Friday, 28 August 2009
Some basic affirmations that need to be said explicitly.
1. The Christian faith is holistic, therefore it makes no sense to separate permanently body and soul. Without the body, soul makes no sense, and vice-versa. Our relationship with God makes no sense without our body, and this applies to salvation.
2. Thus the body is both the locale of experiencing God's love now and reflecting God's glory now and in the future. (Discipleship and resurrection) Sexuality, as a facet of our bodiliness, are to reflect the glory of God.
3. Sex is body and soul. When we reduce sex to only body or soul we are escaping from the closeness of reality and the depths and complexity of being human.
4. Heterosexual sex can lead to pregnancy and children. This is to be carefully considered when having sex.
5. Sex can help intimacy and the self-giving and receiving of intimate relationship. It is legalistic to think that sex is only permissible once a couple have been formally married.
6. Sex is about pleasure not just popping out babies.
7. Both salvation and sin swirl around the human experience of sex. Because sex is tied up with desire, intimacy, pleasure, joy and 'nakedness', it can also have devastating results in our lives. However, for these same reasons it is a sacrament of God's love and salvation. Sex is also one of the most important images to think of our relationship with God and salvation. (E.g. union)
The Song of Songs is an explicit love song, with symbolic sexual language within it. It has been spiritualized in the Christian tradition. It is easy to imagine this was done by some because of discomfort with the physicality of the content. The physicality of our existence, our relationship with God and our salvation has been, and continues to be, problematic for many Christians. Christian discomfort with the Incarnation has the same root as discomfort with sex: it is about real human life in all its reality, messiness, sweat, blood, tears and complexity. However, the intuition that has interpreted our relationship with God in terms of the physical relationship between two lovers is correct and utterly orthodox, traditional Christianity. Human bodiliness and God go together.
These days we rarely meet the obvious rejection of our physicality and bodiliness in the church. (An exception is the rejection of the resurrection of the body, but I have posted on this before, many times.) The rejection of our physicality and the ultimate union of creation and God in Christ is masked these days. One of the masks used is the rejection of promiscuity. Of course we are critical of promiscuity: Christianity takes our bodiliness seriously, a bodiliness that includes all our ways of relating faithfully. Promiscuity undoes faithful relationships and can lead to great hurt. And when it doesn't but retains a casual, meaningless character, we are critical of that meaninglessness in something so profoundly intimate. It just isn't right. But, our criticism of promiscuity is not an excuse to import any lingering discomfort about our physicality and sex. And that is what happens, and it happens a lot.
For example, the new orthodoxy required by all Australian Anglicans that says sex can only happen between those who are formally married. So I cannot have on parish council someone who is in a sexual relationship who is not formally married. So you can be in a defacto marriage, have grandchildren from the relationship, and sorry, don't bother applying for any ministry position. Ridiculous, but that's typical of those still uncomfortable with their physicality and its messiness and complexity.
If people are sharing their lives and growing in intimacy, with the intention of continuing in that growth in intimacy faithfully, sex should not be legalistically prohibited. The legalists just can't bear the idea that people are moral beings and that in the complexity of human growth in intimacy legalisms don't hold. As in all legalisms, people are driven 'underground', and those in authority (except for the maniacal and ideological legalists) turn a blind eye at some point. Corruption, corruption ... Better to be sensible in our acknowledgement of our bodiliness and in our regulation of sexual relations.
Finally, because soul and body go together sexual relations are one of the important metaphors for our relationship with God, the act of redemption and our eventual salvation in Christ. I mean the metaphor of union. It's sexual through and through.