Wednesday 14 March 2018

What is it to reject the sexual revolution?

At the basic Christian level it is to regard sex as legitimate only within the context of marriage between a man and a women.

Other types of sex being sinful in the specific sense of requiring repentance.

But that is a negative, exclusionary definition; and I would (from my perspective) go beyond it to state the principles positively.

That is: the highest ideal of human life is marriage and family. The highest ideal of marriage is monogamous. And the Highest ideal of monogamy is an eternal commitment - going beyond death into resurrected life.

Note: "ideal". Since there is no such thing as equality or neutrality - all phenomena must be ranked according to the ideal - and the ideal references this ranking.

The basis of these ideals entails than men and women are qualitatively-different in some ultimate spiritual way and in some divinely-ordained fashion - and not merely as social roles, nor merely as biological contingency. 

Thus marriage is a higher ideal than celibacy, monogamy than polygamy - including serial polygamy (multiple marriages for any reason); marriage with children than without; permanent marriage intending an eternal relation than until death.

Now, this is an imperfect world inhabited by imperfect people - and we must, indeed, assume that this is by divine intent and design; since mortal life is for experiencing and learning. So ideals are very often impossible in practice - but that does not stop them being the ideal.

The difference is that when we fall short of ideals we need to repent - and by repent I mean acknowledge the reality of, and divine-intention behind, the ideal.

So I am not talking about what people achieve in life, in adhereing to thse ideals - I am talking about what they regard as ideal, and what they regard as requiring repentance. It is not in terms of behaviour that they are judged - but in terms of their ideals - their motivations. 

What is the point of all this? the point is that the sexual revolution is the prime litmus test of our time and place - and the alignment of the modern spiritual warfare is therefore most simply and validly defined in terms of attitude to The Sexual Revolution: that is, insofar as a person's attitude challenges the above ideals.

All those who favour the sexual revolution, in all or any of the ways in contradiction to the ideals - are On The Other Side, overall and in net-effect. Insofar as they try to justify or promote ideals in line with the sexual revolution - they are in a state of unrepented sin, hence deliberately choosing to reject salvation.

That means most-people - That means nearly-everybody.

But such is the nature of this era.


William Wildblood said...

Yes, the point is not so much as to whether we live up to the ideal (though we should try as hard as practically possible) but we should acknowledge, recognize and honour the ideal, and not dismiss it as one option among many.

Sam Charles Norton said...

What is your interpretation of Jesus' teaching "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven"?

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJN - I think it is often hopeless to try and understand the Bible a verse at a time - and even in context, I don't really understand this passage. It seems to me that there was something going-on in this discussion which nowadays we may not properly be able to understand.

But as a more general answer -- I believe in the validity of the Mormon revelations; and I think that these were necessary precisely because the original Christian teachings regarding sexuality, marriage and family had been perhaps omitted (as unneccessary at that time), lost, or become distorted; and the resulting chronic state of confusion required this further prophetic revelation focused on such themes.

Of course, the large majority of 'Mainstream' Christian's don't believe in the validity of the Mormon revelations. Consequently, in my opinion Mainstream Christians remain in a rather difficult situation in trying to reject the sexual revolution and to justify (from scripture and tradition) what they intuitively-*feel* to be true.

TheDoctorofOdoIsland said...

The literal reading of Jesus' statement is that, at resurrection, people will not be able to get married.

Which Mormons take to mean that people need to get married now, before the resurrection, to make lasting covenants, as per Jesus' other statements about marriage being indissoluble.
-Carter Craft

Lucinda said...

My understanding about the "neither marry nor are given" in marriage scripture is that, in heaven, women have more choice than is usually practiced as marriage in mortality. I think the scripture takes for granted that marriage is something men do. So "marrying" is what a man does when he takes a wife, "giving in marriage" is what the father of the bride does to give the bride's consent. You see this idea again later in the way Jesus speaks about adultery. What's missing for us in the modern understanding is the non-symmetry between man and woman. I think scripture is written by men for men. Not that they never apply to women, just that maybe women receive customary religion better from living men in loving relationships with them. I personally love the scriptures very much, but I found I loved them all the more when I stopped worrying about "how does this apply to me as woman" and took the authors as worthwhile and good men writing for men.

Marriage in Heaven would not be compulsory and so would lack some of the major aspects of mortal marriage that are necessary given man's fallen state. It's hard on earth to distinguish marriage without any compulsion from commitment-less non-permanent pairing, but I think the basic point that Jesus is making is that in Heaven the woman doesn't BELONG to any of the 7 brothers. She gets to choose, and I think her choice will likely involve a high degree of simple preference.

