I’m sure you have some thoughts about sex. And they’re totally justified. I mean, you’re super smart and all.
And I’m sure you’re confident in your understanding of a Christian position on premarital sex. If the sex ed industry is any indication, it’s clear to anyone that premarital sex pretty much puts you in command of a battalion of satan’s army.
Of course, maybe you live up north where parents teach their kids how to have sex and pay for the hotel room.
Wait, what? Ridiculous, right?
The way we discuss sex and sex education as Christians and as parents is not in the least bit helpful. It’s full of stereotypes and falsehoods. And since it’s also part of the fictitious culture war, the battle lines are already drawn and the counterintelligence strategies eagerly deployed.
Americans are sick about sex.
But it isn’t just the politics or right/left divide. It’s a universal problem.
We can’t talk about it. We refuse to talk about it. Except in the abstract and the irrational. Or all of a sudden the hyper-individualized.
It’s all don’t you dare teach children anything because they might get the wrong (but totally right) idea that sex is fun.
But at the same time…
What if your child learned what a penis is? Do you want someone else teaching her about that?
Yes! Yes I do!
Our refusal to deal with sex is making us sick.
Most of the blame goes to the puritanical dismissal of science, facts, or data; believing that spreading some magic fairy dust and believing with all our might will prevent our children from ever having sex.
Nice, heteronormative, missional sex with their cisgendered spouse at some point after they get married, preferably between the ages of 24 and 27, when they both have established jobs and steady income and can take full responsibility for not only themselves, but the adorable 2.3 grandchildren they will give us in the very few times they will have sex because we also don’t believe in contraception.
But of course, this isn’t the only reason there’s a problem. Many of us don’t want to have a positive influence on our children’s sexuality at all. Either we don’t want to impose our own values upon them or we check out and refuse to participate at all. It’s our own version of magic fairy dust which will somehow prevent our children from ever having inappropriate sex. We know they’ll have it. We’re just hoping they don’t screw around.
But there’s another side effect.
Indiana has the 2nd highest rate of high school rape in the country.
We might not like teaching our kids about sex, but they’re still learning about it. And what they are learning can be destructive.
Nearly 1 in 5 Indiana high school girls will be raped in high school.
While this means there are some truly messed up teen boys, the majority of these rapes are from adult friends and family.
And while all our focus is on our own teens, we need to look at the bigger picture.
So I want my schools to teach sex ed right now, not just because I have a daughter. But for everyone’s daughters. And sons. Because some of those family and friends? They were in middle and high school 10 years ago.
So what are we teaching them today?
Don’t do it? Is that all? Wow! Marketing genius! It so works!
We need to get healthy.
We need to stop treating sex like a sin and sexuality like it’s evil.
And maybe we should first acknowledge the Pauline elephant in the living room.
Scripture doesn’t say much about premarital sex. They weren’t half as preoccupied with sexual morality as we are. Not even half. Like a tenth. The writers were far more occupied with compassion for the immigrant, loving neighbors and not stealing their stuff. Or killing them.
How Paul (and Jesus) treat sex is quite different from the moralism of modern American evangelicalism. He wrote of it as dealing with respect, making two primary arguments:
- Abstain from it totally. But if you can’t hack it, get married.
- Don’t be the cause of another’s downfall.
Many Bible-believing Christians think that marriage is the ultimate example and purpose of the faith. But to do that is to ignore Paul. Paul focused on Christ and how we are to one another in Christ. So it isn’t what you’re not doing, it is who you’re being.
And the second part focuses inward at a personal faith; pressuring one another to maintain a personal spiritual purity. But for Paul, sexual health is a corporate problem. A problem for our partner and the wider community.
As Scot McKnight writes:
For Paul, sex had two orientations: the present order is crumbling so marriage and family are second compared to devotion to Christ; sexual disorder is an ecclesial problem more than simply a personal problem.
When someone sinned the church suffered. Today we hope the sin takes place in someone else’s church. Paul didn’t think there was another church. Baptist pastors may be relieved by Catholic priests sinning; maybe Catholics are glad it’s someone else this time. Not for Paul: one church, one body, one grief.
It begins, of course by recognizing our complicity in our culture’s sexual unhealth.
Many might say “We do this already!” as they boycott Hollywood movies or flip around issues of Cosmopolitan on the magazine rack. But that isn’t the source of the dysfunction. If anything, that’s the symptom.
If we never talk about the beauty and power of sex; share our own experiences of both pain and joy; or seek to name the holy in sexual relationships, then we will continue to encourage dysfunctional relationships with sex.
I’m talking about encouraging health in sexual identity and relationship at the most base level. Let’s not jump on our usual hobby horses to ride above the fray in our self-justified superiority for having this faith thing all figured out.
We must talk about sex as holy. Because it is.
We should describe it as the gift which binds us and encourages us and overwhelms us and makes us stupid enough to be vulnerable and close enough to someone else that we can whisper God’s name in the dark and hear back in ecstasy
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This is from a series on Choices. We have plenty more choices to make!