Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sex Post

This in response to Chris' comment on my Valentine Post.

The advantage human beings have over other animals is the separation of sexual pleasure and reproduction. No other species, as far as I am aware, uses safe sex as entertainment.

Nevertheless I am convinced sex belongs best within a committed, permanent relationship. I know not all my readers will hold this view. Going for extreme physical intimacy without emotional intimacy devalues sex. It is a life-uniting act and I feel is best kept special.

Christian educators will often teach that there should be no sex before marriage. They teach young people to wear 'True Love Waits' wrist bands and T-shirts. Then they mix up marriage and weddings. Culturally we have changed our attitude to marriage. The way society in our part of the world does marriage these days is to move in together. We have made weddings so expensive, that people commit, share homes, marry their goods and bank accounts, even have children and then save up for a wedding ceremony. Somewhere along the line the bonking commenced (before the children came along presumably).

So teaching a youth group about sex is good. A Christian perspective would be that it is special, life-giving, life-enhancing and more valuable if reserved for people who have comitted to each other for the long haul. It can wait for the wedding if you don't buy into the lie that the wedding must be expensive. Two friends of mine had a gloriously imaginative wedding last year using seasonal flowers, home made decorations and a bring and share meal. It cost about £16,000 less than Bride magazine recommended spending. Hooray.

Don't lose too much sleep over sex waiting for the wedding night. It might. Lose lots of sleep before giving away your virginity. It is a great marriage present.

Now what about intimate relationships between Christians and non-Christians? Again young people are terribly wounded by the 'Don't do this' approach to youth ministry. Help them discover truths. Ask, 'What might be the disadvantages of making a long-term relationship with someone whose fundamental world view is at odds to your own?' Then, 'What might be the advantages?' Let them work it out. Is it different to a Tory marrying a Socialist? Football lover marrying a sport-hater? If so, how?

I guess as an opening to any youth group series I would ask the young people, 'What issues would you like us to deal with?' This may be the trick you missed.

My own technique has always been to ask lots of questions and give many alternative answers to questions I am asked myself. As a follower of Jesus and a seeker after truth I am proud of that.

I would always introduce the Bible, with the guarded opening that we will find a very strange cultural world - a world where leaders should have only one wife but a different standard is acceptable for ordinary people (1 Timothy 3:2). A world where kings have 700 wives and 300 concubines and are still described as wise - the only problem for the Bible's authors is if those wives lead him astray to their foreign gods (1 Kings 11:1-6).

But it is a world where sex is precious and sexual immorality is hated. In Genesis 1 God declares loneliness as the first thing that is 'not good'. Having partnered up man and woman (it's a story remember not history) he then says, 'Have lots of sex.' That is what 'Be fruitful and multiply' means. Everything else the Bible says about sex is attached to a warning or a negative. Sexual immorality is never clearly defined in the Bible so we run the risk of defining it as 'sexual practices we don't like'.

Good resources? Well I contributed a chapter to Sex and the Cynics for Damaris last year. Buy it here.

It is about the best thing I've been involved in and looks at the way sex is portrayed in the movies and the media. It makes you think really hard.


Caroline said...

terrific Steve, I think that you've captured the balance absolutely right here.

Perhaps I would add a small addition, that breaking up a 'pre wedding' marriage is going to be just as painful as after the wedding! Sadly, I sometimes think that people hope that because they haven't got the papers it'll be easier to end the relationship.

Caroline TOO
(The Other One)

St said...

Quite right Caroline. We need to be alert to the new forms of emotional damage made available by cultural change.

Chris said...

Very helpful Steve (and comment from Caroline). I think that all comes from where I'm coming from. The problem I have is that I'm learning how to get the guys and gals to think for themsleves all the time! Mixed success so far...

I may have presented a slightly negative view of the series of evenings we've just run - I don't think it was all bad at all and I think they have thought more about the issues that matter to them most in this area of their lives. Their problem has been in the past that they've had teaching that simply said things like "Whatever you do, don't go out with a non-Christian", and "Don't have sex before marriage" without any explanation or discussion around the topics. Trying to get them to talk about it now presents problems of it's own as they can become quite defensive, quite quickly!

I will look up the resource as we follow up the series of evenings with another couple of evenings before we do something about Easter (like making Easter Eggs perhaps!).



St said...

There is a constant battle in Christian Youthwork to avoid being the baby-sitter. Well-meaning Christian parents want you to make sure their offspring never do anything risky. This certainly means they want you to tell them not to have sex at all but if they do it must be with someone of whom they approve wholeheartedly. Resist at all costs. As if the gospel was ever risk-free?

Simon said...

Christians (and the rest) are very good at telling people what they should and shouldn't do. They never actually tell you why you should or shouldn't do it? Other than "Because God said so". Who's this God bloke then and why should I give a toss? "He's the boss."

