Destroying Myths about Sexual Purity

It’s difficult to pinpoint the origins of particular paradigms that surface under the wide umbrella of Christian thought. I remember the first time that I read the Bible all the way through—I expected to find all sorts of images of heaven and hell, the antichrist, the mark of the beast, the rapture, virginity, how sex was bad and rock and roll and alcohol were evil. My discovery was a bit different from what I expected. Now obviously these ideas aren’t pulled out of thin air. People do not typically come to conclusions about certain subjects for no reason at all. My surprise, however, was that nearly all of these hot topics that I had grown up hearing about had been sadly misrepresented by the Christian media.

Social media gives us an opportunity to see what people are saying around the world. I’m always intrigued by articles on sexuality written by Christians—simply because I honestly want to know what they’re going to say. As of late, these articles have become increasingly tricky—I would dare say, deliberately titled in an obscene fashion—in order to draw readers in. I Regretted Saving Myself for my Husband, or I’m Married and Seeing Another Woman, and various other related titles that people use to drive home a point about sexual practice or removing obstacles that prevent intimacy in your marriage. There have been some very good points made in some of these articles about the importance of striving for a healthy marriage relationship; I commend any Godly wisdom that people boldly share with world. Unfortunately, for every good article about sexuality, behind it we’ll find a dozen other articles that people repost that espouse ideas that have absolutely no root in Christianity. Most of these ideas people believe to be Biblical, because that is what the surrounding Christian culture has adopted and presented dogmatically. Where these ideas come from, I don’t know. But many of them do not find their roots in Scripture. What’s worse is that many of them feed the wrong ideas into people’s heads that actually hinder them understanding the gospel, or cause them to adopt pharisaical attitudes that Christ deliberately speaks against. Ask many Christians what they think about sexual purity, and you’ll probably find that their answers are rooted in pop culture—not the Bible. For starters I’m going to take one example that I’ve run across frequently in the church. Later on I may add additional blog posts on the topic, but for now we’ll start with one of the biggest myths:

Myth: A person who does not have sex before marriage is pure.

This is one of the most popular of the unbiblical views on sexuality. It does not take into account Christ’s teachings on lust, or the Biblical view of fallen man. Furthermore, it fumbles around when the subject of rape is presented, or pornography, or general human lust that doesn’t lead to sex. It seeks to create loopholes in a system of legality that looks a bit like this: “Well, this may have happened, but at least it wasn’t sex. So I’m pure.” In light of Christ’s teaching, this is bad thinking. It’s also bad theology. When humanity plunged into the darkness of sin, we literally took our gaze off of God and placed it onto his gifts as suitable objects of worship. Specifically, human sexuality became an object of corruption. We now find ourselves intrinsically impure; not simply because of what we practice, but because of what we desire. In light of the gospel, this idea of purity equating to virginity should be thrown out of the window. There is simply no connection. The bar that Jesus Christ holds humanity accountable to—the reality of the situation—is far too high for anyone to achieve. That’s the point. Pure people do not need a savior. The law acts as a mirror—by it you see the dirt on your face; but you do not use the mirror to clean off your face—you need someone to clean it off for you. That is where Christ steps into the picture.

So do we label a person with years of extensive pornography consumption, pure? Do we label someone with unrestrained lust, pure? Do we label victims of rape, impure? Do human beings start out pure and then become impure? It’s easy to get wrapped up in romantic ideas that have no foundation logically or theologically. I’ve been astonished by the belief of second-virginity­ which seems to, yet again, miss the point and place chastity on the throne of the human heart as if virginity was an end to itself. It’s a bit like saying “Cheer up, you’ve been ruined; but we weren’t keeping track that time.” The mind boggles. We’ve lied to thousands upon thousands of people by convincing them that the end goal of purity was purity itself. It cannot be said enough, that purity is a journey, and that the end of that journey and the reward of that journey is seeing God.

If we’re going to teach people about the Biblical perspective on sexuality, we need to take the emphasis off of the idea that no sex leads to purity. That’s both unhelpful and theologically bankrupt. Purity is itself a pursuit. When the Bible talks about purifying yourself—and if we specifically add sex to the equation— the result is that all sexual expression (that means lust in any form) finds its outlet exclusively in marriage, for the purpose of drawing nearer to God. The discussion could end there. Purifying yourself is cutting out things that are contrary to holiness that hinder us from seeing God. Pick a sin, any sin, and the reason to remove it from your life is always first and foremost to draw near God. When any virtue becomes an avenue for showing off our clean, little faces, it spoils itself as a result. This was the problem with the Pharisees, and it’s a millstone that many people in the church have tied around their neck.

