Sunday, April 12, 2015

Living in Sin: 21 Randy Rockers Make the Case for Chastity… Sort Of



One of my least favorite moral excuses of all time for engaging pre-marital sex involves arguing for low standards based on the fact that the standards are already low (i.e. "people are already going to do it anyway"). The despair card works on multiple levels with people, not only because failure does seem inevitable in any case in society, but on a personal level as well. In other words, "Oh well, I guess since we are all going to hell in a hand basket, there's no reason for me not to do the same." However, what is most depressing about this fatalistic mentality is not only that people have a hard time believing that we can do better than this, but for the simple fact that we are pushing despair mainly to rationalize our own behavior. For example, in the following song by Bon Jovi you hear the story of a young man who seeks to rationalize his motivation for "living in sin", even while admitting that his level of commitment leaves something to be desired...


Chastity is not merely a quaint old fashioned term for the naive and up tight. To the contrary, understood properly, it is the practical (and moral) means by which we marshal and employ our sexual energy towards a future that is ultimately constructive as opposed to destructive. This has nothing to do with "sexual repression", or being puritanical, and everything to do with making us as "potent" as possible in all the right ways. Human passion can be as destructive as a wild fire, but it can also serve (when utilized properly) as the very engine of progress in a civilization. Below I provide twenty practical examples of why Christian chastity makes sense on a number levels, and why if we are really going to reign in the moral mess that is out there, we must realize that the moral life begins with this simple phrase; "This is my body…" Now how we finish that sentence is entirely up to us.



Song #1- Human by The Human League: because you need to learn self-control before marriage in order to live it within marriage.



Taking vows does not magically remove temptation, nor does it make other people less attractive to you. Thus, if you are not learning how to say no to your appetites before marriage (especially when it's most difficult), then why would you assume that it would come naturally after the wedding. Fidelity can be a challenge anyhow, one does not need to make this challenge more difficult. There will be times in marriage where sexual intimacy is not possible- even when it is greatly desired, better to learn self control and discipline now than hope that it magically appears afterwards.





Song # 2- Need You Now by Lady Antebellum: because how much do you really have in common with this person apart from your physical chemistry?


What I mean to suggest here is that sexual chemistry can be a very powerful part of our decision making process, and if one is engaging in premarital sex, that said chemistry can skew our whole perception of that relationship. In other words, you may be tempted to overvalue this aspect of your relationship, and undervalue the fact that you may have less in common than you might like to think. Take sex out of the equation (and/or alcohol), and sit in a room and have a conversation with that person. At some point in your relationship that sexual fire will wane (or at least become less the central focus of your the relationship), is this still someone you want to be with? What about in twenty years? You will never know the answer to that question while sex is part of the decision making process.


               

Song # 3- Feed the Tree by Belly: because chastity tests the "mettle" of the person you're dating.



Being valued for your own sake (as opposed to what you can give a person physically) is an important test in any relationship. This basic "test" separates the men from the boys, the bops from the ladies, the sheep from the goats, the pretenders from the contenders, etc. Anyone worthy of a long term relationship with you will not balk at this suggestion. However, it is important to know just where that other person stands on this issue, for even if they respect your decision to wait, they may not exactly be inclined to help you if you are struggling with temptation. It is difficult enough to resist temptation when both parties are committed, but try doing it when only one is invested.




Song # 4- Blank Space by Taylor Swift: because chastity makes the dating process far more focused and intentional.


In other words, "if your options are always open", you may just find yourself dating/hooking up with the wrong people for the wrong reasons. That is not to suggest that we should go about sizing everyone up and constantly evaluating them based on whether they are "marriage material" or not, but chastity of this sort really does work to help bypass a good deal of time that might be otherwise wasted in a variety of tumultuous love affairs that ultimately go no where and siphon off the best years of your life. Speaking of which…




Song # 5- Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac: because sex before marriage can lead to meandering and pointless relationships.

