Last week Nancy stirred up a few of Lady Gaga’s “little monsters” by pointing out something that would seem painfully obvious — it’s simply wrong to equate the sexual self-indulgence Lady Gaga embodies with any virtue, much less the virtues of bravery or courage. We’ve apparently moved beyond characterizing sexual immorality as merely acceptable and now must view it as actually noble, as something praiseworthy.
It is undeniable, however, that certain sexual behaviors and lifestyles can be difficult — that some people are scorned, ridiculed, and even bullied. But does choosing to embrace a sexual sin make you courageous?
Let’s take a step back and think about the very definition of “courage.” If you look at the dictionary definition, the term is morally neutral — in essence, it’s the act of facing difficulty or danger without fear. According to the dictionary definition, both a bank robber and the police officer charged with stopping the crime are “courageous.” The robber is facing the danger of the law, while the officer is facing the danger of the robber. Yet that’s not how most people interpret the word (how many news stories begin, “Courageous bank robbers struck a downtown branch in a daylight heist . . .”) Most of us (quite properly) understand that godly courage requires us to face difficulty or danger for the sake of virtuous goals or purposes.
C.S. Lewis said that courage was not just one of the virtues, “but the form of every virtue at its testing point.” In other words, courage depends on and enables virtue. By that measure, I can’t call coming out (even though it is difficult for many) “courageous” because it is in almost every case a declaration of sinfulness and willful sinful activity. Not everything that’s difficult or challenging to do is “courageous” — especially when that difficult or challenging thing also happens to contradict God’s commands. If a husband breaks his marriage vows, alienates his friends, and runs off with the secretary, do we call that “courageous?” Why not? It’s hard to do, but he’s following his heart (like the culture tells us we must), and his action will cause an extreme counter-reaction from those closest to him. We might call that “audacious,” but not “courageous.”
To be clear, sin in one area of our lives of course does not preclude courage or bravery in other areas. Many gay men and women have courageously served our country, giving their lives for our freedom. Resisting a bully can require courage — regardless of the reason for the bullying. We’re all sinful, but we’re all — by God’s grace — capable of courage. But it doesn’t take “courage” to engage in extramarital sex. If it did, then your average frat house would supersede Parris Island as the proving ground for national greatness.