Celibacy – Life Beyond Circumstances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But As God Has Distributed To Every Man

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Many people think celibate life is what single people do when they can’t find someone to marry. After a certain age, it becomes a consolation prize, God’s second best, a life of irresponsibility and extended adolescence. Some consider it just a lack of a sex drive and fear of “manning up.” Others see it as a tragedy, a wasted life, a dry seed. When it’s a woman, it’s even more of a tragedy. With her fertile years slipping by, she wonders why God has forgotten her. Church members try to set her up with every breathing animal that has testosterone. They put her on the prayer list and assure her that God will bring the answer to her prayers in due time. They tell her to focus on God and, if she prays enough and is holy enough, God will send her a knight in shining armor. The problem is that God never promised anyone a marriage. As a matter of fact, he instructs us to do just the opposite. “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” 1 Cor 7:17. In other words, if we have never married when we come to Christ, looking for a spouse should not be a priority in our lives. We walk with faith in Christ alone. In these few verses, Paul is very succinctly telling us that divisions and classes do not matter to God at all. He nails this standard of equality home in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think it would be fair to surmise that there is neither married nor unmarried. “All one in Christ Jesus” effectively trumps and nullifies the “be fruitful and multiply” mandate of the Old Testament. It erases all the divisions that we read about from Genesis to Malachi in the Old Testament. If we accept our statuses when we become Christians, it should include the unmarried state as well. A story of someone looking for a spouse does not even appear in the New Testament. A list of qualifications for a spouse does not appear. Contrast that with the sex saturated society we have today. Think about the one birth that really matters. It was supernatural. I realize many people dismiss Paul’s words as “just his opinion.” But I have always considered the entire Bible, including every letter Paul wrote, to be the inspired word of God. Paul wasn’t just any man. He had the gift of celibacy and wrote about these subjects as a celibate man, not as a married preacher speculating about exceptions to the “marriage mandate” rule. He was living the life. He had the insight to write on these subjects. He also wrote the majority of the New Testament. His “disclaimer” only shows his humbleness and acknowledgement that it was Christ who gave him such inspiration. Of course, Paul goes on to say that it’s not wrong to want to marry and it’s not wrong to not want to marry. But our marital state does not matter in the long run. In heaven there will be no marriages, no male and female, no young and old. So if you find yourself panicking about your single state, let these verses put things into perspective for you.

But as God has distributed to every man. Those may be the most painful eight words in the Bible. Turning our focus from ourselves and comfortable family pews and focusing on God alone is not easy. We see what the world has and we want it. We want to fit in. We want our lives to be chillin’, drama free, and without fear. That’s not possible if you pick up the cross of Christ. In my opinion, living a life of faithful celibacy is just as, and probably more, difficult as living a life of faithful marriage. So the marriage equality debate going on in the country today shouldn’t be about heterosexual marriage vs. homosexual marriage. It should be about respecting those who have been called to celibacy just as much as those called to marriage. Right now, the table is tilted toward marriage and family. That has to change.

Virginity – The Great Equalizer

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

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

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

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

The Double Standard Of Chastity

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Why has chastity gone the way of virginity and became a locker room slur? I’ve discussed one of the reasons many times on my blog. Because biblical terminology has not been defended by the Christian community. Church people adopt secular language faster than Planned Parenthood can sell body parts. What’s remarkable about that is when women choose chastity in today’s vernacular soup they are actually defining its antitheses, slut and whore, because they don’t consider that the same choice is available to men. They don’t TALK or WRITE about it. That’s called a sin of omission. If they did, sexual equality would indeed be a reality. The status of women would be different. Instead, women writers cling to the double standard that says they are to protect their purity, but that men can never control their desires. How do they do that? It’s simple. By doing nothing. They decry being objects of men’s pleasure, but at the same time they embrace the sexual double standard that created it in the first place with their silence. How many times can you shoot yourself in the foot? It’s like the hitchhiker girl who gets picked up, raped, beaten up, thrown in the gutter – and comes around again to the same place the next day. They’ve given in to the idea that chastity comes easier for them than it does men. It seems that the highest standard women expect from men is for them not to be rapist. Imagine that. He can have sex with every prostitute in town as long as he doesn’t rape one. And he’s a saint. What an honor. Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I would also add “say nothing.” The same is true for single women. While they have tried to make up their minds if a chaste man is more important than his money or job, they have sat idly by as virtuous men gave themselves up to the highest bidder.

From the time they read about Cinderella marrying Prince Charming, women are taught that the fairy godmother’s “be back before midnight rule” applies only to them – not men. If Cinderella “stays the night” the prince will know she’s “common.” If she doesn’t stay the night, he knows she’s royal. The glass slipper may be proof of Cinderella’s chastity. But what proof does Prince Charming have? All we can hope for is that she publically affirms his virtue. How many women do that today? In her book, Virgin: The Untouched History, Hanne Blank made these quite accurate observations:

“Virginity is also female. The male body has never commonly been labeled as being virginal even when it is, but rather as “continent” or “celibate”; even within the Catholic church, male renunciation of sex has been characterized as a matter of continence, not virginity. Additionally, virginity has never mattered in regard to the way men are valued, or whether they were considered fit to marry or, indeed, to be permitted to survive.”

