Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Raising a double standard

American Christians have a disturbing double standard regarding sex and violence. When issues of homosexuality and promiscuity arise, the religious right comes out in opposition, and yet a man who was governor of a state that led the nation in execution and who calls himself "a war president" is considered a godly leader.

This double standard is not limited to the political realm either; it extends to entertainment. Read some of the discussion boards over at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Under movies that are marketed as violent, graphic action films, you'll find parents asking about the sexual content to determine whether taking their children would be appropriate.

Whence comes this double standard? Is it biblical, or is it culturally constructed? Let's compare the two and find out.

The settling of America is generally credited to the Puritans who came over from England seeking religious freedom. Puritans were Calvinists who opposed the king of England's appointment of Armenian clergy. As strict Calvinists, they believed that salvation was purely a matter of predestination, and therefore, no one could know if they were in the kingdom or not, but obviously those who were saved would live a certain way, and the Puritans developed lists of model behavior that could determine who was in and who was out. The effects of these lists is still felt in the more legalistic Protestant traditions.

America's political identity was forged in a much more violent way. The war that granted independence from England was violent, but as it resulted in freedom (for land-owning white men, but that's another post), it is hailed as the source of the freedoms we enjoy today, which is why pacifists are often met with the preposterous "argument," "If you think violence is wrong, why don't you leave and go to Afghanistan" (as if the Taliban ruled in a peaceful way).

This double heritage seems to be the root of America's double standard rather than the Bible, which, if anything, seems to have a reversed standard. Consider David, a man after God's own heart. The battles that men such as David and Joshua fought are often the basis for Christian just-war theory (when Christians are at all concerned with justice). But look what happens when David wants to build the temple.

1 Chronicles 22.7-10
David said to Solomon: "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. But this word of the LORD came to me: 'You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'

David was not allowed to build the temple because he was a man of war. The task fell to Solomon, and if David were the George W. Of his day, Solomon was the Wilt Chamberlain. He had 1000 wives and concubines, which, to a king, were usually nothing more than sexual conquests offered by nations seeking favor. Somehow, violence disqualified a king from building the house of God, yet sexual activity did not.

The American double standard is not universal to God's people; it is the result of America's strange heritage of violence and Puritanism. It is a cultural construct, which is not necessarily a problem, unless it leads to anti-Christian behavior, which in this case, I believe it does.

As Christians, we are to put others above ourselves to look out for their wellbeing above our own, even to the point of dying for those who are still our enemies. The American attitude, sadly shared by many nominal Christians, is the exact opposite; we look out for ourselves and kill our enemies. We condone behavior that results in tremendous loss of life, often of innocents, women, and children, yet we become outraged over sins that do not affect us.

I recently heard that a Christian man I greatly respect claimed that God hates homosexuals because they had so aligned themselves with sin, which God hates, that they are indistinguishable from it in God's eyes. This attitude is exactly that of the Pharisees who identified tax-collectors and prostitutes as sinners. This was not Jesus' attitude. He befriended them, and he loved them. God loves sinners, even homosexuals. But nowhere does Christ use violence against another, even when his life and the life of his loved ones was at stake. The Pharisees, meanwhile, had sold-out to Rome, one of the most violent empires in history.

The American double standard that so many Christians uphold is not only culturally formed, it is anti-biblical and is more similar to Christ's enemies than his followers.


  • At 3:34 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger The Godfather said…

    Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah

    You need to read my blog. You just might learn something.


  • At 9:03 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger maintenance_man77 said…

    Buddy, I think that you raise a good point. Why was David, the warrior, not to build His holy temple, but Solomon, the womanizer, was. It seems as though God hold violence at a different level than sexual purity. One thing that stuck out to me in the verses was that it was not Solomon’s choice not to fight, but rather a gift from God.
    "I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side."
    " I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign."
    Solomon was peaceful by nature, but it was God that allowed Israel to live in peace.

    Culturally, Christians do hold homosexuality and promiscuity as a "Worse sin" than violence. Sin is sin to a holy God.

    That said, why would God lead His people into war as they wandered the desert? I think there is a "just war" and a time to "protect". My feeling is that peace is a gift of God and should be treasured when we have it. I see that backed up by the verses you used. Not trying to argue, just offer another view.

  • At 9:50 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger Chris said…

    How then shall we live? Should we heed Paul's calling to subversion? How? How can we be subversive to the violent empire? Should we stop voting and, in turn, have clean hands when the nation elects someone to "cast the first stone"? Should we become Christian Anarchists?
    Should we work for health in our communities?
    Should we attempt to reform government?
    Is there a way to love the marginalized without becoming marginalized ourselves? Shouldn't we be marginalized?

