Baby Boomer Sex and Sadness

Pro-lifers say the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade is about life. Pro-choicers say it’s about sex. Both are right.

Many of my baby boom cohorts are still greatly conflicted about sex. Some of us publicly avow a biblical worldview but, when it seems that no one is watching, fall back into the Playboy bait-and-switch philosophy. The bait is physical pleasure and a sense of psychological conquest. The switch becomes evident over time, when young bodies become old and loneliness swamps lust.

Purely through God’s grace I’ve been married faithfully for nearly 30 years instead of trying to build up stats concerning one-night or one-week stands — but it was a close call, and I still remember the appeals of the other side. Some baby boomers, still wanting it both ways, refuse to abide by the wall of separation between family and adultery.

"Open marriages" almost never work, for two reasons: They violate God’s commands and violate the nature God gave us. (We’re made in the image of a jealous God who can’t stand spiritual adultery, so why should anyone think we can smile through physical adultery?) Sometimes choices really are either-or: Become attached to one person, or practice non-attachment with many.

I’m not pointing the finger at non-Christians. Churches are supposed to be the alpha that leads us to the omega, the starting point for godly redirection that propels us toward the finish line. Instead, some church members pursue adultery and others wink at it, while the abc’s of alienation, brokenness and confusion take their toll.

We don’t have solid data about the frequency of adultery, but pollster George Barna found the divorce rate among evangelicals similar to the overall divorce rate — and you can bet that many of those divorces came after adultery. Some church members become debilitated by disease or complicit in an abortion, but even those spared such traumas generally become sad, perhaps never understanding the long-term satisfactions they have missed.

It’s all so sad. The Westminster Confession of Faith states accurately that our purpose in life is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," and forever begins right now, enjoying the gifts God has given us — such as the gift of terrific sex with a lifelong spouse. Adultery leading to divorce is a tragedy for the husband and wife, for their families, and for other couples in the church who may have troubled marriages and now think there’s an easy way out.

It’s also a tragedy for younger people in the church who have raging hormones and the acuity to ask a logical question: If middle-age folks who should be settled down don’t follow the rules, why should we? In other words, those who ignore "Do not commit adultery" are aiding and abetting those who ignore the command just before it, "Do not murder."

The paramount pro-life message on Jan. 22 should of course be, "Choose life." But pro-choicers are right to say that our parallel message has to be, "Abstain from sex outside marriage." A few married couples choose death for their unborn children, but the overwhelming majority of abortions come when the father and mother are not married to each other. We can lower the abortion rate by offering compassionate help and developing laws that protect the unborn, but the front line is abstinence from extra-marital sex — and older adults need to set a good example.

Evangelical pro-life efforts suffer when only 22 percent of non-Christians have a positive view of evangelicals generally. Part of the animosity can be laid at the feet of press bias, but many wounds are self-inflicted by actions that seem hypocritical. Societal reform always begins at home. Justin Martyr reported in the second century that conversion to Christ made a difference: "Those who once delighted in fornication now embrace chastity alone."

If sexual life inside the church isn’t distinctive from that outside, we have little hope of stopping abortion.