That's the way I see it anyway.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Carter - I would say that this is not a settled matter among Mormons - and there is a diversity of opinion, sometimes explicit but certainly implied by the theology. I have read more than one remark by General Authorities pretty much stating that those worthy persons who do not marry in mortal life will get the chance in post-mortal life - and this is certainly strongly implied by the general structure of Mormon theology and the 'evolutionary' metaphysics it is based upon. At any rate, I would be personally confident that there is marrying in Heaven, including celestial marriage, as well as during mortal life. This seems just common sense from God's loving nature, God's perspective in setting-things-up, and God's motives in aiming for exaltation to full deity - mortal life is vital for incarnation; but specific experiences cannot be crucial given that so many people (at least 2/3 historically) die in the womb, at birth or as children.

Lucinda said...

As for eternal polygyny, I regard that as a possibility primarily as a result of the combination of female choice of husband, and female dominion over the domestic realm. I don't regard it as necessary, just possible for most worthy men, and probable for certain worthy men. Because I just believe there will be more women who embrace the fullest glory in the final count.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I don't think that Mormons have yet thought-through the implications of their (our!) metaphysics. To me, it seems that the dyad of man and woman - a man and a woman - is the 'unit' of exaltation; which means that ultimately celesial marriage (leading to the fullest divine creativity - the pro-creation of spirit children) *must* be monogamous - as it is with our Heavenly Parents (and surely we must all have exactly the same Heavenly Parents - not just a shared Father?)

Anyway, that's how I see it - as a 'theoretical Mormon' I tend to be mainly (not entirely!) influenced by my working-out the implications of a few primary revelatory assumptions (about which I feel sure) than (as most people are) by considering the specific details of 188 years of accumulated and evolving doctrine and the difficulties of interpreting scripture.

TheDoctorofOdoIsland said...

Certainly there are Post-Mortal marriages; we have them in the temple with some frequency. But Post-Mortal marriage is not the same as getting married after the resurrection, only that they can get married while they are dead.

With regard to one Heavenly Mother vs several, well, there's plenty of statements affirming the latter for anyone interested in looking. Most Mormons nowadays conceptualize the Universal Mother as being one exalted Woman (as do I, for my own reasons, which no one else need heed), the idea of multiple Mothers in Heaven usually isn't discounted, so much as it's considered unimportant. After all, everyone must have a -particular- Heavenly Mother who is their literal parent and loving caregiver, however many of them there might be numerically.

The Doctrine and Covenants speaks in plain terms of plural wives in the eternal worlds, and I'm satisfied that when Jesus speaks to man His word is true. If there's any sacredness in marriage we should not be shocked to find that Rachel's was just as sacred as Leah's.
- Carter Craft

Lucinda said...

I've appreciated this chance to explore my feelings on this subject. It has helped me solidify some of my hopes surrounding eternal motherhood.

Regarding the larger grouping of Mormons' beliefs, I would say that those who actually believe in the possibility of eternal polygyny also believe Heavenly Father has more than one wife. I would also guess that a good portion of those believe all inhabitants of this earth share a common Heavenly Mother.

My own hope, consulting my experience as a mother, is that there are multiple Heavenly Mothers active on this earth, spiritually nurturing and educating their children. As I've thought about it, it's an exciting possibility that some of the various dividing lines between people are rooted in a difference of Heavenly Mother, because I've found that one of the most satsifying aspects of being a mother is how my children do many things like me. They do dishes like me, they watch movies like me, they problem-solve like me. There are so many morally neutral aspects of people, like personality or various cultural preferences, that it would be so interesting and engaging to be involved in nurturing everyday, in my own particular and distinct way, even for eternity.

I think what most women would worry about with polygyny would have to do with scarcity and fear of neglect or abandonment, or not getting along with the other women. These are super problematic in mortal life. But for me, when I think of the possibility of sharing my home and life's work with other women, in a circumstance of abundant and permanent loving ties with my husband, where my own friendship with those women was solid, permanent, and functional, it seems very heavenly.

The prospect of eternal monogamy (versus polygyny) seems very lonely. C.S. Lewis speaks of a kind of fearful modern female loneliness in his explanation of Philia, which really rang true to me. I've been fortunate in the fact of having a large degree of Philia in my relationship with my husband, but I do feel cut off from Philia with other women, and I've often felt it was because of the different husbands in our lives. I do not like my female friends' and sisters' husbands (which is probably a good thing) and I don't think they like mine, but it means I have to step back from the kind of intimacy I would like to enjoy with them to preserve marriages. Polygyny would be the best way of enjoying the kind of female comraderie take could be a foundation for true female Philia, providing for the best of two worlds for Philia for women, allowing them to engage in Philia with both male and female.

