Sex: What if God Just Doesn’t Care?

We hear proponents of sexual purity often bemoaning the fact that we “live in a sex-saturated world,” and yet, certain Christians seem to be as obsessed with sex as the secular society. A few days ago, I received an anonymous, complimentary Christian newsletter that had a very fundamentalist, evangelical slant. There was a two-page spread about “What God Says about Sex.” It was then divided into various sexual “sins” (fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, etc.), with Biblical verses used to back the “sinfulness” of each one. Several things about this article struck me.

  1. It gave more attention to homosexuality than to pedophilia, and neither lust nor rape were mentioned.
  2. Most of the passages came from Old Testament “moral codes” that Christians are no longer required to observe.
  3. Nearly all the passages zeroed in on sexual practices as a way to differentiate their own group, whether Jews or Christians, from other dominant cultures.
  4. None of the quotes came from Jesus.

For a long time, I’ve questioned Christianity’s hang-ups about sex, which is often used as a “defining” feature of the faith. But I can’t help but notice that in all of Jesus’ teachings and parables, he’s decidedly silent on the subject of sex, only hinting at it when he correlates lust with adultery. And I can’t help but wonder — if Jesus wasn’t hung up on sex, why are Christians?

I’m not saying that sexual sins don’t exist. Sex is a powerful force, and like all powerful forces, it can be used to create or destroy, to heal or to harm. And although a lot of Christian speakers and writers dress their sexual agenda in the mantle of concern for one’s feelings and bodily integrity, I can’t help but recoil from the element of control that underlies this obsession with sex. Because that’s what I think it does come down to: a fixation on sex because it seems “easy” to regulate and to preach. Before you object that restraining sexual desires is anything but easy, juxtapose it against Jesus’ true obsessions, which were compassion, service, and humility. Now, those are hard pills to swallow.

But those ethics must inform every Christians choice, including sexuality. The Theology of the Body gets at this a little bit, but it feels more like do’s and don’ts dressed up in compassion than compassion-centered sexuality. Because in actuality, acting with compassion can bring one up against some very difficult moral choices, as we all saw recently when a Brazilian girl’s mother, acting with compassion for her daughter, made the difficult moral choice to preserve and protect her daughter through abortion. Ultimately, the Christian obsession with obsolete sexual codes is a way to keep them (or perhaps more accurately, us) from having to make adult, difficult, nuanced moral decisions.

I’ll be the first to admit that Christianity’s perverse entanglement of sex and the politics of power has left me feeling a bit adrift, unclear about what the “right” sexual choices are beyond the all-important element of consent. Christianity has been used to control sexuality, especially women’s sexuality, for so long that I can no longer implicitly trust sexual ethics that come from the Church or a “Christian” standpoint. But I do know that every day, our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering from violence, hunger, poverty, disease, and oppression. I do know that, as Christians, we could do a lot better if we stopped wringing our hands over decisions made in the bedroom (or backseat of a car, or whatever), and started putting those hands to work building a more just world.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , by Lacey Louwagie. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lacey Louwagie

I'm a feminist, a writer, an editor, and a seeker. I co-edited "Hungering and Thirsting for Justice: Real-Life Stories by Young Adult Catholics" (ACTA 2012) and authored "Where I First Met God" in "Unruly Catholic Women Writers II" (SUNY Press 2013). You can learn more about me at www.laceylouwagie.com.

17 thoughts on “Sex: What if God Just Doesn’t Care?

  1. Pingback: You win some, you lose some « LL Word

  2. It’s always seemed to me that Jesus’ sexual ethics were more concerned with basic human dignity than with prurient morality. He pretty much says, don’t covet thy neighbor’s wife, and don’t look at women as sex objects. So it does seem to me that God cares a lot less about sex than we tend to.

  3. Loved this piece Lacey! When it comes to sex you and me tend to think alike haha! =p Really, what you said about sex being used as a tool for power I think is so true. Actually, it’s really obvious…

    The male powers at be within the Church seem to have a very restrictive, rigid, unscientific view of human sexuality. Sex is only to be used for procreation because that’s what God made man and woman for… Basically, this is why official Church doctrine prohibits pretty much ANY kind of sexual activity outside of sexual intercouse within the context of heterosexual marriage.

    Also, I think the current Church’s definition of sex gives more credence and credibility to the patriarchal makeup of the hiearchy and clergy that we know today. My mom has always said that MEN designed high heels for women because they thought they were beautiful despite how women may actually feel when they confine themselves to wearing them. The same principal could apply to the hiearchy. They’re a body of supposed celibates. It’s easy for them to sit back and say that the Holy Spirit influences their decisions on these matters when they aren’t really bothered by them. But doesn’t that make it even more sinister…?

