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man standing reading BibleThe Word is true: “… Male and female He created them.”  But in hastily skipping ahead to “and they shall become one flesh,” we miss God’s description of what it means to be a man or a woman.  This is a costly omission for us all; most certainly for our unmarried sons and daughters.  But there is someone else who has been harmed by withholding God’s word on manhood and womanhood.  That person is our neighbor who struggles in a fallen world with the reality of same-sex attraction.

My neighbor (I shall call him David) is humbled by what he knows is an unnatural attraction.  Although “gay,” he does not want to parade with pride.  David was catechized by Christian parents who offer unconditional love.  He believes God’s Word that places sex within the boundaries of one man, one woman marriage.  But, David wonders, where does a person like me fit?  What does being “gay” mean for my future?  What about marriage and a family?  To me, however, the most heart-piercing of David’s questions is this: What about friendships with other men?

“Sometimes,” David explains, “I look at another man and am attracted to an attribute of his that I wish I had.  I don’t know, perhaps I am jealous.  But here’s the thing.  My self-centeredness and envy of that guy’s admirable qualities tempt me to imagine a sexual bond, but might my feelings actually be those of brotherly love and admiration?”

David is exposing a vulnerability.  He is pointing out how vulnerable any of us can be when we focus exclusively on human sexuality but remain awkwardly silent about biblical manhood and womanhood.

David is one of the compelling reasons why I authored The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity.  Too many in the church insist that we talk early and long about the wonders of sexual intimacy between a husband and wife in the faithfulness of marriage.  This, I’ve been told, will help remedy the problems of premarital sex, teen pregnancy, and divorce.  But it has not!  Nor has it made a place at the family table for our brothers like David who struggle with unwanted desires.

If David had his prayer answered the way he’d like, his same-sex attraction would be cured and his burden lifted.  He does not embrace unnatural inclinations.  He knows he cannot act on his feelings and be at peace with God.  But how, then, can David live… with himself, in relationship with the Man Jesus Christ, and in relationship with other men?  How can we help?

First, we welcome David to the table of the human family where the Body of Christ can remind David that he is so much more than a sexual being.  He is created to be a man: steward of all that God has made, bearer of the Word of life, and leader away from death.  How do we know this?

Before God created Eve and brought her to Adam as his wife, He “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Although the work is made more difficult outside the Garden in a sinful world, man is still called to be the good steward over God’s creation.  The “Lord God also commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (2:16-17). Adam’s failure to remember and obey brought sin into the world.  In this fallen world, God’s perfect design and rhythm of life are distorted; nevertheless, God’s order of creation stands.  Man is still entrusted with the responsibility of bringing order out of chaos by speaking the Word of life and leading away from destruction and death.  This is David’s call from God.  It is his first vocation.

We can help David focus on the identity bestowed upon him at Baptism.  God does not identify him as “gay,” “homosexual,” or even “heterosexual.”  We all struggle with sinful desires, but because of our Baptism, they do not define us nor do they have to enslave us.  We were “far off” from God, but in Baptism, we are “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).  We are “washed … sanctified …  justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Co. 6:11).  We can cry “Abba!  Father!” because “you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7; Ti. 3:5-8).

At Baptism, the sign of the cross is made over us to indicate that we are redeemed by Christ the crucified.  We have His mark on us.  We are baptized, not in the water of sexuality, but in the water of pure Word and through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are called not to ways of weak flesh, but to holy and noble purpose.  We are encouraged not to glorify self, but to glorify Jesus Christ who makes us children of God.

We can remind David that his Baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).  Even as Baptism cleans the sinner, it gives strength to be different from the world and restrain our own fickle desires.  Through daily contrition and repentance, the Old Adam in us is drowned and dies with all wrong thoughts and desires.  A new person in Christ rises up to live before God in righteousness and purity (Rm. 6:4).

We can remind David that sons and heirs of God are not promised an easy life.  Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  We are promised the Holy Spirit who helps (Jn. 14:26) and intercedes for us (Rm. 8:26).

We can grieve with David.  The mistaken identity of “sexual being” and exaggerated place of sexuality misleads and often destroys the godly relationships of men with women, men with men, and women with women.  What is to become of us if we find a friend of the same sex—someone who is patient, kind, and selfless—but confuse lust with brotherly affection?  It is a dystopian world when boys and girls are mentored in all things sexual, but actually grow up fearing masculinity and femininity because they are untrained in biblical manhood and womanhood.