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A Fate Worse than Believing in Santa Claus

If Halloween is the most controversial holiday in Christian circles, then Christmas arrives as a close second. The classic tug-of-war between right-winged Christians and liberals over the secularization of Christmas has attracted the attention of the media, and as a result, it has attracted the attention of the public eye. Noteworthy is the struggle over making Christmas  politically correct—which logically implies that something about Christmas presents itself as uneven or perhaps offensive. While there are many different factors at play that make Christmas controversial between different groups of people, perhaps few things are as controversial within Christian circles as the character of Santa Claus.

Santa is controversial, because to many, he is distracting from the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ. Generally, there seems to be three groups of people with different attitudes towards Santa: 1) The left—I want my children to believe in Santa; 2) the moderate—I don’t care if my children believe, but I certainly won’t press them in that direction; 3) the right—I don’t want my kids believing in Santa. Growing up, my parents took the moderate approach. They didn’t make much of Santa one way or another. Any belief I had in Santa was shot down the year that I saw my dad taking my new bike out of the attic—and I didn’t care because I was getting a new bike. But I have heard stories of people coming from the left who believed in Santa for some time, and once their parents revealed to them that Santa is a legendary figure, they stopped trusting their parents. I have also seen first-hand how the right reacts to the figure of Santa as being an insidious character, who acts as a deliberate snare to keep people from seeing the true meaning of Christmas. Perhaps not all of the right are really that extreme—there are positions on all ends of the spectrum. I would, however, like to address what I have seen as being the great red herring in the controversy of Santa Claus—which I believe that the right has chased after for some time.

In the opening statements of Francis Schaeffer’s Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer calls out the Christian community for being painfully slow (and often too late) to see the big picture. “Christians are only seeing things in bits and pieces,” he said. In order for us to understand the depth of certain issues, we need to always place our attention on the roots. The issue of Santa seems no different. We’re often simply focusing on the bits and pieces of Santa Claus as opposed to the full picture. My wife and I do not yet have children—and I am certainly not writing a post about how you should raise your children. What I am saying is that we need to understand that if all you concentrate on is removing the figure of Santa Claus, then you’ve fallen for the trap—you’ve only seen the bits and pieces, and not the bigger picture.

Imagine with me the bar scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton and Brad Pitt meet up after a suspected gas leak caused Norton’s apartment to explode—turning all of his possesses to ash and dust. Norton, a bit tipsy from his beer, is rambling about the loss of his possessions. “I was building quite a respectable wardrobe,” “I was almost complete.” “Yes,” says Brad Pitt, “and now it’s all gone.” Then, in a cold, but sincere voice, Pitt reminds him “The things you own, end up owning you.” The truth of the matter is that when we have the bigger picture in focus, we see that the issue isn’t so much Santa Claus, but materialism. If our goal is to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and we remove Santa Claus thinking that he is the root of the problem, then we’ve only caught the bits and pieces between our fingers. To raise a generation of kids who don’t believe in Santa Claus, yet place all of their hopes and dreams on acquiring material possessions, is to fail miserably as Christians. Materialism is the bigger picture—Santa Claus is the bits and pieces.

Whatever you choose to teach your kids about Santa Claus is left to your own convictions. I have little to say as a non-parent but my own opinions on the matter. However, the Bible has much to say about the love of possessions and money that distracts us from what is really important in life. It is an empirical fact, that materialism does not satisfy the craving of the human soul; that is where the true meaning of Christmas comes in. Do with Santa what you wish–but don’t slap a band aid on cancer thinking that the mere veiling of Santa Claus is the solution to the problem. The problem is far, far deeper. Santa Claus only makes an appearance once a year—materialism is closer than your shadow.

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:20)

Thoughts on Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Racism

In light of the death of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the events taking place in Ferguson and New York, I’ve felt compelled to pen down some of my reflections on these matters. Because the underlining issue is racism, I recognize that it is very important to approach this subject with great care. I also recognize my limited ability to understand and relate to exactly all that is taking place. However, I believe that the root of the issue is something everyone should be familiar with, and I hope to shed a little more light on what I consider mostly to be the heart of the issue.

