After a weary wandering for forty long years, the Hebrew people were preparing to enter Canaan. They encountered pagan forces east of the Jordan river, but resolutely defeated them — because the Lord was with his people.
When the heathen armies saw that they were unable to resist the power of Jehovah, they decided to pursue another course of action. They sought to corrupt Israel from within. Accordingly, Moabite women came among the people of God, and the Hebrew men sexually indulged themselves with these women — likely as a part of idolatrous ceremonies (Numbers 25:1-2). As a result, the Lord sent a plague among his people and 24,000 died on account of their fornication — 23,000 of them in a single day (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:8). In this latter passage, Paul warns that this account ought to serve as an example for folks today (vv. 6,11).
The sexual capacity of mankind is not intrinsically evil. It is a part of the divine design for humanity. But its role has prescribed parameters; sexual activity is limited to the marriage relationship.
Ever since the late 50’s and early 60’s especially, America has been on a destructive sexual binge. This degeneracy is manifested in several ways.
Increases Teenage Sexual Activity
Teenage sexual promiscuity is rampant. Encouraged by school programs that distribute birth-control devices, only about one in five teenagers will remain chaste in these early years. Some three million teens annually will contract a sexually transmitted disease. Teen pregnancies are at an all time high and many are terminated by abortions.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are around nine million men and women who are living together intimately — withot a marriage covenant. That figure has sky-rocketed tenfold since 1960. The number of unmarried, cohabitating couples has increased by 72% in the last decade.
In some regions of the nation at least, marital infidelity is common. Recent studies have suggested that, on average, in the about-50 age group, some 28% of men and 17% of women have had extramarital relationships. One problem with such polls is that people frequently lie about adulterous affairs. The numbers may be higher.
Acceptance of Homosexuality
There may be no better measure of the plummeting standard of sexual morality in the nation than that of the growing acceptance of homosexual relationships. Studies within the past five years indicate that more than three million people are involved in same sex liaisons. A 1995 poll suggested that 90% of the public believes that society “should value all types of families,” including the homosexual arrangement.
These societal trends are a shocking commentary on the changing face of America’s attitudes and actions regarding sexual activity.
Causes for America’s Sexplosion
The causes for this radical shift in sexual practices are doubtless many and varied. We obviously cannot do full justice to the problem in this brief article.
One study of this matter was undertaken in the 1960’s by investigative journalist Vance Packard. Over a span of four years, Packard interviewed some 300 professionals — psychologists, sociologists, etc. — and surveyed approximately 2,000 people relative to progressively changing sex attitudes — both in America and Europe. In his book, The Sexual Wilderness, he postulated a number of factors which shaped the sexual shift that occurred in that decade, and which has a lingering effect unto this day. I have combined some of Packard’s propositions with my own research over the years.
Rationalism is the notion that human reason is perfectly competent to discover and define “spiritual” belief and practice without any appeal to divine revelation. This ideology grew out of that era known as the Enlightenment, an 18th century movement that reacted to the oppressive influence of the Roman Church during the previous millennium. The Rationalists, inventing their own criteria of judgment, e.g., removing the supernatural elements from Scripture, proceeded to discredit the Bible in the minds of many.
A chain reaction resulted eventually. If the Scriptures are not to be trusted in their historical data, why should they be highly regarded in terms of moral restrictions? Accordingly, a gradual rejection of the authority of the Bible arose. The “trickle-down” effect became apparent as the decades passed. If there is no objective standard to regulate conduct, then every man becomes his own “Bible,” and moral chaos reigns.
In 1859, Charles Darwin published his book, The Origin of Species. It was wildly popular from the day of its release. The initial edition of 1,025 copies sold out the first day.
Though Darwin was still a believer in God at the time, the thesis of the book is that mankind has evolved from a lower form of life. Man is, therefore, basically a “naked ape.” Others took Darwinism to its logical extension and argued that the evolutionary hypothesis allows one to be “an intellectually fulfilled atheist” (Dawkins, p. 6). One who has but a modest level of reasoning ability can conclude that if we are but products of the blind forces of nature, then there is no moral standard higher than our own desire. As Darwinism was popularized and accepted in America, there occurred a “descent of man” in terms of morality. The rules for sexual behavior began to erode.
