Monday, February 28, 2005

A Delicate subject

The following is my column from the March issue of ChurchActs, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of WNY

There are certain subjects that Episcopalians are traditionally reluctant to discuss. Two of them will spring to mind instantly – Evangelism and Stewardship. But there's a third that we avoid discussing so utterly it simply never occurs to us to include it on the list – Sex. (You may think that the current debate in the worldwide Communion is more than enough talk of sex. I would argue that it has very little to do with sex actually and has much more to do with Scripture and our understanding thereof) As a young person you're being raised in world saturated in more sexual imagery than any other civilization of which I'm aware. For your church NOT to talk with you about it from a faith based point of view is quite simply a sin in my opinion.
So let me go and sin no more. Let's talk about sex.
First I'm not going to spend ANY time discussing the "plumbing". Our schools begin telling you how everything works starting at an amazingly young age. If you don't know "how it works" then you're REALLY not paying attention.
Second I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the "Thou Shalt Not" and "It's a Sin" arguments. Why? Because I know that way too many young people just shrug those ideas off. Maybe there aren't any better arguments than that but I'm not willing to walk away without trying. So here goes.

Argument #1 – We've got sex at the wrong end of the relationship
I've lived more than half of my expected lifetime as I write this and I haven't found anything more intimate than sex. It is quite simply the profound act coming of two people together. It scores at the high end of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual scales. There's nothing that comes close that won't kill you. So why on earth would anyone do this with someone they don't already know intimately, deeply, profoundly? Having sex with someone changes the relationship forever. Concepts like "hooking up" and "friends with privileges" and the granddaddy of them all "casual sex" attempt to make this profound act into snack food. God made sex special, that's my profound belief. God made us special, I believe that equally profoundly. So explain how having sex with any willing "hottie" honors the act, or ourselves, or He who made us and it?
Is waiting for that truly wonderful profound relationship hard? Frustrating beyond belief at times? Oh yes. By placing sex in the right position in that committed, long term relationship(which the church has historically recognized as marriage. Not because we want to keep young folks from having fun but as a recognition of the importance of the gift)we honor God, we honor ourselves, we honor the person we love.
Which leads us to:

Argument #2 – Being Loved vs. Making Love
These two have been confused for generations at least. It grows from one of the stupidest statements ever created: "If you loved me, you would". Let's get this straight, if he (or she because some young women now use this line) loved you, they wouldn't ask you to do something that you aren't prepared to do. When sex becomes a negotiating tool, when it is used in exchange for affection, respect, position or something of value it's no longer love of any kind. When someone withholds their emotional love and support unless they get what they want they are telling something very important about your relationship. You are not a beloved partner, you're a service provider. This concept of sex as a product on sale at all times I believe is why we see the rise in things like "date rape". You have what I want, I make what I think is a reasonable offer and if you don't sell, then I take it.
And that leads us to:

Argument #3 – It shouldn't be about selfishness
Our culture bases its attitude toward sex on a simple understanding: "It feels good, I like feeling good, I should be allowed to feel good as often as possible. Because it's all about me." I'm not arguing that it doesn't feel good. Rather I'm suggesting our faith doesn't call us to place ourselves in the center of everything. We're called to love God and we're called to love another. Do we love God if we use his gift as part of some kind of sexual Open House? Are we loving one another if we are using someone, even with affection, just to get our jollies? Doesn't a truly outwardly directed love bring us back to the concepts of Argument #1?
And finally:

Argument #4 – The self interest argument
How much are you worth? The Bible tells us that we are God's beloved. That's no small thing. The Creator of the Universe thinks you're wonderful and special. Even on your weird days. So are you willing to risk that special person by sleeping with someone whom you don't know well enough to know where they've been? And with whom they've been? Are you willing to trade that special person away for a date, or a piece of jewelry? Are you willing to let that beloved of God be someone else's plaything? Or are you going to say "I am beloved. With the right person in the right relationship at the RIGHT time we will do the right thing. And it will be wonderful. I won't accept anything less for me or for them or for God who loves me and wants me to enjoy it then."

Personally I'm with God on this one. You deserve nothing less, you should expect nothing less, you should settle for nothing less.


1 comment:

srma said...

I am lifting you and the Dio. of Western NY in my prayers. I too lost a job at an Episcopal congregation torn by the same events. I agree withholding funds only hurts the entire church.
I was fortunate tp recieve a call to the United Methodist Church as Director of Christian Education. As a cradle Episcopalian it was a very hard decision. I pray the Dio of WNY and other Dioceses find ways to support the many talented folks serving them, before they lose them. Praying for the health of the Episcopal Church .
Sarah Moden-Alliston