Thinking About "Boundaries"...

Yesterday my new friend Joan Ball commented on a post about a new swingers' club in Portland:

Your post made me think less of sex clubs or porn and more about boundaries. How much is too much and who draws that line? I think some of the "old school conservatives" you mentioned draw it (rightly or wrongly) at same sex marriage. You may draw it at sex clubs - but will your kids? Maybe, maybe not. For them the notion of sex in a public place might seem perfectly natural having grown up in a world where threesomes in hot tubs on MTV are normal fare. Some eighth graders in my community were caught playing spin the bottle replacing oral sex for kissing a couple of years ago. Where will they draw boundaries when they are 24? Does every generation eventually become "conservative" in the eyes of the ones that follow? I believe that a pursuit of answers to these questions and the quest to find balance between rigidity and excess will be a great challenge for our culture (in and out of the faith dialog) in years to come...

I think this is incredibly thoughtful, and appreciate the fair-mindedness Joan brings to her estimation.  I think she's right: much of what we talk about in terms of "morality" is culturally (and generationally) constructed.

So swingers today, hippies yesterday, flappers before that... Every generation has its progressives willing to push boundaries and test old ideas about right and wrong.  Every generation has conservatives, who aren't necessarily all that conservative - and often aren't mean-spirited, as pop-culture regularly portrays - but merely folks who are comfortable within the "norms" with which they grew up and found their place in this world.

I won't go on a tirade here about how I think the Gospel has absolutely nothing to do with "comfortable"... but I think the Gospel has absolutely nothing to do with "comfortable."

"How much is too much?" Joan asks.  And I ask myself that question a lot.  I think there should be freedom between consenting adults.  But what exactly does "consent" mean?  If we're wounded, co-dependent products of a social organism that pushes sexuality like an over-abused drug, then are we really giving informed, mature (adult) consent?  Or are we just jittery guinea pigs responding dutifully to stimuli?  Yes, yes, yes, everyone has a choice, but has anyone bothered to tell us that?

What it comes down to for me is health.  Are we living in a way that is healthy?  Are our children?  Trends come and go, the social pendulum swings back-and-forth, and there are always people who are healthy within the culture-at-large, and those who are not.  Those who are not seem to consistently dance on the poles of social extremity: vehement renunciation/condemnation and reckless abandon/hedonism.  

The folks who are healthy seem to be healthy, not because of what they do or do not do, but because of the balance, perspective, and maturity with which they view and approach society's given norms.

  • You can push boundaries and practice freedom without giving up your dignity and self respect. 
  • You can disagree and disapprove without giving up your empathy and flexibility.

Thanks Joan, you've given me a lot to chew on!

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