Blame it all on sex. Uh, no.

Couple holding hands, photo by Jason Schlachet
Couple holding hands, photo by Jason Schlachet

According to Christian author, speaker, and apologist Frank Turek, sex is the problem in America these days, not unbelief. The reason, he says, that people are turning away from God is because they are chasing another religion: sex.

It’s an old religion resurrected — the new religion in America is the religion of sex,” Turek said. “Do you know that every cultural issue we argue over has something to do with sex? Why is that? Huxley said it, it’s our “erotic revolt.” We want sexual freedom.

To support his thesis, Turek quoted the famous words of English author and philosopher Aldous Huxley:

The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom,

OK, so some libertine philosopher admitted his own licentiousness and that of his other elite philosopher friends. Good quote. Questionable application.

With all due respect, I think it is Christians like Turek who are obsessed with sex, at least the sexual behavior of others, simply because it offends them so much that they must find reason to blame it for all sorts of ills.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of people who don’t want God or a particular moral way of living because they don’t want anyone putting limits on their pursuit of sensual pleasures, but to make the blanket statement that this is “America’s” religious problem is a ridiculous, unsubstantiated assertion.

I once read a book by a Roman Catholic scholar who went even further. He posited that the root of the decline of western civilization goes back to Luther the licentious sinner, who left the monastery because he couldn’t control his sexual urges. In this author’s view, that sparked the entire downward course of the West. In the book he sought to show that, after Luther, every new development (downward) in philosophy was just another attempt to rationalize the philosopher’s immorality.

How about that? I never knew we Protestants were all that sexy! The “original sinners” of Western Civ.

At least Turek doesn’t go that far. I still don’t buy his overdrawn rhetoric.

In my own, admittedly anecdotal experience, for every proud, brazen libertine I’ve met who cast off the shackles of religion to shack up with a lover, I’ve probably met a dozen who have been hurt by the church or religious people in one way or another. In fact, I have a rather standard question I ask family members when they warn me as a chaplain that their loved one doesn’t want anything to do with talking about God or faith. “I’ve usually found that people who say that to me have been hurt sometime in their past. Do you know if anything like that happened in his life?” Invariably I get some positive response.

It may even be that some of these people suffered some kind of sexual abuse at the hands of religious parents, family members, or church people. Perhaps some of the folks Turek criticizes as chasing a new religion of sex are actually seeking comfort and the kind of safe intimacy they’ve never known and for which they would never turn to religion to find. For good reason.

Hey, my fellow American Christian leaders and teachers, can we please stop obsessing about the sexual behavior of our neighbors and stop condemning people en masse? Find me one example of Jesus speaking or acting this way toward sexual sinners, and then maybe I’ll consider what you say.

I’m conservative when it comes to things like this, and I am no fan of the openly sexualized culture we live in today. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least. But this common evangelical rhetoric that people are “chasing a new religion” and that this is the real reason our churches are empty and the world is in trouble is getting so tired to me.

First of all, I think Mr. Turek and most evangelicals approach this issue the way they talk about so many things. They imagine there was a “golden age” in the past when sex outside of heterosexual marriage was the exception and not the norm. Please.

In fact, a government public health report looking at data going back to 1954 concluded, “Almost all Americans have sex before marrying.” The report also observed, “…there is a common popular perception that most or all of those who came of age before the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s and 1970s waited until they married to have sex, and that it is necessary to revert to the behaviors of that earlier time in order to eliminate the problems of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, research has questioned whether such a chaste period ever existed.”

Could we be a bit more realistic about this most basic of human urges and just accept the fact that, as long as there have been rules, people have been breaking them, not only with regard to premarital sex, but in a variety of ways?

Second, increased sexual freedom and the public sexualization of our culture, as I’ve said often before (and like so many other things in modern culture), is the natural result of more personal and political freedom, advances in technology, and increased affluence. Human progress and attainment has led to more personal autonomy. People with more freedom, more mobility, technology that gives them access to heretofore forbidden things, and less tight-knit social structures in their lives will make some of these choices more regularly because they can, and because there are fewer social consequences. It becomes more normal because it is more available and therefore seems more natural.

Frank Turek, you can’t stop that by preaching or making arguments like this.

This is the world we’re in. Furthermore, this is the world God is in. If he is not with sinners, he is not with anyone. And if we just sit back and hurl condemnation on people for doing what comes naturally in a world like this, and don’t build deep relationships, offering them forbearance, kindness, and hospitality — as Jesus did — who will show them life as it could be in a new creation?

• • •

Photo on Flickr by Jason Schlachet. Creative Commons License.

151 thoughts on “Blame it all on sex. Uh, no.

  1. Miguel – I used to believe that I would mainly learn from others’:mistakes. But that isn’t exactly how things have gone. While I probably have avoided some pain and bad relationships that way, I bet modt of us (over a certain age, at least) can look back and see many, many mistakes that we made, heedless of the advice and experiences of others.

    Try as we might to do otherwise, history does (in a sense) repeat itself in rvery new generation of people, and in every individual life. Imo, anyway. “In a sense” is very important to whst I’m trying to say, though.


  2. And now for something completely different:

    I haven’t heard a peep from The Righteous about mobilizing against “The Devil’s Holiday” this year.

    But if the election has pre-empted it, where’s Focus on the Family’s “I send this Letter from the Future as a Warning” like in 2008?


  3. To answer your query, yes, it incredibly difficult for everyone. Thsn God my grandparents were very close by, and vety much involved in helping to raise us. I will always be grateful for them, and their love. It took a LOT of the burden off my mom.

    Btw, though my dad wasn’t in thr military, those years-long absences had evetything to do with the military chartering cargo ships to carry war materiel, medical sipplies, etc., to places like Korea and Vietnam.

    If my dad had been in the Navy, well… voyages/deployments of at least 1 year (onboard, far away from family) are standard. So in a lot of ways, we didn’t get the worst of it.


