This week was another Kindlings Muse, actually the last of the season. The Muse has been running through a series of late, on C.S. Lewis, but I hadn't yet attended, until this past Monday. The series is running at a new venue- not Hales Ales, but rather the Burke Natural History Museum. Monday's topic was Lewis and sexuality. Not sure why I attended.
It was interesting as always, but I'm not sure that the Lewis format agrees with me. An expert of some sort, this time Dr. Bryan Burton of Fuller Seminary, speaks on Lewis' ideas on a particular topic, and then two people of a younger generation disagree on Lewis' relevance to the post-modern era. Generally they are strawmen, not truly believing what they are arguing, but rather creating a false Socratic dialogue in the hopes of bringing out something new. I think I prefer when both parties truly believe what they are saying, as happened in the earlier Muse with Adrian. And I miss the old venue, where there was plenty of beer.
Much of what Dr. Burton shared on Lewis wasn't new, but still quite good. Burton spoke of the classic sexuality metaphor that Lewis used: What would you think if you came upon a society that brought out a giant cooked turkey, slowly uncovered it, and then stared at it in awe, without eating it. Lewis's detractors suggested such a society would be one that was starving, but Lewis responded that, on the contrary, this society would be likely to be one with an over-abundance of food, so much that they could waste it on such a display, where the real purpose of the food is forgotten. Just so, our society now treats sex. It is not over-valued; it is under-valued, as it is near omnipresent. Echoing Lewis, Burton spoke of how Christians actually greatly value sex, and see it as a wonderful thing- it is modern society's treatment of sex that diminishes the beauty of intercourse. It reminded me a lot of the feminist critique of the objectification of women which I've recently read, Female Chauvinist Pigs. There Levy discusses how we no longer aspire to real sexuality, but now try to be like porn stars, who were always merely a caricature of the real thing. You can hear the entire discussion, along with my perfunctory question, at the Muse.
In the course of the night the awful movie Forty Year Old Virgin was brought up. This represents where society is at, that sex is so highly valued that someone being 40 and still a virgin is unbelievable, and can only be an extended joke. We have come so far that virginity, once a value in itself, is now distasteful as soon as you reach puberty and can remove the blight on your body. There is no longer any consideration of the value of merging two souls in the act of sex, and what is lost when you have sex without the commitment of marriage. And sadly, Christians in America are no better at this than the general populace. Those who make the chastity pledge in high school prolong the first time by a couple years- they statistically are no likely to abstain than those who never made the pledge at all. A quick survey of statistics reveals that 80% of American teenagers have had sex. Only 33% of single Christians are virgins. And the saddest fact of all, 79% of women have sex before marriage, and 93% of men.
So when we got to the human sexuality section of biology, I would let my students know that I was part of that 7%, so that they could have some sort of positive male role model in that regard. Even in Morocco, this was important. Casablanca's a city with two red light districts, where wealthy fathers will often take their sons to a prostitute for their first time, in an Islamic double standard looking only towards the Qur'anic prohibitions of female sexuality. I begin to despair that around the world, and especially in my own country, there is no longer any value to virginity. Oh, sure, people will often pay lip service to it, but their actions tell a different story. Even when premarital sex is fought against, it is only for teenagers, as they "aren't ready". No one speaks anymore of the moral value of abstaining until marriage even as an adult. And I have no answers.
The nationally famous Seattle Folk Life Festival is on this weekend. I'll share more about my time there later. But yesterday there were some guys out with rather large signs. There was a lot of writing on the signs, but it basically boiled down to "Got Jesus? If not, you're going to hell." (I'm not making this up. It actually said that.) In front of them were a small horde of clean-cut, well-dressed teenagers, holding up dingy cardboard signs with bad writing, along the lines of "I'd rather go to hell than believe this shit." (Again, not making it up.) Rarely have I so vociferously disagreed with two parties that were so completely at odds with each other.
Every little while one of the teenagers would get a sly grin on his face, and sidle up to right of one of the hellmongers. He'd pull up an even dingier cardboard sign, with a simple statement, and an arrow pointing to the left. The sign read, "Virgin". And the crowd would roar with laughter, as the most despicable term imaginable was applied to someone the crowd was already disposed to dislike.