Archive for the ‘sexual liberation’ Tag

A New Marketing Strategy   Leave a comment

The Christian church universal is in trouble in America (and western Europe).

What’s the solution? It would appear that the church needs a new marketing strategy. Which is what the modern-day equivalent of Madison Avenue says is the ticket. Downplay sin and repentance, quit talking about sexual immorality and start talking about what God can do for us. The logic is simple – more and more Americans are embracing homosexuality, same sex-marriage and alternative heterosexual relationships. So long as churches remain the face of opposition to gay marriage, those churches will shrink into irrelevancy when gay marriage is inevitably accepted throughout the culture.

There’s two problems with that strategy, however.

God didn’t approve the ad campaign. And, that’s really the biggest one. Second …

Every major American denomination that has taken steps toward liberalization on sexual issues has seen a sharp decline in membership. The evidence so far seems to indicate that affirming homosexuality is a fast track to turning out the lights.

In 2003, Gene Robinson became the first openly gay, noncelibate man to be consecrated as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. At least one dioceses here in Alaska severed ties with the Episcopal Church, part of a trend that eventually created the Anglican Church of North America. Despite that, the Episcopal Church continues to liberalize its sexual teachings. In 2002, there were 2.32 million baptized US members. By 2012, there were only 1.89 million. That’s a decline of 18%. Attendance has fallen even more sharply, by about 24% while baptisms have fallen 40% and marriage have fallen 50%.

Well, people are bailing on churches all over, right? What’s the big deal? The Anglican Church of North America, created in rejection to liberalization in the Episcopal Church, has seen its membership RISE by 13%. Its Sunday attendance is up by 16% in the past five years. Since 2009, the ACNA planted 488 new congregations while the Episcopal Church planted four.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) formed in 1987. For most of its history, gay men and women were permitted as pastors so long as they remained celibate. In 2009, ordination was extended to gays in “committed monogamous relationships” and churches were allowed to “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

From 1987 to 2009, the average decrease in membership was only .062%. Since 2009, membership has declined 5% annually, for a loss of more than 12% of its members in three years. More than 600 congregations have abandoned the denomination, with almost two-thirds joining CONSERVATIVE Lutheran denominations like the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Churches in Ministry for Christ.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has a reputation for unfettered liberalism. The largest UCC congregation in 2008 was pastored by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It was the first US mainline Protestant denomination to support same-sex marriage (2005). UCC had been bleeding members for decades, but it rapidly declined after the gay marriage vote, seeing a 20.5% decline in membership since then. From 1990 to 2004, an average of 39 congregations left UCC annually, but more than 350 congregations departed the denomination from 2004 to 2008.

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) was flirting with loosening its sexual standards as early as 2006. By 2010, it had done it. In 2006, there were 2.2 million members of PCUSA. That dropped 22.4%  by 2013. In 2011, A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians had been created as an alternative denomination. Over 100,000 members left PCUSA in 2012 alone.

Grim statistics. Things are tough all over in the churches.

Right?

Not exactly. It’s only some churches that are limping. Can you guess which ones?

Divine Marriage   Leave a comment

In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an image of the relationship of Christ to His church and God to His creation.  This is why sexual immorality was sharply rebuked by the early church. It wasn’t because Paul and the gang were a bunch of prudes or because Jesus was against having fun, but because adultery and fornication changes the relationship of marriage and speaks to theological issues like idoltary and heresy.

Jesus never accidentally said anything and His followers who penned the New Testament wrote at His behest. The early church, including many of those who had known Christ personally, recognized those writings as Scripture. Those were the letters and gospels they chose to copy and distribute throughout the Christian churches at the time. And, those teachings changed the world.

No longer were slaves and women second-class citizens. They were now brothers and sisters in Christ, and in Christ there was no slave or free, rich or poor. Christianity, pre-Nicea, transformed the Greek-speaking world and, more gradually, its neighbors because it called upon its adherents to live a different lifestyle … not to change the culture, but to change themselves. When sufficient numbers of Europeans became Christians, the culture changed because of their influence.

But that positive influence is being eroded in our modern era.

The loss of Christianity’s influence on Western culture is a complicated story involving the rise of humanism (Renaissance), the advent of the Enlightenment, the coming of modernity, and the advance of post-modernism.

The idea that humanity is the highest form of intelligence in the universe arose from the Renaissance, which was an era when very smart people in southern Europe came to the conclusion that they were very smart. At approximately the same time, in northern Europe, wise people began to turn to God in large numbers.  The southern Europeans objected to the displacement of their cultural control mechanism, the Roman Catholic Church. We call what happened the Reformation.  In many ways, the Reformation’s foundation of individual relationship with God resulted in the Englightenment. God is a reasonable deity who communicated with us through reasonable means. Man can think for himself, come to know God and figure out the best way to worship Him without force from a monolithic Church. Unfortunately, left unchecked, these healthy cultural changes devolved over time into modernity.

Philosopher Charles Taylor wrote in A Secular Age, “The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God, and of course, of the meaningful cosmos.” Moderns believe that individual desires are the locus of authority and self-definition. They celebrate autonomous reason.

