Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Where's My Bailout?!?

Bus driver Minta Garcia admits that she and her husband bought more house than they could afford, but she said "the lender made the purchase all too easy." Now the home that she purchased for $800K is worth $675K and she wants Obama to "Stop the foreclosures". (Reported on CNN February 17th, 2009)
Like many Americans, 2001 was not a good year for me. I was working as an IT consultant when the 911 attacks happened and in the subsequent months, many companies stopped their outsourced IT projects as a hedge against "uncertain economic times" (sounds familiar). By December of that year, I was out of work. Since I had been making good money as a consultant, my wife had been able to stay home with our girls (in high school at that time). So, not only were jobs in short supply for my skill set, but she had difficulty finding work back in her field since she had been on the sidelines for so long. By February, our savings were dried up (I know, poor planning) and we were not able to make our mortgage payment. In March the mortgage company initiated foreclosure on our house.

Now, I do not pretend that we were in dire straights. My wife started working at church and I was receiving unemployment. We had enough to pay bills and such, but not quite enough to make that mortgage payment. We began discussing our options and what would happen if we lost the house: namely, move back into a 2 bedroom apartment and start rebuilding. All the time, I was actively looking for work but unemployment was going to run out in a couple more months and then I knew I would have to take any job. It was not a rosy picture, but then again, we started out marriage as lower income earners and we knew if necessary, we could do it over again.

With 2 weeks left on unemployment, I got an email from a friend about a job at a company I used to work at. I looked at the job description and it was so tailored to my skills and experience it was almost as if it had been written specifically for me. I knew I would be competing against 20 or 30 others but I felt something special about this opportunity. I went in with confidence (which had not been the case on other interviews through this whole time) and landed that job. It is the job I still hold today and it is still a perfect fit.

Once I had a permanent job nailed down, the bank was willing to work with us on a repayment plan and over the next year we made up all the payments that we had missed and brought our mortgage current. Although our credit was pretty much demolished for the following 7+ years, we were able to return to the life style we had worked so hard to attain over 20 years of marriage.

This brings us to today and the reason I tell this story. No, it is not because history is about to repeat itself. My wife and I are both in secure jobs with stable companies and see no evidence that this is 2001 all over again, at least for us. The reason I tell this story is to demonstrate that the dismay I experience over people like Minta Garcia does not stem from an inability to relate to their situation. On the contrary, I have walked in Minta's shoes and understand completely the sense of frustration, and apprehension she and her family feel. What baffles me, though, is where her and other's sense of entitlement comes from.

More and more as we go through these tumultuous times it is becoming crystal clear to me what the real difference is between conservatives and liberals. It isn't our positions per se, but our attitudes that differentiate us. As I reflected on my situation 7 years ago and compared it to Minta Garcia's situation, I came to several conclusions about the differences between us.

1. Accountability vs. Victim Hood

I knew that, if anyone was to blame for my situation, it was me. Not that I recklessly brought it on - I was in fact a victim of circumstance - but my financial situation was one of my own doing. I was responsible for the job I took, the mortgage I contracted for, the budget my family kept, and the savings (or lack thereof) that we accumulated for emergencies. It wasn't my employer's fault or the mortgage company's or banks or Wall Street or Congress or the President.

The Minta Garcia’s of the world seek out someone else to blame for their situation in life. Instead of having a "stuff happens; suck it up" attitude, they have a "everyone is out to get me" attitude. They have no accountability for their decisions and take no responsibility for the results. Instead, they only want to know who they can point the finger at.

2. Self Reliance vs. Entitlement

I determined that the only person that was going to "bail me out" of my situation was me. I say that as a matter of pride and honor, not resignation. I believe in the American Dream and the proposition that, in good times or bad, we are in control of our destiny. I also knew that, no matter what, we would have some type of roof over our heads, food in our mouths, and that we would be happy in whatever our circumstance.

Minta Garcia believes that she is entitled to be rescued from her circumstances. It is sad that she feels powerless to do anything for herself, but it is pathetic that she would stoop to allowing others to have their hard earned money forcibly stripped from them to fixed her problem.

