April 23, 2014

Christine Wicker: The Internet Monk Interview with the Author of Fall of the Evangelical Nation

UPDATE: I’m just curious: do some of you always descend into railing preacher mode when you encounter a person who isn’t on the same page as you, or is today just not your day?

Internet Monk.com is extremely honored to have Christine Wicker in the house for the IM interview segment today. Christine is the author of the book that blew my mind for at least two weeks, Fall of the Evangelical Nation. She is also currently is working on adapting some of her other books for television and planning a conference on literature and ethics.

Many of you have read Christine’s book and find her research interesting and provocative as I do. It’s great to have her at IM for a few questions. After snacks served by the gracious Van Til, we got to the interview.

1. Thank you, Christine, for doing this interview. You made it clear in your book that you grew up among evangelicals, but are no longer an evangelical or part of the Christian community. Can you tell us a little bit about your own faith journey and what were the significant contributing experiences to where you are now?

I wrote a book called “God Knows My Heart” in which I tried to figure all that out while covering religion for The Dallas Morning News. I was pretty devout as a kid and even in college.

Why did I leave? I once replied off the cuff that I wanted a world bigger than the Baptist Student Union. That might sum it up.

But leaving church and leaving Jesus are quite different. The first is easier. I sometimes suspect Jesus is not all that impressed with my belief or lack of belief, which fluctuates.

I say that because he continues to be a daily influence in how I conduct my life, the most important guide for how to behave. Sometimes he is also a presence. He shows up in all of my books, no matter the subject and whether or not I’m looking for him.

2. I’m imagining a person happily enjoying the programs of an evangelical megachurch would find your contention that the evangelical nation is facing its demise to be hilariously inaccurate. What’s the credible evidence that the “evangelical nation” is falling?

The evidence comes entirely from evangelicals themselves. When I talk about demise, I’m talking about numbers, growth, attitudes and behavior. The preachers often say that the culture has had more impact on the church than the church has had on the culture.

That’s completely true. Some people decry that. Others think that’s a good thing.

I use the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals as my two greatest examples. I also figured in non-denominational evangelicals. Anyone who wants numbers can find them on my website, www.christinewicker.com.

3. Your book puts a lot of emphasis on the end of evangelical political dominance, but many younger evangelicals are just as political as before, they just aren’t sold out to the Republican party. Do you see the politics of more left-leaning evangelicals like Brian Mclaren, Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne playing a significant role in the evangelical future?

I’d say Rick Warren is a better example of where the bulk of evangelicals are going. He’s quite conservative religiously but independent on other matters. My sense is that he’s positioning himself as the new Billy Graham, not the new Jerry Falwell/ Pat Robertson.

Wallis calls for engagement of a kind that would be radically different for many evangelicals. McLaren does too, and he breaks down some of the barriers that evangelicals have traditionally used to define themselves as God’s people.

I suspect that the notion of a God who is punishing but who also generally supports the American status quo will continue to appeal to many evangelicals. In fact, anything else seems ungodly to them.

I’m most interested right now in how Obama may change religious thinking and behavior.

4. Is the prosperity Gospel a cancer killing evangelicalism or is it a drug keeping the patient medicated and alive?

I’d go for the second option if I had to pick. For me judging prosperity gospel depends on whom the prosperity gospel is being preached to. Poor people need powerful promises to help them believe they can overcome all the obstacles in their way.

And isn’t prayer often about imploring God to give us something? Why is asking for health, which is far more valuable than money, more holy than asking for wealth, which allows us to be safe, to be fed, to be educated, to be treated by hospitals when we’re sick, and even to help others?

Certainly it would be more noble to serve God with no expectation of return, but promises of Divine favor, which seem plentiful in the Bible, help humans feel hopeful and comforted and not so alone in our troubles.

Those are great benefits. Are they are a drug? Marx thought so, but who listens to him anymore?

5. Why has James Dobson’s method of moving from counseling and teaching family life to promoting high-powered political involvement been so effective among evangelicals? Is Dobson’s day as the “big gorilla” in evangelicalism over?

He got his credibility from his base as a counselor and teacher. His legitimacy as a family-values defender was higher than many other leaders’ because he approached the topic so broadly and in such a useful, knowledgeable way. Since the Religious Right was so successful in taking over the idea of family values, his transition was a natural one. People learned to trust him in one role, and it wasn’t hard for them to follow him into a wider sphere.