The loss of the sense that Christianity had anything to do with civilization was gradual. There were many steps along the way, from the concept of dialectical thinking, the pronouncement that God is dead, the Scopes trial, and many others. In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified as “healthy”. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in a new sexual revolution that was really a return to old paganism. Modern Americans claim their freedom through sexual expression and assertion. We no longer see ourselves as enslaved by lust, but rather constrained by morality.

Pay no attention to the widespread sexual exploitation that is rampant in our society. We’re healthy, dammit!

Modernity’s counter-revolution of post modernism denies transcendant truths, meaning that this revolution, unlike prior ones, cannot be institutionalized because it denies the possibility of communal knowledge being truths that influence the individual. If truth and morality are relative to the individual, there is no way to establish a stable social order and eventually, this relativity began to destabilize the existing one.

Post-Christian culture in America is anti-culture. The logic of modernity and the idealization of individual freedom will continue tearing away at what is left of the old order because we as a society are convinced that true happiness can only be reached once all limits are removed.

Gay marriage is indicative of the removal of one of those limits. It signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution. It dethrones Christianity by denying the core concept of Christian anthropology – that of Jesus as the Husband and the church as the Bride of Christ.

So what’s the problem? Atheists and agnostics don’t see the point!

Christianity’s belief in a reasonable God Who plays by a clear sense of rules is where we derive our modern concept of natural rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Without Christianity, it is questionable if we can maintain those concepts.

Posted September 18, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Freedom – An Endangered Species   Leave a comment

Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Christian farm are reasons to be concerned about not only the health of Christianity, but our society’s commitment to natural rights. In a free society, people of conscience would not ordinarily be asked to violate their conscience in order to remain in business. Today, however, these are just two examples of businesses run by Christians where the government has redefined what liberty means and decided that individual liberty may be set aside for the supposed good of society if and only if that individual liberty rests in matters of conscience.

In other words, morality is no longer a basis for exercising your rights.

The United States was built on the concept of individual liberty, but with that liberty came responsibilities. You could say whatever you wanted wherever you wanted, but if you caused a riot, you might be held accountable. You could buy, sell and trade as you wanted, but if what you sold harmed others, you could be charged with a crime or sued out of business. Simple concept – freedom within restraints.

Today, we want freedom without restrains, except when we encounter those rare individuals who still cling to the restraints. Then we want to constrain, coerce, or force them into letting go of those “outmoded” restraints. It’s not enough for us to allow them their beliefs. No, we must insist that they participate in that which they find morally objectionable. Their only alternative is to go out business.

I submit that not too far down the road, churches will be compelled to perform gay marriages or stop performing marriages altogether. In time, even those who do not own businesses or conduct services in a public venue will find themselves compelled to participate in pagan ceremonies. Gay weddings come to mind because they are the conflict de jour, but there will be others. It will be couched as our resistance being bigotry and our coerced participation as being needful retraining and protest will be unfruitful. Our choices will be to violate the law and face the consequences or comply to get along with society.

Resistance is futile, the new American anti-culture means to assimilate you.

Posted September 16, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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THE Sexual Revolution   5 comments

It’s hard for contemporary Americans to understand why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. It is profoundly ignorant to think that the apostle Paul was a dour proto-Puritan ordering pagan hippies to stop having fun. Until we understand the culture that Paul lived in, we are judging what we do not understand.

Whether you read Paul’s writings or do a classical study as Sarah Ruden did in her 2010 book Paul Among the People, you learn that Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the sexually explotive Greco-Roman culture of the time. Especially for slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their reproductive and sexual abilities, Christianity was THE cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male lust, elevating the status of women and the human body and infusing marriage (and marital sex) with love.

Christian marriage, like the command to turn the other cheek, was different from anything before. “Within Christian anthopology, sex takes on a new and different meaning,” Ruden wrote. “It mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.”

This is not to say that Christianity ever fully achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. The Christian is a human being same as any other and harmony and bliss simply are not human attributes. Christianity however established a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways. Instead of women and slaves being objects of sexual manipulation and exploitation, they became brothers and sisters in Christ who deserved respect and agape — Christian love. It meant that the long-standing practices of extramarital sex, including adultery and divorce, as well as sexual immorality with children and the same sex, were now seen as degrading to the human soul not only of the victim, but of the perpetrator. Even consensual sex that broke the covenant between God and man was seen as manipulative and something to be avoided.

This view of sex turned women from virtual slaves to valued marriage partners and sanctified marriage as a lifetime commitment that the entire community was invested in preserving.

Clearly, that is no longer the case. So what happened?

Philip Rieff (The Triumph of the Therapeutic) wrote that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, but that we also have made it impossible to believe in any other means to do what culture must do – restrain individual passions and channel them creatively so we can live in community. Human beings stink at community. Think about it — the first natural-born generation of the human race — one brother killed the other. We stink. Culture was created to mitigate that basic human nature — to channel our passion so that we can live in community. Unfortunately, modern Western society has inverted the role of culture. Our society no longer tells us to control our passions to be civilized, but that we find meaning and purpose by releasing ourselves from time-honored prohibitions.

