Friday, February 1, 2013

It Just Happened

I have been thinking more about the post I did on Evangelicals and Sex a little over a year ago. It was kind of spurred on by a comment by a guy calling himself Eaton that Leah Libresco quoted:
In that kind of environment, the idea of deliberately, actively, openly choosing sex -- owning up to it and telling your partner that you're ready -- is practically unthinkable. Pushing boundaries, both your own and your partner's, becomes the only way anyone gets laid, and over time it becomes normed. Protest, conflicted sex, and a veneer of regret functions as a sort of polite fiction, and many of the kids get what they want out of it. They have sex with their partner, and they don't feel quite as much guilt because they can convince themselves that "It Just Happened."
I think Eaton is an ex-evangelical so he has his biases but what he says rings true. I heard this as a protestant but my generation of protestants didn't really accept this kind of reasoning. I am not sure why we didn't. From what I understand the current generation of young evangelicals has embraced this kind of thinking big time.

What thinking? The idea that I can be a Christian and have sex before marriage. That my heart can be towards God and accepting His love and forgiveness and offering Him my obedience but I still remain sinful. So that sin might be premarital sex. In fact, it might be happening every weekend. It is kind of playing an "Oops, I did it again!" game with God.

So what is wrong with it? First of all, it is not honest, You are not really losing self control. You are not really desiring God above all things. You are trying to be holy but not too holy. Like St Augustine famously prayed, "Lord give me chastity but not yet!"

Beyond the honestly problem there is also a theology problem. The concept here is that the only thing that matters is intent. If my heart is in the right place then whether or not my body slips into the wrong place does not really impact my spiritual health so much. It kind of follows from faith alone. If faith alone is all that really matters then only sins against faith really matter.

When I was a young evangelical we didn't have the theology of mortal sin explicitly but we did have it implicitly. There was a sense that sexual sins were more serious and those who committed them were possibly not saved. So we lived a theology that was more true than the one in our creed. But apparently this has not stood up. Under the pressure of the sexual revolution we have seen this fall apart and premarital sex become quite common among evangelical single adults. They still say it is wrong and they still say they are serving God but a large majority admit they have had sex in the last year.

The theology problem goes deeper. In Catholic theology there is the sense of the spiritual harm and the spiritual good you can do to your own soul and to the souls of others. That can have eternal and temporal consequences. So your sin will set you back in your walk with God and it can cost you your salvation. It will set your partner back in their walk with God as well and it can cost him or her their salvation. You can cause scandal and can impact the many others spiritually. As a couple you become a source of confusion rather than a source of grace.

Evangelicals have some of this but it is not nearly as well developed or emphasized. They focus on the moment of initial conversion. The moment when you ask Jesus into your heart and become a Christian. If you acts don't directly impact that activity then the wider spiritual consequences are not really appreciated.

They do know that if you sow bad spiritual seed then bad things will result but private sins are not often talked about in that context. It is normally talked about in terms of a visible cause and effect. Works that are seen by others can have a positive or negative effect on how someone views Christianity. So there is the idea that if nobody knows about my lack of obedience in the bedroom then it won't matter. Catholic teaching makes much more clear that that idea is nonsense.

Anyway, I do think this is a big deal. Evangelicals have had a huge positive effect on the US. This data suggest the next generation of evangelicals won't have nearly as much spiritual strength. That is very bad for the United States and very bad for the world.

Promiscuous men tend to have less drive. They don't fight for what it good and true and right like a man should. They tend to become cynical about goodness and truth. They tend to accept nihilism without much argument. They tend to see pleasure as the only real good and pain as the only real evil.

Promiscuous women tend to have a low opinion of themselves. They see their beauty as something shallow. They tend to not want to give themselves to something that will bear fruit like themselves. They are more likely to end up being used and abused. Some are abused by the feminist movement. Some end up being abused by a man. It just becomes very hard to end up in a healthy loving relationship because you start out with degrading sex.

We have seen this dynamic in the secular world and it has been a disaster. So now evangelicals want to go there too. They could resist the evil for a generation or two but no longer. As always, the only hope for the world is the Catholic church. The evangelical road will become harder and harder. I wonder how many will come to the barque of Peter and how many will go down with the evangelical ship? We live in interesting times.

Ora pro nobis.


  1. Very true, however all studies I've seen show that Catholics tend to hold nearly identical beliefs and practices to the culture at large. The typical Catholic I know seems either not to know the faith, not to know that there's anything special about the faith (it's just one voice in many), are apathetic to the faith (Jesus is just one way to heaven...all that matters is that you're a good person...or at least no worse than me and anyone I care about)...or outright disagree with parts of the faith (the moral teachings haven't yet caught up with the times or the average Catholic).

    I'm not sure how we got to this state, but I'm convinced that the moral decline in Evangelicalism is directly the result of the mess in the Catholic Church. If even a third of the average Catholics knew and loved the faith with any seriousness, Catholics would be role models for society and politicians and the media wouldn't be able to get away with the sexual and moral corruption of society they do.

    While looking at the mess in other people's houses may help one's ego, there's much work we need to do to clean up our own house.

    As G. K. Chesterton once pointed out, "What's wrong with the world? I am."

  2. Catholics are another kettle of fish. They are not better. They are worse. I went into that more in the previous post. I do see the Catholic church getting better. I see a solid and growing core that gives me great hope. Evangelicalism looks the opposite to me. I was very optimistic about it 25 years ago when I was one. That optimism was based on a unity and strength I saw in a number of evangelical churches. Now I see the unity and strength needed are only possible in Catholicism.

    Positive information about Catholicism does not really show up on the studies. We are still a pretty small island in a sea of nominal Catholics. I see orthodoxy growing among the bishops and among the priests. There is reason to be excited.