Saturday, October 8, 2011

How can something that feels so right be wrong?

Read it and weep.  Another survey of "Christians" in which the fact that we are sinners seems not to be enough.  We are comfortable sinning.  It has become routine and ordinary.  Why, everyone is doing it.  Of course, you know what the "it" refers to -- need I say more?

Relevant magazine has it all... read it and weep.  80% of young, unmarried Christians have had sex.  2/3 within the past year.  Even though 3/4 know and believe that this is a moral wrong.  In fact, some Christians complain, I waited longer than most!  So much for True Love Waits.  Could it be that if God is in everything good, that God reveals Himself through the profoundly breathtaking act of sex, too.  Hmmmm.....

Lets look at the facts.  We are not talking about a primarily teen age problem.  With marriage being pushed back closer and closer to age 30, the time that people must wait has been extended so much that they are, in effect, being asked to wait most of their sexually mature lives before engaging in sexual intercourse.  This does not make it right to be sexually active but it frames the reality of what people are facing.  The abstinence programs are targeted toward teen agers but this is not simply a teen age issue.

Could it be that the real issue is that marriage itself is not worth it?  In order to control your desires you must be convinced that what you are delaying is worth the wait and worth the sacrifice.  Could it be that the larger issue here is not sexual activity prior to marriage but the growing idea that marriage is not necessarily all it was thought to be and what it offers to you is certainly is not worth half a life of self-denial?  Could it be that we are reaping the rewards of a generation or so of churches teaching us by word and example that pleasure is good, that faith is about happiness, that God wants what you want for yourself, and that faith is a means to obtaining all your goals of success, happiness, achievement, etc.?    Could it be that the mixing up of secular goals and values with Scripture and the Church has left Christian young people without a clear message of why wait and why marry -- if personal happiness and obtaining all your goals has become a religious message as well as a secular one?

So, do we just read the stats and weep.... or do we reinforce the positive messages of what marriage is as a gift of God, of the love that delights in sacrifice, of the noble calling of husband and wife (father and mother), and of the connection between the relationship of husband and wife to the love betwixt Christ and His Church?  It seems to me the greater Christianity has done our young people no favor.  We tell them things are wrong and then we fill their minds with the prospects of a married life of happiness and bliss, wild and crazy sex, and rewards upon rewards (with nary a trouble or need to serve or sacrifice along the way).  We confuse happiness with godliness and getting what you want with holiness and then we are shocked because they want it all and they want it now.  We have indulged our children either out of our need to make them love us or out of guilt for leaving them so much alone and then we are surprised that they indulge themselves even when their moral compass is pointing  WRONG.  There are things we can do.  If marriage is worth waiting for, we need to tell them why.  If sex belongs within marriage, we need to tell them why.  If life does not consist of God supplying what we want, then we need to give them a Scriptural picture of what life really is (life under the cross, life bearing the cross).

The issue of sexual activity prior to and outside of marriage is not an isolated issue.  It is connected to the way in which we have painted God and depicted the function of religion.  It is sin, to be sure, but sin fueled by the false images painted by so many so-called Christian teachers and preachers.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

College is the stumbling place for many -- abstinence is for when you are a kid, a teen... but when you get to college you are an adult -- and sex isn't for marriage, it's for adults. Who live away from home. And are all grown up. Or at least so we are told.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brown is correct. About 15
years ago a new fad developed on the
college campus. It is called HOOKING
UP. A guy and a gal agree to just have sex with no commitment. They
become sex partners simply to satisfy
themselves. The pick up line is,
"Do you want to hook up?" College
kids look at sex as a recreational
sport and marriage is never on the

John said...

There comes a time when our children must be accountable for their decisions. Parents have raised their kids. Pastors have catechized them. The children become adults. The children go to university.

Who is responsible in the event that the adult now decides to enter into a sexual relationship outside of marriage? The parents? The pastor who catechized the child, now an adult? The college/university that the adult is now attending?

I'm an old man. How is it that I should be able to blame others for my decisions in life?

Parents and pastors can only do what they are able to do. Blaming others for the decisions of our adult children is only a cop out.

Daniel Baker said...

John seems to be under the impression that most parents and pastors are properly raising and catechizing their children. I'd like to know where he got this impression, because I certainly haven't gotten it based on my experience in the Lutheran church, let alone the vast majority of the broader 'Christian' community in the United States.

Just look at the state of "Lutheran" catechesis. How many of our youth have been taught our faith as it should be taught? How many have been encouraged to read the Confessions? How many understand what separates us from the broader Evangelical community? How many know why we are rightly called "Catholic?" I couldn't even apply these questions to myself a year or two ago.

If this is how many of our pastors are treating catechesis, how do you think our parents are treating their responsibilities to raise their children in a Christian fashion? After all - adequate parenting skills come from proper catechesis as well.

There is a reason that God promises a curse upon the third and fourth generation. Stating the obvious is not a cop out.


Looking at Pr. Peter's venerable post, a conclusion he alludes to but doesn't exactly spell out is the idea that marriage has become a "later life" phenomena in our culture, rather than a primary life goal as it was intended to be. We are supposed to focus on broadening our horizons, enjoying life, finishing our education, getting a job, etc., etc., etc. before we even think about marriage.

However, St. Paul prescribes marriage to those who burn with passion; how can this be the case when, as Pr. Peters notes, most aren't married until the end of their sexual peak? It seems to me that, instead of guiding our youth away from marriage at all costs (as many of our pastors and parents are fond of doing), it should be encouraged, even at a younger age.

Anonymous said...