Is his day over? I don’t know. He didn’t do too well in this election. But America is full of second acts, and third acts, and fourth acts. I wouldn’t even be sure Ted Haggard’s day is over.

6. Despite enormous compromises on the pragmatic front, Evangelicalism continues to stand strongly against the culture on issues related to gender and sexuality. Does this surprise you?

It doesn’t surprise me that the leaders stand so strongly or that their congregations do the same in opinion polls and voting. If nothing else, that kind of stand provides comfort during a time of threatening changes. And we need comfort.

What worries me is that the split between evangelical ideals and evangelical actions may be getting wider. Not because evangelicals are comfortable being hypocrites but because societal pressures are more intense.

For instance, I’m told that many evangelical kids and single adults come to church on Sunday and are regularly sleeping around or living with people they aren’t married to. Why? Because waiting until you’re married to have sex means that you are very likely never to get married and never to have sex either. Those are the “facts on the ground.”

Do you expect this to change?

I think the conservative evangelical stand on gay rights will change because science is going to demonstrate more and more convincingly that sexuality isn’t a choice. Also, normalization of homosexuality becomes more complete every year, and that’s what really changes attitudes.

I suspect the stand on abortion rights won’t change. Once again because of science, which I suspect has become our true god.

Science has already bolstered the anti-abortion argument with sonograms and by keeping babies alive earlier and earlier. Now it is providing private ways to abort so early that the woman doesn’t even know if she was pregnant. No knowledge, no guilt. So public abortions will be less needed and easier to condemn as something only stupid, careless, immoral women need.

7. For the first time, numbers of “non-religious” are growing faster than the any version of Christianity. The growth is coming from significant numbers of people brought up in Christianity. Have we turned a corner?

I’m afraid we have turned a corner. We could turn back. A great revival might occur.

But the truth about those “non-religious” people is that many of them aren’t “non-religious.” They are “spiritual but not religious.” They have their own ideas about God and life. They’re making it up as they go, so to speak. They feel in touch and empowered by God or the Universe or Spirit. And they don’t think they need the church. They have their own “bibles.” Their own leaders. And lots of company.

What are the major issues contributing to this shift?

Science, of course. I also mention in my book that Alcoholics Anonymous has shifted the concept of God enormously. It uses Christian principles. It rests on community. It gets results. But the God of AA has no attributes. He can be anything you want him to be.

That’s a threat to traditional Christian faith because the “AA God of your own understanding” has enormous power to change lives. So why convert to the Christian brand and take orders from some preacher?

8. One of your most provocative contentions could be summarized as something like this: When you send your kid to a good school like Wheaton and bring them up to be a tolerant, educated, non-fundamentalist, you’re probably contributing to the demise of evangelicalism.

I guess my answer would be another question: How ignorant and intolerant do you have to keep them to preserve religious beliefs? And is that really the best strategy?

But I didn’t quite mean to say what you’ve described. My chapter on family is meant to point out that child rearing has changed enormously in the last 30 years. Traditional evangelical faith is grounded in authority. The Bible says it. God wills it. The preacher leads, the congregation follows.

Faith requires a leap. God desires that you make that leap. If you don’t, you go to hell.

Traditional child rearing was also grounded in authority. So the two bolstered each other. I think that’s why conservative evangelicals sometimes allow their children to be paddled at school. Authority must be obeyed or punishment follows. Boundaries are essential to traditional evangelical faith. Child rearing once widely reinforced boundaries in action, speech and thought.

I argue that today’s children who are encouraged from their earliest days to question and contend with authority are less likely to accept religious ideas based on authority. And that parents have made this shift from supporting authority (their own first of all) because the pace of change demands that they prepare their children by teaching them flexibility and questioning.

Was evangelicalism wrong from the outset to believe that it could reject a fundamentalist posture and succeed as a movement?

I think the shifts evangelicals and other Christians are making may be painful and confusing, but they are also the hope of American Christianity.

These “new” evangelicals put following God above their own interests, above traditions, above certainties. They ask themselves hard questions and hold themselves to high standards of faith and reasoning. More than any great deed or sacrifice, certainly more than any political positions, the pure essence of who they are and who they hope to be speaks for their beliefs.

