Chastity And Role Models

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Brother Joseph Zoetti in his workshop at the Benedictine Monastery in Cullman, Alabama

According to Merriam-Webster, a role model is “a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.” I would add that a person’s values and standards, whatever they may be, define what those behaviors are and who models them. For example, I wouldn’t choose a terrorist to model the sanctity of life for my son. I wouldn’t choose a politician to model honesty (okay, there may be exceptions). But those are common sense values, or at least they have been. Other values and behaviors to model are not always so clear. Which brings me to chastity. Let me say up front that I’m not a saint, I don’t have all the answers, and this post is not meant to “condemn.” I really don’t think a Christian person can condemn anybody. In this atmosphere of hyper-political correctness, I think one of the biggest problems is that there has not been an ongoing conversation about sexual ethics. Everything to do with sex has been categorized as “dirty.” Then all of that silence seemed to end recently when the Supreme Court deemed same sex marriage was a constitutional right. Now everybody wants to join the conversation. From what I’ve seen, people discussing chastity, especially on the internet, fall into one of three groups: They’re looking for a mate, they’re selling chastity-related merchandise, or they’re trying to pass this virtue to the next generation. I fall in the third group. And that’s where the whole idea of role models comes in.

I think real role models don’t think of themselves as role models and don’t advertise themselves as such. I don’t. I really don’t like the phrase. One thing that makes it more complicated is terminology. We would not be able to describe values that are important to us without consistent terminology. Yes, I have been celibate for 54 years. Yes, I am a virgin. Yes, I have been chaste for 54 years. Yes, I am a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven. I’m sure there are a lot more words that have been applied to me. What it all comes down to is I haven’t had sex. Is that so complicated? Revisionists have tried to dilute these definitions over the years. Some words even have biblically-based meanings, but we are inconsistent in how we use them. For instance, chastity has come to mean just what everybody is doing when they’re not having sex – they’re practicing chastity – or at least some vague sense of its commitment. “Not having sex? You’re chaste!” “Would you like next day delivery with that?” Even the eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 19, which I identify with, are being redefined in some circles as homosexuals. I recently saw a headline that read, “Everybody is a Virgin!” Just think, Madonna is no longer like a virgin. She’s the real deal all over again! You would think virginity is a commodity being sold on the sidewalk along with all the books on the subject, purity programs, and jewelry. But I must say there are some very good books out there on the subject by authors who are conscious of their priorities. And forgiveness, it seems, has become but a delete button for our pasts. No consequnces. Just hit the pound key and continue. The reality is that, like all the other virtues, chastity cannot be modified with technology or dictionaries. Of course anybody can wait again on sex before marriage. That is what Christ calls for. But we have not been given the right to revise biblical language to fit the comfort level of contemporary political correctness. I think it’s one of our biggest mistakes.

The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus knew the significance of words and symbols when they put a purple robe on him, crowned him with thorns, and put a sign on the cross that read “Jesus, King of the Jews.” But Jesus didn’t ask the soldiers to change the words on the sign. He didn’t try to revise the dictionary. He carried his cross, including those words, even while he was being mocked and degraded. And he told us to do the same in Matthew 16:24: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Words and their meanings are more significant than we realize, especially when trying to pass values to the next generation. Ephesians 6:17 describes “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” For some people, just the word “virgin” is a sword. It’s like chastity can’t even get off the ground. But it’s a biblical word. There are people today who question Virgin Mary’s virginity. “What makes you so special little miss virgin?” “Found favor with God? Yeah, right.” “You’re no better than anybody else.” “What’s your boyfriend’s name?” Now step into that scene and ask yourself what you would do to defend her. Put yourself in the shoes of virgin martyr St. Maria Goretti’s. How far would you go to protect your honor as a woman of God? Pondering these things has been critical in my wait for the kingdom of God. Remember, God invented virginity. Man didn’t. It was a requirement to be the mother of Christ. It was also designed to be the state before marriage between a man and a woman, and that standard is still in the Ten Commandments. I don’t think it’s our place to second-guess these truths or the reasoning behind them. Our responsibility is to follow them as best as possible. There are a lot of mysteries we will not understand until we get to heaven. Can we move past the “nobody’s perfect” and “that’s so judgmental” rhetoric? Chastity is just one of the many virtues. It is not a mark of sainthood. I’m working on humility. That one is difficult for me, as I have a tendency to see things in black and white and speak too bluntly and too fast.