3. Liberty vs. Dependence.

The concept of liberty as envisioned by the founders of our country was often intertwined with the concept of property rights. But "property" included many things including your thoughts and actions. The founders believed that a person was only truly free if they were left alone to either succeed or fail on their own merits. Moreover, no person's prosperity should come on the backs of other unwilling citizens. The first amendment to the constitution promotes many of these ideas in its treatment of speech, assembly, religious establishment and practice, and association. Other sections in the constitution, like the Takings Clause and the 3rd Amendment, also hit upon this theme. America was established on the idea that certain things, including liberty and the pursuit of happiness, were "inalienable" rights which the government could neither provide nor suppress.

Unfortunately, many people in these times believe that government is responsible for guaranteeing prosperity and happiness. They don't realize that by putting government in that position, they are stripped of their liberty by making them dependent on that government. They also don't realize that by depending on government to grant them benefits, they also strip others of their liberty because the government has to have a Peter to rob in order to pay Paul. The result of dependence on government is slavery to both the receiver of government largess and the payer for it. Such slavery was at the heart of the American Revolution and breaking free from it was the promise of the new American experiment in liberty.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Bristol-Baby Brouhaha

Bristol Palin granted an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren on February 18th, 2009, and it has caused a firestorm of criticism from...conservatives. Apparently Bristol is sending the wrong message to teens regarding abstinence. Conservative radio host Bill Bennett even laments her crossing over into, and contributing to, policy debate. But did Bristol really send the wrong message? I suggest that conservative critics have erred by thinking Bristol was addressing teens in her comments. Having raised two teen girls myself, and having heard comments similar to Bristol's many times from them and their peers, I took her comments to be directed to a totally different audience - the very people who are outraged. Let's explore exactly what went down in her sit down with Greta.

First I would like to dispel the notion that Bristol in some way is representing her mother - Governor Sarah Palin, the Alaska executive branch, the Alaska Department of Health, the Alaska Department of Education, or even the Palin family in any way in this interview. Bristol makes it clear that the decision to do the interview was hers and hers alone. She didn't even inform Gov. Palin that she was doing it until the day before. There is no indication that she was prepped by her parents or any other officials or that she was pressured into either giving the interview or say anything she said. True to Palin individualism, this is Bristol's interview and nobody else’s. The idea that her comments somehow impact the policy debate about abstinence is as silly as saying an interview with Jamie Lyn Spears impacts policy. Conservatives (and many liberals including the President) defended the Palin family's right to privacy during the campaign, rightly arguing that the private affairs of a candidate's daughter do not impact the candidate's policy and positions. Funny now how they think the private opinions of a Governor's daughter have some policy or position impact on the Governor's administration. Especially when the daughter clearly states that this interview is with her and about her, not her mother the Governor.

So what did Bristol say that has everyone in a tizzy? At one point, Van Susteren asked a series of question regarding the circumstances which led to Bristol's pregnancy, specifically regarding birth control and abstinence. Here is the exchange:
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't want to pry to personally, but I mean, actually, contraception is an issue here. Is that something that you were just lazy about or not interested, or do you have a philosophical or religious opposition to it or...

BRISTOL: No. I don't want to get into detail about that. But I think abstinence is, like -- like, the -- I don't know how to put it -- like, the main -- everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it's not realistic at all.


BRISTOL: Because -- I don't want to get into details on this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, no, I don't mean personally, just big picture, not -- not necessarily about you, but...

BRISTOL: Because it's more and more accepted now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Among your classmates and kids your age?

BRISTOL: Among -- yes, among kids my age.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you change that?

BRISTOL: To see stories like this and to see other stories of teen moms and just -- it's something that's -- I don't know, just -- you should just wait 10 years and it'd just be so much easier.
Now, when I first read that section of the transcript, I didn't bat an eye. I understand what she means from a teen perspective about abstinence not being realistic and teen sex being accepted. Does that mean she is throwing up her hands regarding abstinence or that she is promoting acceptance of teen sexuality? That seems to be what her critics think. Taking the position that she is addressing teens as a mentor, they decry the lack of a forceful denouncement of her actions and a strong advocacy for abstinence education. There are several errors in this presumptive reaction.

First of all, we must remember that Bristol Palin is still only 18 and is rather embarrassed that she and her boyfriend messed up and got caught in doing so. The rambling nature of her response and the reluctance to go into details shows that she is not at a point in her maturation to face the responsibility of being the next abstinence education poster girl, or any kind of role model for teens. If Bristol had an agenda to get the word out to teens that abstinence is silly and sex is fine, she would have had a far bolder and more coherent response planned. She makes it clear elsewhere in the interview that, despite the joy her son brings to her, getting pregnant at 17 is a bad, bad idea. In fact, her own suggestion that everyone wait for 10 years (presumably after high school) shows she is generally in support of abstinence as a philosophical idea.

