1248) On the Wrong Side of History?

Two articles from http://www.breakpoint.org:  the first by Eric Metaxas, posted September 8, 2016; the second by Chuck Colson, posted October 10, 2014.

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PROGRESSIVELY REGRESSIVE SEXUALITY

     Sexual progressives claim to be ushering in a “brave new world” of freedom.  But their “new” morality is as old as the hills.

     How often have you heard sexual progressives claim that those of us who hold to traditional sexual morality and marriage are “on the wrong side of history?”

     But as one new book points out, it’s the proponents of the sexual revolution who are embracing a sexual morality that history left behind millennia ago— in the dusty ruins of the Roman Forum.

     Yes, today Western civilization is undergoing a dramatic cultural shift.  In just a few short years our society has fundamentally altered the meaning of marriage, embraced the notion that men can become women, and is now promoting the idea that grown men should be welcome to share a bathroom with women and young girls.  Not unexpectedly, we’re also seeing movement toward the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, and incest.

     It’s precisely in times like this that we need some historical perspective.  Which is why Lutheran pastor Matthew Rueger’s new book, Sexual Morality in a Christless World, is a timely godsend.  In it, Rueger shows how Christian sexual morality rocked the pagan world of ancient Rome.  The notions of self-giving love, sexual chastity, and marital fidelity were foreign, even shocking to the people of that time.

     Citing existing scholarship, Rueger details the Roman sexual worldview that prevailed for hundreds of years.  Women and children were viewed as sexual objects; slaves— male and female– could expect to be raped; there was widespread prostitution; and predatory homosexuality was common.  Christian sexual morality might have been seen as repressive by the licentious, but it was a gift from God for their victims.

     Rueger writes that “Claims in our day of being progressive and moving forward by accepting the ‘new prevailing views on sexuality and same-sex marriage’ are horribly misinformed … Contemporary views about sexuality are simply a revival of an older and much less loving view of the world.”

     But they are also a revival of an older and impoverished view of human beings.  Imagine the reaction of a pagan Roman slave girl who learned for the first time that she had value— not monetary value as a piece of goods to be enjoyed or discarded by her owner— but eternal value because she was made in the very image of God.

     Or imagine the pang of conscience felt by an unfaithful Roman husband when he learned that God became incarnate, and took on human flesh, and that how he treated his own body and the bodies of others mattered to God.  Mattered immensely.

     Folks, we can’t look away and ignore this unholy revival of pagan sexuality and its cheapened view of human beings.  But we also can’t wring our hands in fear or throw them up in defeat.  As Rueger points out, Christ and His Church radically transformed a far more sexually cruel and chaotic world than ours.

     Look to those ancient believers who went before us:  Rather than succumbing to or accommodating the spirit of the age, new converts in the early Church came to understand, as Rueger writes, that “Christian morality is based on Christ’s all-encompassing purity and self-emptying love… Christians could no longer live as the Greeks or Romans.  Their worldview and self-view was distinctly different.  They were now one with Christ in heart and soul.”

     Now, their distinctiveness, as Rueger writes, “would not spare them from suffering; it would invite suffering.”  It’s pretty clear now that the same holds true for us.  Will we bend the knee to this revived pagan sexuality, or will we hold out to a needy world the freedom of God’s plan for human sexuality?

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JUDAISM’S SEXUAL REVOLUTION;  WHY JUDAISM REJECTED HOMOSEXUALITY

     So often we hear that allowing two men or two women to marry won’t hurt anyone, and certainly not “straight” people.  Well, the truth is, we already know what happens when a society promotes sexual license and devalues marriage.  We just have to look at history.

     Way back before anyone was talking about so-called “gay marriage,” radio talk show host and Jewish theologian Dennis Prager wrote a fascinating article called —  get ready for this —  “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality.”

     Before the Jews were placed in the Ancient Near East, the pagan world was already a sexual free-for-all that debased women, boys, and religion itself in the service of male lust.  Every aspect of life was sexualized.  The pagan gods engaged in no-holds-barred sex, and so did the people.  Homosexuality had almost unquestioned acceptance in the ancient world.

     But the key issue wasn’t gender, it was power.  Prager quotes philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who wrote, “The central distinction in [ancient] sexual morality was … between active and passive roles.”  Because boys and women were on the receiving end of sexual activity, they were “very often treated interchangeably as [simple] objects of [male] desire.”

     Not surprisingly, then, women were relegated to the sidelines, important for giving birth and running the home, but not important as real and equal partners to men, who had other sexual options —  with boys and other men.

     That’s why Judaism’s claim that God created sex only for a man and a woman in marriage was so revolutionary — and despised by ancient pagans and modern pagans, I might add, as well.  As Genesis said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

     Prager writes, “This revolution forced the sexual genie into the marital bottle.  It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, it heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and it began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.”  No wonder,” Prager notes, that the “improvement of the condition of women has only occurred in Western civilization,” which historically has been the “least tolerant of homosexuality.”

     Of course, I should note that it was the Apostle Paul who further carried this Jewish sexual revolution throughout the ancient world.  As Sarah Ruden wrote in her recent book Paul Among the People, predatory homosexuality was common in Rome and Greece; women and children were just property.

     Through Paul, however, Christianity ensured that western civilization promoted sex within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman, and placed off limits the sexual abuse of boys and slaves.

     Now the point is simply this:  God instituted marriage for the good of man (restraining and channeling his sexuality), for the protection and dignity of women, and the flourishing of human society.

     Western civilization, the greatest ever, took this to heart, but forgets it now at its own peril.

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Matthew 19:4-6  —  “Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Romans 1:21-22a  —  Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

Romans 1:24  —  Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator— who is forever praised.

Romans 1:26-27a  —   Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.

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O God, you command us not to commit adultery.  May we so fear and love you that in matters of sex our words and conduct are pure and honorable, and that husband and wife may love and respect each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Prayer based on 6th commandment and its meaning in the The Small Catechism by Martin Luther

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