We think about sex so that we may act rightly in intimate relationships. But in order to act rightly we have to first determine what is right and what is wrong. This can be tricky, because so much of the information we are fed today is, in fact, lies – but often lies mixed with just enough truth to fool us into accepting the whole package.
This Valentine’s Day a movie will be released that aims to convince viewers that there is never a clear line between right and wrong, good and evil. There are grey areas. A college girl named Ana enters into a relationship with Chris, a highly attractive and successful, but also very troubled, man. Because she is attracted to him, she consents to a sexual relationship. On his terms: she agrees to being humiliated and abused. Fifty Shades of Grey says this relationship is okay, because Ana has “consented” and because it’s not really Chris’ fault. He’s been traumatized, abandoned, and abused. What he does to Ana is just his way of dealing with his issues. But deep down he’s a good guy, and he also does nice things for her. Eventually Ana helps him. So we can’t really say the relationship is “wrong”; there are lots of grey areas.
This movie gives a dangerous message about romance for young people. It portrays emotional and physical abuse as sexually arousing. “Excluding hard core pornography,” says psychologist Dr. Miriam Grossman, “I believe Hollywood has never produced a film so hazardous to young men and women.”
At the very least the message is confusing, as we see from one young man’s letter to Dr. Grossman about the reactions of many girls to the book on which the movie is based:
Our girlfriends are almost obsessed with it, so we want to know, what’s the big deal? Its draw is the sexual fantasy. But what’s the fantasy? Being completely controlled and intimidated by a man who ties her up and degrades her? What? That’s what a woman dreams of? That’s what sold 100 million copies? My whole life I was taught to be sensitive, caring, and respectful. I mean, women always insist that’s what they want in a man. I’m totally shocked and confused.
Porn – and this is porn – is more than confusing. Pornography gives a warped view of women, of relationships, and of the world. And these ideas are burned into the brains of young people.
You need to discuss Fifty Shades with your sons and daughters. To help you, Dr. Grossman has written a series of blogs at http://www.miriamgrossmanmd.com/category/parent-survival-guide-to-fifty-shades-of-grey/ “Warn your child,” she says, “about being manipulated, and discuss disturbed relationships – how to recognize and avoid them.” Tell them that abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend is never okay, under any circumstances. Help them judge these ideas by the standards of friendship and romance found in Scripture: “Whatever is true . . . noble . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . admirable . . . think about such things” (Phil 4:8) and “you never use the other for your own satisfaction but honor the other above yourself” (Rom 12:10).
And discuss with them what they will tell their friends as to why they won’t be watching this movie.
So there’s been a common thread weaving its way through my life this past week. You know – when everything you read, listen to, see on a sign, and experience through circumstances seems to build toward a point at which you say, “Ok! I get it!” Actually, things have been quietly progressing like a child playing with building blocks – brick upon brick, a door here, a window there, not really knowing what the end result will be but knowing each step is vital to the next.
It can be frustrating and exhausting trying to move ahead when you can’t see where you’re going. An acquaintance was telling me this week how she drove into a sudden snowstorm on her way to work early Tuesday morning. As she accelerated up a familiar hill, the highway ahead was instantly enveloped in a blanket of swirling snow. Knowing a sharp curve lay just ahead she quickly prayed for God to help her see to get around the corner. For a few short moments the wind shifted, the air was clear, and she was able to maneuver the curve. Disaster averted, she drove on only to have the blizzard once again surround her. “I should have prayed for the snow to clear for longer than the curve!” she chuckled.
Life is so often like that. We want to know every detail of what lies ahead. Perhaps you are one of those people who takes each day as it comes unperturbed by interruptions or the need to reschedule events. Nevertheless, I believe we all would feel more at ease if we knew at least some of what was coming so we could plan a little better. Maybe we could have more time to mentally and emotionally prepare.
On the trips we took last summer and Christmas, I was very thankful for Google Map® and similar apps. Being in new-to-me cities, and even to find our way around parts of familiar locations, this tool enabled us to see where we were in relation to where we wanted to be. It eliminated a lot of stress and prevented us from wasting precious time. Who wants to be figuring out subway systems when I could be “grandbaby” shopping instead!
But God doesn’t operate like that. He tells us to “move here” or “go there” and usually doesn’t give us a whole lot of specifics. In His mind, it is more beneficial for me to obey His leading and put my faith totally in Him. He is more concerned that I learn to follow Him step-by-step, putting my hand in His, and being content that He is with me throughout the journey. Along the way there are qualities to be developed in me, old habits to break, new sensitivities to acquire, a quiet dependence on God to learn. Those times are precious and nothing is ever wasted when God is guiding me through the streets and byways of my life.