Will they still be evangelicals as they continue to question and change? Not as they have been defined by the Religious Right. But Southern Baptists, for instance, have always believed in the priesthood of the believer. So the changes rest on very traditional evangelical ideas.

9. I want to ask about your reaction/response to my two primary assertions regarding the demise of evangelicalism. A) Evangelicalism has failed to develop a real Christian spirituality that shapes and defines “What is a Christian?” Instead, we have culture war zealots, consumers, fans of various celebrities, and so forth. If asked to name a great Christian, most evangelicals would name a celebrity, not a saint.

I’d agree. American evangelical faith has become so identified with the Republican Party that the two were, until recently, thought of as one. Perhaps not what Jesus had in mind.

And certainly not what mainstream America thinks of as Christ-like behavior. So that has hurt the evangelical witness.

I’m hopeful that the growing evangelical focus on helping others will turn that image around.

B) Evangelicalism has deconstructed everything in Christianity in the name of numerical growth/church growth/relevance. So we have a church that isn’t really a church, worship that isn’t worship, pastors who don’t pastor, sermons that aren’t the Bible, Christians who aren’t particularly like Christ and so on. The end of this, as Louis Bouyer predicted half a century ago about Protestantism, is self-destruction.

I would have to beg off on this one. As you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. I’ve never experienced any other kind of Christianity. I’ve heard about Christianity that isn’t as you’ve described it, and sometimes seen it. But I wonder if that’s too extreme for most Americans.

The kind of evangelicalism we have now suits them very well. Can is convert others? Usually not.

10. It’s been a delight to have you here at the IM interview. One last question:  One of my personal quests is for a Jesus-shaped spirituality. If I asked you where to go in American Christianity to see and experience Jesus shaped spirituality, where would you suggest I go?

I’d say, “Go to church.” You can find it in other places of service, in neighborhoods, in families, among people who don’t go to church, but the easiest way would be to look in the churches.

For the brand I like best, you would look among the quieter, more humble, probably the older members of the congregation. I’d look among those with the least power. Not because powerful people can’t be Jesus-shaped, but the temptations are so much greater for them. I suspect it’s easier to become like Jesus if you’re among the “nobodies” of the world.

Comments

  1. iMonk,

    Your readers are actually a lot nicer than some of the people who email me. I’m honored that they would grapple with my ideas.

    Those who think my libertine ideas come from my lifestyle made me laugh. The most exciting thing I do is clean the garage.

    It’s certainly not impossible to marry if you’re a virgin. I know a number of nonreligious 20-somethings who are waiting to have sex. I suspect they will change their minds unless they marry soon, but I hope not.

    To throw gasoline on this fire, let me pass on what one middle-aged, married evangelical/maybe not-evangelical-anymore told me. She said she doesn’t think God cares who unmarried people have sex with as long as we are loving and respectful and honest. Her reason? Women and children were little more than property in Biblical times. Men needed to know which children belonged to them. Now we can find that out with a DNA test.

    Many of us disagree. But we live as though she’s right.

    That’s a split that one evangelical preacher believes is more dangerous than staying home from church.

  2. That Other Jean says:

    No offense taken, David. Your figures seem somewhat lower than others I’ve read. Do they include people not exclusively homosexual?

    But this discussion has gone far afield from the column’s interview. To get back to it:

    Concerning Ms. Wicker’s response to #4, “Poor people need powerful promises to help them believe they can overcome all obstacles in their way,” isn’t that setting people up for a terrible disillusionment? What happens when they pray and believe and fail to overcome the obstacles in their lives? Why would you continue in a church that lies to you?

  3. I appreciate you comments, Ms. Wicker. Very well considered.

    What about the fact that males and females of all ages were separated back in Bible times, much as they are in fundamentalist Islamic countries today. How can we expect chastity in our children when we by law force them into daily coeducation situations especially when their hormones are exploding onto the scene? And then the society uses sex to sell everything.

    “It is impossible that offenses don’t come, but woe unto them through whom they come.” Remember people …?

  4. “Don’t give up though – if you wind up getting married you will regret having given in.”

    Thanks. I wonder how much of this regret would be from all the years of being told “Don’t!” – thus making it a societal/church induced regret, rather than an actual spiritual/from-God kind of regret.

  5. Sex is to be confined to one man and one woman in the context of marriage – this is god’s design.

    for this to work, then I guess it is essential to accept an intelligent design theory of creation.

