Archive | Culture

Getting downwind of ourselves

A wise preacher once said that it is good to get downwind of yourself whenever you can. Sometimes we don’t smell our own B.O. when everyone around us wishes that we would.

It’s an odiferous metaphor for the way our lives sometimes unfold. Sometimes our self-perceptions do not match the perceptions that others have of us. And even if other people’s perceptions are wrong, we do well to understand what their perceptions are. Sometimes they are right.

I thought about that as I read the Texas Monthly profile of Jen Hatmaker. If anything, the article helps evangelicals to get downwind of themselves—to see where self-perception may not match the perception of the world around us. Those differing perceptions offer insight into what the definition of “evangelical” even might be.

The article has some sage observations from Ray Ortlund to that end. Here is an excerpt:

But after the 2016 presidential election, evangelicalism is once again facing a crisis of faith. Similar to the fundamentalist movement, evangelicalism has taken on a political tone, sometimes being used in the same sentence as “alt-right.” But are people who identify as evangelicals truly guilty of being what mainstream culture deems as racist, sexist, homophobic—or has the term been hijacked?

“The word evangelical can be stolen and taken unfair advantage of,” said Ray C. Ortlund Jr. in a speech on the history of the movement at a conference hosted by The Gospel Coalition. Partly, the label is easy to misconstrue because of the relative freedom of the word. Descriptively, its definition can point to its history, its stereotypes, its perception in this culture. The prescriptive piece is what is often missed. Because to be evangelical is not to be white, or a Republican, or conservative, or to even wear the label of Christian. The label cuts to the very core of a person’s beliefs, the heart of their personal theology.

There are so many of us who wish evangelical could remain a description of the theological convictions of conservative Protestants. But that is not how the term is perceived by the watching world. And those of us who wish to retrieve the theological heritage of the term would do well to remember that.

Should intersex infants be subject to “corrective” surgeries?

The Washington Post has published a long-form piece featuring a number of heart-rending stories about intersex persons. For those unfamiliar with intersex, it is term used to describe a variety of conditions which involve some physical disorder of sex development.

The Post article focuses on the debate about “corrective” surgeries for intersex infants. An older protocol pioneered by John Money favors such surgeries. Intersex activists are against them.

The thing that comes out so very clearly in the article is the emotional turmoil and uncertainty often suffered by intersex persons—especially those who underwent surgeries as infants that permanently impaired them in some way.

Our thinking about the intersex experience is ultimately a theological question. What the Bible teaches about our special creation as male and female, about the Fall, and about the new creation all figure into how Christians think about these things. Articles 5 and 6 in The Nashville Statement offer some guidance:

Article 5
WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.
WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.

Article 6
WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.
WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.

LGBT activists will often point to intersex conditions as evidence to disprove the male/female norm of scripture (Gen. 1:26-27; Matt. 19:4), and Article 5 rebuts that argument. Article 6, however, focuses on the fact that no disorder of sex development diminishes the dignity and worth of any person. All are special creations of God and are his image-bearers. Jesus knows them, loves them, and invites them to follow him.

But what about the surgeries that are the focus of The Washington Post piece? Although the issue is complicated, I agree with those who lean against such surgical interventions. I have a long section in my sexual ethics book about intersex. Here is an excerpt of my conclusions:

The phenomenon of intersex should call forth our compassion and our love for our neighbors who carry in their persons a painful reminder of the groaning creation. It should not call forth from us a revision of the binary ideal of Scripture…

How should parents deal with a child born with an intersex condition? There is no once-size-fits-all strategy, given the complexity of the possible conditions. Nevertheless, here are some guiding principles I would suggest for parents caring for a child with this condition. The first set of principles I would recommend are more theologically oriented. First, everyone needs know what the creation ideal of Scripture is. According to Genesis 1-2, man’s unfallen state is a clearly gendered state, and this is the norm. Second, the entrance of sin into the world and God’s subsequent curse means that all kinds of physical difficulties afflict the human condition. Disorders of sex development would be included in that. Third, the gospel of Jesus Christ not only frees from the penalty and power of sin in the present, it also promises eternal life in the future. That life involves the resurrection of our physical bodies. It means a renewal and restoration of what was lost in the Garden of Eden. In the resurrection, all disorders of sex development will be swept away, and intersex people will be healed and made whole. That hope of restoration should be held out to the child throughout his life even if some ambiguities about his condition remain unresolved.

