Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope? If he knows anything
about it, he shouldnt.
- George Bernard Shaw
Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things. One is that God loves
you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most
awful, dirty thing on the face of the earth and you should save it for
someone you love.
- Butch Hancock
Christians, like everyone else, are obsessed with sex. This I can
understand. What I don't understand is why God should be so obsessed
with it too. Few things bring Christians out in greater numbers than a
gay rights march, or any group promoting sexual behavior that they do
not approve of. And judging by the signs and banners righteously
paraded during these rallies, nothing interests God so much as humans having
There was I time I could believe thisbefore I had sex. As a
young college student with raging hormones and a strict religious injunction
to abstain from all physical and mental activities pertaining to sex,
I was very much aware of how one could be so obsessed with it. Since I
wasn't planning on getting married any time soon, sex was completely off-limits
to me. So naturally, I could think of little else. It was a daily struggle
to fight off thoughts about sex. Yet the more I disallowed them, the more
they would come to mind. It really did seem like there were demons in
my head, ready to pounce anytime I let my mind wander. So it was easy
for me to join in this Christian condemnation of sex. It justified my
struggle, and gave me a platform from which to hurl my indignation at
the weaknesses of my own will. And that is the reason I do not believe
that Gods attitudes toward sex would be the same as Christians.
All the arguments Christians use against sexual practices that they do
not approve of are couched in emotion, suppressed desires, and unsound
reasoning. I do not believe God's attitudes toward sex would be driven
by such human attitudes. Take homosexuality, for example.
Christians believe that your sexual preference is a choice, that somehow
you can choose to be gay or straight. This is a necessary assumption,
for how can being gay be a sin unless it is something that can be chosen?
That is why there is so much Christian opposition against the notion that
you can be born gay, or that the choice is somehow out of your control.
That would remove the activity from the realm of choice. And sin by definition
is a choice to disobey God, so any activity that cannot be chosen loses
its ability to be classified as a sin. Since being gay is a sin, then
it must be a choice.
Yet it doesn't take much self-awareness to see that this cannot be
true. For example, most of the people reading this are probably straight.
So to the straight folks, here is a simple question to ask yourself: did
you choose to be straight? In other words, was there a time in your life
that you said,
"You know, I could go either way. But I think I'll choose to be attracted
to the opposite sex?"
And if you really are straight (and not bisexualwe'll get to
that later), the answer has to be "no." I can ask myself that question.
Did I choose to be straight? Could I ever be attracted to a man? The answer
is no. In fact, you can put a gun to my head, and demand that I be sexually
attracted to a naked man. I cannot. Conversely, you can demand
that I not be attracted to a beautiful woman. Still, I cannot.
So what does this tell me? It tells me that my sexual preference is not
my choice. It is a part of me that I cannot control, that I cannot change.
Therefore if my sexual preference is not a choice, how can I expect
that it be a choice for a homosexual? The very fact that a person
can be attracted to someone of the same sex, shows that they are fundamentally
different from me. They do not merely choose to do something that I do
not, rather they do something that I can not. So wherever it
comes frombe it birth, or behavior learned in early childhoodthe
reality is that sexual preference is given to us. We cannot choose it.
Unless, of course, we are bisexual. In fact, the only way the Christian
argument can work is if God created us all bisexual, for only then can
sexual preference truly be a choice.
Another argument Christians use against having premarital sex is the
threat of contracting disease. I remember my church pastor asking a doctor
in our congregation to give a sermon on AIDS one Sunday morning. This
was in the early eighties, when the AIDS epidemic was just beginning to
get national attention. He told us a little bit about what AIDS was, and
how it affected the human body, and how it was transmitted. He also told
us where he believed that it came fromyou guessed itGod. It
was God's punishment, he said, for fornication. Why it didn't appear centuries
ago, or why it also infected babies, no one asked. Still, it was just
one more reason unmarried people should not have sex.
Now AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases are medical problems, not
spiritual ones. I fully expect we will find cures or vaccines for these diseases. Indeed many of the treatments we have today are far beyond what we had 20 years ago. So one day this should cease
to be an issue, and it will no longer be a legitimate reason against having
sex. So would God really base his reasons for not allowing premarital
sex on such a specious argument as this? Sounds more like the product
of humans with an agenda, rather than the all-encompassing wisdom of God.
Even Christians must admit that premarital sex can occur where partners
do not transmit diseases to eachother, and do not get eachother pregnant.
With proper safety precautions, such problems can be avoided. And as medical
science progresses, such risks may one day be all but eliminated. So in
the end there is only one argument left: God doesn't want us to have premarital
sex because it somehow isnt good for us spiritually.
