Ashton Kutcher & Why Sex is Not Morally Neutral

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Recently, celebrity Ashton Kutcher appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to speak about child sex trafficking. First, among all the political and social nonsense spewing from every direction these days, it’s good to see someone putting his fame and wealth towards something worth fighting for. Give it a watch/listen; it’s worth the time, though not something easy to listen to due to the subject matter.

As I listened to Mr. Kutcher, I couldn’t help having a thought I’ve had before: Despite what popular culture tells us, sex is not morally neutral.

GROUNDING YOUR MORALITY

Before we talk about sex, let’s talk about morality in general.

As a Christian, I find myself often addressing two claims of secular people:

(1) Morality is relative.

(2) People can be moral without God.

It is often not hard to refute #1, as all I have to do is bring up something like child sex slavery and people will agree that such a thing is objectively immoral – meaning that the wrongness of this is not a matter of opinion; child sex slavery is always morally wrong. Thus, morality is not relative, but objective.

I have no idea if Mr. Kutcher ever considered himself a moral relativist, but judging from his emotional statement about the things he has witnessed since becoming involved in the fight against human sex trafficking, I’m sure he believes there is objective good and objective evil in this world.

As far as #2 (People can be moral without God), I don’t have to refute it. I totally agree that people can be moral without believing in God. But they cannot justify their morals. In other words, morality is objective, but what can explain objective morality? Where does it come from? Yes, everyone has morals, but according to their view of the world, can they justify having those morals?

So, an atheist may say, “Child sex trafficking is wrong,” and I say, “I agree, but why is it wrong? According to what?” “According to human decency,” he says. “By what standard do you judge human decency?” I ask. “Everyone has the right to live his own life.” “And where did you get that idea? If we’re here, according to your view of the world, just by random chance; if we’re just a happy accident of a purposeless universe and there’s really no difference between us and star dust or star fish, where on earth do you get this idea of human rights?”

Often the response is some sort of pragmatism: it’s moral because it works. So, the atheist may say something like, “Whatever leads to the maximum amount of human happiness and flourishing is what’s morally good.”

But without an objective moral standard of good, this fails for two big reasons:

(1) Why do you assume human happiness and flourishing is the greatest moral good? That, within itself, is a moral claim. Why isn’t the flourishing of mosquitoes or oak trees the greatest moral good?

(2) If usefulness is all that defines morality, then what if something like, say, child sex slavery leads to the most people being happy and flourishing? Does that mean it’s morally good?  In fact, I’m sure there’s been plenty of cultures where common slavery was absolutely great for the majority of the people in the culture. Does that mean slavery was morally good?

Without an objective standard, it’s all just personal preference and opinion.

The immaterial, timeless God of the Bible is the objective standard of good, and the only explanation for the immaterial, timeless moral law. Yes, we often suppress the moral consciousness God put in us, his image-bearers, because we want to be independent of our Creator, but once one has abandoned God, they have abandoned any grounds to make any moral claims.

It’s interesting: in order for a moral claim not to be simply a personal preference, everyone – whether Christian or not – has to appeal to a greater authority outside themselves. Kutcher, appearing before the U.S. senate, appealed to the Declaration of Independence when he speaks of the right of all people to pursue happiness. Yet, the Declaration of Independence appeals to an authority higher than itself: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

(I’ve written about this moral argument before. Read more here.)

SO WHAT’S THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SEX?

The sexual revolution started about 50 years ago with my parents’ generation in the 1960’s, and sex has been progressively losing value in American culture ever since. Even in the 20-odd years since I’ve been in high school, attitudes about the value and importance of sex have continued to plummet. Millennials are 48% more likely to have sex before a first date than any other generation before them. To many millennials, a date is considered more intimate than sex. People often write off the Christian view of sex as old-fashioned and outdated, but once on that slippery slope, things move quickly.

