Sunday, April 26, 2009

Let's Eliminate the Fire Code!

So, I'm teaching the Sermon on the Mount tomorrow in a humanities class. It's one of my favorite things to do, because it shows exactly how odd Christianity really is. My students have little knowledge of Christian teaching, and if they have any notion of who Jesus was, it is of an inoffensive, warm and fuzzy teacher, like Bill and Ted, telling us to be excellent to each other. He certainly would have supported gay marriage, as all cool people do, they may think.

Then we get to Matthew 5:27-30, which amplifies the prohibition of adultery to include even looking at a woman lustfully. Jesus, as he always does, takes the Mosaic law and makes it harder, much harder, encompassing the disposition of the heart as well as the external deeds. We must be perfect, after all! (v.48)

This passage usually gets a reaction. We live in an age of looking lustfully, perhaps the most lustful age that has ever been. One cannot even drive down the highway without being presented with advertisements festooned with nearly naked women. One cannot listen to sports radio without being invited to visit "gentlemen's" clubs. One cannot use the internet without, well, you know what's out there. The revenue from pornography exceeds that of the NFL, the NBA, and MLB combined. What could be more out of touch than Matt 5:28?

Let's be clear: the sexual appetites are very strong, as is to be expected, given their purpose of disposing us to procreation. They are not just another appetite. C.S. Lewis once observed that if hunger and sexual desire were the same sort of thing, there would be establishments where hungry men went to look at food, but not eat it, while the steak was stripped before their eyes. Clearly, it is something very powerful.

The current tendency to get rid of all societal rules concerning sexuality is like repealing the fire code. In previous centuries, catastrophic fires were common, often destroying whole cities. Yet they are not, now, because we have learned how to build in ways that make fires not break out. What if we got rid of all of those rules? It would lead to our destruction, or at least to lots of fires. The rules of society against sexual activity outside of marriage are like the fire code, and serve to prevent people from destroying their lives for the sake of sexual gratification. But we, we wise moderns, have decided to scrap the fire code, so to speak. We have decided to let the whole world burn.

Perhaps our ancestors were not oppressive, but wise.

1 comment:

Philip said...

Good post, Karl.