Our Bodies, Ourselves—Ours or Gods?
by Nancy E. Head
Know that the Lord is God, he made us, we belong to him, we are his people, the flock he shepherds. ~Psalm 100:3 NABRE~
I remember watching a segment CBS journalist Harry Reasoner did–probably for 60 Minutes–in the early or mid-1970s. It was about our changing perspective of sex. The most powerful words Reasoner said came at the end of his piece.
They went something like this: ~It may be that the head cheerleader would give in and have sex with the quarterback. But she knew she was giving away something important. And he knew he was getting something very valuable.~
Reasoner bemoaned the shift in America’s thinking that told the young woman she was giving away something trivial. And the young man was not receiving something precious and irreplaceable.
The perspective shift turned into big changes in our culture. In Reasoner’s day, the cheerleader and the quarterback who had sex in the back seat of the car would likely marry and likely stay married.
He knew he wanted to. She knew she wasn’t supposed to. They both understood the risks were grave–upset parents, loss of reputation, untimely pregnancy, and disappointed hopes for the future.
Today, he still wants to. But she believes she’s supposed to want to also. And neither has much fear of consequences.
The key today is whether she wants to. Whether she consents. In theory, it sounds fair, sensible, and progressive. But it doesn’t play out quite so simply in reality.
David French: “You can sum up the sexual ethic of the sexual revolutionary in one sentence: Except in the most extreme circumstances (such as incest), consenting adults define their own moral norms. . . Desire is elevated over fidelity and certainly over propriety, so bosses bully, spouses stray, hearts break, and families fracture.”
Nearly 60 years since the birth control pill and after 45 years of legal abortion in America, we may be waking up to the idea that casual sex has opened the door to exploitation on a level unseen since the dawn of Christianity.
The “Rigged Game” vs The “Long Game”
Jennifer Joyner is one who has awakened. She had thought casual sex would be pleasurable and empowering. But it wasn’t. She calls it a “rigged game.”
“Whether we like it or not, sex is intrinsically biased against the woman: biological reality dictates that she carries the brunt of sexual risks while he wields the majority of the sexual power.”
A pregnancy scare at 19 turned her thinking around. She realized that her sex partners were gaining all the pleasure of the act (which she often found painful) and she was carrying all the risk. Instead of playing a rigged game, she could change her behavior. She could play a “long game.”
“What’s attractive to me today,” she says, “is the sort of romance that lasts a lifetime. Men who seek this know it requires patience, wisdom, and a firm grip on their own reins. Because he’s responsible, he restrains his sexuality until he’s ready to share her sexual risks—including that of parenthood. . . Until then, he’s researching the contours of her character rather than those of her anatomy; he’s focused on the long game.”
The rigged game is a lie too many of us have bought into and lost. The foundational lie behind the game is that we belong to ourselves. We think our bodies are ours to do with as we please–and we seek only to please ourselves—to get what we want.
What happens to the other is not our concern.
Dangers of Uncommitted Sex
Yet the game’s prize for all players is emptiness and a devaluing of our very souls. Every selfish act brings an eventual negative return because every selfish act is a refusal to let God own us.
Young people convince themselves–or our culture has convinced them–that their sexual purity is of little value. And even our nation’s laws have told them that the result of their casual unions is inconsequential.
In the forty-five years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion from conception until birth, uncommitted sex has destroyed the lives of 60 million unborn and countless adults.
David French once more: “An ethic that indulges [the sex] drive while also denying the emotional significance of sex will inevitably wreck lives. The wise person understands that desire — even mutual desire — can be dangerous. How many happily married men and women look back on the momentary temptations of the past and wish they’d indulged? How many are grateful that they had the self-discipline and moral character to refuse to do what — at that moment — they wanted to do?”
It’s time for society to admit that the sexual revolution is over and our ownership of self has been only destructive.
Differences Between Men and Women
For that realization to happen, we need to understand how men and women are different.
Take this statement, for example.
“Manhood must be demonstrated. It is largely an action. Womanhood is an essence. Manhood does. Womanhood is.” (Stanton)
That’s a statement many would challenge today—that there is a difference–and that the difference is significant.
Some might challenge the statement as religious. After all, it is largely in the orthodox corners of Christianity that such discussion happens at all today.
But this statement comes from a secular person–one who did not advocate biblical marriage and sexual purity. Margaret Mead was a cultural anthropologist and an advocate of “loosening social strictures on sexuality . . . [which she thought] could lead to more pleasure, and less pain and suffering.”
Hardly a puritanical perspective—yet a failure to understand the consequences of loosened strictures would be the opposite of what she’d hoped. Even so, according to Mead, the differences between men and women are innate–born into us; they matter in our daily lives, and they are universal.
“In every known human society, everywhere in the world, the young male learns that when he grows up, one of the things which he must do in order to be a full member of society is to provide food [and protection] for some female and her young. . . .
“[E]very known human society rests firmly on the learned nurturing behavior of men. . . It is the precise opposite for women. They must be ideologically and politically pressured, with great potency, to abandon and ignore their children.”
There is no lack of ideological and political pressure on women to pursue lives that contain minimal involvement with children–especially their own. Our society has few structures in place to support the essence of women and pass on the model of manliness. This passing on of manliness—or the failure to do so—manifests itself in every culture.
More from Mead: “[T]his behavior [manliness], being learned, is fragile and can disappear rather easily under social conditions that no longer teach it effectively.”
Yet no society that works as hard as ours to ignore the differences between men and women can effectively teach manhood. Correctly teaching manhood requires a Christian view–or a view heavily influenced by a biblical perspective.
The orthodox corners of the Church are where manhood mentoring can and must still occur. Solid families headed by fathers and mothers can pass manhood’s tasks and womanhood’s essence to their own–and perhaps to others around them.
Neither public education nor industry has the impetus nor the freedom to launch such an effort.
We in the Church can pass along the truth science now ignores. Christ calls us to this work in every generation. The One who made us in His image understands us best.
And we are ultimately happiest when we are His and His alone.
About the Author
Author Nancy E. Head was a single mother with five children under the age of 14 when many in the Church came to her aid. Her story illustrates common problems in our society such as the fracturing of families and communities, reflecting a splintering Church. Alienated families and a riven Church cannot minister as effectively to their own members or others until they find accord. Nancy is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ's Love Through the Church in One Accord. She leads a small group ministering to the needy in her community.
You can read Nancy’s HEADlines column on the 4th Saturday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.