April 27, 2021

Being the Bad Nine Year Olds

So I’m hosting a seminar for a bunch of pastors overseas who have been reading my book Being the Bad Guys.

Sales seem to be going well. There have been a lot of positive reviews, and more importantly, many, many comments from people contacting me to say that I have been able to articulate what they have been thinking and feeling for some time. It’s fun spending time encouraging ministry leaders, in particular, to figure out ways to help their congregations navigate this complex sexular landscape.

Fun and chilling.

Because here’s what the organiser of the aforementioned seminar just sent me today:

Off the back of our conversation, my home city is exactly where Australia is on the sexual ethic – you are not our future, we’re living it together. End of last week my 9 year old came home from school crying, because they sat and watched a video with women kissing and had to write on their personal whiteboard what they thought of it. She’s nine!

If it swims like a groomer, quacks like a groomer and has feathers like a groomer, I’d call it a groomer, yeah?

Imagine any other context in which an adult in charge of a cohort of nine year olds can show them a sexualised lesbian relationship and then ask them “How do you feel about that?”

Imagine any other context that doesn’t involve at least a whiff of grooming. The fact that it is a state-sponsored duck, er, groomer, does not make it less a groomer for that. The state is grooming your children. That’s a plain and simple fact. It isn’t going to happen. It’s been happening. Get off your iPad, switch off the tele, pack away the TV dinner, put away your work distractions and get with the program.

And if a child in the class writes “good” after being asked their opinion – as a nine year old child may indeed do -, then I guess the language around consent just got pretty rubbery.

The irony! Here we are currently wringing our hands over the issue of consent at the front door of the Sexular Age, lamenting the fact that young men don’t take no for an answer with young women, and we’re letting paedophilia in the back door.

As a psychologist observed upon hearing this story, the real danger is how it blurs the lines for those nine year olds who may in fact be being sexually abused. How do they navigate their concerns and fears when other adults they thought of as safe adults in their lives are sexualising them as well?

And if a child writes “bad”? Well that’s going to be something that the professionals in the school will have to address. Maybe bring the parents in. Speak to the school psychologist. See if there are any contributing factors at home that may have led to this nine year old taking on such destructive values. Maybe some extra homework. Get them to watch a few episodes of Queer as Folk perhaps.

The new sexual ethic – the post-Christian sexual ethic – cannot, indeed will not, be compartmentalised. It’s a package deal. As many of us have been saying to anyone with the nous to listen.

And with that, let me ask this question of those who have pushed back against the things I have written, who have claimed that I am obsessed with sex in the way that they are, say, obsessed with something like refugee rights (a nice little put down there that’s actually been said to me): “Just where will you draw the line? At what point will you raise your hand and say “Too far!”?

Affirming Christians are all the rage at the moment. Welcoming is so 2019, it no longer passes muster. Affirming is all the rage. It’s almost chic. My Facebook feed is full of those who say that they belong to the church, but they also affirm.

Here’s the thing: affirming becomes addictive. The sexualisation of our children, and the almost manic desire to see them explore their sexuality at younger and younger ages, is part of the Sexular package. You can’t be affirming of good middle class same-sex relationship adults who attend your church, and put a boundary marker on everything else such as nine year olds being asked how they feel about lesbian sex.

You may think you can, and you may even want to, and I have no doubt that many of you want to because you have a moral framework given to you by the gospel. But here’s the thing: that’s not how the Sexular Age works. It has no safety brake like you do, or at least like you think you do. It does not recognise your moral framework. It holds to a different moral framework altogether.

Hence you cannot cherrypick the sexual revolution. It’s all in or all out. It’s like trying to drink the non-poisonous bits of a glass of water with a droplet of poison in it.

Try to set artificial boundary markers – a semi-Christianised version of covenantal relationships that recognises same sex marriage as honouring to God for example -, and the Sexular Age will turn on you in an instant. Unless you can come up with a deep, rich theological, traditionally secure reason why “this” is okay, but “that” is not okay, you will have no choice but to keep on affirming whatever moral rabbit is pulled out of the sexuality hat. “For my latest trick: Taddah! Bet you didn’t see that one coming!”

Or you will have a choice. You can beat a hasty retreat, lick your wounds, and admit that you blew it. And then regather some orthodoxy if you can. My guess is you will go inexorably onwards, because that’s easier, and because you, yourself, will be affirmed if you do. And being affirmed is just as addictive as affirming.

Having basked in affirmation for so long, as opposed to being scolded for being the bad guys, you will find that you have grown a deep-rooted, wildly sprouting desire to be affirmed.

As Jesus himself said in The Beatitudes:

Blessed are you when others affirm you and speak well of you and heap all sorts of praise on you on my account.

Or was it the other way around? I forget.

If you can navigate a path that retains “affirming” but rejects the grooming of nine year olds in classrooms by the state, then you’ve got your work cut out for you to find a way to ensure that two plus two does not equal five. In other words, you will become a linguistic and philosophical contortionist. Or in even other “other” words, a false teacher.

It will end in tears. That’s obvious. And if not tears for you, then for a whole bunch of now-nine-year-olds who in twenty years time will look back at these moments and ask the adults in their lives one of two questions “Why did you set me up to be groomed?” or “Why did you watch on and do nothing about it?”

I don’t particularly want to tell the nine year olds in my social setting of church about sex. I don’t think that’s age appropriate. But maybe we’re going to have to. Maybe we need to take a deep sigh and sit them down and do so, in order to counter the pernicious sexular discipleship program going on in our schools and on social media. It’s a relentless barrage. And as I say in my book, I only write about the topic so much because it’s the grid through which so much is viewed.

And maybe there’s a challenge for us non-revisionist Christians who don’t like to rock boats. Perhaps a bit of boat rocking is necessary. As we scroll through social media, seeing comments from affirming Christians who challenge orthodoxy without ever having the fortitude to fully come out and say so, perhaps it’s time to stop thinking it’s cute that we can all get along.

Perhaps it’s time to ask them publicly – not rudely, but incisively -, where they would draw the line, and why they would draw it “there” and not “there” for example? And what they think might happen if they did indeed draw a line clearly in the sand. Because it’s as plain as day that the Sexular Age no longer has a line that it will not rub out and redraw. And woe betide any who find themselves not jumping quick-smart over that freshly redrawn line.

The Sexular Age does not give you a multi-choice about what you affirm. There are no “out” clauses for the religiously squeamish. It’s all in or go home. Oh and if you go home, we’ll want to know what’s going on there too.

The pressure is not on non-revisionist Christians to explain themselves to affirming ones, it’s on the affirmers to explain just where they would draw a line. Because if they can’t answer that in mid 2021, then they certainly won’t be able to answer it in mid-2031 when the grooming of nine year olds by the state will be fondly viewed as a lost age of innocence.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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