We can rejoice with David.   God created us to be relational people but, because He did not make sexuality central to being human, we can relate to one another in non-sexual ways.  Yes, my friend David!  You can admire the attributes of another man without sensual implications.  That’s because mature manhood (and womanhood) is about relating to one another in light of our baptismal identity.  As brothers and sisters, God wants us to be what He created us to be: holy people who live our daily lives as male or female not just in marriage, but in familial and social relationships, in school, at work, and in worship.  We do not need sexual intimacy to be a man or a woman, but men and women do need to be relational.

We can assure David that the Tenth Commandment has something to say to single men and women.  We are not supposed to covet “anything that is your neighbor’s.”  This includes our neighbor’s sexuality.  Marriage is the sacred place for all things sexual, but being a husband or a wife in this fallen world is a vocation for some and not for others.  It is important for the Body of Christ to see each member as fully human as opposed to sexual and, therefore—whether young or old, married or single—“a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2:21).

We can encourage David to practice self-control which, evidenced by the Apostle Paul (1 Co. 7:7), is a gift.  With the gift of self-control comes order and strength for life.  Mature manhood and womanhood receive the gift of self-control and are not dependent upon sexual intimacy.  Chaste singleness is not an affliction nor is it lessening of personhood; rather it, too, is a vocation and way to serve God and our neighbor in a way different from marriage.

We can point David to the Man Jesus Christ.  Jesus was fully human.  He was true man.  Yet, only in error would we identify Jesus as a “sexual being.”

We can assure David that Jesus has something to say about human identity being far more than sexual.  Jesus says there is no marriage in heaven (Mt. 22:30).  Therefore being sexual, that is, capable of sexual activity, is not part of what it means to be human after the resurrection.   If it is not part of our divinely created human identity in the resurrection where everything will be made perfect, then it is not the central part of our divinely-created identity here and now.

God tells His beloved human creation to abstain from sensuality.  But He does not tell us to abstain from being male or female.  We don’t do battle with the attributes of manhood or womanhood, but with “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry …” (Gal. 5:16-24). To be lovers, that is, to share sexual intimacy and literally fit together as “one flesh,” is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman. But to be male or female is not bound by marriage.  Each is a vocation or calling for daily use in glorifying God.

In Christ, we can fully engage in our vocations of manhood and womanhood in ways that will not bring shame on the Day of the Lord (1 Jn. 2:28).  We can think, work, create, serve, communicate, encourage, problem-solve, mentor, build relationships, and practice agape love.  This is truth with promise for those who bear the cross of same-sex attraction but don’t want to parade with pride.

The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity

is available from Amazon.com
(image credit: westminpca)

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rainbow flagIt’s likely that we have Christian neighbors, family or church members who celebrate the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Perhaps we know because they have publicly “waved” a rainbow flag on Facebook.  How can we respond?

As an ezerwoman designed by God to be a helper, I would like to pass on some questions that Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition has carefully shaped. If asked with kindness and respect, these questions might help brothers and sisters in Christ to slow down and think about the rainbow flag they are flying. Here are 20 of Kevin DeYoung’s questions. (You will find all 40 at The Gospel Coalition.)

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

2. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

3. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

4. Why did Jesus reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

5. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

6. Do you believe the passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

7. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

8. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

9. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

10. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

11. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

12. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

13. Does the end purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

14. How would you define marriage?

15. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

16. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? If not, why not?

17. If “love wins” (as some say it did with the Supreme Court decision), how would you define love?

18. What [Scripture] verses would you use to establish that definition?

19. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

20. How has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?

 

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grandparents & grandchildrenAs a grandmother, it is difficult—no, impossible—to stomach the arrogance of those who seek to make marriage what it isn’t.
Each of us is alive today because of fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who believed in and practiced the “one flesh” union of what only God can define as marriage.

We live, breathe, speak, relate, and contribute to this big world because of the Masterly design and institution of marriage. If there are no complications, the flesh of one man joined with the flesh of one woman creates the flesh of a child–new life! For that, a son or daughter can be forever grateful.

How can a society thrive if two men or two women set up housekeeping and call it “marriage”? What vitality is there in this unnatural pairing? Sure, it may produce certain emotions (“I feel so loved!” “I am so happy!”), but it is the “one-flesh,” male/female pairing in real marriage that produces generational fruit even as it perseveres with patient, kind, and selfless love.

Those who practice same-sex pairing and call it good exist because of those of us who do not. They can continue to define marriage as “two people who love each other,” but marriage isn’t really about love. It is about commitment—one man and one woman to each other and (should God bless their “one flesh” union with new life), that father and mother to their son or daughter.

