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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

“These should be boom times for sex.”

Thus began an article in The Atlantic titled, “Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?” The idea is that, in light of current cultural conditions, they should.

“The share of Americans who say sex between unmarried adults is ‘not wrong at all’ is at an all-time high. New cases of HIV are at an all-time low. Most women can—at last—get birth control for free and the morning-after pill without a prescription.

“If hookups are your thing, Grindr and Tinder offer the prospect of casual sex within the hour. The phrase ‘If something exists, there is porn of it’ used to be a clever internet meme; now it’s a truism. BDSM plays at the local multiplex—but why bother going? Sex is portrayed, often graphically and sometimes gorgeously, on prime-time cable. Sexting is, statistically speaking, normal.

“Polyamory is a household word. Shame-laden terms like perversion have given way to cheerful-sounding ones like kink. Anal sex has gone from final taboo to ‘fifth base’—Teen Vogue (yes, Teen Vogue) even ran a guide to it. With the exception of perhaps incest and bestiality—and of course nonconsensual sex more generally—our culture has never been more tolerant of sex in just about every permutation.

“But despite all this,” the article baited, “American teenagers and young adults are having less sex.”

This, it would seem, would be the “good” news.  At least for those who feel that sex outside of marriage is not God’s plan for sexual expression, much less fulfillment.

The bad news?

After a lengthy examination, several suggestions were put forward as to why. None of them encouraging. But two were deeply disturbing.

First, what the writer calls “sex for one.” In short, the ubiquitous nature of porn has led to a retreat from sexual interaction with other people. In short, we’ve traded sex with others for masturbation to a digital image. As one observer put it, this is “a generation that found the imperfect or just unexpected demands of real-world relationships with women less enticing than the lure of the virtual libido.” This is not mere conjecture. Studies have shown that from 1992 to 2014, the share of American men who reported masturbating in a given week doubled, and the number of women tripled. Why? Pornography.

A second concerning reason was simply called “bad sex,” and it, too, was porn-related. As one leading sex researcher at Indiana University has had to counsel her students: “If you’re with somebody for the first time, don’t choke them, don’t ejaculate on their face, don’t try to have anal sex with them. These are all things that are just unlikely to go over well”—all things prominently featured in pornography. Young people today are simply more likely to engage in sexual behaviors prevalent in pornography. “All of this might be scaring some people off… and contributing to the sex decline.”

This is worth quoting at length:

“Painful sex is not new, but there’s reason to think that porn may be contributing to some particularly unpleasant early sexual experiences. Studies show that, in the absence of high-quality sex education, teen boys look to porn for help understanding sex—anal sex and other acts women can find painful are ubiquitous in mainstream porn… In my interviews with young women, I heard too many iterations to count of ‘he did something I didn’t like that I later learned is a staple in porn,’ choking being one widely cited example.

“If you are a young woman, and you’re having sex and somebody tries to choke you, I just don’t know if you’d want to go back for more right away.”

All to say, we’re beginning to see ever more clearly what the first generation raised on porn is having that exposure do to them.

Good news? Teen sex is down.

The bad news?

Why.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Kate Julian, “Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?,” The Atlantic, December 2018, read online.
 

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

Fat in Church

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 40% of all American adults are not simply overweight, but obese. That’s more than 93 million people. And it starts young and increases with age. The CDC reports 13.8% of preschool-age children (2-5 years), 18.4% of school-age children (6-11 years), and 20.6% of adolescents (12-19 years) are obese. Most of us know that obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. But this is just obesity, defined as being 35 pounds or more overweight. When you look at the combined numbers of those who are obese or simply overweight, two out of every three people are affected. 

But then there’s what a Fox News article once called “fat in church.” Studies show Christians as a whole are heavier than the general population. This includes one-third of all pastors. As one researcher put it, “America is becoming a nation of gluttony and obesity and churches are a feeding ground for this problem.”   

Ouch.

When it comes to our bodies, we can either fixate, desecrate or consecrate.

A fixation with our bodies is tying them to our sense of self-worth, whether we are (or can be) loved and accepted by others. It’s making our body the essence of what we think will make us happy or whole. It’s when we’ve reduced our sense of security and esteem to how we look and, from that, have turned loose an insecurity that trivializes what it means to value others as well as ourselves. The words of Scripture ring clear: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (I Peter 3:3-4, NLT).

The other extreme is to desecrate our bodies. To desecrate something is to violate it, to take something that should be held sacred, held in esteem, and treat it with contempt. When we allow ourselves to get overweight, and particularly become obese, we desecrate our bodies. The Bible is very clear on this: “When you eat... always do it to honor God” (I Corinthians 10:31, CEV).

