[I]n the second century, as Christianity emerged with a distinctive religious identity, the surrounding pagan culture began to take notice. And it didn’t like what it saw. Christians were seen as strange and superstitious–a peculiar religious movement that undermined the norms of a decent society. Christians were, well, different.
So, what was so different about Christians compared to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture?
[…]While it was not unusual for Roman citizens to have multiple sexual partners, homosexual encounters, and engagement with temple prostitutes, Christians stood out precisely because of their refusal to engage in these practices.
For instance, Tertullian goes to great lengths to defend the legitimacy of Christianity by pointing out how Christians are generous and share their resources with all those in need. But, then he says, “One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives” (Apol. 39). Why does he say this? Because, in the Greco-Roman world, it was not unusual for people to share their spouses with each other.
In the second-century Epistle to Diognetus, the author goes out of his way to declare how normal Christians are in regard to what they wear, what they eat, and how they participate in society. However, he then says, “[Christians] share their meals, but not their sexual partners” (Diogn. 5.7). Again, this is the trait that makes Christians different.
We see this play out again in the second-century Apology of Aristides. Aristides defends the legitimacy of the Christian faith to the emperor Hadrian by pointing out how Christians “do not commit adultery nor fornication” and “their men keep themselves from every unlawful union” (15).
A final example comes from the second-century apology of Minucius Felix. In his defense to Octavius, he contrasts the sexual ethic of the pagan world with that of Christians:
Among the Persians, a promiscuous association between sons and mothers is allowed. Marriages with sisters are legitimate among the Egyptians and in Athens. Your records and your tragedies, which you both read and hear with pleasure, glory in incests: thus also you worship incestuous gods, who have intercourse with mothers, with daughters, with sisters. With reason, therefore, is incest frequently detected among you, and is continually permitted. Miserable men, you may even, without knowing it, rush into what is unlawful: since you scatter your lusts promiscuously, since you everywhere beget children, since you frequently expose even those who are born at home to the mercy of others, it is inevitable that you must come back to your own children, and stray to your own offspring. Thus you continue the story of incest, even although you have no consciousness of your crime. But we maintain our modesty not in appearance, but in our heart we gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage; in the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all (31).
I think that women should want men who believe in chastity before marriage and who believe in committing to you exclusively as protector and provider for a lifetime. And they should have to prove that they can be faithful and committed during the courtship, too. You can’t just take their word for it, they have to work before the marriage to demonstrate their ability as a husband and father. It’s not just that this is the way that we have always done it, it’s that there are real reasons why chastity and fidelity are important for marriage success. You can’t just have fun, pick anyone you like, and have marriage “work out”. You have to be comfortable with chastity and fidelity, and the person you choose has to be comfortable with chastity and fidelity. It takes two people with self-control to make a stable, exclusive and committed marriage.
When we separate personhood from humanity, we make personhood an achievement based on the possession of certain qualities. But what are these person-constituting qualities? Some say a basic level of consciousness; others assert viability outside the womb; still others say a sense of self-interest (which probably does not obtain until after birth). All of these criteria would take away humanity from those in comas or other physically compromised situations.4 Humans can lose levels of consciousness through injuries, and even infants are not viable without intense and sustained human support. Moreover, who are we to say just what qualities make for membership in the moral community of persons?5 The stakes are very high in this question. If we are wrong in our identification of what qualities are sufficient for personhood and we allow a person to be killed, we have allowed the wrongful killing of nothing less than a person. Therefore, I argue that personhood should be viewed as a substance or essence that is given at conception. The fetus is not a lifeless mechanism that only becomes what it is after several parts are put together—as is the case with a watch or an automobile. Rather, the fetus is a living human organism, whose future unfolds from within itself according to internal principles. For example, the fertilized ovum contains a complete genetic code that is distinct from that of the mother or father. But this is not a mere inert blueprint (which is separable from the building it describes); this is a living blueprint that becomes what its human nature demands.
Yet even if one is not sure when personhood becomes a reality, one should err on the side of being conservative simply because so much is at stake. That is, if one aborts a fetus who is already a person, one commits a deep moral wrong by wrongfully killing an innocent human life. Just as we do not shoot target practice when we are told there may be children playing behind the targets, we should not abortion fetuses if they may be persons with the right not to be killed. As I have argued, it cannot be disputed that abortion kills a living, human being.