    If we evolved, then I would think that the appeal to design has no basis.

  6. I appreciate the book and the interview. We don’t need to agree with everything she says. But we do need to hear her perspective. She speaks for many.

    We lived in Southern California when Focus on The Family first started their radio broadcast. We were one of their first listeners. We liked the tips on marriage and raising children.

    Somehow over the years that group and its leader moved away from focusing on the family to focusing on legislation. They lost sight of the fact that Jesus changes people’s hearts, not legislation. Obviously this “culture war” of which they are one of the leaders found a ready following, especially among Evangelicals.

    I clearly remember sitting in the living room of a man who had “repented” (his words) of the years he was a radio evangelist. He said he made a lot of money. He said the key is simple: find any cause that people are passionate about, take a side, get on the radio and espouse that position and ask people to send you money to defend that position, and the money will pour in. Of course, most of it will need to be spent for “administration”. It’s too bad James Dobson was not sitting beside me that day.

    Of course our children have problems dealing with sex. We don’t know how to deal with it. We don’t help them. “Churches” don’t help them. We don’t model good, healthy sexual relationships for them. We spend our time railing against gays, sending money to pass Prop. 8, etc. etc.

    Legislation does not change people’s hearts. Jesus does. The first thing He needs to change about us is to teach us to love our neighbors, including Christine Wicker, our families and whoever else we run across in the course of our day.

  7. Patrick, I can hardly unpack all the assumptions behind your citing sociological statistics. I can’t imagine why the marriage behavior of a secular nation would have any bearing on how Christians are called to act. All I can say is that I must have a radically different notion of what human sexuality and Christian marriage are from yours.

  8. Comparing the chastity of Gospel times and that of today’s Western Culture is like comparing fasting in the desert to someone trying to diet in a world where it rained chocolate milk and snowed Dunkin Donuts everyday.

  9. “What about the fact that males and females of all ages were separated back in Bible times, much as they are in fundamentalist Islamic countries today. How can we expect chastity in our children when we by law force them into daily coeducation situations especially when their hormones are exploding onto the scene? And then the society uses sex to sell everything.”

    There is a difference between on the one hand recognizing that resisting temptation is difficult and that we sometimes, even often, fall, despite God’s provision, and therefore both need and must show grace, and on the other hand deciding that sin is not sin anymore.

  10. I just made myself hungry :-)

  11. Regarding the idea that scientific inquiry will increasingly demonstrate that sexuality is not a choice, along with the query, “did you choose to be straight?”, the condition I find most helpful as an analogy is alcoholism.

    Scientific inquiry has shown alcoholism to have genetic components, and I did not “choose” to not be an alcoholic (I do drink alcohol, but am not an alcoholic). I (along with most Americans) still perceive alcoholism as a problem, so it would appear that the “non-choosing” of alcoholism is not the relevant factor.

    In an analogous way, I do not believe that the “non-choosing” of sexual attraction is relevant for establishing its acceptability. I find it perfectly consistent with both science and Christian faith to believe that the sexual desires of gays is/was not a choice on their part, yet to affirm that the proper response to same-sex attraction is continence.

    Of course, I also realize that the wider American culture does not perceive this, and thinks that, if homosexuality is genetic, then it must therefore be acceptable. So Ms. Wicker’s comment is actually probably going to prove more accurate than it ought reasonably to be.

  12. “It is impossible that offenses don’t come, but woe unto them through whom they come.” Remember people …?

    To quote me quoting the One who defines sinfulness ….

  13. Thanks Michael & Ms. Wicker for a very interesting interview leading to some lively discussion. Funny how many have focused on sex, when that was only a small part of the interview.

  14. Actually we’re all focusing on not focusing on sex :-)

  15. I think the only way for the exit of people from the church is to redefine sin. What’s wrong with redefining sin? it used to be a sin to marry a different race. I don’t think premarital sex should be labeled as sin any more, because it doesn’t hurt any one. Adultery should stay a sin because it’s cheating and hurts people.

  16. “I think the only way for the exit of people from the church is to redefine sin. What’s wrong with redefining sin? ”
    If there’s no sin, there’s nothing to be saved from, no need for a Savior, the gospel is irrelevant, and what you have left is a nice social club that has inspirational talks and does community activism.

