Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it, or so it is said. I think there is a great deal of validity to this thought. The sexual revolution of the 1960s has made fairly big changes in the thinking of culture in the area of accepting sexual behaviors which had been regarded as deviant or, at the very least, outside of the norm 50 years ago. Marriage was monogamous between one man and one woman for life. Sure, there were divorces but families in that situation were thought of as “broken,” and the children were from “broken homes,” signifying a less-than-ideal home life. Men and women may have “affairs,” sex outside of marriage, but these relationships were regarded as wrong, and most tried to hide them. These “ideals” are diminishing as the church continues its pursuit of trying to be acceptable to culture rather than speaking to and influencing culture. This trend will likely continue. In many ways, we live in a bookend of time. The time we live in now is more like the 1st Century than any other time in between then and now. The church transformed how cultures thought of themselves, God, and their place in the universe. This included the area of sexuality.
The founders of Chic-Fil-A took a pro-traditional marriage position, and Chicago Mayor Rom Emmanuel worked to prevent them from opening a store in Chicago, claiming that their traditional view of marriage “were not Chicago’s values.” The disregard for traditional marriage by the mayor surprised a few but passed with barely a ripple. Marriage is now being defined merely as two people, regardless of gender, entering into a legal union being called marriage.
People forgoing marriage and simply living together is fairly high today as the whole idea of lifetime commitment becomes less important. Even having multiple children with multiple partners is not being glorified with a new series on the Oxygen Network All My Babies Mommas, which:
“will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about,”
Personal sexual pleasure has replaced a sanctified act of a holy bond between a man and a woman before God, “the two shall become one flesh.”
In the First Century culture, the church was born into, Roman marrige. was not about love or even lifetime commitment. They were arranged for political, financial, or social reasons. Marriage was not as highly regarded as personal sexual fulfillment, and as a result, divorce was simple and frequent. Marriage was initiated by simply agreeing to live together and was dissolved as easily.
Roman divorce was as simple as marriage. Just as marriage was only a declaration of intent to live together, divorce was just a declaration of a couple’s intent not to live together. All that the law required was that they declare their wish to divorce before seven witnesses.
Although homosexuality was fairly widely practiced, there was no such thing as “Gay marriage.” The reason is fairly simple. Homosexuality in ancient Rome states:
The primary dichotomy of ancient Roman sexuality was active/dominant/masculine and passive/submissive/”feminized”. Roman society was patriarchal, and the freeborn male citizen possessed political liberty (libertas) and the right to rule both himself and those of his household (familia).
“Virtue” (virtus) was seen as an active quality through which a man (vir) defined himself. The conquest mentality and “cult of virility” shaped same-sex relations. Roman men were free to enjoy sex with other males without a perceived loss of masculinity or social status, as long as they took the dominant or penetrative role. Acceptable male partners were slaves, prostitutes, and entertainers, whose lifestyle placed them in the nebulous social realm of infamia, excluded from the normal protections accorded a citizen even if they were technically free. Although Roman men in general seem to have preferred youths between the ages of 12 and 20 as sexual partners, freeborn male minors were strictly off-limits, and professional prostitutes and entertainers might be considerably older.
The one current criteria which separate today’s Western culture from First Century Rome is its attitude toward having sex with children. As noted above:
…Roman men in general seem to have preferred youths between the ages of 12 and 20 as sexual partners…
This was not only viewed as normal but part of the process of growing up for the child:
In the strictly hierarchical society of classical Greece, sexual relations between an adult man and a boy were seen as contributing to the boy’s education. ( Pedophilia)
First-century Rome is one bookend in time. The time when the Church began. Alvin J. Schmidt’s excellent book, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization walks the reader through the views of the first century in a number of areas and how the Church challenged and then transformed civilization.
One of the last sexual boundaries to be eliminated is adults having sex with children as being “wrong.” Nearly 30 years ago, Joy and I were on a panel discussion at an apologetics conference. We had asserted that Gay Marriage would be legal in the next 25 – 30 years. One of the questions asked about pedophilia. At the time, a group in Alhambra, California, the Rene Guyon Society, had as their motto, “Sex before 8 or it’s too late.” Joy pointed this out and went on to say that all we have to do is look at how homosexuality was being normalized, and we would see the track that will be followed 25 – 30 years from that time to legitimize pedophilia. Well, we have arrived.
Wesley J Smith’s National Review Online article ( Normalizing Pedophilia) documents current strides in making sex with children just another sexual preference. In the 2012 article, Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex with Children (warning, this is somewhat graphic), Cord Jefferson writes:
Van Gjiseghem says what he and his colleagues mean by sexual orientation is a person’s inborn and unalterable sexual preference, irrespective of whether that preference is harmful to others or not. Currently, there is no significant longitudinal evidence that pedophiles can be made to not be attracted to children, and thus it can be defined as their orientation. And if pedophilia is a sexual orientation, that also means it’s futile to send pedophiles to prison in an effort to alter their attractions. Doing so is akin to sending a homosexual child off to a religious-based institution that claims it can “pray the gay away.”
The case is being made that this sexual attraction is simply who they are, and therefore, like homosexuality, we need to have sympathy and understanding, not condemnation. More recently, according to the UK Guardian: Pedophiles Need Support.
It really is time for the church to abandon the misinformed idea that we are to work hard at being accepted by culture in an attempt to broaden the market base and trick unbelievers into coming into the church where we might sneak up on them with the gospel. The First Century Church lived differently on purpose! Unbelievers were able to make an informed decision, counting the cost of abandoning paganism and embracing monotheism, sexual fidelity, elevating and protecting women and children as more than sex objects, and a myriad of other cultural issues. The cost is high, and churches training and equipping believers is time and labor-intensive. It is not easy, but then as we read the lives of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, we find that living out the life of faith in an antagonistic culture can be very difficult. Aye, there’s the rub.Ω
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