By Hal Lindsey
Mary Kay Letourneau was an elementary schoolteacher who became infamous in 1997 after she became pregnant by her 12-year-old student. His extreme youth combined with the seeming rarity of a female teacher being accused of statutory rape created an international sensation.
After pleading guilty and getting a light sentence, she agreed to probation that included no further contact with the child. But two weeks after her short jail sentence, she was caught having sex with him in her car. Then pregnant with his second child, she went to prison for much longer. By the time she got out, the boy had reached the age of 21. The court dismissed the no-contact order, and the two of them got married. They remain married today.
I don’t mean to belabor Letourneau’s strange saga. I wouldn’t even use her name if she hadn’t written a couple of books about the affair. She came to mind because of a recent news story about a high school in Louisiana where four teachers in ten years have been arrested for having sex with students.
After Letourneau, it seemed like there was an epidemic of arrests for teacher-student sex in America’s schools. It became big news, and then quickly became old news. There seemed to be a new teacher-student sex scandal every week. The whole thing got old. News coverage of such arrests are now mostly confined to local media outlets, and even there the stories hardly ever make the front page. The Louisiana case briefly made national news only because it involved so many teachers from one school.
These days it seems like no big deal. A well-known conservative news site runs stories on the topic with a wink and a nod. One headline read, “Hot English Teacher Victimizes Two 18-Year-Old Males By (having sex with) Them.” They used juvenile language for “having sex with.” The coverage generally sounds like frat boys laughing and having fun at the thought of male students “getting lucky.”
In 1993, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a paper called “Defining Deviancy Down.” Moynihan was a democratic Senator from New York, and a renowned sociologist. “Defining Deviancy Down” is based on the idea that “the number of deviant offenders a community can afford to recognize is likely to remain stable over time.”
In other words, a society will only call something deviant if the number of people participating in that behavior stays below a certain threshold. When enough people embrace an activity, what once seemed deviant begins to seem normal. That’s the danger of the mob, except with a mob, the process happens almost instantly. Humans fall into debauchery when they see significant numbers of other people doing it.
Some people hear this and think, “How bad can it get?” That’s because they are blind to how bad it has already become. This society is accepting, even celebrating things that it abhorred only a couple of generations ago. The people of those previous generations would have said the same thing. “The older generation always worries that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. But how bad can it get?”
How bad? Where does it go from here? What will future generations see as normal that the present generation can’t conceive of? It can get worse than you can imagine.
The nation through whom God gave His word to the world became so debauched that they sacrificed their own children in the fires of pagan religious rituals. Jeremiah 7:30-31 says, “‘For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,’ declares the Lord… ‘They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.” (NASB)
In Ezekiel 16:20, God said to Israel, “You took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me, and you sacrificed them to idols to be devoured.” (NASB)
Even followers of Christ can be susceptible to defining deviancy down. It happens when we begin to judge ourselves by societal norms instead of God’s word. He holds the plumb line. We measure ourselves by Him.
Teacher-student sex did not begin with Mary Kay Letourneau. In fact, her own father, a well-known Congressman in the 1970s, John G. Schmitz, lost his political standing when it became known that he had fathered two children with someone who had been his student when he had taught a college government class. But it has grown dramatically worse in a short time.
Sex is the easiest way for advertisers to get attention, or to give video gamers a shot of adrenaline, or to get people out to see a movie, or to tune in to a particular television show. So, as a society, we are inundated with sexually charged images and messages from the time we turn on the radio in the morning to learn about the traffic and weather, all the way through prime time television viewing in the evening. Thousands of carefully crafted messages hit our minds every day. A high percentage of them are sexually charged.
As a nation and a society, America has become hypersexualized — yet without the constraints of a biblically based understanding of right and wrong. Is it any wonder that human trafficking has become such an enormous problem, and a source of pain and misery to the millions enslaved by it?
God allows evil to go only so far. Either there will be a spiritual awakening with millions repenting and coming to Christ, or America will face God’s judgment.
There is hope. Jesus said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)