Shows about zombies can be quite entertaining, but I hardly think that we want our relationships to resemble them. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon phenomenon when people get stuck in relationships for far too long. In any case, there may be a biological explanation for this. Apparently that old "platitude" about the "two becoming one flesh" is not merely a metaphor after all, but rather a biological fact. Indeed, scientists have discovered that humans have a bonding chemical known as oxytocin, that is released into the body during intercourse and breastfeeding. And this physiological "adhesive" would be great were we not attaching ourselves to the wrong people in the wrong ways at the wrong times. At worst we destroy that emotional adhesive altogether, rendering ourselves in capable of healthy relationships. At best we damage that adhesive in such a way that we find true intimacy extremely difficult. But whatever the case, this chemical "bond" threatens to draw us (and keep us) in relationships that might never have lingered otherwise. We might want to leave, but that feeling nevertheless persists that we are part of them and they us.




Song # 6- Keep Your Hands to Yourself by the Georgia Satellites: because sex before marriage makes the wedding (and the wedding night) "anti-climactic".


Obviously there is a play on words here, but it is a "play" that is incredibly apropos. The climax of a love story to a certain extent really should deliver a climax, and not simply a repeat of what has already gone before. It is for this reason that no one likes the guy who takes great pleasure in ruining the end of a movie for us. That is not to say that sex is the only thing to wait for, but everyone knows that a proper denouement is more satisfying than one which is "premature". When my wife and I attended a marriage preparation classes (as per the requirement of the Church), many people in the class were living together at the time, and had been doing so for any number of years. Frankly, many of them looked weary, and not terribly thrilled to have to jump through this particular hoop. As for my wife and I, we were incredibly enthusiastic, even though the classes took place after a long day of work. My point is when you're already living together, and have, in a certain sense, already had your wedding night many times over, it is hard to be terribly excited about taking a marriage class, much less attempting to learn how to continue to do something you have already been doing for a long time.      






Song # 7- Everything Is Different Now by Don Henley: because it is important that you first learn other signs of affection before you learn the ultimate sign.



Intimacy includes far more than sexual intercourse. Indeed, the surest way to destroy intimacy is to reduce it to that. By removing it from the list of possibilities in a budding relationship, all of that passion can instead be devoted to other forms of affection (i.e. holding hands, opening doors, buying flowers, planning romantic outings, etc.). Sex in a sense is the easy part- the natural outgrowth of romantic chemistry and desire- but the abiding fuel for that chemistry, if it is to be enduring, must be built upon the day to day signs of affection that fall outside of the specific act of intercourse. If one only learns a narrow kind of physical affection, they will never really learn true affection at all. Below Don Henley describes quite eloquently just how difficult it can be to move from the "Hotel California" to something far more divine.


     



 Song # 8- My Eyes Adored You by Frankie Valli: because a couple must learn to revere one another before they learn to touch one another.


One of the biggest threats to respect in any relationship is the reduction of the sexual act to a form of extraneous entertainment. In other words, when sex is not seen as a natural outgrowth of affection and love it can easily be reduced to a form of selfish pleasure. When this happens there are any number of indignities that rush in to replace a healthy form of affection (pornography, objectification, sexual violence, etc.). Before you can touch your partner, you must learn that they are, in a certain sense, untouchable; that is to say that they are of infinite worth. From this kind of awareness springs a natural form of reverence, a sense of wonder and awe that this person would even let you touch them at all. Perhaps this sounds like a bit of a stretch, but I would argue that it is just such a sense of reverence (and gratitude) that charges ones sex life with potency; a little "I'm not worthy" is much better for your sex life than the diabolical "you're so lucky".




Song # 9- Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel: because "experience" is not all its cracked up to be.
   

When I was in high school I remember feeling peer pressure, not simply from the guys in my class, but from the magazine rack as well. There was always a sense in these magazines that in order to have a healthy and happy sex life you really did need to get in as much practice as possible. What if I have sex and I don't know what I'm doing? What if I don't it right and she laughs at me? Or worse, what if she tells her friends? Such a foreboding fear can only be completely understood in a culture of Cosmo. Yet if experience were the only requirement for young people, then promiscuity would seem to be the primary goal, and judging from the above "headlines", there are any number of reasons that this logic would seem to be flawed. The other side of "experience" really is quite unseemly when you think of it. Do you really want to think of your beloved intimately with countless (or any) other men/women? Do you want them comparing that person to you? Do you like the fact that their "expertise" comes to you because they learned it while practicing it on others? On the other hand, when neither party has any "practice", or expectation, there is a simple gratitude for the grace of seeing/being with a woman. Whatever the learning curve, there is nothing to compare it to, so no one is thinking "Boy, I wish you would do what so and so did." I bet Adam and Eve had a great time, for I am quite sure that in the Garden of this kind of innocence, part of the pleasure was that of discovery.





