Because morality in our culture is determined by public opinion, the Gallup people have done a survey on people’s attitudes toward the morality of certain behaviors. Gay marriage and divorce are highly favored, while abortion and adultery are mostly frowned upon.
But, that isn’t stopping the New York Times from advocating for so-called “open marriage.” Open marriage is, basically, adultery with consent. Or that’s the claim, anyway. Adultery without consent is still a no-no. Adultery with consent is, apparently, all the rage. Of course, this ancient practice is touted as the newest new thing. For some reason, it doesn’t matter how rare Christian moral practice becomes, those who reject it are always portrayed as rebels breaking new ground against the old, staid expectations of the majority. Never mind that the majority never adhered to Christian moral principles in the first place. The point is, everyone wants to be a rebel, even if your rebellious behavior is pretty much exactly what most everyone else is doing. Far from the madding crowd is too much to actually ask of anyone. Much better to follow the group and pretend you’re counter-cultural.
According to many, many studies, a very large minority of married persons have had at least one extra-marital sexual encounter. By very large, I mean it nears 50%. Of course, many couples simply forgo marriage, choosing to co-habitat instead. A majority of children of mothers under the age of 30 are now born out of wedlock, and almost half of men who are fathers have fathered at least one child out of wedlock. In the gay community, sexual fidelity, even among those who’ve taken advantage of the new right to marry, is rare. In one study of gay male couples, the sexual exclusivity rate was zero. Literally 100% of the men in these relationships had had at least one sexual encounter outside the relationship. For the gay community, sexual “fidelity” means something entirely different from traditional Christian fidelity. No surprise there. Is there any reason to mention the celebrity culture of Hollywood, New York, or Nashville? It seems celebrities pick up and dispose of partners and spouses with each orbit of the Earth around the Sun.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating when articles like this come out: we live in a remarkably self-absorbed culture. It’s all about me. Over the course of this article, there was a lot of talk about my wants, my needs, and my rights. There was not a single word dedicated to concern about the wants, needs, or rights of the other, never mind any talk about sacrificing for the sake of the other. In our culture, wants quickly become needs, and needs just as quickly become rights. I want a better, more fulfilling sex life quickly becomes I have a right to a better, more fulfilling sex life. After all, isn’t life all about fulfilling my utmost potential? And, isn’t a fulfilling sex life part of my fulfilling my potential? I mean, we’re talking about sex, here! If you’re not helping me do that or, worse, if you’re in the way of my achieving that, then you and any commitment I have to you quickly become expendable. Such a self-absorbed culture soon turns into the throw away culture Pope Francis laments.
So, what’s the problem? If these people want to live this lifestyle, who’s to say they can’t or, more so, that they shouldn’t? Two things: First, Mother Nature. As much as we want to pretend, choices have consequences, and no one gets to avoid the natural consequences of their choices, even if they’re privileged enough to avoid the social or political. In a recent conversation on the internet, even nurses were unwilling to acknowledge that the more sexual partners a person has, the greater risk that person is assuming of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, because admitting such would mean condemning (that was the word used) those who choose to have multiple sexual partners. We are desperate to pretend that Mother Nature will not bite us in the butt, even if we do everything we can to goad her. And, there’s more than just physical consequences. Again, as much as people want to think they’re progressive and unfettered in their emotional commitments, those commitments are rarely caste aside so freely without negative, and sometimes devastating consequences to one’s heart, mind, and soul.
Second: the children. That the main couple the article follows have two children is mentioned early on, and then never again. In our self-absorbed culture, relationships, even marriages, aren’t about the children. They’re about the adults. What the adults want, need, and have a right to. Even still, despite our contraceptive and abortion-addled society, children have a way of being conceived and born when people are having sex. Life will find a way! And, again, as much as we like to pretend that the kids are alright, every bit of research in the social sciences affirms that children do best in an environment where they are raised by their biological parents who are married to each other. As a society, we reject this truth. We know it’s true. We simply reject it, and pretend it isn’t true, and jump through all kinds of hoops and come up with all kinds of junk science to convince ourselves that it isn’t true so we can do what we want, even as our children languish. We will do what we want, will will take what we need, we will exercise our rights, the children be damned! And, they are. The children have been damned to a society where their wants, needs, and rights are set aside. The consequences are devastating. In the politically and socially freest society in the world, our children are languishing in suicide, drug addiction, depression, anti-social and self-harmful activities, and a dependency that drives their employers and parents crazy. The kids are not alright.
So, what’s a Christian to do? First and foremost, know what the Church teaches about sex, the gift of sex, the good news about sex, the joy of sex and the potential for sex to nourish love and bring forth more love. Let’s commit ourselves to learning and living the good news about sex, as a gift from God, given to married couples for the nourishment of their relationship, for learning the virtue of self-sacrifice in giving themselves to others, both to their spouses and their children. In short, sex, as is everything given by God, is for the sake of our salvation. Know this. Live this.
Second, let’s catechize our children with this understanding of sex, and let’s make the radical, counter-cultural commitment to raising our children toward righteousness. Often times, that will mean giving up what we want, and sometimes even what we need and have a right to, for their sake.
Third, let’s be prepared to face the ridicule, pity, and sometimes downright hatred of those who have chosen differently and completely fail to understand our commitment to marriage and marital fidelity.
Finally, remember that love is not about how we feel about anyone at any particular time. Love is about committed relationship. None of us can promise how we will feel about another person at any given time. But, we can promise how we will choose to act toward that person. I can promise that, when I come home, it will be to your home, that when I eat my dinner it will be at your table, and that when I go to bed, it will be in your bed, and no one else’s. These I can promise, because these are choices. I can choose to love by choosing to commit myself to our relationship for the sake of our salvation.
If you are struggling in your marriage, I know that it is sometimes difficult to find a therapist who is good and who can help. Many therapists are caught up themselves in the culture of personal fulfillment and have little to offer in the way of teaching people about sacrifice for the sake of others. But, it’s worth trying to find someone who can help you work things out. I also recommend Gary Chapman’s books, especially The Five Love Languages. Chapman has years of experience helping struggling couples communicate their wants and needs to each other. It will, of course, be up to you to choose to work on meeting those wants and needs for the sake of the other.
What we cannot do as Christians is surrender ourselves to the priorities of the dominant culture, or surrender the Gospel for the sake of what we perceive will make us feel good. The salvation of our souls and our ultimate happiness depends on our faithfulness to the gifts God has given, and to His plan for our happiness.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.