  4. Robert (and all) – Ang Lee made a film version of the novel The Ice Storm (which includes a lot of spouse-swapping sex, done by random draw). In an interview published shortly before the film was released, he called it his version of a horror movie.

    The main action takes place in guess which decade… certainly not the 60s or 80s.


  5. David L – I know you were. Glad you brought it up!

    I’m a woman, so my personal take is going to differ from that of any/all of the men here. I wish there more women commenting, believe me.


  6. Robert – Looking for Mr. Goodbar has never been issued on DVD,mand VHS copies are extremely rare. So… they can’t watch it, though I’m sure the novel on which it was based is findable.

    Walt was specifically talking about the 50s and 60s, not the 70s, too.


  7. numo, I think Walt and Miguel would be incredulous if we told them about Plato’s Retreat and the host of other open to the public on-premises sex clubs (unlike current swinger’s clubs that require membership) that were so popular in the 70s. They were called sex clubs, but it would be more accurate to call them orgy clubs. Everybody was looking for Mr. Goodbar, and if Walt and Miguel don’t know what I mean, they should watch the film that goes by that name starring Diane Keaton.


  8. “Rather well”? Have you not known anyone who was, in your estimation or that of others, doing *-really* well at it, ever? (Thismis a genuine question, not snark, bte.)

    The thing is: there are lots of kids who functionally are in what you might call an intact nuclear family, but in reslity, they rarely interact with or even see much of one or the other parent – usually the father, but in some cases, it’s the mother. A lot of people (doctors and nurses in hospitals, for exsmple) work an insane number of hours, per shift and per week. (Normally 12 hours straight.) People I knew in D.C. who were everything from senior Hill staffers to research coordinators at international development agencies (NGOs) typically eorked 80+ hours per week – and that isn’t even factoring in daily commute time. I think that kind of work “schedule” is not only crazy, but downright inhumane. These people were pretty much locked into those hours in order to keep a roof over their heads and get the bills paid, plus trying to put aside a bit for their kids’ education, etc.

    That’s not really an ideal situation for anyone, but it’s real life for many.


  9. No, they aren’t like that. It was a thing where they couldn’t or didn’t want to accept my pov, and vice versa. Those kinds of things end in a deadlock. Which is fine if you’re not stuck with each other in a car for 7 hours! I think I was not a decent about it as I could have been, but… it was over 25 years ago. Kind of wish I hadn’t mentioned it.


  10. David L – thanks. I didn’t really *want* to get into all the plot details. Do I think MB made the right choices? Pretty much, within the world of the show.


  11. We lost the thread of what love is all about. It is a gift from God to share between a man and a woman and that love produces children. And the love continues to provide a secure environment in which the child grows and blossoms. That is the model we should always keep uppermost in our mind. Sex for any other purpose is not the gift, but turns into a curse, spoiling everything that was beautiful. Love between two men or two women is beautiful when it is expressed as friendship. Once it turns the corner into mutual masturbation, it loses the beauty and becomes a curse. If sex occurs without Gods gift of love, it too becomes cursed. From this cursed behavior comes children raised without security, exposed to pain they can’t face, and so they die by needle.


  12. Hippies? It wasn’t the hippies in the 70s. It was the polyester wearers. Walt needs to bone-up on his history.


  13. It all comes down to how you answer two questions:
    1. Is sex outside marriage a sin?
    2. Do children deserve to be raised by both a mother and a father?

    I was referring just to the Murphy Brown scenario with those two questions.

    It was more complicated than Numo state. MB had a night with her previous husband. Neither were remarried in the plot line. MB also regretted the night. Then when she came up pregnant she made the decision to have the baby and raise it.

    So where was the show praising moral failures as evangelicals were claiming.

    I asked that a lot at the time and my “church” friends tended to get upset.

    Also Dan Q blew it when asked what he would have his daughters do if they got pregnant. His answer was basically they would never be pregnant before marriage. Which was a denial of reality for many situations.


  14. Yes. No. Maybe.

    The 70s was just plain strange. Vietnam hangover was a big part of it. Nixon’s presidency. And on and on and on.

    Just to point out how weird it was many of us from the era consider most movies of that decade to be some of the worst since the invention of moving pictures.


  15. According to Walt’s statements on this thread, what the hippies in the 70s did pales in comparison to some of what goes on today. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.


  16. Matter, specifically in this instance our bodies, isn’t all that important, or is not seen as vitally connected with the “spiritual” part of our being. Therefore, our bodies are valued less; it doesn’t really matter what we do with them. “It’s only sex.”

    Wasn’t that the shtick of the Manicheans that St Augustine was mixed up with in his younger days?

    The ones who were full-honk anywhere/anywhen/with anyone sexual libertines and Spiritually-Superior Snobs at the same time?


  17. Hookup culture will die out FAST once somebody figures out a smartphone app for Orgasm. Because Tab A in Slot B is something you can’t do remotely through a touch-screen, no matter how much you caress and stroke your Precioussssssss.


  18. Don’t forget arranged marriages (as soon as she “flowers”) to seal alliances between Great Houses and establish Dynasties. (Even if the Great House exists only in the Patriarch’s imagination and 200-year dynastic plans complete with manors and houseservants.)

    Like House Baratheon uniting with House Lannister.
    Or House Bolton claiming the North by marriage to the last known survivor of House Stark.


  19. Let’s just say that it was an uncomfortable trip, for the 1st couple of hours, anyway. I actually played possum to get out of being harangued, as that went on for a good while.

    As they WITNESSED to you, holding the keys to Secular Eternal Hell.


  20. Oh, and there are plenty of us who learn from other’s mistakes. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but those who do are doomed to stand by and watch as everyone else repeats it.

    I think discussions like these are examples of many people setting aside stubbornness and prejudice to have our thinking challenged, and as a result, developed. My worldview has certainly be expanded on multiple levels through dialogue.

    Plus, I don’t built my ethics on the basis of “let’s try this and see if it works for me.” I’m willing to think first, when I remember to.


