Southern Cross MAY-JUNE 2022

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Adultery of the heart L u st i s j u st a b o u t e v r y w h in the 21 s e r i o u l y a r e C h r i st a n taking it, ask B ALLANTINE

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he bombshell section on lust from Matthew 5:28 –

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” – makes desperate reading for many Christians. We live in a sex-saturated world and not many of us are exempt from these hard words once thoughts and desires are introduced. Those familiar with Dr Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self will understand how complicated even discussing sexuality has become. Personal identities have evolved from being psychologised, romanticised and plasticised to now being sexualised. The prevailing ideology sweeping through our institutions, media and bureaucracies is that identity is defined by sexuality. Happiness is the prevailing lens that determines right and wrong in society, and we are a highly individualistic society. Sex is a depersonalised function. What complicates things is that since identities are selfdetermined, sexualised and undergirded by the drive for happiness, traditional Christian teachings on sexuality feel wrong. To oppose a person’s sexual actions, beliefs or feelings risks causing them harm, which is deemed immoral. So is anyone going to take Jesus’ words about lust seriously? As a researcher of child and adolescent behaviours, I see another perspective worth adding to Trueman’s analysis. Most post-internet people (anyone who lived their adolescent years with access to the internet) have had additional exposure to sexualised culture. Typically, a child now gets access to the internet at around 11 years of age. They get their first social media account at 11. They encounter pornography at 11. 26

By the age of 15, 100 per cent of females and 90 per cent of males are active on social media, spending about two hours a day online. Seventy per cent of males and 21 per cent of females regularly view pornography. Unsurprisingly, the more porn they consume, the more they will objectify women, seek out sexualised behaviour, have lower empathy and poorer conduct. They are more narcissistic. So, while the world’s values assault from outside, individuals are being shaped from within by technology. Anecdotally, as a parent, educator and past youth worker, I see the effect this is having on young Christians. There is an increased tolerance for sexualised behaviour. Of casual sex, sexual behaviours when dating, of dating couples regularly travelling alone together. Rampant pornography addiction. Sexualised fashion and swimwear. A high tolerance for, and indifference to, consuming sexualised movies and shows. Unfettered and endless self-promotion on social media. Their ministers, sadly, are often shining examples for narcissistic self-promotion. More, I detect a deeper resentment – even offence – at the traditional biblical teaching of sexual ethics and abstinence until marriage. Recently I was challenged by some young Christian men for speaking against their porn use, because “it’s private, none of your business”. There is a lack of hunger for God’s will on these matters. Of course, not everyone is like this, but I feel the world is winning over many young Christian hearts and minds and they don’t know it. We have to stop and listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:28, because he takes a blowtorch to our world’s hypersexualised values. SouthernCross

May 2022