View this email in your browser

074  Chastity

Figuratively speaking, I've been sitting in front of a nearly empty sheet of paper for a month, trying to write my next RF Memo. On the sheet appeared only one word: "chastity." God gave me the topic. I hardly knew where to begin with it.

Chastity is by far the most unpopular virtue in the Christian message, but it is not optional. Whether we like it or not, if we are going to serve Jesus faithfully we have to keep Mr. or Ms. Happy zipped up tight outside of marriage, and pointed exclusively in the direction of our spouse while married. The Apostles gave us no other option:

"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.  For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." Ephesians 5:3-6

"Let no one deceive you with empty words." In other words, one might say that one is Christian and loves Jesus, but if one practices sexual immorality, one is lying. It's uncomfortably, painfully clear. And what's forbidden is not just the act of coitus in the wrong context, either; it's "all impurity," it's "covetousness" (e.g. lusting after something you can't have), it's "foolish talk" or "crude joking," as in "Heh. I'd do X with that any day..." usually from somebody who's likely never to have the chance. The outcome is the same in all cases: no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ.

"Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." Paul was making a reference that he expected his audience to recognize. The "sons of disobedience" might be human beings who have abandoned God in favor of idols, but I think he was actually talking about the fallen spirits who rebelled against God in order to take human wives in Genesis 6:1-2. He was saying, "God is punishing those spirits because of sexual immorality, and whoever joins with them will get the same treatment." 

If you'd ever read the Book of Enoch you'd see what he could have been talking about right up front, in chapter 1. Among the Rabbis of Jesus' and Paul's day, the Fall of Man was not just Genesis 3, it was also Genesis 6 and Genesis 11. We didn't just eat of the forbidden tree, we consorted with fallen spirits to exchange their knowledge for our daughters and our worship, and we exalted ourselves to heaven in order to replace God. Those stories were told in several of the books written during the 2nd temple period as well as in Genesis.

Though preachers often talk of chastity as "biblical morality," the truth is that the Bible does not teach it directly most of the time. What it does more often is assume the correctness of the cultural norms of the Hebrews, making reference to those assumptions with general words like "fornication" or "immorality" as though everybody knows what those mean. 

But the cultural norms of the Hebrews were not the common behavior of the ancient world. Historian Thomas Holland, an expert in Greek and Roman antiquity, observes that the Roman male was expected to relieve himself (sexually or otherwise) in practically any orifice that was available for the purpose. Roman law pretty much protected their innate right to behave in that fashion, with slaves, prisoners, employees, livestock, or really anybody or anything they desired.

The Hebrews, however, despised that feature of the Gentile world, and Christianity is an extension of Judaism. So, for those of us who inherited their religion, there's a general ban on any of the things that accompany enjoying the idea of playing around apart from marriage. To use a popular analogy, we're not just forbidden from eating out, we can't even enjoy reading the menu.

In the American culture, that's extraordinarily difficult to avoid, because the menu is displayed everywhere. Ours is arguably one of the most grossly immoral cultures in the modern world. We use sexual images to sell cars, dog food, canned fruit, beer...anything. We pepper our sports events with lewd dancing girls, often our own daughters. We create events in which our young people can engage in casual sex with each other in controlled settings: prom night, spring break, etc.

In fact, the entire Culture War is, at its root, most likely a war against chastity. I say "most likely" because hardly anybody talks about it that way; people talk about it as some sort of political disagreement. But in actual fact, most of the cultural changes that have been jammed down our throats over the past fifty years have in common that they're engineered to liberate everybody from restraints on their carnal appetites.

The general attitude beneath it all seems to be "I want to be free to practice my version of sexual liberty, so I'm going to advocate sexual liberty for everybody else, even things other than what I like. That way, nobody will be able to condemn me for my preferences." I remember thinking exactly that when I was in high school; it was the reasoning with which I decided to endorse legal abortion. I didn't care one way or another about abortion, but I wanted to "get some" whenever I wanted without thinking of myself as a bad person, and the price of that was endorsing other peoples' similar lusts.

I knew that I was a bad person even then. I knew perfectly well that what I was so eager to do was selfish and destructive. But I defended it in all the usual ways: "It's perfectly natural." "How can love be wrong?" "It harms nobody." Ptui. It was all self-protective rationalizations. And I think nearly everybody involved makes the same sorts of excuses, often without thinking. But in those moments where we're alone and it's quiet, we know what we're doing, and we know that it stinks.

It turns out that sexual self-restraint is necessary for a culture to prosper. A few weeks ago, a Canadian clergyman-blogger named Kirk Durston revived a 1930s work of social anthropology by Oxford Professor J.D. Unwin entitled "Sex and Culture."* Unwin had surveyed 80+ historical cultures with regard to their sexual morality and their intellectual and moral robustness. No brief summary could cover his findings, but among other things He discovered a remarkable pattern: cultures that abandon strict premarital chastity and marital fidelity in favor of complete sexual freedom lose the ability to reason and then the ability to prosper within three generations. They go from the careful use of reason to investigate nature and make daily decisions, to a life focused on meeting day-to-day needs without any interest in understanding nature. Conversely, cultures that develop an ethic of self-restraint can rise into a pattern of effective use of reason.

It's true that correlation does not always indicate causation, but the pattern here is so marked that it's hard to dispute. Moreover, the American nation did abandon an ethic of chastity, and appears well on its way to losing its ability to reason, spiraling instead into a miasma of feelings-driven foolishness. It is not clear what produces the causal relationship, but there is some research suggesting that people draw their identity from family, and that the Sexual Revolution that decimated the family robbed American children of any reasonable source of identity. The result has been a culture-wide quest for meaning and a sharp rise in mental health issues, depression, and mass shootings. The links to this research are in Mr. Durston's blog.

There's no cure for any of this besides returning to our former acceptance of the standard of chastity: refraining from sex apart from marriage, engaging in sex only within the bounds of marriage. If we're going to save our culture, we're going to have to take a stand for chastity--and that will be very unpopular. The Evil One is not going to let us rebuild our culture's chastity without a fight.

I honestly don't care what you've done or have not done in the past. Going forward, we need to stay clean, and we need to advocate staying clean. This is not optional. It's required, and it's essential.

 

Phil Weingart

* The article can be found at https://www.kirkdurston.com/blog/unwin. Mr. Durston's blog contains links to Prof. Unwin's work online.


There's a complete archive of RfMemos at http://philweingart.net/wp/rf-memos/. Also, if you haven't read my books yet, what are you waiting for? Click on the images below and you'll be taken to Amazon dot com, where you can buy both of them in trade paperback or Kindle format.



*|MC:TOPSHARE|*

Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.
*|IFNOT:ARCHIVE_PAGE|* *|LIST:DESCRIPTION|*

Our mailing address is:
*|HTML:LIST_ADDRESS_HTML|* *|END:IF|*

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

*|IF:REWARDS|* *|HTML:REWARDS|* *|END:IF|*