June 6, 2020

Sex Is Not Arithmetic

Green Lovers (detail), Chagall

Green Lovers (detail), Chagall

How I wish Christian teachers and leaders would talk honestly to people about sex.

The other day I read an article about a video Tim Keller did for Jonathan Bethke. The article was called, “Timothy Keller Waxes Poetic About the ‘Magic’ and Pleasures of Sex in Marriage.”

Now, that headline oversells the actual claims Keller makes in the video. Still, the impression given by both the video and article is that (Christian) marriage always guarantees a deeply satisfying sex life while sex outside of marriage inevitably and always leads to disappointment, unhappiness, and disastrous consequences.

Pastor Keller, who was answering the question, “Why is sex outside of marriage so destructive?” says the following in the video:

Sex inside of a committed marriage is magic. It’s like blowing on the coals of this incredible beautiful and powerful flame. Sex outside of marriage is just a way of not giving yourself, but of receiving fulfillment and pleasure.

Here, you can watch Tim Keller for yourself:

First of all, I want to say I appreciate what Tim Keller has to say. I especially like the fact that he talks about the sexual experiences of married couples who are older. He has reached a season of life that gives him perspective about life and relationships and how sexuality fits into a bigger picture of years knowing and loving another person.

If I could categorize his teaching I would say it reflects the Judeo-Christian wisdom tradition. It represents a certain understanding of the order of creation and how the institution of marriage was designed to provide a haven for committed love between a man and a woman.

I share a belief in this tradition, I find security and safety within it. I commend it to others. I think it represents the best possibility for love and families to flourish. I am as traditional as Keller about marriage and I find his testimony attractive.

However, I struggle with what Christians do with such teaching and testimony.

chagall-lovers-with-half-moon-1926

Lovers with Half Moon, Chagall

Many believers have a theology of glory when it comes to issues like this.They are convinced that believing this moral teaching will most certainly translate into a better experience in their lives.

Therefore, they tend to speak simplistically: Christians have better sex. Married people have better sex.

And because sex outside of marriage is morally wrong, it must not be satisfying or meaningful. It’s just about people seeking pleasure for themselves.

On the other hand, married people, simply because they are married and on the right side morally, understand true commitment. Therefore, sex is automatically more rewarding.

To which I say: get real!

Being a Christian, being married, even being a considerate and loving person does not guarantee that you will have a satisfying and pleasurable sex life.

This is not arithmetic, folks. This is life, with all its complexities and caveats.

Sex is about human bodies — each one unique. It’s about bodies that don’t always respond the way we want them to, bodies that we’re proud of and embarrassed about, bodies that go through changes as we age, bodies that are subject to fatigue and illness and injury, bodies that sometimes enjoy touch and sometimes shrink from being touched.

Sex is about human psychology and all the crazy things we think about ourselves, and how those thoughts are affected by the most unexpected things in ways we can never entirely unravel and may find difficult to change.

Sex is about human relationships and all the ups and downs that go with being together with another person.

Sex is about human emotions and our inability to always control them or harness them in the service of love and intimacy.

Sex is about human experience. It’s about people who grew up in loving families and others who were regularly abused. It’s about people who have been deeply hurt in past relationships and find it hard to trust. It’s about people who are intelligent, who can learn easily, and others who don’t have much intellectual capacity and stay at a certain level of understanding. It’s about folks who have had privileges and an easy road and those who’ve been through the school of hard knocks.

No matter who we are, what kind of relationships we are in, and no matter what we believe, sex is mysterious, messy, disappointing, tender, funny, puzzling, embarrassing, magical, comfortable, perplexing, painful, invigorating, uninteresting, intense, infuriating, boring, addictive, fun, revolting, passionate, and exasperating. All those things and more.

At times it bonds us together with a strong sense of connection. At other times it puts thick walls between us. Sometimes we can talk about it freely, but not always. We keep secrets from each other. We look at pornography. We fantasize. We wonder if we’re doing it right. We masturbate. We imagine what it would be like to be intimate with someone else. We may give it little thought or find it an unpleasant idea. Frankly, we may not like sex. We may wonder if we are asexual or, on the other hand, if we are oversexed. We obsess about it, tell jokes about it, tease each other about it, or do our best to ignore and avoid the subject. We think and feel about it differently in various seasons and circumstances of our lives. We often don’t know what the hell to think and feel about it.

We never master sex. We can’t always add it up.

Being a Christian, having a high view of the marriage covenant, and holding strong moral convictions, even committing oneself to another person for a lifetime and working on that relationship diligently cannot and does not guarantee that a person or couple will know sexual satisfaction. It may not be “magic” and we may not be able to “wax poetic” about our experience.

At the same time, Christians must recognize that others who do not share these convictions may actually experience more rewarding sexual relationships than we do. Yeah, it’s actually possible, folks. This is not heresy or moral surrender — it is just how things are. We live in a big world and it’s a complex life out there.

We’ve got to get off this penchant for thinking that if something is true or right, it will automatically be better in our experience.

That is a theology of glory. That is a prosperity gospel. That is Christians trying to justify themselves before the world by claiming that God’s Kingdom always advertises itself by visible proofs.

In other words, stop trying to defend the faith by saying silly things like it leads to better sex.

That is not the Gospel. Much of the time, it doesn’t even add up.

Comments

  1. Marriage was not put here by God. It is a human social institution, much like farming. To hold it up as the only way, or even the best way, to order human society is to ignore the terrible human cost of this cookie-cutter mentality. Beyond the dubious ideal of two virgins fumbling with one another on their wedding night, there is the entire legal and financial edifice of marriage to consider, which carries enormous risk even when the people who enter into it are reasonably well-prepared.

    And none of this is from the Bible. Jesus may have visited weddings, but his own family relations were far from traditional, and you will find nothing so sanctimonious in his recorded sayings. Meanwhile, the Old Testament assumes a norm of patriarchy and elite polygamy, among other practices that would now raise eyebrows. As Christians now distinguish themselves by parading against gay rights, I wonder why anyone would suppose that religion has any moral standing to contribute to this discussion.

    • Seneca Griggs says

      Another joyless lecture from the progressive community? It tires me out; there is no pleasure in the progressive perspective.

      • +1, Seneca.

        @Wexal…you hit on oppressive patriarchy, feminism, the “elite” and normalizing homosexual behavior. Sadly,. you lose points for not morphing “farming” into man-made climate change, and you totally missed the rights of our non-human companions!!

        We are trying to discuss sex and Christian marriage, not political talking points. Anyone can trot out their soapbox, but try to stay on topic, please.

        • The concept of “Christian marriage” is intensely political.

          • Yet it predates any political frame reference you have for it by centuries.

          • Read the book “Sex at Dawn,” which is about archaic human sexuality. Marriage, like politics as we know them, seems to have spread in tandem with mass agriculture, and is by no means universal human behavior.

          • Wexel, it’s one thing to claim marriage has spread like politics (in your 7:54pm post) and quite another to claim “Christian marriage” is intensely political. And while marriage may not be a universal human behavior, I think the Biblical perspective would be that it is a “healthier” human behavior. Yes, we can rut around like the apes do, and maybe some people/cultures do, but is that healthy approach to procreation?

            Plus, I’d argue that mass agriculture has helped keep civilization alive, so I’m not sure why you’d use that analogy as a negative.

          • We ARE apes. Ape behavior various from bonobo (who have sex with numerous partners as normal social behavior) to gorilla (alpha male with a “harem”), with the biblical norm hewing fairly close to the gorilla end of the spectrum. “Sex at Dawn” focuses on the archaic “tribal” lifestyles that took up most of our evolutionary history, in which small bands of 100-200 humans pooled resources, people of breeding age typically had multiple lovers, and fatherhood was not always an issue. (Or sometimes, multiple “fathers” were recognized.) With civilization (meaning larger-scale permanent settlements with division of labor, more hierarchy, etc.) the “free rider” problem made collective arrangements impossible, and “marriage”–in which women are exchanged much as livestock or slaves are, and men support them (and any children) in return for (theoretically) exclusive sexual access / confidence in their own paternity. Settled mass agriculture is far less healthy than hunting and gathering (the skeletons are smaller and less nourished), and tends to produce population surpluses, which then displace remaining tribal peoples.