When our son was almost one year old we took him on his first trip to my husband’s homeland in Hong Kong. He had no idea we were embarking on a twenty-six hour voyage. Going through security checks didn’t cause him any fuss. Being wheeled around in a baggage cart was fun! Flight attendants bent over backwards to make sure he had a place to sleep and they heated up his baby formula. He was cozy and warm snuggled up next to his daddy in the baby carrier. It didn’t matter to him that the flight was so long. He wasn’t concerned at all about where he was going so long as mommy and daddy were with him and all of his needs were being met.
Oh, if I could only trust my Heavenly Father with such simplicity of faith! Why do I have to complicate things and get in the way of what He is doing in my life? When I do let go of whatever is holding me back; when I get rid of the distractions and focus instead on Who is going before and beside me; those are the times I go through a situation with peace and joy. It is then that I experience what it is to “live by faith and not by sight”.[i]
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and
assurance about what we do not see.”[ii]
Until next time,
[i] II Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)
At this time of year some of you have sons and daughters who are either applying to university or returning to university after Christmas holidays. What do you know about the sexual culture of the campus on which they will spend another semester or another few years? You should find out. Is what has happened at one of our Nova Scotia universities typical, or an aberration?
Canadian universities may not be very different from the institutions in the United States described by Ryan Anderson and Caitlin La Ruffa in their talks to parents. You can listen to these talks at http://www.loveandfidelity.org/resources/sexual-integrity-campus-culture/ Ryan and Caitlin are graduates of Princeton University and leaders of the Love and Fidelity Network. Most high school graduates, they say, arrive at university unaware of the pressures awaiting them. They will be expected to take part in the hook-up culture, according to which sex is viewed as recreation, feelings are expressly forbidden, and the expectation of a relationship with a sexual partner is out of the question. A culture in which all you need to have sex with anyone is consent and a condom. Campus officials and professors, shockingly, encourage participation in this culture. An annual “Sex Week”, usually around Valentine’s Day, is common on many campuses, with activities including the screening of pornography.
This is all very distressing, but be encouraged!
In an effort to help students who arrive on campus wanting (and intending) to save sex for marriage, Ryan and others at Princeton began an organization to help such students find and support each other. The Mission Statement of the Anscombe Society, founded in 2005, reads in part “We aim to foster an attitude where sex is dignified, respectful, and beautiful; where human relationships are affirming and supportive; where motherhood is not put at odds with feminism; where no one is objectified, instrumentalized, or demeaned.” Students are given rational arguments for maintaining sexual integrity in the midst of the hook-up culture, and these arguments expose the intellectual weaknesses of the liberal view of human sexuality, marriage, and motherhood. Hopefully these arguments also catch the attention of students coming to the university with the liberal view of sex they have been taught since elementary school. The Love and Fidelity Network is a network of organizations like the Anscombe Society.
You, as a parent, also have a huge influence on your teen’s sexual decision-making. You can provide a foundation for healthy sexuality as you talk with your child and teen throughout their early years. Don’t stop when they go to university, or into the work force. Be aware of what they will face. Prepare them. Let them know there are others, many others, who share their desire for sexual purity. Introduce them to resources like Sense & Sexuality: The college girl’s guide to real protection in a hooked-up world, by Dr. Miriam Grossman, “One hundred percent MD, Zero percent PC” as her web site says. The booklet can be downloaded for free at http://www.miriamgrossmanmd.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/SNSbooklet.pdf
Most young people still want to have a lasting marriage. And although Ryan and Caitlin say that dating is now non-existent on all campuses, students at Boston College in Massachusetts turn up in droves to register for a course in which one of the assignments is to ask someone to go on a real date, on which sexual integrity is required and expressing genuine romantic interest is expected.
A handshake…a bow…a kiss on the cheek…a smile…a nod of the head…words of endearment…a simple hello…All are ways people across the world greet each other. Greetings are an important means of establishing communication and they set the tone for what follows. In a face-to-face conversation the mood is further enhanced by facial expressions and mannerisms. A greeting can create a positive impression or leave someone feeling suspicious or even hurt.
On our flight to Hong Kong in December 2014 I was greeted by a flight attendant in the following manner,
“Good morning, Mrs. Lai, my name is Michel. I am your in-flight service director. If there is anything I can do to assist you please ask me. Have a pleasant flight.”
December 16, 2014
Coupled with his professional demeanor and pleasant smile I instantly felt welcome and treated as worthy. Did it set my mind at ease about the fifteen-and-a-half hour flight before me? Sure! Did I call on him and other flight attendants for whatever I needed without hesitating or feeling I was imposing on their time? You bet I did! Their smiles and helpfulness went a long way towards making that interminable trip seem a little shorter.
