The American Moral Minority

Shock about being in a minority on sexual morality shocks me.

Christians in America have been a moral minority on sexual issue before iPods existed.

An advantage of being old is that you get used to change: welcome and unwelcome. I have seen moral improvement on some issues and a growing decadence in others. In many areas traditional Christian morality (loving the poor, support for life) is either growing or supported by a near-majority of Americans still.

This is not, and has not, been true of sexual morality for a time longer than iPods have existed.

On sexual morality, the chant: “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes John Mark with a baby carriage” was the ideal for most Americans who chose sexual activity. Now even family television shows have leading characters who have sex, then fall in love, then live together, then marry, following which they may or may not have a baby.

Fortunately, my moral choices need not be dictated by the behavior the child-men and women on Psych.

As a Christian my goal has been holiness: being set apart for God. All desires must point to God or they become idols, especially desires for “goods.” If my focus is on the family, then the family is bad for me. Unlike eating or breathing, I could choose to have sex or not to have sex. Church taught me that lifelong celibacy was not a curse, but a great blessing and I saw it lived out in those who had chosen that path or those whose life demanded it.

I am sure they were not without fault, but they held to the standard and grew towards it. The rough soul was made smooth by time, the Spirit, and moderation.

My ultimate goal, I was taught, was no more “good sex” than a “good education” or “good meal.” I should be good and then do those things that contributed to the good as defined by God.

As a young man my goal was to treat men and women as people created in the image of God: they could not be owned and must never be objectified. I had the ideal of “no lust.” I wanted to treat each human as a human and not for my pleasure. My church taught that self-pleasure and porn would not help me find this kind of love. I did not live up to the ideal, but the attempt and progress helped me. Whenever I gave up the goal, the results were bad for me.

I wanted to “make love,” not have great sex. Sex, like any other powerful desire, was to be moderated, not accommodated. My “heterosexual” desire was no more licit in itself than any other desire nor should it define my nature.

A person is not the sum of their desires, many of which are fallen.

Once I was in the majority that believed the ideal was chastity until marriage.

This Christian view is now a minority view and even less rarely attempted. Nobody thinks the culture will change quickly on this issue, but it is not one on which the church is going to change her mind.

There was a time not so long ago, when I was in a majority, who believed love was a reason to marry, but not the only one or even the most important. The traditional Anglican service, so beloved by all Protestants, lists several including having children. The idea that a married couple would choose barrenness for anything but the most extraordinary reasons is still morally questionable, but not for a vast majority of Americans.

Once I was in a majority that viewed the sex act as sacred and so hardly fit for light banter. Some people I knew told “dirty jokes,” but everyone acknowledge them as “dirty.” If the goal was purity in thought and deed, then some language did not help with the goal.

Since the standards here were subjective and deeply personal, public talk avoided profanity or coarse language. You did not want to needless offend. Not every change lately has been bad: one great good is the widespread condemnation of bullying and abusive language, but for the religious traditionalist most pop culture hurts in new ways.

My mother still does not like my using “crap,” but things have gone a bit beyond that level of crudity every day on Facebook and Twitter.

Count me in the minority that does not like it or find it helpful. I am still thinking about “crap!”

The Bible says God hates divorce and I was taught to hate it too. Christians disagreed with whether there were grounds for divorce and remarriage, but everyone agreed that separation was sometimes necessary.

Count me in the minority that thinks that at best divorce is a necessary evil and that society made splitting up too easy.

Fortunately I am still in the majority that believes that monogamy after marriage is the ideal. We fail the ideal in thought and deed, but the standard remains and lifts our hearts to God.

We repent of our failures, renew our vows, and continue. Only a human without sin could afford to cast a stone at another human and since the one without sin cast no stones, I certainly cannot.

Judging sin as sin is not judging a human being unless they choose to love their sin. Jesus did not stone the adulterer, but He told the sinner to stop sinning.

Christian love does not come with approval of actions: not for our children or anyone else. Christian love teaches solidarity with the weak and the poor, but also separation from those who choose to sin.

Jeremiah loved Jerusalem so much he would weep, but also prophesy her destruction. Paul urged the church to excommunicate sinful people. Jesus said love for the Good must be such that compared to love for anyone else (parent, spouse, child) would look like hate. The New Testament urges Christians to separate from Christians (though not pagans!) who live immoral lives.

I grew up with a Christian majority that would sacrifice personal relationships for the Truth. They did not always do this well or with the charity such a painful decision demands, but they acted.

If a Christian persisted in living in sin after being confronted, Christians had to let go of the relationship. We mortify our desires, even our desire to get along, for Christ.
We failed the ideal often, but tough love is still the Christian ideal.

Christians can only love anything “under God:” whether country, family, or cause.

Polls tell me that in some American communities a growing number view marriage as “sort of monogamous,” but this makes no sense to a romantic such as I am. Nobody made me vow “until death do us part,” it is what I wanted.

My failure is sin, but grace lets me try again.

The American majority used to agree that any homosexual activity was wrong. I have noticed no deep national discussion on the topic, but I have seen a growth in porn and a different view of marriage.

Today marriage is less a sacred act, governed by God, and more about desire: human love is the key, but for a Christian, bound by a Good God, divine Will is the key.

And yet now for a majority marriage is less a duty to God and more about “two people loving each other very much.” Marriage was mostly a religious activity encouraged by the state, but now it is viewed as a state activity often done in churches.

And so I am in the American minority, though not a global one, here too.

So be it. Best reason and personal experience do not suggest my quest for holiness would be served by changing standards.

The good news is that sexual morality, America’s dawning decadence, is not the whole story for my country. We do some things so much better. No Christian now defends the current slave trade and we are unified in leading opposition to it. Prostitution draws little support. Racism exists, but even an Obama voter like Paula Deen cannot survive public use of racist words.

No country is without problems and any “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” judgment on a nation is too complex for any human and must be left to God. When does a nations vices destroy her virtues?

I do not know and I think nobody does.

The government of the United States has long tolerated a minority group with stronger and (from the perspective of the majority) stranger religious beliefs than my own: the Amish. Surely a nation with room for thousands of Amish can make room for millions of American Christians to practice our faith in our private businesses, homes, and churches?

We will keep voting for traditional marriage, even if we always lose, because we think it is best for humanity. We will keep working to convert others to our point of view, but with charity toward our foes.

Meanwhile most nations growing rapidly in terms of population look at us with respect now mingled with disgust. Some like Nigeria have overreacted to their distaste and passed ugly laws.

Traditional Christians pray our future is controlled neither by the views of five Supreme Court justices or reactionaries in other nations.

As for “gay marriage,” I cannot get too upset about it since for a traditional Christian minority status came long ago on sexual practice. The conservative celebrity with multiple marriages is as poor an example as the one who lives with his lover without marriage. Gay marriage is a moral evil, it will not work, but we have already adopted moral evils that are not working and have yet to realize it.

Now we are engaged in a great experiment: traditional values will coexist with the new, but I am betting the long curve of history will side with chastity, monogamy, and traditional marriage.

For now, I will labor on as a citizen in a moral minority.

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