            Now when you speak of “Christian” marriage, this may be a purely rhetorical / idealistic construct, or it may conceivably refer to Roman law as it was absorbed into historic Christianity (including, for example, the requirement of monogamy, or harsh restrictions on divorce). While I realize that this sort of arrangement has become standard throughout much of the world, and that departures from it tend to be unstable, one could make the same argument about the necessity of standing armies, or of the various informal codes by which prisoners relate to one another. It is not good in itself, at least not as a universal standard to which all are expected to conform. In fact this is very characteristic of mass-agriculture societies and their religions–to insist that there is one right way to live.

          • We ARE apes.

            So I looked up, and as it turns out, according to Wikipedia, this is indeed true! As far as scientific classification goes and FWIW, we are right next to gorillas, orangoutangs, and chimpanzees on the species spectrum. Perhaps this could explain my penchant love of bananas. 😛

            However. If you are seriously analyzing the behavioral patterns of the rest of the animal kingdom in order to come up with a justifiable system of ethics for human behavior, what does this say about yourself? I mean, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that, regardless of any religious significance you attach to it, Humans are simply far more intelligent than the rest of the primates (though the average monkey DOES seem far more content, well-adjusted and happy). We don’t see dolphins analyzing human behavior to determine what is normal or should be considered acceptable. The humans are for humans: we don’t live our lives according to any sort of cross-species peer pressure. They’re not our peers, even if they are our cousins.

            The idea of “Christian marriage,” however, thought the term may be of recent coinage, is as old as the faith. That would be about 2000 years. This predates any concept of the modern liberal/conservative dichotomy as it is understood and the issues are allocated today. It was not a political issue originally, it was a commonly accepted way of living. It only recently became politicized, but it is nonetheless older than any modern political system.

          • 2000 years seems like a long time from the perspective of “civilization,” but not in evolutionary terms. There is nothing holy about “ethics.” Every society has rules. (Even among social animals.) We may balk at “murder,” but still consider various forms of killing to be socially permissible, and that is precisely what the Yanomamo of the Amazon do. Or for that matter, chimpanzees. No aspect of Christianity is superior to other ways of life.

            The intelligence of homo sapiens is just a tool, like the claws of the tiger. No animal is “above” any other, except perhaps in its own mind! Also, as a technical note, there is no agreement on the meaning of “intelligence,” let alone in how to measure it. A dog will run around a fence to reach food, while a cat may just stare at it, but this is a consequence of their respective hunting techniques, which otherwise serve them quite well. Our intelligence has allowed us to spread across the planet, but may well prove our undoing.

          • Wexel,
            Is racism evil? Is there any absolute moral and binding imperative against pedophilia?

            Or do you honestly believe that human behavior should only be assessed on the basis of evolutionary value, that is, whether it is conducive to (individual? familial? tribal? national? species? planetary?) survival or not?

            Do you really believe that empathy is merely a genetically driven trait that may or may not have value, depending on whether it fits the particular current dispensation of natural selection?

            I find it difficult to believe that one could really hold such beliefs (as opposed to merely espousing them) and live a human life, for the simple reason that it would be very difficult to distinguish what is human from what is not.

          • It’s also amazing the amount of metaphysical knowledge you anti-metaphysicians employ in your denial of the validity of metaphysical assertions. Take for example your statement:

            “No aspect of Christianity is superior to other ways of life.”

            It’s mind-boggling the amount of metaphysical information you would have to possess to make that statement on the basis of personal knowledge. Why, you’d have to be omniscient.

            Now, I can’t deny that you’re smart, Wexel; sometimes I think that you’re so damn smart that you outsmart yourself.

            But are you omniscient?

          • To say that “racism is evil” assumes a certain framework of reference, and makes little sense outside that framework. Like other ethical utterances, it amounts to a projection of personal or societal values onto the universe as a whole, perhaps as a means of reinforcing their importance. But human groups have always had one code for fellow group-members, and another for outsiders. Archaic tribes jostled with one another in shifting patterns of war and alliance, just as modern nation-states do. U.S. racial conflict (and other ethno-linguistic conflicts) is an instance of a wider (probably universal) human phenomenon of identity group boundary-construction and -maintenance. Don’t think only of war, or racial conflict; think of the system of international boundaries / citizenships / passports, which convers on some people greater rights than others, much as Jim Crow laws did for race. We all practice some degree of Apartheid.

            To answer your other question, I am only partially omniscient!

      • Ironic that I, the progressive, should have to remind you, the reactionary, that not everything was put on this earth for your pleasure.

        • Grandfather Trout says

          Strange that I, the mystic, should have to remind you, the positivist, that any discussion of human behavior as it is presumed to have been before the advent of written records is extrapolation and imagination.

          • Patrick Kyle says

            +1 Exactly the same reason I abandoned the study of Archeology in college. A whole lot of speculation and ‘extrapolation’ going about how things were before written records.

          • Written records are just artifacts of a different kind. For example, the stories told in the Bible do not always match what archeologists unearth on the ground. It would be quite wrong to say that one is more dependent on “extrapolation and imagination” than the other.

          • Bible stories might not always match what archeologists unearth, but…archeologists have for YEARS used Biblical references to unearth archeological finds.

        • Patrick Kyle says

          “It would be quite wrong to say that one is more dependent on “extrapolation and imagination” than the other.”

          Bits of bone, charcoal, and stone can only tell you so much, in spite of what my professors so adamantly proclaimed.

          Wexel, my question to you is , ” What is your point?” You come into a forum with a radically alien world view than that held by the readers and commenters here. Are you going to convince us to abandon the Scriptures as though they were a pile of crap? Will you prevail on us to adopt your nihilistic, secular, worldview and embrace the meaninglessness of life? What, so we can drink deeply of the promiscuous sexual habits of our monkey relatives to get in touch with our roots? Are you going to shame our archaic and hidebound sexual ethics and dazzle us with your erudite learning?

          Color me unimpressed. On many other forums you would be branded a troll.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        You want to talk about “Joyless”, check out Christianese literature sometime. Only Joy(TM) a lot of them have is the Joy of North Koreans dancing with Great Enthusiasm before Comrade Dear Leader.

    • As opposed to two virgins fumbling with each other on their not-wedding night?

      • There ARE other possible combinations, but skipping over that… Imagine that you had married your first serious boyfriend or girlfriend. Chances are that this would have occurred sometime in junior high or high school, and would not have been a good idea. The situation is not much improved by imagining the couple as inexperienced, religiously-fanatical thirty-year-olds.

        • Ali Griffiths says

          Wexel – sorry to disillusion you but two virgins fumbling around on their wedding night knowing they have nothing to live up to and have all the time in the world to practise pleasure can be great fun. And I’m glad my husband married his only and first love – me. Over 22 years and, so far, no regrets. I have earned the right to affirm marriage as a legitimate way of formalising the commitment of two people and I agree wholeheartedly with CM’s article.
          It’s easy to snipe at the way people manage their romantic affairs – why don’t you actually come up with something constructive? The reason why you haven’t is that we all know the alternative is bleak in comparison – we see it all around us.

          • I’m glad it worked for you, but that’s no reason to prescribe it for everybody. The alternative is to wait until you know what you want out of relationships, and life, before getting married. What’s so bleak about that?

            I’m not sniping at how you manage your romantic affairs, I’m sniping at the ridiculous “Christian” expectations which you want to impose on other people. I’m sorry you find this less than constructive, but you should ask yourself to what extent this is because I disagree with you.

          • you should ask yourself to what extent this is because I disagree with you.

            That’s not condescending. It’s not about pragmatics. The proposition of the historic Judeo-Christian ethic is that it is divine prescription and the way nature was originally designed to run, whether it “works for you” or not. Seriously, what kind of worldview condones doing the right thing only when you stand to gain something from it?
            If you want to snipe at “ridiculous Christian expectations,” get over the Christians and go straight for the Christ. Was Jesus being ridiculous when he equated impure thoughts with adultery in the sermon on the mount? ‘Cause he’s only, like, the most influential moral teacher in human history (aside from being the Son of God and Savior of the World, etc…).