Is she in support of abstinence as a practical practice though? I think she is and this is where I believe the critics have misread her. You see, her message is not directed at teens in my opinion, it is directed at parents and educators. Even reading the transcript one can sense the angst she is feeling. What she is saying to those adults listening is "abstinence is really, really hard." In fact, Bristol Palin is not the first but far down a long, long line of girls I know of who had everything going for them in terms of family values, religious convictions, strong self esteem, and loving parental guidance and STILL ended up pregnant before their high school graduation. Bristol is telling us that even with all the advantages she had, it is not enough if the message she gets in the long run is "just say no" to sex. Teens have way too many overpowering influences in their life to have sex, to leave it to simple will-power and ideals to abstain. Bristol's message is this - "if it can happen to me...are you listening parents and curriculum can happen to anyone…ANYONE!" It doesn't mean you are a bad kid and it doesn't mean you think teen sex is "acceptable" and it especially doesn't mean that you didn't want to abstain. It means only that you haven't yet developed the critical decision making skills to cope with sexuality. To tell kids to "just say no" and assume they have the maturity to follow through "in the heat of the moment" is, as Gov. Palin put it, "naive".

Now, does that mean abstinence education can't work? Of course not! But it needs to take a drastically more robust form if it is going to impact a broader range of kids, especially the Bristol Palins of the world who have at least a fighting chance of remaining chaste. Bristol informs us of what we are up against: raging hormones, peer pressure, broad cultural acceptance of promiscuity, and plain old bone-headedness. If we want kids to say "no" to sex, instead of simply telling them that abstinence is the alternative we recommend and prefer, we need to do a far better job of proving to them that abstinence is in their best interests and the best choice for their body, mind, and soul. According to my girls' recounting of the abstinence ed in their high school, we have a long way to go.

(The full, preliminary transcript of the interview can be found here:,2933,494205,00.html)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rejecting the "Hot Babe" Deception - Part 1 (Concluding the "Hot Babe" Series)

In the prior three posts[1] in the "Hot Babe" series, I have discussed the viewpoints and arguments of certain authors supporting, at least in general, the idea that Eve, and subsequently the female gender, are beautiful by design, and that male sexual attraction to that design is also God designed, blessed, and even mandated. Since those authors rarely, if ever, relied on scripture to back up their claims, I presented some logical counter arguments to their conclusions. But that doesn't mean that scripture has nothing to say about beauty and attraction. In the final two posts, I will give a comprehensive review of the related scriptures and propose a counter conclusion based on that review: namely that God takes a very dim view of our inclination to look at and judge people based on their outward appearance, at least in all but one specific context.

Before I go further, there is an important distinction that needs to be made. Some of the claims of the authors cited in prior posts are demonstrably correct and fairly undisputed. Men are visual, and visually, the female form pleases us. We certainly are attracted to women because of how they look. I do not deny these realities and to the extent that they are governed by hormones and brain function they seem to me to be clearly natural. But the question we need to ask ourselves is: "is all that is natural, godly?" More to the point, which "nature" is being expressed when we act on these urges and instincts: our fleshly nature or our spirit led nature. In Romans 7 and 8[2] Paul describes for us a struggle that goes on in each and every person between the competing forces of our flesh and our spirit. In a fallen world, even when we are dealing with our "design", we must ask ourselves if the current manifestation of that design is what God intended, or if, conversely, our common enemy has corrupted our interpretation and application of God's good design. It is in that spirit, and with those questions at the forefront, that I will proceed to determine what God intended in our design and where we may be deceived.

Another distinction needs to be made before proceeding and that is the difference between biblical history and biblical teaching. Although biblical history is often instructive, it is primarily so because it illustrates man in the flesh acting ungodly. Biblical teaching via the Old Testament Proverbs, Psalms, prophets, and poetic books, and the New Testament, instruct us directly regarding what God expects us to do and not to do. Nowhere is this distinction more obvious than in the bible's treatment of physical attraction.

