Christianity has a terrible attitude to sex. It is insidious, harmful and dangerous.
We like to point fingers at the idiocy of the Vatican, for example, in condemning the use of condoms (or insisting on official-celibacy for their priests*). Or the lunacy of denying teenagers good sex-education in favor of some faux-moral ‘abstinence only’ program. Or the hideous bigotry and hate-mongering of anti-homosexual rhetoric which, these days is politically driven by religious organizations.
But these aren’t the extremes I’m concerned about. It is the modest, background-noise, quotidian anti-sex bias that is present in as many liberal churches (in my experience) as in conservative churches.
Ask most liberal Christians their opinion of sex and they’ll tell you that it is great, wonderful, gift from God. And so on. But in my life I’ve only ever found one or two Christians who are genuinely sex-positive.
This is the legacy of the early church, of course. They struggled with supporting family life and encouraging asceticism. They left a long-standing shadow in the church over whether sex is good, in and of itself. The church has decided it isn’t. Sex is fine if it is caged, if it is managed, if it is unsurprising, if it doesn’t swell up to captivate and enrich and illuminate those who practice it. Passionate desire should be directed only at God.
Churches don’t talk much about sex. When they do they talk about it pruriently. With nods and winks. I’ve never heard anyone in church mention any sex organ by name, even by their anatomic names. I’ve heard plenty of euphemism though. I’ve never heard a youth group talk about sex that encouraged masturbation, even though it is known to be healthy and inversely correlated to STD and teen pregnancy. I’ve heard plenty of ‘touching yourself makes the baby Jesus cry’ crap though. At a church weekend away I told a pretty tame Viagra joke one evening and I got a reputation as someone with a ‘dirty’ sense of humor.
It is depressing. Some friends of friends set up an online sex-shop aimed at their fellow Christians. Their venture: whollylove has received some pretty serious and vicious rhetorical attack from Christian leaders, even in their very liberal church tradition. When they set up the site, I forwarded the link to various Christian friends – the responses were 100% embarrassed changes of subject. This week I came across an ‘agony aunt’ message: here, that shows the same kind of self-righteous disregard for real people and real experiences (read that response, and consider the subtext of the original question – “sex is something in my relationship that Christianity hasn’t screwed up yet, is that okay” – of course the answer is no).
Has the joy of sex really been beaten and condemned out of Christianity? I mean, the kind of joy that is really transformative? Do most liberal Christians really think they are free in their sexuality? Are there vital sex-lives hidden under a veneer of pretension, or have people really bought the line that losing yourself in physical ecstasy is a spiritual danger?
I think there is a problem, and I think it is harming countless marriages and stunting healthy psycho-sexual development in millions of young people.
Is it just me?
* My experience is that the actual attitude of the Catholic church hierarchy to sexual relationships in the clergy is far more complex.