Unification News for July 1996
On the Demons Among and Within
uViews June 1996
There seems to be an increase in the number of people complaining of being "demonized." By this the complaining party expresses their aggrievement and indignation that someone else is name-calling, I suppose, terming them or their position demonic. The aggrieved parties tend to come from the left side of the culture war, at least in my experience. For example, I recently wrote to a professor of religion and sexuality that "your commitment is that homosexuality, lesbianism and extra- or pre-marital sex are not inherently evil; i.e. that they have, as behaviors, some conceivable place in God's creation." The professor responded with the complaint or accusation that I had demonized her. I was most taken by this perception on her part, because I certainly did not set out with the intention of demonizing her. So I gave the matter some thought, which I would like to share here.
If belief in God and that God has revealed His will for us has serious implications, and it does, well, the writing is on the wall and none of us can do anything about it. Of course I am well aware that none of us fallen men and women live up to God's will. None of us can see that wall very clearly. All of us have both good and evil inclinations which contradict themselves and struggle within us. It does not make us demons, nor saints, but a combination of the two. In either case, the judgment is God's.
We are well aware of the complexities: for instance, the problem of the office worker at Buchenwald following his "good" inclinations to help his fellow-workers with their problems, ignoring the larger evil which renders his personal goodness somewhat meaningless. He would surely change the subject when the conversation turned to the outcomes of his place-of-work, pointing out the benefits his friends were receiving from his Christian concern.
Would we call this person, "demonic"? I think not, but we would call the system in which he participated demonic. It was a system which led to the extermination of millions by execution. We participate in a system which results in the deaths annually of millions by starvation, not to mention millions by abortion. Demonic? Business as usual? We do our bit and have faith?
Now, the observation that a person seems to be committed to the view that homosexuality, lesbianism and extra- or pre-marital sex are not inherently evil; i.e. that they have, as behaviors, some conceivable place in God's creation I suppose could be read as rejecting the viewpoint of that person. Fair enough, but to bring the conversation to a level that "what are you doing, demonizing me?" would seem to increase heat rather than shedding light. If the response to the most general of statements regarding a standard of good and evil is such, how can dialogue proceed?
On Demons and Sunday School
In any case, the term "demonic," I think, would refer to a person who had consciously and intentionally committed their soul to Satan, to the principle of evil. I would hope that dialogue on matters of sexual, marital and family ethics could proceed without demonizing persons who are doing their best as their conscience guides them. However, as time passes, it seems to me that the demonic root and fruit of sexual immorality is increasingly apparent. Just go to your nearest music store and look in the abundance of rock'n'roll'n'rap'n'raunch products. Who is buying them? Teenagers, mostly. Images of demons abound on those products. Good clean fun?
Lending a little excitement to our bourgeois conformist society? What it is, is the elevation to the marketplace of the adolescent stereotype that goodness is not fun and fun is not good; hence, fun is evil and, by implication, evil is fun. What begins as the alternative to Sunday School ends up with a teenage girl/mother holding her infant in her arms at a distance of three feet from a Marshall speaker booming enough heavy metal to make an adult's ears bleed, and the infant's body splayed backwards in pain, as if blown down by a wind of hurricane force. And mother and all friends as this "party" too intoxicated to notice or care or have the moral strength to save the baby, its hearing and its spirit, from its own stoned mom. This was the early seventies, of course. Things are far worse today.
This episode, which I personally experienced, and which is ingrained in my memory, took place in a small rural town filled with churches. The parents were tolerant of their children's tastes and values, and did not mind demonic images on the rock posters in their bedrooms. These kids had no intention, no dream, of being demonic. They were just having fun. Learning music, making a band. Drinking some beer. Smoking some marijuana. Having some sex. Having some babies. Not letting babies mess up a good party. The joys of toleration. No one of any credibility to tell them it's wrong.
