When sex is mere pleasure

Two related news items caught my attention in the last week. The first is a Washington Post (WP) editorial  (ht: Wesley J. Smith) on the conviction of a Montana high school teacher who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-yr old female student. Much outrage was directed at the judge who sentenced the teacher to 30 days(!) in jail while pontificating that the then 14-yr old victim (who killed herself at 16 while the case was in the courts) was “older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation.” Pushing back on the “utter hysteria with which society responds to these situations” Betsy Karasik opined that “absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.

The second item (ht: Jonah Goldberg) centers on the fall-out from the conviction of a Michigan teacher for child molestation (the victim was one of his middle school students). Seven teachers wrote letters to the judge requesting a lenient sentence for their convicted colleague. The reasons for leniency included such gems as “this was an isolated incident”, he “made a mistake”, and “he realized his mistake and ended it years before” someone notified the authorities.

A few thoughts come to mind:

1) In such cases conflict between church & culture is inevitable. There’s simply no way the church can  make peace with this kind of depravity and still call herself Christian in any meaningful sense (Eph 5:11-12).

2) Natural arguments are necessary but limited. We should explain why sexual abuse, rape, and pedophilia are “against nature” while remembering that what should be obvious to everyone doesn’t convince darkened minds (Rom 1:18ff).

3)  Sex is about more than mere pleasure. In some ways the church has made it’s job more difficult by trying to co-opt the cultural narrative concerning sex. Gathering the people to have a “real” conversation about the fulfillment, pleasure, & liberty of sex (with an obligatory nod to heterosexual monogamy) is a poor intervention for people who drink deeply from the well of pop culture on a daily basis. Sobriety isn’t a bad thing in this case. There is, after all, a kind of “joy that makes one serious.”

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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