Thinking Clearly about Hobby Lobby

HLA friend just posted on Facebook about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. For the purposes of anonymity I will leave her name out of this post and simply deal with the argument. My concern here is very narrow, and only addresses the logic of the following arguments. The original post states the following.

A) A company who does or does not offer coverage for contraception has the “power of life and death” over their employees.

B) By not paying for contraception, the Employer has a say over whether or not women procreate.

C) A quote from Justice Sonia Sotomayor  “Is your claim limited to sensitive materials like contraceptives, or does it include items like blood transfusion, vaccines? For some religions, products made of pork? Is any claim under your theory that has a religious basis, could an employer preclude the use of those items as well?”

D) By choosing not to pay for contraception, Hobby Lobby, a for-profit company, is imposing its religious views on its employees.

E) That this stance by Hobby Lobby is the same as determining the religious beliefs for someone.

Comments on the post point out that Viagra is still covered, and that this is a double standard.

 

In response, I will first say that I don’t have any moral compunction against birth-control. I think that it is fully within the moral freedom of a human being to exercise, to the extent of his or her abilities, power over the reproductive act. I do not think that sex and procreation must always go together, any more than I think that taste must always accompany a full stomach. If one thinks that, by an act of power and will, humans should not experience the pleasure of Eros without the consequence of birth, they should also be lobbying very hard against chewing gum, which provides flavor with no nutritional value…and diet sodas….well, perhaps we should all be lobbying against diet sodas.

That being said, I think that the whole perspective of the original post is flawed. I want to put the argument as plainly as I can, so that if I am wrong, it will be easier to show it.

1. There is a difference between (a) forcing someone to do something/prohibiting someone from doing something and (b) not assisting someone in an act but also not prohibiting them. This is easily shown by observing the difference between stopping someone from crossing the street/making them cross the street at gunpoint, and simply not interfering or aiding them cross the street. The first (a) is an impinging on their freedom. The second (b) is an exercise of your own freedom. Now, it may sometimes be wrong to do (b) when the person needs help, but that is a different matter.

2. Hobby Lobby, as well as many other companies see the government as dong (a) forcing them to spend their money on something they find morally wrong. By insisting that they support birth control, the government is removing their freedom to act in accord with their ethics.

3. Critiques of this decision, like the one above, accuse Hobby Lobby of doing (a). In fact, arguments A-E all restate this in some way.

4. However, Hobby Lobby’s action of not covering birth control is actually the same as  (b) which is exercising their freedom to not help someone do something.

Why this is important:

Companies are run by people, and people, in general, have morals (the quality of their morals is not the issue of debate here). For a government or company to (a) force people to use their money against their morals would be an infringement on their freedom. In fact, many people do object to the way their taxes are spent on moral grounds. No one wants a government or a company to force them to do something they find morally reprehensible.

However, this is not what Hobby Lobby is doing. Instead, They are doing (b) which is that they are exercising their right not to help or hinder. If they are forcing people to do anything, they are forcing people to pay for their own birth control, or to see other sources of funding for their birth control, if they want birth control. Paying for one’s own birth control does not seem to be a morally reprehensible act. If it is, I have yet to see an argument that shows it to be.

Justice Sotomayor’s statement falls into the same error. While it would be important to know if your health insurance covers blood transfusions, which would be a valid concern if one was working for a company run by people who have a moral compunction against this (though those religions actually have a more complicated stance on this issue, as far as I know), no company could tell you not to eat pork. They might not serve pork, and they might even prohibit pork on their grounds, but in no way are they infringing on a person’s right to eat pork on their own time, or to buy pork.

As a side note, the Viagra comparison is also logically flawed. Viagra allows some men to have sex who otherwise could not. Birth control does not do this for women. Birth control attempts to control the unwanted procreation of offspring. It is not clear exactly how these two things are at all comparable.

Also, it is good to  note that there is a drug that allows some women to have sex who otherwise could not, and that drug is also Viagra. A faithful woman in a relationship with a man who cannot perform the sexual act without Viagra cannot have sex. An unfaithful woman could, of course, but that is neither here nor there.