  21. That issue comes down to what you define marriage to be, and I don’t believe any sort of governmental recognition is an essential part of the equation. Social recognition, though, may be. It is important to commit before each other and witnesses that you’re not just in it until it becomes inconvenient. The fact that many break such promises does not nullify their value.


  22. Yes, but misogyny and hypocricy to not justify leaving the traditional sexual ethic behind. The answer is not to approve of the behavior lest women be discriminated against. The answer is for both parties to be called equally to account, when accountability is ever a part of the situation.

    I don’t know that shame is ever the tool for Christian work, but truth most certainly is. It’s a sword that usually cuts in both directions.


  23. Women can and do function independent of men as mothers and providers, rather well in many cases I have observed. I’m saying that the fact it is a necessity is already a tragedy. As you say, “it would be wonderful if every child in the world had 2 loving, well-adjusted parents,” and yes, though it doesn’t happen as often as it should, I consider this an injustice to the children. Even those who lose a parent to death are being robbed of something they ought to have.

    What an interesting situation you were raised in. I couldn’t do that, but I’ve met some people in a very similar situation. It sounds very difficult, and it is rather unfortunate when people need to live like that.

    I did know a family who lived in America, but the father was a foreign diplomat (or intel, we were never sure). They saw him like twice a year for a weekend. I actually got to meet him twice.

    I really prefer to live with my spouse, and it would take a hell of a lot more than just my career to make me give that up.


  24. I was referring just to the Murphy Brown scenario with those two questions.

    Numo, if I wasn’t open, I wouldn’t keep coming. Sometimes I just fire off my thoughts quickly in passing without finessing the tone (when I’m lucky enough to have time to stop by at all). Don’t mean any disrespect when I come across blunt!

    Though I definitely have arrived at a lower tolerance for equivocation. In the meantime, I appreciate your patience.


  25. Except, nope. I have nothing but First World Problems. A little self-awareness goes a long way. And I know many wealthy people who aren’t nuts. Something distinguishes these groups beyond inherited firmware.


  26. Per the 70s (again),i had gotten religion in my mid-teens and wasn’t into the hedonism of the era, but I honestly can’t imagine things being any crazier now than they were then, with one caveat:

    The rise of rape culture and its apparent acceptability to a lot of men, both young and not so young. It was always there, but there were no videos of rapes on Facebook.


  27. Robert – yes.

    Miguel – you can’t even begin to imagine the 70s. And Robert is correct about the military as well.

    I think one reason many parents might catastrophize so-called hook up culture is pretty simple: they don’t want their kids to do what *they* did @ that age. It’s a broad-brush statement, certainly, but there’s more than a little truth in it.


  28. I don’t know of a single, sole human being who *isn’t* “committed” to learning things the hard way! We’re a stubborn species.

    Something you might not be seeing is that children of divorced parents are very often fearful that if they marry, they will repeat their parents’ mistakes, and ruin their own kids’:lives in the process.

    Fwiw, though i think marriage is (or ought to be) a good thing, I’ve known couples who didn’t have a marriage license who were far more committed to each other than a lot of couples who went through the ceremony and were legally married. Iow: it is in the hearts and minds, first and primarily, not in the legal or religious bona fides. A lot of people who never cheat are married in name only. Money drove what a lot of 19th c. writers called “the marriage market” *here* until the post-WWII era.


  29. They have a synergy thing going. It’s a mutually beneficial, and consensual, arrangement….who’s to judge?


  30. OK. 😀

    I think geographic location might play a big part as well. I’m from a Mid-Atlantic state, and have only ever lived in the region (this state and a couple of neighboring ones).


  31. I was there, I remember the 1970s. It’s hard to believe that young people now are as sexually uh….undiscriminating as were young people in the 70s. In fact, I don’t believe it, and the sociological data backs me up.

    The military has been known as a sexually promiscuous free-for-all for a long, long time. This is nothing new.


  32. So women cannot and should not function independent of men, as mothers, providers, etc.? ISTM that is what you’re saying, but maybe I’m missing something.

    Ifnit *is* the case, then i disagree. It would be wonderful if every child in the world had 2 loving, well-adjusted parents, but we both know that’s not the reality. For one thing, people die, often quite young. And then there’s all the rest, including the reality i grew up with, which was that my father’s profession meant that he was away for more than half the years (occasionally several years altogether) from the time my parents got married right through to my father’s retirement. And that’s typical for a lot more folks than you’d think. My mom was a single parent for most of my life and that of my siblings.


  33. Well that’s not fair, you’ve been doing this longer.

    I think for my age I’ve gotten around in religion. And I’ve had this conversation with more boomers than you can shake a stick at, especially as a vocational church worker.

    What I’m asserting only applies to those within Evangelicalism, so you still don’t count. 😉


  34. I think there are many more questions than you allow for, including ones that acknowledge the reality of both child and spouse abuse.

    You used to be more willing to consider differing perspectives, Miguel, which imo is very important, because it can open up new insights even if one continues to hold to the same basic beliefs. I hope you will become more like that again, as I’m not certain this hardline guy actually is you. I’m not intending to be unkind, more like “wake up and smell the coffee (please)” here. It is hard to talk with you these days, and i wish that wasn’t the case.


  35. It won’t surprise me that man has always been sinful. But I do think that the various vices fall in and out of popularity in various cultures, at various times.

    Surely some generations are more promiscuous than others, it can’t be a flat rate throughout history as if other cultural or sociological factors had no impact on it.

    I once heard a guy claim that Darwinian evolution favors the sexually driven, and thus as time proceeds, each generation is hornier than the one that came before it. Those with low libido edge themselves out of the gene pool over time (and unfortunately, they tend to be the more intelligent too). Oh wait… wasn’t that a movie?


  36. Maybe they aren’t. Or maybe people are a lot more willing to be honest in a survey once it’s much further in their past.

    I don’t know how prevalent it is, but I strongly suspect it’s at least a bit more than a fringe that some would reduce it to. I know it’s huge on the college scene, there was plenty enough of it in High School, though it is not nearly a majority report in either instance.