            Heaven forbid every decision we make is not about getting what we want out of life.

          • Those words ascribed to Jesus are not the slightest bit practical, any more than his advice to “give to all who ask,” or belief in the efficacy of prayer. He is influential more as a superegoic symbol than for anything that he actually said. Such exaggerated praise is commonly applied to religious leaders.

          • Ali Griffiths says

            Oh Wexel – where did I even begin to say that my views should be imposed on everyone else? You are the one who is mocking other people and the wording you use is most definitely a form of sniping. If you are not intending this then you should review the ways in which you communicate your views.

            But I note you STILL haven’t come up with a better alternative.

            The best you offer is:
            ‘wait until you know what you want out of relationships, and life, before getting married’.

            If you want to live your life as if it is all about what you want, fine but marriage is more than getting what you want from it. It is about giving of yourself to someone else. A very different concept than what you advocate – life is all about what you want from it? It is a bleak philosophy to live your life by. The results of living for yourself are nothing but bleak. Just look around you at the results of that kind of justified selfishness.

            And that would be fine – you’re an adult and can choose your path – until you involve other people in that life. If you commit yourself to others whether in a formal marriage ceremony or not then they are the ones who will be left broken and desolate by you when you decide that you are no longer getting what you want out of your life and change to suit yourself. The kind of life and attitude you advocate are not ones that end up life enhancing but suck the joy out of life.

            You don’t even have to be a Christian or of any religious persuasion to see the holes in what you advocate.

          • Those words ascribed to Jesus

            LOL. So which is it? Are you arguing that we have no recorded sayings from Jesus on the topic, or that any records we have are irrelevant because they are biased and tampered? If you have pre-decided what Jesus could or could not have said, why do you even care? If you have to change the historical Jesus to the one who matches your views, why bother with him in the first place?

            Your understanding of his teachings hasn’t even delved to the level of a surface reading. Your exegesis is as inept as reading Shakespeare as an instruction manual for interior design. History is full of people who took the teachings of Christ very seriously.

            He is influential more as a superegoic symbol than for anything that he actually said.

            LOL so which is it? Can we not know for sure anything he ever said, or does nobody care anyways? Maybe in your super progressive circles he is merely a superegoic symbol, but to orthodox Christianity, he is and has always been so much more. You should really learn a thing or two about Christian doctrine before you presume to critique it with so much authority. Your demonstrated understanding of it is ill informed to the point of hilarity.

          • Miguel, Jesus is recorded as saying certain utterances. I have no idea whether he in fact did so (and am not greatly concerned about the issue, aside from intellectual curiosity). Probably some of them are accurate. This particular logion is more likely than most–precisely because it IS so impractical (and thus potentially embarassing). Orthodox Christianity pretends to follow his every utterance, but in fact ignores many of them, and shifts the emphasis to worship OF Jesus, something quite alien to the Jewish milieu in which Jesus lived.

            Ali, sometimes “giving of yourself to someone else” can be a terrible mistake. It has to be mutual. And life-goals do matter.

        • Imagine that, huh? Actually, it’s what I did. Tell me more about how is my marriage is a bad idea. From whence cometh this law that sexual experience must not be gained with a life long partner, but the technique must be mastered prior to meeting them? Baloney. There’s more than one way in which we’ve grown up together. Or, shall I say, continue to grow. That’s how relationships work, btw.

          • Indeed. One of the wiser statements that I’ve come across on matters sexual is that the secular world’s emphasis on maximal satisfaction has quite literally taken the fun out of sex. And so sex is rendered yet one more item in life’s long list of performance metrics by which we’re to be judged. (It’s not for nothing that common sit-com storylines involve the guy/girl worrying that they “won’t be good enough in bed” to maintain the affections of their significant other.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I thas long been my thesis that Christians are just as messed-up sexually as everyone else, just in a different (and often opposite) direction.

          • See my comment above. Just because Russian roulette worked out okay for me, is no reason to say it’s good for everybody.

          • LOL “Russian roulette” as though lifelong monogamy were pointing a loaded gun at one’s head. Wexel, you are a sadly confused individual.

          • Marriage is a risk–if not quite mortal, then at least very substantial. I vaguely remember some pop-psychology book that listed “seven ways to ruin your life,” or something like that. Marriage (if poorly chosen) was one of the seven.

          • Promiscuity is a great way to ruin your life too. You can screw up your life by choosing the wrong spouse, the wrong job, the wrong school…so many ways to screw up your life!

            Good thing it’s about doing what’s right and good, not “winning.”

          • Wexel – I agree that marrying the wrong person (well, wrong kind of person) can easily wreck one’s life, and have known people who did that. some of them were fortunate to get out with life and limbs intact.

            I also agree that there’s a *lot* of political stuff attached to marriage, at least in much evangelical discourse. It’s very unfortunate, to say the least.

          • @ Trevis who said,
            “that the secular world’s emphasis on maximal satisfaction has quite literally taken the fun out of sex. And so sex is rendered yet one more item in life’s long list of performance metrics by which we’re to be judged”

            I hate to point this out… but this thinking has seeped into evangelical views about sex too.

            If you read books by and for Christian singles, and in one such I read, the authors discussed books they read about these topics. They said they found sex manuals by and for Christian married couples that read no different from Non Christian content on the matter.

            The authors said several Christian books they looked at were assuming – like the secular world does – that married sex has to be burning hot like a romance novel every night, so these books are filled with sex tips, tell the wives to wear sexy lingere (sp?) every night, and so on.

            I’ve seen this too in skimming over Christian blogs or printed magazines that have marital advice, or heard in sermons on TV, where preachers tell the couples to engage in a lot of activities that sound like the same smarmy, erotic stuff that Non Christians do and advise in their relationship columns.

            These Christian materials encourage married couples to keep it fresh, new, kinky, use “toys,” and so on….

            Look at Driscoll’s “Real Marriage” book. I read excerpts of it online, and reviews of it that summarized its contents. Driscoll’s book is basically a kinky, Non Christian, “how to spice up the bedroom” shtick, with a Christian veneer.

            It looks to me as though evangelical Christians too have turned sex into a contest, or something to fret over, to make a big fuss about, to compete over.

        • Um… I married the first guy I dated, and I wasn’t 12. It wasn’t for lack of trying to date, either. I guess I’m happy that we were able to have our first, awkward experiences in the safety of a committed relationship. I have to agree with Miguel – total fallacy that you have to go out and get experience before you can please your lifelong partner. This conversation also reminds me of “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, but less funny.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I’m a 58-year-old virgin (and not for lack of wanting or trying).
            It isn’t funny.

          • MelissatheRagamuffin says

            HUG – I proposed to you on this site years ago when I was still single. You didn’t take me up on the offer. 🙂

          • HUG, your early fundamentalist experience has obviously left psychological scars. At your age, the ratio of single men to women is so much in your favor, it’s ridiculous–even moreso if you focus on religious men and women. Dan Savage would probably suggest that you hire a prostitute. (Most will sympathize–they’re human beings, after all.) Date people you meet online. But that’s assuming your desire to change is enough to draw you out of the religious straitjacket that you (and many others) have put on, and want others to wear.

          • Now listen, Sexel….uhh, I mean, listen, Wexel…Oh, never mind…

          • I’m in my 40s and still a virgin. I was engaged and had plenty of chances to do the nasty with the fiance but he knew my views that sex was for marriage only.

            Christians make a huge mistake in assuming everyone is sexually active before marriage, and that nobody can resist sex after their mid 20s if they are still single. There are those of us out there, past 25, that are still virgins.

          • @ Wexel.
            I’m a 40 something virgin female.

            Hire a prostitute? LOLLOLOLOLOLO. Just no.

            If I were to cave in at this point and have sex prior to marriage, it would most certainly not be with a prostitute.

