I just read the much-talked about Vanity Fair profile on the increased usage of online dating apps like Tinder for “hooking up” and “casual sex.” I was late to reading this, but I’ll confess to being shocked and not shocked simultaneously. Just a couple of passing thoughts:
- The article is soaked with despair, irony, and unfulfillment. We think we know what satisfies, but we don’t. Because the human appetite craves novelty, we’re led to believe by fallen desires that indulging in as much consensual, non-monogamous sex as possible, will enrich our lives. That is demonstrably false, both biblically, and from the online testimony of both men and women who are now ritually unable to have lasting relationships because “hooking up” has displaced the role of real, lasting, and deep intimacy. The negative effects and outcomes which the article profiles—psychologically and physiologically—are incredible and ought to serve as a warning.
- We’re designed to think in terms of plausibility structures and moral imaginations. The plausibility structure at play with Tinder is the Sexual Revolution built on sexual individualism; and the moral imagination in play is one that looks to eroticism and novelty as peak human experiences that fulfill our moral horizons and paint a landscape of satisfaction. Again, biblically, and by virtue of online testimony, this is false.
- Perhaps, church, the time has come for us to view the Christian sexual ethic less in terms of consumption and frequency; and more in terms of a moral imagination organized around one principle: the glory of God. Sexual pleasure, yes; but also covenantal faithfulness, long-suffering devotion, perseverance, sacrifice, and permanence—these are lasting icons of the Christian moral imagination when applied to marriage. Please hear me: This is not about reinvigorating prudeness. It is not about denying the beauty of erotic experience that God gives to us. It is, rather, about locating, securing, and anchoring these goods and virtues within marriage itself—where God designed it to occur. Frequent one-night stands are not beautiful, which means neither are they true or good. The story tells of a medical phenomenon of young men who experience erectile dysfunction because, physiologically, their bodies lack the deep intimacy it craves necessary to sustain sexual health. It tells of women being reduced to sexual receptacles whose value is leveraged on their appearance, not their being. It shows their longing for something more, but is also reveals their settling with this paradigm.
- What is this experience we’re seeing happen? It’s replacement theology. Tinder is replacement theology. It replaces biblical sexuality with the sexual zeitgeist of contemporary American culture—which is a false god named Eros. It is impossible for there not to be a sexual ethic guided by our deepest convictions. It’s a question of whose ethic; and the ethic of progressivism, liberalism, and Sexual Revolution (rooted in the rejection of Godly limits) is failing people in their sin. Why? Because sin fails people. It leaves them hollow. The Vanity Fair article screams hollowness. It narrates the silent screams of a generation habituated on cheapened notions of sexuality, the body, and deep relationship.
- The article is evidence 101 of how to how-to-make-sexual-revolution-refugees. The Vanity Fair profile is like watching the timed-implosion of a New York City skyscraper. We all know it is going to fall. The author and its interviewees testify to the diminishing returns of sexual freedom. Academics will translate sexual sin into academic jargon, for the sake of explaining away the pain that results from sexual sin, and in hopes of justifying further license. The church must stand in the ruins of the Sexual Revolution and fill in the gap with a better story. Christians, admittedly, have not always lived up to that story. But let us encourage one another on in faithfulness, hope, and thankfulness for a Savior that fills us with the power of the Holy Spirit to live lives of purity and faithfulness.
- It doesn’t always look like it; and as much as Christians fail to live up to their own teachings, the moral-ethical imagination of Christianity is superior. It will win. The story of the octogenarian married couple, who can no longer engage in erotic pleasure, but hold one another dear at night for the sake of their personhood and commitment—that is beautiful. But sadly, it will take the loss, despair, hurt, and ugliness of a culture to recover the beauty of the Christian sexual ethic.