And finally, as far as I can tell, there are no moral objections to Viagra. Is that because there’s a double standard trying to keep women down? Well, I could believe that if in fact the majority of men using Viagra were using it to have sex with each other. But, as it happens, I don’t think there is such a statistic. Instead, there’s no moral objection to Viagra because it restores a natural function of the body, it does not prohibit one. Birth control, for good or ill, prohibits what would take place in the course of nature. Ergo, some people have a problem with it. Again, I do not.

Finally, the slippery slope of this situation would be the idea that people give up their rights to be moral creatures the moment they work for a corporation. A person who is a CEO who is told, “I don’t care if you think it is good or evil, just do your job” is a person who is living in a culture that is not far from despotism. We may find other people’s morals to be inconvenient, or even damaging to our livelihoods. But the moment we start empowering the government to tell people, just because they are part of a company, that their morals don’t matter, is the moment we empower the government to tell us the same thing about our own morals.

 

The Hidden Pattern: Jesus and The Harlem Shake

It’s a really simple model. You take a room full of people who are just going about their normal lives, sitting, reading, eating, or whatever. Then music starts, and at first it’s low but noticeable. More notable is the one figure dancing in the room. He has a strange helmet on, or a mask. He is dancing to the music, even though no one else is. The music plays for about ten seconds. Then the beat, as they say, drops.

The whole scene changes, and all of those normal people doing normal things, disappear and are replaced by the same people in insane costumes doing their best worst dance moves. Everybody is going nuts, and the first guy…he’s still doing that dance.

This my friends, a microcosm of every major Christian theological category dressed up in Darth Vader helmets and Spider-Man costumes. It contains the Incarnation, the preaching of the Gospel, the coming new Creation, the Eucharist, the Liturgy, the Trinity, the first Creation, and the Church. It displays Revelation, Interpretation, community and individuality. It’s a pattern that sits at the bottom of all things Christian.

It’s easy to see once you look. Let’s take the most obvious connection, the incarnation. The world, going about its business, looks rather normal. All of a sudden there is a man saying and doing something new that stands out from everything else. And then we are off like a shot, the scene jumps forward and human lives are changed from the mundane to the divine. The dance goes outward and sets normal respectable people off doing crazy, wild, and unpredictable things fueled by joy and informed by that man’s life and joy.

Consider the Church, that same community, all looking at the one man, his oddity and his difference, and patterning itself on him. Do you see his dance, his moves? You pattern yours on his, not as a simple copy, but as the interpretation of him that is your own very self. He might be Douggieing, but you are doing the Lawnmower, because that’s what he’s inspired you to do. And you’re not alone, that guy over there doing…um…something, is doing that something with you. He’s flailing about in what you think might be an attempt to do the running man in a way that is both in desperate need of correction and beautiful at the same time. Don’t worry, he’ll get it, and so will you. You, flailing man, and those three girls who all know exactly the same moves in perfect sync are all in this together. It’s the church patterned on the One. It is also a bunch of people that look totally crazy to everyone else. This is to be expected. If you won’t follow that one man’s crazy dance, then the people who do look really silly to you.

Or let’s consider the end of all things. There are the people in the world, going about as if it will never end. Then, in the blink of an eye, the world is changed, and their true selves are revealed. They are all images of that one who had been dancing the whole time, ignored by them, and now showing them how to be in a totally new and exciting way. The old is gone, and the Son of God’s words “Behold, I make all things new” break out in an eternal rapturous dance.

Again and again, from the boring nothing of pre-creation to the explosion of joy in the world’s making to the humdrum of life suddenly infused with the ecstasy of the Eucharist, the pattern of this passing (and probably very close to already passed) fad, unfolds and reveals the key to the Christian message. As well the fad itself, patterned on a single parody video, mirrors the Gospel. For each person can now be that silly one dancing amid the rigor and blah of the world, and can ignite a fire of foolishness that is wiser than all we can think up.