One more note lest the reader misunderstand the kind of beauty and attraction I am talking about. The authors cited before make it clear, especially when discussing Eve and the place that physical attractiveness, and the attraction to it, hold in relationship building, that the discussion at its core is sexual. Nobody pretends that men are attracted to women's looks in the same way they appreciate the beauty of a bounding deer or a perfectly thrown curve ball. It is crucial that the reader understand that all of this talk about beauty has a sexual basis, and that when we talk about a woman being attractive or beautiful what is actually meant is that she is sexy; that she triggers in a man a sexual response even if it doesn't reach the threshold of physical arousal. (The same, of course, can be said of sexual attraction regardless of the genders of both the attractor and the attractee.)

Having said all that, let us look into God's Word.

The historical account in the bible is full of beautiful women. Many of the great patriarchs and heroes of the bible take on beautiful women as their wives. One might be tempted to say that such godly men are acting with God's blessing and manifesting God's good design in partnering with these attractive women. But a closer look reveals a disturbing trend. Every time a woman's beauty is highlighted in the biblical historical record, sinful behaviors abound and are directly associated with the focus on that beauty. A quick review:

  • The first mention of female beauty in the bible occurs in one of the bible's most troubling and mysterious passages. In Genesis 6:1-2 we read - "the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose." This leads to the existence of half angelic, half human offspring which in turn contributes to the debauched human condition which results in the flood.
  • The Patriarchs were especially ill behaved in regards to their beautiful wives. Abraham prostituted order to save himself[3]. Isaac repeated his father's sin with Rebekah[4]. Jacob defied culture and parental authority by insisting on the beautiful Rachel over the ugly Leah, causing not only enmity with his father-in-law but friction between the two sisters[5].
  • Great heroes of the bible were not exempt either. Samson's ill advised, impulsive marriage to a girl solely because she caught his eye had tragic consequences[6]. His marriage to Delilah turned out even worse[7]. And who can forget David and Bathsheba[8]. Abigail's beauty also seems to play into David's polygamous marriage to her[9]. Even more treacherous acts occurred in the house of David because of the obsession with beauty, as highlighted by the rape of Tamar by her half-brother Amnon[10].
  • Even supposed love stories are really examples of ungodly behavior and situations salvaged by God. Esther is misused by Mordechi in a way that very much mirrors Abraham's sinful misuse of Sarah. The fact that love blossomed in the end is more attributed to God's grace (and Esther's heart) than it is to any overreaching godly plan[11].
  • Lest one think this is a one way phenomenon (male looking on female), let's not forget the trouble that Joseph's good looks brought him via Potiphar's wife[12].
The pattern is absolutely clear: whenever physical (i.e. sexual) beauty is mentioned in biblical history, sinful behavior ensues. But, what about biblical teaching? The message there is absolutely clear as well: how we "see" and relate to each other should be governed by what is on the inside of a person, not their outsides.

Since the emphasis by authors such as John Eldredge and Joshua Harris in their defense of pursuing physical beauty is on the male's efforts in finding a spouse, it makes sense to begin with the quintessential bible passage on that topic. I refer, of course, to Proverbs 31 and the "perfect" wife. It is curious that these authors don't also turn to this passage, but close reading shows why they might avoid it - it totally defeats their argument. In Proverbs 31 verses 10 through 29 we are given a list of over 20 attributes which are found in "an excellent wife" that give her "worth...far above jewels". Not once in that list is her outward appearance ever mentioned. But the author of the proverb doesn't leave it to chance that we may think the list is incomplete and that beauty still is a valid consideration in finding a mate. Verse 31 sums up the advice with this well known and crucial warning: "Charm [flirtatiousness] is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (NIV). This is no trivial matter, for as much as one's heart is deserving of praise, one's physical looks are undeserving of it. We are not instructed even to make appearance a secondary consideration, but instead to disregard it all together. What a stark contrast to the advice given by so many Christian authors. No wonder they never mentioned Proverbs 31. But does the bible stop here? Certainly not!

In the New Testament, Peter echoes Proverbs 31 by instructing women that their true beauty lies within: "rather let it [your "attractiveness"] be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:4). And several other proverbs go on to give clues why we should not place our focus on physical beauty - namely, because it is a deception which lures us into sin. Proverbs 6:24-25 gives this plain advice: "To keep you from the evil woman, From the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, Nor let her capture you with her eyelids [another reference to flirtatiousness]". Proverbs 7 gives a more detailed illustration of how a woman can temp a man to stray, primarily using "exterior" enticements. Proverbs 5 hits on the theme again of the seductress using her "feminine wiles", i.e. her looks and charms, to lead a man into sin.

