Living in a secular age that confuses love’s depths with love’s heights, skeptics are justified in their appeal to sexual purity. It is the polar opposite of sexual sin, and it is because of sin that darkness can be confused with light. Moderns have managed to believe that cigarette tar causes lung cancer and that cholesterol causes heart disease, and yet they deny that sin causes death. For me, it takes more faith to believe in tar and cholesterol than to believe in sin. It takes microscopes and labs to see tar and cholesterol; I need only step out into the street to see sin.
When a man denies the existence of sin, his whole world is turned upside-down. Marriage is seen not as liberation but as limitation. Condoms and one-night stands feel more “safe” than common sense and fidelity. Marriage “threatens” one’s identity and sex “risks” children.
Right-side-up, a good marriage procures identity and sex bequeathschildren. Today’s ideal of autonomy screams, “I,” while Christian marriage sings, “We”—a whole and holy oneness.
Generally, contemporary culture has either caricatured romantic love under the promiscuous banner of “free sex,” or it has taken it far too seriously, deifying it with superlatives. Romance has been confused with sentimentalism, twisted into eroticism, or turned into a god. On this last point particularly, Christians have not been unaffected.
Contemporary Christianity has countered—although perhaps unintentionally—secular culture’s casual attitude toward sex with a religion of purity that has become startling—a chastity cult of sorts.
Meander through a Christian bookstore and you will find whole aisles dedicated to chastity; step into a church’s youth-group, and you will hear sermons acclaiming her; look at the hands of teenagers, and you will find rings testifying their loyalty to her. Among young adults, chastity has often become the major characteristic of Christian faith.
Personal experience has led me to conclude that when such a strong emphasis is placed on a particular aspect of holiness, it fringes idolatry. Odd regulations, practices and rituals begin to arise. Rule-books are written and seven-step outlines are drawn. Students start singing songs, start wearing rings and start dating girls and their parents.
Couples will march hand-in-hand under the troubadour banner of “courtship” and will not kiss until they are wed. Sex has become so holy that we wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Contemporary Christianity has put chastity on a pedestal fit only for gods.
The world worships sex by indulging; the church worships sex by abstaining; and both are guilty of giving sex undue reverence.
We should not live our lives in response to where the world falls short of holiness. Christianity is not defined by what it opposes but by what it promotes. Here we must not only “catch the foxes” but also “tend our vineyards.”
Godly romance does not fit into a 17th century corset or march to a 21st century “kiss dating goodbye” courting regime. If anything, it is wearing a sun-dress and dancing.
I am not discounting marital fidelity or premarital purity by any means. I am suggesting that rather than dogmatically organizing our relationships around chastity, Christian lovers should emphasize the very Figure of their faith and let the details of their relationships consequently fall in place.
Read it in the Hillsdale Collegian.