When Shame Dies

Is anything wrong in our culture besides saying that something is wrong? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of you are quite likely fathers of daughters and so when I present an article called “What It’s Like To Date Your Dad“, you could be thinking, “I encourage fathers and daughters to have date nights. It’s one of the best ways I find out what’s going on in the life of my daughter, find out about the boys in her life, get to know her as a person, and just have some real bonding time together.” God bless you if that’s you. You’re being a good father.

But that is not what the article is talking about, unless you mean your date nights with your daughter end with the two of you making out in the bedroom together.

Unfortunately, this is what has happened. The girl in the article describes meeting her long lost father who had been missing from her life for years and feeling sexual attraction to him. Apparently, it was mutual. She describes meeting him and then within five days she lost her virginity to him. Note that this happened in the house of his girlfriend who he was living with at the time. (By the way women, if a man is willing to leave another woman because he thinks you’re better, be cautious. Who’s to say he won’t do the same to you when he finds someone he thinks is better?)

Was this a one-time thing? Nope. The girl now says that they are engaged and that they will get married and that they plan to have kids.

And this is also being defended. You can find many comments that do say that this is sick and this guy should go to jail since the girl is a minor. But then, there are others who are saying “Well who are we to judge?” and “As long as they’re happy that’s what matters.” While some of this goes into the marriage equality debate, it’s important to remember that when this whole thing started, we were told there was no slippery slope at all.

I think it’s conclusive now that that statement was wrong. We are sliding down that slope. People are defending a father having sex with his own daughter. Why?

I am convinced the reason is that they have no choice.

Sex has been treated like a deity in our culture. In a way, I understand it. If you remove God, then in all honesty, sex is the most transcendent experience that you have normally. It is radical and earthshaking and totally transforms your view of the other person. The next closest thing, and I cannot speak from experience on this one, could be drug usage. In any case, people are searching for the transcendent.

Let’s be clear also. We are a pleasure loving society. Of course, I am not anti-pleasure, but I am opposed to assuming our pleasures are the highest good. (This is not to disagree with someone like John Piper’s Christian Hedonism. I disagree with Piper in other areas, but I think he’s correct on this one.) There is no doubt of course that sex brings with it a great deal of pleasure and for many, it could be the highest pleasure. (And as far as the pleasures of the body go, yes. This one is right at the top. There is no comparison.)

So when we start talking about our society’s obsession with sex, let’s be clear right at the start. It makes sense. Since men so often think about sex, let’s note that those of us who are Christian men could be said to be just as much obsessed. Even when times come that we are not thinking about sex, it is always on the back burner and it can be brought up to our mind again immediately.

I remember the Christmas when my parents got me my first car. What did I want to do immediately? I was driving to see all my friends to show it off. I had my own set of wheels and it was a taste of freedom and I was looking forward to going everywhere I could, but I had to make sure everyone knew exactly how much I was going to be enjoying the freedom and experience I had.

Our society has done the same with sex.

When we thought we had liberated it, we wanted to show it everywhere. In the past, all you needed to see in a movie was a man and a woman going into a room and seeing the door close and perhaps hearing a click of a lock. You didn’t need to see what was going on. It was known. We can all be sure that our imaginations work well enough to supply the details. This is also why I tell men to wait until marriage to have sex as your view of women will also change. It’s very easy to imagine a relationship with a fully-clothed woman.  This is why myself and many other Christian men have to do the look away or the sky look when we’re out in public and see other women.

How much harder is it when you can so easily see them taking their clothes off right in front of you? Modern media has made that possible. Sexual relationships outside of marriage are seen as the norm and common. Of course, we just have to ask who are we to judge? As long as people are happy, what right do we really have to intrude? Are we going to be seen as prudes?

Now as I’ve said, we should not be prudes. None of us should be anti-sex. What we are really for is sex in the right place and in the right context. Put it right there and Christians should agree that it’s absolutely wonderful and a gift from God. Put it in the wrong spot and it’s just like nuclear energy. It’s fine when used properly and directed toward a proper purpose in the proper context, but get it wrong and you get Chernobyl.

A few months ago, one of my friends put up a status on Facebook saying our culture’s problem is we think way too much about sex. I argued that was the exact opposite of our problem. We do everything but think about sex truly. We have thoughts of it of course, but think about it? We do it. We dream about it. We fantasize about it. We do everything but really think about the act itself. It’s become more of a reflex than anything else.

If you don’t think but just say “If it feels good, do it” and don’t really see a purpose to sex, then in the end, how can you say someone is misusing sex? The only way to misuse it is if you think there is a proper use of it. Remove the proper use and there is no misuse. What becomes allowable at that point? Anything at all. Why is this trumpeted everywhere? Because we have to have acceptance. Without acceptance, all that is left is shame.