Even the Greeks, with their tolerance of “man-boy love,” knew that marriage was the bedrock for family and society. When young men grew up, they were expected to marry a woman and father sons and daughters. Aristotle and others understood a “natural law” and the importance of building up rather than tearing down.

For our society to thrive, we need men and women who (pardon me) do it the old-fashioned way: in their marital bed, by design of God, acknowledged by man, and with commitment to birthdays and anniversaries to come.

 

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supreme court gavelThis morning, when I woke up, nothing had changed. God is still in heaven and the Supreme Court of the United States is not.

Yesterday, June 26, 2015, a majority of nine men and women in black robes made an attempt to redefine marriage, but they cannot. God created marriage, therefore, only He can define marriage. That is just the way it is.

This morning, when I woke up, nothing had changed. I am still living in a fallen world moaning under the weight of sin. Here in this world, my neighbor might choose to call his dog a cat. But when he tells me I must do the same, I cannot join him in calling something what it is not.

Some of us may feel completely unnerved and shaken to the core. We ask: What now? How shall we live?

In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy and for any reason. Black-robed judges made an attempt to redefine the killing of an unborn child, but they cannot. Some church-attending folks decided to accept the court’s decision and tolerate a practice they did not “personally support” so that women could have “the right to choose.” But many of us never accepted the decision even though we embraced the women who mourned their aborted children.

That is how it is in this world. Until Jesus comes to take us from this earthly place to our heavenly home, we will see wrong things called “right,” evil marketed as “good,” and what is contrary to nature called “normal.” That is how it is in this world when the truth of God is exchanged for a lie (Ro. 1:24-27).

So, how shall the people of God live here on earth under the court of this nation?

  • With continued trust in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some may say the Court’s ruling will draw down divine judgment; others may say the ruling is divine judgment but either way, we are called to a life faithful to God in every circumstance.
  • As people of God unafraid to be set apart or different as we speak what Jesus Himself said about marriage from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6) and live in a way that may cause others to ask: Why do you do what you do?
  • With confidence that marriage is not government recognition of two people who love each other, but the complimentary union of one man and one woman. We can literally say that in this union part of man flesh joins with part of woman flesh to become the one flesh of a new life. This new life— son or daughter—is not the by-product of a sexually romantic relationship, but the connector of mom and dad in the institution created by God for that child’s benefit.
  • As men and women who strive to honor the covenant of our own marriages and seek after the best interests of generations of children.
  • As people who affirm the sanctity of all human life, including those who see themselves as gay, and who love our neighbor as ourselves, speak well of him, and no matter the disagreements, discuss everything in a kind and thoughtful way.
  • As praying people who ask God to turn hearts toward Him and nurture a desire to rebuild a culture of marriage and life.

Suggested reading:
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
(Amazon.com) Our Identity Matters

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Mussmann Anna croppedAnna Mussmann and I have never met.  So it was with great surprise that I received the following review of my book from her blog Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife.

Linda Bartlett has worked in the pro-life movement for years. Among other positions, she has served as the national president of Lutherans For Life and as chairman of the LCMS Sanctity of Life Task Force. As a pro-life leader; a mentor of young women; an instrumental participant in the launch of Word of Hope, a post-abortion ministry; and a parent, she has come to believe that the foundational philosophical approach behind modern sex education is in utter conflict with Scripture. This month, I read her book, The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity: Questions and Answers for Christian Dialogue.

Initially, I found myself somewhat resistant to her message. Two issues distracted me. One was my own background. After growing up in a homeschooling community that included a large number of fundamentalist families who tried to “ensure” their children’s purity by rejecting the world entirely, I have seen overly-controlling parents and overly-sheltered (adult) children. There was no outward immodesty, no dating, and no “sex education” in these households. I remember one woman whose son wanted to become a doctor. She would not agree to his going to medical school because there is “so much nudity” there, and she hoped that he could find a nude-free, apprenticeship route to medical training with a Christian physician. These families sought protection from sin through ignorance, and their legalistic attempts did not usually work out as they hoped. Because of all this, I was hesitant when Mrs. Bartlett argued that children ought not to receive “sex education.” I even shied away from her use of the word “purity.” After all, we and our children are all sinners. How can we be “pure?” However, as I completed the book, I came to realize that what Mrs. Bartlett advocates is different from the errors I saw growing up. Mrs. Bartlett’s arguments are insightful, thoughtful, counter-cultural, and deeply important to parents and to the church as a whole. Her writing is well-worth your consideration.