When we step back and look, even Americans who claim morals are relative believe that certain things, like racism and slavery, are objectively wrong. But sex, they say, is surely subjective. No one has any grounds for making any sort of moral judgment on anyone else’s sexual practices or preferences. I do my thing; you do yours. It’s not much different than liking different ice cream flavors or styles of music. It’s just taste and preference. Sex is a morally neutral act.

But like other claims of moral relativism, this view can’t stand either. I’ll give you four reasons: rape, sexual abuse of children, sexual harassment, and sex trafficking.

What’s worse?

Someone getting attacked and beaten OR someone getting attacked and raped?

A child being abused OR a child being abused sexually?

Someone harassing you OR someone sexually harassing you?

Being sold as a slave OR being sold as a sex slave?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that all violent crimes are universally seen as more horrendous when some sort of sexual violation is involved. If a woman is attacked while jogging in a park and beaten so severely that she is put into the hospital, people will gasp and people will be angry. If a woman is attacked while jogging in a park and raped and beaten so severely that she’s put in the hospital, people are enraged and they’re also calling for the castration of the attacker. If sex is a meaningless act, then rape is no different than being attacked and beaten; the addition of sex into the situation should not matter. But people are rightfully enraged by any act of rape because sex is not meaningless.

Even hardened criminals know this. I’ve heard from a number of sources that people in prison for sexually abusing children are considered the worst of the worst. Even among the most violent criminals in prison, child molesters are seen as deplorable and are the targets of violence from other inmates.

As Mr. Kutcher spoke to the senate, he spoke of a girl being “sold into sex.” Again, if sex were a morally neutral act, why emphasize the sex aspect of the crime? Why not just say, she was sold into slavery?

My point? Even those who criticize Christians for taking moral stances on sex (and related issues) know that sex is not a morally neutral, meaningless act.

The hardest part to hear of Mr. Kutcher’s talk was about a video of an extremely young child being sold for sex in Cambodia to an American tourist. Mr. Kutcher spoke of the girl being so conditioned that she thought she was “engaging in play.” I pause to use such a horrifying evil to make a point, but if morality is relative, as well as if sex is morally neutral, then what is there to condemn here? Can we honestly say our revulsion and disgust is simply personal preference? If sex is a morally meaningless act, and the girl does not even seem aware of what she’s doing, do we have any grounds to say this is wrong? Yet we know this is evil.

In fact, even the common refrain that all sex is morally neutral – or even morally good – as long as it is consensual fails here. If this exploited girl thinks of what she is doing as play, is it not consensual? Someone may counter, “Sex must be consensual between adults.” But within a worldview with no grounding for morality and where sex is morally neutral, why include this arbitrary stipulation that sex is only for adults with other adults? If sex is a meaningless act, what’s the harm of sex between an adult and child? In fact,pedophilia has been brought to its logical conclusion due to sexual relatively and some have started arguing that it’s just another morally neutral sexual orientation. (Don’t believe me?  See: HereHereHere)

Where the biblical view of sex is often mocked, it’s clear sex is not a morally neutral act.

And just as we need the God of the Bible to make any moral claim, the same God created sex and defines the moral perimeter surrounding sex. Scripture tells us sex is intimate, valuable, and powerful. If fact, it’s so powerful, homicide detectives say there are three main motivations for murder: power, money, and sex. Therefore, God gave clear guidelines concerning sex to protect intimacy, to protect its value, and, yes, to protect us.

When I taught high school in a “rough” area of New Jersey, I once had a student in in-school suspension who had a reputation of being “sexually liberated.” She was the type that was always talking loudly and never listening. Another student had purposely pushed her buttons to get her ranting, and she was going on and on about how what she does with her body is her business and why should God care who she “loves.”

The bell was about to ring, so I had to move on to my next class, but in the final second I had in the classroom – when she finally took a breath – I said, “I can tell you this, if more people listened to God about sex, there would be a lot less problems in the world.” And the craziest thing happened: the girl was quiet. She had nothing to say.

You don’t have to explain to a kid from the inner city what problems uninhibited sex causes.