Such is the Gospel, not too proud to be boiled down to a simple YouTube Fad, not too great to become small and silly. But that shouldn’t be surprising, and should not offend those who think that the Gospel is too noble for this. For the Gospel is none other than the One who, though being God, thought it was best to become a silly awkward creature with arms and legs and hair who can dance Gangam Style.

The Permitted Tactics

There’s all manner of things going on these days with the swelling support for gay marriage rights in the USA.  In the best situations, people on both sides of the issue are doing their best to stand their ground on what they believe to be the ethical sides of the issue.  But there seems to be, as well, a growing consensus that companies which take a particular stance on the issue should be subject to boycott, and in some cases actual governmental involvement, such as in the case of an Alderman blocking a Chic-Fil-A from receiving zoning rights.  These stances are taken on both sides, and we’ve heard about Evangelical Christians boycotting, or at least trying to boycott, companies for years based on their support of gay rights.  However, I think we’ve gone down the wrong road here on how we react to political stances, as well as how we have understood the proper use of the boycott.

For the purposes of discussing this topic, I’m going to put forward two hypothetical groups.  The first is the Inclusives, and the second is the Exclusives.  The Inclusives strive to bring in people and voices that have been excluded in the past.  They want equal rights under the state for all people.  The Exclusives think there are voices that do not need to be heard, and do not think that all rights apply to all people.  In our particular case, the Inclusives are striving for marriage rights for gay people, and the Exclusives are insisting that these rights belong only to the union of a man and a woman.

Now, what has happened, is that many avowed Inclusives have inadvertently become Exclusives through the conflict of these two ideologies.  The Inclusives want all voices to be heard, except the voices of the Exclusives.  They are fighting to get their point across, and to achieve goals, but in the midst of this struggle, they have advocated boycotts and what are essentially sanctions against the Exclusives.  Were these boycotts successful, these entities would cease to exist, and thus be effectively silenced by the exclusionary practices of the Inclusives.

Now, of course, the Exclusives are doing the same thing, and have been for years.  However, there is nothing particularly contradictory about the Exclusives doing this.  This is not a statement of support for the Exclusives, but only an observation that their position does not end up in contradiction if they maintain that there are voices which should no longer exist.  The Inclusives cannot maintain this position without some level of absurdity.  Thus, while we may not like it, it is fully consistent with the views of the Exclusives to attempt to silence their opponents through boycotts and the like, but not for the Inclusives to do so.

But then, there is the question of the rationality of the boycott itself.  I want to distinguish between two reasons for boycotting a company.  The first we will call a boycott for Teleological Reasons, and the second for Non-Teleological Reasons.  The Teleological Boycott is a boycott that is enacted because there is objection to the way the company does its business.  Thus the boycotts of the 1960’s regarding department stores and bus companies were Teleological Boycotts, as they aimed at the actual business practices of these companies.  They did business in an unfair and biased way.  The Non-Teleological Boycott objects to some element of a company that does not in fact have to do with how they do their business.  The repeated attempts by Evangelical and other Christians to boycott Disney for their perceived support of gay rights, is this kind of boycott.  There is no objection to how Disney does its business, making movies, running theme parks, but instead focuses on its stance on an issue.

Now, the boycott itself seems to be properly applied when it comes to Teleological Boycotts.  One may boycott Wal-Mart because of how they do their business, and not run into contradiction.  If one wishes that the company either ceased to do business in this manner voluntarily or not-voluntarily (through economic pressure) then this is fully consistent with the methods of the boycott.  However, if one boycotts Disney or Chick-Fil-A for their stances on gay rights, one seems to run into some confusion.

For it is ostensibly because of one’s ethics that one takes a stance on an issue.  The boycott over an ethical issue unrelated to the business of a company at best seems to be assuming that the ethical stances of companies, and the people who run them, are for sale.  At worst, it is bordering on a tyrannical tactic.  If their ethics are for sale, you simply give them an economic proposition that it will be in their best interest to change their stance.  As a tyrannical tactic, however it seeks to deny people money, and ultimately their living, home, clothing, and food, if they do not agree with one’s position.