She argues that the modern understanding of sexuality (itself a loaded modern term) is the result of “sexual social engineering” based upon the discredited and deeply flawed research (some of it involving shocking child abuse) of sexologist Alfred Charles Kinsey. Due to Kinsey and his followers, the world has accepted the idea that human beings are “sexual from birth” and that sexuality (as opposed to sex, in the sense of being male or female) is key to each person’s identity. Believing that these arguments (and all that they imply) were proven science, the church changed its approach to sex, sexuality, and human identity and sought to provide a Christian version of the same flawed sex education that became universal in the public sector. This, Mrs. Bartlett says, was a well-meant but tragic mistake.

She points out that, while God created humans as male and female, Jesus also said that there is no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven. We know that we will not lose our humanity or our identity in heaven. Therefore, our “sexuality” is not essential to our humanity and identity. When we focus only on our sexual identity instead of our identity as a man or a woman, we lose out on the broader picture of who we are. She says, “We are fully human—male or female—whether we are a child or an adult, whether we are married or single,” and that, “To accept that children are human beings and therefore sexual beings is to accept wrong teaching that leads to wrong practice. It bestows a mistaken identity that compromises faith and purity.”

When Christian parents and Christian teachers believe that their children are sexual beings, they teach the wrong things at the wrong time. Instead of focusing on teaching children what it means to live out the vocation of man or a woman in the broad sense (and providing appropriate sexual information in one-on-one conversations at appropriate times), sex is overemphasized. Children are placed in mixed-gender classrooms away from their parents and told how to have sex, how to prevent physical side-effects of sex, that sex is wonderful, and that they will no doubt think about it a great deal and want to have it, but that they must wait for marriage. Twelve years of sex education, added to an oversexed culture, is unhealthy. She argues that this approach is more likely to stir up lust and inappropriate desire than to help young people relate to each other in a Christian manner. It is like surrounding them with wonderful-looking candy and saying that they must not eat it!

She also argues that children and young people’s natural delicacy and modesty about such topics is a good, healthy, and protective thing. “Christians should know that due to sin’s corruption, having sexual information is not sufficient to make good sexual decisions.” A system designed to desensitize them (even if well-meaning and based on the assumption that they are already hardened to sensuality and sexuality because of the culture they live in) does no one any favors at all, and is in fact harmful—it can “actually weaken the child’s resistance to sexual temptation.”

Furthermore, if Christians accept the idea that their primary identity is that of a sexual being, it become far more “excusable” for them to engage in sex outside of marriage and even to have abortions. How can they be expected to live chaste lives if that is contrary to their nature? How could anyone believe that they can really wait years and years to engage in an essential aspect of their humanity? After all, “If we are ‘sexual from birth,’ then one may believe that his current lusts and desires were created that way by God, rather than being horribly corrupted by sin. If people believe their current desires are God-given, it would follow that no one has the right to tell them how to define or express their ‘sexuality’.” Because of this, she objects to the term “God’s gift of sexuality” because it leads to misguided emphasis. If instead we talk and teach about “God’s design for sexuality,” the emphasis is far more Biblical.

Opponents of Mrs. Bartlett’s view would probably claim that her approach will lead children to think that sexuality is shameful. However, she quotes C.S. Lewis’s comment that, “There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.” She wants to teach a positive, active approach to life, and says,

“Abstinence says, ‘I must wait for sex until marriage.’ Purity says, “I don’t have to wait to be the woman (or man) God created me to be.’ Abstinence says, ‘Because we are sexual beings, I must be cautious with the opposite sex.’ Purity says, ‘Because we are persons more than sexual beings, I can respect, talk to, learn from, work beside, and be patient with the opposite sex.’ …. Purity always journeys toward hope with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. In fact, because of Jesus Christ, we can be restored to a life of purity even after we’ve failed to abstain.”

Mrs. Bartlett provides a great deal to think about. It took me a while to realize that her approach was not the legalistic one that I have witnessed among some critics of the modern world, in part because her text is composed of (often overlapping) questions and answers, so it felt more like reading material from an online forum than a traditional book, and it took me some time to grasp the overall context of her ideas. She fully recognizes the sinful nature of humanity and the need to provide children with appropriate information at appropriate times. Yet she challenges the church to completely rethink the way we approach sex education and human identity. I find it fascinating that even though most Christians would agree that our culture is over-sexualized, many people respond with alarm to the idea that children should be taught less about sex. We are much more attuned to the danger of insufficient than of over-abundant information on this topic. Mrs. Bartlett’s book offers an explanation for why that is, and suggests an alternative model that could be used to train our children.