Aw, c'mon. Don't the Mormons have enough on their plates keeping track of all those wives without having to worry about what LCMS-ers are saying about them?! Where's the heart? No wonder they need ads!

Terry Maher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terry Maher said...

Deletion mine -- made a typo that entirely changed the meaning!

Might be well to consider this: that a child born will likely survive to reproduce at all is a rather recent phenomenon in human history.

Life expectancy from birth worldwide is currently 67 years. A century ago it was 31. Life expectancy is not life span; it is the number of years one can expect to live from a given age, here, birth. The dramatic change in just the last hundred years from averages that changed little over millennia is entirely due to dramatic change in the numbers of children now surviving to adulthood and reproduction.

So rather than laying all this at the feet of parents and pastors and Joel Osteen, we might well consider how does a morality that few will survive to observe work out when most will. By which I do not mean the morality should be changed, but we must recognise we preach it and its application in a wholly new environment.

Anonymous said...

I asked a young woman at our church youth group what she feels the most pressure not to do, have sex, have an abortion, or get married.

Without hesitation, she said, "get married."

As the parents of these young people, we need to be honest about how much pressure we put on them not to marry. It is creepy if you think about it. Virtually all the pressure on young people is to appear successful by earning the right credentials and not committing to anyone who doesn't possess them. That makes most people ineligible for the estate of marriage which should in fact be near universal. It is simply materialism. We say we love our neighbors but really we love something else. We have idols. I tell my son, I don't care if he gets married when he is 16 because that is better than just maintaining the image of decency when in fact he is mired in degeneracy and abuse.

Ted Badje said...

Pre-marital sex has an economical aspect. Young people want the pleasures of sex, but are hesitant to take on the economic responsibilities of marriage. The Church needs to teach about the sacrifices of marriage, and if people want to get married at a young age, they should, and be prepared to scrimp and save. It seemed to be the norm 50+ years ago, when most people married out of high school, and the man had a job. Today, we have this phenomena of 'prolonged adolescence', which will prove to be a bane on society, especially for males. When one of the most popular movie actors portrays a big, doltish guy who never grows up, it can't be a good sign for our culture.

Terry Maher said...

Judas H, that's our whole life style now, the gift of my generation -- adolescence as an adult life style. Go to work dressed like a school kid (while the school kids dress for school like school kids once dressed on weekends), get married as a form of going steady, worship like a school rally, play house in a real house, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Today, we have this phenomena of 'prolonged adolescence', which will prove to be a bane on society, especially for males. When one of the most popular movie actors portrays a big, doltish guy who never grows up, it can't be a good sign for our culture."

Don't forget the women who don't grow up. When a man stays single and spends all his money on himself, he is portrayed negatively, when a woman does the same, she is portrayed positively. Young women are every bit as immature selfish and doltish and young men. We just have been hammered with the message that such behavior is virtuous in women. Part of the reason so few men wish to marry is that the only women who are interested in marriage have already spent all their youth and energy chasing and entertaining all the hot guys who could have anyone and did. Then when they are older, less attractive and less fun, they want to get married and play the traditional role. Most men are too smart for that and pass on such opportunities.

Segfault Reloaded said...

Getting married at 18 (or even 16) sounds like a reasonable solution, but then where do the lucky couple move in? With the bride's family or with the groom's family? I am not against getting married in your youth (the fact that we expect them to spend most of their sexually active life in celibacy really got to me); I agree with the thread here, but there are lots of practical issues to work out when our culture provides no workable pattern. For example, in today's economy, most people cannot make enough to live on their own. Most parents cannot support (possibly multiple) second households. Expecting otherwise of all people, not just some because some can do this is unrealistic. Do the newly married have enough emotional maturity to tag team each other through 4 years of college? Do their parents of these newly married children still have any authority over them while they live at home? How about me and my similarly aged spouse having to listen to the youngsters having fun upstairs, night after night, when we are too tired to even get off the sofa, because we have been working our tails off all day, supporting them and ourselves? They are not at fault because they are in no position to make that much money (and we are because we have been to college), but it hardly seems like a lifestyle that would hold up.

I think telling them to get married is the right thing to do, but how would such a life together unfold? What would these 2 people have to look forward to, as a life? What works for an exceptional few will not work for the average Christian 16-22 year old.

John McDermott
Annandale, Virginia

Anonymous said...

"Do the newly married have enough emotional maturity to tag team each other through 4 years of college?"

Only 25% of people graduate from college. Of those only x% even get a degree that is sufficiently remunerative to justify the expense and opportunity cost. The relentless status seeking is putting young people through the meat grinder. Each year a greater proportion of children are born illegitimate. Marriage is being marginalized.

So, as parents, are we doing all we can to promote marriage?

Abstinence ad infinitum ad absurdum is not a credible message. Abstinence till 18 or 20 or even 22 is plausible if and only if there is actually someone to marry who was also 'waiting' for you. Who wants to abstain just to enter a marriage market where one can't find a chaste mate?

Daniel Baker said...

"Abstinence till 18 or 20 or even 22 is plausible if and only if there is actually someone to marry who was also 'waiting' for you."

Forget even the celibate aspect, consider the matter from a Confessional Lutheran perspective. Trying to find a like-minded spouse is a shot in the dark. I can't even find a Confessional Lutheran friend around my age in this city. It seems that the only way to find a potential mate is to be in a synod school. Tough luck to any other single out there.

Janis Williams said...

Now for something totally different.....

Seeing the pictures of our favorite 'minister?' with plastic hair reminded me of a comment made by John MacArthur (sorry he's not Lutheran - yet):

If this is your best life now, that means you must be planning on hell in the next....