In Japan, Europe and the U.S., statistics are showing that people are marrying later in life or not at all, birth rates are on the decline, and housing reports show an increase in single-occupant households, as well as young people living at home for longer periods of time than before.
What do these startling trends signify? These unnatural patterns are the inevitable result when individualistic-consumeristic secularism drives the moral compass of the “developed world” to gross narcissism.
Japan has long been admired as being on the cutting edge and setting the trends for what “modern” life looks like. But as we watch this culture immerse itself to the brink of obsession with material wealth, gaming and online living, we should not be surprised that a steep increase in individualization and celibacy would epitomize the fallout.
It’s hard to believe there are entire cultures abdicating romantic and sexual relationships, but the Japanese media itself has given a name to this strange new movement in its reports calling it sekkusu shinai shokogun, or “celibacy syndrome.” These alarming statistics were published recently in The Observer:
“A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact”. More than a quarter of men felt the same way.”
This begs the question, what happens to a country when its young people stop having sex? Naturally, birth rates will decline. And for Japan, population 126 million, which has already been experiencing one of the lowest birth rates in the world, projections indicate that “celibacy syndrome” could cause it to plummet by one-third over the next half-century!
Behaviors like social isolationism and an unnatural regression of adult relationships, resulting in the sterilization of procreation, are threatening to become the normal rather than atypical behavior in this society.
Yet one of the Bible’s most powerful messages prescribes the exact opposite of this alarming trend. We are commanded to love: love the Lord your God, love your neighbor, love one another, husbands and wives are instructed to love each other, and we are even encouraged to love our enemies! The Bible promotes loving, healthy social structures as a blueprint for building flourishing communities.
I’m not trying to push for an increase in global sexual activity. I am simply shedding light on a new trend that swings unnaturally to the extreme opposite of the morally unbound, sexually ravenous and increasingly indulgent society we have grown accustomed to living in. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve been pushing too hard for virginity when really the message we have been trying to get across is that of biblical purity.
We highlighted the tensions Japanese young people are experiencing in our short film Paper Flower, produced in 2011 with our partner Toy Gun Films. But even after the film experienced great success, we felt called to keep speaking into these sensitive, yet relevant issues. The result was a series of six short films that follows the lives of two different girls as they navigate the immense cultural pressure to succeed and maintain societal status while dealing with topics including family honor, school, suicide, social media, morality and heterosexual relationships—especially in the context of Enjo-kōsai or “compensated dating,” frequently practiced in Japan. The film series has proven to be an effective tool for the local church to employ as they address some of the direst issues Asian teens and youth are facing.
As a developed country, Japan is not facing the overt poverty issues prevalent in many other areas, yet spiritually they are one of the poorest nations in the world. Knowing where their moral compass points has given us a good indication of starting points for discussion, and provided us with relevant onramps to minister to the spiritual and societal needs of this nation.
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