The call of God on our lives is not to fixate on our bodies or desecrate them. The call is to consecrate them. That’s not a word we use too much anymore, but it’s an important one. To consecrate something is to set it aside, to mark it as holy. When you consecrate something, you set it aside for a sacred purpose. And that is what the Bible would encourage us to do with our bodies: “… offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, NIV). Why? Again, from the Bible: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?... therefore, honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV).

The Bible teaches that our body is a sacred place where God dwells through the Holy Spirit. So when it comes to our bodies, we’re on holy ground. If you are a Christ-follower, you are dealing with something that God not only made, but actually inhabits. It’s not just flesh and blood—there is a spiritual dynamic that is a part of your body. So caring for it in any and every way needed is part of the management responsibility we have before God.

If we don’t, it impacts us spiritually.

Something like obesity dulls your spiritual senses. It cheapens your life and deadens the core of your being. Which is why fasting has always been a spiritual discipline. There is a relationship between what you do with your body and your relationship with God.

I like how Eugene Peterson paraphrases the apostle Paul’s advice in his first letter to the Corinthians: “You know the old saying, ‘First you eat to live, and then you live to eat?’ Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food... Since the Master honors you with a body, honor him with your body!” (I Corinthians 6:13, Msg).

Yes.

James Emery White

 

Sources

“Adult Obesity Facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, read online.

Christopher J.L. Murray, Marie Ng and Ali Mokdad, “The Vast Majority of American Adults Are Overweight or Obese, and Weight Is a Growing Problem Among US Children,” IHME, read online.

“Overweight and Obesity Statistics,” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, read online.

Justin Caba, “Clergy Members Battle Obesity: One-Third of Pastors in the US Are Obese,” Medical Daily, January 13, 2015, read online.

“Fat in Church,” Fox News, June 3, 2012, read online.

 

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

It was a fascinating project.

Two Danish researchers traveled to 54 newsrooms in nine countries in search of desperately needed innovation in journalism. Their motivation was clear: “When citizens of Western societies, to a deeply disturbing extent, turn their backs on original news journalism, spend less time on news on radio or television, buy fewer newspapers, and express a growing distrust of media institutions, we need to submit the core content of the news media – journalism itself – to a critical review.”

They found that the crisis of journalism and legacy news media “is structural, and not just a matter of technological challenges or broken business models.” As a result, they found that the “news media most successful at creating and maintaining ties with their readers, users, listeners and viewers will increasingly be media that dare challenge some of the journalist dogmas of the last century.”

They walked away with nine core ideas, nine different ways (or movements) by which news media in the Western world are currently trying to “forge closer ties and stronger relations to their communities and audiences.” Here are the nine: 

  1. From neutrality to identity. Let people know exactly what you stand for, who you are and from which perspective you view the world. 
     
  2. From omnibus to niche. Create strong bonds with a very targeted audience. You can’t reach everyone, so don’t try.
     
  3. From flock to club. You aren’t after users or readers, but members who register or pay to join into a community.
     
  4. From ink to sweat. Quit thinking of journalism as simply a story you write or tell; create physical journalism in the form of public meetings, festivals, events and stage plays. Think “live and engaging.” 
     
  5. From speaking to listening. Move from a “walled-up fortress” to an open and accessible house. Personal dialogue, physical presence… have the conversation be two-way.
     
  6. From arm’s length to cooperation. In the name of “independence” and “neutrality,” modern journalism has kept its distance from various citizens and interest groups, not to mention public institutions and private corporations. The move now is to involve citizens directly in everything from research to delivery. Even the subsequent debate of published stories.
     
  7. From own to other platforms. The old idea that it weakens business opportunities and journalistic control when content is released on social media is being replaced with the idea that at least cooperation with social media has the potential to enhance and deepen engagement and strengthen journalism itself.
     
  8. From problem to solution. Don’t just denounce or decry, or simply reveal and relay—add a solution-oriented dynamic to the work. “They read more, they are more likely to share content, and they express more interest in knowing more about the issue when the piece has a constructive angle.”
     
  9. From observers to activists. Taking a campaign-oriented approach to journalism, or advocacy mindset, creates relevance. 

The researchers find no reason “to preach one particular model… for the future. All the experiments and ideas unfolding in the current media landscape… indicate that there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of different models, all of which carry a hope for the church in the future.”

The bottom line is that the church of the future will exist because of a focus on innovation and experiment. It will be founded on the courage and ambition of radical innovation. There will have to be a new understanding of the need for dramatic change and open-ended experiments. The message and intent is timeless and not to be changed, but the methods must be ruthlessly reevaluated.

Oops. Did I just write “church?” I meant “journalism.”

Or did I.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Per Westergaard & Soren Schultz Jorgensen, “54 Newsrooms, 9 Countries, and 9 Core Ideas,” Nieman Lab, July 11, 2018, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

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