could be pregnant now. She goes on to tell about her friend grilling her about her virginity in high school, how the world has placed pleasure before commitment, how fornication is everywhere, and how sex crazed society is today. What’s interesting is that the young lady who wrote it describes herself as a 32-year-old “older virgin.” Oh please. Do people not get out and meet each other anymore? Or are we wrapping ourselves up in our own little virtual cocoons? The 20-30 year-old young ladies who assume they are old enough to have the last word on virginity never cease to amaze me, and there are hundreds more on the internet. To quote Leslie Ann: “I’m no longer a naïve 19-year-old eager to spring into a relationship just to be romanced. I know the realities of married life by years of study and observance.” Well, gosh darn it, let’s go ahead and give her a Ph.D.  Or maybe she could write a book.  Let me just say this to Miss Leslie Ann and the hundreds of other young ladies who write on this subject – You are to be commended for making it to your 20s and 30s and still be a virgin. That does indeed put you in rare company. But there are much older virgins than you. As difficult as it is to believe, there are some old enough to be your fathers and grandmothers. I always find it quite interesting that they’re never discussed on your blogs. Honestly, I think arrogance is the fastest way for a beautiful young lady to become . . . not so beautiful. So in the big scheme of things, you are still quite a child and your opinions are not as important as you think they are. Some people may think I’m being cruel. But here’s why I think putting age in perspective is important: By making such assumptions about chastity and age and considering it only from the female perspective, we are reinforcing the age old stereotypes and double standards that cause such awkward questions as those Leslie Ann heard from her x-ray technician. When age is mentioned in the Bible, it is usually to break a stereotype – like the old ages of Elizabeth and Sarah when they gave birth. Imagine the people who scoffed when they heard about their pregnancies.  What was the purpose of them being old at childbirth?  Was it to teach them or their husbands a lesson?  Or was it to teach us a lesson today?  I tend to think it is the latter.  If 32 years of age is considered an older virgin, I guess I should see 54 years as one foot short of the grave. I could write an article and title it, “54 Year Old Virgin Calls For Priest During Last Hours.” While you may never meet me on the streets, you are able to read my story through the miracle of the internet. I do hope it inspires you. So even though the internet has brought with it a lot of bad things, I think our blogs and different ways of communicating can be very good things. Since I live in a very rural area, the internet has allowed me to get to know many people I would not have otherwise known. Plus, it allows me to stay in touch with my mentor, a virgin much older than myself. Yes, Leslie, they are out there. If we are only aware of the immediate world around us, like the people we go to school with and people we work with, then we will age much faster as virgins. At 30 we will look at ourselves in the mirror and see an old person who is odd and out of place. Sexual abstinence before marriage will indeed look very unrealistic.  But if we expand our realities with every means of communication at our disposal and humble ourselves enough to know there are older and wiser people out there, we will age much slower. Then at 30 we can look at ourselves in the mirror and see our younger selves with the confidence that comes from following God’s will and courage from knowing that others have come before us. I believe virginity is very much a relational issue on a social scale.  It’s not enough to tell someone, “We waited until we were married to have sex.  You can too.”  That rings hollow.  It takes real authentic people to pass this virtue to the next generation.  So when you put everything in perspective Leslie Ann, I hope being a virgin at 32 doesn’t feel so old after all. Let’s not bow down to the expectations of this world, but allow God to intervene in our lives beyond our wildest dreams.  He is still the same God who rescued Moses from the pharaoh and the same God who performs miracles today.

http://www.boundless.org/blog/an-older-virgin-in-a-sex-crazed-world/

The Tragedy Of Birth Control

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Sulawesi Hand Stencils

The world would probably look much different if we had kept God’s original design of human sexuality in place, monogamous sexual relationships in marriage and faithful chastity in singleness. Most of the ethical crises that we face in the world today can be traced back to breaks in that design. One of the biggest breaks came when we separated sex from life with birth control. Whether in marriage or outside marriage, it is not part of God’s plan. It’s violates the fifth commandment which prohibits us from taking a human life. Calling it birth control may have been an attempt to put some noble spin on it, like population control. But there’s not much there. How many women would take contraception if babies were really delivered by storks? Not too many, I suppose. Would we be trying to control the inbound flights of storks? Birth control is not so much about controlling births as it is opening the doors of sexual freedom. It frees up sexual pleasure from that pesky little thing called pregnancy. God did not design sex to be free of responsibility. He did not design it to be a recreational sport. Think about the dignity he built into the whole process. He could have designed our reproductive systems with a more direct link between sex and pregnancy. Sex one day. Baby next day. That would have been too easy. But he threw in the variables of ovulation, fertility windows, sperm counts, and genetics, among a host of other things to remind us of his ultimate control. We tried to take that control. It failed. The feminists looked at birth control as their salvation, the way for women to have it all – the husband, the job, the status, and the children. It was about women’s rights and their ability to take their place in society. They were no longer trapped at home raising children. Mrs. Sanger would have been so proud. But she forgot that it took men to make babies too. Men looked at the pill as their ticket to paradise. This was especially true for single guys because it meant all women were available. Guys were now free to put the pressure on all women to have sex. They could have their cake and eat it too with no worries about the responsibility of becoming a father. Now we have a culture of kids with no fathers, single mothers, deadbeat dads, child support, and child abuse. A lot of single guys have had the benefits that only husbands should have. And a lot of single girls have had the benefits that only wives should have. Their sexualization may be illegitimate, but they are still socially identified as singles. Now it’s quite socially acceptable to refer to single men as predators and single women as promiscuous. Such social dynamics make the dating process even harder for Christian singles waiting until marriage to have sex, especially single women. The odds of them finding appropriate mates fall with each successive generation. We may like to think sex is a private thing between two people. It’s not. Every sexual relationship is a public event one way or another. And when you throw in birth control, it’s like setting up a podcast from your very own bedroom.

Even in marriage, birth control separates sex from marriage. It tells the world that we know more about what’s better for our lives than God does. It replaces our faith in God with faith in technology. It affirms that sexual pleasure is greater than the responsibility of being husbands and wives and moms and dads. Separating sex from responsibility also prevents married couples from seeing the real purpose and value of sex. If they don’t see the value of their own physical relationships in marriage, how will they appreciate the single people around them who have never had sex? On a deeper level, if all married people think about when they think of single adults is the yoke of our sexual desires, how will they ever appreciate someone for whom God has taken away those desires? How will their pessimism transcend the primordial forces of this earth and allow them to see the supernatural workings of God today? Maybe it’s time for married couples in churches to explain just what they have and what marriage means to them and what role sex plays in their marriages. Then maybe singles can explain what they don’t have and what role the absence of sex plays in their lives. Is honesty to much to ask?

To Burn Or Not To Burn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Have the Gift of Singleness?

 

Celibacy And Visual Ethics

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I’ve always wondered what people mean when they say men are more visual than women. Do they mean men can read an eye chart better than women, that men can see the figure of women from a greater distance, that men can’t control their sexual desires? I think it’s the latter. Our society says sexual immorality is not a self-control problem, but a visual problem. It says that men are just not able to tame their sexual desires and that their eyes focus at the mercy of a “fallen” world, a world that has “evolved” with its own innate wisdom. This reasoning falls in line with what most churches are practicing today – visual ethics. Not the ethics associated with visual arts, but a theology of ethics based on things that can be seen while ignoring things that cannot be seen. Kate Hurley has an excellent example of this on Single Matters:

“When my dad died, I lost something tangible. People called me. They held me when I cried and asked me to talk about what I was going through. They came to his memorial service. It meant the world to me. I needed family around me during that grieving process. People bound up the wounds, told me it was going to be okay, and walked with me through the healing process. They rose to the occasion and helped me recover. When it comes to being in my 30s and facing the prospect of not having a traditional family, though, people don’t know what to do with my frustration. “There’s nothing there. How could you be in pain?”

The only way to see the invisible pain of barrenness is to get to know a person on a level that is deeper than what we know as “friends.” In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), consider how the concept of neighbor changed for a lawyer who was concerned with his own eternal life. At first, he was worried about definitions – like any good lawyer would be – and asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus told the story of the man who was stripped and beaten and left for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. When Jesus asked the lawyer which three men was his neighbor, it would have made more sense for him to answer it was the priest or Levite. They would have been expected to show compassion to the sick and injured. But instead of answering with the only choice left, the Samaritan, he said it was “The one who had mercy on him.” Luke 10:37. Jesus forced the lawyer to see the invisible virtue of mercy. The kind of neighborliness Jesus had in mind required him to see beyond the taken for granted stereotypes of a priest, Levite, and a Samaritan. The same principles apply to us today. Meeting people’s needs should not depend on the visual of a situation. In this parable, mercy happened to be found in the least expected Samaritan, an enemy of mixed race, the very man who would be expected to walk on by. For the Samaritan to show mercy and stop and render aid, the visible stereotypes of a priest and Levite had to give way to the invisible thing called hope. Jesus did this by reframing the lawyer’s question from “who is my neighbor?” to “who is the neighbor?” He might have expected Jesus to give him the names of people he should and should not consider neighbors. Instead, Jesus expanded the question to “what does it take to be a neighbor?” In this case, it took mercy.