The march of scientific discovery, wonderful as it has been in many respects, has had negative fallout as well. This is not because science itself is intrinsically evil; rather, it has to do with how men have interpreted nature.
As scientific knowledge advanced, more and more it could be seen that there are “laws” that explain the operations of nature. Increasingly, “God” was not needed as an explanation for “how things work.” The idea of a “God,” therefore, who controls nature, and who is sovereign over mankind, blurred into the background.
One of the major fallacies in this line of reasoning, of course, is the fact that these very “laws” of nature demand a lawgiver. Every effect must have an adequate cause. Moreover, it has become painfully obvious that while science may explain how some things work (e.g., nuclear reactions), it cannot explain how they ought to be employed!
Unfortunately, man’s sense of scientific achievement has generated in him an attitude of arrogance. If he can control and manipulate certain forces of nature, he ought to be able to regulate his own life in terms of ethics. This ideology has had devastating consequences.
For much of the past century, on-and-off, to a greater or lesser degree, the United States has been involved in war. World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, etc., have had a tremendous effect upon society.
Packard argues that modern wars have had a deleterious effect upon our nation in several ways (p. 30). First, wars tear families apart and create situations of isolationism and loneliness. Second, wars have forced women to leave the home environment and seek public jobs, which created a sense of “independence” not previously experienced. Third, modern warfare — especially weaponry of mass destruction — has contributed to the mood of “living for the moment.” The idea of living for the “intensity of the experience” becomes compelling.
What a different world it is today from that which our grandparents experienced. In barely a century we’ve come from the world of kerosene lamps and horse-drawn buggies, to the glittering lights of Vegas, and the era of the supersonic jet. We have more time on our hands and more toys to play with than we’ve ever known before.
For centuries man has been trying to discover some way to separate the “recreational” aspects of sex from the “procreative” factor. Beginning in the mid/late 19th century, and continuing to the present, science has helped in achieving that goal. In 1954 two doctors discovered a drug that could be incorporated into a pill which would prevent conception. Within a dozen years, more than 6 million women were on “The Pill.” A new era of sexual liberation was ushered in to an already ailing society. While there is no intrinsic evil in artificially preventing conception, there is no question but that many have felt freer to engage in intimate promiscuity as a result of birth-control techniques.
Advancing technology and the industrialization of society also contributed to the decline of those close family relationships that generally characterized rural America. Such changes, of course, were inevitable with the passing of time; nonetheless, there was an effect upon the family unit. In many families both parents left the home to work and an ever-widening gap between parents and children developed. Studies have shown that the phenomenon of family estrangement has contributed to accelerated sexual experiences (Schofield, pp. 224-56).
Another aspect of technological progress had to do with the entertainment industry. Packard has an entire chapter titled, “The Bombardment of Sexual Stimuli” (pp. 51ff). He traces the evolution of the sexual revolution via the cinema screen, beginning principally in the ’30’s, and accelerating thereafter. The 1940’s was the decade of more brazen “cleavage” exposure, a sign of even more egregious changes to come.
When television came along in the late 1940’s, it brought sexual visualization right into the home. At least 97% of American homes have access to one or more TV sets. While TV started relatively tame (“Rob” and “Laura,” of the Dick Van Dyke show, sleeping in twin beds), there is now a constant stream of sexually explicit language, nudity, licentious situations, etc. Easy access to hard-core video and the pornography of the internet have added to the sordid mixture.
When men and women allow their minds to become saturated with these stimuli, there is bound to be a lifestyle effect. Jesus said that sexual sins begin in the “heart” [mind] (Mark 7:20-23; cf. Proverbs 4:23). When human minds become sexual sewers, can the corruption of society be far behind?
Several cultural changes have contributed to the new “sexual frontier.” We can but touch upon a few brief points.
First, a gradual chasm has developed between the public’s theoretical faith and a practical connection with personal conduct. Numerous people entertain the notion that one may hold a religious “impulse” or “urge,” but that such has no significant relevance to the manner of his life. This “disconnect” accommodates sexual looseness.