Song # 10- Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by the Shirelles: because sex before marriage comes with too much fear and emotional baggage.


No matter what the circumstances, there is always a certain level of danger that comes with sexual intercourse. Why? Sex is cosmic. For it has the capacity to introduce a new being into the material universe. Sex is also a bit like an earthquake, so earthshaking that it has the capacity to change your very identity. Thus, marriage was given to as a stable foundation to be able to handle the aftershocks. To take sex lightly is to play Russian Roulette with your future, and the future of that other person. Women obviously bear the greater burden in this regard. Within the bond of marriage there is a far greater serenity concerning the consequences of sex, for the relationship is designed to be permanent. When sex is not tied to a vow, the ambiguities of the situation inspire not only human fear and anxiety, but supernatural anxiety. On the other hand, within marriage you can generally relax and actually enjoy yourself scruple free.




       
Song #11- Better Man by Pearl Jam: because sex outside of marriage both solemnizes and sacramentalizes the spirit of indecisiveness.



When a couple is cohabiting, and is in many respects living like a married couple, their situation does bear much of the symbolism of marriage; for they are living together, sleeping together, and usually sharing most of the finances. The only thing keeping this from being a real marriage is… well… a real marriage. Deep down everyone knows that cohabitation is a counterfeit of a real commitment. It has all of the external appearance of the commitment, but without the actual commitment itself. Yet the larger problem comes down to intention, for quite frequently neither party knows precisely what the other is thinking. Indeed, it is possible that even the parties themselves aren't quite sure what they want from their own future. And so these types of relationships can keep us in a tragic holding pattern for years, with one person hoping to receive a dramatic proposal, and the other hoping to maintain the status quo.



      
Song # 12- One Slip by Pink Floyd: because are you ready to be a father?



Perhaps the best kept secret in this age of contraception and abortion is that, biologically speaking, sex exists to make babies. Indeed, even one simple sexual indiscretion can change your identity forever (viz. turn you into a parent).




Song # 13- Picture by Kid Rock ft. Sheryl Crow: because diseases happen… a lot.


Those who intend to wait until they are married are often told that waiting may in fact be unhealthy. Interesting that the same people who tell you this seem strangely aloof to all of the unnatural things that can follow from expressing all of those "natural" desires. For some reason we have come to believe (and are lead to believe) that contraceptives will protect us from many of these bad choices… and they might… but they also might not (see above the many qualifiers surrounding "protection"). The truth is many of the arguments that I have outlined in this post would be obsolete were it not for artificial birth control. Indeed, ABC provides the very basis and ground by which we suppose we can get away with this game of Russian roulette. Without said "protection" the cons easily outweigh the pros. We have created this mess ourselves and have claimed foolishly that we can resolve it by doing more of the very thing that got us into this mess in the first place. Why? Because we prefer our license to self control, we prefer the permutation of the lie to conversion of life. We are in essence sending our children out into the battlefield, under the pretext that we have generously provided them with a bullet proof vest. And all of this to protect our collective lie. People will do what they will in any case, but how is it helpful for us to place, for example, a condom machine above a urinal, or a bowl of them in a nurses office at some university (as per my experience). A condom may (or may not) prevent a disease in one particular case, but what it most certainly will not do, is discourage the type of reckless behavior (and promiscuity) that is most likely to bring you into contact with the very disease you are (apparently) trying to avoid. See below for further details.




Song # 14- Genie in a Bottle by Christina Aguilera: because arbitrary timelines are a bad idea.


