Muggeridge wrote the following many decades ago, and yet, it is more penetrating and incisive than most anything being written on the topic today, when things are far more devolved and debauched than in Muggeridge’s day.
“Never, it is safe to say, in the history of the world has a country been as sex-ridden as America is today. And the rest of us, all eagerly emulating the American Way of Life, are going the same way. Sex has become the religion of the most civilized portions of the earth. The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment; the old pagan admonition, Do What Thou Wilt, has superseded the Pauline teaching that, since spirit and flesh lust contrary to one another, Ye Cannot Do the Things That Ye Would Do. In the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word. Sex is the mysticism of materialism. We are to die in the spirit to be reborn in the flesh, rather than the other way around. Instead of the cult of the Virgin Mary we have the cult of the sex symbol – the busts, the thighs, the buttocks of a Jean Harlow, a Marilyn Monroe, a Carroll Baker displayed in glossy photographs, on cinema and television screens, to be feasted upon by countless hungry eyes, the physical tension thereby set up being subsequently relieved in autoeroticism or in squirmings and couplings with an available partner. Eyes which launched not a thousand ships, but a vast sea of seminal fluid; mistresses not of kings and great ones, but of the Common Man, who clasps them to him and enjoys their wanton favors in his secret dreams.”
“Even the most ardent advocates of the sexual revolution are inclined to feel that it is not working out quite as it should. Instead of sex-happy citizens of all ages blissfully coupling, psychiatrists and sexologists are besieged by patients eager to pour out their sexual woes. Orgasms have been too little and too late; despite bodies duly sealed and pasteurized, and recommended positions duly taken, the promised delight has failed to materialize. Happiness pursued in accordance with the book has proved elusive. Something must be wrong.” (From his essay, “Down with Sex”)
I can’t remember when I first heard the name of Malcolm Muggeridge, the great British journalist and essayist, but I had not really read anything by him until recently. And now finding him has been as finding gold. I’ve dipped into several books, but the book I would recommend securing for oneself is Things Past, which is an anthology of Muggeridge’s essays over the decades of his adult life.
His literary power and philosophical depth draw the reader in at once. I hardly know with which essay to begin in directing you to start in with this exquisite talent. It is as though trying to advise one where to begin filling one’s plate when confronted with a massive banquet table. Here is but a small sample to whet your appetite, more of which I am happy to provide in subsequent posts. Speaking of the modern West, Muggeridge quips:
For as we abolish the ills and pains of the flesh we multiply those of the mind, so that by the time mankind are finally delivered from disease and decay – all pasteurized, their genes counted and rearranged, fitted with new replaceable plastic organs, able to eat, fornicate, and perform other physical functions innocuously and hygienically as and when desired – they will all be mad, and the world one huge psychiatric ward. (“What I Believe,” 1966).
“I delight to do you will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8)
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being.” (Ps. 51:6)
“For the eyes of the LORD roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. (2 Chron. 16:9)
“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matt. 15:8)
“He is not a Jew who is one outwardly . . . but he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” (Rom. 2:28-29)
One of the biggest things I am working on with my sons these days is their hearts. They break the rules of our house not because they are ignorant of them, or forgetful, or incapable of obeying them; but rather, because in their hearts they don’t delight in the rules. When they are caught in their violation, they are not contrite and repentant, they are inwardly (and outwardly) defiant and upset that they got caught, for they would have liked to have gone on doing their own thing. They do not delight in truth in their inward beings.
So it is with us in our sins. I explained to my oldest son that God has no interest in us honoring Him with our mouths, but having hearts that are far from Him. Rather, we should desire to be brought to the place where we can say, like the Psalmist, “I delight to do your will, O God.” Dallas Willard said we had to have our “wanters” fixed, that is, the “want to” of our hearts needs to be altered, so that we look forward with longing to practicing God’s commands, and not merely for outward show or conformity. This is the central thing with us.
King David was “a man after God’s own heart.” I want to be that man also. I pray that my sons would become those men, for such men are righteous men; and as Reb Saunders said in The Chosen, “the world needs a righteous man.”
“Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of His servant.” (Psalm 35:27).
The God who made the heavens and the earth has great joy and exuberance when things go well for His children who serve Him. This is an astounding truth. God does not simply seek our welfare, pursue our good, or think it nice when we are spiritually thriving. Rather, our welfare prompts joy in Him. He is not ambivalent about our good.
The King James Version says that God “hath pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” Thus, when we reflect on our circumstances, on the state of our souls, we can bank on the fact that it gives God pleasure, delight, joy, gladness, satisfaction and great happiness to see that our souls prosper. And our souls prosper when God puts down the enemies who would draw us away from Him and grants us contentment in Christ.
So let us pursue the knowledge of the God who delights in our good.
Psalm 32:11 says, “Be glad in the Lord.” It’s a command, just like, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice,” (Phil. 4:4) is a command. Yet I think it’s a command we don’t think of obeying, for how does one “be glad” in something? We moderns feel like Woody Allen, “the heart wants what it wants,” and if it does not seem to “want” the Lord, then how will we “be glad” in Him? It seems as though a state of gladness is not up to us.
Yet there it is. We are to get our hearts happy in God. We should therefore consider how it’s done. Psalm 32 itself may give us a couple of clues. First, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity.” (v. 5). Confessing our sins may lead us to rejoice in God, for we will receive forgiveness and have our guilt lifted. Second, “let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found.” (v. 6). Praying to God can also lead our hearts to happiness in Him, for we will be having communion with Him.