Now, none of this suggests that beautiful women are inherently evil and man-killers. The warnings are for the men, not the women. The intent is to snap men out of their fascination with the outside looks and flirtatious behaviors of women and to conversely direct their attention to what matters, a woman's heart and soul. The reality is that some women are quite striking. But to obsess over that feature in a woman, and to ignore her true value as a fellow human endowed with God's image, is a recipe for disaster.

There are further admonitions for married men found in the bible's teachings. Our contemporary authors tend to shy away from applying their approvals to married men, yet their very argument is applicable to all men. That is how men (and many women) take it, at least. Phrases such as "It is ok to look but not touch", or "that is just the way men are", are constantly thrown out to excuse married men's roving eyes. How many women have accepted with little resistance and even less concern their husband's private stacks of porn and lascivious behaviors? How many others actually invite porn into thier bedrooms under the delusion it will enhance their marriage or at least fulfill some need their husband has that they are incapable of meeting? All of this is due to the deception that since a man's attraction to the female form is "natural", such allowances are justified by and pleasing to God. Does the bible support such nonsense? Certainly not!

Jesus' famous application of the 7th commandment to the visual and mental realms should suffice to condemn any sexual looking or thinking that does not involve one's wife (which yields either adultery or fornication depending on marital status)[13]. Unfortunately, many people take a very narrow view of the type of thoughts necessary, saying that only actual thoughts of sex with another real person constitute the "lust" Jesus references. But one has to wonder if Jesus had Job in mind at the time He issues His decree. In Job 31[14], we find a striking parallel to Jesus' argument as Job, a " of complete integrity"[15], makes a similar application to his own vision and thoughts.

At this point, and at the sake of being redundant, I need to remind the reader that looking at someone's form for purposes of attraction is inherently sexual, and strikingly so for men. As Jesus and Job discuss these issues, they are dealing with sexual immorality at it's very core, inside our brains. Although such looks and thoughts may not trigger physical arousal in our sexual members, they unavoidably trigger mental arousal in the sexual processing centers of our brain and chemical arousal in the hormonal and neurotransmission systems of our bodies. Now on to Job...

Job 31:1 states - "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (NKJV). The NIV unfortunately introduces the concept of lust into their translation, solidifying the connection with Jesus but incorrectly narrowing the context of Job's visual covenant. The Hebrew word translated "look upon", or "gaze" and "think upon" in other translations, contains no implication of lustfulness. It is an innocuous word meaning simply to discern or look at with discernment. A modern translation with our own cultural idioms actually conveys the idea quite well - "I made a deal with my eyes, why then should I check out a hot babe?" Job goes on later to talk about "lurking at his neighbor's door", an idiom from his time which refers to taking secretive glances and engaging in sly flirtations with a woman who is not one's wife. Going (presumably) far beyond Jesus, Job calls such subtle and non-physically arousing behavior as "wickedness" and claims a fitting, although probably not godly, punishment for even an inquisitive glance at another woman would be for his wife to chase after and bed another man of her choice. But are Job and Jesus worlds apart, or do we just assume so because of the difference in Greek and Hebrew word choices. Job in essence calls a casual discerning look "lustful". Jesus certainly knew His Job. When Jesus speaks of looking with lust, is it not quite possible that he had Job's level of look in mind and we have simply diluted His words over time. After all, "lust" is not really the correct translation of the Greek. What Jesus really said was that if you look upon a woman other than your wife with any kind of desire, such desire is inherently inappropriate and therefore constitutes "lust" in English. Jesus never mentions anything about having mental sex with the woman.

OK - so, maybe it isn't such a godly thing to exercise and entertain our natural, sexual attraction for the form of the opposite sex when we are looking for marriage candidates, and it certainly doesn't seem to be a good idea to "check out" other people once you are married. So, if it is acknowledged that God designed these mechanisms, what are they good for, when should they be manifested, and why did He seem to set us up for failure? The bible has the answer for these questions as well, and they all revolve around "the marriage bed". I will explore that in the final post of the "Hot Babe" series.