    I hear stories from the military, too. I have a friend who met his spouse that way. Both of them!


  37. Yes, but maybe you recall that I was in evangelical land for several decades? So I’ve seen many facets of “church,” from Vatican II ecumenism when i was in my teens and early 20s, through highly authoritarian and abusive evang/charismatic ones, to the relatively irenic LCMS church I attended for a while in the 80s, and on back into the kind of LCA (now ELCA) church where i was baptized and confirmed many moons ago.


  38. …and I’m surprised you didn’t mention the patriarchal culture factor. Often women are bartered in betrothal proposals like another piece of property. Their owner’s (father’s) interest are the ones being looked out for, not their own (though I’m sure many of the men did sincerely care to find good homes for their daughters).

    Believe me, I’m not advocating a return to that. I’m just wishing we could reel ourselves back a tad from launching ourselves so far in the other direction. I’ve seen so many marriages fall apart that should never have started to begin with. This may be harsh, but I file it under “can’t fix stupid.” Some people are committed to learning only the hard way. More often than not, heeding parental wisdom could have prevented a boatload of heartache.

    I mean, we’ve all done this on something or another to some extent, but picking a spouse ain’t like deciding which movie to watch.


  39. I know plenty of baby boomers who openly own that their generation screwed up the church. That’s probably a difference between the mainline crowd and the evangelical one. Obviously, if you buy into any of these things, you probably aren’t attending a mainline church, as a general tendency.


  40. If hook-up culture is so prevalent, why do recent studies show that millennials are less sexually active than their parents were at the same age?


  41. What was once done in secret because it was shameful is now recognized as virtuous.

    Let’s remember that it was the girls/women who bore the brunt of the shame that resulted from discovery , not the men/boys, and that many of those doing the shaming had engaged in similar acts themselves before marriage. That’s called misogyny, and hypocrisy.

    Christians have no business shaming anybody for their sexual activities.


  42. CM, i would suspect it was because he cared for them as people, and wasn’t judgy. Maybe he helped them find practical ways to deal with their specific circumstances, too.

    And… one of the slurs hurled at him is that he was illegitimate. Bears remembering, i think.


  43. Are they the sole problem, though? What if, as is all too often the case, they’re abusive?

    Sometimes it really is better for the kids if a parent *isn’t* part of their lives.


  44. I know many young people raised in Christianity demonstrate little commitment to trying to follow it in this regard. Those who do face criticism from friends, who would clearly not give up theirs for any religion.

    It doesn’t get easier as we age, either. So many self-identified Christians who frequently attend church demonstrate little concern for the cognitive dissonance between how they live and how their religion teaches in this regard.

    What I saw in my church that my kids grew up in was that the YEC, science is bad or even a conspiracy, you need to get married before 21 (if college plans still get married then have your parents support you financially till done), etc… means that by the time they get to 18 church is just their parents social club where the members put up a pretense. We walked out when they were in early high school but some damage was still done. And to be honest they kept in the faith much more than the kids of many of the high and mighty of the church. Their kids went on to head up the humanist society, lead the local young atheists, etc…

    Now toss in double predestination and hyper Cavlnism and you’re driving them off when the see how much cognitive dissonance is around them. While the true believers yell repent repent repent as they walk out.


  45. I doubt I’m much of an “exception,” actually. I know many people around my age, and older, whose thinking goes completely contrary to the stereotype depicted here. The irony is kinda rich, since so many who comment here are baby boomers. 🙂


  46. “We had zero population growth in our town. Every time a woman had a baby, a man left town in a hurry” Also Grandpa.


  47. Nope! These things have always been with us. I can think of several cases in my own extended family, in the early decades of the 20th c., all the way through the late 60s.


  48. Though certainly, there are parents who are genuinely concerned for their kids. But many aren’t, and $ is a driving force in arranged marriages (size of dowry, for example).

    As for “baggage,” well, the less said, the better. Everyone has some, regardless of their beliefs.


  49. Miguel, I’m thinking you are probably a bit too young to recall the ridiculous outrage generated by thrn-VP (in 1991, iirc) Dan Quayle over the title character in the show “Murphy Brown.” She (a single network news anchor) got pregnant and had the baby *because she wanted the baby* but did *not*?want any long or short-term involvement with the father.

    The evangelical community was SO up in arms over this – men and women alike. One day, it came up in a discussion with 2 women friends. We were in a car, with a 7 hour drive ahead of us. They took the same position as Quayle, but I disagreed on a number of bases, one of them being that she had the means to raise the baby (and that she hadn’t terminated the pregnancy, etc.). Let’s just say that it was an uncomfortable trip, for the 1st couple of hours, anyway. I actually played possum to get out of being harangued, as that went on for a good while.


  50. Maybe Boomers in absolute numbers but it was our parents who are really driving this in proportion to their numbers in the general population.

    Most boomers look at this as askance as most of us do here.

    There were a LOT of us boomers relative to the numbers of our parents. A LOT. And we’re still mostly alive and our parents are dying off. So in absolute counts we boomer look to have a bigger influence that our parents.


  51. You should talk to people whose families ttied to force them into arranged marriages. It would be eye-opening, how the whole system works, and what all goes on behind the scenes. It’s less about responsibility and far more about controlling behavior by parents and other relatives.


  52. Oh, yeah, right. I know people who insist that “first” signifies “greatest,” so never mind that Jesus said “love the lord” etc… is the greatest commandment, dammit, HAVE MORE CHILDREN!


  53. And the comment thread illustrates my point way above about Idealist Generations and First World Problems.


  54. “Or, as a crusty old timer from my area tells it, men used to sleep around until someone came up pregnant. Then, bingo! You knew that was God’s choice for your lifelong mate!”

    Ha! Well, it is a rather brilliant solve to that classic question, “How will I know God is speaking to me?”

    On a more serious note, perhaps it is worth remembering that people often get married when it becomes practical to do so. Who will own and work this farm? Who will raise these children? How will I know which children I’m supposed to feed? Who takes care of grandmother?