Here are some principles I would suggest with respect to medical treatments. First, parents should be extremely reluctant about—if not altogether against—corrective surgery when the child is an infant. This is especially the case when the surgery would involve the modification of the child’s genitals or reproductive organs. Perhaps surgical procedures would be in order at some point during the child’s life, but do not rush a child into surgery simply out of a desire to make the child “normal.” Second, try to determine as soon as possible the chromosomal make-up of the child. If there is a Y chromosome present, that would strongly militate against raising the child as a female, regardless of the appearance of the genitals and other secondary sex characteristics. It would also suggest that medical treatments designed to make the child into a female are out of line. Third, understand that not all doctors and medical professionals share your biblical convictions. Worldviews affect the treatment of intersex conditions. Some doctors may view gender as a social construct and therefore would not let biological markers (such as a Y chromosome) determine the child’s gender. Fourth, parents need to take an active role in understanding the condition and pursuing treatment options in keeping with their biblical convictions.

What Is the Meaning of Sex?, pp. 180-82

If you are an intersex person and feel estranged from your own body, you need not feel estranged from Jesus. Jesus loves intersex persons. He knows what it is like for a person to suffer for no fault of his own. And he offers you hope and life. His powerful death and resurrection address not only your condition but the human condition and provides forgiveness and reconciliation to every sinner who receives Christ by faith. This message brings with it a promise of the renewal of all things in the age to come, which means that all of our broken bodies will one day be what God intended them to be. He knows every one of your tears and offers to wipe away every last one of them (Rev. 21:4). If you have felt your body to be a barrier to life and joy, it is no barrier to Jesus and to real life and real joy. They can be yours because of him.

Alastair Roberts: “Hugh Hefner, the Logic of Porn, and the Homosexualization of Sex”

Alastair Roberts has written long form piece about an article that Christianity Today reprinted some years ago. The original article included some countercultural salvos against pornography. Roberts says that the CT version seems to have downplayed those details:

The striking thing about the CT version is the way in which it reworks the original article in a way that removes much of the bite of Prof. Schuchardt’s thesis on two fronts: carefully downplaying his masculinization of women and feminization of men claims and also his claims about the homosexual character of the culture of porn. Both claims make some appearance in the CT article, but in a form that are radically weakened from their form in the original piece.

Yet Schuchardt’s original thesis, though overstated at points, is an important one. Our society, in whose construction Hefner has played no small part, depends upon the feminization of men, the masculinization of women, and the homosexualization of their approach to sex. Such assertions violate all of our culture’s sensitivities, but they are important.

The rest of Roberts’ article is a must-read because he defends the thesis that our culture’s fixation on pornography relies upon the “feminization of men, the masculinization of women, and the homosexualization of their approach to sex.” In the conclusion, Roberts writes:

Speaking forthrightly about these issues jeopardizes the respectability that Christians so covet. It will even provoke outrage from a great many modern Christians, who have a great deal invested in the neutralization of sexual difference and pretending that men and women are largely interchangeable in the family, in the church, in society, in politics, and in the economy. It will deeply offend those whose extreme concern not to say anything remotely insensitive about homosexual persons prevents them from speaking forthrightly about the intrinsically disordered and destructive character of the acts they are drawn to. It will anger people who have made their peace with the extremely elevated levels of porn’s background radiation within our society and within their own lives and will rationalize or excuse the effects that it is having upon us.

However, our desire for respectability and the approval of men shouldn’t lead us to defang the teeth of truths that will pierce our thin skins. The issues Prof. Schuchardt’s original article highlight are very real and are effecting us all. We must speak candidly about them and address them unflinchingly both in our own lives and within the society at large.

Read the rest of this very insightful article here.

