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.

Virginity – Don’t Be A Question Mark

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

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

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

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

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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.

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.