You are traveling along the treacherous road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and you happen upon a man lying in the ditch, bleeding to death. You are moved to compassion. In fact, you tell everyone around that that is what you are feeling. So, you get down off your mule. You take a skin of wine and a jar of oil with you and stride past the bleeding man. He’ll be all right, you say. He must be all right because he isn’t making a lot of noise.
Instead, you go right on to one of the thieves, who seems to have gotten a bit scuffed up in the altercation. The victim must have landed at least one blow, you suppose, because the thief has a nosebleed, and he’s complaining about it pretty loudly and making obscene gestures in the general direction of the ditch. Actually, he got hurt when he tripped on his own shoes and fell face-first, but you accept his account of things.
“How are you, Ganav? There, there! Don’t worry. He won’t hurt you anymore. How are the fellows in the gang? It’s been a long time. Remember that caper we—I mean you, I was only there to watch—pulled off in Caesarea? Ah, youth, how soon it passes away! Keep the cloth pressed to your nose, like so. No need to thank me, Lord, no. I am but a poor servant of God,” you smile, as you glance toward a group of travelers who have paused to see what’s going on, “and all are welcome to his favor.”
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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In the United States, a full 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock. In many city neighborhoods, it is easier to find an all-night drugstore than a family with a married mother and father and their children. In some nations of Europe, the collapse of marriage and family life is even worse. It is a colossal disaster in every imaginable human way.
Boys grow up without fathers to model for them what virtuous—or at least competent and responsible—manhood is. Girls grow up in fear, suspicion, or disdain of men. Performance in school suffers badly. The time-horizon for personal action is drastically foreshortened because children do not grow up rooted in the time-transcending soil of family life.
The more ambitious and unruly boys turn to crime, as do some of the girls. The less ambitious boys give up; or they never aspire to any great thing to begin with. The girls in that category have a baby or two and pass much of the cost to the state. The sex drive, powerful for good or for evil, is unrestrained and unchanneled. The innocence of children, so necessary during what should be their long period of sexual latency, is corrupted.
People who do not really believe in the noblest of human love, the married love of man and woman, have a hard time believing in divine love. Churches give all the signals they can to let people know that they no longer believe in any tenet of sexual morality, other than a vague niceness; but such indifference only accelerates their collapse, if for no other reason than that people can respect a frank enemy but will always despise a coward, even if the coward is on their side.
And in this calamity, what do our brave church leaders, lay and clerical, do? They bring a fire extinguisher to a flood—that is the best I can say. Or they make as if a city bombed to rubble can be rebuilt by dropping more bombs on it. And in this calamity, what do our brave church leaders, lay and clerical, do? They bring a fire extinguisher to a flood—that is the best I can say. Or they make as if a city bombed to rubble can be rebuilt by dropping more bombs on it. Tweet This
Oh, I know the rejoinder. Jesus, I will be informed, did not focus on sexual sins but on the sins of pride and avarice and hypocrisy. That’s as if fornicators, adulterers, porn makers and users, and sodomites cannot be proud, avaricious, and hypocritical to boot; as if one deadly disease can be prophylactic against others. Fornicate, to put down religious self-satisfaction: how is that other than to pretend to cast out demons in the name of Beelzebub?
Or I will hear that sexual sins are not as serious as those others. I concede the point. Double pneumonia is not as serious as a malignant tumor. A severed femoral artery is not as serious as a severed jugular vein. A bullet in the chest is not as serious as a bullet in the brain. So? When you have a thousand people suffering from the plague and one dying of a malignant tumor, you had better pay attention to the plague.
Besides, Jesus did have things to say about these matters. In every arena of the moral life, Jesus astonishes us not by his indifference but by His call to a pure and exalting holiness. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’” He advises the crowds hearing His sermon from the mount, “but I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). I am then to believe that it is all right if a man looks at another man that way? By what conceivable logic?
Which of our apologists for the latest swinishness of the sexual revolution believes in, and preaches forthrightly, the indissolubility of marriage? But it is this same Jesus who rules out divorce, saying that “every man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18). Indeed, Jesus derives the indissolubility of marriage from the intention of the Father from the beginning: it is central to the very creation of man.
When the Pharisees challenge Him about it (note well, it is the Pharisees, those who prided themselves on their pure devotion to the law), Jesus says that Moses permitted divorce “for your hardness of heart,” but
from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. (Mark 10:5-9)
God has made us male and female, each sex for the other, to become one flesh: we are not the fashioners of our own bodies. Male and male cannot become one flesh. To pretend that they can is to deny the goodness and the reality of the distinct sexes. Jesus, in other words, locates the foundation of sexual morality not in the subjective feelings of the persons and their actions but in the objective and created reality of sex.
I will hear that Jesus had a soft spot in his heart for whores, but he was ruthless with religious hypocrites. Again, as if the adulterous cannot be hypocritical too! In our time, how easy it is to be so! “I thank you, God, that you have not made me like that person over there who isn’t married and who has never gone to bed with anyone,” says our hypocrite du jour, standing proud and tall. “I watch a few bad videos that would still be around regardless of whether I watched them; I don’t bed down on the first date; and I try not to hurt the people I sleep with by pretending to love them more than I do.”
Meanwhile, the person in the back of the church is also aware of the dark corners of his heart, but he prays that he—or she prays that she! —will meet someone fit to marry. Not a rosy prospect now, if you do not put your body out for fornication.
Jesus is unsentimental about sins of the flesh. The prodigal squandered his father’s property on whores (Luke 15:30). When Jesus requires an emblem of peculiar wickedness, he turns to Sodom (Matthew 11:24, Luke 10:12). When the Pharisees complain that His disciples do not wash their hands before they eat, Jesus says that it is not the food that goes into a man that defiles him but what comes out from the heart, as excrement comes out of the body: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).
There is no reason to trust Jesus about the wickedness of theft, murder, and coveting while ignoring Him when it comes to fornication, adultery, and licentiousness. He speaks frankly to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:18), giving her no way to pretend she has not sinned and is not continuing in sin. He pardons the woman caught in adultery but tells her to sin no more (John 8:11).
Let us hear the words of Jesus in the light of sins we are likely to ignore, condone, or even bless. The victim is bleeding and lonely. The children are fatherless. Men and women tangled in the toils of sexual evil are exhausted in pursuit of happiness. Let the Church have mercy—the mercy that exacts a cost and that may require of us a great lot of repentance before we are fit to tend to that dying man, that dying civilization.
[Image credit: Vatican Media]