A time for moral clarity

Like you, I’ve been watching with dismay and disgust as events have unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. There has been a naked display of racism and white supremacy. If ever there were a time for evangelical Christians to speak with biblical conviction and moral clarity, now is the time.

In doing so, no one should be taking their cues from the president of the United States on how to do this. Both this weekend and in his campaign, he has not shown moral clarity or leadership in this area (although as I write, there is an update). Rather, we should be taking our cues from scripture, which is absolutely and unequivocally clear that white supremacy, racism, and violence are grave sins which God himself will judge.

Why will God judge such racism? Because all people are created in God’s image, and as image-bearers we all have inestimable worth and dignity. To assault an image-bearer is to assault the One whose image they bear. Thus racism, white supremacy, and violence are incalculably heinous sins.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” –Genesis 1:27

“Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.” –Psalm 100:3

“From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth.” –Acts 17:26

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” –John 3:16

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” –1 John 4:8

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” –1 John 4:20

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” –1 John 3:15

The first fruit of the spirit is love (Gal. 5:21). Anyone who refuses to love is showing that he does not have the Spirit and stands condemned.

The racism and white supremacy on display in Charlottesville are damnable errors and are antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who wave the banner of racism in the name of Christianity are no Christians at all. If they do not repent, they stand condemned.

This is the message that we must communicate, and we must do so in a way the matches the urgency of our moment. God’s word is clear on this, and so must we be.


UPDATE – 8/15/17: Today, President Trump addressed the nation in a press conference in which he said that the white supremacist protestors were “very fine people.” His full remarks were more than disappointing. They were morally bankrupt and completely unacceptable. People who protest while chanting Nazi slogans are not “very fine people.” I agree with David French’s assessment:

The most pernicious forms of evil always mix truth and lies. So, yes, there were kernels of truth in some of Trump’s statements. No question there were hateful, violent leftists in Charlottesville this weekend. And on the question of monuments, Trump is right to point out the lack of a limiting principle. We already know that some on the Left have their eyes set on demolishing or removing monuments and memorials that have nothing to do with the Confederacy, but all that pales in importance compared to his stubborn and angry attempts not just at moral equivalence (after all, no one on the Left committed murder this weekend) but at actually whitewashing evil…

Donald Trump loves people who love him, and the vile and vicious alt-right has loved him from the beginning. Today, he loved them right back.

The President again failed to show moral clarity and leadership. It was a sad, disgraceful display.


POSTSCRIPT: I am grateful to see so many evangelical leaders who have already spoken with conviction and clarity. The following list is only a sample of the many who have spoken up. I am grateful for all of them.

Are evangelicals becoming more open to gay marriage?

I wrote an article about seven years ago on what the bible teaches about homosexuality. That essay begins with a discussion of Brian McLaren’s then recent affirmation of committed homosexual relationships.

It is strange to read that essay now and to consider in retrospect how quickly McLaren faded from evangelical view. At the time, the “emerging church” still had some purchase within the evangelical movement. Now that entire project is defunct and so are its major proponents. They pushed the very edges of the leftwing of the evangelical movement until they pushed themselves right out of the movement. Many of them did so by adopting unorthodox positions on sexuality.

The ascendancy of the so-called “emerging church” seems like ancient history, but it really wasn’t that long ago. How quickly its heterodoxy doomed it to irrelevancy and demise. Evangelicals no longer look to the McLarens, the Tony Joneses, or the Rob Bells for sound guidance on the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

This recent history is the playing-out of Jesus’ words in John 10:

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers (John 10:3-5).

At the end of the day, the church follows the voice of the Lord Jesus and will not go after the voice of “strangers”—those offering a teaching that is contrary to Christ and his word. Those who do go after the “strangers” are revealing themselves not to have been a part of the fold to begin with. They leave the church because they were Christians in name only.

They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us (1 John 2:19).

Ed Stetzer wrote a really helpful essay last November about how “Evangelicals across the Spectrum Are Clarifying Marriage as a Core Belief.” He shows that evangelical institutions are in the process of making clear what they have always believed about marriage and sexuality—that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that sex is only permitted within that marriage covenant.