Many argue that outside considerations experienced by the mother should overrule the moral value of the human embryo. If a woman does not want a pregnancy, she may abort. But these quality of life considerations always involve issues of lesser moral weight than that of the conservation and protection of a unique human life (which considers the sanctity or innate and intrinsic value of a human life).6 An unwanted pregnancy is difficult, but the answer is not to kill a human being in order to end that pregnancy.
I think that the real question in the abortion debate right now is whether a living organism with a human nature and a human genetic code that is distinct from its mother and father deserves the right to life, or whether it needs to develop some other capability in order to be worthy of protection from violence.
Some argue that personhood does not arrive until brain waves are detected (40 to 43 days).11Others, such as Mary Anne Warren,12 define a person as a being who can engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems, self-motivated activity and having a self-concept. This would put the arrival of personhood at some time after birth. Still others, such as L. W. Sumner, 13 hold a more moderate position and argue that human personhood does not arrive until the fetus is sentient, the ability to feel and sense as a conscious being. This, according to Sumner, occurs possibly as early as the middle weeks of the second trimester of pregnancy and definitely by the end of that trimester.
Although these criteria differ from each other in important ways, they all have one thing in common: each maintains that if and only if an entity functions in a certain way are we warranted in calling that entity a person. Defenders of these criteria argue that once a human being, whether born or unborn, acquires a certain function or functions–whether it is brain waves, rationality, sentience, etc.– it is then and only then that a person actually exists. Those who defend these personhood criteria typically make a distinction between “being a human” and “being a person.” They argue that although fetuses are members of the species homo sapiens, and in that sense are human, they are not truly persons until they fulfill a particular set of personhood criteria.
Although functional definitions of personhood may tell us some conditions that are sufficient to say that a being is a person, they are not adequate in revealing to us all the conditions that are sufficient for a particular being to be called a person. For example, when a human being is asleep, unconscious, and temporarily comatose, she is not functioning as a person as defined by some personhood criteria. Nevertheless, most people would reject the notion that a human being is not a person while in any of these states. In other words, while personhood criteria, such as the ones presented by Warren can tell us that a being is a person, these criteria are not adequate to declare a being a non-person: The exercise of rational thought tells us that a being is a person; when that person is sleeping, and thus is not exercising rational thought, that lack of exercise of the thought function does not make her a non-person at that time. Consequently, it seems more consistent with our moral intuitions to say that personhood is not something that arises when certain functions are in place, but rather is something that grounds these functions, whether or not they are ever actualized in the life of a human being. Thus, defining personhood strictly in terms of function is inadequate.
If you are pro-life because of your feelings, or because someone told you to be, you ought to know that being pro-life is quite rational and supported by medical evidence. People who are pro-abortion are pro-abortion because they want recreational sex without the complications of having to care for the consequences (babies!) of their own actions. Even if they do not engage in the sex and the abortions themselves, they advocate for abortion rights, and they are guilty of encouraging a culture where 57 million unborn children have died since 1973. We’re long past Stalin numbers with this thing now.
We ought to care about not hurting other people. If grown-up’ selfish pursuit of happy feelings conflicts with another person’s right to life, then maybe we need to take a step back from being happy and start trying to be good instead.
OK, so this week I got to be a facilitator between a man and a woman in a relationship. I got to hear a bit about what they thought was appropriate in the area of physical touching. These two had made great decisions, and it protected them both. Anyway, thinking about them caused me to think about the studies I had posted about boundaries in sexual matters a few years back. So I’m going to re-post them to remind everyone not to be in a rush to say yes to premarital sex.
People who lose their virginity later than their teenage years are more likely to enjoy satisfying relationships later in life, according to a new study.
Researchers found that people who didn’t have sex until they turned 20 or even later are more likely to end up in a happy relationship.
[…]Previous research suggests that there may be cause for concern, as timing of sexual development can have significant immediate consequences for adolescents’ physical and mental health.
However, until now little had been done to study long-term outcomes, and how early sexual initiation might affect romantic relationships in adulthood.
Psychological scientist Paige Harden, of the University of Texas in the United States, set about changing this.
