"To say that authority, whether secular or religious, supplies no ground for morality is not to deny the obvious fact that it supplies a sanction." —Joseph Addison95% of Americans Engage in Premarital Sex
There are religionists who would lead you to believe that in "their day" people lived far more virtuous lives than you or I. Is it true that during the Ozzie and Harriett era that the power of the sex drive was less powerful?
According to the study, published in the January/February 2007 issue of Public Health Reports, 95% of Americans have had sex before marriage and 74% have lost their virginity before age 20. Even among those who abstain from sex until age 20 or older, 81% eventually have premarital sex. Further, contrary to public perception that premarital sex is much more common now than in the past, the study shows that even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in 10 had sex before marriage. I'm beginning to wonder if religionists protest too loudly about their purity, pointing judgmental fingers away from themselves and towards the immorality of others.
If those who promote abstinence were truthful about their pre-marriage sex lives, would that change how they teach sexual purity? For years, I thought those who preached purity, also practiced it. I felt guilty when I didn't live up to every puritanical standard I thought they lived.
When religionists preach purity, why aren't they honest about what they didn't practice? I admit I was shocked when I discovered that John Hagee, who was born April 12, 1940, divorced his first wife to marry a younger woman with whom he committed adultery. I don't ever recall him warning others about boundaries, pain, regrets, and consequences. Instead he preached, "Christians don't steal or lie, they don't get divorced or have abortions." And what about his life makes me believe him?
What bothers me most is not the religionists' loss of virginity or infidelity but their self-righteous efforts to bury those embarrassing facts.
Why the deception?
Their obvious shame mocks the freedom and forgiveness for sins that Christ suffered on the cross. What prevents them from embracing what they preach?
The Bible urges us to confess our sins one to another. Confession is happy business, but may thwart donor dollars from flowing into 'ministry' treasuries. As Shirley Chisholm observed, "When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses." Donor dollars trump Christ's sacrifice.
And what hope, grace and freedom does hypocrisy offer people suffering from the consequences of their choices? They long to know that the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation that God offers is genuine and available to them.
In Oscar Wilde's story, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Harry Henry says to Dorian, "what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose''—how does the quotation run? 'his own soul'?"
Dorian stared at his friend, "Why do you ask me that, Harry?"
"My dear fellow," said Lord Henry, elevating his eyebrows in surprise, "I asked you because I thought you might be able to give me an answer."
"Don't Harry. The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect. There is a soul in each one of us. I know it."
"Do you feel quite sure of that, Dorian?"
"Ah! Then it must be an illusion. The things one feels absolutely certain about are never true. That is the fatality of Faith, and the lesson of Romance. How grave you are! Don't be so serious. What have you or I to do with the superstitions of our age? No: we have given up our belief in the soul."
Religionists Who Give Up Their Belief in the Soul
What kind of soul denies and lies about their sexual history, modeling an illusion of purity? Why the desperate attempt to disconnect your theology from your actions and the power of God's forgiveness for your wrong attitudes, motives and choices?
Shame in it's purist state? Denial that by the grace of God—there go I.
I was also surprised to learn that Pat Robertson's wife was pregnant before they married. But my stomach turned when the Wall Street Journal reported this ironic example of self-righteousness:
"Very shortly after he [Pat Robertson born March 22, 1930] announced that he would be seeking the presidency in 1988, the Wall Street Journal reported that he had been lying for many years about the date of his wedding in order to hide the fact that his wife was very pregnant during the ceremony. And he was still lying about it to the press as late as 1987. It might not have mattered much had he been honest about it earlier, but the fact that he was deliberately courting the votes of a moralistic and self-righteous crowd prevented honesty in such matters. It's his own fault, really—snake handlers get bitten from time to time, and have no one to blame but their selves."
"His reaction to all of this was quite illuminating. He told reporters in Philadelphia that: It is outrageous to pry into a man's past and try to do damage to a man's wife and children under the guise of journalism. The obvious question raised by this is: why didn't he come to the defense of President Clinton when he was savaged by the media for reports of sexual impropriety? Unless, of course, Pat Robertson believes in double standards."
Every one sins—everyone. Sin damages people—not repentance. Repentance means "to think differently," which frees us from keeping secrets. Confession of sin is a step towards healing. "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." 1 John 1:8-10 (NASB).
People dishonest about their sexual histories lack sexual integrity, and even more so, when their rhetoric is motivated to force others to practice abstinence. Their dishonesty denies God's grace and restorative power. The key to sexual purity is more about being honest about our sexual struggles, the effect of sex and sin upon the soul, why our heavenly Father knows best, letting others learn from our self-indulgent choices, and then giving individuals freedom to desire to lead morally pure lives.