"Who says?"
"He does."
"So what happens if I don't do what God says - do the evil Cyborgs take over the Universe?"
"Don't be silly."
"Why should I do what he says then?"

a) "you'll burn in Hell if you don't"
b) "you'll go to Heaven if you do"
c) "you'll be happier"
d) "stop asking awkward questions"

St said...

Did I really give that impression Simon? Tried ever so hard not to.

Col. said...

This is a huge problem facing the Church. One dilemma is that children are taught sex education in year 5 or 6 of primary school that's aged ten and eleven. Many have begun puberty by then and their culture says that it's not a problem to become sexually active anytime from then onwards.

If we (church leaders and would-be leaders) fail to teach basic sex principals like those you advise "A Christian perspective would be that it is special, life-giving, life-enhancing and more valuable if reserved for people who have comitted to each other for the long haul" at an early stage, we shouldn't be surprised when, like Chris, we find that at age fourteen plus, we are faced with Christian youth who discover that what they thought was okay according to their culture is completely at odds with Christian youth leaders who are trying to give advice about sex, marriage and weddings.

The Church must get over its embarassment and begin Christian sex education much earlier.

Simon said...

st, teaching is telling, isn't it?

Teaching kids that sex before marriage is wrong because God says so.

I don't know if this is what you teach, but some of your commentators have said they do.

I ask why?

I haven't had an answer yet. Ender had a go, but came out with all the usual religious hockus-pokus.

Apparently, Satan is my master. Therefore, I should abstain from sex before marriage to free myself from his chains (I presume).

Why Satan wants to make us all evil, no-one seems to know. I'm a writer - I need to know the full story. At the moment, as God is supposed to have created Satan, it appears this whole Uiniverse is just a playing thing of his for his own mysterious amusement. Yet Christians make out this is all very serious without explaining why.

I'm afraid, if this were a script, Hollywood wouldn't buy it. Nor anyone else. The story just isn't strong enough.

Too many plot holes.

St said...

Lots of stuff there Simon.

Yes teaching is telling but I am very clear it is about telling choices, options, dilemmas not parading opinion as fact.

I think that Christians need to engage with the world without using 'God says' terminology. Bishop Richard Holloway's book 'Godless Morality' was good on this. He got panned by the Christian right but actually his point was genius. If you say 'God says' then the response 'No he doesn't' ends the argument. Some of my commentators don't seem to get this, you're right.

I don't believe in Satan either. Stories about Satan are metaphor. The personification of evil if you like.

Not convinced Hollywood avoids plotholes that well all the time but maybe the audience is better at caving.

Will try to write my story of God later. May be a few days; more because of holiday than cowardice. It might have to be a book.

Thanks for continuing to drop by. Appreciate it.

Simon said...

Don't mention it.

So you believe in good and evil, then?

St said...

Do I 'believe in' good and evil? Hmmm. Bit of a philosophical question I guess. Would need to think carefully before composing an answer but I imagine the existence of a line with good at one end and evil at the other and all human acts fit on it somewhere. No-one ever acts out of complete purity of motive. I think the world is a good place but human evil spoils it. Will post on this too in the future as the comment string is getting a bit long here and we got off the subject of sex. Your view? What do you believe in?

Simon said...

I just think good and evil is too simplistic to have any use. Like, if someone asks what music do you like, replying "good music" doesn't say anything. Because it all depends on what you think good music is.

I certainly don't think humans are the only part of the Universe that does "bad" things. Nature is cruel.

Why do you think the world is a good place? To me, it seems to be an amazing place, but I don't see it acting in a charitable way.

A tree wants only to survive and reproduce. That is why it grows apples. Not because it wants to feed us.

I have never heard of any part of nature which is not selfish, or at best indifferent.

I don't believe that humanity is any more or less evil than the rest of nature (or the world).

Why do you think the world is good?

Chris said...

Isn't the world a good place gone wrong?

Simon said...

What makes you think that, Chris?

St said...

This came from friend Jo today (Jo, opening a blogger account, even if you just use it to comment, is very easy):

Hi Steve
This is probably the most bizarre email you'll get this morning. Was just reading your 'sex post' and thought you'd be interested to know that there is one other species that uses safe sex as entertainment - the Bonobo monkey. I have spent many an hour at Twycross Zoo with my A'level psychology students recording number/type of sex acts per 15 min intervals (they're highly motivated) for their coursework. I couldn't post as I have no blog.
Hope you're enjoying your sabbatical. Love to Liz

Jonathan Potts said...

Simon, I think you're anthropomorphisising here. Nature is not cruel, nor do trees have desires, they simply do things mechanically. They're neither good nor bad. The consequences may be desireable (a good harvest) or undesirable (a landslide) but placing moral judgements on them is mistaken, I think.

In order to impose moral criteria, a creature (plant, animal, thing) needs a certain level of intentionality. At this point I refer you to my comment on St's "Goodness me" posting.