Likewise, meeting people’s needs should not depend on the presence or absence of wedding rings. Without the visuals of a family, soccer mom bumper stickers, and membership in the local PTA, single adults tend to disappear beneath the pews of American churches. They too have been beaten up and left for dead. Real faith does not wait on something to be seen or someone to cry for help. Just like life itself and the invisible human embryo, it puts other people first and us last. Just as we don’t need proof of God’s existence, we don’t need proof of a need before we can act on it. Consider Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

For many in the religious community though, faith goes no deeper than what they see. Their moral compass is guided by the rightness of their sex lives, the visual of a pregnant abdomen, and sanctified by the love for children. It looks good. It feels warm and fuzzy. It brings money into the church. But it’s not biblical. Family values are not Christian values. Maternal love is not the pinnacle of love in this universe. And there is absolutely nothing eternal about marriage. If churches base their faith on the superficial and tangible, they will only respond to the superficial and tangible. The assurance about what they don’t see will be replaced by evidence of things they do see. That’s a shallow faith, one just as legalistic as the lawyer in the parable of the Good Samaritan. As Abraham Lincoln said: “To believe in the things you can see and touch is no belief at all; but to believe in the unseen is a triumph and a blessing.”

Married people may be tempted to say, “but I don’t do anything to make singles feel unloved or not part of our church family.” That’s precisely my point. Silence can be louder than anything you say or do, especially in the absence of action. This is especially true when it comes to lifestyle affirmations because we have only two choices, marriage and celibacy. Affirming one often discourages the other. When married life is affirmed without a concomitant affirmation of celibate life, it results in a discrimination that cuts just as deep as any racial discrimination. It throws salt into the open wounds of barrenness. It leads to a grief more profound than the loss of a family member. Think of all the things your church does to visibly affirm marriage and family life – requiring married preachers, marriage sermons, marriage conferences, wedding announcements, wedding ceremonies, baby showers, receptions, birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, graduation celebrations, age and marital status based groups, etc. Everything a church does sends signals to the community. Singles are free to draw their own conclusions. That’s part of human preservation. For instance, if a Protestant man walked into Jewish synagogue where he was the only person not wearing a yarmulke, would you expect him to feel out of place? Would it be reasonable for him to assume that wearing one was a requirement for that group of people? I would think so. A single adult can feel the same way in a church where everyone is wearing wedding rings and all activities are centered on nuclear families. Just like the man who was beaten could rightly assume the priest and Levite did not care about his situation, he can rightly assume that marriage is a requirement for that church. He could be waiting for someone to stop and just say hello, for someone to listen to him, for a neighbor who can see beyond the absence of a wedding ring on a finger.

Why It Stinks To Be Unintentionally Overlooked

https://books.google.com/books?id=ifG7Mmp6RXUC&pg=PA139&lpg=PA139&dq=%22good+samaritan%22+%22least+expect%22+enemy+-.com&source=bl&ots=u3nu4CSf5x&sig=kLBUvmhH7HqY0cDs527afBYwjRY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbjvLE-KnKAhXIQyYKHa46CrgQ6AEIIjAB#v=onepage&q=%22good%20samaritan%22%20%22least%20expect%22%20enemy%20-.com&f=false

Paul’s Present Distress

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” I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.” 1 Corinthians 7:26.

Paul’s “present distress” has been used to discount this section of his letter to the Corinthians. Some think that since there a calamity of some type being inflected on the people – whether famine, disease, earthquake, etc. – that Paul was writing for people who were undergoing circumstances that we can’t relate to. This distress is often interpreted to be no more than a disclaimer that reads, “This is all my opinion. So don’t take anything too serious.” But how should we take it? I don’t think we should take one inch off of it that we don’t give the rest of the Bible. All of Paul’s words are the inspired word of God. Yes, we are living in a time when the Bible strikes a sharp contrast to surrounding culture. And I’m sure many people who are reading it for the first time are looking for “outs” and disclaimers and reasons why it doesn’t apply to their lives. But this is not one of them. Paul could have considered the present distress to be the period of time he was living in and waiting for the second advent of Christ. We are in the same distress, living in a time between ages. The distress is spreading the good news around the world and making as many children of God as possible, with the knowledge of what happens to people who perish without accepting Christ. Do you think Paul’s distress could have been any worse that Christians are experiencing in 21st century America? Paul spent time in prison for expressing his religious beliefs. People in America have too, like Kim Davis. Christians are being targeted and executed all over the world by terrorists and other extremists. The gunman in a recent shooting at a campus in Oregon shot only those students who said they were Christians. If we exhumed Paul from the grave and took him on a guided tour through our big cities and halls of government, what would be his assessment? Would he think it was a walk in the park? I tend to think he would consider our circumstances quite a distress.

Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament. By our standards today, he was beyond a genius. God could have chosen anyone to write the epistles. He could have created anyone to play the role of Paul. He did. He made Paul. He could have transported Shakespeare back in time. He didn’t. Paul was a humble man who didn’t want to appear superior or authoritative. He was not writing his letters on an iPad from the comfort of a beach side condo. He was in prison. I don’t think we should use his humility as an excuse to bypass sections of the Bible that do not fit our times or make us uncomfortable. We should use it as a reason to take him more seriously.

Eunuchs For The Kingdom Define Marriage For The World

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Feast Of The Tabernacle by Yvette Co

After the Pharisees had asked Jesus about divorce and remarriage and after he reinforced the permanency of marriage in Matthew 19, note who was the most dismayed. It was the disciples. “If we can’t get rid of our wives when we want to, then it would be better for us not to marry! We will stay single for the rest of our lives!” The very men who knew Jesus best and were on the front lines of the new Christianity were now joining the Pharisees in defense of divorce. Why? The reason is because it allowed them to continue to have sex without commitment. It allowed them to continue to make a mockery of marriage. This should tell us something about what marriage had become in 1st century society. And really, if they had such a shallow view of marriage, their lifestyles between marriages probably weren’t much better. They could pretend to be married for a while and then pretend to be single for a while, and on and on. If their wives got old and cranky, they could divorce them. If their wives burned the biscuits, they could divorce them. If their wives got sick, they could divorce them. They could divorce them and find a hot young babe to meet their sexual needs. Does that sound familiar? It should, because we’re in the same boat today. And we’re still asking the same questions. Consider what Tim Rymel, a man who identified himself as an “Exodus Casualty,” wrote in The Baptist Standard in August of 2014:

“How would heterosexuals feel about being told celibacy is their only option? They could never marry, never have families and never experience the love, joy and intimacy of being with the loves of their lives?”

How would Christ respond to those questions? The same way he responded to the disciples: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” Who does that leave to be married? It leaves only those who were not chosen to be single. Christ didn’t say, “all men can’t be married, only those I have chosen. Instead, he bases his definition of marriage on the third type of eunuch he described, eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. That does not include homosexuals. It can’t because the definition of a eunuch has nothing to do with sexual orientation, only reproduction. Actually, there’s no such thing as sexual orientation. That’s a figment of modern man’s imagination. On top of that, homosexuals can’t reproduce – biologically or spiritually. I think the reason Christ may have chosen the metaphor of the eunuch is because reproduction could be confirmed visually through pregnancy and children. And the visual of pregnancy serves as a direct link to the sexual relationship that is needed for reproduction. Hence, the eunuch for the kingdom points to the gift aspect of celibacy and self control. If becoming a eunuch for the kingdom of God cut off sexual desire, then what did Christ mean in verse 12 when he said “made themselves eunuchs?” He’s certainly not talking about a man taking a knife to himself. Made themselves eunuchs here is the equivalent of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:37: ” Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.” A eunuch for the kingdom can still have sexual desire and intercourse. That’s the will he has power over. Otherwise, why would the disciples have bitterly complained about marriage and its permanency? Only the third type of eunuch addresses a man’s will.

There are several instances of a series of three in the Bible with the emphasis on the third, such as Peter denying Christ three times and then the rooster crowing. In the same manner, Christ uses the first and second eunuch to build up to the third type, the main focus of verse 12. This is so because the disciples have a choice, and this is the only option that has a choice. They were not born with genetic abnormalities and they were not castrated, or at least we have no record of that. But they did have a choice about remaining celibate for the kingdom of heaven. It’s also interesting that during the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the third and last feast commanded by the Lord, the Israelite men lived in small huts outside their houses. Living in these small huts reminded them that mortality is not the final resting place for mankind. Likewise, choosing to be a eunuch today for the kingdom of heaven, the third eunuch described, reminds us that our mortality is not the final resting place for mankind.

So Christ actually used the eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven to connect sex back to marriage and to reinforce the permanency of the commitment. At the same time, he gave a new definition and identity to those who choose not to marry or have sexual relations and reinforced the permanency of that commitment.

https://www.baptiststandard.com/opinion/texas-baptist-forum/16827-letters-celibacy-a-personal-decision

http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Papers/John7-9.5.html

Marriage And Celibacy – A House Divided?

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Here in Alabama, the one thing that is worshipped almost as much as sex is football. Actually, most guys make it a weekend package deal with beer and sex thrown in on the sidelines. And the Alabama and Auburn game is one of the biggest rivalries in college football. People like to talk about their “divided houses,” where one spouse is an Alabama fan and the other spouse an Auburn fan. They let the world know about it by painting half of something of insignificance red and white and the other half orange and blue. Or they have both teams’ colors represented equally in some way. For instance, some “divided” automobiles have an Alabama flag hanging out one window and an Auburn flag hanging out the other window. Who would have thought football would be hit with such political correctness? If you asked them though, most fans would tell you that they root for both teams up until the Iron Bowl when Alabama takes on Auburn each year.