Now in the first case, if the ethics really are for sale, then they are not really ethics.  They are merely economic maneuvering to take the position most likely to provide the most revenue.  However, if they are sincerely held beliefs, then no economic pressure will change them.

And here’s where the practical problem comes in.  For if we apply the Non-Teleological boycott to get our way, we assume that when a company agrees with our side of the debate their stance is a sincerely held ethical belief.  But when they are on the other side, we view it as an economic maneuver.  For if we thought that it was a sincerely held ethical belief, we would be monsters for denying people their livings for being in disagreement with us.  In fact, we would be extreme Exclusionists to the point of monstrosity.

Thus it seems that the tactics of the Inclusionists, if they wish to remain Inclusionists, must reject the desire to silence their opponents.  In fact, the tactics that we Inclusionists (because yes, I include myself as one who thinks that all people should have equal rights under the law, no matter what my theological views of the sacrament of marriage are) are free to use are much harder and much less tempting than those power plays that the Exclusionists use.  We are free to have everyone sit down at the table and to hear the voices of those who disagree with us, and to debate them.  And we are free to argue, and make our points known.  But we are not free, if we wish to remain Inclusionists, to exclude anyone, especially in a democracy.

Now, this short piece does not take into consideration questions of lobbying and those kind of elements of the situation.  But even taking those political elements into the discussion, we are still left with the economic or ethical motivations that either can or can’t be pressured by the attempt to silence the parties involved.  Ultimately, as in all struggles, to use the weapons of those you fight is to make you into your enemy.

An Alien Excellence

A recent debate I had with someone close to me brought into sharp relief a significant reality about our current cultural situation.  The argument was about the privatization of public schools due to the lack of government funding.  This short piece is not meant to address the problem of the lack of school funding specifically, but instead to consider the dangerous overall trend that our culture has been moving in.

The modern world has generally gone away from what is considered a “virtue ethic.”  Even more, we have moved away from the idea of virtues in the Greek sense of the word, meaning the “excellence proper to a particular thing or species.”  This concept of virtue evaluated anything, human, animal, or object, by measuring it against the particular excellence which it was intended to embody.  A hammer is a good hammer, in this view, when it knocks nails into wood well.  A horse is a good horse when it transports a soldier through a battle safely.  A sweater is a bad sweater if it does not keep us warm.  The excellence of one thing is not the excellence of another.

This will, of course, be familiar to those who have studied Plato and Aristotle.  But, this idea of what makes anything “good” in a qualitative sense is inherent in human evaluations of the world.  We know that a good dog is the dog that does what a dog is supposed to.  A good child is the one that acts as a child should, not as he or she shouldn’t.  Unfortunately we have, as a culture, found a new way of evaluating the quality of things.  Instead of having inherent excellence in themselves, we have found their excellences external to their particular natures.  We have defined their excellence, not by conforming to what they ought, but by how much profit they can bring us.

Within the realm of manufacturing, this has been evident for a very long time in our culture.  Cars are rarely made to be excellent modes of transportation, but instead are designed to generate profits for the manufacturer, the sales person, and the mechanic.  Our clothes are not designed to be excellent sources of covering for us, but instead wear out either physically or socially so that we must replace them.  We are all familiar with the term “Planned Obsolescence” as a concept which contains the idea that the things that we buy are going to break by design; so we will need to buy new ones.

And while we may accept this as the due course of industry, we find that it has also entered realms that we may be far less comfortable with.  The old idea of the virtue of art, whether visual or audible, was that it gave pleasure to those who experienced it.  A great artist would have a patron who, desiring to have art for its particular excellence, would provide for the artist’s material needs.  This is true from Michelangelo to the travelling bard going from one Lord’s hold to the next for a night’s food, shelter, and a bit of coin in exchange for his tales and songs.  A good song was one people wanted to hear again because it was pleasing to the ear.  People were not trained to want new and innovative songs all of the time.  They were content with familiar songs sung well.