 

 

 

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

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***SPOILER ALERT: This article speaks of The Walking Dead primarily in general, but events in Season 5, Episode 2 are discussed.***

In the last GFTM article where we looked at The Walking Dead from a Christian worldview, we explored how the Bible teaches that God restrains evil through governments (though those governments, being human, are imperfect). Once government collapses, evil is left to reign unrestrained.

Another way God restrains evil is through humankind’s innate morality.

So, the question is, is this innate moral law enough to suppress evil in a world of anarchy and chaos?

Are Humans Worse Than Zombies?

As discussed before, a major theme in The Walking Dead and nearly every post-apocalyptic TV show, movie, or book is the “good” man or woman struggling to hold on to his or her goodness in a world full of evil. Even in stories with people struggling to survive in post-apocalyptic environments – whether it be because of zombies or just lack of food – the main threat inevitably becomes other humans.

As The Walking Dead continues into Season 5, this is undeniable. In fact, the advertisements for the new season even read,

“Fight the dead. Fear the living.”

 

Further, in Season 5, Episode 2 (titled “Strangers”), we find this brief exchange:

Gabriel: “People are just as dangerous as the dead.”

Rick: “No, people are worse.”

 

Clearly, once law and order are gone, the darkness that is in people’s hearts is free to overflow like water behind a destroyed dam. Yet though we witness the internal struggles of Rick, Carl, Michonne, Tyree, Carol, and others to not be dragged completely down into the sludge – some characters teetering on the edge, maybe even going over it, but then pulling back again – they still manage to hold on to their humanity.

In fact, this often has a redeeming effect on them. Simply look at Michonne’s change from a woman who was quite crazy (to put it bluntly) and animal-like when they met her – wandering about with a samurai sword and leading two armless, jawless zombie slaves with her – to a person who actually smiles now – who actually makes an effort to bring others back from the brink, as seen in her relationship with Carl late in Season 4.

Despite the rest of the world succumbing to darkness, Rick Grimes’ crew often grasps on to what is right, even when it’s nearly impossible to do. This is, after all, why they are the heroes. Heck, it can even be quite easily argued that Daryl has become a better man because of this whole zombie nonsense.

But why? Why hold on to moral law in a world of lawlessness? Why do the right thing when everyone else openly pursues evil?

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The biblical, Christian worldview can answer this question:

Romans 1:18-20
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Romans 2:14-15
“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”

We are all created by God and made in his image (Genesis 1:27) and we live in his creation, meaning whether we claim we believe in God or not, we know him and we live in his reality.

What the above verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us is that everyone knows there is a God, and everyone has God’s law written on their hearts. They may deny God’s existence; they may suppress God’s truth because they love their sin; they may even be able to numb their conscience; but they all know God and know his Higher Law. Thus, they are without excuse.

Philosophers a long time ago realized if we have an innate sense of a Higher Law, then there must be a Higher Law-Giver. Again, the Bible confirms this. In fact, the Moral Law is not something God created apart from himself, but it proceeds from God’s very nature. God is perfectly good, just, and holy. Thus, God’s own nature is the source of good.

Morals Without God

Even when I was a self-professed atheist I recognized that one couldn’t make sense of morals without God. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that atheists don’t have morals. They certainly do. Indeed, what I’m saying is that atheists can’t make sense of their morals – they can’t justify them – if there is no God.

The fact that self-professed atheists still hold to morals in what they believe to be a mindless, meaningless universe that is only here by random chance shows that, in fact, they’re made in the image of God. The fact that atheists make stout, absolute moral claims, despite many believing morals are subjective (or only a convenience to assist survival), displays that they know there is a Universal Law, though their denial of Christ has perverted their sense of it.

Recently, a self-professed atheist tweeted me in response to something I had tweeted about this very subject. Essentially, he claimed the Bible promotes rape and murder. Now, anyone who has a decent understanding of the Bible knows this is not true, but to prove the point of my earlier tweet, instead of giving him a Bible lesson, I simply asked him to explain why, according to an atheistic worldview, rape and murder is wrong.

