Saturday, January 26, 2008

Porn, Prostitutes, Strippers, Sex and Debt

No doubt at some point in your life, whether in school or in a job interview test, your comprehension of a particular subject or set of ideas was tested by requiring you to select the single item in a series of three or four or more that did not complete the pattern. If I were to ask you to select which item did not typically belong to the following series of items, sex, strippers, prostitutes, porn, and debt, most likely a high percentage of you would chose "debt" as the item that was dissimilar to the other four. If you selected "debt" however, you would have chosen incorrectly, since all five items seem now to be related. Let me explain.

A recent report from a British newspaper entitled One in four in debt blame sex establishes the connection between all of these ideas. This article states the shocking fact that "ONE in four people who contacted a debt helpline last year admitted that some of their financial problems were caused by spending money on sex." Those people who fall in the "one in four" category are predominantly men between the ages of 25-49, as the article states "Three-quarters of the people helped by the group who admitted spending money on sex were single men, with the rest either married men or women or single or separated women. The average age of people helped was 42." The two other most common reasons for debt that ranked first and second respectively above sex, were predictably, alcohol and drugs. Sex related debt reportedly, was not only on account of subscribing to internet porn sites, but also on account visiting brothels, strip clubs and paying high premiums for phone sex.

Without making it sound like I take any relish in the financial woes of these men, since it would be very uncharitable to delight in the financial ruin of others, I would like to point out the all too obvious fact that illicit behavior does indeed have serious consequences. In a previous post we pointed to the dangerous rise of STD's among 17-26 year olds in Los Angeles County, which is reaching near epidemic proportions, as an example of what happens when we dont follow natural law principles when it comes to sex. Here, I believe is just one more example of the ruin that comes from not following the 7th commandment which is a Biblical restatement of God's design for sexual intercourse embedded within natural law. I realize that a substantial portion of those who read such a statement will evaluate it as boorish, prudish, puritanical, and perhaps even repressed. But that won't deter me from stating the obvious: if you don't follow the 7th commandment and its prohibition against sex outside of monogomous heterosexual marriage you will end paying the price for it. This article on sex-related debt, the near STD epidemic and many other facts substantiate the claim.

Instead of fighting against the truth it is better, safer, and apparently financially expedient to acknowledge that though sex is an incredibly satisfying physical and emotional experience, just as alcohol, drugs, or food, it too is governed by natural law. Reason, prudence, and wisdom then, ought to be used to restrain your sexual appetite and admonish you to indulge your desires in the right place, in your bedroom with your spouse and not in strip club, brothel, website or over a phone line. Follow this principle and you will not only experience real satisfaction, but you just might enjoy the added benefit of being able pay your bills and keep a full bank account.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Why Does My Conscience Bother Me?

Feeling guilt is a condition that is common to man and has been since the beginning of time. Guilt, is that feeling of shame, remorse, inner gnawing that just wont go away whether awake or asleep. Its an inner voice that wont be silenced. Guilt feelings are as one author puts it “an emotional reaction to our Inner Critic, proclaiming, "You have broken a rule and you should (not), must (not), or ought (not) behave like this. Guilt implies that you did something 'wrong'." If we are being honest about it, who doesn’t have to deal with that “inner critic” who says “you have done something wrong.” Guilt feelings are inside of every man.

Since it’s a universal experience common to men everywhere, its no surprise that it has been a common theme reflected upon by poets –songwriters –authors and artists from time immemorial. Who can forget the poignant image of a guilty conscience captured in Shakespeare’s tragic figure Lady Macbeth who frantically walked about trying to wash the blood stains off her hands – which in reality really weren’t there but were a projection of her sense of inner guilt. The writings of modern poets constitute almost a monument to the problem of guilt. And whether they view it from a religious or secular perspective they all seem to agree, as one writer puts it, “that the world is a guilty world. Not a naughty world, or a bad world, but a guilty one.” This problem has also captivated the attention of the lyricist. Numerous songs muse upon the persistent, painful guilt feelings which we all wrestle with. A particularly gripping song entitled Penance Of Guilt by metal band Steel Prophet shines a brilliant light on the hypocrisy of modern men as they seek to suppress their guilt and attempt to salve their conscience. The song says:

Forgive them father for they have sinned Again and again
Pretending they know not what they do When you know they'll sin again
Many people going down for the ride
On pedestals of fame in filth they hide
Use mean words that cut like a knife
Stabbing the heart and draining the life
Lied and cheated on your spouse
Swore you never did
Your evil stay within your soul
From guilt you can’t be hid

That last line gets to the truth that I want you to think about --guilt feelings can’t be hid. They are there and they just wont go away. And when not dealt with, guilt saps joy and brings with it an awful range of human emotions from depression, to anxiety, to hostility, fear and a whole host of psychological disorders.