  55. Oh it’s a great commandment, I’m sure it’s a very fun one too, but it’s not ‘first’ in a strictly literal sense. I’m thinking of it like that HIStory thing we’re talking about on Facebook.


  56. Thing is, when all you have left is First World Problems, the survival hardwiring is still there. If all that’s left is top-of-Maslow’s Heirarchy inconveniences to your Self-Actualization, you WILL react to them as full-honk Life-or-Death Survival Threats.


  57. Because according to the Strauss-Howe Cycle, Baby Boomers are an “Idealistic” generational type — raised indulged in the prosperity of a post-crisis decompression period so they had time & energy to think about the “big things” atop Maslow’s Heirarchy. This usually results in a strong pull towards True Believer types (with no two One True Ways the same) and a LOT of “Die, Heretic!” infighting where Crusades for The Causes run red-hot but nothing actually gets accomplished. Main result is drifting and lurching into the next Great Crisis.


  58. Certainly not because he approved of their behavior. “It is the sick who need a doctor,” he said. “Your sins are forgiven” etc…

    I really think the drop in teen pregnancy is not due to reduced activity. I think kids are getting smarter (which is not necessarily a bad thing), and parents are helping. Plenty of parents support their teenagers sexual exploration these days, in order to help them do so “safely.” Their bodies are protected, but their souls are scarred and cynical.

    Society can, on the one hand, address sin with stigmatization and shame, which can lead to destructive behavior, or in an effort to avoid shame at all costs, simply embrace other destructive behaviors. It’s a tough line to walk.

    I heard a documentary the other day about guilt vs. shame, where studies showed that one lead to productive, improved behavior, and the other led to self destruction. Can’t remember which is which, unfortunately.

    Either way, I don’t think we should be afraid of saying sin is sin just because somebody’s gonna get their feelings hurt. They have the right to simply disagree with us. We shouldn’t have to choose between gay marriage and stigmatizing homosexuality, and while we don’t have control over the fact that our culture has forced that decision politically because of increased polarization, we at least can address it more intelligently in the church.

    Responsibility can definitely be learned through experience, but, only learning that way is called foolishness. We have a culture that fosters this. We need to cultivate an environment of learning from OTHER people’s mistakes rather than repeating them, and engaging in serious reflection on ethics.

    Many of the pastors I know have confronted cohabiting couples. Some have excommunicated them. More often than not, though, they have seen the couple repent and move out or marry. We should not underestimate the appeal to the saints for holy living on the basis of Christ’s Gospel. Even though the faithful sin and rebel, there is a voice that can call them back. But it isn’t the voice that’s afraid to call a thing what it is.


  59. Is it false? My personal knowledge of the country suggests otherwise.

    The Japanese government is bending over backwards to encourage young families to have more children. Childcare is subsidized, my son was enrolled temporarily for dirt cheap. Heck, my two sons are even receiving governmental benefits from Japan because they are dual citizens.

    The government is responding to what they see as a coming crisis.


  60. I guess it depends on what you mean by “responsibility.” My sense it that, in our society at least, we tend to swing back and forth between conservative and more free-wheeling behavior. Teen pregnancy is down. Is that evidence of less sex or better, more responsible use of birth control? One could argue that gay marriage is a more responsible path than stigmatizing homosexuality. Responsibility is also often learned only by experience, as I’ve seen in greater numbers of couples cohabiting before getting married in this era when kids have grown up with divorced parents and economic uncertainty.

    And then, getting back to the point of the post, are these the things that are keeping people from considering God? Why then was Jesus so attractive to these very types?


  61. …finish a sentence? 😛

    Seriously, stop reading so much feminist baggage into everything. This is to their credit that women are generally more sensitive the the aspect of sexuality that goes beyond the physical. Men are much better at suppressing it and more likely to not mature beyond a “the more the merrier” mentality (see Hugh Hefner, Donald Trump).

    You’ll have to forgive me if I have a hard time respecting men who refuse to help raise their own children. They are THE problem, and the burden the place on women and society generally is inexcusable. “Fee love” doesn’t get them off.


  62. Yes! We need to recover a “theology of the body.”

    There is a strong tradition of this in Lutheranism, between our doctrine of vocation and emphasis on natural law. Sacramental churches generally maintain a stronger sense of the interconnectedness of the physical and spiritual realm.


  63. Nope. Never met an apologist for arranged marriage. They just happened to have one, and it worked for them. It was a normal part of the culture, and people got along rather happily with it where they were from.

    Theirs was a bit more lenient form of arranged marriage. They weren’t necessarily forced into it against their will, though their preference wasn’t necessarily expected to play a significant role either. Yes, often arrangements do the woman little good, it seems much easier for the men to benefit from these arrangements in most circumstances.

    I can’t give you any ratio of spousal happiness by gender for arranged vs. personally chosen marriages, I only say let’s not write off parental involvement in the decision process completely. If anything, our culture is suffering from too many young people, whose psychological capacity for critical thinking and making good decisions is not nearly fully developed, rushing into bad arrangements of their own making, to the destruction of their own personal happiness, whilst ignoring the wisdom of age being pelted at them from all sides. Not offering a cure, but for pete’s sake, if your folks don’t like the guy, freaking take them seriously!


  64. We do not reverse this trend. We take responsibility for our own behavior, and teach out children to do the same. “Sexual perversion” is not some sort of “out there” substance of evil we can wage war on, as if the our hearts were free from lust.

    To the extent that people are able to make their own decisions, this is good progress for which we can be grateful. If such freedom is use in irresponsible and harmful ways, the net benefit is severely tempered. Substitute freedom generally for sexual autonomy, it still works. I suppose the increase in autonomy is good, but we do not see a corresponding increase in responsibility, and people are hurting for it.


  65. Nope, you are definitely missing the point entirely.

    The single parent home more often than not the fault of the father who abandons his responsibility, not the mother. Not even blaming her here, though as you illustrate, too many tragically have.

