Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

The Decline and Fall of Christian Morality

John Kapsalis

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"History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline." Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the Pacific during World War II

No Christian today can deny that we are drowning in a deluge of immoral sexuality. We are living in a culture that is bent on desecrating marriage and sex. We are sexualizing our children, exploiting our teens and producing adults whose understanding of relationships is so warped that marriages are now more likely to end in divorce than not. Darwinism has separated sexuality from its real purpose and reduced it to a misguided perversion that seeks to enrich pleasure but that only leads to personal and societal bankruptcy.

Our pursuit of personal happiness through sensual satisfaction is unprecedented. Yet despite this mania with pleasure, never in history have we produced so many unhappy people and chaotic societies. Ironically, we have become intolerably tolerant of everything except that which is morally grounded on Biblical principles and truth. We are sliding from a world of decaying morality and into a world of unbridled amorality. Whatever is holy is considered retrograde and the perverse normal. Even Christians are being proselytized by the lewd sensuality of today's cultural engines and schooled to be desensitized to its destructive force.

Our children are force-fed from an early age with an unrealistic image of sex. Immoral sexuality is thrust at us countless times a day from magazines at the supermarket checkout to commercials on television to the fashions peddled at the mall. Clothing has gone from being scantily provocative to provocatively scant. Children are trying to be sexy before they even know what sexy means. Modesty is out of style and the media is further pushing down the barriers by undressing our youth. An entire generation is being morphed into some genderless creature that is bearing towards self-annihilation.

Parents have forfeited their responsibility to properly educate their own children about moral sexuality and instead have left it to the 'professionals' to do it right. As a result, moral teaching has been hijacked by a system that is systemically reconstructing our worldview where the sins of a-marital sex, both natural and unnatural, are being declassified from our vocabulary and instead are celebrated and encouraged as "lifestyle" choices.

We have humanized God and deified everything else. We still taste the fruit that will make us gods, but we only manage to ape divinity and instead become more godless. God has removed his presence from among us and our wickedness done in secret has broken out into openness and acceptability. Paul says in Romans 1:24-32:

"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.... Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.... He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.... Although they know God's righteous decree ...they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve those who practice them."

Christians today face massive pressures from a world of atheistic morality. We are constantly tempted in subtle ways to succumb gradually but certainly to the way of death. "For the other sins," Gregory of Nyssa writes, "seem to spare the body of those who commit them, while unchastity ruins both [body and soul] at the same time." But John Chrysostom argues that "sexual love is not human; it is divine in origin." God created sexuality to be an expression of the love of the three persons of God, which is why immorality goes against His will. It violates the essence and intimacy of the Trinity. Only in the marital union between man, woman and God can we taste the desire, union and love within the Trinity.

God designed sex as the complete commitment between a man and a woman, because it is in the realm of complete and undivided commitment that the Trinity exists. And marriage, Gregory of Nazianzus tells us is "the key that opens the door to chastity and perfect love." Any distortion of sexuality becomes spiritual and physical prostitution. Immorality is first a sin of the spirit and then of the body.

By separating sexuality from marriage we have mislaid the mysticism and are left with a bare physicality. Professor of Theology, Fr. John Chryssavgis, aptly observes that "sexuality is not accidental; rather, it is essential to our reality. Sexual and physical love belongs to the mystery of our being. This is not to say that sexuality and spirituality are one and the same. However, there is an intimate correspondence between the two. The denial of one is reflected in the degradation of the other."

If our fallen, misplaced search for desire and love isn't replaced by our desire and longing for God, our searching continues unappeased. John Climacus says, "He is pure who has driven out bodily eros by means of divine eros, who has used heavenly fire to quench the fires of the flesh." Fire either purifies or it destroys. We either burn in corrupting sensuality or we share in the renewing of God's love. Love begins with God and it is His love that makes obedience easy.

These are tough days, indeed. A Christian's preserving light is demanded of now, more than at any other time in human history. Now is not the season to run to the hills. Our mission, like Jonah's, is to go to those who are furthest away from the truth and lead the thirsty to the waters of Life. We must influence the world without being corrupted by it, represent Christ to it without being compromised by it, and plead for it without judging it.

If Christians are going to counteract the lie of sinful pleasure and witness to God's grace and abundant life, then we must live God's way. Our courage must spring from our inadequacy and our victory from our obedience. In his Letters from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that "God will give us all the strength we need to resist in all times of distress, but he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on Him alone...."

God's truth is our freedom and His way our reward. Our life in Christ is not about a public, contrived display of piety but about the renewal of our way of living. C. S Lewis, in Mere Christianity, says, "People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, 'if you keep a lot of rules, I'll reward you; and if you don't, I'll do the other thing'.... I would much rather say that every time you make a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different than what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.... To be the one kind of creature is heavenly, i.e., it is joy and peace and knowledge and power; to be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us, at each moment, is progressing to the one state or the other."

John Kapsalis has an M.T.S from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.

Posted: 17-Sep-05

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