It’s been a fascinating few weeks of watching the daily dismantling of the facade of social order and goodness in Hollywood and in politics. Every day another man stands accused and myriad women come forward to tell of ugliness and harm. If you thought the Ashley Madison scandal was bad (which I did), you’re probably numb by now.
I’ve had two thoughts clattering around all week about this. Neither of them are novel nor particularly insightful. But sometimes saying again the most obvious thing is the only way.
The first is that the social contract upon which human civilization ought to be built is life long faithful Christian marriage between one man and one woman. It is very interesting to me that it’s Christians who have clung so tightly to this idea that have been so successfully marginalized and ridiculed, even by other so called Christians. The most ridiculous thing today is to say that there should be no sexual activity for anyone outside of life long, heterosexual faithful marriage. How dumb. How naive. How benighted, scream the angry throngs.
In fact, the thing no one wants to gamble on is marriage. That risk is too great. It’s for life, they cry, and what if I change my mind? And yet every day ordinary people rush into the risky proposition of sex untethered to anything except their changeable feelings at that singular moment. There won’t be any problem, they think. The social contract is If I Want It, It Will Be Ok.
Except that when a stronger person with power or money, or just a bizarre confidence in his own personality wants it, it doesn’t matter what the weaker woman wants. Or young boy. Or young girl. Or anyone who can’t get out of the room fast enough and is stuck, prey, victim to male sexual depravity.
Hugh Hefner and all his acolytes successfully made a mockery of a social contract that, far from being repressive, honored and protected not just the strong person, but the weak one as well. A man who understands that in order to get the one thing he most wants he must get out of bed, get a job, put on some clean clothes, speak kindly, earn money, and sacrifice himself always for her good, comfort and joy, begins to see that what he most wants isn’t just a few minutes of selfish pleasure, but another person in all the glory of herself. He might not see it right away. But as the years and the troubles mount up he will see that who he is is made stronger and better by her. Respect, honor and love grow. She is not his servant but rather he is hers.
Christian marriage is grounded in the personhood of both parties, of them both being made by God in his own image. Or it should anyway. That’s one of the things that it’s for.
The second thing I’ve been thinking is that while the law of Christian marriage is good and useful for protecting women and children, for civilizing men and channeling who they are into honor and goodness, the Christian gospel of grace, also much maligned, is too precious to cast aside.
If you’re a famous man–a politician or a comedian or a movie star–and it comes out that you’ve abused and hurt women and young girls and young men, you can go on twitter and make a confession. You can admit to what you’ve done. You can even take all 280 characters to do it. But then what? Alarmingly to me, there doesn’t seem to be anything else. The world can respond to your confession, usually with revulsion, but then there’s really no way out for you. You have to retreat into the horror of yourself and what you’ve done.
This is a great tragedy. Confession requires the part that comes after to make the world go round and round. But our culture, turning its head to look always into the mirror, and never onto the page, has taken away this great and necessary gift.
Can a person who has done something unspeakable ever be restored to life? I’m not talking about coming back into the public eye and resuming a place of greatness and honor. I’m not talking about papering over the pain, the humiliation, the trauma. I’m not talking about trying to just make everything ok so we can go back to watching movies or voting in the next election. I’m talking about the foundational element of the universe, the reason we are all still here instead of burning up on a ball of fire. I’m talking about forgiveness.
Forgiveness is when you acknowledge the truth about what’s happened, you look at it squarely, and then you let the other person go free. It is costly and painful because it means absorbing the bitter sting of injustice and injury into yourself and not letting it live any longer in the heart or anywhere. In the case of Jesus, it meant absorbing the totality of human violence and degradation in his own body unto death.
It’s not easy. But it’s the only way to go on into life. If you confess your sins honestly, God, who is both faithful and just, will forgive your sins, even taking away the cruel and deadly stain of unrighteousness. When you go to him, he helps you to stop doing what you’re doing. If you’ve been hurt terribly, and you go to him, he can give you his own strength to move past what’s happened.
We’re in a terribly sick place culturally. But God is greater than our darkness. And considering again the flung aside solution that he provides for our wickedness, pain, and despair might be humiliating in the moment, but ultimately, is the only way to be healed our spiritual and cultural diseases.