Almost immediately, Matthew Vines posted a string of tweets protesting Stetzer’s claims. Vines argues that the evidence shows that evangelicals are actually moving toward affirmation of gay marriage.

I think it is possible that Stetzer and Vines may both be right (sort of). Stetzer is simply observing how evangelical organizations are clarifying and reaffirming the traditional view, and he is right about that. Vines is simply observing the fact that some people associated with evangelical Christianity are embracing gay marriage. And he is right about that.

Vines points to trends among millennials as evidence of his claim. Vines is right about those larger demographic trends, but he is wrong about what they mean. Yes, millennials are far more open to gay marriage than their parents or grandparents. And yes, that will likely influence some within the evangelical movement to embrace gay marriage as well. But what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that the Christian faith is changing its posture on marriage. It means that some people currently associated with Christianity will be leaving us. They will follow a “stranger’s” voice right out of the faith.

It is not hard to predict what happens after the “strangers” leave orthodox Christian teaching. We’ve seen this countless times before. As it happened with the “emerging church” and with theological liberalism, so it will happen again. The “strangers” move on from the faithful, and the faithful move on from the “strangers.” There is a sad parting of ways. But the church remains the church, and the faith remains the faith. The true sheep will follow the voice of their shepherd come what may. The strangers’s ascendancy is eventually forgotten, and the church of the Lord Jesus endures. The voice of the strangers will grow quiet, and their memory will grow more and more distant.

Peter Leithart’s 2013 prediction is proving right:

God has his winnowing fork in his hand, and he’s ready to use it. There’s likely to be a lot of chaff, blown away like mist. But there will be a harvest. We’re being sent into an oven, but Jesus will crush the grain of the harvest so that, baked in the fire of the Spirit, it will become bread for the life of the world.

What we are witnessing in the evangelical movement right now is a winnowing—a parting of ways. It rightly grieves us because no one relishes division or departures from God’s truth. But it is all important that we see what this means. This division is real and necessary for anyone turning away from what the scriptures teach on marriage and sexuality. And all sides would do well not to obscure just how high the stakes really are.

N. T. Wright offers brief commentary on transgenderism

N. T. Wright penned a letter to the editor of The Times of London this morning expressing his thoughts about “gender-fluid” children. Responding to articles about gender identity confusion–and even trans-speciesism–in children, he writes:

The confusion about gender identity is a modern, and now internet-fuelled, form of the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostic, one who “knows”, has discovered the secret of “who I really am”, behind the deceptive outward appearance (in Rifkind’s apt phrase, the “ungainly, boring, fleshy one”). This involves denying the goodness, or even the ultimate reality, of the natural world. Nature, however, tends to strike back, with the likely victims in this case being vulnerable and impressionable youngsters who, as confused adults, will pay the price for their elders’ fashionable fantasies.

Dunkirk: “English fathers, sailing to rescue England’s exhausted, bleeding sons.”

Tonight, the movie Dunkirk will begin showing in theaters across the nation. I assume that most of you reading this know why this film has been so highly anticipated. It is not merely because some reviewers are already saying that this is the best movie ever made by director Christopher Nolan. It is also because of the story itself.

The tale of the evacuation from Dunkirk during World War 2 is one of the most riveting and inspiring true stories that you will ever hear. It is a story of heroes, common and uncommon. It is a story of national valor and courage, and for that reason the story is beloved and cherished. What happened at this little fishing village in the north of France in 1940? Continue Reading →

Why intersectionality may be at odds with the gospel

Elizabeth Corey’s recent article in First Things may be the best short intro to intersectionality that I have yet come across. I highly recommend that you read it if you have not already. I would like to highlight a couple items from Corey’s observations that relate to my growing concerns with this philosophy of human identity—indeed, two areas where this ideology seems to be at odds with the Christian gospel.