    There simply is not much stigma about it at all anymore. It happens so often it is relatively common place. These days, if your parents are still together, people look at you like you’re an ancient historical artifact. And yes, the number of children growing up in single parent homes has DRASTICALLY increased, whether or not it happened before.

    Those “homes for unwed mothers” sound ghastly. It must have been how society handled shame back then, versus today, where we rather justify ourselves than simply own a mistake and rely on mercy (which, as I noted elsewhere, is in short supply, which may be the cause in the first place).

    Would single parent families have been equally common back then if the women sent to those homes were allowed to keep their children? No. Divorce is the primary contributor to this “epidemic,” as far as I can see, and deadbeat dads are the rival. Little blame leftover for your gender, as far as I’m concerned.


  66. Miguel I do agree with you that personal sexual autonomy is viewed much differently today. My point is that this is a natural result of human progress, not decline. How do we hope to reverse this trend, as Christian leaders constantly call us to do? Drop out of culture? Abandon technology? Impose purity culture like radical Muslims?


  67. Exactly. “Traditional mores” (as Miguel said) notwithstanding, this has always been with us, and always will be.


  68. You have met apologists for arranged marriage, then. Yes, sometimes it does work out. Very often, it doesn’t, but the participants (*especially* the women) are trapped in marriages where the husband is abusive. Divorce is heavily stigmatized in Indian culture, which is, fwiw, still very, very patriarchal.


  69. Unless you can find me the woman who, at the end of her life, expressed regret for not having had more partners, or the children who are grateful their father was never in their life.

    I can’t even.


  70. “Epidemic”? Oh come on, Miguel. Girls and young women used to be forced into the institutions euphemistically called “homes for unwed mothers” in order to give birth and have the babies adopted out. What a cruel, unnecessary thing. But the stigma of pregnancy and childrearing “out of wedlock” fell – still falls – on women, not on men.

    It’s something I’ve never understood about the anti-abortion crowd: they shame people for having kids regardless of whether they’re married or not, rather than stopping to give 1 second of consideration to the fact that *they went ahead with it* rather than terminate a pregnancy.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And the onus still falls on the ones who get pregnant, not on the guys who father the children.


  71. I saw a show on Book TV a few years back, the subject of which was the author’s book, a sort of cultural history of the US during the Civil War. When he compared marriage records with birth records, he realized that 30-40% of couples who married during that time – smack dab in the middle of the Victorian era – were already expecting a child.



  72. Well said, Miguel.

    I think a contributing factor to this is the dualism that pervades our sensibilities, both Christian and non-Christian: the “spiritual” is what matters, or at least matters most. Matter, specifically in this instance our bodies, isn’t all that important, or is not seen as vitally connected with the “spiritual” part of our being. Therefore, our bodies are valued less; it doesn’t really matter what we do with them. “It’s only sex.”

    Anecdotally, those who understand the connectedness of the body to one’s whole being – that is, that we are all of a piece, not separate “parts” – whether Christian or not, tend to be relatively more sexually continent.



  73. “I think I did concede that I would agree that there are plenty of people for whom moral autonomy in this area is a reason for rejecting religion.”

    That is true. That said, it is also true that many are not so much put off by the concept of moral obligation, so much as they find the expectations of the old order to be non-nonsensical, unrealistic, or harmful.


  74. +1

    I realize that this sounds cranky, but there’s nothing like a bunch of (relatively) rich people complaining about how the world is falling apart. There world is deeply messed up, but we’ve accomplished a lot. And we can do better.

    The world falling apart is when your children go to bed crying from hunger.

    My goodness, man. If you don’t like something, then fix it. Build some things.

    If you’ve got time to complain, you have time to work.


  75. I think hookup culture is more pervasive than many people want to give credit to, and accelerated by the digital connections and lack of oversight that digital communications provide.

    From some alarmist rhetoric, you’d think everyone stopped by the local orgy on the way home from the supermarket. But that isn’t to say that the majority of our culture, whose sexual ethic has been functionally reduced to the single criteria of consent, don’t act on their beliefs.

    It’s changed since I was in high school. Back then, people who were hooking up were at least in a relationship more often than not. From my conversations and working closely with youth for the last 10 years, I really think that may have been reversed.

    Go ask a typical young person, outside the church, why they should exercise self control in this matter. I’ve had plenty within the church draw a blank on that.


  76. Wasn’t this an open secret?
    Where the Pious Pillars of the Church would steer new members with kids to Pastor Pedo so he would molest THEIR kids, not Mine?


  77. “Germany was in big trouble —
    What a sad sad story!
    Needed a new Leader
    To restore her former Glory!
    Where oh where was he?
    Where could that man be?”
    — Mel Brooks, The Producers


  78. Approval is irrelevant if you’re rich enough, that has always been the case for just about anything. I think it was generally looked down on even in the middle class. If a girl got pregnant, a marriage was likely to follow soon. There wasn’t this epidemic of single parent homes like we have today.

    These days, marriage is almost viewed as an impediment to raising children, and promiscuity is viewed as “exploring our sexuality,” which is supposedly this important part of growing up. Self control is disparaged as repression.

    Sure, people sinned sexually before the sexual revolution. The difference is not so much in what people are doing as how it is viewed, and this difference is drastic. We’ve turned traditional mores on their head and reduced sexuality to a form of entertainment with violation of consent being the sole remaining taboo. This, in turn, does influence behavior, regardless of how significant the quantitative difference is with a time period when it was done in secret.

    The destruction this has brought to families and psychological well being speaks for itself. Unless you can find me the woman who, at the end of her life, expressed regret for not having had more partners, or the children who are grateful their father was never in their life.


  79. I recognize that Turek’s “chicken little” approach is not ever helpful in a spiritual sense, but can be used to whip people up into a frenzy to mobilize them around your cause or program.

    However, as both C. S. Lewis and Tim Keller have noted, the Christian sexual ethic, seen as repressive in today’s libertine society, is one of the most significant obstacles to the Christian religion in the minds of many.