Isn’t it a shame that the same can’t be said about Christian lifestyles? Just like the world, churches today have bowed down to the god of sexual desires or, as they call it, God-honoring marriages. They flaunt their families with more gusto than any football fan could imagine. What’s really remarkable about this is, unlike football where there are many teams to choose from, the Christian lifestyle only has two choices – marriage and celibacy. If you ask a preacher about singleness, he’ll probably say something like “that’s okay too.” The only problem is that actions speak louder than words. Is his church flying both the flags of marriage and celibacy while cruising down the lanes of Sunday morning worship? I’m afraid not. Chances are his church has a marquee out front that reads “nursery provided.” The affirmation of singleness is only as good as the time and energy a church puts into it. That means it not only has to be talked about, it has to be demonstrated. In other words, how does the three words “that’s okay too” balance out with the thousands of hours of marriage and family seminars, premarital counseling sessions, baby dedications, weddings, marriage sermons, one flesh sermons, be fruitful and multiply sermons, youth retreats, family worship centers, missionary children, etc?  It doesn’t balance.  The truth of the matter is that the emphasis churches place on family values is in direct opposition to the emphasis the Bible places on it. Instead of the church hanging two flags out their car windows, they have one great big sign that reads “Family Comes First!” Since the same sex marriage controversy, family wagons have circled tighter around churches and the family banner has been hoisted higher and higher. Churches may be willing to occasionally talk about singles faithfully waiting on their spouses, but you won’t hear anything about a committment to celibacy that is on par with marriage. You might be saying, “but just because a church doesn’t talk about celibacy doesn’t mean they disregard its importance.” Yes it does.  If you’re talking about a football team, that may be true. But this is a matter of Christian lifestyles where silence can sometimes speak louder than words. Where silence breeds assumptions. This is even more true today because sex has socially been separated from marriage and making babies. What so many churches don’t realize though is that every time they talk about family they are talking about sex. Every time a preacher talks about children, he is talking about sex. Every time the women’s gossip line talks about weddings, they are talking about sex. As hard as he may try, man cannot undo human nature. That is difficult to grasp in an era where children have become a choice and life itself hinges on how convenient babies are. Every time children, husbands, and wives are discussed, a choice has been made, whether they acknowledge it or not. They have chosen to raise another flag in salute of marriage and hide the dignity of celibacy under another joke about gay marriage.

Respecting celibacy requires church leaders to take a look at a picture that’s bigger than the love between husband and wife and mother and child. It requires them to take a closer look at their relationship with Christ, which can be very uncomfortable. They can easily say, “but, there’s no one in our church called to singleness.” The question of course is how do they know that? Have you ever been in a church service that called for a show of celibate hands? Think of all the younger singles who passed through their doors and did not feel called to marriage, but never saw any support for celibacy. Instead, they heard about the Song of Solomon one Sunday and Daniel in the lion’s den the next. Since celibacy was never discussed, they assumed marriage to be the norm. Why shouldn’t they? Human nature will always choose support over neglect if no viable option is apparent. Many young people today are trying to discern marriage and celibacy.  They hear nothing in the sermons, read nothing in the literature, and they don’t know where to look in the Bible. They see no exit sign on the freeway of life.  If your neighbor had his radio up loud while you were doing yard work and you kept hearing “roll tide roll!” – you would probably assume he was an Alabama football fan. It’s even worse in churches, which have become more or less social support groups. What is preached and discussed is what is affirmed. What is not discussed is what is wrong. If the church operated under the same rules as the business world, preachers would have been found guilty of malpractice years ago, not to mention sex discrimination. They would be gripping their families tightly through the cold steel bars of a prison cell. The Bible actually has very little to say about families beyond husbands loving their wives, wives submitting to husbands, and children obeying their parents. Just a very few verses. That ought to tell us just how unimportant family is in the long run. It has nothing to do with eternity. On the other hand, the Bible does have much to say about virginity and how those called to celibate life are concerned with the Lord’s affairs. It also has much to say about our spiritual family and being fishers of men. It has nothing to say about a nuclear family.

It’s my opinion that the number one reason biblical marriage has failed and same sex marriage has been accepted is because the church reinforced the world view that marriage is needed to be a responsible adult, that sexual desire cannot be controlled, that marriage is nothing more than legalized sex, and celibacy nothing more than lack of sex. Instead of a one flesh union between husband and wife, marriage became a trip to the courthouse to pick up a marriage license. Celibates? “Well, those are the poor miserable people who haven’t found an outlet for their sexual desire yet.  They’re too greedy, too picky, too hung up on themselves.” “Adolescents who will never grow up.” Sexual ethics have become no more than the identification of the haves and have nots, those who have sanctified their sexual desires from those living in sin, and those who have found their sexual partners from those “condemned to live in loneliness.” That’s what happens when only one lifestyle flag flies from the steeples of churches. It allows one lifestyle to take over the house of God, which ultimately leads to the whole house being destroyed.  You can see and hear it in everything they do. The absence of visible celibates within churches and communities makes one clear statement, that marriage and sexual pleasure are idols of worship and that singles are less than whole people. We cannot recognize the goodness of God’s creation in the Old Testament unless we can recognize the goodness of Christ’s sacrifice in the New Testament and those willing to sacrifice their whole lives for him today. We will not be able to balance both marriage and celibacy if we can’t transform “Be fruitful and multiply babies” in the Old Testament to “Be fruitful and multiply God’s children” in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, only celibate people can truly represent complete love for Christ and total dependence on him. Only their witness can herald an eternity where there will be no marriages and no babies. A church without visible eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven leaves its doors wide open for sexual idolatry and every abdomination known to man. There are many people who think the opposite of a one man/one woman marriage commitment is singles who are waiting on marriage or same sex marriage. That is absolutely false.  The opposite of marriage is a commitment to celibacy.  If you can accept that there is an opposite to marriage and the committment between a husband and wife, then you have to accept that it involves a sacrifice. If a man is not committed to a wife, what is he sacrificing for? It has to be Christ. If it’s Christ, then he’s committed to celibacy. That is logically the only answer and the only answer found in the Bible. What happens to a society that chooses to only fly the flag of family values and neglect Christ? Read the news headlines from the last six months.

What Is A Virtuous Single Man?

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Socrates first posed the question, “What is a virtuous man, and what is a virtuous society?” As a matter of fact, the word virtue comes from the Latin word man. First and foremost, a virtuous single man has to know Christ and has to be striving everyday to be more and more like him. He doesn’t compromise his standards to fit any particular political or corporate agenda. The man who has standards of virtue in private life carries those same standards to every aspect of his life. Hence, I think it’s fair to sair that a man’s work can never be greater than his virtue. He picks up the Bible for his reading pleasure instead of Car and Driver Magazine. He is a man who is conscious of everything he does and is aware of the impact he has on other people. That means he is sensitive to things that a lot of guys are not. He would rather cry than pretend everything is okay. Even though his personal virtue will stand at odds with the surrounding culture, he stands his ground and is willing to be persecuted for his beliefs. He respects God’s creation and is kind to all living things. He protects life. He treats others like he wants to be treated. He’s a good steward of everything in his care and takes what he needs and gives away what he can.

He has compassion for those who are weak and hurting and risks his life to help them. He is humble enough to not see himself as better than anybody else. That means he has compassion for all people who have been treated badly, including women and children who have been abused. He’s familiar with local shelters and safe houses and knows how to go about ensuring someone’s safety. He is generous with his time.

He is a responsible man. He owns up to his mistakes, pays for what he buys, does what he says he will do, and takes care of those who are weaker. He is concerned about the future of young people and tries to be an example for them. He’s not afraid of playing the role of a dad when called to.

He is self-disciplined. He is aware that everything his eyes and ears take in has an impact on him, and he knows about the traps of easy sex, pornography, dishonesty, etc. He is self-controlled. He does not have sex outside marriage. For the single man, that means he saves it for marriage or is an eunuch for the kingdom of heaven. For the married man, that means he is faithful to his wife. Even though the world glorifies anger and short fuses, he is slow to anger and would rather think things over than make a decision he will regret. The virtuous man has standards that are the same whether he’s alone or with a group of people, at home or on a business trip, in a church or in a crowded mall. Consistency is his middle name. He is the same today as he will be tomorrow. He doesn’t flap in the wind. If you want a good gauge of his virtue and integrity, observe what he does with his free time. Does he do anything that he wouldn’t do in public? Is his idea of pleasure all about himself or does he try to bring a smile to everyone he meets?

One thing that separates a virtuous man from others is that he holds the same standards for both men and women. He treats everybody with dignity. His vocabulary is different than the world’s is. He does not objectify women. The virtue of a single man does not depend on whether or not he is pursuing women. The older he gets, the more he is aware that this world is slipping away. He does all he can to rid the world of ageism, sexism, and classism. That is the biggest hindrance to him making friends.

It’s common today to associate the success of a man with his ethical values. The prosperity gospel has reached into every nook and cranny in society. The world looks at a prestigious job, social status, five-column mansion, six-figure salary, golf course membership, and comes to the conclusion, “He must be living right!” The simple life of a virtuous man stands in stark contrast to that. He doesn’t compare himself to anybody else and is content to have Christ. He doesn’t care about instant upgrades.

Of course, the image of a virtuous man depends a lot on how a man is defined. In the world today, a man is defined mostly by his sexual exploits, appearance, job, and money. If he’s not married, he’s expected to be “in pursuit” of women. He’s got to be climbing the corporate ladder. He’s got to have the confidence and enough notches under his belt that he can get any woman he lays eyes on. That’s where the virtuous man who is content to remain celibate falls under the radar because he is trying to cultivate spiritual friendships while the world is trying to cultivate sexual perversion. It’s unfortunate that so many Christian singles bought into Harry’s lie that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way. But that’s been the operating principle of every church-based singles group I’ve ever been a part of. Their idea of “fellowship” is to land their next date. “Just friends? You must be joking.” The world’s idea of a man is but a mere shadow of what a real man is.

Virtuous single men, I encourage you to stay strong. Resist the temptation to blend in with the world. Step out and be different. Hold the word of God out in front of you as your guiding light and understand the importance of self control in everything you do, whether its in your dating relationships or how you handle your money. Every little thing that we do says something about us. And you would be surprised at what people remember. So what is a virtuous single man? He’s out of this world.

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

Virginity – Beyond The Mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Euphemism Of Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Woman At The Well – Revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celibate Singleness? Can I Get A Witness?