And that ultimately is the problem in our culture. We are becoming a culture without shame.

Shame in itself can be seen as a bad thing. No one likes to experience shame. Note I am not talking about guilt. Guilt is the internal feeling that you have done something wrong. Shame is the external awareness that your actions are not accepted by society and that you internally notice their condemnation. If society is not condemning, there is no reason to hide, so do what you want.

Ultimately, when we sear our morality this much, we actually cheapen ourselves and the world around us. What does it say about a woman who’s willing to take her clothes off for just anyone whatsoever? It doesn’t speak of a confident woman. It speaks of a woman who just sees herself as a body and of her body as the highest good she has to offer. Ultimately, it speaks of a woman who is treating herself in a cheap way.

The Christian ethic here is different. Here, the woman is told to say that she is a temple and in fact a temple of the Holy Spirit, which means she is to be honored above all. You don’t get to enter that temple cheaply. The right to come into that temple comes with a price. You must be in covenant with the person themselves in order to have a right to go into their temple. What is the price the woman charges? Your whole life. Until death do you part, you are hers and hers alone and she is yours and yours alone. You are to be faithful to her and be to only her and only then are you granted the right to enter the temple.

That we look on this as bizarre and look on the other as common tells me our society does not know what shame is really any more. As said, shame normally has a bad side to it in that no one wants to experience it, but when we do, it can be an indication that we are actually doing something wrong. If we do not have shame, then we are just like a person with CIPA who is incapable of feeling pain. It might sound nice to not be able to feel pain at first, until you realize how much not feeling pain can cause you trouble. Pain is really a gift in that case. Without being able to experience pain, we would have far more suffering in this life.

If there is no shame, then we will not be able to say anyone is doing anything wrong. We might be able to say we find it personally gross, but can we say it is wrong. “Oh I would not want to have a sexual relationship with my father, but can I really say what they are doing is wrong?” In fact, the only thing that is said to be wrong today it looks like is to say that anything is wrong.

But if some things are wrong, then silencing that warning is not helping us. It’s hurting.

If we as a society defend this, then we have to ask really where will it end? We can say that some things today are unthinkable. That’s what we would have said about redefining marriage thirty years ago. Today, it’s becoming more and more common. How many times do you see the homosexual on the TV show being seen as a celebrated figure? Even if you think the belief is wrong that homosexuality is wrong, there can be no doubt that society had a strong stance against this in the past and it would have been seen as unthinkable for many.

We have a precedent for where this is going and that there are people who are willing to defend a father sleeping with his daughter is ample demonstration of that today.

On the other hand, while society has no shame, the tragedy for the church is that we do have shame. We act like sex is something shameful to talk about. It’s not. God talks about it a lot in Scripture. Someone once told me years ago says that God talks about sex all the time because He knows that we think about it all the time. Some might object “Well why do Christians have to seem to put their noses in everyone’s bedroom and saying what they think is wrong?”

It’s not that we’re putting our noses in your bedrooms. In fact, I don’t know any Christians who are for being the sex police as it were and monitoring what goes on in bedrooms. It’s that what is going on in your bedrooms is being thrust in our face every day and when we dare say anything about it, we are immediately told that we are just talking about it too much. We’ve reached a point where a Christian cannot really have a discussion about the issue. We have to start out saying “I’m not a homophobe,” or “I don’t hate homosexuals” or something of that sort. Why? Because the “tolerant” opposition has said that if you disagree, you must be a hater or something of that sort.

For all the talk on tolerance, you’d think this Gospel that was preached would be practiced some.

Christians sadly then end up giving just a negative message on sex. We need to give a positive message, kind of like the kind I said earlier in this post. We need to celebrate and uphold sex. It has been said that one problem in our culture is that unmarried people are having too much sex and married people aren’t having enough. Why should the society outside of the church think that the church has no problem with sex if we seem to have such a negative view of it?

Too often, our messages have in fact been just that. Negative. There is a time and a place for the don’ts, but there is a place for the positive and we must give the positive. I can still think of years ago as a college student being in a church service and hearing a pastor speak to teens who had just done the Silver Ring Thing. He was telling them if they have sex before marriage, that will be for selfish reasons. Okay. I can agree with that. Fine. So what were the reasons to not have sex before marriage?

Think of the guilt that you’ll feel. Think of how embarrassed you’ll be on your wedding day. Think of the possibility that you could get pregnant or you could get an STD.

And as I was listening I was thinking “Those sound like selfish reasons to me too.”

Never seemed to occur to say “This is wrong. It’s wrong because God made sex and here’s how He made it to be used and why and here are the benefits when you use it this way.”

In fact, during this sermon I was getting bored.