Now, we can blame the Sunday School teachers along with those who condone or legitimate rejection of Sunday School. Obviously the Sunday School was not able to reach the teenagers; was not able to fulfill their desires for happiness. So they opted for something which seemed to offer greater happiness. The Sunday School could offer them no reasons not to. After all, "It's up to you,"; "It's your decision;" "It's a free country," for which Jesus died, right?
On the Liberal Study of Religion and Sexuality
I value the study of religion and sexuality. Religions need to do a lot of work in this area. But I question the approach taken by our establishment academic institutions, working with liberal assumptions. The purpose of such study in such institutions sounds good: let us examine what the difference religions and religious traditions say about sexuality. Let's see if we can find any resources useful for helping people work through their sexually-related challenges (unhappy marriages, estrangement of family members, temptations toward or just plain-old practice of extra-marital or pre-marital sex, incest, abuse, homosexuality, lesbianism).
Boiled down, the liberal academic agenda seems to be 1. therapeutic, and 2. dialogical. The purpose of the dialogue, moreover, seems to be to point out the options implicit in a multiplicity of value systems, within which spectrum surely everyone can find comfort (fulfilling the therapeutic purpose, at least in the short run). Contemporary analytical tools, using today's liberated society as a norm, deconstructs any traditional condemnation of sexual deviancy, and is comforted and proud to lift up historical precursors of their lifestyle (once termed heathen or pagan). Therefore, the parents bemoaning the homosexual behavior of their son may be comforted to know that many parents and sons are in the same situation, and how they have coped, and how they are living happy and productive lives.
Frankly, this strikes me as a good example of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
The purpose of such academic investment (on the economic level, by the way, of millions of dollars) is, intentionally, to present various arguments and not make doctrinal pronouncements or provide "the answer." In fact, the hope that an answer exists is thrown out of court. The assumption from the outset is that asserting any absolutes is nothing more than an expression of hubris and is going to make someone, somewhere, feel guilty and lose their self-esteem.
In fact, the liberal project mounts an argument against there being any legitimate doctrines or ultimate answers which possess authority. And this is a core foundation of the sexual revolution: the assertion that there are no absolute standards governing sexual behavior, including that which until recently was referred to as sodomy. Here is the role today's American universities are playing through liberal studies: notifying us of the ethical implications of the death of the biblical God.
At mainstream university divinity schools, homosexuality and lesbianism are affirmed; that is, sexual orientation cannot disqualify one from admission to the school. And if such behavior is not proscribed, it suddenly becomes a mark of distinction, a work of righteousness, to have the courage to stand up for one's minority sexual preferences. Suddenly the majority feels very self conscious about sex.
At least one such school, my alma mater, Vanderbilt Divinity School (VDS), requires that all students study the topic of gender and sexuality. I can only conclude that if the VDS administration has already come to the conclusion that said sexual orientations are to be affirmed, then VDS's professors will tend to support the position and tend to present materials supporting the position as well. In this way our intellectual and spiritual elite participate in the sexual revolution. After all, what will influence a community more to accept homosexuality: a male burlesque theater, or a young minister fresh from divinity school fully convinced that the Bible, properly interpreted, affirms, or at least does not impugn, or at least is open to private interpretation about, homosexuality? If this be not a revolutionary change in the arena of sexual attitudes and behaviors, one wonders what scholars may take the sexual revolution to be.
The standard I as a Unificationist affirm as an absolute is that of the monogamous, male-female marriage and family, extending to a clan and society of goodness which is the seed of the nation and world of goodness. The context for this is not Ozzie and Harriett as much as yang and yin, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and the male and female of God's image (Gen 1:27). The marriage of man and woman is the center of the cosmic order, the center of creation, and is intended to be blessed by God (as the fruit of Mary's womb was blessed by God) and the dwelling place of God. This is the origin of joy for God, man and woman, the reality from which peace, goodness, beauty and truth redound.
Having said all this, I want you to know: I grew up in a Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, California, in the 50s and 60s; I love you all and I'm really a liberal at heart. Whether this is a benefit or liability for me, I just can't decide at this time.
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