Before doing that, I should stipulate up front that I do not disagree with every aspect of the theory. As Joe Carter has pointed out, intersectionality can help us to understand how an individual may experience multiple layers of discrimination or mistreatment. From a Christian perspective, this insight can perhaps serve as one metric for understanding how sin operates in a fallen world. This rightly evokes our compassion and resolve for justice. Nevertheless, I do not see why we need the total theory in order to maintain that particular insight, and I can think of a number of reasons that Christians might want to unload the theory. At least two of those reasons appear in Corey’s essay.

Reason 1: Intersectionality fosters an unbiblical view of human identity

Corey observes a deficiency in intersectionality theory that goes to the very foundation:

Intersectional theorists begin their work on the basis of a debatable (though never debated) set of characteristics that supposedly constitute personal identity: race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and sometimes others (weight, attractiveness, age). Women are collectively, and as individuals, oppressed. So are gays, lesbians, Hispanics, blacks, the disabled, the aged, the very young, the obese, the transgender—and the list goes on, becoming more complex with the addition and subtraction of multiple traits.

Intersectionality fails to distinguish between social categories that are morally neutral and those that are morally implicated. For example, race and gender are set right alongside sexual orientation. This is a big problem. Whereas the Bible celebrates racial diversity and the complementary differences between male and female, it does not celebrate sexual orientation diversity. The Bible says that all sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage is sinful, but intersectional activists would view such a judgment as oppression when applied to gay or bisexual people. Intersectionality insists that homosexuality is a good to be celebrated and promoted. Likewise, intersectionality defines gender in a way that mandates the celebration of transgender identities. This too is a radical departure from Christian teaching about how integral biological sex is to human identity as male and female. In these ways, intersectionality is at odds with fundamental truths of Christianity.

Reason 2: Intersectionality exacerbates social divisions rather than healing them

It has often been observed that intersectionality creates a kind of “oppression Olympics” among those who hold the theory. Ironically, within college campus subculture, one’s moral authority can be enhanced by intersecting identities of oppression. This kind of a social dynamic incentivizes grievance based on identity. In that way, it entrenches social divisions rather than healing them.

Indeed, Corey talks about one theorist who insists that there can be no peace between intersectionality and those who refuse to recognize the validity of the theory:

At the end there was a question and answer period. I asked whether and how Collins would suggest that intersectionality engage with its adversaries, the hated conservatives. Given the polarization of America right now, did she see some way for the two camps to communicate or find common ground? The vehemence of her answer was startling. “No,” she said. “You cannot bring these two worlds together. You must be oppositional. You must fight. For me, it’s a line in the sand.” This was at once jarring and clarifying.

To refuse to recognize intersectionality is not merely a theoretical dispute. It reveals animus toward those whose identities must be recognized and celebrated. Such refusal is the opposite of “safe space” and must be vigorously opposed.

All of this makes for a cauldron of division. Intersectionality may be good at pointing out what divides us, but it is horrible at bringing remedy to those divisions. No amount of “allyship” ever really rights the ship. Identity grievance endures no matter how many allies come onto the scene.

The gospel on the other hand is providing an entirely different remedy. Where the gospel prevails, reconciliation between between social groups also prevails. That is what Galatians 3:27-28 is all about:

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The gospel removes hostilities between social groups. It doesn’t foster them. Also, the gospel doesn’t celebrate social identities that are defined by human fallenness and sin (e.g., homosexuality, transgenderism). If the Bible is true, then these identities can only be understood as features of the sinful nature which the gospel means to obliterate and to transform into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

The church is supposed to be a counterculture of gospel unity which bears witness to a world that is divided by countless hostilities. Intersectionality seems to incentivize those hostilities, whereas the gospel overcomes them.

The intersectional case for teenage sodomy

Vera Papisova is the editor of the wellness section of Teen Vogue–the section that published a recent article teaching teenage girls how to enjoy being sexually brutalized by their boyfriends. A few days ago Papisova posted a tweetstorm defending herself. If you want to read her remarks on Twitter, click on the link above. I’ve compiled the tweets in the paragraphs below. She writes:

I am so proud of all of the medically accurate and thoughtful information I publish for @TeenVogue, and I’m even prouder of my writers. Everything in the wellness section is published based on years of research and talking to experts and people of all identities daily. DAILY. All of my writers are marginalized people who deserve to have a platform to speak for themselves, & reach young people who identify w/ them.