    I don’t want to sound simplistic, but God gave us our sexuality and our sexual organs for a reason. The Song of Songs is a moving and passionate tale of erotic love. Yes, it can be seen as Christ’s love for the Church, but I think the leaders of the Church often like to write this book off with this description without explaining other ways in which it could be enriching and meaningful to our lives, particularly when it comes to sexuality.

    Really, we do have to look at what Jesus says about sex, it becomes wrong when we act only on lust and objectify individuals rather than seeing them as beautiful creations of God. But really, sex as God made, should be celebrated, except when it is used to inflict pain.

    But I do think the leaders of the Church must explore sex within a modern scientific context and a new theological understanding, greatly distanced from St. Augustine’s own guilt ridden explanations of remorse…

  4. I agree with you. I was never sold on the Church’s teaching on birth control because the ulterior motives don’t seem to be about love at all but about a) making more Catholics — saves us the trouble of converting them, after all; and b) keeping women so busy that their chances of attaining real positions of power, within the Church and within the world, are reduced.

    I once was sold on the idea of saving yourself for marriage, and always being pro-GLBT rights, I applied that as still waiting for some sort of public and personal commitment to a partner, however you might want to express that. But now I feel a lot less sure; essentially, the Church has made so many decisions that have hurt me, as a bisexual woman, and so many edicts that are about controlling and constraining rather than caring and loving, that I have trouble viewing their sexual ethics divorced from that tendency to control and constrain. I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to Catholic sexual teaching, but the bathwater is so dirty that I’m not sure I’m ever going to find the baby!

    So when it comes down to it, only consent and human dignity are at the core of my sexual ethics. Everything else is still up for debate!

  5. Pingback: Creativity and the Collective Consciousness « LL Word

  6. I guess if we’re only going to accept what only Jesus says in God’s Word than we can justify pretty much anything. This is what happens when one picks and chooses only what one likes out of the Bible. We rationalize away portions of Scripture as if it isn’t one magnificent tapestry given to us by God himself.

    What do you say to those who don’t believe in the part in God’s Word that said Jesus rose from the dead. How can you who pick and choose only the portions you like, defend against others who would pick and choose the portions they like and reject the ones you like? Are you saying you know which particular passages are true and which are false?

    “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'” 1 Cor 3:18-20

    For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. 1 Cor 1:25

    If man’s wisdom is foolishness, than what wisdom is being talked about and how would one acquire such wisdom to stop being a fool? Search the Bible and you will find the answer and abundant Life!

    If we support what the unbelieving world supports than we are worldly in our thinking and therefore carnal (that is, of course, if you believe this part of God’s Word). When orthodox Christianity does not support what the unbelieving world supports, who do you suppose is worldly? Does orthodox Christianity work to help the homeless? Yes. Does it work to help fight racism? Yes. Does it work against poverty and injustice? Yes. Does it work for the liberty of the captives? Yes in a greater way than just physical liberty. Does it work against sin? Yes; especially if sin is now being promoted as some sort of virtue.

    Does the church really have hang-ups with sex? Maybe it’s just that lust and sex have always been a problem. When the sheep of the flock begin to rebel against the view of the Good Shepherd, what would you expect to happen? Wouldn’t you expect discipline and punishment? Of course you would. Unfortunately, the church has been lax in exercising discipline and punishment and therefore, sin runs rampant even in our churches.

    I think the ones who have hang-ups about sex are those who would like the church to support their hang-ups. When it doesn’t they rebel as unrepentant sinners always do.

    The real pathology seems to be when those with the hang-ups with sex, try to force those hang-ups to be acceptable and reject the clear way of God’s Word (in its entirety). Why should anyone accept an unbiblical way? In the name of what I hear so often expressed from the “world”, so called “tolerance”, I would expect the “world” to be tolerant. Low and behold, that is not the case with a foolish world that never practices what it expects from everyone else.

    In His Grace & Peace.

  7. You know, I’m getting REALLY tired of your repeated implication that the bloggers on this site do not read / understand / reflect upon the Bible. MANY of us, probably all of us, read the Bible regularly and prayerfully. Most of us have probably read it in its entirety more than once. Although I’m not among them, many of the bloggers here also have degrees in theology and related fields. So these implications are erroneous, judgmental, spiteful, and insulting — and if they continue to come, I’m going to be deleting such comments in line with our commenting policy regarding personal attacks on writers or commenters, which includes questioning someone’s faith.