          • If your alternative to orthodox Christian sexual ethics is Dan Savage’s extreme hedonism, then, well…I really don’t know what to say.

          • Dan Savage is a raving woman-hater too. And his worldview allows no grace, no mercy. I’ll stick with the “impossible” Christian standards, thanks. At least there’s grace and forgiveness here.

          • Dan Savage, a raving woman-hater? I doubt this very much. Produce your quotes!

            HUG can, of course, do as he likes. If he is dissatisfied with the way things are now, though, then a certain boldness is called for. (Daisy, you have a fiance, so your situation is not like his at all.) Hiring a professional is one solution, but not the only one. (I also mentioned online dating.) Waiting for an angel to descend from heaven does not seem very helpful. What would you suggest?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          The situation is not much improved by imagining the couple as inexperienced, religiously-fanatical thirty-year-olds.

          This has come up on other blogs, and the Fundie custom of bribing their youths (especially the boys) to Save Themselves For Marriage(TM) with promises of Barn-Burning, Swinging from the Chandeliers Dynamite Married S*E*X 24/7/365 if they Just Wait doesn’t help. To say this leads to unrealistic expectations is like saying Little Boy went “(pop!)” over Hiroshima. Expectations like “Bride morphs from Virgin Unto Death to Hubby’s Personal 24/7/365 Porn Star on the first night”. Expectations fueled by do-it-yourself sex education from media osmosis.

        • I don’t get this attitude at all. It’s very confused. Yes, the first time anyone does anything they are inexperienced. With repeat trials, they become more experienced. Every person you meet starts as a stranger, but they they can develop into a friend with the passage of time and repeated meetings and interactions. Everyone starts as a naive teenager and passes through young adulthood, hopefully learning something along the way. Time and experience cause growth and change. Obvious. What’s the problem? What’s the problem with going along that way with one person?

          Are you naive enough to think that if a couple has their first experience together and are “fumbling” they will still be “fumbling” like idiots 20 years later? Haha.

          • It’s not just about the sex, it’s about having a mature sexual relationship. Things change when you become lovers–things you can’t predict.

          • If you’re going to mansplain marriage to an old married lady, you’re going to have to show your credentials.

          • I doubt that I have any credentials that are likely to impress you. Again–I’m glad it worked out for you, but you took an enormous risk, and I think it is wrong to expect everyone to take that same risk. You probably feel the same way about arranged marriages, even though they often work out just fine.

    • Jesus never said anything so sanctimonious about marriage?

      Mark 10:1 ¶ And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 ¶ And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    • I don’t understand what is so dubious about it. I thought the fumbling was great! I’ll take as much fumbling as I can get!
      By the way, the Old Testament and Jesus have plenty to say about marriage. Have you ever read either? ‘Cause you sound like you did nothing more than search the phrase “gay marriage is wrong” in a Bible program.

    • None of this is from the Bible?

      “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    • It just strikes me as humorous how the secularist has as much trouble distinguishing sex from love as some Evangelicals do distinguishing music from worship. 😛 Which reminds me of another article…
      https://internetmonk.com/archive/worship-is-not-sex

  2. Maybe the theology of glory that many Christian leaders embrace in their teaching about sexuality is partly the result of a reaction to the triumphalism of secular wisdom in this area, the smug, and erroneous, assumption that secular people lead happier sex lives because they’ve been freed of religious fetters.

    As Schweitzer said a long time ago, the world automatically affirms itself; Christian leaders often react to that secular self-affirmation, and self-glorification, with an affirmation that amounts to theology of glory concerning sexuality, and other subjects.

    Of course, such a reaction is self-defeating, because it lines up Christian teaching beside all the other products in the secular supermarket of self-improvement, and if and when the Christian teachings/products don’t work the way advertised, the one thing that Christianity does have to offer, Jesus on his cross, has not only already been forgotten but can now be more easily dismissed.

    • True, Robert.

      Christian sex cannot compete with worldly standards of “hot, free, no-hold-barred” copulation and insertion of various body parts into the body parts of others than are animal, vegetable, or mineral. We should not even TRY to play on evil’s mattress….as we are instructed to have a differing definition of “good sex”…….just like we often have definitions of “good”, period, that are crazy to those who are not Judeo-Christian!

      • That Other Jean says

        “Worldly” standards? What world would this be? Not this one, surely, where even those who believe in no gods at all have ethical standards, and where laws restrict what may be done to others. It’s not as though the non-Christian rest of the world is automatically evil.

        • “It’s not as though the non-Christian rest of the world is automatically evil.”

          That’s the other side of this post that I would like to hear discussed. In our humanity, we are all capable of having meaningful, satisfying experiences, even when our actions do not conform to correct ethical standards.

          “Wisdom” teaching does not often present such a nuanced perspective. It’s all about righteous/wicked, wise/foolish, blessing/curse. It gives us a big template for life and has limited usefulness.

          However, it seems to me that Christians buy into this perspective wholeheartedly and think it is how we should talk about all moral issues. It gets us into a lot of trouble.

          • Very much agreed, Mike. It’s pretty appalling.

          • It’s called Christianity without Christ. The OT Wisdom teaching has to be read through the lens of the cross for it to be Christian. Otherwise, it’s worth precious little more than what any other religion can offer.

          • Oh, and also: We’ve got to get past reading OT Wisdom literature through the lens of Western hyper-individualism. Otherwise we’re setting ourselves up for major disappointment that makes God into a liar. “Honor thy father and mother, that it may go well with you and you may enjoy long life” etc… is not an individual promise that everyone who obeys their parents will live long and prosper. Plenty of obedient children grow up to short lives of suffering. The commands of Wisdom literature, I believe, are best understood as given to “you” in the plural sense. For example, the society in which parents (and authority generally, ala Luther’s SC) are honored, respected, and cherished is one in which long life and prosperity can be enjoyed. It still doesn’t make this a Christian understanding of the law, but it can help get us past the “but I was good and this is how God repays me?” syndrome.

          • Miguel, while I appreciate what you’re saying, it seems unfair to call it “xtianity w/out Christ.” Other religions have high moral standards, too. and people who believe in no religion often have higher standards than many so-called xtians.

        • James the Mad says

          I would certainly agree. My atheist brother has higher moral standards than most Christians I know.

    • robert F – I think it’s xtian triumphalism, no ifs, ands or buts.

      We *have* to be Better than Them, ergo *everything* (money, sex, you name it) is Better when WE do it. You (whoever is intended by “you”) are pathetic losers. (And so on.) I think it’s an attempt to create a gated community of “believers”; the goal is keeping the rabble outside the walls so that We can have our cake and eat it to.

      It’s also a rather desperate attempt to try and convince people that evangelicals (or whoever) are God’s True Chosen People.

      The thing is, this approach demonizes everyone who’s not One of Us. Having seen that at work within a small enclave of upper-class NY/New England families at one of my former workplaces (“She’s/he’s very sweet/nice, but not One of Us” or simply “Not Our Kind”), I find it really appalling when church people get elitist.

      • although I must confess to having thought in this way (my church is *right* and yours… well…) at one time. It’s embarrassing.

        • My first reaction was to think, “Well who in their right mind attends a church that they think is wrong?” Then I stopped and realize, “Oh. That’s right. I do.” Not that I don’t think we’re less wrong than everybody else, but triumphalism is rooted in a naiveté towards idealism. Once you get close enough to see the flaws, you can only lie to yourself.

          • “You can only lie to yourself” – a lot of people do just that., or are wilflully blind to the flaws, or both.

          • “You can only lie to yourself” – a lot of people do just that., or are wilflully blind to the flaws, or both.

            I’ve had a theme for a while that many Christians are like Vampires. We don’t really see ourselves when we look in the mirror. We just see others and what they are doing wrong.

          • David L – too true!

    • I hope no one blames me for this conversation veering off into the merits of Christian versus non-Christian values; I don’t even think Christianity has any unique values, and I didn’t mention the term “Christian values” once in my comment.

