Sin and Sexuality

It’s on most everyone’s minds, whether they say it or not.  The recent spate of high-profile offenders only makes the topic both less accessible and more salacious.  We don’t talk about us, but we talk about it, and we talk about others.  I would argue this is the nature of most sexual thought and conversation that goes on in people’s heads and hearts as well as in rare exchanges with people they can be honest with.  We are forever removing ourselves directly from the conversation to project outwards.  This essay does some good work in talking about this from a male perspective.

Of course it’s a misleading essay as well, and certainly a misleading title.  As though only men are brutal or capable of brutality – sexually or otherwise!  It lacks the raw honesty of the Biblical take on the topic of human sexuality as well as sin, a take that understands that both men and women have issues in their sexuality and otherwise.  It might easily be argued that these issues are some of the deepest and most pertinent to who we are as people day in and day out.  I can’t imagine it’s for nothing that the first things we’re told about Adam and Eve after falling into sin by eating the forbidden fruit is they recognize their nakedness and cover it.  It isn’t just woman who recognizes the dangerous vulnerability in her sexuality, but man as well.  Both know they aren’t safe any longer.  It isn’t safe because of the opposite sex (or homosexual variations), and it isn’t safe because of ourselves.

A few comments on the essay.  The first paragraph is misleading and inaccurate.  Marche asserts that what a man says and believes have no bearing on their behavior.  I think this is patently untrue and a straw-man whitewashing of the issue for simplicity’s sake.  The reality is far more complicated.  What a man (or woman) believes, and therefore what he (or she) says, has a great deal of relationship and correlation to how he (or she) acts.  But it isn’t air-tight.  It isn’t bulletproof.  It isn’t perfect.  It’s marred by sin.  By a fundamental disjunction in the individual that makes the perfect  alignment of belief and practice at all times and in all circumstances impossible.  I believe that some of these men believe very strongly and practice very faithfully acceptable ideas about the relationship of men to women.  But I also know that in any particular moment, or even potentially multiple particular moments, their beliefs have not been enough to alter their actions, their words, and their needs or desires.  Sin crouches at each one of our doors, and its desire to have control over us, to eat us alive now and eternally is insatiable.  The life of faith is keeping that sin at bay as best as possible.  But such efforts are inevitably imperfect and flawed.  We all fail in one way or another, at one time or another.  Sexual sin may be the  bête noir of the moment (but hasn’t it always been?) but it is not fundamentally different from any sin in this respect.

Granted – I believe some of the accused are serial perpetrators, actual predators who may say things that people expect them to say but don’t really believe them and had no intention of living them out.  These are the folks who duly deserve to be held accountable in the fullest sense.   I believe others are guilty of actual sin that is not serial in nature.  Their failures are lapses in otherwise good belief and behavior.  They have fallen prey to sin in their hearts and minds, but this is Biblically a different situation than assenting to, endorsing, or validating their sin.  Some of these folks may have sinned in spite of themselves.  And as sin almost always does, this causes harm not just to themselves but to others, and ultimately and always is first and foremost an offense against God.  Should they be censured for these failures?  Certainly.  Should they be destroyed for them?  That’s a question that isn’t going to get much traction in the witch-hunt atmosphere currently gripping our culture.  If we’re going to talk about power imbalances, we should certainly note the huge one right now, where any allegation or accusation can instantly cause irreparable damage, even before it’s substantiated.  In the public court of Twitter, there is no legal principle of innocent before proven guilty.

But to simply say that men (and by implication only men) are incapable of ever being trusted in what they say or profess, and are always and only actively looking for ways to act contrary to their professions is dishonest and inaccurate to any sense of observable reality internally or externally.  Would the author characterize himself this way?  Then why should I bother even reading what he has to say?