"You'll "just know when the time is right". I'm not sure if this magic (some might call it gnostic) moment involves Jiminy Cricket speaking to your heart, or if some little angel comes and whispers it into your ears or not, but one wonders whether this mystical insight also frees you from all of the consequences that go along with sex. Can one still get pregnant when one is "ready", or does the condom fairy bring you infallible protection. In any case, this gnostic nonsense about "readiness" (or lack thereof) is quite seductive, for it justifies itself based on the authority of your own will and conscience. The question is what does it mean when a sixteen year old says he/she is "ready"? Ready for what? Perhaps the most diabolical example of this arbitrary timeline involves some combination of the following words; "Well, if you're going to marry that person anyway..." One may wonder what sort of divine guarantee this couple has received in order to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will in fact be married, and why "almost married" is as good a reason to have sex as "real married". I suppose an almost license to be a doctor is just as good as a real one. The bigger issue that needs to be raised is whether or not marriage and sex are really connected at all? If not, what are you waiting for? Have at it. And stop using marriage as a lame cover for the fact that you're really not serious about waiting at all. But if sex and marriage are indeed inextricably bound, then one should do everything in their power to wait until both parties have truly become "one" before behaving as if they already were.                    





Song # 15- When We Dance by Sting: because only when you're married can you say "yes" to the full implications of sex.



When it comes to all of the reasons that people use in order justify premarital sex, the one that is most difficult to argue is the notion that one is choosing this in the name of "love". Yet the problem isn't so much with the word love, but rather depth and trajectory of its meaning in a given situation. Having amorous feelings for a person is great, but that is not love in the highest sense. In order for sexual love to truly mean anything it must involve some kind of permanence. It's nice to know that someone out there likes us enough to have sex with us, but that level of affection and commitment is not necessarily meaningful unless there is something deeper attached. Yet even if we do love someone with whom we are having sex, if there is no vow there, we are ultimately impotent in this regard. After all, simply exchanging pleasure with someone is not exactly what one might call a lasting commitment. When you're in high school can you really give yourself to someone completely? Can you really say that your life belongs to them? Perhaps in the abstract, but not in reality. And what about when you're simply cohabiting with a person and having sex but not married? I think the question about commitment answers itself. In fact, only when you're married and open to life is the full meaning of the "yes" of sex able to be expressed. "I love so much that I want to create a new life with you, and to live a lifetime with you, and for you, and for the sake our children. Any other notion of sexual intimacy pales in comparison to this one.    





Song # 16- I Just Died in Your Arms by Cutting Crew: because the consequences of sex are far too grave for the fleeting pleasure that comes with it.



Sex is wonderful, but the action itself is quite fleeting, while the effects can last a lifetime. In other words, is sex with this person really worth potentially mortgaging your future dreams and derailing all of your big plans. When sex takes place within marriage there is so much about it that works towards the unity of the couple, but when it takes place outside, "unity" can actually create a volatile situation. Why? Because in most cases both parties do not desire the full consequences of that unity. Consequently, there can be a kind of annoying three-legged race that goes on where both individuals are tied to one another, though they might prefer otherwise. When one is in throes of passion it always seems like it's worth it, but perhaps in this instance before we "throw" ourselves into it, we should first consider the consequences.




Song # 17- Angel of the Morning by Juice Newton: because you can quickly lose self respect, not to mention your ideals, when you give in to sex.


When people lose their virginity before marriage, particularly when their goal was to preserve it, they can quickly determine "Oh well, now that it's gone there's no point in trying anymore." And however understandable such a despair might be, the personal consequences are even more tragic in some cases than the actual loss of virginity, for oftentimes the person will go from setting the bar high, to playing the game of moral limbo. It's one thing to make a mistake and quite another to accept moral failure as the norm. What's worse, instead of demanding others see you and your worth, you systematically allow them to use you, and you do the same to them. In such an environment, how can you value sexual intimacy, much less respect yourself when you're treating one of the most precious gifts you have as if it were purely a biological function, or as some kind of bait to get someone to love you? Incidentally, this will not work, the guy may suggest that it will, but what is far more likely to occur is that this decision will bring an unceremonious and awkward end to that relationship. And as unfair as that may seem, the one who wanted you to sleep with them, will lose respect for you because you allowed yourself to be exploited by them (this is the weird "schizophrenia of sin" talking). Get up and re-commit yourself to chastity, the worst disgrace is not the reality of "falling", the worst disgrace is wallowing in the muck of immorality.




Song # 18- Just a Kiss by Lady Antebellum: because the power of sex is such that it can destabilize (and even ruin) a budding relationship.