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

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

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

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

True Singles Versus True Widows

Shadowmanbyriver

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?

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?

bible-web

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?

dictionary

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.

What’s Different About A Virgin?

The Flower Muse by Marlina Vera

1. She has love that goes beyond her own family, a love that knows no limits. It extends to strangers on the street and to people who are suffering. Most importantly, she loves all men equally until the day she marries. She is open-minded and does not let boyfriends or anybody else prevent her from being kind to others. She is a professional lover of all men.

2. She has a joyful and thankful heart, one that is not just happy with superficial circumstances. She is content in knowing that, even though her work may not be rewarded on earth, there will be an eternal reward one day. She is always aware that there are those less fortunate than her and everything she has is through the grace of God. Her joy does not depend on this world. She can laugh and be laughed at with no problems.

3. She is at peace with herself and everybody else. She knows how to agree to disagree without arguing. She does not hold grudges and knows how to forgive. She defends what is just, but doesn’t take sides on petty issues – chooses her battles carefully. She knows that her real peace is from Christ who freed her from sin and death, and that the concern of the Holy Spirit living within her is life and peace (Romans 8:6).

4. She shows patience towards other people, even those who disagree with her. She puts other people’s schedules above her own schedule. She is able to accept anybody into her life, even if they create difficult situations for her. She is able to tolerate people who get on nerves. She is able to keep her boat afloat in the midst of angry waves, throwing out as many life rafts as she can. She does not let the behavior of other people dictate her priorities. She puts little stock in opinion polls or statistics charts. Her behavior is governed by grace and understanding. She is willing to wait, even if she is last. Her watch is set on eternity’s time.

5. Her kindness reflects the Holy Spirit in her heart. She is not angry or bitter and accepts what she has with gratitude. She does not stereotype people based on their age, gender, class, or marital status. She shows compassion to others, treating them as she would want to be treated, and is always looking for ways she can help people. She does not compare herself to other women. Most importantly, she guards her heart – but does not lock out kindness.

6. She is generous with her time and possessions and is uncomfortable with having more. She gives anonymously and does not let her left hand know what her right hand is doing. She can give without expecting something in return. She can receive without expecting to give something in return. She engages the world with humbleness and meets people where they are. She knows the value of intangible things like time, effort, listening, ideas, visits, etc. She knows the value of heirlooms and knows that what may priceless to her may be of no value to the world.

7. She has a spontaneous temperament and does not have to set appointments for everything she does. Her honesty allows reactions that are not scripted. She understands that time is short on this earth compared to eternity and strives to make the most of every second – like it was the last second in time. She is concerned that she missed an opportunity.

8. She is faithful, not only to God, but to her friends and family. She does what she says and gives everything her best effort. She is consistent.

9. She has a gentleness that sets her apart from other women. Even-tempered. Not envious of other people. Not prideful. She is willing to submit her whole self to God without thought of her own comfort, which is last on her list of priorities. She is wise in words and deeds. She has no expectations and makes no assumptions. She is humble and knows she doesn’t have all the answers, embraces a mystery. She is not afraid of being viewed as weak because her strength is not in the world. She is as serene as a dandelion seed in the wind. She can count her losses, but knows she has more spiritual collateral at the end of the day. She can sing a new song without looking at the words, talk to a child on his level, and pour lemonade for the school fundraiser.

10. Her life is marked by chastity. In a world out of control, this is where she stands out. She has a pure heart that is not fragmented or confused. She does not live seeking her own pleasure, but sacrifices herself for the good of others, to bring them closer to Christ. Her identify does not depend on men and she knows what her boundaries are when it comes to romance. She does not attempt to have a sexual relationship until she is married. Her confidence comes from Christ only, not a man. A man does not define her sexuality. Her passions are mediated by temperance and self-restraint. They are sublimated by friendships with her neighbors. She is able to give herself to God with an undivided heart. Her celibacy is a positive witness to the world.

11. She is modest and doesn’t use her skin to attract men. She doesn’t draw attention to herself with excessive makeup, jewelry, etc. Doesn’t try to keep up with the latest fashion trends. She doesn’t use her sexuality outside the will of God. She also doesn’t have to have the best of everything, nor does she expect to have it all. Her comfort is last on her list of priorities. She is frugal and doesn’t envy what other people have. She is conservative with her money and does not gamble with it. She has better things to do with her money than spend it on fitness clubs and tanning booths.

12. She understands life and death and knows how to grieve. She is acutely aware of our temporary station in this world. She respects other people’s losses and memories of their loved ones.

13. She knows how to contemplate, how to temporarily shut out the world and meditate on Christ. Prayer is the center of her life and she makes time for it.

14. She is honest with herself and others and doesn’t try to hide the truth, even when it may be uncomfortable.

15. Even when things get dark, she has hope for tomorrow which is based on the mercy of God. She is always anticipating a miracle. Her faith is bigger than the headlines.

16. Her mercy extends to people on the margins of society; the disabled, elderly, mentally ill, abused, homeless, etc. She does not consider herself more important. If she finds someone she can’t help, she goes the extra mile to find someone who can.

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.

The Middle Of Which Fence?

easternmeadowlark1

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?

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

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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

clayton_king191
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/

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.

An Interview with Apostle Paul

paul damascus

Reporter: So Paul, I hear you wrote most of the New Testament. Is that true? What made you good enough to do that?

Paul: I deserve death for what I’ve done, killed many Christians while I was yet blind. But on that road to Damascus one day, my eyes were opened.

Reporter: What did you see?

Paul: That by grace I was saved through faith. Not by anything I’ve done.

Reporter: Saved from what?

Paul: From a burning hell. That’s where we all would be without Christ’s salvation.

Reporter: You really don’t believe all those stories about hell, do you?

Paul: Yes I do, just as sure as I believe you’re standing in front of my face. I must be on my way now. I have many things to take care of.

Reporter? Your wife must be having a fit with you out on the road so long.

Paul: I have no wife young man.

Reporter: Well, how long have you been single?

Paul: My whole life.

Reporter. I really find that hard to believe. You must be in your 60s, right? Isn’t that a little old to be single? How many children do you have?

Paul: I’m actually 58. And I have no children. God called me to celibacy rather than marriage. I’m content with this lifestyle.

Reporter: Oh, I see. So you’re gay. I didn’t think Catholics wrote anything in the Bible. So, how many guys have you been with?

Paul: Gay?

Reporter: You know, homosexual. Don’t get me wrong, but now that I think about it, you do look the part. A loner type.

Paul: The world has clouded your eyes, hasn’t it young man. I’m not homosexual. Did you not read what I wrote in the first chapter of Romans? About how wicked men burning with lust one toward will be turned over to the judgement of God? About how fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Reporter: Now you’re sounding like a right wing extremist Paul. I mean, there’s nobody left today that hasn’t dabbled in a little bit of fun.

Paul: There are more than you may think. Have you trained your camera on a positive story lately? Filmed your Samaritans rescuing people from the clutches of death? Interviewed a biblical single waiting patiently for a spouse? Talked to a Christian teacher putting her life on the line everyday in the classroom?

Reporter: But those stories are hard to find.

Paul: But you found me on the streets. Look around you. If you see a flash and hear a loud explosion, fall to your knees and just say “I will Lord.”

Fake Wedding Rings

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It’s another phenomenon I’m still trying to fully comprehend, single girls wearing fake wedding rings.  Has the glorification of marriage actually risen to the point of literally bowing down to idols of gold and silver?  I understand the main reason they are worn is to “ward off” unwanted men.  But I think someone with halfway a degree of discernment can avoid that.  From a cultural point of view, what is that saying about men today?  If they see all of them as wild dogs with their eyeballs popping out of their head, it can’t be too good.  It seems that this phenomenon even reinforces the old stereotype that women are blind and stoic creatures, at the mercy of whatever meat falls in their lap. And in my opinion it does objectify women, denying the natural male-female attraction.  What does it say about the kind of men they want to marry?  Do they expect to find him with eyes fix on their bodies, down on his knees proposing marriage before even meeting him? 

The finger ring goes all the way back to the time of the Egyptians.  The Bible indicates that the signet ring was used in Egypt as a symbol for authority and identification.  And Pliny the Elder told the story of how Prometheus was accused of stealing fire for Zeus and shackled in chains.  He was eventually pardoned and forced to wear a remnant of one of the links as punishment.   You can even read about the signet ring in Genesis 41:41-44 when the “Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.”  And the wearing of bethrothal rings can  be traced to ancient Rome.  Around 70 AD, they were being made from iron and approximately the second century gold was introduced.  Most scholars agree that they started out as secular symbols, but were quickly sanctioned by the church.  By the 11th century, they were part of the benediction in the wedding ceremony. 

Down through the centuries, wedding rings have been used to symbolize a couple’s commitment to each other.  And just as important, they have been used to communicate who is available and who is not available for marriage.  Single men have relied on them to answer that question in less than a second, thus avoiding any awkwardness or miscommunication. 

Symbols play an important role when it comes to passing values from generation to generation.  One of the values we don’t need to pass to the next generation is objectification of women.  Playing musical chairs with wedding rings only adds to this problem.  Not to mention what it does to honesty and trust. The only time I can think of for a single to wear one is if they’re positively not going to marry.  Who knows, in a few years, you may be able to choose if you want to be a man or women on any particular day.  I don’t think that’s the society we want to build for the next generation.

The Future Of Singles’ Virtue In A Married World

Joan of Arc-web

I was about 16 when I felt called to the single life. Through high school and college, I don’t remember reading or hearing anything about it, other than what I found in the Bible. Every once in a while, a church would have a class on the spiritual gifts. I remember getting the booklets and quickly going through them to find something on the gift of singleness. It was never there. I asked myself, “do they even recognize it as one of the spiritual gifts?” In my mind, I put that question on the back burner because I assumed it was so rare that nobody knew anything about it, and that I would eventually stumble upon the piles of books on the subject or find an expert who could give me advice. I never found them.