Whoa! How’d that happen?

Religion is the Key to Culture   Leave a comment

According to observers at the American Conservative, the trends suggest that sex is the lynchpin of Christian cultural order. The polls and studies show that church membership declines as sexual liberation increases. Is it really true that casting aside Christian teaching on sexuality removes the power of Christianity as a social force?

Philip Rieff’s landmark 1966 book The Triumph of the Therapeutic suggested “yes”. Rieff analyzed what he called the “deconversion” of the West from Christianity. It’s a process that’s been underway since the Englightenment, but Rieff shows that it had reached a far more advanced state than most people, especially Christians, recognized.

An unbeliever himself, Rieff understood that religion is the key to understanding any culture. Every culture demands a series of moral imperatives on its members for the purpose of community and then provides support to help those members cope with those demands. A culture requires a sacred order, a cosmology that roots these moral demands within a metaphysical framework. You don’t pick and choose your behaviors based on what is good for you, but rather on a moral vision encoded in the nature of reality.  Rieff, looking at the start of the 1960s sexual revolution, saw the seeds of Christianity’s demise as a cultural force. He found that classical Christian culture rejected sexual individualism as a means of opposing the pagan culture surrounding it. It was this renunciation and redirection of the erotic instinct that gave Christianity its power. Rieff saw the West’s rapid re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation as a powerful sign of Christianity’s demise.

While he had important things to say about sex and Western culture and the corrosive effects of re-paganization on Christianity, I think he was confusing symptoms with causation. Also, as a non-believer, Rieff did not recognize the power of God to work His will in the world.

Losing the Culture   Leave a comment

Last year, Masterpiece Cakes in Denver was told by the Colorado courts to bake cakes for gay weddings or stop baking cakes altogether. In August, the New York State Division of Human Rights fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration, ruling that Christianity’s historical belief about marriage is now “discrimination”. Like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Giffords are also required to institute anti-discrimination re-education classes and procedures for their staff.

http://dailysignal.com/2014/08/19/government-farmers-host-sex-wedding-pay-13000-fine/

It is now considered just to force citizens with moral objections to participate in what they consider to be sin if they want to stay in business.

We’ve lost the cultural war, folks. There’s no use arguing the point. My 21-year-old daughter (a Christian) thinks Jesus is fine with homosexuals’ marrying. She even believes that the Bible was tampered with to include anti-homosexual passages. I’m not going to argue with her about it. I’ve given her access to several books that show how reliable the Bible as we have it is and I’ll let God do the rest. Sometimes you have to know when to back off and let the Holy Spirit work.

But these two incidents bring us to a set of questions. Should the government of a “free society” be able to force family businesses to betray their consciences and participate in ceremonies that violate their beliefs? That’s an argument for another day. The more important discussion is – how did we get here?

Christians – how did we get here?

I’ve been posting on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and I suspect the church’s failure to reach our culture on a whole host of such issues is tied to that.

Twenty yeas ago, same-sex marriage was the least of all political concerns. Then Bill Clinton tried to fulfill a campaign promise with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which led to the Defense of Marriage Act. All of a sudden, we entered what historians will one day recall as a cultural revolution greater than anything that happened in the 1960s. By 1993, the cover story of The Nation identified gay rights as the summit and cornerstone of the culture war to forever change America. We’re now in the endgame and conservatives have lost. It is commonly believed that the only reason to oppose same-sex marriage is rank bigotry or for religious reasons and, the argument that follows is, neither of these has any place in determining laws or public standards.

In some ways, it’s a generational thing. Polls show that young people think homosexuality is normal and that opposition to it has the moral status of segregation in the late 1960s. In the 2010 book American Grace, political scientists Robert D. Putman and David E. Campbell noted that there was a marked change in attitudes around 1990. Young adults at the time were accepting homosexuality as a moral in increasing numbers while at the same time, they were falling away from organized religion. Religious disengagement and liberal sexual attitudes appear to go hand-in-hand.

The Pew Research Center’s Greg Smith conducted a 2012 study that showed this interaction as well. He asserted that this current generation is more religious unaffiliated than any on record and that there is no reason to think they will return to church in significant numbers as they age, as had been noted in past generations.

Putnam and Campbell were careful to say in American Grace that correlation is not causation, but they pointed out that the public role many Christian leaders took in opposing gay marriage alienated young Americans from organized religion and suggested that Christian churches would need to liberalize on sexual teaching if we hoped to regain and retain the loyalty of younger generations.

The problem with that suggestion is that Mainline Protestant denominations, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, are losing membership much more quickly than more tradition conservative denominations that oppose gay marriage and discourage sexual liberation.

Why? Maybe when people decided that historical normative Christianity was wrong about sex, they also decided that everything else was wrong about Christianity. Finding a church that agreed with their liberalism did not solve their basic problem of a lack of faith.

Folks, we’re losing the culture and it has almost nothing to do with gay marriage. That is a symptom, not a cause.

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