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One In Five

by Tim O'Hearn

I admit that I am rather Victorian in my thinking. Therefore, this article is going to be hard for me to write. I have seen something, however, that annoyed and alarmed me, and so I feel I must write it, other sensibilities notwithstanding.

I have been seeing an advertisement on television that has me concerned. In it, a doctor, or an actor portraying a doctor, claims that one in every five American adults has a particular sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is not a life-threatening disease, merely an uncomfortable one. He goes on to say that so many people have the disease because people can pass it on without knowing that they have it. Then they say that someone taking their drug will not be cured of the disease, but will stand less of a chance of passing it on. Never mind that the only sure way to keep from transmitting an STD is abstinence. The only sure way of never contracting it in the first place is for a man and a woman to wait until marriage, and then remain faithful to one another.

The facts of the STD rates are alarming enough, although to a former sailor they should not be too surprising. What should be alarming to Christians, however, is not the number of people having the disease but what that means in a larger context. If 20% of all American adults have this particular disease, and since it is only passed on under certain conditions, that means that anywhere from thirty to sixty per cent, or possibly more, of American adults are having sex with someone to whom they are not married. If the STD rate is 20%, the fornication rate is much higher. In addition, a certain number of those, no doubt are married. Thus the rate of adultery is also high. And when adultery results in disease, the innocent suffers with the guilty.

Even these figures may not be alarming to some. This country has become so inured to such high numbers. After all, it is not just in the commercials but in the dramas and comedies that television portrays sinful sexual acts as normal. When the seeming majority of sex acts implied or specified on television are between unmarried people, the rates implied by this one commercial become expected.

What I fear, though, is deeper than just the numbers. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34) How can any nation that so blatantly disregards the word of God claim any more, if ever it did, to be a Christian nation? How can we who try to spread the word of God and the message of Christ succeed when other nations are saying, “But even by your own standards we are more righteous than you?” When approximately 86% of the nation claims to be Christian and even as low as 30% are ignoring the word of God on something as basic as fornication, then there is necessarily a significant overlap; people claiming to be Christians are among those who flaunt the word of God that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers … shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10) Thereby is the name of God dishonored.

I don’t intend to sound like some gloom-and-doom, America-will-be-destroyed-for-her-sin preacher. If God is going to destroy us as a nation there are many other reasons he would do so. Nevertheless, if American Christians are going to preach the good news to a lost country we need to be aware of the magnitude of some of the problems we face. We need to be aware that the problem exists even among those who claim to be among us. Only then can we know how to reach those who need to hear the word of God.