I also tend to look at many things in life in an analytical way. I am a math and science geek. For instance, if I wanted to learn how to race at NASCAR, I would try to find a professional NASCAR driver who could teach me. I would want somebody that had been racing for years and had won some races to prove it. I would want to see the statistics. And I actually do have a good friend from high school who is a retired NASCAR driver who has won many races. I would choose him over someone who had never been behind the wheel of a stock car or someone who had never placed in the top 10. I would choose him over someone who hit a guardrail on the interstate last year and totaled his car. That does not mean that I hate all the other drivers. Even though the virtue of chastity is not even in the same universe as NASCAR, I do look at human track records or – as the old timers called it – reputations. Or, as the Bible calls it, honor. Everybody has been effected one way or the other by people in their lives. And if you’re an adult, you are affecting other people, even if you don’t know who they are. I think children listen more to our actions than our words. This is especially true when they are looking up to someone as a role model. “Divorce is wrong,” we tell them, but our actions say “as long as it doesn’t interfer with your NFL career.” “Having sex outside marriage is wrong” we tell them, but our actions say “as long as having a baby doesn’t interfer with your singing career.” Everybody makes fruit of some kind. You can’t hide it from children. This is what worked for me growingup. Something else may work for you. The few people I know today (thanks to the internet) who are remotely around my age and still waiting are a godsend to me. I wish I could transport them back in time to when I was a teenager at Chelsea High School. There were a few adults I looked up to as mentors – my dad, an uncle, a very good friend who wrote a book on purity. I personally knew these people. They weren’t just Facebook friends. There were no computers. I looked for more people, but couldn’t find any. The people involved in my life had track records I respected. Maybe it’s just me, but I have to respect somebody before I will emulate them. And I think self-respect plays a big role. As A.C. Green said “You need to have self-respect, values and a little bit of virtue in your life.” I saw him speak in Birmingham back in the 1990s. He remained a virgin until he was 38 and got married in 2002. He’s a man I respect. Of course, my number one role model is Christ, and I think it’s critical that we stay in contact with him everyday. Everybody tells me that nobody my age waits any more. I wouldn’t say nobody, just fewer. But wasn’t one of Christ’s main objectives to bring down ageism and sexism and marital statusism?

What I don’t understand is why sexuality, especially chastity, has become a divisive topic, more divisive than age and gender. We have our instructions in the Bible. They are not easy. For people who feel they are attracted to the same gender, we all have the same standards. Yes, I do have a sex drive, but I have not gotten what I want. That’s why I always feel a bit uncomfortable when I meet a stranger and their eyes go to my ring finger. I say to myself “oh gosh, I’m just another single dude.” As Olympic gold medalist Lolo Jones, who is still waiting at 32, said: “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Harder than training for the Olympics.” I can relate to Lolo. She’s one of my heroes. I remember a time when waiting until marriage was something to be proud of. What has become all too common today is this: When a person says anything positive about virginity, they are automatically attacked as judgmental, condemning, better than everybody else, hater, full of pride, perfect, religious fanatic, and on and on. And so many Christian people think it’s their responsibility to make everybody feel comfortable. It is not.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I wanted to relate to people who understood what I was going through, what it felt like to be a black sheep, what it felt like to be ridiculed because I wouldn’t do what everybody else was doing, what it felt like to be out of touch with society. Those years were excruciatingly painful. Then in my 40s, I wanted to relate to people who understood what it was like to be a “40 year old virgin” and the punch line of movie jokes. Without anybody else to relate to, I turned to other things, like the monastery of St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, AL, which was about two hours from where I lived. It was the first place where I felt connected, where there were no stereotypes associated with being an older single guy, where I didn’t have to hide my ring finger, where I felt part of something bigger than my little world. I have spent hours in their cemetery, pondering the lives of those monks. I have studied the life of Brother Joseph Zoetti, who built their masterpiece known as “Little Jerusalem.” They were all role models for me. Especially Brother Joseph. One day I hope to meet him. Of course, my number one role model is Christ.

I think young people have the best chance of waiting until marriage with mentors who are still living and walking the same road – or who have walked it at their age and beyond. As harsh as it may sound, sometimes that excludes parents. My special friend and mentor is still very important to me. She probably does not realize how much impact she had on my life. But a lot of Christian youth today have no one. If somebody reads what I’ve written today or years from now after I’m gone, I hope it encourages them in some way. And I hope the stereotypes associated with chastity will disappear – things like it’s only for teenagers, only for girls, only for religious people, only for Catholics, only for people who can’t have fun, only for people with a low sex drive, etc. It would be nice for my legacy to be “age and gender won’t matter in heaven.” It would be nice to be remembered as the person I never found when I was a younger man. That’s all.