In the movie Batman Begins, the crime lord Carmine Falcone is confronted by an indignant Bruce Wayne who boldly asserts that there are people in Gotham who aren’t afraid to stand up against Falcone. This brief exchange between Wayne and Falcone would be the very thing that would push Bruce over the edge, and would convict him to immerse himself in a life of poverty and petty crime in order to better understand that way of life. The dialog between Falcone and Wayne climaxes with a statement that I believe makes this scene in Batman Begins the greatest scene in the movie.

Falcone: “You think because your mom and your dad got shot that you know about the ugly side of life—but you don’t. You’ve never tasted desperate. You’re Bruce Wayne, the prince of Gotham; you’d have to go a thousand miles to meet someone who didn’t know your name! So don’t come down here with your anger trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world you’ll never understand—and you’ll always fear what you don’t understand.”

Earlier this year I took a university class on the civil rights movement. I was, by far, a minority in a very large classroom. As we studied through the issues of racism in the past, we eventually arrived at the issue of racism in the present. This gave me the opportunity to hear what some of the black students had to say about the subject of racism in our contemporary society. As the semester progressed, students would become more comfortable speaking from their hearts. I had witnessed two opposite extremes: some students were extremely collected in their approach to racist issues, while other students were indignant to the point of renouncing responsibility for any violence carried out towards those who were racists. It goes without saying that as a white student this was an enlightening experience for me. There were several times that I felt very uncomfortable, but it was the kind of uncomfortable I needed to feel. But I couldn’t help but notice that there was a serious problem that wasn’t being addressed as we talked through the subject of racism. It was similar to the problem I had written about a year prior on the topic of Islamophobia in America, and yet it another dimension to it.

First and foremost the problem of racism is a problem of human nature. Much like Islamophobia, we fear what we don’t understand. Many people would likely be cured by Islamophobia if they simply lived next to a Muslim family. To some extent, the problem of racism takes a similar vein. If all we picture when we think of another races are bad personal experiences (which have nothing to do with race to begin with), or negative images projected by the media, then our view is going to be horribly warped. If everyone lived next to people who were different from themselves, racism might become less of an issue.

When I was 19, I moved into a house with two of my friends in a predominantly black neighborhood on a bad side of town. I also attended a community college where I was a minority on campus. Yes, we saw crime. Yes, we heard gunshots. Yes, I had witnessed drug deals. We’re also fairly certain that the house across from us was housing prostitutes before it was excavated. But these are not issues of race. These are issues of poverty. There is nothing intrinsically black about any of these things. Unfortunately, media plays a large role in attributing these things to blacks. When a people group or race becomes continuously paired with certain sounds or images, they begin to become guilty by association. But as much as the media contributes to racism, it is not the biggest contributor—human beings are. And it is for this reason that even though we might live next to people who are different from us, we may still judge them differently.

It is the dream of the pluralistic society to be able to celebrate differences in people groups. But much like communism—which is built on the unification and goodness of man—the fatal flaw in the system is that human beings do not tend to act that way. We don’t celebrate differences; we tend to fear or act condescending towards them. We fear what we don’t understand, and we tend to not like differences. In an ideal world we could celebrate differences—but that is seldom the world we live in. Why? Because of human nature. This is not merely a socioeconomic issue. The roots run far deeper.

So what is the solution?

Recently the movement to end sex trafficking has reached new heights of awareness. This is a wonderful thing, and we should do everything in our power right against it. But we need to make sure that we aren’t being naïve—we will never completely end sex trafficking. It is a sad part of human nature to exploit others, and we will always need to combat it. The same could be said about racism. It is very likely that there will always be racism. It is a sad part of the human experience. The only way I could see racism beginning to fade away is if we’re able to simply look at human beings as human souls. As always, the gospel plays a vital role in how we see people. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). It is through the lens of the gospel that we see are able to adopt the image of human beings through the eyes of Christ. There are no intrinsic differences between humans. Through the gospel, we are all the same.

Often times, the more time we spend focusing on peoples differences (even if we’re trying to celebrate them), the more we begin to see people as different. Hitler had to dehumanize the Jews before he could attempt exterminate them. African American slavery dehumanized blacks in order to use them. Seeing people as merely different does not really solve the heart of the problem. We must see all people as being made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and remember that “we are but souls inhabiting bodies.”