When it comes to sexuality, I am not your average celibate Christian.
I spent the first 20 years of my life not having sex, then transitioned to seven years of married sex, and am now entering my third year of living as a single-again, non-virgin, who sometimes begrudgingly continues to choose to not have sex (it’s an unholy attitude, I know). My perspective and theology on sexuality has changed quite a bit from the wide-eyed, innocent, sexually repressed young adult version of me which existed up until age 20.
I like sex. I think it’s great fun, and an incredible way to express intimacy and commitment to a partner. I have to talk myself out of having it, and someday, I hope to meet someone worth sharing it with again. In the meantime, I am constantly frustrated with most popular evangelical Christian explorations of sexuality. Popular Christian literature often asserts sexual boundaries which are far and away based on Old Testament marriage practices re-appropriated to American cultural assumptions. The result is an unnecessary focus on finding ‘the one’, extraordinary pressure on opposite-sex friendships and dating/courting relationships, unnecessary limitations on healthy, innocent expressions of affection and sexuality, and a focus on repressing rather than managing our sexual urges. Where is the real world, and where is a faithful Biblical hermeneutic, in the popular evangelical Christian mandates for opposite-sex friendships, dating, and shared expressions of sexuality?
Here’s an example. This week I read yet another Christian perspective which espoused statements that sounded like statistical measures but are seemingly made-up. The statement was that our sexuality is 20 percent body-driven and 80 percent mind-driven. No evidence or citation was given for this arbitrary numerical assessment about how we function sexually. I’m not even sure what it means, but it seems pretty wrong to me. My body more often instinctually tells my mind what to think sexually, rather than my mind deciding what my body wants sexually. But for some reason, we keep on constructing arbitrary ideas about sexuality and theories for romantic engagements, which we define as the ‘biblical’ ones.
Another example. This week, I read that expression of sexuality, including innocent kissing and flirtation, is considered inappropriate, unhealthy, and outside of ‘God’s design’ for relationships which are not intentionally preparing for marriage. In this model, you shouldn’t kiss anyone except a boyfriend or girlfriend with whom you are exploring the possibility of marriage. This is supposedly the ‘Biblical’ way (Biblical references strangely absent from this assertion). For some people, kissing may be a very important and sacred thing to reserve for their spouse-to-be. I respect that and encourage those folks to abstain until they meet their partner. But what about the rest of us? As is the case for most Christians, kissing is a simple means of expressing affection or sexual desire and, in my opinion, entirely appropriate within the context of less serious romantic connections. Where is there scriptural evidence that God mandates against that? I am not arguing for a loose sexuality, but one in which we recognize, share, and express ourselves sexually and authentically, respecting appropriate social and spiritual boundaries, avoiding objectifying behavior, and also remembering that expressing appropriate affection and sexual longing is meant to be enjoyable.
I spent the first 20 years of my life agreeing with they typical evangelical sexual theories and boundaries, but not knowing why I agreed. Going from virgin, to married and sexually active, to single again and celibate has caused me to re-examine God’s standards for our sexuality, and most of the Christian literature is found wanting. In many evangelical circles, made-up statistics and evidence-less theories related to sexuality are tossed about the room while everyone nods in agreement, false piety intact, never understanding why these theories don’t match their experiences and wondering how long until they can find some sexual relief or satisfaction. In the Church, the conversation on sexuality frequently emphasizes how to hold onto virginity rather than on what it means to be a disciple of Christ with our sexuality, learning stewardship, loving and honoring one another, and emphasizing the virtues of purity and chastity to replace the vice of lust.
I’m ready for something a bit more faithful from evangelical Christians regarding sexuality. Are you?