She wanted to investigate whether the timing of sexual initiation in adolescence might predict romantic outcomes – such as whether people get married or live with their partners, how many romantic partners they’ve had, and whether they’re satisfied with their relationship – later in adulthood.
Doctor Harden used data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health to look at 1,659 same-sex sibling pairs who were followed from around the age of 16 to about the age of 29.
Each sibling was classified as having an ‘early’ (younger than 15), ‘on-time’ (age 15 to 19), or ‘late’ (older than 19) first experience with sexual intercourse.
Those who lost their virginity later on in life were more likely to have a well-paid job.
They found, as expected, later timing of first sexual experience was associated with higher educational attainment and higher household income in adulthood when compared with the early and on-time groups.
People who had a later first sexual experience were also less likely to be married and they had fewer romantic partners in adulthood.
Among the participants who were married or living with a partner, later sexual initiation was linked with significantly lower levels of relationship dissatisfaction in adulthood.
“Courtship is a time for exploration and decision-making about the relationship, when partners assess compatibility, make commitments and build on emotional and physical intimacy.”
“The rapid entry into sexual relationships may, however, cut short this process, setting the stage for “sliding” rather than “deciding” to enter co-habiting unions.”
“Around a third of the men and women said they’d had sex within the first month of dating, while about 28 per cent waited at least six months, the Journal of Marriage and Family reported.”
“Analysis of the data clearly showed the women who had waited to have sex to be happier. And those who waited at least six months scored more highly in every category measured than those who got intimate within the first month. Even their sex lives were better.”
“The link was weaker for men. However, those who waited to get physically involved had fewer rows.
[…]‘A strong sexual desire may thwart the development of other key ingredients of a healthy relationship such as commitment, mutual understanding or shared values,’ the report said. ‘Good sex is sometimes confused with love; some couples overlook problematic aspects of their relationship that ultimately matter more in the long run.’”
So, it looks like you lose some stability if you push too hard on the premarital sex. Is stability important to you? Well, divorce is a financial disaster for men and women – so that’s one reason to care about stability. If your plan for marriage is to provide a stable environment for your kids, then that’s another good reason to care about stability. If you are getting married in part to advance your cause through effective children, then you have to control yourself now in order to be the person who can give them what they need later. This is not out of your control, this is not unpredictable. There are best practices.
If you keep rushing into things and experiencing painful break-ups, you will naturally stop the behaviors that allow you commit out of self-preservation. You will begin to resent having to care for that other person, except maybe when it makes you feel good. When you invest a lot and break up, you become less willing to invest in that other person. You retreat into your shell. You resent having responsibilities and obligations to that other person. You expect things to work on their own, apart from your efforts to make them work, because that’s how you avoid getting hurt. You try not to invest too much, because you imagine that things will fall apart and you’ll get hurt again. You focus on just feeling good now, so that when the relationship fails, you come out “ahead”. But this is not the way to make a stable marriage.
Marriage requires you to give 100% and regardless of how you feel. That’s what a commitment is – it’s a decision to perform regardless of feelings. To get stability, you want to be comfortable with investing in that other person – taking on responsibilities, satisfying expectations, performing obligations. Both of you have to be comfortable with the selflessness of commitment, and be ruled by your own decisions, instead of your feelings. And your goal here is not to find someone who gives you good feelings right now. Your goal is to find someone who will not hurt you the more that you give of yourself, up to an including marriage. It’s not good feelings that you are looking for, it’s the safety to commit everything you have to this other person, and not get hurt. The real joy of a relationship is not fun and thrills, it’s giving everything you have to another person, and knowing that if you fall, they will catch you.
If you choose candidates carefully, involve wise mentors, and set proper boundaries, you’ll find that relationships are a lot less painful, and that when you really want to commit, then you will be able to commit with your whole heart, and to be content with the commitment. There are plenty of ways to love and serve another person other than sex, as you both get to know each other and size each other up for a life-long commitment. Premarital sex is counterproductive… it’s speaking in a language that is designed for two people who have already made a lifelong commitment to have a common plan and a common purpose. Sex makes sense when you have that commitment, but it undermines communication and objective evaluation if it’s done before that commitment commitment is in place.
