RE: A post and discussion on morality.
Bethany, your bravery and boldness has brought up such an important topic that we most often shy away from, and generally feel uncomfortable discussing: the pervasiveness of sexual immorality our culture.
Among those who believe the Bible is divinely inspired:
- Who here is glad for how much nudity exists in TV and movies?
- Who is happy that pornographic content is so accessible, anonymous and affordable (the three A’s of addiction)?
- Who is thankful for the increase of sexualized photos and videos men and women post to receive attention and affirmation in all the wrong ways?
- Who looks forward to their children discovering all this content, consuming it — and maybe even one day — producing it?
I’d imagine most of us aren’t ecstatic about these aspects of our culture. More than that, we are entirely opposed to the continued perpetuation of sex in our daily lives. But there’s no signs of this changing anytime soon, at least, not without radical change.
Instead, the normalization of sex in our society is pervasive — and it does lend itself towards deviant behavior, including — to name a few — the increasing acceptance of pornographic content (blatant or subtle), homosexual behavior (and “marriage”), vulgarity, prostitution, human trafficking, rape, etc. As a culture, we are so over-inundated with sex, we are desensitized to how large a role it plays in our daily lives. We can’t hardly watch a show on Netflix, TV or a movie; you can’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram (without hiding a few people); you can’t hardly do a Google search (ok, maybe that’s a stretch)…without coming across incredibly sensual, sexual and lustful…sinful, content.
I can’t imagine 50 years ago thinking this normalization of sex would be so frequent and blatant as it is today. That it would be normal for nudity to be in most TV and Movies, for such provocative and vulgar language to be so common in so much of our music. For outright porn to consume (by conservative estimates) 4% of the internet, with 10-15% of all searches being pornographic in nature. For human trafficking to be a world-wide pandemic, existing as a $32 billion annual business, enslaving 21 million people. For reports of rape incidents to have increased by 20% in the last four years in the United States. For sex scandals to be rampant — almost normal — throughout our nation’s top-level leaders in business, entertainment, politics, and heck, even the church.
The normality of sexually-driven behaviors (whether ‘deviant’ or not) and crimes lends us increasingly more accepting of more frequent and more deviant behaviors over time. Consider a drug addict, who increasingly consumes more intense drugs because the sensation begins to wear off. Our cultural addiction to sex is much the same. Every day, we become culturally and societally more O.K. with behaviors we weren’t O.K. with yesterday. This isn’t a meteoric sweeping milestone event — it is a subtle, shifting landscape, eroding at our values inch-by-inch every day.
But whose responsibility is it that our culture is what it is today? Who is to blame? Whose fault is it?
And if we think forward 50 years, whose responsibility will it then be?
If the purpose of asserting blame is to serve justice, it’s easy stop at assigning blame to those who commit what our society has defined as crimes; i.e., rapists, human traffickers, etc. And, how consumed our culture is with justice. We can’t get enough of it. We love justice. Some sociologists have posited that there’s been a significant increase on our societal love and pursuit of justice, in an unhealthy way. This isn’t hard to see.
It seems natural to me the world would be mostly interested in criminal justice, but myopic that the Church’s core interest be caught up in criminal justice. The act of rape is purely the fault of a rapists, but the fact we live in a world where rape is becoming more common, is a much larger issues. If we then, the Church, stop at criminal justice (i.e., the rapist), we stop short of “pure and faultless religion”, “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27).
“To keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
If our end goal is to be of pure and faultless religion, where then should we look? More pointedly stated, who among us is capable of slowing, preventing, or turning the tide of sexualization over the next 50 years – which could result in more heinous crimes yet to be imagined than just rape? Likewise, who could have potentially helped prevent these trends from emerging over the last 50 years?
That is to say, me. You.
You see, we’ve become so focused on individual responsibility, on individual justice — we often overlook our societal responsibility. John F. Kennedy, paraphrasing Edmund Burke, once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Proverbs 24:11-12 agrees:
Rescue those being led away to death;
hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
The world has taught us to focus on criminal justice, to focus on individual responsibility, and to tolerate others’ beliefs. The Word of God teaches us about our responsibility for the world we live in. You see, we are directly called not just to abstain ourselves (diverting our eyes), but to also lead the effort against the slaughter, i.e., sin — of which sexual immorality is included — or inversely stated: the de-moralization of our society.
I personally do not expect those who are outside the Church will abstain from sexual immorality (although they might). But I, and everyone else who is called to the faith, who is dedicated and consecrated before the Lord, is responsible for being a light, a beacon, for those outside the Church. The maximum potential for our world to lean back towards sexual morality is directly tied to the maximum effort with which we exert ourselves as the Church to affect that change.
We should not then sit silent, as we are in the habit of doing, but we should be proactive in fighting the fight. If we think more holistically about our world (and the future of it, for our children and theirs), if we pray fervently about what God would have in our world, I believe we would find that the pervasiveness of sexual immorality is the underlying root which gives life to heinous acts, like rape and human trafficking. If we simply cut off the branches (legislate crimes against rape and trafficking), they will grow back in many different forms. If we get at the root, we position ourselves for real, radical change that can actually change the way in which we experience this world. The root of the issue is tolerance, acceptance and normalization of sexual immorality, of which we play a part in every day by either producing, consuming, or sitting silently while it festers.
For us to be successful in this kind of radical change, we need to be comfortable calling out sin for sin — not for the purpose of blame, but for the purpose of trans formative change that comes about through submission to Lord of Lords, and receipt of the Holy Spirit.
For those who are a part of the Body of Christ, there is warning against wandering into sin (Hebrews 3:12-13):
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
James 5:19-20 discusses the value of bringing back those who have wandered:
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
So, for those in the Church who are committing some kind of sin, for example, a sin of sexual immorality, we should be able to confidently call this out (in fact, we are called to). More specifically — to bring this back home — if a girl or guy, who is in the Church is dressing scantily, un-modestly, promoting promiscuity, and/or posting seductive pictures — and also, if there is any chance this behavior might lead others astray, we should be able to call this out as sin. And this is of benefit not just to the people who are affected by the sin (i.e., guys or gals who are tempted), but even more so to the sinner (who is then saved).
So then, I posit, there is a direct linkage between (a) the prevalence and acceptance of sexual immorality (of which modesty is included, among many others) and (b) sexual perversion and deviant behavior (of which heinous crimes, like rape and human trafficking are included, among many others). We the Church are called take arms against sin, of which sexual immorality is included, and thus, by our action or inaction, own responsibility in the nature of the world. We are not blameless simply by diverting our eyes, but also by taking clear action in the world against the perpetuation of sin. And, especially those who are in the Church who produce any form of temptation or sexual temptation, are held to a higher standard, and own responsibility for how their actions affect the world. And it is right and good to call this out. The sum of individual actions produce societal trends, so each individual is responsible for their own part in how our world shapes itself, either by action or inaction.
In considering these things this morning (to which I readily admit, I’ve not previously been an advocate for in any significant form), my big takeaway is we ought to be doing more than we currently are in the way of shaping a world that we’d be proud for our children to grow up in. For me personally, perhaps this letter is a start in the right direction.
Thank you Bethany for your bravery which inspires me to be more brave as well — and for standing tall, boldly following the stirring in your spirit.