Commentary on the Editorial Entitled “Pastors, We Must Do Better on Premarital Sexual Ethics” (copy)
I did some reading on the internet this morning, and found this on Crossway:
The piece is written by a Gerald Hiestand, where he frets that unmarried Christians between the ages of 18 – 29 are having sex outside of marriage. Several times, and in big letters to drive the point home, we are told:
“Only 20% of single evangelicals remain abstinent.”
The rest of the editorial is filled with the usual laments about how current sexual purity teachings are letting down youth and so forth.
(Please click the “read more” link to read the rest of this post, there is plenty more below.)
Here is an excerpt from the page by Hiestand:
- And the pastoral community must shoulder much of the blame here. Simply put, we pastors are not quite certain how to counsel singles and teens regarding appropriate sexual boundaries. We either offer subjective-biblical standards (‘the Bible says be pure’) which can be massaged around like a wax nose, or objective-personal opinions (‘keep it above the neck), which lack any real authority.
Singles need an objective-biblical standard of premarital sexual ethics, and we pastors are the ones responsible for providing it. Of course, we clearly teach that sexual intercourse should be reserved for marriage. But beyond this, there is no clear consensus among evangelical clergy about where the boundaries should be drawn. Instead we tend to push the burden of this question back onto singles.
Do we really want to build our own list of sexual standards?
…But do we really mean to say that Christian singles should “build their own list of sexual standards”? Certainly this can’t be right. Is oral sex permissible? Fondling? Mutual masturbation? Passionate kissing?
Pastors and ministry leaders have been sending a mixed message about premarital sexual activity. We’ve left the door open to sexual foreplay, while insisting that singles refrain from consummating that foreplay. In essence, we’re telling Christians singles that it is (or might be) permissible to start having sex, just as long as they don’t finish. Which is, of course, not a workable sexual ethic.
—– END OF CROSS WAY EXCERPT, MY COMMENTS BELOW —–
The older I get the more this stuff sounds more and more naive. Incredibly naive.
Here is the reply I left on Crossway’s page in response:
- The church does nothing to support or encourage unmarried Christian adults over the age of 30.
I’m a Christian female (though considering leaving the faith) who is still a virgin, who is between the age of 40- 45. I have already decided to have sex outside of marriage – no more waiting for me. Telling Christians to wait until marriage to have sex is a total, utter joke. I’ve lived it out, and it’s not been worth it at all.
Many Christians tell young Christians, (as I was when I was younger), that if you have faith, pray, and wait and trust God (and it is strongly implied if one remains celibate, God will reward the Christian with marriage), that God will send you a spouse. I did all that, and am still unmarried.
I’m tired of Christians obsessing on unmarried people under the age of 30.
There’s a percentage of us older (as in age 30+) Christian virgins out here, and churches and Christian publications do nothing for us.
Those of us who admit to wanting marriage receive trite comments, or we are shamed for it, or given false or insulting advice (such as, “lose weight”- (but I’m not fat), “be content in your singleness,” “join a dating site!,” “Jesus is all you need,” etc).
To all the pastors and Christian authors out there who do bother to write about singleness:
Please stop with the pat answers and platitudes, and stop assuming all of us chose to remain unmarried, or that we are at fault for it, and stop assuming all unmarried Christians are under the age of 30 or 35.
We did not choose to be single into our 40s, and we’re not to blame for it.
We’re not single because we are weird, fat, ugly, lived ungodly lifestyles, God is trying to whip us into shape, or we “have too much baggage.”
Stop telling us that wanting to be married is tantamount to “making marriage into an idol.” It is not.
Preacher and Christian authors:
Stop telling us unmarried Christians that it is selfish to desire marriage – and then turn around the next moment in your books and blogs and tell us how all Christian should desire marriage because it’s so godly and wonderful, and shame on us if we didn’t marry by age “X”.
There is no real effort by churches to play matchmaker, to help singles get married.
Some singles object to this and do not want to be paired up, but for those of who would appreciate the help,we are dismissed with comment such as “churches are not meat markets” or “church is for bible study.” Oh, okay then, I guess you want me to pick up biker men at local bars instead?
Mr. Hiestand would do well to read the book “Singled Out” by Field and Colon, in addition to the aforementioned “Quitting Church” by Julia Duin for a fuller picture of the discrimination that unmarried people, unmarried Christians in particular, face inside and outside of the church.
It does depend on the church, though; while some churches discriminate against unmarried people, or some abuse us (use us as as work-horses for cheap labor, or as free babysitting services for married church couples), we and our concerns are usually ignored…
Because most preachers are continually preaching about marriage and parenting.
Most church programs and ministries are about marriage or parenting.
I am a never-married Christian adult over the age of 30. How I tire of Christians at new churches I enter assuming I must be divorced or a single mother.
And (to married Christians out there): Stop assuming all unmarried Christian women are sex pots who will steal away married men.
A lot of pastors and Christian husbands refuse to meet alone with single women, chat with them in the church, etc., because they assume we want to sleep with them – we don’t (stop flattering yourselves).
And so, some unmarried Christian women remain very alone and cut off, because they cannot even have friendships with people.
The American church and Christian community should be ashamed of how it treats unmarried Christians past the age of 30.
To any Christian women under the age of 35 who may be reading this: don’t assume you will get married by the time you are 35 or 40. I don’t care how much you pray and have faith or serve in the church and follow all the other usual Christian advice on this issue, none of that is a guarantee you will get a spouse. I know because it happened to me.