  17. Patrick Lynch says:

    Jonathan, you write like a true heterosexual. Which, by your own argument (genetic composition does not equal destiny, but your disposition helps define your perspective, right?), makes your position a wash.

  18. “If there’s no sin, there’s nothing to be saved from, no need for a Savior, the gospel is irrelevant, and what you have left is a nice social club that has inspirational talks and does community activism.”

    There is sin, all one needs to do is read the news. Killing, stealing, etc. are clearly sin but having sex with someone you love just doesn’t seem like sin to me, anymore than eating shellfish seems like a sin.

  19. Patrick Lynch says:

    Brian, my point is that people are people first, and “Christian” second, and there are no dividing lines between the two in terms of our humanity. There’s no reason to parse things along religious lines when dealing with something as everyday as sexuality. Besides, many of the people who were surveyed were certainly Christian – this is, after all, a nation full of people who call themselves Christian. Inventing a shadowy category of “True Christians” that exempts the average professing Christian and claiming, without evidence, that sex is less of a factor in their relationships than others (and thereby a benefit) is just ideological fluff.

    I have no assumptions about the differences between Christians and non-Christians. On most levels, I don’t believe that there are any. Except, of course, that Christians tip less at restaurants…

  20. “There is sin, all one needs to do is read the news. Killing, stealing, etc. are clearly sin but having sex with someone you love just doesn’t seem like sin to me, anymore than eating shellfish seems like a sin.”
    Why is one clearly sin but not the other? By what standard do you discern what sin is?

  21. Patrick,

    Any condition which falls in the realm of “thought” is psychology. Any pattern of thought, such as who one is attracted to, that applies to only 1-3% (men who claimed a sexual encounter with another man in the previous 10 years) of the population is, by definition, abnormal. In the school of psychology, anything falling into the far reaches of abnormal is considered a mental illness. In fact, a lot of things that aren’t that far flung are considered mental illness.

    So far your arguments against my position amount to sticking your fingers in your ears and singing really loudly. You don’t LIKE what they have to say so you dismiss them out of hand. It may make you feel morally superior but it’s intellectually dishonest. Do you honestly think that Jesus would never tell a homosexual “Go, and sin no more?”

    Keep playing word games and I’ll keep following what Jesus taught: call sin sin but love the prisoner caught in sin. They are NOT mutually exclusive.

    DD

  22. “Why is one clearly sin but not the other? By what standard do you discern what sin is?”

    I just use my own judgment

  23. I also use the bible so long as it feels right in my heart. My heart has to agree with what the bible says. If the bible says something but it feels wrong, then I would rather listen to my heart.

  24. “Killing, stealing, etc. are clearly sin but having sex with someone you love just doesn’t seem like sin to me, anymore than eating shellfish seems like a sin.”

    “Thou shall not commit adultery.”

    “If a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart, he has already committed adultery with her.”

    If Jesus says just LOOKING with lust is a sin, how can DOING not be?

    No offense, but this is why the church in America is going the way Ms. Wicker describes. We pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like and which to ignore. Instead of striving to be more like Jesus, we seek ways to excuse our own, or our friends and families, behavior.

    DD

  25. “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.’” (CCC 1849)

    In a nutshell, I think one would be hard pressed to out do the CCC for definition of sin and how one can go about discerning it.

    Our modern American culture regarding sexuality is definitely under the category of a perverse attachment to a good, the good namely being sex. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?” (http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00CUIw)

    As someone who failed to live up to Evangelical standards in this area, I strongly feel that the ball has been dropped on a church-wide level in terms of educating people on Christian Ethics. Christians are often told the What, but the Why is severely lacking, boiling down to a giant “because we said so”. Not that I don’t take full responsibility for my own actions, but Evangelical culture didn’t provide much help, and doesn’t provide much help to those struggling with themselves.

  26. Look, Patrick, the average behavior of Christians is not the determining factor of what the behavior of Christians should be.

    The important part of sexuality in a marital relationship is what one gives. One claims nothing. One demands nothing. The notion that I need to make sure my wife is sufficiently pleasurable to me before I commit to her is something I find totally selfish and un-Christian.

    I mean, did Christ make sure the church was sufficiently pleasurable to him before he died for it, or did he do so while we were his enemies? Or is that “love your wives like Christ loved the church” another one of those obsolete verses to be thrown out? Is it now “love your wives according to how they meet your needs” or some such thing?