Single ladies, no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing it may be, I encourage you to make your standards known to the world. Include good men in your stories of purity who are just as chaste as you are.  At least let them know they are valuable enough to survive.  Chastity cannot exist in a vacuum.  Can your expectations be upgraded from “I want a guy whose waiting on me” to “I want a guy whose waiting on marriage”?  One simple change in wording and guys might see more of a reason to wait and your dating pool will double.  Stop hiding behind your “I don’t want to be better than anybody else” mindset and tell the world what you really want.  If people unfriend you and call you names, welcome to the world of living a Christian lifestyle.   If you want to marry a guy who is also waiting on marriage, you will have to change centuries of stereotyping that says a man cannot be a virgin. In fact, you will have to change the definition of virginity in the dictionary. That will be harder than changing the course of a river. It won’t happen overnight. But as long as you continue to pat each other on the backs for being (fill in the blank) year-old virgin princesses and don’t hold the same standards for Prince Charmings and introduce them to the world, you will continue to be slut shamed, virgin shamed, whore shamed, and whatever else kind of shaming you can think of.  Because as long as good men are devalued, you will be devalued.  You will also continue to be raped, objectified, abused, and valued solely based on the status of your female parts. God made you with your reproductive status tied to your biological clocks.  But he did not make your sexuality any more or any less important than men’s.

https://books.google.com/books?id=V6IPvgFKGFUC&pg=PA10&lpg=PA10&dq=%22The++male+body+has+never+commonly+been+labeled+as+being+virginal%22&source=bl&ots=7w9GXy0gDa&sig=ghb3-gx8Aky7a7tkaklJRRoyvSc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAGoVChMIp7TE-7SYxwIVCHY-Ch0pSgTS#v=onepage&q=%22The%20%20male%20body%20has%20never%20commonly%20been%20labeled%20as%20being%20virginal%22&f=false

http://filmfisher.com/films/cinderella-unenlightened-and-loving-it/

https://kindle.amazon.com/work/virgin-untouched-history-hanne-blank-ebook/B000T2P4I2/B002UM5BUK

http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1067&context=kaleidoscope

http://orthosphere.org/2012/03/21/a-defense-of-the-double-standard/

Statistics – What Do They Mean To God?

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Nowhere else will you find more statistics than human sexuality and reproduction. Marriage rate, divorce rates, pregnancy rates, birth rates, infant mortality rates, cohabitation rates, premarital sex rates, fertility rates, etc. If you wake up one morning and ask yourself, “Why am I still waiting on marriage to have sex when I’m XX years-old,” you may find yourself looking at those numbers. “Am I the only virgin left in the world.” I’ve been there and done that. If you’re just trying to find a reason to throw a pity party for yourself, I don’t recommend it. The reason is because, if we’re living in God’s will, numbers are absolutely meaningless. Yes, the ages for marriage may be going up. But I think that has more to do with guys getting marital benefits in relationships without getting married first. As long as girls are willing to have sex outside marriage to keep their boyfriends or for whatever reasons, many guys don’t see a reason to get married. But if you’re still waiting for marriage and you know what you’re standards are, you don’t need to worry about numbers. Do you want to date one of those guys who couldn’t keep his hands to himself or his pants on? God’s power is not limited by how few or how many single men are in your city. He doesn’t consult a statistics table before he allows you to meet somebody. In a lot of ways, I do think we try to put God in a box. When we do that, we only make it harder for our eyes to see miracles.

The story of how my mom and dad met is almost hard to believe. They grew up in the same small rural Alabama town. This was during the early 1950s in an area that was poverty stricken. They attended churches about 5 miles apart. One day my dad’s brother told him about a girl he had met, how pretty she was, and bet him five dollars that he couldn’t get a date with her. Her name was Jean. My dad, being the clever guy he is, found out where she went to church and showed up one Sunday night. He sat behind her and at the “right moment” asked her to come to his church. She accepted. The only problem was . . . it was not the right Jean. Unbeknownst to both of them, there were two Jeans in the neighborhood. They apparently hit it off very well. They’ve been married 57 years. This was in the days before computers and email. Neither family had a phone.

So let other people worry about statistics. If they mean anything to you, let them remind you how right you are and how far off course the world has become. If you put all your faith in God, they can also remind you of how big your miracle will be. That doesn’t mean that you should sit where you are maintain the status quo. For example, if your best friend asked you to come visit at her church – but you don’t like crowds – think twice before you say no. I have learned just how God works through other people in my life. Sometimes I’m not even aware of how much until years later when I’m trying to put together the pieces of my life. It could be that God wants you to remain unmarried, which is just as much a sacred calling as marriage is. You will have a relationship with him that not many people experience. Numbers hold about as much water as a wet feather on a duck’s back.

Sexual Purity And The Youth Stereotype

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

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

Beyond Singleness – The Solitary Life

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you CE.

Simeon – A Lesson In Waiting

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

Perceptions – Do They Matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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.