    Hell, as a Christian believer, I find myself questioning it often. I have lived by it, for the most part, but I sometimes wonder how necessary it really was.

    I know many young people raised in Christianity demonstrate little commitment to trying to follow it in this regard. Those who do face criticism from friends, who would clearly not give up theirs for any religion.

    It doesn’t get easier as we age, either. So many self-identified Christians who frequently attend church demonstrate little concern for the cognitive dissonance between how they live and how their religion teaches in this regard. Those who ARE conscientious about it can often find no respite for any guilt they carry, so perhaps indifference is a survival technique, and it’s a self perpetuating problem.

    But nonetheless, selling the Christian faith while being up front about it’s chastity mandate is such a deal breaker. I mean, apart from Jesus, why would anyone want to exercise such restraint?


  80. Overall, a fair and reasonable assessment of the issue. Having soldiered for many years in SBC churches, I am aware many issues are buried beneath a thin veneer of Calvinist respectability. My principal issue with the Southern Baptists that I know is that they are so readily willing to apply grace to their own behavior, while withholding it from those who lie outside the lines of their cultural affiliation. You would hope that a need for forgiveness would beget a readiness to dispense it.


  81. Oh I agree. On the other hand it seems to work magic with the older crowd, especially them Baby Boomers…


  82. My OT prof frequently used to remind us that God’s first commandment was “Be fruitful and multiply.”

    Another strong argument to not read the Bible cover to cover as a sequential series of writings.


  83. I have a friend who works in a genealogy library. She’s always said it’s funny how many people claim records are inaccurate when they discover great grandma and grandpa were married in October and their first child was born in April. What??? Impossible! People didn’t DO that back in the day!

    Or, as a crusty old timer from my area tells it, men used to sleep around until someone came up pregnant. Then, bingo! You knew that was God’s choice for your lifelong mate!

    Ah, those good old days….


  84. He wouldn’t. It’s a myth that everyone knows to be false. Weren’t we just discussing this on a Saturday Ramblings? lol


  85. Many my age left the Church (capitalized) because of this type of inconsistency between belief and actions.

    Cue “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” and “don’t let a few bad apples ruin it!” kneejerks, nevermind forgetting the whole “spoil the whole bunch” part.

    Mike, this was my experience growing up as well. Want to know who the sexual predators were? Look at the leadership. And maybe that weird volunteer in the nursery once.


  86. Arranged marriage is not always so bad. There are many different ways of doing it. We have some friends from India whose marriage was arranged. They have two lovely daughters and are very happy together.


  87. Not just other countries…

    From a recent comment thread at Wartburg Watch:

    Here’s what happens when patriarchal or complementarian men appear to run out of adult, subservient women to marry:

    Duggar cult founder plans Kansas ‘retreat’ to set up arranged marriages for teen girls – May 2016

    Quiverfull patriarch, Vaughn Ohlman, who runs a website promoting early, “fruitful” marriage for Truly True Christian™ children, has announced plans for a “Get Them Married!” retreat where fundamentalist fathers will find, and TAKE, suitably submissive young brides to bear many babies for their adolescent sons.

    “(Hurry, gentlemen! Let the auction begin!)
    (Gentlemen, do you hear? That’s the cry of the auctioneer.)

    Handle them, fondle them
    But don’t finger them!
    They’re prime! They’re prime!
    — Interlude for “Molasses to Rum”, 1776: the Musical


  88. I recognize that it works, but I do not understand how. It just grates on me and makes me feel tired. I don’t understand how anybody gets excited about buying into this. It’s such a buzzkill.


  89. I totally agree with all in this section of comments. We have never lived in better times. They (naysayers) always argue with me by using the open sexual expression as the true marker that we are failing as a civilization. When I was a kid in a deeply fundamentalist Baptist Church (1960s), we had two active sexual predators within our church (one liked young boys and one liked young girls). They weren’t the sleazy people who slipped into the back. They were central leaders. Many my age left the Church (capitalized) because of this type of inconsistency between belief and actions. However, today, it would be almost impossible for that type of behavior to continue for decades as it did then (everyone knew it but no one talked about it). It is because we are more moral (thanks to the influence of the Gospel on society in my opinion). The only thing that has changed is that what was in the closet has come out to the light. Those two men would be in prison today, rather than being promoted through the Church as Christian heroes.


  90. Religion and politics sell well when the audience accept a worldview of precipitous decline. Remember that. From Turek to Trump, these are sales techniques.


  91. Amen ×10 000.

    We are still doing bloody well, thank you very much Mr Turek (and Graham and Trump and.. ).


  92. I think I did concede that I would agree that there are plenty of people for whom moral autonomy in this area is a reason for rejecting religion. What I object to is the wholesale categorization of an entire generation and culture in this manner.

    Also, Midwest pastor or not, I’m pretty sure the profligate behavior you describe is by no means characteristic of most people.


  93. –> “There was no Golden Age of sexual purity.”

    How about the age of “I’ll give you ten cows if you give your daughter to my son”?

    Yeah, not so much.


  94. –> “…and just as importantly – *nor they with Him*.”

    Good point. Maybe you can tell a healthy Christian by the company he keeps. Does he only hang out with the self-righteous, or does he actually have non-Christian friends? And by “friends,” I mean actually hang out with them and not view them as a program!


  95. That’s an interesting point that I often wonder about. You certainly get jaded as your notch count approaches triple digits but that’s definitely not the problem in Japan. Its not really a Western culture–anime has no equivalent here—and the anime porn is very disturbing (and I say that as a recovering addict who used to seek out bestiality videos.) Lack of eros is the obvious issue–sex is no longer special, so what’s the point?

    I will also say that, as someone who wasn’t exposed to the “typical” Southern Baptist approach until my mid-30s, I was impressed at how accurate it is—but I’ve only read about it, never heard it actually preached. It would be sad if they have abandoned it.