      The only thing distinctive thing that Christianity has is Jesus Christ and his cross. This cross contradicts all triumphalism, whether secular or religious. To lose touch with Jesus Christ and his cross in the name of making Christianity more attractive to a world neck deep in self-improvement and self-perfection, or in the name of maximizing pleasure or ethical commitments,or in the name of any other program for maximal living, is to lose the only thing of value in Christianity.

  3. Framing this in terms of the Theology of Glory is enlightening for me. I was introduced to the ToG/ToC about a year ago, I think and i have been chewing on it ever since. I find that I am so steeped in the ToG mythology that it is hard for me always to tease out how it affects my thinking. Kind of like a fish being aware of the water in which he swims.

    At the same time, this post brings me back to that point when, as a teenager, I listened to a youth group leader talk about how having your daily devotions just “starts the day off right.” And conversely, when one doesn’t have their daily “quiet time” the day just doesn’t go well. I heard that and recognized it for total BS.

    It’s the same fallacy.

    • +1 Yeah, what Dave D said.

      Though seeing Morning Prayer (aka Anglican morning quiet time) through the lens of a Theology of the Cross helps motivate me to do it. Sometimes it sets my attitude right, but it’s not a spell that magically changes my day.

      • Josh in FW says

        can you expand a little bit on what it means to view morning prayer through the lens of ToC?

  4. Reared in the fundamentalist world (not cult but “mainline-fundamentalist”), the scars that I suffer about sex do not come from my forays into premarital sex, they come from the teachings I received about women, marriage and sex during my formative years. But as much as I was harmed, the kids that came about ten years after me were exposed to the whole “purity” culture and that messed with them in a whole bunch of new ways.

  5. David Cornwell says

    I agree with Chaplain Mike about the “ideal” of traditional marriage and the Christian position (whatever that might be at this moment in time). When we can achieve that ideal and live up to it the best framework has been created for partnership, promise keeping, and raising children. But I also know that the ideal is rarely achieved. “One man, one woman” is a standard, but one that is not always honored in real life. And a lot of the problem has to do with sex, in one way or another.

    We talk about sex, and so often in the other breath we are talking about sin. It’s difficult to separate the two, even when we try. Just ask an adolescent who is now fourteen years of age. The hormones rage, and the mind and body is flooded with actions and thoughts that refuse to heed prayer, church, confession, or command. Hormones and guilt co-exist. This is what it means to be truly human. And to be human also means to be sinful. Yet the Holy can come to reside in the human. And we are still trying to figure it all out.

    Now, the idea that sex outside of marriage always leads to disaster or is not deeply satisfying: I do not think that is the necessarily the case from knowing many people down through the years. Sometimes it holds true, sometimes not. In seminary I had a professor, a conservative scholar by-the-way, who argued that some young people have deeply satisfying sex lives, yet are not married. He argued that the a true bond and love between a couple was the most important factor. And that relationships that were monogamous, and based on that true bond could last, and should be protected by the Church and marriage as soon as possible. It’s important that the Christian community be able to discern the nature of the relationship and provide counseling. He also argued that these kind of bonded non-promiscuous relationships were something other than fornication.

    Think about it. I’m sure our great grand relations on the American frontier were not always officially married when they started relationships at very young ages. Last winter I spent some time researching the genealogical roots of my family. They moved into remote regions where church was non-existent. Sometimes they were the very first settlers along the Ohio Valley or in a mountainous region. And so the official recognition of marriage sometimes came after the relationship (and sex) started. Was sex unselfish? I doubt it. Wives had a large number of children and many times died early. The husband quickly found another spouse and married again, sometimes repeating the exact same cycle.

    As followers of Christ we live in a world of gospel, law, and grace. Otherwise we still do not know all the answers.

    • +1

    • @ David C said
      “It’s important that the Christian community be able to discern the nature of the relationship and provide counseling. He also argued that these kind of bonded non-promiscuous relationships were something other than fornication.”

      So I’ve stayed a virgin into my early 40s why, exactly?

      Sounds like all I need to do is find a cute guy I like, be in a committed relationship with him (how many dates would that be, five, two months, six months?), then I can get it on with him without being married.

      All I’ll need later is a bit o’ counseling. Awesome.

      • David Cornwell says

        Do what you please. Anyone who feels called to remain single, so be it.

        However this was not an encouragement for couples do act this way. It was a recognition that some couples have and are. If there is a loving bond discerned then the couple is encouraged to get married. He was not encouraging or advocating this behavior, just recognizing it. Rather than to condemn then to hell, he is seeking to find ways to redeem the situation.

        Most pastors, sooner or later, will find this situation in the church.

        • @ David Cornwell

          I was not “called to be single.” There is no such thing as a “calling to” or “gifting with” singleness and celibacy (the phrases do not even appear in the Bible)

          I’d like to be married and to have sex.

          What your preacher friend or buddy or whatever he is, is indeed pretty much excusing it and condoning it.

          Thank you for giving me yet another reason why staying a virgin into my 40s is a joke. I should have just had sex with my ex fiance years ago.

          • You are totally missing his point.

          • David Cornwell says

            Daisy, you’ve made up your mind on the issue. Very good!

            However I’m not advising anyone to have sex before marriage, during marriage, or after marriage. Neither was this professor. He was not my friend or buddy or anything else.

            His position, however, is not an outrageous one. If you or anyone else differs, excellent! I’m not force feeding it to anyone.

            He was basically giving advice to pastors on situations that arise in communities and churches. I found it helpful. If you do not, that’s ok, do it your way. As for it being a joke: I missed the punch line.

    • Late response, just came to the party:

      “Think about it. I’m sure our great grand relations on the American frontier were not always officially married when they started relationships at very young ages. ”

      I have a friend whose great great grandfather was a Methodist circuit rider on the frontier under the conditions you describe. Family lore has it that he saw his ministry as riding through these remote villages once a year and baptizing the babies and marrying the parents.

  6. Thank you CM for this oh so needed understanding of sex in Christian marriage. My husband & I stopped going to marriage retreats and seminars many years ago because the issues we were dealing with were never addressed, any questions were passed over. I wasted too many years wondering what we had done wrong only to realize our problems in this area are pretty normal and the idealism that we bought into was the problem.

    The theology of glory that permeates so much evangelical teaching is absolutely destructive to those whose lives don’t follow the expected path. It also forces one to make a choice either we become honest about our lives or we put on a mask/façade and never allow others to see who we really are. Sadly I find churches are full of mask wearers.

  7. Chaplain Mike, in some ways this also reminds me of the recent dust-up with David Ramsey. We do not seem to know how to handle the wisdom in the Bible without falling into extreme responses. Either we try to distill it into “biblical” rules for guaranteed success – – or as a reaction against that mode, we disconnect almost any correlation between the observations in the wisdom literature and our own choices for the trajectory of our lives.

    • Yep.

    • Yep Yep…. well said: we want our answers distilled and quickly digestable.

      • “distilled and quickly digestible” – That’s marketing 101! The “sound bite”.

        Simplistic answers for everyone are much cheaper to “produce” than ask complex questions tailored to each person’s unique situations and, therefore, are easier to “commoditize” and maximize profits of selling books or speaking to crowds. Think – costs of a well-trained, seasoned, reputable, one-on-one therapist versus a “self-help” book, CD, seminar. If the Gospel is both universal AND personal for each unique individual, the personal part of the Gospel makes NO economic sense…to the Greeks…folly 😉

  8. Mike, this is a well-written and irenic article, and needs to be said.

    As a pastor, I agree with Robert F’s analysis above; many of us are trying to counter-act the world’s claim that sleeping around is more fulfilling. But if this is the main message we are teaching about sex, we are missing the point.

    The best articulation of the meaning of sex I have read is in Pope John Paul II’s “Man and Woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body”. To me, the main message is this: “you worship God with your body, not in spite of it, and in sex this means you imitate God’s selfless love by using your body to bring pleasure and joy to the other person, not by using that person’s body for your own fulfillment” (my paraphrase).

    Of course, he works this out in the context of marriage. But it is a deeper and fuller theology of sex than I have heard from my fellow protestants. And it completely undermines a theology of glory regarding sexuality.