After 50+ years of celibacy, has anything changed? Not too much. Purity has culturally been assigned to teenage girls. Instead of no encouragement with regards to celibacy, now the church considers it a sin if you don’t marry and blames all the problems in the world on fornicating singles. It’s one of the most disturbing trends I’ve seen in my lifetime. Approximately 5-10 years ago when I first heard these mumblings, I thought they were just a few crazy theologians who had gone off the deep end with their idolization of marriage and sex. I remember Albert Mohler saying that “deliberate singleness on the part of those who know they have not been given the gift of celibacy is, at best, a neglect of a Christian responsibility (http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/08/20/looking-back-at-the-mystery-of-marriage-part-two/)”. Isn’t the gift of celibacy . . . deliberate singleness? That’s an interesting statement because the Baptist church has never offered any discernment in this regard.

But was Mohler a fluke? I’m afraid not. Since 2000, there have been a multitude of Protestant leaders who have criticized the gift of singleness while glorifying marriage and family. And sadly, the vast majority of Southern Baptist Churches have completely cancelled their singles ministries. In 2013, there is one 35+ singles ministry I’m aware of in the southeastern United States. There is not one Protestant pastor who is single. And many will tell you that the word “single” today even has negative connotations. According to Adam Stadtmiller in his recent Christianity Today article: “Being single, while accepted among those in their twenties, is often seen as something of a stigma after passing a certain “acceptable” age. In America that age is around 30 years old (http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2012/summer/singlesministry.html).” One of the respondents was a singles leader in a church who even commented that “disbanding the singles’ ministry is one of the better things that we’ve done.”

James Dobson of course has been on the family bandwagon for years: “. . . a Christian man is obligated to lead his family to the best of his ability…. God apparently expects a man to be the ultimate decision maker in his family (http://www.abpnews.com/opinion/commentaries/item/8304-getting-marriage-wrong#.UesENqIo6M8).” Women writers have piled on, like Elisabeth Elliot: “Where are the holy men of God willing to shoulder the full responsibility of manhood, to take the risks and make the sacrifices of courting and winning a wife, marrying her and fathering children in obedience to the command to be fruitful (http://faithandsociety.wordpress.com/category/religiontheology/)? And David Platt, pastor of one of the largest SBC churches in Alabama made this recent comment: “Resist the ever present trend and temptation in our day to prolong adolescence and consequence, singleness into twenties and thirties. Grow up. Some of you stop playing videogames and get a date (http://blogs.christianpost.com/videos/pastors-matt-chandler-and-david-platt-challenge-single-men-to-get-married-16360/).” Imagine, a married preacher telling Apostle Paul to grow up and get a date. What a laugh.

Perhaps most troubling though is the SBC’s new Ethics Commission President Russell Moore’s recent call for all Christians to marry young: “I am not suggesting that we totally ban the language of “premarital sex” or “abstinence,” especially when we’re trying to explain a Christian ethic to the outside world using categories already in play. I am suggesting, though, that part of what it means to recover a Christian vision of sexuality is to recover a lexicon worthy of the gravity of human sexuality. We don’t simply wish to say, “Wait more patiently.” True love waits, yes, but, more importantly, true love mates.” So he not only dismisses the Baptist’s own abstinence campaign, True Love Waits, but calls on all young people to get married as soon as possible. Sadly, a true love for Christ is not even part of Baptist theology. Instead, he says the “root problem” is singles committing fornication. According to Moore: “With “premarital sex,” on the other hand, marriage seems to have fixed the problem. But the fornicator now married, unlike the repentant adulterer now caught, often doesn’t see the ongoing nature of his problem. He also believes that “adultery is in some ways easier to repent of.” So everybody in the world is either a “fornicator now married” or “adulterer now caught.” Wow. Have the theologians reached a new pessimistic low point? So what if a new lexicon worthy of the gravity of sexuality is written overnight? Is putting the sting back in these sins with appropriate biblical lingo going to solve our problems? I think not. While we’re changing the lexicon, let’s be consistent. The word “single” is not used in the Bible either to refer to a marital state. I wonder why Moore didn’t mention that pesky little word? As a matter of fact, only married, widowed, unmarried, and virgins are referred to in the Bible. I challenge all churches to cut to the chase and adopt these four categories of ministry. Shouldn’t that little update in the lexicon clear things up Mr. Moore? The church cannot explain ethics to the outside world while turning a blind eye to their own ethical problems. http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=26-01-020-v

This focus on marriage and family and dismissal of virtuous singles will have devastating long term effects on Christianity. Some effects are not known yet. I predict pornography will be legal in all 50 states in 20 years. Others are obvious today. For example, when churches perceive all singles guilty of fornication, they dismiss the few who serve as reference points and mentors for the next generation; a generation that will view traditional marriage as a quaint notion while “committed relationships” will become the new moral benchmark. Taking singles out of the equation will have the same long term effect as putting a homosexual preacher in every pulpit. Expectations do guide a society’s moral standards and much does depend on the church’s ability to communicate to the outside world. But living witnesses are absolutely mandatory. We can be thankful for the stories of the saints, but they cannot communicate to young lost souls today. I know this is not the best analogy, but the church is sort of like a group of fishermen preparing for a big tournament. If they expect to catch no fish over 10 pounds, their tackle will reflect that with their choice of lines, reels, rods, bait, etc. They could probably go to their local Walmart and find their supplies. But what if there were a couple of 40 pound fish in the river? Would they even be aware of their presence? Probably not. They won’t go to Bass Pro Shop to spend a little more money on better tackle. Not only has the church today settled for less, but they have gone fishing in a shallow backyard swimming pool. The biggest fish the SBC expects to catch is “one million men to give up porn” while they “love their “gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus does (http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/06/26/how-should-same-sex-marriage-change-the-churchs-witness/).” What message does that communicate to the outside world? Not only has the intelligence of our country been dumbed down, but its moral standards have been perverted downward. What effect does that have on society? We have made divorce easier, taken fornication and adultery for granted, dismissed single virtue, put porn in the church pew, killed at least 20% of the U.S. population through abortion, and turned a soft shoulder to gay marriage. The reversal of cultural trends can only be possible when there are standards for singleness as well as marriage.

The Supreme Court’s Flawed Reasoning On Same Sex Marriages

Julia had been studying hard for the upcoming final exams during her freshman year at Florida State.  She even sacrificed sleep and often didn’t have to eat.  It all paid off though when she received a 98 on the precalculus test.  However, there was one small plank in the cogwheel that Julia had not planned on – and that was Rhonda.  Instead of studying for the test, Rhonda took off to Panama City with a group of girlfriends.  She figured she could cram it all in the night before.  Besides, she didn’t have to miss sleep – and she certainly didn’t miss any meals.  Rhonda made a teary-eyed 56.  She was furious and complained bitterly to the math professor, saying that it was just not fair for her to feel uncomfortable and of less worth than Julia, saying that her dignity and status in the class were in jeopardy.  She also complained that it gave Julia an advantage over her when the GPA scores were tallied at the end of the semester and would give her an advantage when looking for jobs.  Such immature extremism is not uncommon in universities.  He agreed and decided to “scale” everybody’s grades.  So instead of Julia receiving a 98 on the test she now received a 76.  And instead of a 56, Rhonda received a 76. Oh how happy she was.  The professor reasoned that all of his students should feel they have equal intellectual abilities and not be made to feel uncomfortable because someone else is smarter.  He assured Rhonda that her dignity and status would not be compromised because of a low grade.

Does this socialist approach to test scores sound familiar?  It should if you’ve been following the recent decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.  In the words of Justice Kennedy:  “The State’s decision to give this class of persons the right to marry conferred upon them a dignity and status of immense import. But the Federal Government uses the state-defined class for the opposite purpose—to impose restrictions and disabilities.”  The right for gay people to marry automatically gives them dignity and status? Mr. Kennedy, what on earth are you thinking? Marriage automatically confers dignity and status? Has our marriage and family worship society gone that far? What if I found my German shepherd having sex with the chocolate lab down the street? Would that confer on them dignity and status of immense import? Would we need to pass a law to protect their personal freedoms? What restrictions and disabilities does DOMA place on the gay community?  Did the justices let money trump principle? I’m afraid so. The case involved the same sex marriage of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer and their estate tax:  

“When Spyer died in 2009, she left her entire estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, but was barred from doing so by §3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which amended the Dictionary Act—a law providing rules of construction for over 1,000 federal laws and the whole realm of federal regulations—to define “marriage” and “spouse” as excluding same-sex partners. Windsor paid $363,053 in estate taxes and sought a refund, which the Internal Revenue Service denied.”  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-307_g2bh.pdf

You can substitute the characters in the above story with Windsor (Rhonda) complaining that if she was a man (Julia) she wouldn’t have to pay the $363,053.  Instead of grades being leveled out, it was money.  A married couple might have a dollar more than a gay couple.  So it boiled down to greed and envy. The least common denominator approach to social and ethical matters is incompatible with Christian principles.  Does America want to be a one size fits all cardboard box, a country that is indistinguishable from any other non-Christian country in the world? 

The rulings should be a wake up call for all Christians in the country, a time to reflect on the only two authentic Christian lifestyles – marriage and celibacy.  Protestant churches have traditionally been slow to respond to ethical dilemmas of the day.  The definition of marriage needs to be continually discussed – giving affirmation and encouragement to those who have faithful marriages.  And churches need to throw away the golden calves of marriage and family and give affirmation and encouragement to virtuous singles and those with the celibate gift. Instead of marriage and homosexuality, the choices need to be presented clearly as marriage and chaste celibacy.