    I’m tired of the idea that people who are thoughtful about Scripture are “picking and choosing.” Guess what? The Catholic Church has been “picking and choosing” what it adheres to for hundreds of years. They have blatantly disregarded female leadership in the early Church (Mary Magdalene’s privileged role in Jesus’ ministry, the role of Phoebe and other house priests/deacons during Paul’s ministry, etc., Old Testament judges such as Deborah and prophetesses such as Huldah) when they make their “case” against female ordination. What’s more, stories about women in the Bible have been systematically deleted or overshadowed during the Church’s three-year liturgical cycle in the Church. Also, Christianity has more or less thrown out, en masse, whole portions of the Bible, and rightly so. You seem self-righteous about sexual morality codes, but do you eat shrimp? And if you’re not a seafood kind of guy, do you try to prevent others from eating it? Do you think Christians shouldn’t be bankers because a believer is asked to lend without expecting interest? Most of Christianity–including Catholicism–and Bible scholars agree that there are parts of the Bible that are “universals” and parts that are culturally bound. When it comes to Scripture, I err on the side of Jesus.

  8. It’s not just about what Jesus said or didn’t say — it’s also a question of what sort of example He presents to us, the Church, on how to deal with sexuality.

    Jesus pointedly refused to join in the public condemnation of an adulterous woman and basically told the religious authorities they had no right to condemn her. It was only privately that He suggested to her that she should avoid adulterous behavior in the future.

    And in passing through a Samaritan town, He chose a woman who had been married five times — not counting her latest unmarried lover — to announce Him to the rest of the village. He didn’t even seem to feel the need to chastise her for her lifestyle choices.

  9. I am thoroughly thrilled to see young Catholics explaining so much better than I would have what I have been believing and feeling and fighting for years.

    I sense that the Catholic/Christian fixation with sex and sexuality is a disordered affection that takes folks off Jesus’ Way. Too bad.

    Thanks Lacey. A really great post!

  10. What if God Just Doesn’t Care? And when you stand before God, and find out only then that He really DID care, then what?

    • It’s interesting that you seem to think I lead a life of debauchery simply because I don’t think sex should be Christianity’s highest priority. I am not exploring this issue out of any desire to “justify” my own choices but to really find what’s at the heart of the Christian faith. And I have absolutely no qualms about what will happen when I stand before God, so we can both rest easy on that front.

  11. Actually, if you look at Matthew chapter 25, verses 34 to the end, Jesus is pretty clear and unambiguous about what God will care about at our final judgement. Sex doesn’t make the cut.

  12. “Actually, if you look at Matthew chapter 25, verses 34 to the end, Jesus is pretty clear and unambiguous about what God will care about at our final judgement. Sex doesn’t make the cut.”

    Provided that those are the only criteria God is concerned with. So when Paul says in 1 Cor 6:8 “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators not idolaters nor adulters nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God”, are you saying St Paul is wrong? 4 of the first 5 conditions Paul mentions are sex related.

    Jesus’ statements constitute our mandate on showing mercy towards others, which translates to how we treat Christ. Paul’s statements constitute, more or less, how we are to live morally. They are complimentary, not mutually exclusive.

    • What I’d say is this: Nobody except God has the right to make the call about who’s getting in to Heaven, and that includes St. Paul. He says that neither “thieves” nor “robbers” will inherit the Kingdom of God, but we see at Jesus’ crucifixion that he promises one of the thieves hung beside him that he will enter heaven. I was not ignorant of the “sex-related” edicts in the Bible when I wrote my post, so I don’t actually need to see them here in the comments. I feel that Paul was really hung up on differentiating “Christian” culture from other cultures, and one way he saw to do that was by restricting sexual behavior of believers. I also think that this is a case where we need to look at the spirit vs. the letter of the law. Most of the sexual passages in the Bible come down to lust or an unequal / inappropriate power balance, and yes, those are sins because they tear away at the dignity of other human beings. But considering both the fact that Jesus was radically inclusive AND the fact that He made atonement for the sins of the world (and the sinners who committed them), Paul might have found himself mighty surprised at who he met in Heaven.

