“Biblical Morality: The Safest Choice”

My child, listen when your father corrects you.

Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.

What you learn from them will crown you with grace

And be a chain of honor around your neck.

My child, if sinners entice you,

    Turn your back on them!

 Proverbs 1:8-10 (NLT)


The older I get, the more I appreciate this verse’s candor. It’s hard sometimes to see myself as older and wiser to my children’s youth and inexperience, and it doesn’t help that we are in the middle of a major cultural dive into godlessness. Somehow we parents must help these young souls see that “this vile world,” while promising fun, excitement, and fulfillment, offers only one way tickets on a bullet train to eternal destruction.

With that realization weighing heavily in the back of my mind, today I read the heartrending letter a young woman wrote to her rapist in court. (The Stanford rape case, for those that are following in the news) It detailed her prolonged agony, pain, and humiliation as she went through the grueling process of pursuing justice. (Caution: This letter gives explicit details and some might not be comfortable reading it) As a parent, my one overwhelming response is how do I keep this from happening to my children?

There can be no doubt that the only person morally culpable for rape is the rapist. Neither the alcohol consumed, nor even the “culture of promiscuity” are free moral agents. Yet, us outside observers whose job is not to decide justice, but to learn from observation, should take a step back for a moment. We need to recognize that the circumstances surrounding this horrific crime owe their existence to an overabundance of foolish decisions that popular culture assumes to be perfectly normal. However, like the kid that always goads others into doing something dangerous, but pretends to adults that he is the one voice of restraint and reason on the playground, the supposedly wise voices of popular culture sit by as young people’s lives are shattered, and pretend that those young people weren’t doing exactly what our culture expected of them.

As believers, we are well acquainted with the common refrain that teaching young people Biblical morality is a hopelessly unrealistic goal.  Kids will be kids, and the best we can hope for is that they stay safe while they play next to the cliff. That mentality echoes in the painful details of this young woman’s story. We need to do better, and we can. It is God’s rules for life that offer the protection that our sons and daughters need, not pop culture’s muddled, self-defeating memes about responsible drinking, safe sex, and consent.

Without question, recreational consumption of alcohol is the one constant catalyst to all that factors leading to this young woman’s rape. Alcohol set her up to be a victim, and protected her rapist behind a shroud of uncertainty. Through intoxication, she forfeited the best weapon she had against assault, her own brain. By serving alcohol to him, someone unwittingly removed the inhibitions of a deeply depraved man. Not only did her rapist use the power of alcohol to subdue her, he used it to create a narrative that she could not dispute because her memory was erased. In her words, I read the influence of popular culture as she admitting that she drank too much, but concluded “Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much…” She faulted herself for miscalculating her own tolerance for alcohol, an estimation that is something like eyeballing how far out I can go on a limb before it cracks. Though she is not to blame for her victimization, there is little doubt that she and a multitude of other young women would not be victims if they heeded Scripture’s warning that when alcohol occupies a central place in life, there are bitter, painful results. (Prov. 23:29-32)

Like adding matches to gasoline, popular culture mixes in permissive sexuality with alcohol, the “social lubricant.” Young people head out the door with a “have fun and be safe,” and the deceptively simple sounding idea of consent. “Forget the outdated morality of the past, anything goes as long as you have consent.” Upon that muddled idea, many an evil man preys, and some innocent young men are snared. Consent is not nearly as concrete as culture assumes it to be, when you start asking difficult questions. There is no objective test for consent, and it gets really muddy when you try to determine what specifically has been consented to, for how long, and under what circumstances. How much alcohol does it take to make a person unable to provide consent, and what happens when both parties have passed that point? What happens when no one recalls with certainty who did what, and what consent was granted? Investigators risk either punishing an innocent person, or letting a guilty one go free. Would it not be better to recognize that these ambiguities are never present in the marriage bed of a husband and wife committed in a loving relationship for life?

Mr. Turner should be held accountable, (more than he was, in my opinion) and he should not be allowed to blame anyone for his crime. However, it is time for us also to recognize that our culture nurtured his depravity. We see that fact illustrated by his parents in the letter they wrote to the judge pleading for leniency because his life has been ruined. Yes, he raped a girl, but he’s a victim too in their eyes. While many are screaming (rightfully so) at him to step up and take responsibility, some of these same voices have just as strongly promoted the idea that everyone gets drunk and stupid sometimes. They have told young people that character and morality are so 20th century. They are fine allowing men to remain adolescents indefinitely, and encourage them to make college all about parties, sex, and booze. They certainly weren’t chiming in to tell this young man that he has a God given responsibility to protect and honor all women, and to love only one as long as they both shall live. That would be too politically incorrect.

Bad things happen, even to good people. Living life according to God’s rules doesn’t keep us from all harm and tragedy, but the greatest protection that our young people have is the wisdom and guidance of God’s Word. Only with grave foolishness would we neglect as parents to teach those truths simply because they are unpopular in today’s world.

–Thomas Hersman