Columnists > Soul Food

Higher love

Modern sexual "candor" has set us back

Issue: "Chistendon's Kosher Allies," Feb. 15, 1997

Homosexuality is a contemporary commonplace and nobody is much surprised if a next door neighbor suddenly comes out of the closet. Modern gurus no longer consider it a sin and some churches no longer regard it as an obstacle to ordination. Some political handicappers treasure it as a vote-getting asset, and television coverage can handle it much like a rite of passage to modernity.

At the ripe age of 83 I care to wonder what I have missed by being normal, or whether in that long lifespan I showed any symptoms that I secretly wish weren't there.

My inference as to how backyard chickens reproduce after their kind overtook me rather early in life. Yet until my mid-teens I thought that human propagation somehow arose from random or unrestricted kissing.

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Still, I doubt that scientific analysis of every possible sexual maneuver has taken us higher. Men and women used to proceed without benefit of detailed modern breeding instructions, and they did not in the process forfeit the mystery of sex, or the awe of spawning a successor.

These days a condom and/or an abortion clinic promises to shield sheer pleasure from transcendent responsibility, but a six-year-old can be expelled from school for sexual harassment for smooching a fellow student rather than a doll.

Three events that I recall should be data for a Kinsey report, other than that I was a breast-fed baby (which post-liberals might find theologically significant).

Soon after I could walk I tried hobbling around the house in my mother's shoes. This one not-very-successful experiment was sufficient to cure me. Thereafter if I wanted to imitate a tolerant mother, it was not going to involve straddling her footgear.

Two other events date to my secular newspaper years. High-school graduation in 1929 overlapped the Great Depression. The scantily attended churches were unable to cope with growing numbers of unemployed and impoverished townspeople. Many communities sponsored an all-male comedy called a "Womanless Wedding." The joke was which young man was behind the bridal veil. The hour-long performance culminated in a wedding in which the "bride's" identity was revealed.

As a somewhat well-known newspaper reporter I was asked confidentially to take the role of the bride. A capacity audience filled a local church and we raised $75 to supplement the unemployment fund. I wondered whether the slim collection was because the bride couldn't really deliver as expected, but in those "brother can you spare a dime?" days townspeople had very few to spare.

My newspaper colleagues were an assorted lot, including both God-fearing and wife-swapping types. Among them the woman's-page editor was a rather effeminate sort who commuted between preparing food and fashion pages and spending weekends in New York City. Once we made an overlapping trip to New York and he persuaded me en route briefly to stop at one of his clubs which, it developed, admitted only secretly coded members and their guests. Never had I seen so many weirdoes in one time and place.

I still was quite ignorant about Sodom and Gomorrah, and even about Lot and his wife. But a voice seemed to be saying, "Run for your life, or you'll be swept away." That signaled my hurried exit to a place where one can be surer that his name is written in the book of access.

In the '30s, as editor of a Long Island weekly newspaper, I received complimentary tickets to the World's Fair. In the interim I had become an evangelical believer; my life was now guided by the Star of Bethlehem. The headline sexlet in those days was Sally Rand, a fan dancer whose gyrations drew block-long crowds. My tickets included one good for a peek at Sally. While waiting in line my uneasy conscience persuaded me that the apostle Paul would quickly find other priorities. I tore my ticket to shreds and in doing so gained a mile in the Christian walk.

Today television imports nakedness into our living room, rather than confining it to the bedroom, and rollicks in animality. Sodom has overtaken Main Street, and Lot's wife-who turned to salt-is heralded as a heroine attested by Nielson ratings and hard cash.

Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians to "glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:20) seems to contemporaries to involve a confusion of categories. But the Scriptures have it right after all: The glorification of sex soon encourages the demonization of God.

Carl H. F. Henry
Carl H. F. Henry

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