Compare this greeting with one I experienced a few weeks ago when I took my car in to have the winter tires installed. After waiting long past my appointment time, an attendant called my name,
“Kathy, we have a problem. Your new rims don’t fit the tires.”
Oh great! I came all the way in town only to find out the shop manager had ordered the wrong rims! I left in a sour mood muttering and complaining to myself. It had the potential to spoil my entire day and week, seeing as they wouldn’t be ready now for several days, but I’m grateful that God brought my devotional reading from the day before to mind. I began to practice thanksgiving the rest of the ride home and gradually I felt a different spirit enter my soul.
In the New Testament Paul always greeted his listeners with positive words. Grace and peace were the common greeting in all his letters most often followed by words of thanksgiving.
Grace is often very misunderstood. Just stop anyone on the street and ask him or her what comes to mind. You will probably hear comments like,
“Ummm…something you say before a meal?”
Grace is the sweetest word a sinner will ever hear. Once truly understood and wholeheartedly received it overflows one’s soul with complete forgiveness, freedom from bondage to the old nature, unconditional acceptance, and the ability to live the abundant life God has promised.
On December 11, 2014, I headed out to do some Christmas shopping. As I drove down the hill I was shocked to see how swollen the stream had become after the heavy rains of the past several hours. Along with others I stopped to snap a few photos. None of us had seen it flooded so badly in many years. After darkness had set in, I turned into the Bedford Place Mall parking lot looking for a spot. Suddenly my headlights shone on nothing but water ahead! Literally half the parking lot was below water from the flooded Sackville River. A clear debris line showed how much farther the water had come up earlier in the day. Much of Bedford and other communities in the Maritimes had been saturated with floodwaters. It was overwhelming especially to homeowners and businesses that were deluged by the flood. The next morning I went to take more pictures and was really surprised by how quickly the water had receded.
God desires to flood our heart and soul with His endless grace. Unlike receding floodwaters, His grace never dries up. It doesn’t depend on how good and kind we try to be. We may find it hard to forgive ourselves for a wrong or unwise decision but God’s grace does not find fault. He will never hang our past over our head while we wait for His condemnation to fall down. God’s love extends beyond what we will ever imagine.
Let your heart and soul be delighted with Paul’s words as he spoke of the blessings we have in Christ,
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8
May grace and peace be yours in abundance throughout this new year!!
Until next time,
Sometimes we need to stop and reflect on why God came to earth.
Manfred and I are in Germany as I write this – a wonderful place to be during Advent: No snow as yet, but the beauty of Christmas trees and lights; the excitement of Christmas markets; the wonderful sound of the pealing of church bells; the soft light of candles for our meditation each day on the coming of Christ.
But there are other scenes and other events here that make one painfully aware of the corrupt state of our world today, not least with regard to teen sexuality. Down the street from where we are staying right now is a huge billboard with a picture of a teen age girl and the words “Mach’s. Aber mach’s soft.” (Do it. But do it with a condom.) A related web site reads (translated), “Practice makes perfect. Everyone can learn how to use a condom, either alone or with a partner. Before the ‘first time’ buy condoms in various sizes and forms and try them out. Then you’ll know which fit and are the most fun.” A new sex education book in schools here in Germany includes these directions: Children from the age of 13 are to share their sexual experiences with their classmates (when they had anal sex for the first time, for example) and to practice exploring each other’s bodies.
And this is happening not only in Germany, but throughout the western world.
A concerned mother in Britain reported to the family doctor that her nine year old daughter came home from school one day and excitedly announced what she had just learned in her sex education class: “I learned why the man has to go up and down and I learned why condoms are flavoured so they taste nice on the man’s penis.”
In the United States, in the state of California, 13- and 14- year-old students are given worksheets that include a checklist entitled “Sex Check! Are You Ready for Sex?” The questions include “Do you have water-based lubricants and condoms?” The students are also told how to know if they are gay or lesbian, “agender”, “bigender”, “two spirit” . . . the list goes on.
And here in Nova Scotia? Sex – A Healthy Sexuality Resource, distributed to 12- and 13-year-old students in Halifax schools, says, “Carry condoms and oral dams with you” and “Practice putting condoms on before you need to use one for real.” The web site of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, in its “Youth” section, says, “Have fun, experiment with different types of dams and condoms, and find out what you like best!”
A few years ago friends of ours were asked to do a Christmas devotional at their church. Instead of giving a meditation on the coming of Christ, they decided to do a reflection on why he came – why the world still needs him so desperately. The terribly warped view of sex being fed to our young people today – our Christian young people included – is one reason why!