Here is some of the interaction. I polished up some of the “tweet-speak” to make it more readable:

 

Ben: “In what universe are rape and murder moral? The Bible says to do both.”

Me: “So, are you saying rape & murder are immoral? According to what standard?”

Ben: “According to the standards of anyone.”

Me: “Why is this a standard to everyone? Where does this value come from?… [Furthermore, you said,] ‘standards of anyone.’ Anyone?? [There’s] sure lots of rape & murder out there… Does majority define truth? If everyone said you were a duck, are you a duck?”

Ben: “Murder isn’t illegal because its ‘immoral,’ it’s illegal because no one wants to get murdered. Same with rape and stealing.”

Me: “So other people don’t want to be murdered. Why should I care? Survival of the fittest, baby. See my point?”

Ben: “No, because in today’s society there are consequences for your actions, and you’d most likely be killed as well, by police.”

Me: “So we shouldn’t do rape or murder because we’ll get arrested or killed but they’re not wrong to do. That’s what you’re saying.”

Ben: “Right and wrong are just subjective. Everybody believes whatever the **** they want to believe. So if you want to go rape and murder people, that’s not my problem, so I don’t give a ****.”

Me: “Right. Just wanted to be clear. So you have no grounds for making any moral judgment. Rape, murder, racism, “homophobia,” sexism, killing babies, killing in the name of religion, slavery, genocide – are all OK according to your worldview, right?”

Ben: “No, according to the Bible those are all OK. The Bible actually tells you to do those things.”

Me: “[Even] if it does [which it doesn’t], according to your worldview that’s no problem. So, there’s nothing to argue about. Everything is subjective, so who cares?”

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Christianity on Secular TV

Interestingly, Episode 2 of Season 5 introduced a Christian character, an Episcopalian priest named Gabriel. I’m always curious to see how secular TV portrays Christians, since Hollywood often portrays them as either crazy or evil.

It’s also interesting to watch Hollywood’s assuredly poor understanding of Christianity and the Bible. Once, I remember looking over at my wife during an episode of Lost after Mr. Eko made some “Christian” statements and asking her, “What Bible is he reading?”

What pop culture does with the Bible is essentially what cults do too: They pick and choose Bible verses, take them out of context, and use them how they want to use them, making them say whatever they want them to say. So, it’s always interesting (and entertaining and infuriating) to see how Hollywood uses Scripture, whether it be in horror movies about demonic forces or political dramas like an infamous scene from The West Wing where the president uses the ol’ Why do Christians follow some of the Bible but not everything in the Old Testament? argument, showing an utter void of understanding of biblical theology (just like real-life politicians, including our presidents).

(If you’d like to know how to respond to both make-believe presidents & real presidents concerning the Christian understanding and use of the Old Testament, read my articles Making Sense of Old Testament Laws, Part 1 and Part 2.)

As one can expect, as Rick Grimes’ crew checks out Gabriel’s church in “Strangers,” we see “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:54) in the sanctuary, which when not understood in context of the Lord’s Supper certainly sounds creepy, and certainly loosely fits with what both the zombies and the human cannibals pursuing our heroes do.

Another blogger did us a service by looking up verses seen on a verse board in the episode. All the verses have to do with the resurrection of the dead. Of course, the resurrection the Bible writers tell about is nothing like a zombie “resurrection” of the undead – but, hey, to be perfectly honest, if I was living through a zombie holocaust, I’m quite sure I’d be combing the Scriptures trying to make sense of what was going on as well.

But what this other blogger overlooked is one more verse used in the episode. The verse was in a framed picture quickly seen as our heroes searched the rooms of the church. Its message is quite fitting for The Walking Dead and is one we would all do well to remember:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
(Galatians 6:9)

 

NEXT: WHY AREN’T THINGS WORSE? & WE’RE ALL WALKING DEAD

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

Read the 1st article: “The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil” here.

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