Monday, March 15, 2004

Issue #3: "I'm gonna cloud your morals by the end of this song..."

I was talking online to an old school chum a few weeks back, chatting about movies, music, pop culture. I made a joking comment about a female pop vocalist's loose morals, and my friend took offense. He asked if it was very "christian" to make that sort of comment. I thought he was still goofing around; we both went to the Christian university, and we'd make jokes about being "improper", since many of the students' greatest concern was outward appearance. So I responded, "Well, is it any more "christian" to listen to her music, that glorifies sleeping around and being as nasty as possible?"

"Well, yeah."

I did an actual double-take at the instant messenger window. "Okay, how's that?"

"Well, she's talking about experiencing and expressing her sexuality, which is created by God, and I think there's nothing wrong with that." I slowly realized that he was being totally serious. As I understood it, he was raised in an environment similar to mine, so to seriously argue that would be a pretty radical departure from the values of his youth. A departure I wasn't aware had occured.

We debated for a while about what are appropriate expressions of sexuality, in a Christian setting. At first, he copped the "no sex before marriage" line, which youth pastors never seem to qualify with anything else. This often translates to us church kids as "but anything else is okay, as long as you don't *actually* have sex" (the logic made famous by a former president). This idea is clearly not from the Bible, but we tend to ignore that.

Then he went into the "as long as both partners are consenting and legally old enough" approach. Hello? Consent isn't the issue, as far as I'm concerned. Sin is. I heard a preacher once say, "if you're asking 'how far is too far?', you're already too far."

I kept trying to pin him down, asking him finally if it's okay for two consenting Christian partners of appropriate age to do whatever they want sexually, as long as they're commited. His response: "that depends on who you talk to."

"But I'm talking to you. What do *you* think?"

He made a crack about me not having an argument, and signed off.

Okay, he very well could have been pulling my leg the whole time. Really, I hope he was, and that he's having a good laugh at this post, because it is well-earned. But what scared me is not that he necessarily believed this (though I was concerned), but that too many Christians in college and post-college believe the same thing, because they've bought into the culture's lie that sex should be one of the first stages of a relationship, instead of the last stage. This bothers me.

Yes, I'm a traditional guy, when it comes to sexuality. I believe that sex should only be a wedding present given from bride to groom and groom to bride. That's it. While I am "a guy", and am plagued with a healthy libido, I have made a commitment to adhere to this belief. This isn't something I've come up with all by myself. It's in the Bible. If you are a Christian, and claim to believe the Bible, this applies to you. I know I wrote earlier about the attitude single Christians should take toward other opposite-gender believers, and I believe it's true, "for the Bible tells me so." I don't claim to have kept myself perfect in this teaching, because I haven't. I have been to the land of "Too Far," but my Father is faithful, and has always forgiven me. Jesus said that if you lust after someone, you are committing adultery in your heart, with them. And I know I've been guilty of that before too. My prayer is always that Jesus will continue to renew my mind and thinking.

But I know that many people raised in the church don't agree, or at least don't live this out consistently. And I'm not here to throw stones, because I confess to you that I am not without sin. However, when people try to justify that God is "okay with" what He has already called sin, I take offense to that, because that makes God a liar. God is never okay with sin. And being sexually intimate with someone who is not your actual spouse (engagement doesn't count) is sin. Period. That's it. End of argument. To believe otherwise is to go outside the Bible, and at that point, you're on your own.

I guess I may be preaching to the choir here. But I felt like this needed to be addressed. We have no shame, as a culture. And that bothers me, because every new generation of Christians seems to become more and more accepting of the sexual status quo set by this culture. This is not what we are called to; quite the opposite. The question is, do we care enough to discuss it with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul talks about reaching out to the believer who willfully and habitually commits sin, trying to justify it morally, and then calls himself a follower of Jesus. Paul says that if this person refuses to repent of their wicked lifestyle, the Church should not welcome them anymore. This seems like too hard of a teaching sometimes. After all, we're called to love one another, aren't we? Of course, and Paul knew that, saying as much himself. But Paul also knew that we are called to be holy--set apart, different. Otherwise, we lose our "saltiness" and have no effect on the people around us.

I don't know. The whole Janet Jackson controversy has been blown out of proportion, I think, not because what she and Justin did was okay, but because we as a culture never seemed to mind it before. The rest of the show, with its sexually-charged dancing, stripteases, and homoerotic overtones doesn't seem to bother many. Everyone seemed to chuckle or roll their eyes at the Britney-Madonna kiss, but no one protested. The FCC didn't bat an eye. When an MTV awards show last year presented a musical performance with choreography that included dozens of apparently underaged girls stripping and making out, no one made a peep. And *now* we're outraged. Please. What did we expect?

I think I'm really more tired than surprised. I'm tired of morality being made into a sitcom punchline. Because, as things seem to be heading, the joke is going to be on the Church, when even its own flock laughs along.

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