As a woman, I have been deprived of so much information that could have saved me from traumatizing and isolating experiences in my life. But I am also white, straight-passing, cisgender. I am grateful for my privilege, and I choose to use it to pull other people up.

The biggest mistake I see in criticism I get on a daily basis is that the world underestimates young people. Let me remind you: Not only do studies show providing information to young people BEFORE THEY NEED TO USE IT is how we HELP people make safer, better choices — We need to be realistic about how difficult & confusing it is to be young, be vulnerable to various systems of oppression, to feel helpless. Young people are ALREADY experiencing trauma, facing mental illnesses, having sex, and dealing with REAL problems. They deserve information. I refuse to be part of a culture that TEACHES anyone to accept feeling alone, unsafe, unsupported, unloved.

Internalized hatred starts early and the more privileged someone is, the more impact their internalized hatred, ignorance, and misguided judgment will affect the population. Privilege DOES NOT exempt anyone from experiencing trauma and pain, but it is also not an excuse to deny others of their life experiences. This is why EVERYONE deserves to have AS MUCH information as we have available about bodies, minds, relationships, sexuality, gender, etc. I will keep asking, “who’s missing a seat at the table?” And I will continue to do my best, which is all I can do, to offer them space.

Thank you @pfpicardi for trusting me with the @teenvogue platform. I am here because I believe in young people, and you should too.

Papisova offers two lines of defense for the article encouraging teenage children to sodomize one another. First, she argues that children need education about how to have safe sex. Second, she argues that failure to provide such education constitutes oppression against minorities.

Sexual-revolutionaries have been making the first line of argument for years. They were making it even way back when I was an adolescent, and it boils down to this; Those kids are going to be having sex anyway, so we might as well show them how to do it in a way that keeps them from getting pregnant or from contracting a disease. One of the chief problems with this argument is that it acts as if the only problem with teen sex is that it might be “unsafe.” It is an argument entirely unconcerned with the moral or spiritual formation of minor children. And in fact it seems to presuppose and perhaps even to encourage sexual promiscuity among children. And I think teens have gotten the message.

As problematic as that first line of argument is, it is Papisova’s second line of argument that is really troubling. Whether she realizes it or not, it is an argument in favor of sodomy among minor children based on intersectionality.

As I have written about before in this space, intersectionality is a theory of human identity that is all the rage on college campuses and increasingly in popular culture. It is the idea that a person’s identity is “formed by mutually interlocking and reinforcing categories of race, gender, class, health, and sexuality” (Carter 2017). Intersectionality teaches that people experience either oppression or privilege based on all such identity categories simultaneously, and it is identities based on gender and sexuality that are coming into play in Papisova’s remarks. She is concerned about teenage girls and boys (gender identities) who engage in a particular kind of sexual act (sexual identity).

Papisova checks her privilege up front, noting that she is a “white, straight-passing, cisgender” woman. According to this brand of identity politics, it is the responsibility of the privileged to become an ally of the oppressed. That is why Papisova writes, “I am grateful for my privilege, and I choose to use it to pull other people up.” Failure to become an ally makes one complicit in oppression at some level. Because oppression is wrong, everyone is morally obligated to become an ally. Among other things, becoming an ally means affirming the sexual orientations and gender identities of marginalized people. Being an ally means providing such people a “safe space” just to be who they are. And that is why Papisova concludes, “I will keep asking, ‘who’s missing a seat at the table?’ And I will continue to do my best, which is all I can do, to offer them space.”

Papisova’s remarks are filled with boilerplate language from intersectional activism. And it is why Papisova believes she needs to be educating minor children on how to safely sodomize one another. In this intersectional worldview, it is oppressive to withhold such information from minor children. Indeed, the true ally is morally obligated to share such information with children or risk doing them harm. If this argument seems strange to you, you need to know that it doesn’t sound strange to a generation of college students who have been indoctrinated by this ideology.

