sexual ethics discussions...
I'll be leading a teaching tomorrow at our church on sexual ethics. The preparation for this topic has led me to the conclusion that this area of ethics is uniquely weighed down with difficulties. Some of those are:
1. that we don't agree -- yes, we're all pretty much in agreement that adultery is wrong, because this is a lie, a violation of a promise. Many of us may even agree that sexual expressions must remain within the boundaries of marriage - period. But there's so much then this wrapped into the discussion. What about masturbation, inside and outside of marraige? What about oral sex? What about... ??? You can fill in the blank with lots of practices that don't violate the issue of adultery or confining sex to within marriage, and for many of these questions, there's no clear, universal, "Christian" understanding. So the question of how one finds 'the line', outside of which sexual expression is destructive rather than blessing, is part of the challenge. The Word, of course, is the source for this line, but it's remarkably silent on lots of these specifics, so we need to resort to principles, and that's where things get tricky.
2. that discussing this is taboo -- we don't discuss the areas of sexual ethics where we don't agree, and even in the ones where we do agree, we don't discuss them the way we discuss other areas of life. You can share your struggles with your small group, maybe letting them know that you struggle with a temper, that you yelled at your wife, or child the other day. You can tell them you're a workaholic. You can tell them you're anxious about something, or afraid. But you can't tell them about your sexual struggles because that kind of a confession puts you in a different class, at the back of the ecclesiastical bus with all the other 'real sinners' while the people who's robes are less stained continue to sit up front, singing "Amazing Grace". That there's this single area where confession is functionally forbidden across large swaths of the Christian landscape is a big problem, and probably one of the reasons that pastor's moral findings are 'discovered'. In a better world, they'd have been 'confessed' in the safety of friends because in confession there is healing.
3. that there's an avalanche of alternatives - perhaps in no other area of ethics is there as much overtly anti-Christian ethic celebrated and exalted (and I'm not talking about homosexuality). From Cosmopolitan to Maxim, from Redbook to Men's Health, from Soap Operas to Porn, our world is awash with the invitation to reduce sexuality to nothing more than a physical act leading to mutual or personal gratification. Couple this invitation with the very real physical desires that we carry within us as sexual beings and, short of intentionality, commitment, community, spiritual formation, and much grace, we'll easily choose the broader, lower road.
I'm looking forward to this ethics workshop (for men only...this time), and hope that we have a good discussion. I'll report back afterwards, but if anyone has questions they'd like answered at such a seminar, maybe post them here as a comment. Thanks.