Lecturer discusses ‘the end of days’

Katlyn Campbell

Richard McCarty came to Iowa State University 22 years ago to study political science, but after meeting Hector Avalos, professor of religious studies, “things were never the same”.

Richard McCarty, left campus 18 years ago having switched his studies from political science to religious studies. He left with a BA in religious studies and he came back Thursday to talk with over two hundred people about his views on Christian ethics and sexual eschatology.

Students and faculty met at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union to hear McCarty, associate professor of religious studies at Mercyhurst University, discuss Christian discourse and how it impacts Christian ideas of sexual morality today.

The lecture focused on Christian sexual ethics and Christian thinking about “the end of days”. He talked of eschatology, the study of the end, which is important to understanding Christian theology. McCarty also focused his lecture on talking of ethics in which he defines as “critical reflection on morality”.

“When we call something good or bad individually, we have a framework by which we make those decisions,” McCarty said. “But how many of us ever stop and ask ourselves ‘what framework do I use to call something good or bad or neutral?’”

McCarty used a metaphor to describe his view on ethics, “Ethics is a round table at which we sit together and ask each other tough questions.”

McCarty said that he ultimately encourages disagreements between people as he believes it strengthens peoples’ views on certain religious topics. He also defined ethics as a matter of investigating the frameworks by which people make judgments.

Sexual ethics, as defined by McCarty, is critical reflection on morality by which we give and demand reasons of one another for holding the positions that we do.

Before getting into the topic of sexual ethics as it is seen through Christianity McCarty said, “Christianity is a big umbrella of a lot of people who are saying a lot of things about morality and sexual morality, and we can engage that without getting to a theological fight.”

McCarty suggested that Christian ethical frameworks were defined by interpretations of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, doctrines of churches (or by the authority of particular ecclesiastical leaders/figures), natural Law, and pastoral theology and lived experience. These various frameworks represent the array of viewpoints that Christians may use to interpret the Bible.

McCarty chose to speak on ethics by answering the question “Is eschatology a site from which we can think about sexuality and/or sexual ethics?”

He concluded that the answer was yes, and it has been done before.

When addressing this question McCarty talked of “the life to come” from Hebrew Scriptures. Within these scriptures McCarty believes that there are ultimately mixed signals on the life to come. However McCarty said the oral law of Judaism helps guide questions and answers for the Hebrew Scriptures. He said that it has ultimately been stated that there will be no sex past death and into the afterlife.

With regards to Islam and the Qur’an’s view of life to come, McCarty said there will be a resurrection and final judgment and that life past death will be a sensual paradise. McCarty read sections of the Qur’an that he believed evoked the sensual state after death.

McCarty went on to talk of the Latter Day Saints and their view on eschatology. According to Mormon theology the heavenly father has a wife, and at one point regular men can become God too. The idea that “as man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be” was the driving force for this belief.

McCarty also addressed the question “why doesn’t mainline Christianity have concepts of sex in the resurrection?” by saying that Jesus of the New Testament stated that there is no marriage in the resurrection. Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven and Pauline New Testament Literature however contorted this idea.

The answer to McCarty’s question was that Christians view sex as an act done merely for procreation.

“Although marriage may not be in the resurrection that doesn’t exclude sex from being there,” McCarty said.

McCarty concluded his lecture saying, “I’m not here to set norms for Christians this evening. I’m asking that we examine the frameworks by which we make moral judgments, including the ways that Christians make moral judgements, and I’m asking people to take serious that eschatology is one of those frameworks.”