    • David Cornwell says

      ” But it is a deeper and fuller theology of sex than I have heard from my fellow protestants.”

      Exactly.

      When it comes to moral theology and Christian ethics it’s hard to beat the general teaching of the Catholic Church. Most Protestants go very shallow in this territory, and each denomination and preacher pretty much does its own thing. Catholics have written so much along this line, in books, journals, and from the official teachings of the Church. We would do well to take note. When we have disagreements, then we should know why and have something better.

      Protestant liberalism mostly teaches a kind of situational ethic, and then tries to connect it to Jesus somehow. Many fundamentalists take to a biblical literalism that hovers around sexual issues with stale legalism and ignores everything else. The Catholic Church has a balanced and wholistic approach that gives shame to most Protestant approaches to moral theology.

    • I disagree with JP II here, and quite strongly at that. This whole “take no notion for yourself, but lay yourself down whole heartedly for the benefit of another” ethos is VERY Puritan for a Roman Catholic. It’s the stringent ethic I grew up with and it actually leans towards a theology of glory, imo. It’s this idea that pure selflessness is actually attainable by human beings. In a perfect world, husband and wife would both succeed 100% at this and thereby gain 100% satisfaction from each other. It doesn’t work that way in the real world.

      I think there is absolutely nothing wrong or selfish about me wanting to enjoy my wife’s body, in light of Proverbs 5:19. There is a balance. I think that instead of stoic denial of self uber alles, partners need to communicate with one another and ask for what they want. That isn’t being selfish, it’s being realistic. There’s no reason why we can’t endeavor to love and serve our spouses with our body, but let’s be honest: we didn’t marry because it would give us an opportunity to be a pure blessing to another human being. There are certain perks to a romantic relationship that not only draw us in, but keep us there. There are good things that ought not be despised in the name of altruistic purity.

      • David Cornwell says

        I’ll confess to not having read Pope John Paul II’s “Man and Woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body” in it’s entirety, so perhaps you are right. But it is difficult for me to find fault with the paraphrased quote: “you worship God with your body, not in spite of it, and in sex this means you imitate God’s selfless love by using your body to bring pleasure and joy to the other person, not by using that person’s body for your own fulfillment.” It seems, to me, that he is speaking of a mutuality of fulfillment, not just focusing on one or the others. Of course, ideally, we enjoy each others body. But when one insists on enjoyment and fulfillment over against something less than that for the other, then something is wrong.

        The classical requirements for valid marriage are “consent and consummation.” Each depends on the other. The order itself is not so important. This becomes a standard, a goal, and what we should strive.

        • It is possible to pursue both partners desires simultaneously or at least to give equal attention to them.

          It seems to me that if both people were doing what JPII suggests it would amount to the same thing as two people constantly deferring to each other about the evenings plans.

          “What do you want to do?”
          “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
          “I want to do what you want to do.”
          Repeat

  9. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And this relates to the subject how?

      Or is this just a “punch the button, get a random Bible verse”?

  10. CM: This may be the best post you have ever written. And all the others have been pretty good.

  11. This is another one of those situations where the secular culture’s obsession with sex has permeated into the church. Personally, I think that it would be best for the church to make an effort to put sex back into the deeply personal space that it belongs in and not in the public square. Be available to counsel individuals and couples in need of help and healing, but just stop it with the sex talks in sermons and popular books. Model a behavior of reverence for the privacy and intimate nature of sex that the church is espousing.

    Marriage is more than just sex. Sex doesn’t have to be in marriage to be ‘fun’ or ‘enjoyable’, in fact, it’s probably more fun for most people not in marriage.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Again, Christians are just as messed-up sexually as everyone else these days, just in a different (and often opposite) direction.

    • @ Umi.

      That’s pretty much my feeling. Part of it, anyway.

      There is far too much sex talk among evangelicals. I’m an adult virgin. I don’t want or need to hear sermon #123 million about how married sex is so stellar.

      If preachers are not going to shut their faces about the stupendousness (is that even a word – rhetorical) of married sex (they frequently go on and on and on and on about it in sermons, podcasts, online materials)…..

      Then I would like to hear them mention that pre-marital sex is a sin… I want the point emphasized. I do not want the standard, one second, one line throw away they always do, e.g., “remember singles, sex is for marriage only.” Then they go on with the rest of the sermon.

      Most do NOT do this, most do not spend enough time on it. Pre-marital sexual sin -as being a sin- is glossed over or not even mentioned.

      Yes God forgives sexual sin, but I don’t often hear fornication spoken out against. And, preachers need to remind married people to abstain – from affairs, pr0n, etc.

      Singles are not the only ones who may fall into sexual sin. Having a spouse does not mean you are incapable of sexual sin.

      • Daisy, reading a lot of your thoughts on this subject has also made me see that along with fetishizing sex, the way that it’s bandied about in so many churches contributes the singles in the church to feel like weirdoes, especially the singles who really believe that it’s best to be chaste. This is really a tragedy, because while marriage and sex are nice, there’s an amazing freedom and availability to friendships and service when one is single. I got married really early, and while I don’t regret my husband at all (I wasn’t planning on getting married as young as I did), I did miss out on a lot of opportunity to travel, to work, to hang out with friends, and be involved in service in ways that aren’t as easy to pull off when you have a spouse and kids to look after.

        While marriage is a wonderful sacrament, it doesn’t happen for everyone (by choice or not) and doesn’t always happen when you want it to, and it’s a shame that churches have failed in valuing their people regardless of whether they’re married or not. Being flagrant and gross about sex makes this even worse, and I would imagine may shame singles into entering into relationships for the wrong reasons.

        May God bless you.

      • Daisy, reading a lot of your thoughts on this subject has also made me see that along with fetishizing sex, the way that it’s bandied about in so many churches contributes the singles in the church to feel like weirdoes, especially the singles who really believe that it’s best to be chaste. This is really a tragedy, because while marriage and sex are nice, there’s an amazing freedom and availability to friendships and service when one is single. I got married really early, and while I don’t regret my husband at all (I wasn’t planning on getting married as young as I did), I did miss out on a lot of opportunity to travel, to work, to hang out with friends, and be involved in service in ways that aren’t as easy to pull off when you have a spouse and kids to look after.

        While marriage is a wonderful sacrament, it doesn’t happen for everyone (by choice or not) and doesn’t always happen when you want it to, and it’s a shame that churches have failed in valuing their people regardless of whether they’re married or not. Being flagrant and gross about sex makes this even worse, and I would imagine may shame singles into entering into relationships for the wrong reasons.

        May God bless you.

    • Celebrating the joy of sex is a tradition that come from the OT. Can we not follow suit?

  12. Peace From The Fringes says

    I’m not sure if this is an appropriate comparison, but this issue strikes me as being somewhat similar to the Young Earth Creationists and biblical literalists. They hold on, with a death grip, to every word they were ever told (or assumed) to be “biblical” ….. as if to admit any kind of interpretation or flexibility would cause the entire house of cards to crumble.

    As shown in the phrasing of the interview question: “Why is sex outside of marriage so destructive” – the conclusion is foregone. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that it is often simply NOT TRUE.

    Having started out my adult life with a lively and diverse sex life, I am now looking back through a long, happy and satisfying marriage with no regrets. I’m not damaged, I’m not dirty and I’m not the least bit broken. I came out of it with some good friends and entertaining memories. Obviously, this doesn’t — and shouldn’t — apply to everyone, but don’t try to deny me the truth of my life just because it rocks your preconceptions.

    • + 1, Peace…

    • I agree. I regret my premarital sexual experiences only due to God’s disapproval of them and the gambling that was involved in regards to getting stuck with someone due to a potential pregnancy. The sexual encounters/relationships were rather lovely though, as far as experiences go. I have also found that, from a practical point of view, the practice helped my marriage.