This reminds me of a show I saw a few times on a Christian cable channel,
where Christian author Josh McDowell lectured young people about why premarital
sex was wrong. He had these kids convinced that if they had sex before
marriage, it would somehow spoil or taint the relationship they eventually
had with a spouse. Again, as a young Christian man who had never had sex,
I believed this kind of stuff wholeheartedly. It validated my abstinence,
and made me believe that it was worthwhile. But the charade can only last
so long. Sooner or later, reality creeps in. Now that I have experienced
sex from both sides, I can say that for me, at least, it was not at all
like that. What difference does my experience make? Well, practically,
not much. There are exceptions to every rule, and I may just be an exception.
But spiritually, it makes all the difference in the world. For if what
God says is true, then it must be true for all people. It's like a balloon. One small hole, and it cannot hold any air. So if it's true that
premarital sex damages a person spiritually, them it must have damaged
me. Lets see if it did.
I was a Christian until age 22. During this time I never had sex.
I only believed in sex after marriage. So as a chaste young man, adhering
to upstanding Christian values, how did I feel inside? Well, I felt like
there was a war going on. I was obsessed with sex. In college I had a
job delivering pizza, and sometimes we made deliveries to adult bookstores
and massage parlors. I remember feeling a guilty excitement every time
I got one of those calls, because I knew that for a brief moment, I could
legitimately enter a world that was otherwise off limits to me. I remember
nervously counting change in an adult book store, while trying to keep
my eyes off the the naked women on the magazine and video covers. Yet
more than anything in the world, I wanted to look. So while walking out,
I would cast a few furtive glances around the store. What I saw obsessed
me for days. Over and over I would replay in my mind the images of the
women I saw on the covers, knowing that I shouldn't, yet wanting to so
badly. My mind was a battlezone of suppressed desire and futile
determination. And then there was always the guilt. Guilt that would obsess
me, guilt like acid in my heart. Yes, I knew that as a Christian, God
forgave me, but I also knew that I would do it again. And Sunday morning
sermons about how every time we sinned, it was like driving another nail
into Jesus' wrist, didn't help matters either.
That was my legacy of abstinence, and I have no doubt that if it had
continued, it would have only become worse. For what Christians seem to
forget is the psychology of the human mind. I cannot believe that God
would be so ignorant. Unlike Christians, I do not believe that God would
create us with such a strong desire to explore sex, and then condemn us
when we do. As with all things, sexual desires must be acted on responsibly
and with restraint. But to forbid any action whatsoever does no one any
good. Either you force people to marry just to have sex, or you end up
with people like me, for whom sex became a constant source of guilt and
Today, sex for me is something that is good, and something that is
fun. And as a single person, it was something I was free to engage in, although it was better with someone I loved. And now that I am married, my relationship with my wife is about the love we share, both physically and emotionally. Contrary to dire Christian predictions, all our experiences in life only helped make us more complete and emotionally mature people for eachother. Partners we had in the past are a part of who we are, part of what helped us grow into the individuals we are today. For most things in life, how events affect you has a lot to do with how you face them. And regarding sex, a healthy, realistic and unfearful attitude (with a dose of humor) beats forced abstinance any day.
Sex no longer obsesses me. It is no
longer a source of guilt and shame. Rather than damaging me, freedom to
have sex has freed my spirit from agonizing over it, and allowed me to
enjoy it as I suspect any god would expect his creatures to do. Leaving Christianity allowed me to experienced this part of life from the other side, and for me, sex
is much better than abstinence. And unlike what my Sunday school teachers
taught, having had casual sex did not diminish my experience with someone
I truly loved. In fact, it enhanced it, for by the time I met this person,
I was much more relaxed and fun than I was my first time. And my previous
encounters only served to highlight what an amazing woman she truly is.
There is sex, and there is love. You can have good sex without love.
You can have love without good sex. And you can have fabulous sex with
someone you love deeply. But these are all things in life that we cannot
totally control. It is entirely possible to go through life without finding
true love. And it is also possible to find love, but not great sex. I
guess the point is this: whether or not you choose to have sex before
marriage is not important. What is important is that you face your sexual
needs honestly, and in a healthy and open way. No one can predict how
things will turn out for each individual, just like no one can predict
life. And as in life, irresponsible behavior, as well as bad luck, can
spell disaster, regardless of your sexual choices. All you can do is give
it your best shot, and avail yourself of all the information at hand in
making your decisions. What definitely does not work is suppression and
guilt. At worst it can drive you crazy. At best you will miss out on a
lot of the beauty that life sends your way. Either way, I do not believe
that any god would mean for us to treat sex the way Christians say God does. Life holds enough
pain and ugliness. There is no need to make sex ugly too.