    • What I’d say is this: Nobody except God has the right to make the call about who’s getting in to Heaven, and that includes St. Paul. He says that neither “thieves” nor “robbers” will inherit the Kingdom of God, but we see at Jesus’ crucifixion that he promises one of the thieves hung beside him that he will enter heaven. I was not ignorant of the “sex-related” edicts in the Bible when I wrote my post, so I don’t actually need to see them here in the comments. I feel that Paul was really hung up on differentiating “Christian” culture from other cultures, and one way he saw to do that was by restricting sexual behavior of believers. I also think that this is a case where we need to look at the spirit vs. the letter of the law. Most of the sexual passages in the Bible come down to lust or an unequal / inappropriate power balance, and yes, those are sins because they tear away at the dignity of other human beings. But considering both the fact that Jesus was radically inclusive AND the fact that He made atonement for the sins of the world (and the sinners who committed them), Paul might have found himself mighty surprised at who he met in Heaven.

      I also think it’s important to note that I am NOT arguing for sexual permissiveness or saying that the Bible has nothing to say about sex. What I’m saying is that I don’t think sexual mores are necessarily central to Christianity and that too many people get fixated on them, to the exclusion of what is central to Christianity: namely, Jesus.

  13. “Nobody except God has the right to make the call about who’s getting in to Heaven, and that includes St. Paul.”

    Okay, but St Paul’s writing is inspired Scripture – so he’s only saying what God has revealed. Just like the Church does. Paul isn’t talking to a specific individual, but to a community.

    “He says that neither “thieves” nor “robbers” will inherit the Kingdom of God, but we see at Jesus’ crucifixion that he promises one of the thieves hung beside him that he will enter heaven”

    Okay, but Paul is talking about those persisting in an unrepentant sinful lifestyle. The thief on the cross admitted his guilt, defended Christ, and acknowledged His Lord-ness. By doing so, he was promised eternal life by Christ. The other thief did not – in fact he joined the crowd in mocking Him – so it’s quite possible that that thief did not enter Heaven.

    “I was not ignorant of the “sex-related” edicts in the Bible when I wrote my post, so I don’t actually need to see them here in the comments.”

    Okay, but it’s never a bad thing to be reminded of the standards we are asked to live to. Sometimes they’re helpful to make us realize we need to make amends in our life. (and I include myself in that statement, every day)

    “I feel that Paul was really hung up on differentiating “Christian” culture from other cultures, and one way he saw to do that was by restricting sexual behavior of believers.”

    Okay, but it’s really not about how it makes us feel. Paul wasn’t restricting just sexual behaviors; he was highlighting a (non-exhaustive) list of behaviors that are deleterious for anybody, Christian or not. And I doubt he was “hung up” on them – he was working to save souls.

    “Most of the sexual passages in the Bible come down to lust or an unequal / inappropriate power balance, and yes, those are sins because they tear away at the dignity of other human beings.”

    Okay, and since lust is one of the deadly seven sins, then you could say that it’s at the base of all sexual sins. And they not only tear away at the dignity of other people, but they destroy our own as well. When I struggled with on-line porn, it not only affected how I approached my wife, it also served to distort my role in our marriage.

    “But considering both the fact that Jesus was radically inclusive AND the fact that He made atonement for the sins of the world (and the sinners who committed them), Paul might have found himself mighty surprised at who he met in Heaven.”

    Okay, I’m not sure what ‘radically inclusive’ is supposed to mean other than He instructed that the Gospel was to be spread throughout the world, and it is meant to be shared with everyone. And yes, his atonement is for the sins of the world, but if a sinner rejects it, then they won’t be admitted to Heaven. As to Paul’s reaction – I suppose we’ll find out someday. And should by God’s grace I make it to Heaven, no one’s gonna be more surprised than me!

    I’m not implying that you’re arguing for sexual permissiveness. I do think, though, that you and I disagree what constitutes permissiveness. What it ultimately comes down to is this – do we order our lives to conform to the teachings of the Church, or do we decide on our own what is necessarily central to Christianity? Jesus can be, and ought to be, central in our lives, while at the same time having our lives conformed to all of the Church’s teachings. After all, Christ did tell Peter “Whoever hears you, hears Me, and whoever rejects you, rejects Me and the one who sent Me.”

    • I have a question my friend. Why is it that alot of people are willing to take the sexual ethics to heart, but I have yet to see any Church leader, laity or any other Catholic support the phrase in the Bible that spoke of “leaving all your material possessions behind” in order to follow Jesus. I understand priests follow this principle to a certain extent, but doesn’t that also mean we shouldn’t be possessing so many material things. Please do try to tell me how God approves the current model of poverty and economic exploitation that proliferates in this world today. I would like to see how you rebunk or justify maintaining an extreme level of wealth today and not having to abide by the teaching of “leaving all your things behind” in order to follow Jesus Christ and his path to heaven?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s