We need not sugarcoat our words with comfort measures.  The Bible is very plain spoken on matters of homosexuality.  The Christian community doesn’t need to feel compelled to bring their standards down to the level of the court, down to the level of the least common denominator.  Those men will have their judgement.  Instead of responding to the recent court decisions with righteous indignation based on God’s word, the country’s religious leaders seem to have thrown up their hands in defeat and climbed aboard the rainbow train of gay pride. Russell Moore, the SBC’s ethics leader, called on all Southern Baptists to view this as an “opportunity to love our gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus does” http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/06/26/how-should-same-sex-marriage-change-the-churchs-witness/). This is an opportunity to speak the truth. Instead of sugar-coating, Christians need to respond with the definitive double-edged sword of the spirit which states “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9).” 

At the heart of the matter is misplaced priorities. Yes, as Justice Scalia said, the worship of marriage and family really has gone that far – “The Court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.” America’s churches are largely responsible for this exalted conception of marriage. To keep their numbers and tithes up, they have bowed to the golden calf of marriage for so long that their eyes are blurred and they can’t see it. Just as the church took their eyes off the Bible and looked to the popular opinion of the masses, the Supreme Court took their eyes off the constitution and looked to their own flawed wisdom in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Why Wait On Marriage? Rearranging The Pyramid

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I know many answers have been given to this question over the years – everything from sexually transmitted diseases to religious reasons.  But all of them seem to lead to more questions.  I’ve had 52 years of waiting to think about it — and this is my answer from a Christian point of view.   We know that Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work out for the good for those who love the Lord.  But I think it’s human nature, even for those with tremendous faith, to look for a more tangible answer.  God designed us to be curious and ask questions.  That’s how our civilization advanced.  So why did our creator command us to wait?  Here are a few reasons you may not have thought of.

First of all, fornication does not reflect the commitment and exclusivity required for a lifelong marriage.  And it does not reflect the marital relationship between Christ and the church, with Christ accepting the church as his virgin bride.  The biggest spiritual event in your lifetime (next to accepting Christ) need not be a memory filled with regret and repentance, which becomes part of your spiritual background check for the rest of your life.

Even though it can be forgiven, premarital sex prevents a marriage from reaching its full potential.   Imagine, two minutes of dowsing the flames and then the fire may never be that hot again.  You could even be left with cold charcoal that won’t start at all, trying to recreate the magic of the first flame for the rest of your life.  Since it compromises the trust factor, there will always be questions.  There will always be doubts.  How do I compare to what he has already had?  Does she really like this or is she just pretending?   This is probably the most difficult thing for people to understand, that forgiveness does not erase permanent consequences.  Some of the gravest consequences are not easy to see.  Sexual misbehavior is far different than stealing a soft drink, feeling guilty, and then taking it back to the store.  With fornication, you are taking it back to the store for the rest of your life.  The Bible even tells us that sexual sin is sin against our own bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19). So it is not on the same level as every other sin. Of course, an extremist will say that a one night stand does not ruin a person for the rest of their life.  “Ruin” may not be the appropriate word, but it does put a limit on a person’s self-fulfillment – including his sexual fulfillment. Imagine, two minutes of dowsing the flames and then the fire may never be that hot again. Apostle Paul could not have put it more elegantly when he said “it is better to marry than to burn.” See 1 Corinthians 7:9. After something burns, the only thing left is charcoal. Charcoal does burn again. This simple analogy give us a glimpse into Paul’s genius and the infinite wisdom of
God’s word and understanding of our needs.

Maslow believed our hierarchy of needs and path to self-fulfillment could be divided into five categories and that everybody had to start at the base and work their way up the pyramid sequentially with basic needs at the bottom and highest order needs at the top. He placed sexual desire at the base of the pyramid on the same level as food and water because he gave it a free pass. A marriage commitment did not fit into his pyramid. A closer approximation which more accurately mirrors God’s creation would put it on on level 3 with love and affection. Premarital sex effectively removes level three though by dropping sex down to base of the pyramid with a slab of ribs and bottle of Bud, thus rearranging the sequential steps. Then you are left to reach the top without love and affection, which is much more difficult and many times impossible. That’s one of the reasons we have such a high divorce rate — love and affection are folded in the napkin as a slab of ribs.

Interestingly, the pyramid underwent a revision in 2010 by a team of psychologists from Arizona State University (http://researchmatters.asu.edu/stories/maslows-pyramid-gets-much-needed-renovation-1664). The new pyramid placed “mate acquisition, mate retention and parenting” at the top of the pyramid, completely replacing self actualization. These researchers believe sex is a constant need and represents the ultimate goal for all mankind. It’s a fairly accurate reflection of the falling moral standards in America. Sex on top. Sex on the bottom. Sex all over.

Another reason for waiting is that you cannot reclaim the part of you that was given away to a non-committed partner, including your unique expression of love that was created as part of God’s ongoing creation process, much like the ongoing process of reproduction and new life created in the womb.  This language is so unique that no two couples establish the same one on bonding, much life a fingerprint. Premarital sex denies God’s creation and denies that the sexual bond and communication established is part of that creation. It tells God and the world that you know more about creation than he does.  And since there is a language walking around with no decoder (lifetime partner), premarital sex becomes a source of embezzlement and opens the door wider for people to blackmail each other.  It throws a wrench into the natural workings of human interaction and civility, allowing greed to take a firmer hold. So premarital sex not only makes it much more difficult to reach your potential as a human being, as reflected in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but it prevents a society from reaching its maximum potential. Imagine what would happen if a device was invented that allowed everybody in the world to have the same intelligence. It sounds like a good idea. But it would not work for the good of the individual or society. Romans 8:28 is still true and applies to all areas of the human condition and we may not be able to comprehend the enormity of “all things.” That’s two small words on a page, one giant concept for mankind. God’s creation is infinitely gigantic.

Talking About Premarital Sex Is Wrong?

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Russell Moore

Recently the Southern Baptist Convention elected Russell D. Moore as president of its Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC). Moore is an interesting choice because of his ultra liberal views on everything from immigration to same sex marriage. In his article “Premarital Sex” that appeared on his January 3rd blog (http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/01/03/premarital-sex/), he stated that: “Christians talk a lot about premarital sex. And I think that’s a mistake. I don’t think it’s a mistake because the issue is unimportant but because the grammar is skewed. The word “fornication” is almost gone from contemporary Christian speech. It sounds creepy and antiquated. Instead, we talk about “abstinence” and “premarital sex.”” Moore serves as another classic example of someone in academia talking about something they know nothing about. He is a married man with children. He is no more qualified to advise single Southern Baptists on ethical issues than Bugs Bunny, regardless of who he knows and how many degrees he has. Add to that his effort to unskew our grammar and it becomes humorous. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that most non-Christian singles will know what premarital sex is and will have no idea what fornication is, other than what they’ve heard on late night comedy. So why is Moore urging us to use terms like “fornication” instead of “premarital sex?” Because premarital sex makes too many people uncomfortable. And that might translate to decreased SBC membership. It’s not politically or financially correct. His views are the same with illegal immigration. He doesn’t like the word “illegal” and believes all should be given “compassionate” amnesty. But if you really want to know where Russell Moore stands on sexual ethics, I suggest you read his article “Like, A Virgin” that appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Touchstone (http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=24-03-016-v). In it, he criticized a chaste young college student for wanting to know about her boyfriend’s past: “Thus, you are not “owed” a virgin because you are one. Your sexual purity wasn’t part of a quid pro quo in which God guaranteed you a sexually unbroken mate. Sexual fidelity isn’t some heroic measure at all; it is our obligation as creatures of God.” Moore even takes the atheist position of putting all sin on one level: “The chaste Christian is blessed indeed, especially in these pathetic times, but he or she has rebelled at other points and been forgiven.” This may come as a shock to Moore, but sexual fidelity today is beyond some kind of “heroic measure.” It is astonishing that the ethics leader of the largest Protestant denomination in the world who holds many academic degrees is not even aware of 1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” The calvinist movement has been strong in SBC leadership for quite a while. Their views are not in line with traditional SBC theology and represent a minority of its membership. Moore has made public that he he a calvinist (http://firstthings.com/blogs/evangel/author/russell-d-moore/). He also supports “sexual complementarity” and appears to support same sex marriage by referring to “marriage cultures,” but his stand on these important issues seems to change from day to day (http://www.russellmoore.com/2013/05/24/is-your-church-ready-for-the-marriage-revolution/). He also stood by Starbucks and their decision to support same sex marriage (http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/03/25/should-christians-boycott-starbucks/). The more he rationalizes his liberal stands, the more he digs himself into a hole. About the strongest statement he has made against same sex marriage is that it is “harmful to human flourishing.” Now, that is a “creepy” statement. See http://www.helwyssocietyforum.com/?p=3569. Moore has even made disparaging remarks about the SBCs own True Love Waits abstinence campaign, saying that “True love waits, yes, but, more importantly, true love mates.” See http://www.abpnews.com/faith/theology/item/8107-redeeming-fornication#.UbdXypywWEs. Yet another example of idolizing marriage and family while turning a blind to the celibate lifestyle.

It might have been funny when Nixon asked David Frost in his 1977 interview if he had been fornicating recently. Today it wouldn’t be funny because nobody would know what he was talking about. Premarital sex – That seems plain spoken enough to me.

