“A University of Illinois at Chicago student leader has been charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old female student in what Cook County prosecutors say was a re-enactment of scenes from the film ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’”
So says the February 24 edition of the Chicago Tribune.
To read the story is to have one’s stomach turned. The student who is alleged to have committed the abuse and rape, Mohammad Hussain, “had been involved with several UIC leadership programs, was a student ambassador to the alumni association and was on the triathlon team.”
Hearing of his previous posts, a shocked Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. asked Cook County public defender Sandra Bennewitz, “how can someone involved in all that let a movie persuade him to do something like this?”
I’ll take a shot at answering for Ms. Bennewitz: We live in a culture in which sexual boundaries are pushed in every direction, in which supposedly universal standards are neither universal nor consistent.
We roundly (and rightly) condemn the sexual exploitation of women and girls and deplore human trafficking. At the same time, “feminists” demand unrestricted access to abortion-on-demand even as they decry the exploitation of women in the marketplace (“equal pay for equal work”), failing to note that the abortion industry is predatory.
We tell our children how much we value them, yet “the percentage of U.S. teenagers aged 15 to 17 who have grown up with both biological parents always married—is 46 percent.” In other words, more than half of all American children are growing up in homes where their parents have rejected one another.
President Obama says, “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it's the courage to raise one.” Yet his Justice Department, arguing against California’s Proposition 8, argued that “that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.”
In other words, fathers matter – but not really, as any two adults will do.
Families are collapsing and the centrality of absolute moral standard is demeaned, and we wonder why moral chaos is growing. As the late Carl Henry wrote in a piece on post-modernism, “Absolute relativism prevails; objective truth is intolerable and non-existent. Not only is any transcendent center of reality disavowed, but the unrelieved flux that replaces it has no center.”
And yet people still stay in their lanes when they drive because they know not to do so invites collision, injury or death. Adultery still stings because the affirmation of trust and the devastation of betrayal are rooted in the conscience. Parents care for their children because, intuitively, they want to protect and provide for them. Young people long caring moms and dads, without whose presence there is a void in their lives.
We know these things. They are written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). Yet we callous ourselves to the truth about morality, sexual and otherwise, unprepared for the inevitable consequences of behaviors that don’t comport with the divine image we bear.
The hardening of hearts within our society seems to be growing and, thus, conduct consistent with such coarsening becomes more prevalent.
So a young student leader – a liaison to his school’s alumni, of all things – is enticed by a film to abuse and assault a girl. Will everyone who watches “Fifty Shades” do this kind of thing? Of course not. But some will, and perhaps more than would have previously, because their inner moral foundation is so unsteady that to act-out what they have viewed is, to them, not just acceptable but defensible. It’s their truth, right?
Social and personal moral incoherence fosters increased behavioral deviancy. This should be as obvious as the sun’s eastern rising.
What to do? For starters, Christians can model, in imitation of Christ and in faithfulness to His teachings, a better way. Often we don’t. But that makes the model itself no less valid, nor one we should diminish or abandon.
We should embrace what theologian David Wells calls “the holy-love of God.” Speaking truth in love, actively looking for lost or near-lost sheep and showing them kindness, interest, and respect, and living lives of grace and integrity, we and our families can show a corroding culture what wholeness means.
Rob Schwarzwalder is the Senior Vice-President of the Family Research Council.
Publication date: February 25, 2015