Sex: The Cathedral of Our Culture

by Sam Bierig April 5, 2017

The Uncontested god of Our Culture

Don’t Let Me Down[1] by The Chainsmokers featuring ft. Daya is shot through with one of those beats that haunt you long after you listen. The hook makes a home in your head even if you’ve only listened to it once or twice. They’ve intentionally laced the song with a sort of eerie playfulness. But don’t get played. This is no innocent, playful little ditty. I wish to submit that this song is nothing short of a worship service. This song contends for your supreme allegiance to the uncontested god of our culture—sex.

I’m not sure if Daya or The Chainsmokers would claim that they wrote the song to depict a worship service, but that only proves the danger. An ignorance of its doctrinaire nature only contributes to its subtlety. Don’t Let Me Down, along with others like it whirling about us via iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, etc., seek to bypass the head and go straight for the affections—song and verse have had a long history of this. The same principle that threatens to damn us in Don’t Let Me Down is at play for the Christian when the Holy Spirit bolsters our sanctified perseverance by fixing us upon an old hymn in our time of greatest need. This is the marvel of melody and lyric.

Thus, it's indigenous to the soul of man to sing. And what a culture sings about is invariably what that culture worships. Augustine once said, "Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you [God].” Don’t Let Me Down is a microcosm of our culture’s sexual restlessness. Our culture has bought the lie that the false god of sex will never leave us nor forsake us—he’ll never Let [Us] Down. But it doesn’t take much prying into the lives of those who worship in these unhallowed cathedrals to see that the god of sex is as capricious as the Greek gods of old.

The sex god has failed to remedy the culture’s angst, failed to answer their prayers, and has remained aloof. In short, the god of sex has failed to deliver on its promises.

The church has long understood that sex cannot sustain the glory of worship. Sex was created by our triune God to be a gift, not a god. Christians know a gift can never stand for long in substitute for the Gift Giver. It will inevitably be crushed under the weight of glory. But, oh, how our culture has wrecked itself in this hollow pursuit! They have now so long clung to this vapor god that they’ve forgotten to ask the fundamental question of whether this empty, false deity is worth their lives.   

If a culture wants to cling to its sin but is simultaneously forced by its human nature to worship (Romans 1:21-23; Ecclesiastes 3:11), then it must settle for second best—something less than God (Romans 1:24-25). And what is second best in our culture? God’s unique, created beings stamped with his image.  Furthermore, what is the most intimate, sacred expression in which image bearers partake? Sex. This string of logic faithfully explains our culture’s sexual restlessness. They went after the next best thing they could find, espoused all glory to it, and then elevated it so high up onto the thrones of their hearts that it was crushed by the exponential altitude. Our culture is like Amnon in 2 Samuel 13:15. After he achieved his violent sexual desires with Tamar, he was said to have “hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her.” What Amnon thought would bring him euphoria, would lift him up into the realms of utopia, was in actuality his soul’s disintegration. Sex simply cannot sustain the weight of our culture's expectations. Therefore, the God-intended joy and intentions of sex have been shattered.

A Lyrical Letdown

Let me see if I can prove the above proposition by demonstration through the aforementioned lyrics. Don’t Let Me Down comes fully loaded with many of the same components of a church worship service. Present are prayers, praise, doctrine, confessions, authority, and more:

Prayer

I call your name but you're not around

I say your name but you're not around

I need you, I need you, I need you right now…

…running out of time

I really thought you were on my side

But now there's nobody by my side

I need you, I need you, I need you right now

Yeah, I need you right now

The whole song hears much like a prayer. In fact, these lyrics sound uncomfortably close to those penned by David in the Psalms.

Miracles

Crashing, hit a wall

Right now I need a miracle

Hurry up now, I need a miracle

Stranded, reaching out

I call your name but you're not around

I say your name but you're not around

I need you, I need you, I need you right now

She believes, even depends upon, this pending sexual encounter to give her a miracle, fleeting as it might be. She wants all the pleasures and feels of worship at the sex cathedral; this she believes will justify her existence. The hope is that it will numb the pain of emptiness and salve the monotony of life. She believes this sex-miracle will bring completion and purpose, and if it doesn’t, it seems, she will be broken beyond repair.  Christians already know that the miracle that Daya sings of can only be found in the risen Lord.