  • At 10:32 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…

    I think we can take a cue from how the early church lived under Jewish and Roman leadership: don't serve in the military, pay taxes, and follow the laws of the land insofar as they do not violate biblical teaching as interpreted by a faith community.

    I do advocate a Christian anarchism (as you well know), and thus I do not vote and advocate working toward health in communities (which will often involve an alliance with other governing bodies, which is OK so long as our allegiance is not to them). That said, I know many who feel called to act as agents of redemption from inside the system, and I applaud their efforts and will rejoice if they are successful. I am skeptical of the efficacy of fighting a system from within, but I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.

    I don't think we can love the marginalized without becoming marginalized. Jesus sure couldn't.

  • At 11:11 PM, January 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    who are the marginalized you are loving? - Megan -
    (rhetorical, unless you care to share. I'd love an e-mail about this.) I have often struggled with the "becoming marginalized" as a result of trying to live out the loving the marginalized, but am not sure we are talking of the same thing.

  • At 11:32 PM, January 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    who are the marginalized you're loving? - Megan

  • At 11:52 PM, January 14, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…

    Thanks Caleb.

    In the Old Testament, God's people went to war because God commanded them to. Obedience to God always precedes morality, so they are above reproach. But since Christ, God has never commanded his people to use violence. Thus to do so violates the moral structure Christ left for us. If God commanded war, then our responsibilty would be to wage it. Since he hasn't, I believe we need to avoid violence.

    I whole-heartedly agree that peace is a treasure.

  • At 11:45 PM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Jeff Dod said…

    Hi. Of course I agree with your point about the double standard. I'm interested in exploring further the history behind its formation.

    Why do you think the double standard has its roots in American Puritanism? Did these "sin lists" include a disproportionately large number of sexual prohibitions?

    Also, to go along with your main point, in Ezekiel 16:49 (I think?) we are told that the sin of Sodom was its failure to help the poor. Yet most Christians believe Sodom's primary sin was sexual in nature. This supports your point that the elevation of sexual morality is foreign to Scripture but is in fact cultural baggage.

  • At 12:28 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger jeffinanutshell said…

    I would be interested in where you found these lists as well Buddy. I had studied John Edwards quite a bit in one of Cole's class, and it was amazing how worried he was about knowing for sure that a person (particularly himself) was elect, but I never saw a compiled list of evidences for election.

  • At 11:50 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Buddy said…

    Cole was also my source for much of my post, and so far as I recall, the lists weren't codified, but were develeoped by communities and are reflected in church bylaws.

    I don't think the sources I've cited are the only sources of the double standard, but given American Puritan's historical opposition to sexuality (to the point were the term itself has come to mean someone with strict views on sexual morality) coupled with America's violent origins (I didn't even mention the genocide of the Native Americans), I tend to see them as the primary sources.

  • At 12:25 PM, January 18, 2006, Blogger jeffinanutshell said…

    Thanks Buddy. I hope you know I wasn't attacking the credibility of your suggestion, I completely agree with you. I was just hoping that you knew of a codified list that was generally accepted by the Puritans of the time.

    Another interesting double standard that I see today (not entirely related to the double standard you pointed out) is the traditional right-wing acceptance of wire tapping U.S. citizens without a warrant. The right wingers I grew up with would never have accepted such "big government" or "big brother" actions. When Democrats were in power, this particular brand of Republicans were always wary of a conspiracy to violate their privacy. These same people now whole heartedly accept (what I would call illegal) warrantless wiretapping in the name of counter-terrorism.

    It's amazing what fear will do to a group of people (to relate it to your original post, fear mongering was a primary tool of the Puritans against the Native Americans. They claimed that the Native Americans would take their women and rape them during war, but a Native American male abstained from sexual activity for several weeks surrounding a battle in order to focus on fighting. There is more than one account of a woman having to be tied up after being “rescued” by the Puritans to keep her from returning to her “captors”).

  • At 10:01 AM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Ryan said…

    I completely agree with the double standard issue in the original post. Something interesting came up along the way though that I thought was worth asking about. Buddy, you said that obedience to God always precedes morality. That's an interesting statement b/c it creates a difference between God and morality. As I understand it, we understand morality only through God and His natural revelation to us. To say that there is a separate standard of morality that even God could go against is a notion that I might have to disagree with. Could you better explain how you come to this point of view, Buddy?


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