Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sin: A Moving Target

Sin and our attitude toward it is an interesting thing. Not that long ago, divorce taboo. Fornication was also taboo. It’s interesting how different things are today. We’re much more accepting of divorce than we used to be. As for fornication, you can’t hardly watch a television show these days without someone at least implying that he is sleeping with his girlfriend. And for that matter, look at the Tyler Clementi case. I don’t condone what Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei are accused of, but the biggest concern people seem to have right now seems to be how to stop such bullying and no one seems to be concerned about what else was going on in the room at the time. Tyler Clementi is not innocent, but because he died people want to put all the blame on his roommate.

First let’s consider the alleged crime of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei. If I had someone using my dorm room for romantic encounters with a lover—either man or woman—I would be more than a little upset, so I can understand the temptation to do what they are accused of doing. We can’t really know their motives. For all I know, they may have just thought it was funny and wanted other people to see. But if we ignore what was actually happening and consider that a level of privacy should be expected in a dorm room so that the people living there can change clothes etc. Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei had no right to turn the camera on Tyler Clementi without his permission.

But why aren’t more people outraged over what was going on in that room? Forget that it was with another man. Suppose it was with a woman. It wouldn’t be any more right and yet the big question seems to be whether Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei—who weren’t actually at the bridge when Tyler Clementi jumped—can be charged with murder. As writers, that should scare us. Imagine if a politician decided to take his life after some news reporter exposed his impropriety. Is the reporter now responsible for the man’s death? But to look at this and think “well, he was just having sex with someone he wasn’t married to.” What are we thinking?

Simply put, we’re not as disgusted by sin as we once were. With divorce, it was considered a bad thing until it go close to home. When our friends began getting divorced and when family members began getting divorced we found it hard to take the hard line, saying that divorce is wrong. Basically, it’s the herd mentality. We learn that something is wrong and it’s easy to hang onto that conviction as long as the people around us agree with it. But when we see the people around us doing the things we know to be wrong we begin to question our convictions. You’ve seen riots and looting on television. Everyone knows it’s wrong to smash a store window to grab the televisions inside. On a normal day, most people won’t do that, but in a riot many people do it. The assumption is that it can’t be wrong if everyone is doing it. People are willing to accept fornication, divorce, adultery and any number of other things because it appears that everyone is doing it.

What’s the solution? How do we know what is right and wrong if going by the actions of those around us is an inaccurate method? As your mother used to say, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it?” Of course you wouldn’t, but it isn’t always so simple. And yet, it is. It comes down to a question of whether we want to please God or please man. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Instead of looking around us and questioning what other people think is right and wrong, we should be looking into the word of God and asking what God’s law says about what is right and wrong. We need to be taking a stand for what God says, not following after other people because it seems right.

So if that’s right, then God has something to say about the actions of Dharun Ravi, Molly Wei and Tyler Clementi. Take a look at Leviticus 18. It has a great deal to say about uncovering the nakedness of various people. In another place, God forbade the a high alter and required the priests to wear pants under their robes so their nakedness would not be exposed. Based on the principle we see here, the apparent actions of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei were wrong because they exposed the nakedness of two other people. But at the same time, God has something to say about the actions of Tyler Clementi and his friend. Also in Leviticus 18 is the command, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.” So where should we stand on this issue? We should stand with God and say very simply that they were all wrong.