Faith

…I hope that you'll be here, when I need you the most

So don't let me, don't let me, don't let me down

She brings all her hope, peace, trust, and faith, to this sexual encounter. She goes all in and bets everything she has and is in his ability to come through.  Make no mistake, we are observing a worship service.

Praise

I need you, I need you, I need you right now

Yeah, I need you right now

This sounds less eloquent but not less emotive than many of the congregational refrains we sing in our churches each Lord’s Day. 

The Church’s Gospel Response

How, then, are churches to respond when these shipwrecked, false worshipers thrown upon the wiles of the cultural seas wash up on our ecclesial shores? Well, know that they will come into our churches coughing up salt water and gasping for air since they have long gulped down the salt water of this world and have expected it to satisfy a thirst that only the Living Water can satisfy. They are going to be broken, wounded, lonely, emotionally cold, and distrusting. That’s what being out in the elements of the world will do to you.

1) Believe the gospel

I find that we hardly believe that the gospel is powerful enough to save anyone anymore as if Jesus is no match for transgenderism or fornicators. But in 1 Corinthians 1:18 the Holy Spirit says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Don’t get that verse crossways. It is the Christian who ought to know full well that the gospel is chain-loosing news, for indeed it has loosed our chains. Something powerful, mystical even, happens when Jesus gets ahold of a sinner. He does this when he supplants the power of false worship and replaces it with a more enchanting affection. Shall I remind you, Christian, what Psalm 16:11 says? “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” There is more in Christ than in the world!  These exiles of the sexual revolution came to a false sex god, looked for life everlasting, and instead found death. But Psalm 16:11 seems to say that only when they set foot on the Jesus road will they truly find life. They have spent their whole lives trying to fill a Rock-of-Ages size hole in their soul with the Pop Rocks of this world. But Christians are the ones who have sold everything in order to buy the field with the forevermore treasures of Christ in it. Christ really is more, Church.  Believe that message, and give them, these deportees, the Christ of that message.

2) Be patient

These exiles are going to fall on their face…a lot. The kingdom of God belongs to people who get up, not to people who never fall. It takes time to kill long-standing sexual sin habits. There will be times when the sex god will call them back to its false gospel, and it will seem like good news. Be patient. Walk them back down the road of repentance. Remind them that they are kept in Christ (Jude 24). Remind them that when Christ begins a work he always finishes it because it hinges on him and not them (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

3) Be slow to enact formal discipline

The role of local churches as they receive these heartbroken new believers will be to give them “truth in love.” As they come through our doors bleary-eyed, it will take time to sort out the wreckage and pain. They will, for months and even years, have to reckon with their habits and postures. Some will never truly recover wholeness in this realm; the fall tells us so. It is true that there will be apostates among them who will call for discipline. But churches should be slow to swing the broadsword of formal church discipline. Be patient. We worship a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…” (Exodus 34:6-7). Local churches should seek to reflect the balance of justice and mercy found in this text.

4) Don’t be surprised

Listen, these refugees who flee the capricious sex god of our culture will come into our churches pretty messed up. Don’t be surprised by that. We of all people ought to know how deep into darkness sin can take a soul. Don’t inflict guilt and shame since they’ll have enough of that on their own. Simply offer them a safe place to be a sinner saved by Jesus’ grace. Remind them that the church is not for perfect people but for repenters. Don't be surprised by their previous escapades or the still-present vestiges of their crass bygones. Listen to them, care for them, offer counsel, be painstakingly patient, for these are your new brothers and sisters, the new citizens of your Father's kingdom.

Notes

  1. ^ Songwriters: Andrew Taggart / Scott Harris / Emily Schwartz, Don't Let Me Down lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Imagem Music Inc., (2016).