 Anna Mussmann is the editor of the
blog Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife;
a teacher and enthusiast of classical education;
a wife and mother of an infant son.
Her blog What’s Wrong with the Phrase,
“God’s Gift of Sexuality?”
(12-9-14)
is reprinted with permission.

Please visit Our Identity Matters.

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love your neighborWho is our neighbor? In God’s world, our neighbor is more than the person who lives in the house next door. Our neighbor is the stranger in need, the student in our class, our associate at work, our parent or grandparent, and our child. Our neighbor may not think and act the way we do. We may feel awkward with them because our beliefs are polar opposite. But, in God’s world, they are our neighbor.

What are we to do with our neighbor? Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This love is second only to the love we are to have for God.

I am thinking right now of four Christian friends. Each one is the parent of a son or a daughter who has admitted they are in a gay or lesbian relationship. These parents love their children but, with the desire to live under the character and authority of God and His Word in Christ, these parents cannot accept the behavior and lifestyle of their children.

My friends, and others like them, agonize, asking: What can we do? How do we embrace our child but not their behavior? How do we nurture a godly relationship with our child? In fact, how do we even engage in conversation with our child on some kind of common ground?

Glenn T. Stanton, author of the new book Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, offers six truths that he defines as “mere Christianity.” These points, writes Stanton, “are the great equalizers of humanity, putting us all in the same boat for good and for bad, proclaiming that no one person is better or worse, loved more or less, nor more or less deserving of love than another.” These truths are:

  • Everybody is a human person. No exceptions.
  • Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions.
  • Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions.
  • Unfortunately, everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions.
  • All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God’s boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him. All of us, no exceptions.
  • Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing and a new life that comes only in surrender and submission to Christ. No exceptions.

Because we live in such a sexualized culture, there is need, I think, to explain what it means to be a “human person.” In this culture, sexuality is “central to being human.” But the Christian parent is called to see their neighbor; indeed, their child, differently. Parents of a son or daughter who struggles with any kind of sexual desire (for the opposite or same sex) will best love that child in light of how God sees them.

To be human means to be male or female created in God’s image. Although fallen from that perfect image (and burdened with the terminal illness called sin), God still wants His people to reflect His holiness. Nowhere in Scripture does God say: be sexual for I the Lord your God am sexual. What He says is this: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1Peter 1:14-16). Sexuality is not the central part of being human. Sexual describes feelings, desires, thoughts, and physical intimacy. Because of sexual procreation, life goes on. We have birthdays and anniversaries. But sexuality is not the sum total of who we are as male or female persons.

Here is the evidence. Who we are in this temporal life is who we will be for eternity. If we were fundamentally “sexual,” then this would hold true not just before the resurrection but also after the resurrection. (Otherwise after the resurrection, we would be less than human.) But what does Jesus say? When asked whose wife the widow of seven deceased husbands would be in heaven, Jesus answered, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30). Therefore, being sexual, that is, capable of sexual activity, is not part of what it means to be human after the resurrection. And if it is not part of our divinely-created human identity in the resurrection where everything will be made perfect, then it is not the central part of our divinely-created identity now. In heaven, there will be no act of marriage, no “one flesh” union. So, do we lose our identity in heaven? No! Our true identity will remain intact. We will be as He created us—fully human, but perfect in every way, sons and daughters at the Father’s table. We will still be His treasures in Christ but, at last, able to truly reflect His magnificence.

Our human yet holy identity is the common ground for even the most awkward discussions between one neighbor and another, between parent and child. Failing to see our neighbor or child as God does will ultimately affect the way we fear, love and trust God. It may cause us to love conditionally rather than unconditionally or close doors rather than open them.

It’s true that I am not facing the same challenge as my four friends. If they said to me, “You speak so easily of all this, what can you possible know,” I would have to confess that I know only what Jesus tells us all: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How we see our neighbor—indeed, our child—matters. It changes the way we approach them, welcome them, speak to them, serve them, and endure with them.

(“Six truths” from “The Odd Couple” by
Glenn T. Stanton in CITIZEN, March 2015.)

Suggested resources:
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity by Linda Bartlett (Amazon.com)
and Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan

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50 shades of greyold fashioned movieIt has been said that good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can.

