Shouting at Shadows

Tim Tebow is a virgin.

‘So?’ I hear you ask. ‘Who cares? (And by the way, Tim who?)’

Precisely. Tim Tebow is an American football player. A very good one, so far as I can make out. He’s also a Christian, and has been very open about his faith and the kind of lifestyle he lives because of it. Hence, certain members of the media felt it their duty to ask him about sex before marriage. Tim, who is single, affirmed that he had never had sex and would not until his wedding night.

Again, the response of most of us is ‘So?’ It’s a free country, he’s allowed to do what he likes, and until recently that was the presumed default position across most of the world; sex is for marriage. End of story.

Not any more. The people behind one website have not only mocked Tebow for his choices, a common reaction to people who stand up for their principles, but have actively encouraged him to “find a nice lady or two and enjoy his youth and fame as much as possible.” OK, well, that’s a somewhat warped vision of what youth and fame are for and where the most fun in the world can be found, but why should we be bothered about the opinion of one little website? Aren’t they entitled to their views just as much as Tebow is?

Well, yes they are, but they’ve taken it a step – or rather a giant leap – further. Not content to live and let live, they have put out a $1million bounty on Tebow’s virginity. Yes, that’s right, they’re offering $1m to any girl who can prove she has slept with Tim Tebow.

What? Why? Who would do such a thing? The website is called AshleyMadison.com and it specialises in helping people have extra-marital affairs. Its entire raison d’etre is to undermine committed marital relationships, and they are starting in on Tim before he’s even in one.

In a world where anything goes, it seems that abstinence is the last – or rather the new – taboo. Our society is committed to the message that you should live your life exactly as you wish to. No-one has the right to tell you who you can’t sleep with (with a few notable exceptions – paedophilia, thankfully, being one of them). AshleyMadison, however, thinks it has the right not only to mock a man for his choices, but to pressurise him into abandoning his principles and conforming to the choices of others.

“Sports and sex (and of course, infidelity) go hand in hand,” said AshleyMadison.com founder and CEO Noel Biderman. “We are beyond the days where pre-marital sex has a social stigma, and it is my hope that soon we will also feel the same about infidelity.” (Source: Esther Fleece, Washington Post)

Did you notice the shift there from ‘is’ to ‘ought’? Biderman moved very quickly from a statement of how things are – there is a lot of sex associated with sportspersons – to an expression of how things should, in his opinion, be.

I can’t begin to express how sick and angry this makes me feel. It’s bad enough to know that such a website exists and that there are people who are comfortable making a living out of facilitating the destruction of lives and families. That they would then seek not merely to provide a ‘service’ for those who already want sex outside of marriage, but to destroy a young man simply because he’s successful and stands for something contrary to them is just beyond my comprehension.

And then I look at the UK and notice that one of the big debates here currently is about gay marriage.

What is going on here? Why is one section of the population desperate to make lifelong commitments of fidelity to one another, while another section is desperately trying to undermine such commitments? How can both things be the product of the same culture?

The key is not to look for a cultural drive towards fidelity or infidelity, or even freedom or choice. TO understand it, we need to understand that it is a yearning for legitimacy.

Without society’s stamp of approval, people engaging in sex outside of marriage still feel they are doing something wrong. When fighting for Civil Ceremonies to recognise same-sex partnerships, campaigners assured us that this was not the first step on the road to same-sex marriage, and I am willing to believe that most of them genuinely believed that – they wanted all the legal rights of married couples, so what difference did the language really make? Having won that battle, however, I suspect that they have discovered that language does make a subtle but real difference. In having a different label from heterosexual couples, they are kept in a separate cognitive box – the words maintain the division although the legalities don’t. They thus still feel stigmatised and are inclined to lash out at those who are seeking to uphold what society still labels as the more legitimate standard.

They are shouting at shadows, though, fighting the wrong opponent. Both homosexuality and extra-marital sex have gained, over recent years, a far greater level of acceptance among the population as a whole. People may react when the actions affect them personally, but for the most part the man on the Clapham Omnibus couldn’t care less what his fellow passengers are doing in their private lives. The opponent isn’t society, it isn’t opinion, it isn’t civil law…it’s the moral law. The bonds against which they are straining are not external but are written on their hearts. They might be able to change society’s perceptions of what is right and wrong, but deep down, right and wrong remain constant; doing wrong will always hurt both perpetrator and victim, and no amount of money or law or internet coverage will change that.

Hurting Tim Tebow won’t make your own wrongs any less painful, or heal the wounds of your own heart; for that you need to turn to the One who set the moral law in your heart in the first place. He alone can forgive, cleanse and heal, and He alone can make you right with the world.

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