Little Zhuangzhuang, a newborn elephant at a wildlife refuge in China, was inconsolable after his mother rejected him and then tried to stomp him to death.
Tears streamed down his gray trunk for five hours as zookeepers struggled to comfort the baby elephant.
They initially thought it was an accident when the mom stepped on him after giving birth, according to the Central European News agency.
Employees removed him, cleaned him up and treated his injuries, then reunited the baby with his momma.
But she was having none of it, and began stomping him again.
So the game keepers stepped in once more and permanently separated the two.
“We don’t know why the mother turned on her calf but we couldn’t take a chance,” an employee told CEN.
“The calf was very upset and he was crying for five hours before he could be consoled,” he said.
“He couldn’t bear to be parted from his mother and it was his mother who was trying to kill him.”
The petite pachyderm, born in August, is now doing well. The zookeeper who rescued him from his violent mother adopted him and helped him thrive at the Shendiaoshan wild animal reserve in Rong-cheng, China.
Elephants rejecting their young is not uncommon, either in captivity or in the wild. In 2004, baby elephant Keemaya died at the Calgary Zoo after its mother refused to care for it.
I guess a lot of my views on ethics are rooted in the obvious needs that children have. When I look at an unborn baby, I can tell what it needs. So, I am careful not to cause a pregnancy before I can supply its needs. The needs of the little unborn creature are driving these moral boundaries on me. And the same with born children. I oppose gay marriage because when I look at little children, I want them to have a stable environment to grow up in with a mother and father who are biologically related to them (in the best case). I permit lots of arrangements, but I promote one arrangement over the others because that’s what’s best for children. Anyone can look at unborn and born children and see that, just like anyone can look at a crying baby elephant and understand – “I have to govern my behavior so that I don’t hurt you”. If that means cutting off the premarital sex and making decisions that are likely to produce a stable marriage, then that’s what we should do.
Children cry too, you know. They cry when we hurt them. They cry when we make bad decisions and when we don’t provide them with what they need. Children need mothers and fathers who care about them. Making a safe environment for a child isn’t an accident. It isn’t random and unpredictable. We have to control our desires before we have children, so that we provide children with what they need. It would be nice if men and women were more thoughtful and unselfish about children and marriage before they started in with sex.
I noticed this post on Lindsay’s blog where she explains her view about whether wives should only have sex with their husbands when they feel like it.
…[A] lot of people … [object] to the idea that a woman should ever have sex with her husband when she doesn’t feel like it.
But…I think it’s perfectly normal and right for a woman to have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like it. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that a woman oughtto have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like it – at least sometimes.
That sounds like a radical idea, I know. Our society has become so feminized that this idea is actually considered crazy or weird or somehow the same as saying women should be raped. It’s not.
You see, there are lots of things we do that we don’t feel like doing. I don’t always feel like getting up in the morning, making breakfast, feeding my kids, cleaning the house, changing diapers, going to the store, or a million other things I do. But I do them because they need to be done and because I love my family. My feelings don’t rule me. I make decisions based on love for my family and what needs to be done to care for their needs.
It should be the same in for caring for my husband’s needs, including his need for sex.
[…]I may not feel, at the moment, like taking my girls outside to play. It’s hot. I’m tired. I have dishes to do. But they want to play outside and the fresh air and sunshine will do them good. So I go because I love them and have a duty to care for their needs. One of their needs is play time and time with mommy. But once we’re outside, we have a great time and I’m glad I did it. Duty, in this case, was not preventing me from having fun. In fact, duty helped me overcome laziness, lower priority tasks, and distractions that would have prevented me from having fun with my girls.
Look at the line that I bolded there . She is saying that duty is what pushes her out of the initial discomfort. That the motivation to do her duty is love. In general, duty is useful in order to get us to get over feelings of selfishness, laziness, busy-ness, pride, etc. And she feels good about the end result. And I’ll add one reason to her list: her choice to perform her obligations keeps her marriage loving and committed. I know her husband, and I can assure you he is also a master of doing hard things in order to invest in the marriage.
Dennis Prager’s advice
Dennis Prager did a two part series a while back on 1) male sexuality and 2) what women should do about it within a marriage.
First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men’s natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman’s nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.
This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.