Thank you Julia.

http://www.avemariagrotto.com/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/2012-heavy-medal-london/post/hurdler-lolo-jones-virginity-has-been-harder-than-training-for-london-olympics/2012/05/23/gJQAOQo7kU_blog.html

Purity – Whose Responsibility Is It?

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The more I read what is being written about purity today, the more I think it has been assigned to one gender – Women. Women are supposed to set sexual boundaries, guard their hearts, guard their emotions, say no to the advances of men, dress modestly, passively wait until a man “pursues” her, and define the very meaning of chastity and purity. Who writes over 90% of all purity books and blogs? Women. But what about guys who are waiting until marriage to have sex? Or guys who have decided not to ever have sex? Does their opinion count? I would like for it to count more than it does today. Are the biblical standards for purity different for men and women? I don’t think so. I’m afraid all the emphasis on women’s purity only accomplishes one thing – It devalues pure men. Yes, preachers and religious leaders can say they’re both equally important. But that falls by the wayside when everything that is said and spoken about purity is from the woman’s point of view. Think about the world we would have today if it were as God designed it. All people having sexual relationships would be married and all single people would be virgins. Does it sound like a fantasy? If that’s the way God designed it, why are we content in playing by the rules of a lost world?

It’s my opinion that purity is just as much men’s responsibility as it is women’s and that this imbalance is one of the number one reasons single men have lost respect in this generation. Actually, I think purity is more our responsibility. Godly men do not push women sexually until they say no. Where’s the honor in that? There is none. It’s the most dishonorable thing a man can do. But we’ve got a world today that bestows honor on a man if he “scores” and doesn’t get a woman pregnant, if he pays for the abortion, and if he “does the right thing” and marries her. Godly men do not try to take something that is not theirs. I’ve always found it interesting that God made women’s bodies so that they are marked when then have sex the first time; either through breakage of the hymenal ring (with exceptions) or pregnancy. Men don’t have to worry about such visible consequences. Sometimes I think it would have been nice if God had designed men’s anatomy such that something changed when they had sex for the first time. But he didn’t. So our character defines our purity for the world to see. By that, I mean how you stand with God and everybody that knows you. Self-controlled men are content with what they have. They meet adversity head-on. They don’t take shortcuts. They don’t compromise their purity. They know what the pain of waiting is all about and honor the patience of Godly women who are waiting. Most of all, they understand the sacredness of sex and how it goes way beyond physical pleasure. They understand its permanent bond, the exclusive nature of marriage, and their own vulnerability. Likewise, men who have been called to celibacy understand their responsibility to all women and to those who are most vulnerable. Guys, we have just as much responsibility to keep our temples clean as women do. That means we don’t knock on the doors of other temples. That means we don’t run in and try to sample the cookies first, thinking we will never get caught. What you do in the backseat of a car may not become public knowledge. But that doesn’t mean God will not find out. He will.

Many parents today do not educate their children about human sexuality, especially daughters. They relinquish that responsibility to the streets, to the internet, to their friends, to the schools, and to other classmates. Just because they don’t know how valuable their sexuality is does not mean it’s something we should try to take advantage of. And may I make this strong suggestion: Please do not think of a woman’s body as a baseball field. It’s not something to play with. It’s not a game. Be thankful that she’s in your presence and talking to YOU. She could be with another man. How would you like her to hit your balls out of the park? Think about it. In the Old Testament, men were required to marry a virgin if they had sex with her. That should give you an idea of the importance God places on purity. So guys, it’s up to you. If you’re still waiting, I encourage you to strengthen that commitment. Do you want to see the images of past girlfriends every time you have sex with your wife in the future? Or do you want the only image to be that of your wife? Do you want your future wife to be content knowing she is your only one? Or do you want her to worry about you comparing her to women in your past? Are you going to impress your friends and have sex with the first girl that gives in? Would you rather be a street stud or a man of conviction and courage? Do you want to blend in with the crowd or do you want to stand out from the crowd? I encourage you to take back the responsibility for sexual purity that should have been ours in the first place. Whether you’re looking for a wife or content remaining unmarried, let’s show the world that real men are self-controlled and have just as much responsibility for sexual purity as women; that ladies in waiting are just half the story and that they should settle for nothing less than gentlemen in waiting.

Chastity, For The Sake Of Civilization

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Is That Single Man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Singles Versus True Widows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purity – The False Witness Of Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?