What The Gift Of Celibacy Is Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginity – The Great Equalizer

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

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

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

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

A Note For Chastity Writers And Speakers

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Much is being written about Christian singles and chastity these days. A lot of it is from concerned parents, religious leaders, and singles themselves. The popular chant has become: There are too many single people and the sky is falling. Since I’m a single person who is waiting myself, that’s the standpoint from which I approach the topic, a single guy. But one who has not had sex. I’m sure that narrows down my audience a bit. BTW, my personal boundary has always been anything below the neck is off limits. When I write an article supporting chastity, I try to imagine myself reading it to a crowd of singles who have gathered to hear someone talk about sex. Then I watch their reactions as I read it and answer their questions. In my mind, I’m just trying to determine how my blog post will be received. There is one really big problem that I’ve never found a solution for: How do you talk or write about chastity and encourage those who are waiting on marriage without discouraging those who did not wait or have made mistakes or have even been abused? I have come to the conclusion that it’s very, very difficult, if not impossible. The main problem is that there will always be people who have had sex and some who have not. That’s the way God made us, not with 50 shades of gray. This is probably the biggest dividing line for an audience. It’s like mixing explosive chemicals. Sparks start to fly as soon as the first person yells “Hey! I feel like a dirty piece of chewing gum!” And the heckling escalates. The same thing happens with blogs on the internet. Any intent of supporting those who are waiting deteriorates into a debate about obedience versus grace. Since we virgins are generally more sensitive people, we concede first. And I’m talking about guys and girls. If you want to be politically correct, you then try to make everybody comfortable. “Oh, I’m really not a virgin. I’m just trying to practice chastity and do the right thing sexually. Here, let me get you a chastity button.” Then the whole discussion turns into an apology for chastity or its entire definition gets twisted. This problem is multiplied when T-shirts, book deals, and money get thrown into the mix. Would you like a cup of virginity or a Diet Coke?

Of course, another problem is that there will be Christians and non-Christians in the audience. It’s only natural for a non-believer who did not wait to lash out at those who are waiting. They can’t be expected to have an accurate concept of what virginity is. It’s only natural for them to feel guilt and shame and try to pass that off to everybody else. Another problem is that we can’t know everybody’s backgrounds. That includes their family histories and how or if their parents discussed sexual standards with them when they were younger. Did they ever even have “the talk?” Did they get sent out into the dating world without even knowing what sex is and what their boundaries should be? There is a huge difference in need between the person who needs counseling for rape or past mistakes and someone who needs encouragement to continue to wait. A big, big, difference. Those two support needs cannot be met in the same room and in the same setting.

Since it’s not possible to know all of these things in advance, how does a person maximize the effectiveness of their blog/talk and minimize the chances that it will deteriorate into a shouting match? I suggest making it clear upfront what the topic will be and that it will be approached from a Christian standpoint, regardless of whether the setting is Protestant or Catholic in nature. Make sure SEX is in huge bold letters. Make sure they know it’s going to be about more than relationships. And make sure that the definition of marriage as being between a man and woman is out front. That’s why the title of my blog is “Christian Celibacy in the 21st Century” and my about page describes me as a lifetime celibate (i.e., virgin), with a subtitle of “straight renunciation.” I may be wrong, but I think guys may be more open to talking about celibacy instead of virginity. That’s because virginity, thanks to all the writers and speakers before us, has been tied so closely to the female gender. A classic case is blogger Samantha Pugsley who concluded: “I’m now thoroughly convinced that the entire concept of virginity is used to control female sexuality.” More unfortunate is the fact that so many chastity writers took her seriously and moderated their messages accordingly. Many even have personal stories that start out with being abused by a man. And their writing never rises above the level of man bashing. Most of them are women, after all. Even being as intentional as I try to be, there are still many who look at my life and scoff, “Lifetime celibate, yeah right. It will last until you meet the right woman.” I receive many comments and emails that I do not make public. So even if it causes stones to be tossed initially, I still recommend that you state your intentions up front before any blog or talk dealing with chastity – or any sexual ethics issue for that matter. Whatever we do to make chastity more comfortable and palpable to the masses will put us one step further away from Christ. If you don’t have enemies, I recommend examining your life to see what you’re doing wrong.

The Land Of The Gray

Photo by Charles Bonham

Photo by Charles Bonham

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

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

A lot has been said recently about “all or nothing” thinking, especially as it relates to sexual purity and saving sex for marriage. The truth is that the idea originated in the Bible: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).” That’s what you call all or nothing. A comfortable area of gradualism and relativism does not exist between serving God and serving Satan. Likewise, a comfortable area of gradualism does not exist between marriage and celibacy, between the affairs of the world and the affairs of God.

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

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

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

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

Rape/sex abuse is not addressed on this blog.

What’s The Difference Between Purity And Virginity?

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

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

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

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

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

Family Idolatry And The Dictionary

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

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

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

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

Virginity – Pure And Simple

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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?