1. The "Hot Babe" series: 2. In particular, see Romans 7:23.
3. Genesis 12:10-20; 20:2-18.
4. Genesis 26:6-11
5. Genesis 29:14-30:34
6. Judges 14:1-15:6
7. Judges 16:4-21. Although the bible doesn't say Delilah was beautiful, it is almost universally assumed because of Samson's selfish and shallow character when it came to women.
8. 2 Samuel 11
9. 1 Samuel 25. There seems little point in the mention of Abigail's beauty in verse 3 except as a pretext for David's attraction to her. It seems David was rather fond of marrying every pretty girl he came across, in direct violation of God's law against regal polygamy. Of course, David's sinful pattern was later amplified to ridiculous levels by his son Solomon (1 Kings 11:3).
10. 2 Samuel 13:1-15
11. Esther 2:1-20. Many people focus on the fact that Xerxes fell in love with Esther and that she was a beloved queen and therefore determine that this is a God ordained love story. The reality is that God is never once mentioned in the book of Esther. The book has far more to do with Mordecai's plotting on behalf of the Jews and himself and his use of Esther as an insider in the King's Court to accomplish his agenda. Although I believe it is fair to say that God intervened in the whole mess to assure the preservation of his people, there is no evidence that Mordecai was operating under some divine plan.
12. Genesis 39:1-20
13. Matthew 5:28. One should not, of course, make the mistake of assuming that Jesus' preaching here is limited to adultery. Jesus' main point is that any mental violation of the any of the commandments is as damning as a physical violation. As such, this teaching is applicable to stealing, murder, idolatry, etc. The teaching naturally extends outside of the marital realm. If such a look or thought is adulterous for a married man, it is naturally fornicative for an unmarried man. Gender is not the issue here either. Certainly, women can be just as guilty.
14. It is ironic that Job's defense of his sexual purity and marital integrity takes place in the same chapter number as the perfect wife of Proverbs 31. If a view to a woman's heart and a disregard for her beauty, at least pre-maritally, is the goal of a man seeking a wife, and if Job takes a covenant within marriage to perpetuate this view of the women outside his marriage, one might almost hold Job up as a model of the Proverbs 31 man; or at least the kind of man who abides by the Proverbs 31:30 admonition. So maybe the chapter numbering is not quite as coincidental as it may seem.
15. Job 1:1. Although Job should be considered a book about a historical figure, and there is no reason to doubt the factual reality of the events described, it is not a book that intends to chronical the history of either the human race or the Jewish people. In actuality, it is meant to be an instructive book and is therefore rightly categorized in the general teaching category of books (specifically, the poetic books) rather than the histories.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Physical Beauty - essential for us to "be fruitful and multiply"? (Continuing the "Hot Babe" series)

This is the third installment in what I am calling the "Hot Babe" series of posts. In Was "Hot Babe" a Prerequisite in Eve's Design I introduced the topic by illustrating what I believe is a near obsession in some Christian writing (and, I assume, some Christian teaching) with physical beauty in general, female beauty in particular, and Eve's beauty as a specific and exalted example. Next, in Physical Beauty - the "essence of God" or the shallowness of man?, I looked at one particular celebrated author, John Eldredge, and his conclusions about beauty, God, creation, and Eve. I will now address a second popular author, Joshua Harris, and his conclusion that God purposely designed female beauty, illustrated in Eve, and male attraction to that beauty as the necessary elements that would push an otherwise unmotivated male population to fulfill our divine calling to "be fruitful and multiply".
Josh Harris took the Christian world, and particularly the Christian youth world, by storm with his controversial best selling book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Through a number of sequels and related topic books, Josh has continued to provide guidance (and occasional discomfort) to both teens and youth ministry workers in the areas of relationship, sexuality, and purity. One book that piqued my interest was the boldly titled, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is).

