The seemingly never-ending debate over the contraceptive mandate has once again kicked into high gear, with conservatives lauding the Trump administration’s recent decision to offer expanded religious accommodations and with many liberals lamenting the move, claiming that the exemptions are somehow an assault on women’s rights.
To begin, the issue is far more complex than critics are willing to admit. There are religious organizations with deep theological roots that don’t believe in various forms of birth control, while others simply take issue with the government mandating that every employer cover a drug entirely free-of-charge, with no co-pay.
But all that aside, there’s actually something far more troubling going on deeper beneath the surface: Our culture is obsessed with sex — and many of us don’t even realize how disturbing the problem has become, as the gradual march toward normalizing graphic content has permeated our hearts and minds.
Our movies, TV and entertainment are so dominated by overtly sexual scenes and messages that it’s become an absolute norm to simply expect that people can, will and should have sex well before they experience marital bliss. Somehow, in our strange and twisted culture, we’ve tricked ourselves into believing that sex is this emotionless act available to us at our every whim.
And why wouldn’t people treat the issue so flippantly? TV and movie characters make sex a focal point, many times overlooking or ignoring its powerful emotional and spiritual depths. And the problem is only worsening. It’s a topic I address in-depth in my book, “Fault Line: How a Seismic Shift in Culture Is Threatening Free Speech and Shaping the Next Generation.”
The statistics don’t lie. Just as content has devolved, there’s also been a troubling trend of moral acceptance for pre-marital sex, with Gallup finding this year that 69 percent of Americans believe sex between an unmarried man and woman is “morally acceptable.” That’s pretty stunning, considering that this proportion was at just 53 percent in 2001 and has been steadily rising as Hollywood continues to push increasingly sexualized subject matter on the masses.
Meanwhile, certain factions in American society love to proclaim that pushing abstinence and encouraging young people to hold off on having sex is essentially fruitless.
“Kids and teens are going to have sex anyway” — that’s one of the strange proclamations that seems to emerge amid discussions about the topic; it’s akin to a lazy shoulder-shrug, as people resort to essentially waving a white flag of surrender.
But who could blame these adults? They, too, are being hammered with the same messages about sex and are, as a result, indoctrinated in similar ways. Disagree? A 2014 Annenberg Public Policy Center study found that adults can actually become less aware of the dangers of sexual and violent themes the more that they themselves are exposed to them.
That in mind, let’s get back to that pesky “they’re going to do it anyway” argument. Take that same language and explore how it would apply, in context, to other issues of importance: Don’t bother trying to curb pollution; people are just going to pollute anyway. Don’t bother trying to curb robberies; people are just going to commit them anyway. Or how about, Don’t bother trying to install traffic lights; people will have accidents anyway.
And the list goes on…on and. Those arguments don’t fly; neither should the sex claim.
We’re a culture that seems less concerned with the context and and consequences of sex and much more driven these days by our own collective quest — via desensitization — to pursue pure enjoyment, ignoring self-restraint, the value of self-worth and the damaging emotional and spiritual elements of removing health barriers.
Without a doubt, the more frequently people are having sex with multiple partners, the wider the potential is for STDs, pregnancy and the like (again, I’m not making this up). That’s just common sense — and I haven’t even touched the spiritual arguments yet.
The over-the-top reaction to the contraceptive debate and Trump’s latest moves, though complex, offers yet another lens into our obsession with sex as well as a whopping reality of the depths of our collective cluelessness.
We’re so obsessed with it, in fact, that we’ve pushed morality to the side, believing that sex should be so boundless and be seen as such an entitlement that the government should mandate birth control free-of-charge without requiring so much as a co-pay.
But rather than conclude by going back-and-forth over the politics of it all, I’d argue that there’s a message many of us are missing. God has a plan for each of us — and there’s something amazing about the belief that He has designed someone out there for each of us and that we should, as a result, work to the best of our abilities to exercise restraint.
When people say “well, they’ll just do it anyway,” they’re neglecting their responsibility to teach these values and to honor the fact that waiting is emotionally, spiritually and physically the best option. Sure, it’s a tough culture and many young people will indeed have sex, but that’s no reason for surrender. Truth doesn’t change.
The Bible is pretty clear on the sex front, as 1 Corinthians 7:2 reads, “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.” And 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 adds, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”
Even if we can’t single-handedly fix Hollywood and our culture, we can amend how we each look at sexual ethics. Let’s be better.