There's an issue floating around in the Christian single sub-culture, sometimes near the surface, sometimes deeply subterranean. The issue is the vast disconnect that appears between practice and profession when it comes to our sexual ethics. A recent survey indicated that over 90% of engaged young people who professed to know Christ and follow His teachings agree that sexual intimacy is to be confined to the bounds of covenant relationship, i.e.: marriage. In spite of this clear sense of conviction, however, roughly 2 out of 3 reported that they'd violated this principle, and roughly 1 out of 2 reported that they're presently violating this ethic, as they sleep with their fiance.
The sample from this survey was arguably too small to draw any meaningful conclusions, but it does represent a reality we ought to address: when it comes to sexuality, there's a chasm between what we say we believe, and what we actually do. What factors contribute to this chasm?
1. Our culture's attitude towards sexuality
. Whether it's Seattle's "Stranger
", reruns of "Sex in the City", advertisements for beer, cars, deodorant, or the text of a recent hip-hop song, let's not kid ourselves into believing that we're immune from the sexualized nature of it all. We're trying to hold our sexuality according to God's redemptive plan, but God's ethic requires some serious swimming against the overwhelming tide of our culture. At every turn the message to "touch me", "taste me", "do me" is present, either directly or subliminally, declaring through it's presence that our sexuality is an appetite, like food - and we all know what to do when we're hungry.
I'll note before moving on, that this isn't some sort of 21st century phenomena. 1st century Rome shared these values, as have countless cultures scattered across time and geography through the ages. To think differently than the prevailing culture is, of course, one of our primary challenges, and primary means of transformation
. So, it helps to be aware of the ocean in which we're swimming.
- The Christian community elevates virginity as a virtue. This, of course, is appropriate, because this is what Scripture teaches.
However, there's something inherent in how we talk about virginity that makes its maintenance tantamount to the free climb of a rock face: fall once, and you die
. Thus have many shared, in the confidentiality of pastoral work, or with friends or counselors, that "it's over. In a moment of weakness I took off my purity ring, and then, well you know what happened."
Dejected, and feeling a sense of shame never intended by Christ, he or she decides that, since they've already lost it, there's no point in battling. Purity is now unattainable. Why bother? Of course, most wouldn't say it that way, but that's the way it actually plays out.
I suppose there are 30 more reasons for the battle, but I got a late start today, so I'm going to limit my comments to these two, offering some thoughts about how we might best navigate the waters of our sexuality, in light of these realities.
1. The culture piece is gigantic, but of course, we knew that from Romans 12. If there's a current pulling me in one direction, and it's not the direction I want to go, I need to find a way to travel against the current. The answer isn't withdrawal from culture, because there are other factors at work besides culture (just ask the monks who wrote this poetry). Instead of trying to be a fish out of water (which is what it would be like to try and be a non-sexual being in a sexual world), I simply need to flood myself with right thinking
, which will help me understand my identity, sexuality, and calling, from God's perspective.
You might try this
, or this
, or this
, to get you started. The reality is that if I read the Stranger
and watch Friends
or Sex in the City
, more than I read my Bible or listen to my pastor's podcasts
, I'm failing to swim upstream. Thus I shouldn't be surprised when I land downstream, my boat having been dashed to bits by the rocky realities of sex without covenant, realities that exist for certain
, but which aren't addressed by "Friends" or in "The Stranger"
2. It's this shame thing that really enrages me, because it comes from the damned accuser, AND it comes from the church. We need to talk about the incredible restorative power of God's grace and the reality that His mercies are new every morning, that yesterday's failures are gone, gone, gone. We need to speak of the reality that all of us are fallen, and thus stop throwing rocks and begin blessing and healing.
There is o so much more to say about this important subject, because I know that people are living with confusion, shame, guilt, and anger - having been abused, or hardened, disillusioned, and shamed. Let's start the dialogue.
What else contributes to our sexual struggles and confusion?
What other things have people found helpful?
If you stay respectful, you can stay anonymous... and thanks for responding.