And it is precisely here where this ideology concerns me as a Christian. This brand of intersectionality cannot be reconciled with a biblical worldview. Intersectional activists define allyship in terms that require affirmation of homosexual and transgender identities. And yet faithful Christians may never affirm lesbian and gay sexual behavior. Nor can they ever define human identity as the sum total of a person’s fallen sexual desires. Because the Bible teaches us to love our neighbor (which is not the same thing as “unconditionally affirm your neighbor”), faithful Christians can never be an ally in the way demanded by intersectional activists.

And in this case, Christians are morally obligated to oppose what Papisova feels morally obligated to defend—the practice of sodomy among minor children. If someone wants to argue that my conviction in this regard amounts to “oppression,” I suppose I will have to live with that. But what I cannot live with is the idea that the sexual degradation of minor children is okay. On the contrary, if I am to love my neighbor as Jesus commands, I must oppose with all of might both the degradation and the bankrupt ideology that underwrites it. And so must you.

Standing against a destructive misogyny threatening our children

Sexual perversion is firmly entrenched in our cultural mainstream, so it takes a lot these days to astonish me. But I am astonished today. In the span of twenty-four hours, I have come across not one but two separate unrelated articles about teenage girls who agree to be brutalized during sexual encounters with teenage boys. Both articles indicate that this is a growing trend among adolescent children who becoming sexualized at younger and younger ages.

Last week, Teen Vogue published an article instructing teenage girls how to enjoy being sodomized by their boyfriends. The article is so vile that I am not even going to link to it. But among other things, it tells these minor children that such activity is normal. It gives detailed instructions on how they can learn to enjoy it. For those teenage girls who are still reluctant, Teen Vogue reassures them:

Anal sex, though often stigmatized, is a perfectly natural way to engage in sexual activity. People have been having anal sex since the dawn of humanity. Seriously, it’s been documented back to the ancient Greeks and then some. So if you’re a little worried about trying it or are having trouble understanding the appeal, just know that it isn’t weird or gross.

Let’s just pause here for a moment and ponder this. A major publication marketed to minor children is instructing them on how to enjoy being sodomized by other minor children. If this doesn’t fill you with grief and outrage, nothing will. God help us.

How did we get here that this kind of brutalizing conduct has become the norm? Many of you already know the answer. It is because of pornography. Countless teenage boys have spent the better part of their adolescence marinating in hardcore pornography. This material has decimated them. Their sexual preferences and tastes have been definitively shaped by this material, and they are bringing these expectations to any female who will agree to them.

And that brings us to the second article, which has a decidedly more realistic take on what is happening. Allison Pearson writes about a conversation she had with a group of mothers about how to raise healthy and happy children. The conversation turned to talk about sex. Pearson writes:

A couple of the women present said that they had forced themselves to have toe-curlingly embarrassing conversations with their teenagers on the subject. “I want my son to know that, despite what he might see on his laptop, there are things you don’t expect a girl to do on a first date, or a fifth date, or probably never,” said Jo.

A [doctor], let’s call her Sue, said: “I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.” In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by frequent anal sex; not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

Her patients were deeply ashamed at presenting with such injuries. They had lied to their mums about it and felt they couldn’t confide in anyone else, which only added to their distress. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience, but they had simply not felt they could say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew that it hurt.

I was reluctant to write about this because it is so awful and embarrassing even to acknowledge. But there it is. It is reality, and it is all around us. A generation of young men are destroying themselves by the darkness of pornography, and now they are foisting their desolation on young women who desperately want to be loved by a young man. The sexual revolution which promised to liberate has given birth to a destructive misogyny that is now being soft-pedaled as “normal” by the likes of Teen Vogue.