Celibacy And The Jucara Tree

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NPR recently covered the natural link between the Jucara tree (a type of palm) and the Toucan bird, drawing the conclusion that the big seeded Jucara tree depends on the large billed Toucan bird for its seed dispersal. And because much of the forest in this region of Brazil has been destroyed by human intervention through logging, hunting, farming, etc., the Toucan bird population has drastically declined – threatening the survival of both species (http://www.npr.org/2013/05/31/187165764/big-mouthed-toucans-key-to-forest-evolution), thus guaranteeing the survival of the Jucara species with smaller seeds that could be dispersed by other birds. Of course, there are many more examples of natural cycles found in nature such as bird rookeries and alligator farms, wildebeests and lions, pitcher plants and insects, raptors and prey, etc. In his NPR article though, Mr. Joyce discounted the role man played in this ecological disruption, referring to it as another example of evolution. It was man’s alteration of the environment that forced the Jucara tree to adapt, not an intelligent genetic process within the seeds. And it was man’s alteration of the environment that led to the disappearance of the Toucan birds. There was no cross-species genetic evolutionary process involved. The birds did not cause the changes in the tree populations. Rather, it was man’s choice to disrupt the forest with logging, farming, development, etc. So many scientists today can’t see the forest from the trees. And many take it for granted that the general public will swallow any cause and effect relationship, especially when it comes to the environment. While it may not have been a 50/50 ratio, the balance of birds/trees was natural for that region of the world before bulldozers and greed arrived. The interpretation of the changes in the forest as being evolutionary is interesting. Evolution takes man’s reasoning out of the picture and places him on the same level as the animals. It replaces God’s creation with survival of the smartest monkey – or smartest tree. Could it be that man’s treatment of nature mirrors his treatment of himself? After all, if a man doesn’t believe in God, how can he take care of God’s creation?

Like the imbalance in the Brazilian rain forest, could it be that a culture will always collapse when it does not maintain a marriage/celibacy balance? It happened with the Roman Empire. Have the small seeds of marriage and family choked out the larger seeds of singleness from the Christian lifestyle forest? By losing never married Christians from the church (See Julia Duin’s book “Quitting Church” at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/quitting-church-julia-duin/1114938133?ean=2940016277004), we have in turn lost celibate values and the Lord’s concerns (see 1 Corinthians 7). Just as there is nothing inherently wrong with small-seeded Jucara trees, there is nothing inherently wrong with marriage. But you have to step back and look at the whole forest to see what is missing, to see the predominance of the smaller seeded trees, to recognize the loss of values of an entire species. In an unnatural forest with no Toucan birds and no one to disperse the seeds of St. Paul and the Lord’s concerns, it may be too late to reverse the imbalance. For instance, never before species of mushrooms, ferns, and fungi will take root under the canopy of the small-seeded trees. They will all eventually be considered native species for that area. Local residents will not even question their existence. Likewise, never before seen fungi like homosexuality has taken root in the one-sided forest of marriage and family; a forest that has few singles for the kingdom, where Toucan birds are an endangered species; a forest where life is not valued and rare species stepped on and destroyed.

As Christians, is there any way to reverse these changes? Consider for a moment the possibility that all of the Jucara seeds were the large variety when they fell to the ground and became small after one year of not being picked up by a Toucan bird. There would be a small window of time to increase the population of the birds, thereby allowing for survival of the native large seeded trees and Toucan birds. In other words, the potential for maintaining the ecological balance would be there for a short while. So it is with celibacy and the single life today. Children hit the ground after their teenage years with big dreams which become small after accepting society’s expectations of marriage and family and abruptly encounter the responsibilities of parenthood. Instead of taking notes in a college classroom, they are standing in line at food stamp offices. Many probably do have a disposition towards celibacy. But after pressure from their peers, parents, church – and after nobody steps forward to guide them down this road of discernment – they ultimately throw away their dreams and choose the default road of marriage. Default is easy. It requires no intelligence. Another small tree of marriage is reproduced that could have been become a larger tree of celibacy, thereby preserving the Christian lifestyle balance. More Christian singles need to step forward and mentor others along this narrow road. The biggest road block to this, of course, is the cloud of suspicion hanging over every Christian single adult today, the cloud of homosexuality and “alternative lifestyles.” In Catholic Stand’s article “The Other Vocation Crisis,” Mary C. Tillotson stated: “In one sense, marriage is a “default” vocation – it’s where the majority of Catholics are called. But it’s unreasonable (and unhealthy) to assume that Catholics who don’t become priests will fall back on the healthy, holy domestic church thing. Many wander off and, ignoring the Church’s teaching, take up “alternative family styles.” See http://catholicstand.com/the-other-vocation-crisis/. The situation is even worse in Protestant churches because they don’t even acknowledge the celibate lifestyle. Many more singles have wondered off in their churches. They are hunkering down in fear, assuming that all singles are homosexuals if they are not married by a certain age. While the Catholic church is dealing with a crisis among their priests, protestants are dealing with a crisis of ignorance among their congregations.

That’s where we are today – a society that has interfered with God’s natural order. With a status of idolatry being placed on marriage and family, celibacy and purity have been removed from the forest and concern for the Lord’s affairs have disappeared like the Toucan bird. And since the natural order has been disrupted, a culture of adultery, homosexuality, and fornication has been allowed to grow in the shadows of family values. Now it’s being brought out into light. Even the Boy Scouts are out loud and proud, while Christians remain quite on the sidelines. In such a society, you will not find a well balanced system with faith, love, and hope. Instead, you will find a system of pessimism, hate, and despair. Such happens when a society turns it back on God and denies his creation.

Silence In Youth Ministries

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A phenomenon that I’ve noticed more and more over the last several years is that youth speakers are not addressing pertinent youth-related issues – especially when it comes to virtue.  I went to a “student emphasis” revival service at my local Baptist church this week where a national youth speaker was scheduled to speak.  I was surprised when I saw the turnout of the students.  At least 100, which is a lot in this small town.  What an opportunity, I thought, to reach some young people and talk about the issues that were important to them.  But to my horror, the sermon topic was “take up your cross and follow me” and the scripture was from Mark 8.  Somebody wake me up when it’s over.   I have no problem listening to a sermon on the crucifixion and salvation.  They are at the heart of my Christian beliefs.   I had two main problems this particular night, though.  Number one, it was a revival service for people that were already Christians and the sermon given was one of repentance and salvation, which is inappropriate.  Number two, not one issue pertaining to young adults was addressed.  If you closed your eyes, you could just as well put yourself in a nursing home chapel.  I was going through my mind thinking about all of the topics that could have been addressed:  Relationships, sex, porn, school, careers, parents, bullying, depression, peer pressure.  But why choose a generic cookie-cutter subject and avoid all the meet and potato issues?  I’m afraid the answer is political correctness.  Yes, the little “let’s keep everybody comfortable” demon is still working his magic in churches today.  And I’m afraid it’s one of the main reasons our churches are crumbling and losing youth membership.  The hard issues are not being addressed, issues that relate to their lives.  Church leaders are reaching for the cheap “one size fits all” generic label, being careful not to “offend” someone.  You might be tempted to think this does no harm.  The truth was preached.  Right?  But it does do harm because opportunities like this do not come around every day – especially in small towns in the deep south.  You don’t have many chances to speak to a group of young people assembled in these numbers.  They are this country’s future.  When an opportunity like this is squandered, it is lost forever.  That moment in time cannot be reclaimed.  Sitting there listening to the eloquent description of St. Mark that can be read in thousands of sermon notes online and in church libraries, I found myself wondering what would happen if I stood up and yelled “does anybody have any question about relationships and sex?”  Would they have thrown hymn books at me?  Would I have been wrestled to the ground and carried out the door?  What would St. Paul have talked to them about?  The stock market?  I don’t think so.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said:  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  God will not hold churches guiltless either, no matter what denomination or name is stamped on the door.  Pastors:  You can talk about St. Mark and the cross, the four stages of salvation, and the path to repentance any time the church doors open.  You are doing a disservice to the next generation when you stand silent on these issues in the face of evil.

Born Again Virgins?

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I’m not sure who started the current born again virgin phenomena.  When I first saw it in print, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.  My first questions were:  What does virginity have to do with being born again?  Are all people who commit to purity again Christians?  Do nonvirgins need a particular kind of salvation?  Has it got anything to do with Christianity?  Why are people using the phrase?  How do you justify using it?  I think the whole idea is an example of deception taken to another level.  It is grammatically misleading at its finest.  And it takes oxymoron to a whole new level.  The reason it works today is because so many people are . . . morons.  They are uneducated, especially when it comes to biblical terminology.  The ever changing nature of the contemporary English language also toys with their reason.  Add to that the fact that sex has lost almost all spiritual meaning and has more or less become a recreational sport.  Mix in greed and excess — and deception becomes quite easy.  A pretty face makes it almost . . . believable.  Who will ever know, especially in a world where there are no scarlet letters?

One example that comes to mind is “born again virgin” Sean Lowe on ABC’s The Bachelor.  All of the commentaries I’ve read describe him  as someone who is saving sex “from now on” for marriage.  Isn’t it amazing how three little words “from now on” can put an entirely different spin on an otherwise generic statement?  Those words effectively cancel out the very definition of virginity.  Could it be a reflection of America’s downward spiral into moral depravity?  I think so.  It’s also a reflection of how far ad agencies will go to market what passes as entertainment today.  Hijacking a word seems innocuous enough on the surface. But dig beneath the surface and you’ll find everything but Christian intentions. The high tech world has honed language manipulation to a fine art – firewalls, icons, interfaces, tweets, etc.  If it makes money, they’ll put any word on it.  Have we reached the point where we see ourselves as having restart buttons?  Are our bodies just machines that can be rebooted when things go wrong?  Can all memories be immediately erased?  Of course, all who have bought into the value system of modernity and intelligent robots will tell you it’s possible.  When the robot gets a little rusty, you just pop in a performance enhancing pill.   A little old?  Just get an upgrade.  Wrong sex?  Just change your wardrobe and choose any bathroom you want.