These days, music is made, by and large, for its profit potential.  Movies are designed to be blockbusters racing for the highest ticket sales.  Video games are made to be “Triple A” titles measured in success by how many millions of titles they sell.  Our art has moved from being valued for its intrinsic virtue, the communication of joy, sorrow, or whatever particular human experience the artist has in mind (or his or her patron desires).  It is now valued for one particular reason: profit.

We see it as well, just as disturbingly, in our news.  The virtue of news is to report the truth with as little bias as possible.  Sensational news is nothing new, especially in the print business[1], but the recent explosion of news channels, websites, and personalities shows that we have moved almost wholly into a realm where what we learn is based more on how many clicks or views a thing gets, and not on its intrinsic worth to us.  More disturbing, we find that the central virtue of reporting, that of telling the truth, is pushed aside for the new central virtue:  profit.

We can move from these fields to one even more disturbing, that of our justice system.  Several new reports and articles outline the miscarriage of justice in many of our new privatized prisons which run, like all privatized industry, with the bottom line in mind.  Here we find human beings treated, not as consumers who must be courted, as in the two examples above, but as a new kind of slave labor[2].  The virtue of the justice system, to give to each individual what is his or hers by just rights, has been redirected to the new mono-virtue:  profit.

The same story can be told of our sports, our hobbies, and terrifyingly our healthcare system.

If we then consider the root of this discussion, my debate about the privatization of our public schools, I think the trend is obvious and frightening.

For the power that has moved the center of these different goods out of themselves and into the realm of profit is simply and plainly the love of money, or greed.  Put another way, it is Mammon that is drawing all things to itself, and turning all faces to look at it.  Each new thing that it turns serves it.  And if it serves Mammon…well, we know what it cannot serve.

Now when we look at a society that no longer finds the virtues of things in their own excellences, but only in their ability to produce profit, we find a few very troubling trends.

1.  The excellences of things, all being the same, no longer serve to distinguish them from one another.  A song is as good as a book, which is as good as a pair of socks, if they will each produce the same amount of profit.  In the past, the virtue of a book could not be compared with the virtue of a pair of socks, for a book does not keep one’s feet warm, except in the most dire of circumstances.  And socks make for very poor reading material.

2.  Since the virtue of a book is found in whether it will produce toys, movies, or sequels, and thus more and more profit, it matters very little that the book is a good book in the old sense of the word.  Any book will do, whether it is drivel or genius, as long as it sells.  It matters very little whether it has something to say, or is a work of brilliance.  The primary question now is not, “Is this good writing” but instead “will it sell?”  The only saving grace, so far, is that people, while they like very many bad books, still do love good books.  And thus good books often, though not always, produce good profits.  This may change, however, if the institutions which teach our children which are good and which are bad books, are more concerned with profit than the virtue of literature.

3.  This brings us to the concept of the dissonance of the consumer and the provider.  For a provider, the point is simply to produce a product that will sell, and sell enough to make a tidy profit.  For those more competitively minded, the goal is to take as much of the market as possible, since this will bring the greatest profit possible.  For the consumer, who still values the old concept of virtue and excellence to some degree, the product is only attractive as long as it still has some semblance of the old virtues.  A hammer that does not knock nails into wood will not sell.  Not yet anyway.

So now we come to the central question of the privatization of schools.  For in the old model, the virtue of a school was to teach children two things.  The first was information that they could use in the world for practical purposes.  The second was to teach students the proper virtues of things.  A book was for literary enjoyment, a basketball for play, and a laboratory for discovering the nature of the universe.  In the new model, a corporately run school has every interest in teaching children that the proper end of books, balls, and Bunsen burners is profit.  Why do we do science?  In the old model, it was for the virtue of knowledge, or the virtue of mastery over the material world.  In the new model, it is to patent new drugs, new technologies, new methods by which we may make a profit.  Why do we write?  In the old world it was to communicate our very humanity to others.  Now, it is to sell books, or get clicks on blog pages to get ad revenue.  Why do we play?  Once we played to express the joy of being embodied creatures in a world with limits.  We were masters of the world by finding joy in the limits of gravity, the firmness of hoops, and the resilience of rubber.  Today we play to get millions a year, and our face on shirts, sports drinks, and video games.