  96. I did read Turek’s piece—he’s more right than you give him credit for, though you do point out the social reasons for increased access to sex for some (definitely not all, as all the sad plain people in churches I know looking for spouses prove.) We live in a world with few constraints, and both men and women who can get it on do as much as they can. I have multiple friends (birds of a feather flock together and all, but still) who have had 75+ sexual partners (including myself.) That didn’t happen back in the day, as I’ve talked to multiple aging libertines who hear our stories and are shocked–they’d get one or two new women a year in the 50s and 60s, while at one point I averaged that a week. That’s an interesting social point—but not one that a boomer pastor from the Midwest can properly appreciate.


  97. Have you though about inviting Turek to respond to your critique? The article you cite is an article ABOUT Turek’s comments and NOT one written by the author himself. Selected quotes to make a point shouldn’t really be the basis for totally debunking a person’s speech, especially when it is in the third person.

    I am not saying that I go along with the premise, as put forth here, but I AM asking for a little more honesty.


  98. Does the site “Church Leaders” fall into this category? Seems to me as if there are an inordinate number of articles relating to sex in some way?


  99. My brother was conncieved before the wedding vows in the age of purity, Ma, Pa and apple pie-the ’50’s. The sexual revolution didn’t add sex as much as it added acknowledgement that it was occurring.
    What we do have today that is different from the past is the fullest saturation of pornography ever available in the home through the internet. I think as young people learn some of their sexual mores from the most unnatural of teachers the effect will be the slowing and delaying of marriage as they need more time to learn that reality is very different and people need to be treated like people, not porn actors.


  100. Second, increased sexual freedom and the public sexualization of our culture, as I’ve said often before (and like so many other things in modern culture), is the natural result of more personal and political freedom, advances in technology, and increased affluence.

    The first can be fixed easily. Stamp out ALL personal and political freedom, like Calvin in Geneva, the Ayatollahs of Iran, the Taliban, FORCE everyone to be Moral and Devout and Godly OR ELSE.

    After all, if anyone is happy or having fun, THEY HAVE TO BE STOPPED.

    Frank Turek, you can’t stop that by preaching or making arguments like this.

    But Frank Turek gets doublepluswarmfeelies for Standing Up For GAWD and that’s what’s important.


  101. > the root of the decline of western civilization goes back…

    What Decline?

    The Decline in SEXUAL MORALITY, of course.


    And (as Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, and others have tracked and are tracking) sex scandals (especially pedophile) are practically Privilege of Pastoral Rank all across the board. “Bait a trap with p*ssy and you’ll catch a preacher every time.”

    The Decline they speak of is entirely delusional. Where has any possibility of meeting their definition of success?

    Who? The guy they see every time the look (with wide-eyed, trembling-lip admiration) in the mirror.


  102. It’s just more culture war blather. I used to attend a church (SBC) where we were constantly fed this stuff. The problem is ‘those people’ – sinners, the ‘world’, those who were not part of us, baby killers, adulterers, closet commies, and can’t forget the gays. We’re God’s righteous people and they are not! It is easy to focus on other people’s sins (though in this case, we’re not much different, we just won’t admit it often) rather than address ‘Christian sins’, problems in the church, or try to build authentic Christian community (that would preclude the ambitions to become a megachurch).. I fully agree with CM, particularly with folks who’ve left the church (especially evangelical churches) – it’s usually because of bad experiences. Michael Spencer’s classic series ‘Unresolved Tensions of Evangelicalism’ comes a lot closer to explaining the decline in religion than this nonsense.


  103. > I bet many weddings were of the shotgun

    How many were to the only available mate? In a world where the majority of people died within 20 miles of where they were born…

    > thinking it did distorts how we perceive the present.

    And aren’t loneliness/isolation, poverty, exhaustion, environmental damage, equity, etc.. things, maybe, someday, the church could show more than a passing interest in? [meaning without a rapid segue back, yet again, to pelvic issues]. Actually, I do feel that this will happen, many many people want it to happen, but these panic peddlers are going to put up a good fight; wringing the last few dollars from their demographic.


  104. There was no Golden Age of sexual purity. Most of our ancestors got married almost as soon as they were able to bear children, and even then, I bet many weddings were of the shotgun (or musket) variety. Stop looking backward to the mythological sexual probity of the past; it didn’t exist, and thinking it did distorts how we perceive the present.


  105. > the root of the decline of western civilization goes back…

    What Decline? These guys use an absurd premise, before they even get to what they blame. The western world is still where a whole lot of people not in the western world want to get to. Pick a number: life-span, GDP, violent crime,… the western world ~450 years after Luther is a thundering success.

    The Decline they speak of is entirely delusional. Where has any possibility of meeting their definition of success?

    The pelvic obsession is tiresome. The Grand Decline narrative is so tired. Both are without merit The decline is in the audience willing to stomach this kind of nonsense.

    How about Apologists doing their **job** and discerning how to speak to people where they are? How can the church speak to a nation of ‘non-traditional’ households [which exist for a whole host of reasons]?


  106. increased sexual freedom and the public sexualization of our culture, as I’ve said often before (and like so many other things in modern culture), is the natural result of more personal and political freedom, advances in technology, and increased affluence.

    Yep. From the Israelites being warned not to forget God after they become rich in the Promised Land, to the prophets condemning Israel’s abuse of the poor in their midst, to Jesus’ words “You cannot love both God and Mammon” (at which words the “upright” religious leaders of His time *sneered*), to James’ scathing condemnation of the wealthy – wealth (and even more to the point, the pride and the power which accompany it) is the real problem. And who can’t tell me that pride and power are closer to being our real problems today?

    If we just sit back and hurl condemnation on people for doing what comes naturally in a world like this, and don’t build deep relationships, offering them forbearance, kindness, and hospitality — as Jesus did — who will show them life as it could be in a new creation?

    It’s funny – Jesus (axiomatically, the most pure and holy Person who ever lived) had no qualms about hanging out with “sexual” sinners (divorcees, prostitutes, etc) – and just as importantly – *nor they with Him*. Why was that, Mr. Turek? And why was it the “pure and righteous” of His day whom He and they always seemed to have problems dealing with?


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