Comment by christianpundit — March 17, 2013 @ 5:22 am
—END COMMENT AT CROSS WAY BLOG—–
I probably sound like a bit of a ranting loon there, but I so do not care anymore. I’ve had it up the butt with these naive, hand wringing editorials about fornication, and the fact they are always about YOUNG PEOPLE (as in under the age of 30).
If you don’t give a rat’s ass about how an unmarried age 40+ woman is coping with her celibacy – and you don’t, as you and other writers and preachers expend no effort or energy catering to older Christian celibates- why should we believe you care about the sexual purity of some 23 year old man or woman?
Because one day, that 23 year old might end up being 40 and still unmarried. You Christian authors and preachers stop caring about this purity topic when the person gets beyond 25 – 30 – 35 years of age.
It is just so very ageist and incredibly hypocritical for evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Southern Baptists to fret, cry, and moan over the sexual struggles of 20-somethings then show no concern or support for unmarried Christians over the age of 30.
You guys (Christian authors, preachers, Christian organizations etc) have so totally dropped the ball on truly supporting celibacy and helping unmarried people past the age of 30 that I cannot take any thing you people say seriously any more.
My follow-up post on the same page:
@ John M.
I agree with you that many churches, or Christian culture, is not addressing sexual ethics, but it might be more accurate to say they are not addressing it correctly or more effectively.
1. First, most of these Christian sexual ethics pages/ books/ sermons are aimed at people who are under the age of 30, like what we see on this page.
(As though people over 30 don’t need encouragement, or to be held accountable, or don’t have sexual desires they struggle with.)
2. It seems to be assumed, a given, that all, or most Christians, are having sex outside of marriage.
This article focuses on that fact that only 20% of Christians under 29 years of age are abstaining, but with the focus being on the 80% who are not.
Why not write more about the 20% – tell them they’re doing great. Congratulate them, tell them you know it has to be difficult to hold on in our sex-saturated secular and Christian culture (yes, many churches are obsessed with sex), but keep hanging in there.
Those Christians who are past age 30 and still virgins get no acknowledgement, recognition, or support in Christian materials or churches.
All the focus is placed on those Christian singles who are fornicating. The ones who are not remain ignored – and this is detrimental to them.
3. When the topic of sexual purity and sin is addressed, the advice is simplistic:
“Just say no to sex,” or it might be worded, “Having sex outside of marriage is wrong and sinful.”
I also find approaches such as, “Remember who you are in Jesus, and that will help you remain chaste,” or “your sexuality belongs to the whole body of Christ, not just to you,” as some Christians have used in various books, to largely be ineffective views, as they are intellectual “gobbeldy-gook,” or rather vague.
4. Married Christian people also commit sexual sin.
This needs to be talked about and admitted to when preachers and Christian authors discuss sexual sin with singles, or with mixed groups (meaning singles with married couples).
Many married Christians, including preachers, are addicted to dirty sites, movies, and magazines. Some have affairs and divorce.
Yet this stereotype of unmarried Christians as being out- of- control- promiscuous horn dogs, and thus in need of sexual purity reminders and lectures, persists.
Your average Christian married couple probably needs more ‘anti-X rated material’ and purity lectures more so than some Christian singles do.
It’s somewhat insulting that these lectures and pearl-clutching blogs about sexual sins among Christians are almost always continually aimed at singles only.
5. While I am not advocating that Christians who are guilty of sexual sin should be made to feel like trash, and yes, they should be reminded that God can and will forgive them of sexual sin…
The constant teaching from preachers and Christian bloggers on how willing and quick God is to forgive sin, how they use rhetorical devices such as telling fornicators they can be “secondary virgins” or “spiritual virgins,” sort of makes a mockery out of those Christians past the age of 30 who have remained virgins by choice.
Some of these Christians mean well in trying to reassure Christians who feel guilty over consensual sexual sin, but in the process, they cheapen the resolve and dignity of Christians who have willingly abstained from sexual sin into their 30s, 40s, and beyond, especially when such resolve was based in part on fidelity to the Scriptures’ teachings on sexuality.
If you are going to sit there and tell a 22 year old that his or her sexual sin is all fine and good and peachy keen and nothing to remain upset about because God will forgive them for it, the message I take from this as a 40-something Christian virgin is, “Why then, should I continue remaining chaste at my age? I might as well have sex too.”
I’m not saying people who fall into sexual sin should be “beat up” for it by the church, but preachers and Christian authors need to walk more a middle line on the topic, where they-
1. re-affirm that yes, God forgives sinners of all types, but
2. -sexual sin is not acceptable-
Too often, point 1 is emphasized and point 2 is down- played, or ignored.
There are probably a few other points that need to be mentioned, but those are the only ones to come to my mind at the moment.
A lot of Christians today do not believe that the Bible condemns pre-marital sex.
Ones I have run across online claim Bible verses which address sex do not condemn fornication, or that the Bible is hazy and vague about it, so that they can make up their own rules about sexual behavior.
Because some Christian women (in more flaky, weird, far- far- right Christian groups, such as Quiverfull and Reconstructionists) have been emotionally or physically harmed due to extreme legalistic teachings about sexual purity, and the over-emphasis on the importance of a female’s virginity, some of them chuck sexual purity out the window altogether once they leave those groups.
So they write blog pages criticizing teachings about virginity and sexual purity.
But anyway, this non-stop weeping, blog pontificating, or hand- wringing over the sexual shenanigans by Christians of the under age 30 set- all the while ignoring those of us at age 35+ who are actually still sexually pure- is a farce and is a little disrespectful.
-Kind of like how churches spend a lot of money on their under-age-30 singles but not a dime on their over- age- 30 singles.