A powerful corporate run school system can choose to not create the well taught humans who have value in and of themselves, but indoctrinated consumers who are designed to serve that ancient god Mammon at every turn.  Every work of their hands, every thought, every joy, will be servant to this all consuming power.  To turn our schools over to institutions whose central tenet is greed when we have seen what they have done to all other areas of our lives that they have touched, would be, in an almost literal way, to bow down to ancient Moloch, the god who ate children.

Of course, things are not so grim yet that no music is made for its own excellence.  Sports are still played for the joy of being embodied creatures.  Books are still written because things must be said, or because a story longs to be told.  There are still women and men reporting the news to us with deep integrity.  The description above of our dire state is the description of the corporate view of these things, both corporation and the corporate mindset, not the view of the community or individual.  These last two still have some idea of what virtues still are.

But how long can this last if we turn our schools over to this power that Jesus described as mutually exclusive to the service of God?  When my debate partner answered that “the schools will have to be good, otherwise they won’t be profitable” he made a very simple error.  How will people know, in twenty years time, if the schools are good or not, if they have been taught to think that the only good is profit?  If the school makes profit, it will be, in this new understanding of virtue, a good school.  In fact, the old school, the one that showed each thing to have an excellence in and of itself, will be viewed as the bad school.  For it produced men and women, not merely consumers.

As a last thought, there is one area that I have not mentioned as being affected by this converting power, because it is one that is supposed to exist with an excellence outside of itself.  That is the church.  The excellence of the church lies in her Bride, the Son of God.  But even here we find that many churches, especially in the mainline protestant expression of the faith, find themselves functioning like businesses, with the bottom-line as the main goal.  This gets shrouded in language that indicates that the reason pews should be filled is due to concern for the immortal souls of people.  But the practical realities are shriveled endowments and shrinking tithes.

Even now, we see the move to turn the church over to Mammon. And we must work and pray to resist this.  For if our schools and our churches are in the service of this terrible God, where will we find the power to resist?  Where could it come from if our children are not taught to love the good and hate the evil, but instead taught to love the profitable?  Where will we find it if our preachers are worried for their jobs, and not worried for the truth of God’s love?

Maturity, Evolution, and the Modern Age

While reading an article on the Huffington Post by Delaine Moore, I came across this: “And just as I’ve learned to separate sex from love since divorcing, I wonder, could I one day learn to separate love and commitment from jealousy? Could that be the next stage in my maturation and evolution?”

One feels nothing but empathy for Ms. Moore, as the system that we are involved in regarding sex, marriage, divorce, and infidelity is really and truly screwed up.  One agrees that our system of life is terribly confused and utterly broken.  However, I do think Ms. Moore is a bit off base with her concepts of maturation and evolution.

Now I should say straight away that Ms. Moore concludes here post by admitting that she cannot in fact take this step.  But she does it by saying this: “I couldn’t. I still just don’t think I can, regardless of how hard I try to imagine it, no matter how open and mature I think I am. My social programming, the doctrine I’ve absorbed, runs too deep.”  Thus I am not in any way attempting to vilify her, but here only address the ideas of maturation and evolution as stepping stones out of traditional understandings of human relationships.

We want to be mature, we want to be evolved…the first is a standard desire of western culture, the second the particular idiosyncrasy of the modern age.  We want to leave childhood behind, find our adult footing, and cast off all of the silliness of childhood.  One need not look too hard to find the roots of this throughout our history from Roman to Victorian English times.  This has become deeply linked with the concept of progress, our modern deity.  As the ancient Romans loved honor, the ancient Greeks reason, we love progress.  Our age, we think, is the greatest of all ages.  To perpetuate this myth we lie about the past (as in the false belief that people used to think the world was flat), we disparage it with names like “the dark ages,” and we ignore the wisdom of previous times and cultures, casting aside their insight as insignificant.  Our modern myth is that all ages have anticipated ours, and ours is the crown.