He then explains the 5 ways that women respond to their husband’s sexual needs, which is how he knows that his wife really loves him.
1. You have to be kidding. That certainly isn’t my way of knowing if he loves me. There have to be deeper ways than sex for me to show my husband that I love him.
I think that this is a common mistake that liberal women make because they think that men are just hairy women. But men are not women, we are different and sex means something different to men than it does to women. In the past, most women understood how men are different than women, but younger women have been taught that there are no differences between the sexes. To think any different is “sexism”. It’s sexism – the denial of male nature, and the denial of the legitimacy of this male nature – that is killing women’s ability to choose good men, and keep good men.
Here’s another from the list:
4. You have it backwards. If he truly loved me, he wouldn’t expect sex when I’m not in the mood.
Again, this is the common mistake that many younger women today make in thinking that love is a one-way street – flowing from men and children to the woman. If men and children DON’T do what the woman wants, or if they make demands on her, then they don’t “love” her and she is justified in ignoring them. Feminists are taught to reject responsibilities, expectations and obligations in relationships with men or children. The “victim mentality” of feminists helps them to justify their selfishness in their own minds. Very often, women are taught that life is so unpredictable, and they are so special, that somehow they can act selfishly and that they can escape the normal consequences of this. This attitude of “I’ll do it if I feel like it” is not compatible with a stable marriage.
I actually had a conversation with a Christian woman once who said that women should not be obligated to do things that they didn’t feel like doing. I asked her if men were obligated to go to work when they didn’t feel like going. She said yes, and acted as though I were crazy for asking. I just laughed, because she didn’t even see the inconsistency. The truth is that men often don’t feel like working, but they get up and go to work anyway, whether they like it or not (in most cases). Men are not asking women to do anything they don’t already do themselves.
He explains the eight reasons why women should not let their feelings override their obligations to their husbands.
Here’s one of them:
7. Many contemporary women have an almost exclusively romantic notion of sex: It should always be mutually desired and equally satisfying or one should not engage in it. Therefore, if a couple engages in sexual relations when he wants it and she does not, the act is “dehumanizing” and “mechanical.” Now, ideally, every time a husband and wife have sex, they would equally desire it and equally enjoy it. But, given the different sexual natures of men and women, this cannot always be the case. If it is romance a woman seeks — and she has every reason to seek it — it would help her to realize how much more romantic her husband and her marriage are likely to be if he is not regularly denied sex, even of the non-romantic variety.
I have actually been told by two Christian women I courted who rejected the notion that women have obligations to men regardless of how they feel as “contractual”. What they meant by this is that they did not want to lose the freedom to do what they felt like, and they expected that doing what they felt like would be enough to keep the marriage stable. Both spouses have certain basic obligations to each other, and those have to happen (most of the time) regardless of how they each feel.
The STEM (science, math, engineering, technology) test
One way to test women to see if they are used to doing work they don’t feel like doing apart from the influence of a man. It is so important that a woman’s selfishness be crushed through STEM degrees and STEM careers. This attitude of “I’ll do what I feel like” will never work when doing STEM degrees or STEM jobs. Lindsay, for example, has a BS and MS in biology, and taught biology, before retiring in order to become a full-time wife and homeschooling mother. She and her husband have never had an argument.
1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.
4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
It’s very important for Christian men to look over a Christian woman’s life closely to see if her service to God involves putting the plain meaning of the Bible over her own feelings and desires. If she is already doing that, and not just using the Bible to justify her own desires, then it’s a good bet that she will rank 1 Corinthians 7 above her feelings. Look for evidence in her life where obligations to follow the Bible have overridden her feelings and desires.
Here’s a wedding vow:
[Bride’s name], do you take [Groom’s name] to be your wedded husband to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?
Do these words impose obligations on the wife to provide for her husband? I think they do. And a wise man will expect to see evidence that she is comfortable with obligations, even if she doesn’t feel like doing them before the wedding ever happens. A woman who has rejected responsibilities, expectations, and obligations throughout her life does not suddenly gain the ability to resist the call of fun, thrills and travel by walking down the aisle and reciting vows. Pursuing fun and thrills is easy, but the work of being a wife and mother is hard. If you want a stable marriage, make sure you pick someone who is experienced at honoring obligations regardless of her feelings.