The quickest way to trash one’s reputation was to “shack up” with someone — living together unmarried; and for a woman to get pregnant. In those days the fear of pregnancy prevailed over most women. Those who dared to have pre-marital sex often felt the obligation to get married with some immediacy. The typical strong sexual attraction between young dating couples motivated many to “run off” and get married. Counties were sought out that had a brief waiting period between getting the marriage license and getting married. In those days (1930s-1940) a waiting period was a requirement most everywhere in the U.S. except in Reno, Nev.
Self-respect before society as well as a clear conscience before God, coerced dating couples to have a very disciplined or a rather brief courtship.
Further, it was the custom of acquaintances of the bride and groom to count the months between the marriage and the birth of the first born, a possible public declaration of a premarital infraction — fornication. A child so conceived out of wedlock was seen as ill-begotten and blemished — a sinful lust child, not a blessed love child (what a change in meaning today for the term “love child’’).
Some pastors refused to officiate a marriage where the bride and groom gave the same address. These pastors felt obliged to uphold the law of God by chastising and rejecting a couple so “living in sin.”
Americans reading this who are 50 years old or younger, will wonder from what planet I have just arrived. It is now considered a forgone fact — boyfriend/girlfriend means sex partners; that living together before marriage is the expected and wise testing period for marriage; that sex between lovers is a natural pleasure created by God; that living together before marriage is better than a divorce after marriage.
Besides pre-marital sex and cohabitation as a trial run for a permanent relationship (60 percent of which break up), today there are multi-millions who see such premarital sexuality as purely recreational — no interest in a marriage, a relationship and sometimes even an acquaintance. Such promiscuity is viewed by many as healthy and normal, rescuing sexuality from the dark-ages of medieval and perverted religious leaders bent on condemning the normal God-given pleasures of life; rescuing sexuality from those who taught that if it is enjoyable and feels good it is a sin.
This sexual revolution of the past 60 years correlates with the advent of effective birth control methods and legalizing abortion. It also correlates to some people discarding belief in God, along with some having an eclectic (picking and skipping) belief in the Bible.
It is important to note that the extraordinary and unique pleasure of sexuality has always been revered and endorsed by Christianity as a God-given exclusive for married people. Every bit as bold as fornication is practiced today, so it is boldly condemned by God throughout his Word (the Bible). To quote one of many: “Do not be deceived! Fornication, idolatry, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers — none of these will inherit the kingdom of God… the body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord.”
[I Cor. 6:9, 10, 13]
Although practiced by most Americans today as a use-to-be sin, I’ve failed to discover an expiration date on any sin, fornication included.
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and retired professor of psychology. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or blog: inspirationsandideas