    So what happens if your wife falls ill? What happens if she loses her physical beauty? Are you doomed to divorce?

  27. Comments will all be held for moderation.

  28. Patrick Lynch says:

    “Any condition which falls in the realm of “thought” is psychology. Any pattern of thought, such as who one is attracted to, that applies to only 1-3% (men who claimed a sexual encounter with another man in the previous 10 years) of the population is, by definition, abnormal.”

    There’s your problem. Sexuality is not a thought. Your sexual preference is not an idea you came up with. Psychology knows this, whether you do or not.

    Psychology knows that there’s a difference between sexual orientation and occasional same-sex sexual contact, too – which is much, much more common than you seem to think.

    Also, “abnormal” doesn’t qualitatively say anything. Other things that are “abnormal” include grey eyes, extra fingers (though not for long..), and the ability to taste certain things – none of which affect the quality of a person’s life in the least. Being gay falls into that category – relatively rare behavior doesn’t mean that behavior is “borderline” for some kind of pathology.

  29. Patrick Lynch says:

    Brian, often yes – people should divorce if they make each other miserable. Jesus allowed Christians to divorce knowing that we weren’t always going to be able to “submit” to the task ahead of us in some cases (Michael: NOT a Catholic answer, I know). A bad marriage is not a spiritually healthy thing for ANYONE, no matter what Jesus’s metaphysical relationship with the Church Visible. Turning it into a prison for two people who are unhappy with one another in the name of ideological purity conceals nothing from those who are close to it.

    I never implied that anyone should abandon their spouse in a time of need. I never said anyone should approach marriage with a me-first attitude.

    I said that I don’t think it makes sense to marry someone you’re not attracted to because they have some “spiritual” virtue you’re drawn to. Be friends. I wouldn’t marry someone I didn’t find attractive and I’d be ashamed if someone married me if they didn’t find me attractive, and held some religious belief up to me to prove their pure intentions. I think that’s living in a dream-land.

    Then again, I don’t believe God picks our spouse out for us from before time or anything like that. I think that’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t help anyone understand anything.

  30. Tim W,
    I think it was St. Augustine who said “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
    Convicting, isn’t it?

  31. As a 31-year-old nonmarried virgin, I approve of this thread :)

  32. That Other Jean says:

    Wasn’t it also St. Augustine who wrote that he used to pray, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”? There may be hope for the rest of us after all.

  33. Patrick, i think what is meant by sexual compatibility is NOT sexual attraction. Otherwise, premarital sex would not be necessary to determine it. People using sexual compatibility as a reason for pre-marital relations are simply trying to see if the other person performs well in bed with them. Seems entirely selfish in motive. The role a married person in sex is to please their spouse and not themselves. Doing so should be inherently pleasurable anyways. If premarital sex wasn’t experienced with multiple persons in the first place, there would be nothing to compare it to anyways. Isn’t that kinda what God had in mind?

    Tim, I have SOOOO totally been where you are at. But I made it. I went through SOOOO much frustration thinking why should I bother waiting if God wasn’t going to reward me for it. I finally had to come to a point where I said OK God i trust you and I’m going to obey.
    I kid you not I met her the next day and today we are happily married. We were each others first everything, including kiss. Boy was it worth it.
    That is not to say that giving it up to God is automatically going to solve the problem. I have a friend who is 72 and still waiting. It simply doesn’t seem like it is going to happen. If you were to ask her if she regretted it, she would definitely say no. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an extremely painful concession to make.
    She had to decide for herself that she loved God more than meeting a single perceived need of her own, and God has used her mightily as a result.
    To this day she wishes she could get married and who knows maybe she might. But her love and commitment to follow God are not dependent upon that or her feelings. Feelings are the absolute worst source of reconciling moral choices to reality. They lead astray to easily.
    Hang in there bro.

