What is Sexy?

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Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus (Photo credit: rwoan)

I admit I was curious about Miley Cyrus‘ performance at the MTV Awards, so I watched the video. To me, that was the least sexy event I have seen on television. Unlike other animals, human beings surround sexuality with an aura of mystery and wonder–that seems to be a part of human nature. In the past, before premarital sex became common, the lure of the wedding night was eagerly anticipated by engaged couples. The contemporary world has removed the mystery from sex and therefore removed the sexiness from sex. I have never been impressed by the obviousness of the sexual movements by Madonna, by Lady Gaga, by Miley Cyrus, or by many performers in rap videos.

Can anyone watch the movie Casablanca without feeling romantic? Did it need an explicit sex scene to make it “sexy” enough. To me, Casablanca is one of the sexiest movies out there. In the movies of the 1930s up to the early 1960s, there was a great deal under the surface–sexual innuendo that only adults could understand. The kiss anticipates what the viewer knows will come, but does not see. Mystery leaves room for the viewer’s imagination. If I watch a 1950s-era movie that leads to the kiss sealing the love between a man and a woman, that kiss is incredibly sexy. Oftentimes in these old films, the expectation is that the lovers will marry, initiating them into the mysteries of sexuality and the greater mystery of bringing new life into the world and in adjusting and loving another person in such an intimate way. Today sex is reduced to technique, to selfish desire for one’s own pleasure, to wanting a “good performance” from one’s partner without any love at all. Human beings are reduced to mechanisms, machines who perform the sexual task as efficiently as a well-run corporation.

Miley Cyrus and her ilk mark the end stage of a process that began long ago as marriage disintegrated as an institution and the hook-up culture came into play. Ms. Cyrus probably has no idea how stomach-turning her performance is to people who have not lost the ability to blush.

Keep sex a thing of wonder, a unique and intimate expression of love. Do not buy into the cheapness unrestrained performances bring to sexuality. We are more than machines. We are more than animals who operates sexually by instinct. We are human beings with complex feelings that surround the sexual act. It is time we stopped stripping (literally, it seems) the mystery from sex, to stop making sex unsexy.

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What is Vanderbilt University’s Problem with Traditional Christianity?

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Vanderbilt Commons.

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Vanderbilt University has recently been “investigating” Christian groups on campus after an openly homosexual member of a Christian organization was expelled, not for being homosexual, but for openly stating that practicing homosexuality is morally acceptable. That belief violated the organization’s constitution. Such an attitude by Vanderbilt’s administration reflects a bias in academia as a whole, with the exception of those Christian schools who still remain traditional (and which are becoming fewer in number) against traditional Christianity. Many people in academia hate (and that word is not too strong) the moral views of traditional Christians: their opposition to abortion, to practicing homosexuality, to premarital sex, to a hedonistic lifestyle. The academics claim to be open minded and tolerant, but their open mindedness and tolerance ends at the door of traditional morality and religion.

I attended Vanderbilt from 1986-87 as a student in the Graduate Department of Religion. Conservative Christian students lived in fear of saying something that offended theologically¬† and morally liberal faculty members. I found the atmosphere far more stifling and intolerant than the very traditional Churches of Christ religion in which I was reared. If I talked to a traditional student about the bodily resurrection of Christ or about traditional sexual morality, the student would often look around, put his finger to his mouth, and say “Shhh…. you want to remain a student here, don’t you?” Even Professor James Barr, certainly no Fundamentalist or Evangelical, said in his parting article in The Spire, Vanderbilt Divinity School‘s newsletter, that there was closed-mindedness from the theological left at Vanderbilt. Although the philosophy department was a bit more open-minded, it was still hostile to traditional Christian moral positions on sexual ethics. It is no surprise, then, that the Vanderbilt administration shares such hostility and is willing to enforce it by discrimination against Christian groups’ rights to determine which members meet their standards.

If a student wanted to join a chess club but openly argued that a knight should move like a bishop and vice-versa, and then tried to use that rule in the games he played, any self-respecting chess club would expel that member for violating the standards of chess. In religion, however, both secular agnostic and atheistic university administrators as well as liberal administrators of all faiths, refuse to allow traditional Christian groups the same privilege. Would the administration be consistent and investigate Muslim or Orthodox Jewish groups who also accept traditional moral values? Or is it only traditional Christianity that is the target of administrative ire?

Concerned alumni who disagree with these administrative moves at Vanderbilt (and at other colleges and universities) need to speak up–and if the administration ignores them, to talk with their closed wallets. Legal measures are also an option, as well as communicating what is happening to other traditionalist of all religious stripes as well as to sympathetic secular people who recognize the academic totalitarianism in the attack on Christian organizations. A strong, concerted, and consistent response is essential to keep administrators in line with their supposed commitment to freedom of speech and religion.

Should We Act on All Biologically Based Urges?

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Lovers In The Shadow

Image by Aesum via Flickr

Advocates of practices as diverse as wife swapping and homosexual relationships have made the argument that because they were born with certain biologically-based urges, it is morally acceptable, even morally laudatory, to act on those urges. For example, some homosexual advocates argue that if homosexual orientation is biologically based, then homosexuals cannot be morally blamed for acting sexually upon that orientation.

Let me present a similar argument. Heterosexual men are biologically programmed to spread their sperm to as many available women as possible. Men, from a biological point of view, are not monogamous but polygamous. Therefore, men should act on their sexual urges and have sex with as many available women that they can seduce. This is true for unattached single men, attached single men, engaged men, and married men. All should act on their biological urges.

Although as a man with normal male drives, the prospect in that previous paragraph is tempting, the problem is that following my urges would be destructive to myself and to others. The same is true of other men. They have a moral responsibility to be sexually responsible and not act on their biologically-based urges, no matter how powerful they might be. In order to rear children in a stable environment, male biological urges must be controlled and channeled in a monogamous relationship. The man may want sexual relations more than the woman; this is natural, but hopefully the couple can compromise and find a mean between extremes. As for total refusal of marital rights–that is considered legitimate grounds for annulment even in the Roman Catholic Church.

Why do humans have biological urges that are not morally right to indulge. Some Christians believe that one aspect of human sinfulness is a reversion to basic animal instincts, which then must be mollified for the purpose of creating a stable human society. As rational animals, we all have the ability to control our biological urges. The task is difficult. Sometimes people slip up. But as long as they keep up the struggle and do not lapse into the decadence of promiscuity, there is hope for them and for society. A society in which all males fulfilled their biological urges to have sex with as many women as possible would not long survive.

Thus, from the fact that “Person A has a biological tendency to perform act x” does not imply that “It is morally right for Person A to act on his (or her) biological tendency to do action x.” Such a nonsequitur is a commonplace in today’s culture wars. Moral discipline is called “discipline” for a reason. May God gives us the strength to have it and practice it, and may God forgive us when we fail. What is not open to us morally is to justify immoral activities in the name of biology.