Thursday, November 16, 2017

Age gap

I recently ran across the following observation:

In Jesus' day, 30-something men pursuing high-school aged girls was fairly normal. Where does the Bible condemn it? It must be a pretty clear passage given the bold statements of people like Russell Moore about Roy Moore.

That's a worthy question.

i) I'll grant you that a 10-day weather forecast is more reliable than Russell Moore's moral intuition. 

ii) The rules for candidates are different. It's a case of political viability. In the popular imagination, reports of Moore going to shopping malls and high school football games to hit on girls has associations with psychos who trawl a college campus in search of coeds jogging at night and that sort of thing. I'm not saying Moore is in the same category, but reports like this make one's skin crawl. That may or may not be fair, but such comparisons spring to mind. 

iii) Although Scripture is our supreme authority, there are issues it doesn't address. In those cases, we must fall back on reason and experience. 

iv) Biblical narratives often record events without editorial comment. Sometimes we can infer the narrator's viewpoint from certain clues. Descriptions don't imply endorsement. By the same token, descriptions don't necessarily imply condemnation. 

v) An age-gap isn't intrinsically morally relevant. That depends. Pedophilia, in the sense of sexual interest in prepubescent boys and girls, crosses a line. 

In the case of adolescents, that's a difference of degree rather than kind. In that situation, there are borderline cases. It's like the sorites paradox, where it's harder to state an absolute threshold.  

vi) Some of Moore's defenders have cited the case of Mary and Joseph. That, however, is an argument from ignorance. Mary may well have been a teenager, but the teens represent a spread. There's quite a difference between 13 and 19–both physically and psychologically. 

People assume Joseph must have been much older than Mary because he apparently died sometime before Jesus began his public ministry, but that's a very dubious inference. In the ancient world, many people died in their youthful prime from disease or injury. Mortality was high for every age-group. Many conditions that are easily treatable by modern medical science were life-threatening back then.

vii) It has connotations of what I might call psychological incest. It suggests a man who lacks the emotional security to marry a psychologically adult female. So he seeks out psychologically immature females. In our society we sometimes see adult men and women who lack the psychological maturity to have romantic relationships with people their own age. They gravitate to teenagers or adolescents. It reflects arrested development. 

I'm not saying that's necessarily Roy Moore's problem. But I think intuitively or subconsciously, that's why many people react they way the do to stories like this. 

viii) On a related note, I see the phrase "dirty old man" bandied about. I don't mean in reference to Roy Moore in particular, but in other cases. However, that phrase is agist and sexist. There's nothing wrong with elderly men and women having an active libido. And there's nothing from with older folks finding younger folks attractive. That's just biology. Lechery has no particular age (except for prepubescent kids). What's inappropriate for old folks is often just as inappropriate for younger people. 


  1. On this blog I go on (that talks about dating and life), the blog owner has had a few entries about that in recent years:

    I wonder if it's feminists who started this "dirty old man" crap. It's really stupid. I don't think that it's wrong for a 40+ guy to want to date a 20 year old.

  2. A 40 year old wanting to date a 20 year old is actually exactly what we should expect given the differences in sexual market value between men and women. See