I have said this before, but it is worth saying again. Porn use in our culture is a civilizational calamity. The sexual revolution promised us more sex and more pleasure. It has actually delivered to us a generation of men who think of women as objects to be used and abused for their sexual pleasure. It has not given us men who know what virtue and honor are. It doesn’t teach men to pursue their joy in self-sacrificially loving and being sexually faithful to one woman for life. It teaches young men to use women for sex and then to discard them when they become unwilling or uninteresting. This means that it has given us a generation of young men completely unprepared for marriage and for fatherhood. And if you lose marriage and fatherhood, you lose your civilization. We have sown to the wind, and our children are reaping the whirlwind—not least our daughters, who are less likely than ever to find a man who hasn’t been corrupted by this.

As a father and as a Christian I am feeling the weight of this. I know that porn use is the pastoral challenge that defines our generation. This brokenness is all around us and among us. It is the burden of far too many of the boys and men sitting in our pews. I don’t know of any other problem that has done more to subvert manhood and marriage than porn use. It is killing us.

A word to Christian parents: Your responsibility here is very practical. If you are giving your children unfettered access to screens and online content, you are giving them away to this darkness. Your job as a parent is to push back against the currents that are trying to overwhelm your children. Don’t give your small children and adolescents a smartphone. No matter how much they beg for it. No matter how much your friends and neighbors look at you as strange for not getting with the program. Don’t do it. Children are being introduced to this content at younger and younger ages. It will be all that you can do to keep them away from friends and acquaintances at school who share this material on their own smart phones. The last thing that you need to do is to give them their own pipeline to this sewage. Don’t be so naïve to think that they won’t find this material. They won’t have to find it. It will find them unless you stand in the way.

I agree with Rod Dreher:

Parents have to build an anti-smartphone culture for their kids, and help each other stick to it. Eventually the kid will become older teenagers, but one hopes that they will have been morally formed to have self-restraint when it comes to pornography access on the thing.

Christian parent, building an anti-smartphone culture begins in your home, so start there. Your kids are not going to avoid this content by accident. They are only going to avoid it on purpose. That means that you have to be planning how you are going to train them to be vigilant over their own hearts (Prov. 4:23). This will take time—indeed an entire childhood—to form. And you will need to teach them how to handle technology as they grow into young adulthood. You will need to introduce access with intentionality and with limits. As you are doing so, they need guardrails from you to keep them on track until they can take the wheel themselves as young adults.

Mom and Dad, let’s agree together to be weird and countercultural for the sake of our children. They desperately need us to be this for them whether they realize it or not.

—————

Denny Burk is Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College and is the President of The Council for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.


UPDATE #1: The editor for the wellness section of Teen Vogue has made a defense of her editorial decision to include this article in the magazine. I respond to her defense here.

UPDATE #2: D. C. McAllister has published a very helpful article at The Federalist outlining the health risks involved with this type of sexual behavior among young women. She writes:

Anal sex is a very high-risk sexual behavior, more so than vaginal intercourse and oral sex. As reported by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, a Guttmacher study found that 25 percent of the women they interviewed had been forced to have anal sex. “Coercion and violence notwithstanding, many participants reported pain and discomfort, including emotional distress, during anal intercourse.” A study from the UK concurs: “Young people’s narratives normalized coercive, painful and unsafe anal heterosex.”

In HuffPo, Naomi Wolf said when she visited several college campuses, “anal fissures were the number one health problem women were having because everyone was doing anal when they were drunk and had just met, which is not the best way to do anal. It’s a very delicate thing. So, the scripts are being set by porn.”

Not only is it painful, it has other risks. It can eventually lead to fecal incontinence, and the American Cancer Society reports, “Receptive anal intercourse also increases the risk of anal cancer in both men and women, particularly in those younger than 30.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that “Anal sex is the riskiest sexual behavior for getting and transmitting HIV for men and women.” It “carries a risk 17 times greater than receptive vaginal intercourse. Moreover, receptive anal intercourse even carries a risk 2 times greater than that of needle-sharing during injection drug use.”

The CDC also reports that “in addition to the same sexually transmitted diseases that are passed through vaginal sex, anal sex can also expose participants to hepatitis A, B, and C; parasites like Giardia and intestinal amoebas; bacteria like Shigella, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli.”

Given the high risks, do we really want our children having anal sex?

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