This Valentine’s weekend, we have the opportunity to choose a good thing and, in doing so, help eliminate evil as far as we can. I can promise you that our sons, daughters, and grandchildren will be better for it.

Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the book trilogy, will be showing this weekend in theaters across the country. But, in my hometown (and perhaps in yours), so will the movie Old Fashioned. The contrast between the two is black and white. The one slides into evil. The other strives for what is good.

The contrast, I think, is best illustrated by the leading man in each story. Men fascinate me, perhaps because I believe that God has created them to be the defenders of life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve carefully listened to men and watched what they do. Do they lead women and children to the edge of the abyss or keep them far from it? In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey uses manipulation, jealousy, intimidation and violence to control Ana. In Old Fashioned, Clay Walsh gives up his reckless carousing of college days to practice the patient and self-disciplined love of God and, in so doing, honor Amber Hewson.

Ideologies and behaviors are in contrast all the time. This weekend, ticket sales may tell us a lot about the ideology we claim and the behavior we choose to mentor. Choices have consequences. In this case, Hollywood is glamorizing violence and abuse, then tacking on an unrealistic fairy-tale ending. There is evidence to prove that real life is different.

A study published last year in the Journal of Women’s Health shows the relationships between health risks and reading popular fiction depicting violence against women. Researchers from Michigan State University studied more than 650 women aged 18-24. Compared to participants who didn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, those who did were 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them; 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies; and more than 75 percent more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours. Those who read all of the books in the Fifty Shades trilogy were 65 percent more likely than nonreaders to binge drink—or drink five or more drinks on a single occasion on six or more days per month—and 63 percent more likely to have five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime. (Excerpted from “Reading Fifty Shades linked to unhealthy behaviors,” by Carolyn Moynihan, http://www.mercatornet.com, 3 February 2015)

Society pays a price when we teach men to inflict pain and sexualize violence. It pays a price when women are taught that abusive sex is “normal.” Remove the glamour and deception from Christian and Ana’s relationship. What is left but hopelessness?

The price is too high, especially for children and grandchildren. It is a price that does not have to be paid. I wonder. With its aggressive marketing campaign and unashamed attempt to romanticize sexual violence, has Hollywood unintentionally challenged parents to do the right thing? To help their child resist evil and seek what is good? Miriam Grossman, M.D., thinks so.

“Don’t underestimate [Hollywood’s] hard sell on your kids,” writes Dr. Grossman. “Even if they don’t see the film, they are absorbing its toxic message, and need your wisdom and guidance.” She explains that even with the darkest of clouds, there can be a silver lining. “While the ideas promoted by Fifty Shades of Grey are vile,” she observes, “they present a precious opportunity: to explain truths your children must know, but won’t hear anywhere else. Every image of those handcuffs and each TV trailer hold that chance.”

Dr. Grossman is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. She considers it her professional responsibility to help parents deal with the implications of Fifty Shades. I encourage you to visit her website where you will find a series of blogs exposing what might become a blockbuster film. Dr. Grossman includes talking points for every mom and dad who wants to keep their child from harm. She notes that parents talk to their children about junk food, cigarettes, and bullies. Parents, she says, need to warn children about dangerous ideas, too.

Dr. Grossman guarantees “you will have a significant influence on your child. What you believe matters. Your expectations matter. This is so regardless of any poor choices you may have made through the years. Even if your teen shrugs off everything you say with a roll of her eyes, I promise you, she hears every word.”

There is nothing grey about physical or emotional abuse. It is never ok. “A relationship that includes violence is disturbed,” explains Dr. Grossman. “The people involved have emotional problems. A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She seeks a relationship that is safe, supportive, and trusting; she wants to feel cared for and appreciated. If there is any hint of danger, she runs.”

There are those who consider Fifty Shades a “romantic love story.” But, “when Ana agreed to be abused, she made a terrible, self-destructive decision,” says Dr. Grossman. “Only in fiction would such a ‘romance’ end happily. In the real world, Ana would pay for her poor choice of a partner.”

It doesn’t have to begin—or end—this way. There are, well, old fashioned thoughts and behaviors that have always led to a much safer and more hope-filled life.

This Valentine’s weekend, some people are daring to bring these old fashioned ideas to the polling place of a theater near you. You have the opportunity—as parents, high school and college students, dating couples, and newlyweds—to “vote” with your ticket in favor of patient, kind, and selfless love (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Will it matter? I think so. Good is opposed to evil in such a way that even choosing Old Fashioned can be the good thing that helps eliminate evil as far as it can.

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