Now, it should be said from the outset that I agree with that premise - that sex when properly expressed within marriage is one of those "it is good" things within creation and that lust is what corrupts an otherwise godly and wholesome design. My issue with Harris in this book is not that the premise is wrong, but that he misses on defining the parameters of that premise. Specifically, I have to question his understanding of both the physiological workings of males and the scriptural definition of "lust". But that is a topic best left to another post. Staying on subject here, I will address and deconstruct his conclusions about Eve, her daughters, and the proclaimed essentiality of their physical beauty in God's design. I would like to tackle this in the same way as the last post, by answering some urgently begged questions. But first, to refresh, here is the quote from Sex Is Not the Problem:
"He [God] really knew what He was doing, didn't He? 'Be fruitful and...multiply,' he commanded mankind (Genesis 9:7). And then just in case we'd be tempted to slack off in the task of populating and subduing the earth, He made us sexual creatures and wired us with this incredible thing we call a sex drive...Isn't it wonderful how God has made men and women to interact with each other? He made men visually oriented then made women beautiful."[1]
Was beauty even a consideration in Adam and Eve's relationship?
We know two things for certain about the assessment of beauty. First, it is entirely subjective. Second, being subjective, it requires a number of subjects to compare the assessed person against to find where on the scale of beauty they fall. Put simply, the assessment of beauty involves an individual observer's opinion of how someone's looks rank against all others. So, who did Adam compare Eve to in order to determine if she was beautiful? Of course, he had no one to compare her to. Without a scale to rank someone against, the assessment of beauty becomes impossible. If Eve's beauty or ugliness was impossible to assess then it certainly was irrelevant in their relationship, especially their sexual and procreative relationship. Moreover, considering that eventually their were plenty of other women for Adam to compare Eve to, and considering he remained monogamous, and considering they continued to procreate like crazy for hundreds of years despite the unavoidable deterioration after the fall of Eve's physical appearance, it seems all too obvious that a subjective, comparative, assessment of Eve's physical beauty NEVER was a consideration in their relationship.

Is beauty essential for men to find a partner?
Many men would say yes. I suggest for balance we ask a blind man. The reality is that although beauty certainly does attract men, it is not essential for a man to find his life partner. We will dive into Proverbs 31 in detail in the next post, but suffice it to say that the essential elements in a compatible partner, the things that Adam rejoiced in about Eve, the characteristics that make for a permanent, covenantal, loving relationship, have nothing to do with what a woman looks like.

Is beauty essential to motivate men to have sex?
Again, ask a blind man. It is true that men are visually oriented and that we find the female form pleasing, but our vision is only one trigger to what is basically a hormonal process. Sex drive can be enhanced by visual stimuli, but visual stimuli are not absolutely necessary for sex drive to operate. In fact, a much greater motivator for men to have sex (and, presumably, procreate) is the purely biological cycle of fluid buildup in the seminal vesicles. Men are driven to have sex by their biology (as are women). God gave us that biology, but Harris seems to ignore it (or be ignorant of it). To him, sex drive is primarily about what we see. One wonders how anyone manages to make babies with the lights off.

Is beauty permanent; does God intend sex to be a permanent fixture in marriage?
I alluded to this earlier in talking about Adam and Eve, but it is a key point. Adoption of the stance Harris takes leads to two very tragic consequences. First of all, if beauty is necessary to motivate "coupling" which in turn motivates procreation, then where does that leave all the ugly girls in this world? Does God not intend for them also to find mates and have babies? This question always popped into my mind when I would read Eldredge's "A Beauty to Rescue" section of Wild at Heart. If men really need a "beauty" to rescue, what happens to all the ugly princesses trapped in metaphorical towers? By encouraging readers to look at and choose mates based primarily on subjective comparisons of physical looks, both authors quite literally send many men off "looking for love in all the wrong places". Marital studies have shown that "looks" based relationships are some of the most likely to fail. Not only that, but how many men and women alike have missed out on really great relationships with truly compatible and complimentary partners because the other person wasn't pretty enough to warrant their attraction?

But a second tragedy also looms because of this misdirection. By sanctioning a looks based attraction mechanism, the authors unwittingly support a "greener pastures" approach to relationships. Certainly, if a man needs a beauty to rescue, and if he needs a hot babe in order to be motivated to have sex, then once the ravages of time and gravity, or even worse, physical injury, reak havoc on his wife, he is justified in moving on to the next beauty. After all, God made him that way. Although it is no fault of his wife's, God designed him to seek beauty and therefore God blesses his actions in rejecting his no longer beautiful wife. In fact, the breakup is actually her fault because she has failed in her duty to meet his need for a beautiful wife. Of course, most men won't carry this out to the extreme (although certainly some do using that very justification). But many men believe it is a godly requirement that their wives maintain a level of beauty to keep them happy and fulfill their needs, and they make the relationship miserable if, no - when, she inevitably can't keep her body up to his standard of beauty.

I have attempted to show the error of these authors rhetorically, but mine is just another opinion without some scriptural back up. What really matters is what God has to say about beauty and its place in relationships, and He surprisingly has a lot to say. That is ground we will cover in the next post in the "Hot Babe" series.

1. Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2003) p. 33, 85.