Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sex and the Church

As promised yesterday--some thoughts about sexuality and the church. It is a distillation of a sermon I once gave and then turned into a column (both were well-received).

I hold the church partly responsible for the pornography industry. Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about sex a little bit.

For centuries people in the church have talked about sex as something that is sinful, or dirty, or a necessary evil (after all without sex there wouldn’t be new church members). To my eyes it appears that they have tried to de-sexualize humanity. I find many problems with this type of theology but the biggest problem I see is that it opened a door for a de-humanized sexuality. This is where the church holds some responsibility for the pornography industry.

To be as clear as possible, sex is not evil or sinful in and of itself. Certainly sexuality can be lived out in ways that break down relationships or is not life-affirming (and is therefore sinful) but that is true for any part of human activity. The first commandment God gives to humanity is “Be fruitful and multiply”. This is right after God looks at Creation and says, “it is good”. Therefore sex is also good.

There is an alternative. As people of faith, we can teach our children a healthy view of sexuality. We can teach them to be appropriately modest but not ashamed of the fact that they are sexual beings. Sex education is a difficult topic. It is sometimes hard for children and parents to talk about sex openly. But we have to. Schools are really good at teaching the nuts and bolts of sex. Schools are less well equipped to teach about the values and decision-making side of sex.

A faith-based discussion about sex goes far beyond the “just say no” rhetoric we often hear connected to the church. Not that there is anything wrong with raising up abstinence as a value, but if all we say is “don’t do it” we are often speaking into a vacuum. A faith-based sex discussion means talking about our self-image and how sexuality is a gift from God. It means talking seriously about relationships and commitment. It means talking from an early age about values and making choices. It means acknowledging the reality of sexual feelings and impulses. It means taking seriously the fact that we are created as sexual beings but that when we mis-use the gift of sexuality we can damage our relationships with ourselves and our friends and family. Such a discussion starts early in life and grows in complexity as our children develop.

We are sexual beings, that is a gift from God. We are called to live out our sexuality in ways that build strong relationships, in ways that affirm life. This means that we deal with sex differently at different times in our lives. It means that we have to think seriously about the ramifications of becoming sexually involved with someone. It means that sex is far more serious than a fun night in the sack. May God help us as we struggle to understand what it means to be sexual beings.

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