This is not to say I agree with polygamy generally in mortal life. There are huge problems because of perverse sexuality (dysfunctional particularly regarding proper consideration for the good of children) and tendencies against agency, especially for mothers.

TheDoctorofOdoIsland said...

That is an interesting perspective on the topic of multiple Heavenly Mothers, and something that I had never considered. I don't believe it, but if it is true I must confess its goodness.

When comes to the Heavenly Father's marriage, what's important to me is thinking of him as a specific man, a man with distinct history- rather than some ideal man. We might assume the ideal man had the ideal marriage arrangement, as he might have the ideal muscles or the ideal singing voice, and determining whether he's monogamous or polygamous rests merely on determining which of those is better. But if he's a specific man with a specific wife or wives, then that kind of reasoning misses the mark. I get the sense that early Mormons felt the Heavenly Father must be polygamous because they felt polygamy was the best form of marriage. They might not have been wrong on either point, but I don't believe one truly implies the other.

There might be other reasons for concluding the Heavenly Parents consist of more than two individuals that I have not thought of. As it stands however I'm more persuaded to think of God as one man and one woman.

Nonetheless I agree with the sentiment that eternal marriage without eternal polygamy would be more problematic than the same in mortality. I feel that is a necessary conclusion if the everlasting covenant is really everlasting.
- Carter Craft

Lucinda said...

I hope I am not too tiresome.

I wanted to explain some of my further reasoning. I do not believe that the differences between man and woman resolve in eternity. If anything, they become more stark. Men are right to be suspicious of other men who fantasize about an eternity of many wives, because mostly the conception is based on a false idea that women will cease to be what they are. It is based on an extension of the compulsory aspects of mortal sexuality.

But we are given this chance in mortal life that maybe what begins as a compulsion will have time to develop into freedom. The natural loves, as C.S. Lewis called them, may develop to Agape. One of the great challenges for a man is to learn to really love his old wife. She has not ceased to be woman, though the compulsory aspects of his sexual attraction for her have gone.

For instance, I'm convinced that "nagging" and "micro-managing" will be an eternal aspect of motherhood. (I would rather call it a gift for remembering important domestic details in advance and communicating that information, and a strong preference for viable social habits.) I do think that celestial women will have learned to more appropriately and effectively express this gift, as well as to honor the freedom of loved-ones, but that essential character trait seems to me to be a vital aspect of eternal femininity.

With this in mind, is an eternity of female "nagging" and "micro-managing" something most of even the worthiest men would enjoy? Certainly not! A good indicator of a man's enjoyment of essential femininity in the absence of compulsion would be how he regards women who are "no use" to him, and even some trouble, like old widows and fatherless baby girls.

I do not mean to be hard on men, or women for that matter. I just feel very strongly that it is no small achievement for a man and a woman to get along over time. The divide is deep and eternal. When discussion of eternal polygyny arises, the point is often obscured. It is often taken for granted that it is something most men would find enjoyable rather than difficult. Women sense this assumption, they sense that what men are envisioning is the elimination of their essential femininity and an eternity of having to fit into "fantasy woman" specifications, and so of course they find the idea abhorrent and deeply offensive. But if women were to get the opposite vibe, that men are desperate to avoid the society of women altogether, and could only be convinced to deal with the absolute minimum in order to access eternal progeny, they would likely object to that as an ideal as well.

And so you end up with a situation where often the best thing to do is avoid talking about it completely. But this also makes women feel suspicious! :)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I am quite happy for you to think things through by commenting!

My view is that polygamy is merely a temporary expedient - as it was for Mormons and in the Old Testament; and a thing of earth and mortality.

My deepest intuition is that a man and a woman could, with greater degrees of divinity, become a 'dyad' - inseparable-but-distinct. It would not be a matter of being held-together by love so much as being generated-from love. The relationship always growing, unfolding; yet the growth coming from the relationship, thus always strengthening it.

This I find imaginable by extrapolation. And this would be the basis of fully creative divinity.

Lucinda said...

My perspective from within a Mormon understanding (it is not Mormon teaching, but I mean I base my thinking in Mormon belief) is that original creativity is wholly a male pursuit, which is why it is the Father and the Son (and Adam) who bring about the Creation. I do agree with what you say about the growth and unfolding of the relationship, I just think the male-female 'dyad' is asymmetric with respect to various aspects. Women are of the hearth, holding down and maintaining what is already won, men are oriented toward expanding the boundary.