Sex, and Lies the church tells about it...
This summer our pastoral staff will be leading a mid-week forum, where we'll be addressing subjects that (so I'm told) people don't talk about openly. What subjects? Sex, Politics, Religion, and Art (Art? - yes, some people never talk about art) It will run for nine weeks with an introductory week, followed by two weeks per subject. In preparing for the sex subject, I'm reading L. Winner's book, 'Real Sex' (more accurately - re-purusing it). Winner does a great job of developing a sexual ethic rooted in the larger ethics of historic Christianity. But she does an even better job of challenging and exposing the cheap and shallow ways that the church has sought to maintain the chastity of her flock. Here are three myths, used by the church to help youth keep their pants on. Though they have kernels of truth in them, when they're absolutized and offered as part of the rationale for developing one's sexual ethic, those for whom these 'truths' aren't true, have no reason to move off their present ground of behavior.
Myth #1 - Sex outside of marriage makes you feel guilty. Any pastor who has had more than three conversations with people about this subject knows this is not an absolute statement. Depending on one's moral framework, sex may or may not have a deep, intrinisic symbolism of emotional and mystical union. For some, it's nothing more than a romp in the hay. While that surely changes with time, the rationale that one should avoid sex in order to avoid guilt feelings will fail to persuade because it often fails to be true.
She has two other myths addressed in her book. I'd add these:
Myth #4 - Accountability is all you need to maintain purity. This also isn't true, unless by accountability you mean someone handcuffed to your wrist twenty-four hours a day, who also has access to your mind. Accountability relationships that offer nothing more than a weekly check-in can lead to either dishonesty or shame or disengagement as easily as they lead to purity. We need to be careful about pushing this pill as a panecea, for when it fails, hope dies for many sincere young men.
Myth #5 - Sexual Purity gets easier once you're married. I heard that when I was in high school and college, and couldn't wait for the day when these things would no longer be a problem. The reality check is that even in the best of marriages, with couples working at their sexual communication, children, health issues, stresses, varying energy and emotional levels, and a host of other nuances too numerous to name, all conspire to make one's sexuality an ongoing issue. Again, there are exceptions. But this seems, for the experience of most, to be the norm.
So, having busted these myths, the question remains, "What then IS the basis for a good sexual ethic?" The answers will come this summer... about the middle of July. See you then. If enough people ask on this blog, I'll make sure that pod-casts and notes are avialable. Interested? Your thoughts?