  13. Yawn, another evangelical talking head who can’t resist saying Christians have better sex. “Sex inside of a committed marriage is magic” … why not just be honest, and come out and say conjugal relations are the climactic spiritual experience. I’ve had it up to here with Christians sacramentalizing sex, claiming it to be the closest thing to worship this side of Heaven. If sex is such a spiritual experience, why is it entirely possible to have it without being a professing Christian? Too many of these folks claim great sex for Jesus. Whereas in elevating sex from a physical act to the holy, it seems something anybody can assert as metaphysical experience. Christians don’t have better sex – but maybe it would be better if we prayed during orgasm? I think there is a real risk lurking among Sex-vangelicals like Driscoll – where instead of a consubstantial reaffirmation of creation, it becomes a self-deification where through the celebration of “Christian” sexual ecstasy we attempt to reach Heaven by ourselves. I like what John Hubner wrote on this subject. “A naked aroused man is not a brain surgeon or a university president or a Methodist bishop. He is an animal with an erection.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      … why not just be honest, and come out and say conjugal relations are the climactic spiritual experience.

      Wasn’t “sexual relations as climactic spiritual experience” THE sacrament for all those ancient Fertility Cults the Jews were warned about?

      Humans have a real poor track record of mixing the sacred and erotic — what makes you think this time will be any different?

      • HUG, IMHO the simple difference is that about 2000 years ago the Great God of the Universe became a squalling infant who leaked at both ends….and who went on to demonstrate what it looks like to be fully God and fully Human at the same time. In doing so, the everyday and messy aspects of human life on earth became more than the analogous acts performed by our primate and mammalian inhabitants of the third rock from the sun.

        I really recommend some readings of the RCC’s “Theology of the Body” for a much better explanation from much smarter people than myself! (Considering that the day-to-day life of a Christian marriage is a sacrament to those of us who are Catholics, everything within it, from toilet scrubbing to sex takes on an added dimension…)

    • Thank you, Ichabod.

      I read a book by Christian single adults, a pair of authors, who reviewed Christian books about sex (among other things).

      One of the most troubling things I saw in their book is where they quoted works by Christian guys who wrote about married sex, and some of these kooky authors got way off into Crazyland. They compared having orgasm to prayer to God or what not.

      As the single authors wrote, idiots such as these make it sound as though one can only know God via sex, and so what then, of never married Christian virgins who are past age 35, 45, 55?

      These authors they describe indirectly leave one with the impression that only married people having sex really, truly know and experience God. So conversely, if you are a Christian virgin, you cannot know God, or not as well as married people who are Doing It.

      The authors also mentioned that these Christian views on sex are very similar to pagan views that deify sex, or view sex as a way of contacting deity, or whatever, the authors pretty much said this thinking should have no place in Christianity.

    • It would be interesting, but way more information than I want to know about a particular person, to now who mentions God more during the act; the religious or the nonreligious.

  14. I was raised on a Puritan ethic that stressed that the joy of enjoying God’s blessings was maximized by following his instructions for using them. The problem with this approach is that once righteousness becomes a means to a higher end (pleasure), then any other means is justified in attaining it. It’s only so long before God’s instructions become a helpful tool rather than THE way of faithfulness. Could this be why more Puritanical circles are always so inundated with scandal?

    The thing is, too often morality is given such a high priority that anything that can be said to encourage it is justified in our minds. However, God NEVER promises satisfying sex to his believers and disciples. He only promises suffering and deliverance. Anybody telling you that Jesus will bring you any sort of satisfaction or happiness in this life is selling something. Something that will poison your soul.

    These days I still believe in what our society would consider a Puritan sexual ethic, but I am much less strict about it. I understand that sincere disciples will fall short and I am much more understanding of those who cannot live up to it. ‘Cause at the end of the day, in light of Jesus’ teaching on lust in the sermon on the mount, none of us really do anyways. It’s a broken, messed up world. Yes, Christ calls us to pure chastity and monogamy. But this is absolutely a cross before a blessing, and we need to quit trying to dress it up as otherwise lest our failures drive us to unbelief. I wish we would give up on “True Love Waits” and pay more attention to “True Love Forgives.” Perhaps then Christian sexuality would be more of a healing force in our lives and less of a tormenting impossible ideal.

    • good thoughts- thank you

    • @ Miguel
      But please understand that there are Christian virgins who are over 35 yrs old.

      It does mature virgins a dis-service to go on and on about how “everyone will fall in this area, but that’s okay, Jesus still loves them, nobody is perfect, it’s a fallen world.”

      Your motive is lovely, but it sort of strikes someone like me the wrong way (who is an actual virgin at 40+).

      • The demand of Christ is about much more than virginity. I may have been married with mine but I was still an adulterer by the standard Christ gives. I’m done patting myself on the back for how good I’ve done, and I’m done beating myself up for my shortcomings. Neither are helpful.

        • I’m done patting myself on the back for how good I’ve done, and I’m done beating myself up for my shortcomings. Neither are helpful.

          +1 and thankyou

    • Non-sequitur: I can’t help but think of that Radiohead song when I hear “True Love Waits”. So depressing.

  15. Chaplain Mike’s original point is well-taken, not to mention that for a century now, some forces have done all they can to destroy marriage and make it look bad. Doesn’t matter if monogamous marriage was created by God or man — it’s the best way for people to live, it brought us from the prehistoric ages to the space age, and there are some good stats to prove that. But — Marriage does not look like a good deal to young people, and the church needs to understand why. It’s a different world out there, different from even from the 1980s, and the assumption that marriage makes a person more righteous is something teens see right through,

    “Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending.” Matthew 5, 31-32, The Message

    • And what conspiratorial forces are those? Feminism, perhaps…?

      • Patriarchy isn’t all bad, Wexel. In fact, I look for ward to living under an glorious and eternal patriarchy. But frankly any society would be better than your Harrison Bergeron nightmare.

      • @ Wexel.
        I can’t say I agree with all your opinions I’ve seen on this thread, but I do agree with you a bit here.

        It is true that a lot of conservative Christians have turned feminism into an end all, be all boogey man to blame for everything… that. and homosexual marriage, abortion and other things.

        I am right wing, I am Republican, I don’t agree with most of feminism myself, but I think a lot of conservative Christians have spent too much time and effort blaming feminism and liberals for everything and every issue (divorce, single mom households, falling apart of nuclear family, etc).

        There is a lot of flawed teaching by Christians to Christians about marriage, sex, and dating, which has led to prolonged singleness, divorce, and fornication among Christians.

        Why are Christians divorcing, fornicating, or having trouble marrying? It’s not feminism. It’s due in part to their own moronic teachings about dating, gender roles, etc. But they keep blaming feminism and Democrats.

        Christians need to examine and fix the logs in their own eyes about these things, rather than trying to pick the specks out of the eyes of feminists and homosexuals, IMO.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    The other day I read an article about a video Tim Keller did for Jonathan Bethke. The article was called, “Timothy Keller Waxes Poetic About the ‘Magic’ and Pleasures of Sex in Marriage.”

    And what about all of us who were never able to marry?
    Who saved themselves for a marriage that never came?
    “LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE MISSING, VIRGIN!”
    (rub in face)
    “HAW! HAW! HAW!”

    • HUG said,
      “And what about all of us who were never able to marry? Who saved themselves for a marriage that never came? “LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE MISSING, VIRGIN!”(rub in face) “HAW! HAW! HAW!””

      Oh, HUG, you know the usual married Christian’s retort to us. The standard crap (are we allowed to say crap on this blog?) of,
      “But HUG, you’ve been GIFTED with singleness!”
      “Be content in your singleness”
      “Your singleness is such a BLESSING, just look at how much free time you have to SERVE THE LORD!”
      or, “THE LORD is your spouse!,”
      “Think of ETERNITY, not earthly happiness!”

      or, “Don’t let your singleness go to waste,” or, “God must have given you the gift of CELIBACY, you must never experience sexual desire or desire for companionship!”

      So cheer up and go serve others in a soup kitchen… and I bet when you are serving in a soup kitchen and least expecting it, THAT is when you will meet THE ONE.

      HUG, if you were a chick, I would also toss in stuff like:
      “Be sure to diet, wear your hair long, because Men Are Visual and Like Long Hair.”