The second place I disagree with Marche is in his  second paragraph, where he asserts that the men in question have nothing in common except their sexual misdeeds.  This is not true.  The men in question all share power.  They are all men in position of influence and control of one sort or another.  In other words, they are all men who in addition to the temptation to sexual sin have perhaps a greater opportunity to indulge it.  Impropriety can happen in a great variety of situations but it more naturally lends itself to power imbalance, as Marche rightly understands.  Unfortunately, Marche later in his essay makes the assertion that the nature of sex itself is power or a struggle for power, something inherently unBiblical.  Sexuality is intended not as a power struggle but as the very opposite, the most intimate act of vulnerability.  But of course such vulnerability is only appropriate in a mutually vulnerable situation, which is what Scripture describes in marriage.  Sin changes the dynamic, of course, so that Adam and Eve sense the danger right away, and we continue to live with it today.  But to make our sexuality into something inherently evil, as some feminists including the one Marche quotes do is to overstep the Biblical description.  Sexuality was created good!.  But it must be guarded now because there are sinful instincts to indulge it outside of the proper relationship.  Outside of marriage it is destructive to the individual, the other person involved, and society at nearly every level.  In the midst of sin we have to be careful with the good gifts of God.  We need to cover ourselves.

This is what we’re seeing.  For over 50 years elements in our culture advocated with increasing persuasiveness and influence that sexuality should be unburdened from the Biblical restraints placed upon it.  They have argued that sexuality should be freely enjoyed by practically anyone (including those who argue for decriminalizing sex with children and the ongoing sexualization of young adolescents in advertising), with practically anyone (including people of any gender and regardless of marital status), practically anytime (thanks to tax-payer funded contraception).  Sex is to be freed of any inhibitions and everyone should enjoy themselves without the worry of complications (the celebration of divorce as an option along with the government-enforced option of killing any unplanned on and unwanted children that might result).  Discarding Biblical notions of sexual propriety and protection (only between a man and a woman who have publicly committed themselves to each other for life in marriage), we’ve been told and shown that sex is easy and fun and simple and everyone should be doing it.

Is it any wonder that we have people who abuse that philosophy – or more accurately, take it to logical conclusions?  And instead of being celebrated as ideological idols they are crucified.  Careers are disparaged and destroyed.  Art and other creative works are immediately jettisoned and rejected.  As though everything a person was and did was bound up specifically with their sexual behavior.

Marche asks the critical question near the end of his essay – How can healthy sexuality ever occur in conditions where men and women are not equal?    The Bible has already provided an answer – put sexuality back where it belongs between two people who are equalized in the relationship of marriage.  Admit that the hyper-sexualized culture we’ve created – where everyone  and anyone is a sexual possibility – is unhealthy and dangerous to everyone, and teach people once again about respect and self-control rather than damage control and spin.  Preventing the abuses that are coming to light, whether predatory and ideological in nature or slips of otherwise good people requires an entire culture grounded in terms of the power, the danger, and the beauty of sexuality.  Such steps will not eliminate all abuse, but they will move towards minimizing it.

Towards this end it isn’t just men who need to examine their masculinity, but women who need to examine their femininity.  And more accurately, both need to examine the reality that there is always a break, a gap, sometimes a chasm between who they claim to be and truly to want to be, and who their thoughts and words and occasional actions show them to be.  There is always a difference between the ideal and the reality.

Modern society has no answer to that gap other than to deny it and excoriate anyone it catches publicly in that gap as some sort of misfit.  But the reality is that every one of us has that gap.  Denying it only exacerbates the problem, and modern philosophy and culture has no answer either for why it is there or what to do about it.  Both are convinced that it can be eradicated through proper breeding and education and controls, which explains the massive shock and indignation in discovering that decades of abortions, contraceptives, educational indoctrination, government dictates and other controls have not eradicated the gap at all.  Thus the shock to find out that people – even people we think are good – fail.  There is no mercy in this system of philosophy and culture.  No forgiveness.  So ultimately everyone dies because everyone fails – some are just better at covering it up than others, or some sin in ways that are more socially permissible than others.

Only the Bible gives an actual explanation for the gap, and offers a solution to the gap both here and now and in the long-term, eternal sense.  Only Christianity acknowledges that we cannot fix the gap on our own no matter how badly we want to.  It has to be closed for us, fixed for us  While that isn’t going to happen this side of eternity, we do have real reason and hope in fighting against our sinfulness, in little by little closing that gap a bit.  Not simply by our own force of will or through fear of societal punishments, but by the very power of God who created us and saved us, living within us and working with us and for us, leading us in the life-long process of battling against sin towards a day when we no longer have to because it will no longer be there within us.

Names will continue to be revealed and heads will continue to roll.  But until we acknowledge the abject failure of the sexual philosophy of the past 50 years, we aren’t going to make any progress towards positive change.  It’s only going to get worse.

 

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