Guilt feelings – you and I have them –everyone around us has them – people in the world have always had them. But why? In ancient times guilt feelings were explained away as evil spirits inhabiting the soul, while in modern times they are explained away as negative emotions that we feel when we violate social customs. It is claimed that they occur when we realize that our inner desires conflict with what society has told us is proper conduct. The pioneer of modern psychology Sigmond Frued explained that guilt feelings are irrepressive feelings that have followed humans around since the dawn of civilization. According to Freud, the origin of guilt may be accounted for by an ancient story. The story is about a rebellious son who struck up a feud with his father, who was the head of a great tribe. That feud ended unfortunately with an act of murder. The rebellious son murdered his father, and that primal murder has haunted the human race's subconscious memory ever since. Perhaps Frued was on to something in this explanation that these guilt feelings originate in some primal transgression but what it doesn’t answer however is why did the first murderer feel guilt? After all, if men are the product of natural selection and a billions of years impersonal process where randomly colliding chemicals produced life as we know it, why should the guilt feelings of the primal murder haunt us today? Though psychologists have proposed many different answers they haven’t yet really provided a satisfying answer as to why we feel guilt.

Not only have the psychological sciences failed to provide a satisfying explanation for the origins of guilt feelings, they have not been able to provide adequate relief for them either. Paul Martin points out in a fascinating article entitled “Sin, Guilt and Mental Health: Confession and Restitution As Means of Therapy” that a whole range of psychological maladies which are the result of repressed guilt feelings have proven stubbornly resistant to therapy. Independent tests conducted years apart and multiple times over, reveal that professional therapy for numerous psychological disorders associated with guilt feelings have a surprisingly low success rate. Add to that, the fact that psychotropic medication offers no better success rates than other forms of therapy. Instead of medicine liberating the conscience it actually enslaves it, leaving many trapped in debilitating addiction to legally prescribed medication.

Whether we like it or not, whether we wish we could close our eyes and plug or ears and pretend it was otherwise, whether we attempt to numb the pain within us through drugs, alcohol, legal medication or any other thing that might temporarily distract us, guilt is still there. Guilt feelings are deep down inside every one of us and there is no place to go to ultimately hide from them. Therapy won’t work. Drugs won’t work. Ignoring it won’t work. Desensitizing your conscience to it won’t work. Your guilt won’t leave you alone and allow you any peace. But the questions persist: why do I feel this way and what can you do about it?

We experience these internal feelings because of sin. Sin is the reason for present pain and suffering. On account of sin God has put a curse upon the world and through that, the corrupting, infecting destructive, outworking of sin and its curse, mankind experiences sorrow, suffering, and physical trouble. Deep down inside our hearts we know that this is the real answer for why we are in trouble. One of the most obvious confirmations of this is the unease and guilt we feel internally. Guilt feelings on account of sin are constantly testifying to us that God is angry and displeased with our sins like a parent is with a child’s disobedience, and that relationship must be reconciled or we wont have any peace. But because we live in a state of stubborn rebellion against God, we refuse to accept that and attempt to deal with guilt by covering it up, ignoring it, or applying our own remedy. When we choose to act that way we end up riddled with guilt feelings because we have never resolved the tension deep within us which is, that we know we must be reconciled to God.

So if sin against God accounts for our trouble and our guilt feelings, then what is the solution? Well, fortunately, though psychologists have failed to answer this, and medicine has provided no real lasting relief, there is a solution: CONFESSION. That is right, soul cleansing confession. Its time to be honest with yourself, with the people around you, and most of all with God, and confess your sin. Confession is the only remedy because God is the problem. God is our judge when we sin because ultimately all our sins are against God. Our foolish pride however refuses to humbly admit that, so we fail to confess our sins in order to escape His wrath. But that doesn’t change the fact that confession is the solution.

The only question that remains is, what will you do? Will you continue to allow the tension to boil up inside you? Will you continue to hide your feelings under layers of denial? Will you pretend that these feelings are just an illusion? Will you continue to tell yourself God is not real and your inner pain owes to the bigotry of societal expectation that refuses to accept you for who you are and how you want to live? Or will you liberate your guilty conscience by confessing your sin to God. If you do the former your soul will experience no permanent rest, but if you do the latter, God promises He is faithful and just and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness through the blood of His Son.