      Also, counter intuitive advice must be issued to a single male:

      HUG, if you would like to marry, remember not to ever date a woman. You cannot take a woman out to a movie or dinner date, because it might end in pre-marital sex. So just pray and cross your fingers and hope that God magically send you a woman out of the blue.(*)

      / Or, join a patriarchy group and hope that the father of a 15 year old will betroth her to you.

      *(The version to single females from married Christians and Christian dating books and blogs is the same, only: “All Christian men are potential rapists. All men ever think about and want is sex, sex, sex, and did I mention SEX, that is how God wired them, to want sex, and they can’t help themselves, so never be left alone with one”)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Oh, HUG, you know the usual married Christian’s retort to us. The standard crap (are we allowed to say crap on this blog?) of,
        “But HUG, you’ve been GIFTED with singleness!”
        “Be content in your singleness”
        “Your singleness is such a BLESSING, just look at how much free time you have to SERVE THE LORD!”
        or, “THE LORD is your spouse!,”
        “Think of ETERNITY, not earthly happiness!”

        or, “Don’t let your singleness go to waste,” or, “God must have given you the gift of CELIBACY, you must never experience sexual desire or desire for companionship!”

        Always told to you by those who married at 18.

        *(The version to single females from married Christians and Christian dating books and blogs is the same, only: “All Christian men are potential rapists. All men ever think about and want is sex, sex, sex, and did I mention SEX, that is how God wired them, to want sex, and they can’t help themselves, so never be left alone with one”)

        Which is funny, since I ended up getting taught the same thing about women. (Not exactly sure how, since I can’t remember anything I could put my finger on and say “AHA!”) And the lesson got rubbed in by what happened the only time I ever had a girlfriend. Result was a bad case of Virgin/Whore Dichotomy and a deep distrust of women. (Which surprisingly only applies to human or parahuman women; if she’s visibly non-human (and I’m not talking animals, but imaginary creatures) the distrust isn’t there. If I ever encountered, say, a middle-aged Twilight Sparkle, I’d try for my ring on her horn.)

  17. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    The most common thing I hear married women complain about in terms of sex (and it’s my #1 complaint as well) is that our husbands almost never want sex at the same that we do.

    But, apart from that, I think married sex is waaaay better. 1) I know he’s not going to bail on me if I get pregnant, 2) Because I didn’t marry a Neanderthal, if I say, “I don’t like that…” He doesn’t do it anymore. If I say I do like something, he keeps doing it. He hasn’t got preconceived notions about what *I* should like based on what other women liked because he hasn’t got a whole lot of experience.

  18. I’m surprised no one has strutted out the ol’ standard Christian line, “What would Jesus do?”

    Unless it’s because the answer would be, “Not have sex.”

    😉

    • Most Christians never, ever give a tinker’s darn about singleness or celibacy / virginity until Dan Brown writes a book saying Jesus had sex with Mary Magdalene and had a kid with her.

      The rest of the time, you hear the sound of crickets chirping concerning singleness/ celibacy / virginity from Christians.

      Oh, unless Christians spaz out and freak out when someone says there was no virgin birth, then they jump up to defend the virginity of Mary….

      But the rest of the time, what do Christians do to support or defend the notions of celibacy and virginity? Nothing.

      They actually like to argue against both concepts by saying, “Aw shucks, everyone sins in sexual areas these days, so just tell ’em God loves ’em and forgives ’em.”

      • Daisy – “But the rest of the time, what do Christians do to support or defend the notions of celibacy and virginity? Nothing.” You make some very broad inaccurate assumptions. I’ve spent 52 years celibate and defending those “notions” as you call them. I’ve counseled and mentored teenagers, talked to moms and dads, talked to ministers, talked to state officials, written books, written magazine articles, written blogs, talked to groups, etc. I don’t expected any rewards, compensation, status, happiness, or even a wife dropped on my lap tomorrow. I’m content and do it because I think it’s the right thing to do – Not because someone said “Jesus had sex with Mary Magdalene.”

    • Had to chuckle there.

  19. I’d like to add a thought as a 30 year old single woman. Really not that different than what several others have said. I grew up in a conservative church where saving sex for marriage was encouraged (of course.) When you strive to practice chastity as a way of life…oh lets say past the age of 22, the great promise of good marital sex as a motivation to wait to have sex until you are married really falls flat. I think I’ve slowly come to realize much of what was said in this post…we strive to wait because it’s what God asks of us…but it does not necessarily lead to earthly benefit. I especially like the point that Christians should not strive to prove Christianity by guaranteeing that obedience will always result in some type of benefit.

  20. As someone who is still a virgin post age 40 (mostly due to having Christian convictions about sex being for marriage only), the weird views Christians have towards sex are all the more glaring to someone not having sex, as is the bizarre propaganda Christians whip up to convince people to refrain from pre-marital sex.

    I don’t think married Christians usually notice all the weirdness in Christian teachings about sex, marriage, and dating, unless it is really, really way out there, a la Mark “I have pr0n visions Driscoll”.

    Did you know that the same site you got that Tim Keller link from also, on a weekly basis, does stories and reports on Christian marriages where there is no sex at all (because one partner lacks libido, lost interest in sex, whatever, and the other spouse is upset over not having sex anymore), and they also have reports on preachers who have lots of affairs, or who use prostitutes or prOnography.

    All this sort of reporting puts a big dent in the Christian insistence that married sex is ‘ooh la la’ all the time, and that if you just wait for marriage to DO IT, you will get it hot and regular from your spouse.

    Married sex will be so satisfying, Christians usually say, that you will not seek out Playboy magazine and so forth, and this is the standard lines given to singles…

    But then you see all these stories of people, even in Christian magazines about Christians, who waited for marriage to have sex (or even did not wait for marriage -it’s kind of irrelevant in some ways), but their married sex life either is terrible, does not happen at all, or, one spouse has affairs all over the place.

    • Did you read all of chaplain Mike’s post? Because you’re reiterating an awful lot of the points he made…

  21. The wisdom tradition that can be found in places throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is not yet the gospel; even some of the words attributed to Jesus, for instance, “As you reap, so shall you so,” which is a wisdom aphorism connected with a very clear black-and-white view of existence, are not yet the gospel.

    The gospel is only to be discerned after the orientation exhibited by wisdom tradition has been disoriented by the cross, and then reoriented by the resurrection with a thousand more subtle shades of hue than the wisdom tradition was capable of.

    This applies to sexuality and every other subject.

  22. Grandfather Trout says

    “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”

    The Church, in as much as I can discern her behavior, blesses unions that are emerging between a man and a woman. It does not create these unions by sacramental fiat. It is the union that is salvific, not the contract.

    I need to think about that last sentence for a long long time. I think I just hit upon a theological axiom.

    Jesus seemed to treat sexual sin far differently than do Christians. From the woman at Bethany to the woman at the well in Samaria, He didn’t seem to get his nose too deeply out of joint about our misbehavior in this area.

  23. I wrote a blog post not long ago dealing with the effects of waiting for sex until marriage, and all the assumed half-truths used to justify emotional detachment until after the wedding. This is a very tricky topic if you’ve experienced anything that doesn’t line up with what is preached from the pulpit.

    I commend the writer of this article for acknowledging that things aren’t always that simple. Having good intentions and 26 years of virginity doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage or a decent wedding night. It some ways, it makes things more difficult.

  24. (note to administrator: please delete the first comment… I had to correct it and don’t see a way to delete it)

  25. Told from the point of view of Colonel Georges Picquart, the intelligence officer whose scrupulous honesty finally established Dreyfus’ innocence, An Officer and a Spy breathes life into historic events.

  26. I think that comparing his TK’s comments to Proverbs is exactly right. Most Christians seem not to realize that Proverbs are generalizations, not laws of physics.

    I think that maybe a good analogy would be that marriage is the best soil you can plant your sex life in, but the fact is if you do not have other things like water and sunlight it may still not flourish. Likewise some can provide enough sunlight and water to overcompensate for poorer soil.