  34. Karen I share your comment. Imonk asked 10 questions. Sex was barely mentioned. Look what happened. ADD en mass.
    This is exactly the symptom! No wonder C.Wicker Bailed out. We were told to spread the love and message of the messiah, instead we itch and groan over the behavior of people outside the church.None of our business! And we set preachers up like they are the Pope and complain about the Catholics.
    “I suspect that the notion of a God who is punishing but who also generally supports the American status quo will continue to appeal to many evangelicals. In fact, anything else seems ungodly to them.” If this is true somebody help me. I went to Ms. Wickers site, tested myself on 9 issues and horror of horrors, it seems I am an Evangelical. Please issue me my card so they stop throwing me out of their churches. What is appealing about a pro_USA God who punishes? Honestly, is that a biblical image? What happened to “Render unto Caesar” showing a duality of government and God and a duality of responsibility.
    I am glad Imonk’s guest is the expert on this, not me. I am just going to spread the Good News and try not to be an idiot. I feel it is possible to do both.

  35. John the Fisherman says:

    Well, I guess I’m the token sinner here :)

    I was in high school during the late 70′s, was an average teenager of the time in that I had as much sex as I could get, and I don’t regret it one bit. It was beautiful, intimate, and didn’t detract one iota from my marriage 12+ years later.

    The drive to reproduce is right there with the drive to eat and drink – survival of the species. Teenagers have always had sex, always will, and if that’s God’s way of tempting them to see if they reject sin, that’s a mighty cruel thing to do. Why not make everyone an alcoholic, just to see if they can resist?

    As far as Paul, I believe he said it was better to be celibate than to be married, but who’s defending the lifetime single life as the most Holy possible?

  36. Here’s what’s ridiculous:

    Evangelicals who rant, rave, quote scripture and preach at anyone who isn’t in their fundamentalist camp meeting are convincing exactly NO ONE.

    When someone unloads on me, I generally ask if they are feeling better now. One can always hope.

  37. At one level it is all a trick God played on us — He makes us so we want it, then tells us we can’t have it, just making us want it more.

    And what does He get out of the deal …?

    More people.
    (He really likes people) :-)

  38. Patrick Lynch says:

    “People using sexual compatibility as a reason for pre-marital relations are simply trying to see if the other person performs well in bed with them.”

    What if they don’t?

  39. Is that one of the ten attributes of an evangelical …?

  40. Hey — im — you can base a new thread on a take-off on Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck” routine :-)

  41. If you can turn any discussion on spirituality into a debate about premarital sex, homosexuality and/or abortion, then you just might be an______________:-)

  42. This is such a wonderful discussion. It makes me happy to know that so many people are so passionately concerned about the things I’m concerned about. Thank you all.

  43. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I said that I don’t think it makes sense to marry someone you’re not attracted to because they have some “spiritual” virtue you’re drawn to. Be friends. I wouldn’t marry someone I didn’t find attractive and I’d be ashamed if someone married me if they didn’t find me attractive, and held some religious belief up to me to prove their pure intentions. I think that’s living in a dream-land. — Pat Lynch

    If so, a lot of Christians are living in that dreamland. I remember (during my younger, single-and-desperate days after Ann dumped me) attending a Christian speaker on dating/marriage. He kept going on dissing and denigrating appearance, attraction, and common interests/likes, putting all importance on “shared values/spiritual virtues” et al.

    I thought, “That attractiveness and shared common interests are what draws you together in the beginning. If you’re never attracted to them in the first place, how are you ever going to find out you have those ‘shared spiritual values’?”

    All Sustainer, no Booster. The rocket would never leave the launch tube.

    (Since then, JMJ/Christian Monist has written about a way around this dilemma. He saw it a lot in Navigators — using heavy-duty spiritual manipulation/”God Revealed to me…” to entrap the attractive Nav girl into marriage. The long-term success of this Christian (TM) Booster Charge for Initial Attraction/Meeting was shall we say “haphazard”.)

    Wasn’t it also St. Augustine who wrote that he used to pray, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”? — That Other Jean

    That’s because St Augustine was a real horndog in his younger days. I read an essay on the Web months ago (titled “Christian Sex Cult”, I think) which argued that St Augustine’s post-conversion monastic life also colored his ideas on women and sex in a dysfunctional manner. From horndog — women primarily as sex partners — to monk — with no opportunity to befriend women, even in a non-sexual manner. And, as a horndog, prone to the “I have a problem, so everybody must have the same problem” syndrome. The essay didn’t rip on St Augustine so much as point out that he was a mortal man with a load of accumulated baggage in the sex department, and that probably influenced his writings and teachings.

    “People using sexual compatibility as a reason for pre-marital relations are simply trying to see if the other person performs well in bed with them.”

    What if they don’t? — Pat Lynch

    Discard and Replace, of course.