As we near our annual love day in a couple of days, I thought I’d take a moment to write about sex today; sex from a progressive Christian standpoint; sex from the standpoint of one who has further developed her thoughts from the rigid and restrictive teachings about sex she was taught growing up.
Most churches don’t realize they have a sex education curriculum. But they do. It’s a strong one and it’s a negative one. They don’t realize they have been shaping our views on sex unconsciously for decades. The kinds of notions that are lifted up in churches are notions such as purity, holiness, setting ourselves a part from the rest of society and of course, chastity. Our very origin story begins with a virgin birth for goodness sake!
The church consciously and unconsciously promotes theologies that favor separation between our souls and our material bodies. The better we are able to resist the temptations of our bodies such as chocolate during lent and sex before marriage, the more acceptable we are in the eyes of God and to other Christians.
I want to put forth another theology; another theology, which I believe is even more rooted in the scriptures and what I have learned about God through my own spiritual journey. And that is this: when God created us, God created both our souls and our bodies. Our bodies—all of our bodies (young, old, bigger, thinner, lighter, darker, athletic, with limited physical abilities) are beautiful and sacred.
Our bodies and our physical senses are gifts from God. Our senses enable us to experience pleasure in a way that our souls cannot even imagine. The pleasure that comes from a creme brulee right out of the oven or the smell of fresh rain or of course, sex with someone you love—these are all experiences that God wants us to enjoy. Our life task then, is not to detach from our bodies. Our life task is to celebrate our bodies and the countless ways our bodies experience this beautiful world and derive pleasure from it.
When I share these ideas with youth at our church, who with raging hormones are in desperate need of a healthy and strong theology of sex, I dispel this myth that physical attraction to others and sex is sinful, evil or shameful. But I also tell them that this is not license to just go out and have sex with whoever, whenever. If sex, along with all other sources of physical pleasure such as food and music, are in fact, gifts from God to us, then we must in fact receive them as gifts instead of curses. Because when we abuse these gifts, they no longer make us feel good and fulfilled. Rather, they make us feel enslaved to that which gives us pleasure. Food is a great example for many people. While it is a gift, our overeating and yo-yo dieting prevents us from experiencing food as a life-nourishing gift.
In order to truly receive and experience sex as a gift, we must be very intentional about who we decide to experience it with. We must do it responsibly by making sure that the basic elements are in place such as consent, respect for the other person and their full personhood, commitment so that you don’t have sex with somebody who doesn’t want to spend time with you regularly and mutual pleasure.
And then, I tell the youth to include some older adults that they trust in their decision-making process. As a minister, I’m not going to turn a blind eye to the reality that we are humans with material bodies and deep yearnings. The church’s denial and condemnation of our yearnings has had the exact opposite effect of what they desired in that they 1) became irrelevant as they were unable to truly connect with people in their day-to-day experiences and 2) associated our physical yearnings with something to be ashamed of rather than something to celebrate and enjoy.
So…on this Valentine’s Day, celebrate your body and all of the ways it is able to experience the pleasures of this world. It truly is magnificent what is out there for us! A perfectly ripened peach! Hugs and kisses! The smell of lavender! And also, remember to experience the pleasures of this world in a way that truly feels like a gift to you instead of a curse or burden.
Much love to you all,