Second, youngsters become sexually “sensitive” at progressively tender ages. Anatomically mature dolls, makeup for preteens, sexually accented dress for little girls, etc., puts our youth on the “fast track” much quicker than once was the case.
Third, the independence that youngsters were gradually allowed drastically changed during the early decades of the last century. Now, many young people have a car by the time they’re old enough to secure a driver’s license. They “date” at younger ages, and have little (if any) supervision or limits as to where they may go, or what they may do.
With developing hormones, time on their hands, money, and raw exposure to the crudest images imaginable, is it any wonder that our maturing youth have undergone a metamorphosis?
Is There Any Turning Back?
It would be easy to lapse into a depressive state, and throw up one’s hands in despair. After all, there are few societies — like ancient Nineveh — that do an “about-face” practically overnight (Jonah 3:5ff). It generally takes a tragedy — perhaps even a dramatic collapse — to get a nation’s attention. Our own recent “mini-revival” of religious fervor, in the wake of September 11, 2001, reflects only a ripple of spiritual interest, when there needs to be a cataclysmic turnaround.
But the Christian must not despair. Advances can always be made on the individual level. There are still honest and good hearts among the masses. The following recommendations, we are confident, would help remedy the condition of the soul — both among young and old — in America’s “sexual wilderness.”
The Bible is Authoritative
There must be a rekindling of conviction relative to the authority of the Bible. Until one is persuaded that he is not “a law unto himself,” he will not be prone to alter his lifestyle. While one may argue abstractly for the existence of God based upon certain logical conclusions drawn from nature (cf. Romans 1:20), instruction relative to human conduct must come from concrete revelation, namely, the Scriptures.
Unless, however, one is persuaded that these documents are from God, and are authoritative for living (2 Timothy 3:16-17), he is adrift in a sea of religious/moral confusion.
There is no field of investigation these days more important than a consideration of the various evidences that establish the credibility of the Bible. And there is a “famine” in the land relative to instruction on this vital theme (cf. Amos 8:11).
Parents must take a greater responsibility in teaching their children the great truths of the Bible. Many youngsters today — especially older ones — show zero interest in church Bible classes. They refuse to do homework and they laugh at the idea of memory work. Why do such attitudes prevail? Because the home is no longer a place where the Word of God is revered, read, and discussed. “Church” has taken a back seat to other interests. For many, Christianity has become an occasional weekend exercise to salve the conscience. Such has no power to protect and preserve.
The Power of the Family
Fathers and mothers must attempt to revitalize the closeness of their family relationships. We are so busy that we scarcely have family time for one another any more. Many fathers are “on the road” constantly and see their families mostly on the weekends. Mothers have their own careers. They are not “fulfilled” by the domestic roles of wife and mother.
Children are placed in day-care centers, farmed out to child-care keepers, etc. Many youngsters are emotionally closer to surrogate “parents,” to their school teachers, etc., than they are to their own moms and dads.
Many of our youth know nothing about a good work ethic and contributing to the welfare of the home — as the youngsters of an earlier generation did. Many of our kids are totally “sports” and “entertainment” oriented. There is little wonder they are so ill-equipped to make their way in today’s world.
Respect for Authority
Not altogether disconnected from the previous point is the reality that many parents need to recapture parental authority, and a supervision of the territory they have surrendered to their offspring. The unparalleled freedom that many children enjoy today borders on the criminal.
The fact of the matter is, many parents are afraid of their children. They are afraid that if they are too strict, they will be reported for “child abuse” — either physical or emotional. I personally know of several cases of this very sort. “If you do not let me do as I please,” youngsters have said, “I will report you to the school counsellor.” And mind you well, there are those in positions of authority who are quite amenable to such charges. They like nothing better than to create a furor within a “fundamentalist, right wing, Christian home.”
But the fact is, strict discipline and protective control will never work in a home where there is no closeness and affection. Children must know that their parents love them deeply. There must be an emotional bond. Yes, under the best circumstances youngsters will disagree with parental decisions. They will pout and get angry at times. But they will remain under control if the proper restraints are imposed in an atmosphere of genuine, yet firm, warmth.
A better nation begins with better homes, and Christians must lead the way in the battle. Let us each resolve to do the best we can to remedy the distressing conditions of our beloved country.