E-pistle March 3

Charlie Sheen, Brandon Davies and the Chances for Chastity

So who hasn’t heard about Charlie Sheen, the star of the television sitcom Two and a Half Men and the all-around bad boy whose recent meltdowns are the object of so much embarrassed fascination? Foul-mouthed, abusive, addictive, promiscuous, Sheen’s out of control life is paradigm of life lived without moral, spiritual, relational or emotional boundaries. When asked if he has any hope of returning to work after being released from the cast of the television series, Sheen said, “Hope is for suckers and fools.”

Charlie Sheen should be the object both of our contempt for his disregard of the gift of life and opportunity given him by a gracious God and of our pity and compassion, for only in its extreme is his life not typical of those in our time when the only standards of truth and righteousness are those we happen to choose. (Judges 17:6)

Unless you are a big time NCAA basketball fan you probably had not heard much about Brandon Davies until this week. Davies was a starter for Brigham Young University’s nationally ranked basketball team who was suspended for the remaining of the season because of a violation of the school’s honor code. Specifically, Davies admitted to having pre-marital sex with his girlfriend, a violation of the “chaste and virtuous life” provision of the honor code.

Media reaction to the Brandon Davies case has been mostly restrained with many columnists begrudgingly admiring the school’s integrity while dismissing the code itself as outdated, a relic of the 1950’s and impossible to keep given the reality of “raging hormones.” The begrudging admiration may be partly due to the fact that the same day the suspension story broke, Sports Illustrated released results of a story that shows that seven percent of scholarship players in Division 1-A football have criminal records, many of them for felonies and other serious crimes. A school with standards seems kind of nice.

So in an age of Charlie Sheen morality is chaste and virtuous behavior a possibility?

BYU’s honor code is rooted in the school’s Mormon belief system, a belief system at serious odds with orthodox Christianity, but certainly not at odds with the Biblical call for pure living. The word translated as “chaste” in older versions of the English Bible is typically translated as “pure” in newer translations.

Is purity possible?

Those who speak of “boys being boys” and the tyranny of “raging hormones” are, in fact, surrendering to biological determinism.  Their answer to the question of the possibility of purity is “no” because they say impulse is stronger than volition, that is, our hormones will always overpower our wills. Sometimes that seems true, but surrender to that viewpoint leads to a dark dead end with no hope whatsoever.  Maybe Charlie Sheen is right about hope – it is for suckers and fools.

Those who smirk at the out datedness of moral standards assume the hope of progressivism. We’re getting better a smarter all the time. Those quaint standards or morality and behavior found in the Bible and held in the church simply no longer apply to our more advanced and sophisticated time. We know better.  The trouble with the hope of progressivism is that it has been found false by empirical data.  We aren’t getting better and we don’t know better.  Again, Charlie Sheen may be right about hope, certainly the hope of the progressive.

The Apostle Paul knew all about inner turmoil, the struggle to do right and the frustration with seemingly impossible-to-keep moral standards.  He writes about his turmoil and struggle in Romans 7. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

All seems lost: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

But then he remembers the gospel: Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

There is hope! God calls us to purity and God empowers us for purity.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  (Matthew 7:13-14)

Purity is possible.  But not easy.

Maybe Charlie Sheen is the sucker and the fool for not believing in the hope of the Gospel.

By the way. Brandon Davies is not the first BYU athlete kicked off a team for violating the school’s honor code. So was former Eagle Reno Mahe, and he now says it is the best thing that ever happened to him. You may read the story here.