Sex is designed to change you in ways that are life altering. It is designed to create a profound bond between you and the one with whom you choose to be intimate. But it can also shake you up, and make you bound in unexpected ways. Indeed, a relationship that involves sex can become volatile, precisely because new demands impose themselves upon you (biologically, psychologically, and physically). Thus, a tectonic shift like this interjected into a newly developing relationship at such a tender stage, can permanently damage a relationship that would otherwise have been healthy. And so here you are, not vowed to each other, but united in the flesh in a way that you are not totally prepared to be. Ironically what tempts you to take this step in the relationship (viz. the fact that it's a budding relationship), can actually the cause of its demise.

      


Song # 19- Strut by Sheena Easton: because "50 Shades of Grey"



One of the greatest dangers of pornography is not simply how it impersonalizes sex, but how it invites us to to be aroused by things that we have no business being aroused by. For example, when it comes reading about- or indulging in- something like BDSM, whether we realize it or not, we are allowing ourselves to be turned on by something that is akin to performance rape. Simply put, if this is what "turns us on" then we are in big trouble. Once again, the problem isn't simply that we are getting turned on by messed up things (though obviously that's creepy enough), the bigger issue is what's not turning us on. When one loves somebody in a sacrificial way, the great "turn on" is the fact that we are able to love, serve, and give pleasure to the one whom we cherish. But when sex turns a little "shady", it is less about genuine intimacy, and more than anything else about pleasuring one's self (whatever the means). Perhaps this is why we hear so much about ED and sado-masochism these day. We are so messed up from the lack of true intimacy that they can't even get turned on by the ordinary means anymore. So one might ask what does this have to do with premarital sex? Simple: this pornographic culture that surrounds us has created such a distorted view of sex that by the time men and women reach a suitable age for marriage (if they do at all) they are so screwed up by this "iceberg of filth" that they can't even imagine what a healthy sexual relationship looks like.


  



Song # 20- Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp: because it can easily become empty and exploitative.



Presumably people make such a big deal about sex because it is a big deal. I have always found it quite fascinating that in one instance an individual will argue that sex is little more than a biological function, and in another a profound act of love. On many occasions, I have been very grateful to be able to relieve myself, but never have I regarded it as a profound (and enduring) act of love. And that's the point, there is no riddle here, people want it both ways. They want it to mean nothing when they want it to mean nothing, and they want it to mean everything when they want it to mean everything (see children in the womb). We all want heaven on the cheap and it's as simple as that. Heaven may be, in any case, priceless, but it ain't cheap, nor is it worthless. Treating sex as if it were meaningless, doesn't destroy sex, but it may destroy it for those who treat it as such. Hence, if you treat sex in an empty and exploitative way, you will get get back what you put in. The same can be said on a collective level. If we as a society treat sex like it's nothing, and we exploit one another in the name of it, we shouldn't be surprised that the healthy fruits of sexuality are destroyed along with it (e.g. children, pleasure, intimacy, true affection, and marriage).




Now for the female version (Never Say Never by Romeo Void):




Song # 21- Just One of the Guys by Jenny Lewis: because it can steal the best years of your life and leave you with little to show for it.


While you are spending the best years of your youth in the pursuit of pleasure and ambition, you may just be robbing yourself of true happiness. Hedonism may offer a generous reward up front, but it robs you on the back end. And for this reason, so many men and women find themselves in their mid to late 30s, waking from some kind of deep existential slumber, only to realize- in a fit of desperation- that the clock is running down, and that they may just have permanently deferred their one chance at happiness. In the following two songs, Jennifer Lewis and Gwen Stefani express the profound implications of this dilemma. Our culture would love to ignore such biological exigencies, but like the Tell-Tale Heart, their truth can only be buried for so long.

  

A bonus video with a similar lament (Simple Kind of Life by No Doubt):



 

4 comments:

  1. I well remember when Angel of the Morning was a hit in 1967. It seemed odd to a kid...why doesn't she sleep at her own house? What sin is she talking about?

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  2. The literalism of children provides many an amusing interpretation like this. On the other hand, I suppose this is the idea of the euphemism from an adult's perspective (i.e. shield the child from what's really going on).

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