Note to all pastors reading this. If you are preaching a sermon on sex, and your audience is getting bored, especially college age guys, you are doing something wrong. (In fact, we could say at this point if you preach on Christ and your audience is not keeping interest, you are doing something wrong.)

If we do not get our message out about what sex is, our youth will only hear one message and that message will far overwhelm ours. Think back to when you were dating. If all you had when you were alone with your boyfriend/girlfriend at the time consisted of nothing more than a few verses from Paul, do you really think that those alone would have overpowered your hormones at the time? Those of us who are married today know well that in the proper context it’s still extremely difficult to override our hormones if we have to and those hormones can often provide some darn good justification for something we want.

We need to get our positive message out and we need to celebrate it. Yes. What goes on in our bedrooms is a private matter, but the subject matter of our bedrooms should be discussed. Churches need to have messages on sex on a regular basis. Why? Because the people in your congregation are thinking about it on a regular basis.

If you lived in Salt Lake City and were the pastor of a Christian church, you would need to have messages addressing Mormonism regularly because your congregation sees it regularly. If you lived in Egypt in the same situation, you would need to talk about Islam. If you were an Israeli pastor in Israel, you’d talk about Judaism. Well in America, the great deity that is being talked about is sex, and we need to talk about it.

As it stands, our culture not only looks at illicit sex with approval, but broadcasts it. This girl in the article I linked to earlier has her fifteen minutes of fame today. Why? She is sleeping with her father. These kinds of stories are being broadcast everywhere. Just look at the magazine rack in the grocery store. This woman in the story is being interviewed as if this is a real deep human interest and we all want to know what it’s like to be sleeping with your Dad.

How do we reverse the trend where sexual stances that should be shamed are celebrated and sexual stances that should be celebrated are shamed?

For one thing, we have to drop out of this mode of “It’s not for me to judge.” Of course it is. Jesus did say judge not, but He spoke of hypocritical judging. Not all judging. How else are you supposed to know who the pigs and dogs are that He spoke about? If you have enough information to make a judgment, then you need to make a judgment. Believe it or not, how someone feels is not the most important thing in the universe. Whether they’re doing something right or wrong is more important.

It’s also because of our individualism. The self-esteem movement has told us that how we think about ourselves is most important, but in reality, I don’t think any of us have fully bought into that myth. Why? Because we are all still seeking everyone else’s approval. But if we hold to a strong individualism, then you dare not speak out against what the individual does. What right do you have to speak against their feelings after all?

Reality is that we can reverse the trend and the best way the church can do this is simply to be the church. We must speak where Jesus would speak and be silent where He would be silent. Jesus had the greatest of love for sinners, but He never once hesitated to call sin sin. Many of us consider the story of the woman caught in adultery, but even then while Jesus did not condemn her, He did say “Go and sin no more.” (I do not think the story was part of the writing of John, but I do think that it is a true story that found its way into the copies of John.) Jesus called the action sin still. You can have utter hatred of sin, as Jesus did, and total love of sinners, as Jesus did.

We should not be ashamed of our stance on sex and we should in fact celebrate sex, while making it clear that we find what the world does shameful. When Duck Dynasty had its situation with people caling A&E and disconnecting their cable, what saddened me most afterwards was how Christians stopped their actions after their show was restored. Christians were willing to fight for a TV show, their entertainment, but they were not willing to keep going for marriage.

Remember church. We can win battles. We often do. We just don’t usually show up.

Go look at the above story again. Really look at it. A girl is sleeping with her father. If she has a boy, he will be her son/brother and if she has a girl she will be her daughter/sister. The father will always be a father/grandfather. The reason she is able to do this so confidently in society is she sure she will be accepted.

How far is this going to go?

As far as we let it.

How far are you willing to let it go?

If we do not speak today,will there be anyone to speak in the future?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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2 Responses to “When Shame Dies”

  1. David C. Says:

    In his book “Worshipping the State: How Liberalism Became Our State Religion,” author Benjamin Wiker makes some very interesting parallels between our modern liberal society and the ancient pagan world that the early Christians contended with:

    1. Acceptance of any and every form of sexual corruption.
    2. Out of control violence.
    3. No regard for any inherent value of human life.
    4. An ironic kind of “tolerance” that allowed any belief, as long as it didn’t have consequences for others.

    Wiker notes that when Christianity overran the empire and drove out paganism, new norms were established in the form of Christian morality. He pretty much establishes that the removal of Christianity is what has, at least in part, given rise to the resurgence of these pagan “values.”

    Indeed, even the outspoken atheist Nietsche once remarked that the removal of God from society would inevitably lead to the death of objective morality because Nietsche reasoned that objective morality was a religious concept, and once that religion was gone, its morality would go too.

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