Monday, June 29, 2015

Everybody's Doing It

Why Not I?
(That's "me" for those who didn't have strict English teachers.)

When I was a boy (yes, I am sounding increasingly like an old man because that is what I increasingly am), I never found the argument, "Everybody else is doing it" an effective argument. You got answers like, "If everybody else was running straight into hell, would you follow them?" This was the answer for everything from, "Everybody's going skating Friday night," to "Everybody's going to the dance," (this really was getting on the path to hell) to "Everybody's gets to use the car on weekends." 

I note that everybody else is commenting on the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, so why not I?

Can the church survive the decision? Of course, it not only can but will. It may have fewer numbers or lose tax exemptions, but it will be more distinct from society, there will be less civil religion, Christians will be forced to decide if being a Christian means anything significant, and we will see ourselves more as as exiles living in Babylon than as Jewish believers living in apostatising Judah. To put it in another way, we will live in a context more like that of the Apostolic Church in the Empire than the Elizabethan Church in  England. The church will survive as it has for 2000 years in different places and in varying circumstances. 

The question that troubles me is, Can western civilization survive? There are many things that feed my natural pessimism. Multiculturalism that insists that all cultures are equal. Postmodernism that teaches that all truth is perception. Obsession with race that is destroying what little unity remains in American society. All these things are triumphant in the universities, ascendant in public education, and increasingly influential in the church.  

With regard to the Court decision we face questions such as: Can a civilization long exist that not only tolerates but approves homosexual practice? That undermines the family structure which seems necessary to societal stability? That turns on their heads both the historic understanding of marriage and the confidence that language has meaning? I loathe the disintegration of western civilization as an intellectual tradition and the possible loss of the societal, civil, and political benefits it has produced. God will work out his purposes with or without western civilization and the western democracies, but I have to wish he would work his purposes with them.

There, I've done what everybody's doing. I have expressed an opinion about the SCOTUS decision. Now I want to turn to another sense of "everbody's doing it" that I think in part led to the decision - sex.

It seems to me that what opened the door to the demand for "marriage equality" for homosexual couples is the fact that marriage itself has long been in the process of becoming meaningless. The world of the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" which existed in high school for my generation (more evidence of my advanced age) is almost impossible to imagine - even among Christian young people.

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new?
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do
We could be married
And then we'd be happy

Today everybody's doing it without marriage. To be sure a lot of people were doing it in my youth, including Christian kids. If they were doing it, they might talk about doing it with their close friends, and, if they lacked class, brag about it to their buddies. But they knew they were going against social morality, and if they were a Christians, against God's and the church's morality. As the Beach Boys' song reveals, marriage still meant something. If we were older and could get married, we wouldn't have to wait so long.

If a guy and his girlfriend got caught up in the passion of "making out", and they "did it",  they knew they had "messed up" or "gone too far." Their consciences bothered them, at least for awhile. The concept of immorality testified to the existence of morality. Pretending you hadn't done it and pretending you were virgins on your wedding day was the homage that vice did to virtue, that wrong did to right.

For a long time now, marriage has not been a state-sanctioned (and to some extent-state regulated) permanent relationship consummated by sexual intercourse. Now a wedding is just a ceremony and and a party. It's a spectacle that means at most, "Of the people I have had sex with, including this one, I sort of plan not to have sex anymore with anyone but him/her."  Marriage is not the gateway to sex. People open that gate long before marriage. 

So you have sex with whomever you wish (so long as he/she is willing) whenever you want in all the places available to you without marriage - not your car on lover's lane but your dorm room, a hotel, your apartment, maybe your bedroom in your parent's home. If you really like each other, move in and see what it's like. If you get pregnant and don't want to avail yourself of your right to an abortion, have the baby. Someday, if for whatever reason(s) you decide you want to get married, go ahead, but the day before marriage and the day after marriage are no different, except that the day before you were in your home together and the day after at a resort together. There are no blushing brides and no elbowing the groom in the ribs after the honeymoon and slyly asking, "Well, how was it?" And if you don't like the way it works out, see your friendly divorce attorney who can fix that for you.

This affects Christian young people. Some live according to the new standards. They have sex, move in together, probably avoid having a child, and go to church and Bible study and prayer groups. But, even if they do not adopt the new ways themselves, they do not disapprove of those who do. As they see it, everybody's got to make their own decisions about these things. At all costs, we must be accepting and tolerant. We must avoid judgmentalism - even if judgmentalism does not mean shunning and condemning but simply asserting that standards exist and that all sex outside marriage is wrong. "Things have changed since your day, Dad." "The world's different now, Mom."

I cheekily said, "Homosexuals want to marry for moral reasons. They don't want to have sex before marriage." Well, no. Primarily they want to make a point and compel society to recognize their relationship.  Morality and marriage have very little to do with one another. It's the meaninglessness of heterosexual marriage that creates the logic of homosexual marriage. 

What does marriage mean when everybody's doing it? 


melissa said...

Very well said. Thanks so much. Now, on a personal note, of our eight children (homeschooled and raised in the church), one of our sons lives with his girlfriend who's in the sex trade and another son says he's gay. We're still reeling. You've stated the current 'trend' very well. Wish our children could see the error of their very dangerous ways. Postmodern says it all. :(

Liz said...

Do you think that church-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman will be given it's own name to distinguish it from state unions? Could a movement come out of this that would champion the value of a family unit where couples vow to truly stay together until they die? What is the message Christians need to send that shows compassion yet takes a stand for marriage as God set forth? People want this topic to be about "love" and it is easy to be perceived as anti-love if you don't agree with the prevailing sentiment.