Monday, January 7, 2008

How's Your STD?

If you are a 17 to 26 year old male reading this blog right now, and you live in the state of California, it is very likely that you are reading this in physical discomfort. A recent article published in the LA Times entitled “State and County STD Rate Soars,” October 10, 2007, states that 1 in every 4 or 5 people between the ages of 15 and 24 are estimated to have an STD. Now you will notice a minor discrepancy in terms of the ages I have given in this first paragraph. I said if you are between “17 and 26” and the story says the rate is soaring between 15 and 24. This discrepancy is resolved by noting that the study was conducted in 2005 and that the Times is merely reporting the information 2 years after the fact –so all those who fit in the 1 in 4 or 5 number 2 years ago are in the 17-26 category today.

Well, what then is the answer to such a menacing problem? You can guess what the typical proposals are: more condoms readily available, better sex education classes, transparency about former sexual partners before engaging in promiscuity with a new one, etc. But these proposals aren’t new, and they aren’t effective either. Public schools have been providing sex education programs now for 40 years or more, condoms are more readily available to young people than ever, and as for transparency, who really cares about that when the moment is right and you just feel like “getting it on.” None of these proposals are real solutions, they are band-aids at best.

So what is the solution? I think it is rather obvious, but not desirable: abstinence, except with your spouse! I don’t want to sound callous, but the hard fact is far fewer people would be itching, scratching, dripping and feeling intense burning when they urinate if they had sex in the right place, marriage. Notice here, I am not preaching “radical abstinence,” rather, I am preaching “limited abstinence.” Have all the sex you want. Enjoy it two, three, four times a day, however much you want, just limit sex to your wife!

Of course, I know this is going to be immediately discounted. It will be argued that sex is a basic human need, like eating or sleeping, and so going without it is out of the question. Again, let me reiterate, I am not saying “go without!” I am saying, “go have sex,” just make sure it is with someone you said, “I do” with. A lot of you will say that is totally unreasonable, because after all, since sex is a basic human need, it is ridiculous to limit yourself to one way of meeting that need. Comparing it to the food analogy again, it is argued, that you don’t limit yourself to only oatmeal for breakfast lunch and dinner in order to satisfy your appetite, especially when numerous alternatives are readily available, so why should you limit yourself to your spouse in order to fulfill your sexual appetite? My response is, yes, you would limit yourself to oatmeal to satisfy your appetite if that was the only thing didn’t seriously harm you when you ate it! Think about people with severe food allergies. Say someone enjoys cashews, and they want cashews on everything –their pancakes, their salad at lunch and their ice cream after dinner. Now they certainly have other options to complement a meal with, but they have an insatiable appetite for cashews, so that is what they choose. Then one day, they wake up to discover they have a deadly food allergy to cashews. Now, are they going to keep hitting the cashews because they are savory, and they have the freedom to eat them if they want? Obviously not! But why? The answer is obvious, natural law says these things are harmful for them!

We could multiply examples of ways in which we limit our choices in order to fulfill our desires and urges because we know that the things we want are physically harmful to us. So take that basic thought and let’s bring it back to sex. Why is it so hard to believe that natural law doesn’t work the same way with regard to sex? Honestly, why do we feel such a sense of entitlement to have promiscuous sex, free of harmful consequences, as if sex is so unique and so inherently necessary that we must be free to engage in it with anyone that we want, so long as they are willing partners? Just to say it out loud like that hopefully gets us to realize how ludicrous this idea of consequence free, promiscuous sex is. Promiscuous sex violates natural law, therefore it will always come with harmful consequences. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Its just like the cashew food allergy example above, you can enjoy cashews all you want, but that enjoyment is only going to last a moment before anaphylactic shock sets in. Promiscuous sex is no different, and inevitably leads to serious physical consequences as the LA Times article documents.

Sex is one of the greatest the greatest pleasures man can experience. But to enjoy this pleasure and find real satisfaction in it you better keep it within the law, that is, keep it with your spouse alone. That is the right way to do it, and the way God intended it to be enjoyed. Just as God has seated man at the table of life and gave him of every plant, tree, shrub or cow to eat in order to provide for the need of bodily nourishment, so He has established the provision for satisfying the basic human need for sex. But that provision is not found in multiple partners or a harem of lovers, its through monogamous sexual relations with your spouse. That is just the way things are, because that is the way God made the world. You do it that way, and you will experience all the pleasure and more that you receive from promiscuous sex, just minus all the itching scratching, dripping, and burning.