To combat this trend, do we need to refer to ourselves as “authentic virgins”?  Can you foresee a world where every virtue will be called into question?  What about every object and event in the known universe?  Do we need a new grammatical category for secondary nouns?  What about virtual honesty?  Most of the time kindness?  If it’s convenient honor?  Before lunch patience?  Where do you stop?  What about prelicked postage stamps?  Once used water?  New again toothbrushes?  Almost new bandaids?  Without standards, a house of mirrors will seem like jump rope.

I have no problem with anybody being born again in any situation. And singles with pasts who do become Christians should strive for celibacy until marriage.  But no matter how much spin is put on it or how many words are hijacked, they are not virgins again.  Born again and salvation cannot be used as descriptives for virginity itself.  There is nothing in the Bible that links the two.  It’s interesting that virginity has been placed on the same level as salvation.  Is the Christian community doing an adequate job of explaining what purity is?  That it involves more than just the physical body?  Maybe not.  Should we let the secular world define Christian virtues?  Certainly not.

I realize there are Christian singles using this phrase, even those who are waiting, who do not even consider virginity part of the definition of chastity.  They just commit to a period of waiting before marriage and fidelity within marriage.  In other words, they define chastity in real time only with no consideration of the past.  It might make someone uncomfortable or eliminate them in a tight dating scene.  Being a virgin might give somebody else an advantage.  Can’t have that in a politically correct “shared sacrifice” world, can we?.   When it comes to a past of premarital sex though, no amount of forgiveness can undo the emotional consequences and miraculously send a  person back in time to a state of virginity.  Einstein may like that idea.  But it is not reality.  And certainly not biblical.  Of course, it may help nativity scenes make a comeback because there would  be a politically correct . . . born again virgin Mary.

Virginity – Does It Make You Uncomfortable?

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Virginity.  Much has been written about it lately.  One blogger even deemed the week of February 3rd “impromptu sex week” and listed a dozen blogs that discuss the issue (http://deeperstory.com/impromptu-sex-week-a-link-list/).   Christian author Julia Duin recently wrote that “. . . virginity is under such withering attack, you would think it was child abuse”  (http://www.ebireflections.com/2/9/6).  I tend to agree with her.  Ironically, it seems that most of what is being written is by . . .  nonvirgins, especially those who have already plunged into the world of fornication or adultery.  For Christian singles who are still waiting, that should be a red flag that reads “proceed with caution.”  The perspective and opinions of someone who is not a virgin is going to be very different.  Everything they write is going to be colored with a past. If not for the purpose of encouraging a child, why would a married person want to write about . . . virginity? Could it be guilt? Acceptance? Something worse? So the first thing I usually do when I come across one of these articles is look at the author’s background. If you were planning a deep sea expedition, would you start internet searching with “space-time travel”? The world will tell you virginity is an empty bucket, a blank slate, a state of ignorance. While the truth will tell you just the opposite – that chastity and its surrounding spiritual and emotional intelligence is just as real and significant as the academics of nanotechnology, asteroid tracking, and quantum physics. And that whatever is written about it, the laws of nature and God’s creation do not change over time.

Unfortunately, most of what is being written today is indeed a direct attack on virginity.   Instead of swords and arrows, words are being thrown to denigrate those who are waiting on marriage and to make those who have engaged in premarital sex feel comfortable and free of guilt.   In her article, Julia Duin mentioned a few of those words that are being used in the battle:  Frigid, prideful, judgemental, and holier-than-thou.  I have noticed a few more in virginity-related blogs during the past two weeks:  Unrealistic, flat, one-dimensional, obsession, purity culture, idealism, suffocates, heresy, moral superiority, shame, fear, misinformation, impure, scare tactics, grace, love, inherent worth, understanding, heal, rebuild, set free from our past, saved myself, regret, ruined God’s plan, confused, insecure, forbidden, pure enough, intact hymen, mistakes, dirty, whole person, fundamentalist, failure, naive.  I could go on.  Another phenomenon I’ve noticed is people attacking virginity by supposedly taking a neutral, it doesn’t matter, point of view. Many of them proclaim “it’s really pure thoughts that matter.”  In other words, if you can’t kill virginity with swords and arrows, just take it out of the picture.  Make it disappear.  That will make everybody feel better.  One of the natural laws of God’s creation is that the darker it gets, the brighter the light becomes that does exist. What does it matter anyway if the whole world goes dark? Should we just let boys be boys?  Girls – It does matter.  God did not put the warning against fornication in the Ten commandments and elsewhere in the New Testament to take up space on pages.  When I accepted Christ at 14, there were a lot of things in the Bible I didn’t understand.  But I put my faith in those words and put my rational brain in the back seat.  This is not a perfect analogy, but I will use it:  In a way, the Bible is like the instruction manual for our bodies.  We first have to believe that the builder has a superior knowledge, that he knows every part inside and out, knows every function down to the smallest detail, and knows what is best for us.   I look at my body in somewhat the same way.  There are a lot of things I don’t understand, but I have faith in the creator.  For me personally, I know sex before marriage would be devastating for me emotionally.  Is there anything wrong with a human being emotional?  No.  God made emotions.  So I don’t look at the Bible as a collection of random rules I must follow to get to heaven.  I know that it charts the course for what is best for me.  I am content in living with a mystery, in not seeing beyond the horizon, in not knowing the intricate details of female anatomy, in not knowing all the “right positions.”

Another angle of attack on virginity is the “everybody else is doing it” arguement.   There is even a blog titled:  “News Flash:  You Probably Won’t Marry A Virgin” that proceeds to quote all the statistics about how few people wait for marriage ( http://deeperstory.com/news-flash-you-probably-wont-marry-a-virgin/).  I have a news flash for the author:  The Bible is not based on popular opinion or what “feels right.”  I think this arguement is particularly dangerous because it appeals to a younger person’s “democratic” view of American society, where everybody’s opinion is of the same value and the majority rule the day. If the majority of the supreme court said its right, then it’s got to be okay. Right?  Wrong.  They recently ruled that all corporations, under President Obama’s healthcare mandate, must pay for contraception for their employees.  So, what does that say about the supreme court’s value system?  How do you think someone waiting on marriage would fit into that system?  At 51 and still a  virgin, I may be one in several million guys my age.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t bother me.  I live a rebellious life. Uncomfortable yet?

Another angle of attack is:  “You people who are waiting should keep your mouths shut because you are shaming those who didn’t wait.”  So on one hand we have leaders and educators bemoaning the fact that sexuality is not being discussed from a Christian perspective.  There are even pastors asking “where are the role models.”  On the other hand, if we say anything, we are guilty of making someone . . . uncomfortable.  Damed if we do – and damned if we don’t.   I have not bought into the “comfort mentality.”  If any word about purity before marriage makes a person uncomfortable, they are either not a Christian or have not been forgiven for past mistakes.  My advice for them is:  Be quiet and listen.  Your past choices disqualify you from speaking about virginity to anybody but your children.  Period.  There is so much that needs to be written about grace and forgiveness.  Consider those alternatives.

Another attack frequently used:  “But what about girls who have been raped or molested?”  “What about those who have been abused?” The “rare exception” mentality could be used to refute every virtue in the Bible.  I can take any heavy duty transport chain, put a weak link in it, and it will break when a load is applied. When it comes to chastity, the Christian community depends on solid consistent links. So this arguement is a mute point because those of us who have lived lives of chastity know that forced sex does not undo virginity. Some links (victims of rape, etc) may need a little more support to maintain their strength, but the entire chain does not fail. It’s difficult for world-centered nonchristians to comprehend this.  They can’t get beyond thinking of our bodies as objects, as just the fittest of a species that survived random variations. Their spirituality goes no deeper than the angle of a chimps nose.  They view our human bodies as no more valuable than the BMW in their garage.  They’ve got to take the car out for a test drive first. Got to see if its compatible.  How do you know if your comaptible if you don’t have sex first?  A never ending comical chorus. Some astute writers have written about objectification and have explained in great detail how our bodies are so much more than objects of desire; that outside of God’s love and grace, we are nothing. Arleen Spenceley comes to mind ( http://deeperstory.com/news-flash-you-probably-wont-marry-a-virgin/).  An authentic salvation experience changes everything about you – your reasoning, your perspective, your values, your sensitivity, your discernment, even your intelligence.  It rocks your whole world.

And lastly, I’ve noticed that most of what has been written on internet blogs has been from women.  While not inherently wrong, it does guarantee a one-way perspective. I have actually lost single female friends by mentioning the word “celibacy” in a message. One wrote “I’m not comfortable with that.” Their ability to reason has deterioriated to a state of: “Oh no, he must be gay. What do I do?” I would actually need a calculator to count the number of times I’ve seen the word “comfortable” come up in the last 2-3 years. Not only do straight Christian men not write much on the subject, they’ve been taken out of the definition of virginity.  This has opened the door for men, especially Christian men, to be targeted today.  Many have been knocked down so hard they can’t get up. Their faces are so deep in the sand they may never see the light of day. I could start listing all the negative stereotypes I’ve read on the recent blogs associated with men.  But I will let you read them for yourself.  Christian guys still waiting – I urge you to be bold on this issue. Let the eyes of darkness recoil when presented with the light of truth and wisdom.  We must let virtuous Christian girls know what we sound like, what our values are, what our personalities are, what our hearts are, what our motives are, and that there is something worth waiting for. We need to take the statistical calculators out of their hands and show them that miracles still happen everyday. They should not be made to feel that they have to settle for less. Most importantly, we must put ourselves back into the definition of virginity.  Our voice should be the loudest on this issue. Yes, even when there is laughter and heckling in the room, we should stand up.  We should come together on the front line of this battle with sword in hand, putting aside our pride or embarrassment, protecting our Christian sisters who are on this road.  Doing the right thing is often uncomfortable – but it must be done if we are to reclaim our lives, reclaim our valor, reclaim our dignity.