And not in some slimey know-it-all way. Not with some “The Bible clearly says…” bullshit certainty of what God thinks about your naughty bits and where you put them.
But we need to talk in a way that deals with the stuff of life. So let’s talk.
When we talk about sex, gender, and the culture war, we’re talking about one tangle of dysfunction and bad conversation. Puritanical platitudes and the fearful refusal to deal with what matters.
1. Let’s talk about sex.
People have it. Lots of it. And like it. And you know what? God doesn’t think they’re going to rot in hell.
Why not? Because a God of mercy doesn’t play us like that.
And another reason? Life doesn’t work like that.
Here are two true things.
Teaching teens not to have sexual intercourse leads to less sexual intercourse. It does.
It also leads to more sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy. And more non-missionary sex acts.
Because telling teens not to do it does work. Slightly. It also leads to the same teens doing other stuff and justifying it.
But teaching kids how to have safe sex leads to safer sex.
This isn’t something that purity of ideology is going to help us. Statistics don’t bear it out. We have to choose.
If abstinence is more important than health, then we’re totally winning. But if we want both, then we have to put way more work into this thing than to say “don’t do it.”
We have to talk about relationships and expectations and what love looks like.
We have to stop calling something bad and horrible, but save it for when you’re married. Because that’s how you show you love them. With a terrible thing. Only now it’s awesome. Who are we fooling?
The double-talk is no better in leading our kids to healthy sexual lives than letting them learn about sex from their peers and the internet.
Let’s also admit that sex is good.
Sex is intimate and powerful. It connects us and brings two people into a place of unity like nothing else, complete with chemical euphoria.
Healthy sex involves mutual vulnerability. Jesus doesn’t encourage his followers to see themselves as hard warriors going into battle. He teaches them to be open peacemakers who build community. He teaches them to be vulnerable in the building of intimacy with others. How can that not apply here?
It forces us to let go. Our egos are in such control of our lives. And yet in the midst of sex, we are not only vulnerable, but less aware, less capable, and less in control of ourselves. And we have the opportunity to focus instead on someone else.
Speaking of focus, let’s move on to the second one.
2. Now Gender.
Real ongoing conversations about gender drive us to revisit old understandings and redevelop our ways of thinking about our roles in community.
And we’ve been at this for decades.
The scientific, mental health, and activist communities have led us to new territory. How we understand gender has changed dramatically over the last half century. And many of our churches have struggled to be authentic to how we understand the changing nature of gender and how we see it expressed in Scripture.
We haven’t always chosen well.
We’re at a time in which we have the opportunity to learn and make new discoveries. To research and reason and pray and discern.
And to respect all creation without scare quotes.
Which means faithful respect found in men and women and for those who don’t exist in such binary terms. It also means dudes can cook and do laundry and women can be breadwinners. And we can get down with sharing responsibility for all the chores none of us want to do in the first place.
And get our minds out of bathrooms and pushing for laws about who gets to use them.
3. The Culture War.
Screw it. It’s fiction. Made up. The ridiculous fantasy of binary minds who want everything to fit neat and tidy into liberal and conservative boxes.
The culture war is the fabrication of a group of pastors, politicians, and billionaires who organized decades ago. They sought to change the religious landscape of the United States. They organized the 1983 transformation of the Southern Baptist Convention. And they’ve continued their work well into the 2003 coups in the Episcopal Church.
More driven by politics than theology, these bare-knuckled brawlers intended to wrest control of the whole faith. They’ve freed some to rail against the menace we claim is God’s constant punishment for sin which needs to be eradicated. But that’s cool because, you know #notallconservatives.
But so many more of us are afraid to talk about these things in a holy way whatsoever. We fear getting critiqued for bringing politics in the pulpit. Or we’re too afraid to offend anyone that they’ll run away and exacerbate that well-known decline of ours.
4. A Way Forward.
There is another way. We don’t have to be slaves to this oppressive status quo.
Because things are changing. The ground is shifting. We are becoming different.
We need to accept that we have a voice. And using it is messy and difficult and sometimes when we talk, people get hurt. Like the number of people who stopped reading after the swear word in the second paragraph [you didn’t need to write that! I hear them saying].
We have to stop giving up. Stop pretending like we can stop talking. That we can escape and find something better. Where they don’t swear. Or they don’t ever talk about justice. Or love means telling people to repent or they’ll go to hell. Maybe they have better music and more kids and that’s all it takes.
And maybe we don’t have to figure out how to live in this world. We can pretend like it will all work. Without ever speaking up.
Or we choose to build the future in a faith worth having and love worth expressing. Where the real us is visible to the ones willing to see it. And we celebrate honesty, not narcissistically, but in thanksgiving that we have found a home.
Where we can be the we God cheers for. And the little demon on our shoulder is so tired of being ignored that he packs his bags and hits the road.
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This is from a series on Choices. We have plenty more choices to make!