Thus we want to be mature, to cast off the old ideas, and think that we are freeing ourselves from some kind of bondage.  This is again a peculiarity of the myth of progress.  Former generations have viewed the continuity of humanity as something to be celebrated, not sneered at, and innovation was looked at with suspicion.  We pride ourselves in innovation.  We have conflated technological innovation and social innovation.  The Romans, as a good example, viewed many technological innovations with delight, while they were incredibly hostile to social ones.  The examples of the general who wanted to see Archimedes on one side, and the Grachae brothers on the other will suffice.

Our attachment to maturity comes with the popular myth of evolution.  I here distinguish it from the scientific theory of mutation and adaptation.  The myth I am talking about is that which roots the myth of progress in a pseudo-scientific understanding of the world.  We establish our myth of progress by rooting it in the popular myth of evolution.  We say “if the world works this way, then it is simply natural and common sense that culture and individuals should work this way.”

Of course this is all nonsense.  Evolution really involves adaptation to a particular environment.  This sometimes means the honing of particular abilities over generations, and sometimes it means letting them become vestigial or shedding them altogether when they become detrimental.  It is not a drive toward an ideal perfection.  Evolution, left on its own, is a blind reaction to forces from the outside.  Such a process cannot in fact bring about progress, but only temporary adaptation.  We do not want to be “evolved” in this sense, changing here and there simply to suit our situations.  Our minds and hearts reject it.

The myth of progress is then confused.  To progress, we must have a goal, a target to which we can progress, otherwise we are merely moving about like a ship without a destination.  We may say we’ve made progress because we’ve sailed from the coast of England to America, but if our goal was never to make it to America, we are merely lying to ourselves.

A culture that can really imagine progress is one that sees a goal, an image that it is striving to conform itself to.  Do we have one?  If we do, what happens when we reach it?  How can progress be our master and god if we have achieved it?  Oddly enough, only a theistic worldview can offer real progress as a tenable goal.  For, as the ancient church fathers have said, since God is infinite, we may infinitely pursue and grow in the image of God.  We may forever make progress in growing in love for God and neighbor, husband and wife, child and parent, and never fear that we will come to the end of it all.  We may always be able to look back and say “how far we have come” without the pride or the despair of knowing that our journey will soon be over.

The central question of Ms. Moore’s post reads: “What if having sex with someone other than your partner isn’t just a ‘lifestyle’ choice? What if it’s also not an issue of right or wrong? What if our culture has simply indoctrinated us with beliefs around love, commitment, attraction and sex that end up emotionally terrorizing us unnecessarily at some point, or all throughout, our lives?”

I think the question is somewhat the wrong way around.  Our culture has latently passed on to us all of the things that are generally common to the human race, drawn from real evolution and religion.  Our culture has actively created a situation where those things become painful as we try to shuffle them off.  It is the myth of the mature, evolved adult who can cast off the old ways which brings about this question and many of the painful conflicts.

Two points and I am done.  First, Ms. Moore is not somehow to be singled out for this view.  It is rampant and ubiquitous.  It often appears in urban areas as coupled with anti-religious sentiment.  In non-urban areas, it often appears in the form of the American Civil Religion, tying the Cross to the Flag.  In this way it appears to be two conflicting ideologies, but it is not.  Ms. Moore is simply expressing something that is everywhere.

As the last point, I want to also point out that the Christian perspective on this is that the world is deeply and truly messed up no matter what age or culture we are in.  Marriage is hard because we are broken people.  Men and women cheat because we are struggling with how to be good when so much in us leans against it.  This is the very very unpopular doctrine of Sin.  And this, like anything else, has been abused to make people feel dirty and horrible when they should simply be fighting the good fight and going again and again to say “sorry, I’ll do better with Your help.”  Each age teaches us a new thing, and this age has taught us that reconciling with God is better than fearing God.  The robust struggle to do good and ask forgiveness is far more healthy than the grovelling squirming crawling guilt of being what we are.

We find then that true maturity, true progress is found in growing into the stature of Christ, that man of love who forgave wrongs against him, and love all around Him.  Here is a goal we can make true progress toward.  Here is real maturity…to be a child in the kingdom.