Monday, November 19, 2012

Raised Evangelical: Bob’s Story - V

We continue with our responses to the "Raised Evangelical" series by the atheist blogger Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism.


Section 5: Purity
Question 1: What were you taught about physical and emotional purity, and also about modesty? What did your family believe about dating and courtship? How was sex education handled?
    At that point in time society as a whole still had a lingering Victorian attitude toward sex. It was never discussed in public, and there was no sex education in the schools. I think my parents gave me a booklet on the subject and told me to read it (it was by a Christian publisher, if I recall correctly). I do remember one visiting evangelist railing against "short shorts" and "necking and petting," and mixed bathing was problematical. Dating was considered normal -- you just weren't supposed to make out in the back seat of a car.


Question 2: How did the things you were taught about purity, modesty and dating/courthip work out for you in practice? Did you date, and at what age? Did you have sex before marriage, and if you did, did you experience guilt? In essence, explain how belief met practice and with what results.
    I didn't date until well after high school. I was always a little shy around girls, didn't have a driver's license, and wasn't too encouraged by the example of my parents' marriage. I did not have sex before marriage – you just have to be careful to avoid compromising situations.


Question 3: How do you feel about your family and church's purity, modesty, and dating/courtship teachings today? Do you think there are any parts of these teachings that still have value? How do you plan to handle these issues with your own children?
    I think that for persons of my generation one of the biggest changes that we have seen over the last fifty years is the collapse of public morality and with it the breakdown of the family structure. When I was growing up in the late '50's and early '60's we took a stable, two-parent family for granted. Kids knew their biological fathers – he was right there at the dinner table every night. Today these kinds of families have practically disappeared. When I worked on the U.S. Census in 2010 I was always surprised when I encountered a household in which everyone had the same last name. I think that this has left an emotional void in the hearts of the rising generation. President Obama has given us a compelling account of this in his autobiographical book Dreams from My Father.


Question 4: Do you feel that the purity, modesty and dating/courtship teachings you were raised with still have lasting impact on your life today? If so, how? What do you feel is the most detrimental effect of purity teachings?
    Frankly, the part of my upbringing that has had the most detrimental effect on my life is what I absorbed from Hollywood. The whole Hollywood concept of "falling in love" creates unrealistic expectations. And if I had taken the time to think about it, there was an obvious flaw in the message I was getting. If Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney couldn't make it work in real life, what made me think it would work for me? What took me many years to learn is that it takes character to make a marriage work, not sex appeal.
    Interestingly, there was a brief period when Feminists actually worked together with Evangelicals to fight pornography and the sex industry. At that point Feminists were concerned about women being treated as sex objects. But that didn't last very long, and now we are back to sexualizing girls at younger and younger ages.


Added note:
    Sex is something that was created by God, and is a beautiful expression of love when done in the context of a healthy marriage. When done for selfish reasons, however, it can be tremendously destructive.
    We have encountered a vivid example of this recently in Gen. David Petraeus. It seems that his conquests weren't confined to the battlefield. The femme fatale in this drama, Paula Broadwell, was caught sending threatening e-mails to another woman whom she suspected also had a romantic interest in "her man."
    Ms. Broadwell's predicament is a perfect illustration of the moral principle involved. We hope that she is struck by the anomaly of her situation. All of the parties involved (the general and the two "other women") are married. As long as Ms. Broadwell was the only paramour in the picture, she was apparently unconcerned about the sanctity of marriage vows. But when she began to fear that "her man" might be getting involved with yet another woman, this one even younger and more attractive looking than herself, she was overcome with jealousy. The shoe didn't fit so well on the other foot.
    Ms. Broadwell has now experienced firsthand the emotional impact of infidelity, and can see, we hope, the unspeakable harm that she has done to the general's wife, Holly Petraeus. A distinguished career has been ruined, the CIA director left himself vulnerable to blackmail, and three marriages are under stress. Ms. Broadwell is the home wrecker par excellence.
    Because marriage involves such an intimate physical and emotional bond, infidelity is bound to be devastating. Adultery is one of the cruelest things that one can do to one's spouse. It is an assault on one's self esteem, destroys trust, and rips families apart. Anything that tends to undermine marriage or cheapen or degrade sex (including immodest dress in public) is to be totally abhorred. "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4; NKJV).


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