The Surprising Comfort Of Celibacy

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If I live to be 100 years old, the one thing I will remember about the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage is their assumption that gays were “condemned to live in loneliness” without marriage. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realize that they were just expressing what most Americans already felt and what most churches already taught – that a family and comfortable sex lives were required to enter adulthood in America. I’ve written for years about the church’s idolatrous worship of sex, but never thought I see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would declare marriage a constitutional right. But this didn’t happen overnight. So what was it that made Justice Kennedy believe that gay people were “condemned to live in loneliness?” The church. Not just the Catholics and Protestants, but all of them. Where do people get married? The church. What institution has traditionally set the standards for sexual ethics? The church. I believe Kennedy was calling out churches as hypocrites because the sexual ethics that they preached didn’t match the sexual ethics that they practiced. He packed a lot of punch into that one word, “condemned.” I can hear him asking churches, “Who are you to condemn those who can’t get married when you can’t remain faithful in your own marriages?” “Who are you to talk about marriage when half of your congregations will get divorced?” With “condemned,” he was also taking a stab at church weddings and the false separation of church and state that has existed in this country since its founding. Indeed, here we have a case where the church is not condemning the state. Rather, the state is condemning the church. So this contrived separation may get even wider. What condemned gay people to live in loneliness? Are we so naive as to believe that they didn’t have sexual relationships because they didn’t have marriage licenses and the blessings of church weddings? No. What condemned them was the church’s idolatrous worship of heterosexual marriages and families. What condemned them was the absence of any other alternative besides family life. What condemned them was the church’s narrow mindedness and inability to see reality beyond their own stained glass windows and rose colored glasses. What condemned them was their own pride, greed, and unwillingness to talk about such matters in their churches. So I think Justice Kennedy was also saying to the church, “You made some false assumptions. So I’ll make some false assumptions.” For instance, the church has also seen single adults as adolescents until they married. So, the Supreme Court lumped them in with gays too. Why not? They never had an identity to begin with. It was like Kennedy was giving the faithful a taste of their own medicine. He took the church’s own traditions and unwritten rules, twisted them around a bit, and threw them right back at the pulpits.

However, all of these assumptions and elevation of marriage to a civil right also underscore why lifelong virginity is a spiritual gift. Not only is it difficult in and of itself, society’s dismissal of it does not lead to a life of comfortable acceptance. Yes, I get lonely, very lonely indeed. But I don’t think I’m any lonelier than Christ was while on this earth. I don’t expect the state, church, or anybody else to do anything about my loneliness. I accept it. I relish it. And I dare say most of us with this gift would say the same thing. I realize that for a person to live today with unmet desires is unheard of and that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is sacred as scripture. But all traditions and family legacies were tossed out the door when Christ entered the world. I live by different rules. In a real way, I see my role today as making comfortable people uncomfortable and taking the padded cushions out of comfortable padded pews. I don’t look to a marriage to define me as an adult. God has already done that. I don’t look at surveys. I don’t take votes. And I don’t care how popular or unpopular I may be. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that just because the Bible allows for a life of marriage or celibacy that half the people must be married and half the people must be celibates. That will never be the case. Even if there have been only five people with the charism of virginity since the time of Christ, the Bible is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. God is not a God of democracy. He is a king. He does not have to consult a supreme court. He is the court and final judge.

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The Unholy Marriage License

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://cslr.law.emory.edu/fileadmin/media/PDFs/Lectures/Witte_Freedom_Christian.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.frontstreet.org/preschool

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

The Supreme Court’s Flawed Reasoning On Same Sex Marriages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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