In a blog post titled “Is It Time for Christians to Celebrate Pre-Marital Sex?” Tony Jones said “A new sexual ethic for Christians is desperately needed. I for one am going to work on that. Will you join me?”. Well, considering that I’ve been talking about this in some form or another since I started writing this blog three years ago, I believe I will join you, Tony. Yes, once again, I’m writing about my favorite topic. Why is it my favorite? If you have to ask that, you’re not doing something right. Sex is one of, if not the, most amazing things God ever gifted humanity with. Christians, however, seem to have problems with sex. I think it’s best described as a love/hate relationship. Like everyone else in the world, a good Christian loves the feelings that come from a good romp; the closeness you feel with your partner, the satiation that comes in the aftermath, even the sense that you’ve done something a little bit dirty, even taboo. Unfortunately, that last one leads them into a butt-load of guilt because they’ve been told that sex, unless it is for procreation, is bad. Sex is of the flesh, it’s worldly and worldly things should be avoided if at all possible. This attitude is a large part of the reason we need a new sexual ethic, to be sure. But, how did we get here?
Christians in general have quite a bit of baggage about sex and American Christians seem to have more than others. Europeans tend to regard the Christian sexual ethic with a wink and a nod and get on with the business of living life to the fullest. Americans, on the other hand, get all tied up in knots with guilt and shame. I suppose we can trace it all back to Paul. The greatest apostle of them all, Paul was a man with more than a few hang-ups when it came to sex. He believed sexual desire to be a “thorn in his flesh” and that marriage was preferable to the single life only if one couldn’t control themselves, saying “I’m telling those who are single and widows that it’s good for them to stay single like me. But if they can’t control themselves, they should get married, because it’s better to marry than to burn with passion.” Augustine and the Catholic church took the ball and ran with it, teaching that sex may have been better than some alternatives, but it was always sinful. With their twisted ideas about sex, Augustine and a bunch of Romans are probably the least equipped people in history to be doling out sex advice. Paul gets a pass because a lot of what he said has been misunderstood. Or, someone put words in his mouth.
Our attitudes about sex are so screwed up that we spend inordinate amounts of time trying to justify our desire to knock boots with wild abandon. There are books, websites, sermons, etc. explaining why it’s all right to be gay, to enjoy sex (as long as you’re married), what kind of sex is good and what kind is bad…, okay, it’s a long list and you get the drift. It’s understandable, we really like sex and the Bible, if taken literally, can be a bit harsh on the subject. But, a lot of words have been mistranslated, a lot of ideas have been taken out of context and some of those ideas either don’t apply anymore or they’re just wrong. There is, however, a way out of this: love. And, by love, I mean Jesus’ command to love God and love your neighbor. I’ll go into more depth tomorrow, but a short version is if you love someone, you won’t do things that hurt them. Sounds simple, but is it?