excellent post! i agree with almost all of it. the only thing is that polyamorous relationships actually do their best to minimise envy and jealousy through being honest even when it’s scary. the reasons i’d feel insecure would be (ideally) minimised by a partner affirming me, and being clear and honest if there’s a problem, etc.
now the poly people i know are mostly not Christian, but i certainly know of one who is, and attends church with one of her partners (and possibly his other partner).
i know it would freak me out a bit, at least on the scheduling and emotional investment side, and because perhaps i’m not that confident in myself. but it pleases me something so far from the “norm” seems to work alright for some.
and i agree, Jesus did seem inclusive to the point of “danger”, and would’ve definitely been seen at gay bars and red light districts hanging out with people and showing them the sort of acceptance He was good at. now, i don’t think He’d participate…and i don’t know what the implication there is for a Christian that wants to do the same (and might be tempted)…but He’d have been there, with them, loving them. and He’d have shouted at the fundamentalists who told Him it was wrong to accept such people.
so yeah, fornication…do we really know what it is? my loose definition is that it implies exploiting others or acting selfishly or dishonestly in a sexual way. just as wrong to do that in a financial way, legal, or religious way…
but it could very well be that to God some things are always wrong…or that they are wrong for one person, but ok for another…so it becomes very subjective.
i know i don’t have the right to tell others (based on my own internal morality) what they ought not to be doing…
and i agree that the Bible isn’t black and white on the issue of pre-marital sex at all.
Wow. Great list of thoughtful responses! Normally this type of thread would be overwhelmed by “you’re going to hell heathen!”. Or possibly an Alice Tinker, Vicar of Dibley response that pre marital sex makes your bits drop off.
Just thinking, if you marry a widow, aren’t you bonking someone else’s wife? Seems a bit harsh to say it doesn’t count now the poor chap is dead! I do think this idea of sleeping with someone else’s future spouse, is nonsense.
I would agree wholeheartedly with James that sex is taken WAY to seriously. Of course there is a serious aspect, but often that is the aspect the churches hush up, as evidenced by the ridiculous panic in the USA about sex education, contraception, condom promotion to avoid spread of disease etc. Nope. Instead churches often spend time trying to work out the ins and outs (pardon the pun) as to why masturbation is wrong and how it’s part of lust pornography etc. Even though the bible says nada about masturbation and I’m guessing the practice definitely existed prior to pornography
I think sex is both a serious thing and an absurd thing. It is serious in that it binds us to another, creates the possibility of children, possibility of hurt and the spread of disease. So it is definitely something to be stepped into with care and responsibility. But also with fun! Let’s face it, the act itself and its accompaniments IS pretty ridiculous.
The first post about the fiancee of 6-8 years resonates strongly with me at all I think is wrong with church teaching. (Not wrong with your relationship, understand. The story just reminds me of my own prior negative experience). Churches generally have an obsession with no sexual contact at all before a legal ceremony, believing this is a biblical instruction. Yet in bible times, people were not generally engaged for multiple years. Girls were usually teenagers when they wed. There was no huge period of temptation like we see today. I’m 30 years old and as yet unmarried. Had I lived back then, I would likely have been married 15 years ago.
As for myself, I’m naturally quite a sensuous person. But I spent years trying to suppress my natural desires, feeling that even my feelings in that direction were somehow wrong and dirty. I did this because the church taught and so I thought God demanded, a suppression of this part of me. It left me with huge swathes of guilt and a fear of sex itself. In my mind, it had become this huge, scary prospect. All idea of playfulness and enjoyment of it had gone for me. So I understand how this fiancee, with huge promises to her family, feels. This is just my personal opinion, based on my own experiences and NOT God’s opinion on the subject, but I think this is a deeply unhealthy state of affairs.
And I’m now, years later, with Johnny on this topic. I think that suppression of sex before marriage is harmful to healthy relationships. Not that virginity before marriage is harmful, rather that suppression of all sex before marriage is harmful. It was for me anyway. I was extremely wound up and fearful in this area. And I’ll go out on a limb and say it disproportionately affects women. Men are typically studs, the more partners they have. Women are typically sluts. Even in the OT, a married man can sleep with another woman providing she is not the wife of another. He can have as many wives, concubines and female slaves as he likes. If she were to do the same, well hello stones flying in my direction! Male sexuality tends to be obvious from a young age, hence even if elders try to suppress it, his discovery of his sexuality has already started. It’s on the outside after all! Whereas the female is more internal and hidden. The disapproval of female sexual self discovery is often manifest with disgust and shame, the idea being that it’s dirty. I know married women who, to this day, cannot use tampons because they still feel there is something dirty about touching their own bodies. And lastly, there is no evidence of male virginity. There is no male hymen. So unless there are women telling all and sundry that a man slept with them, he can say he’s a virgin and none would be any the wiser. So the demand for virginity at marriage is by its nature one sided.
When I was dating, I went out with men who were incredibly uptight about their sexuality. They had become so obsessed with not lusting, that they were a nervous wreck. One spent much of our two dates informing me of how he must be careful not to go to far, not to enjoy hugging me too much, not to look at my breasts etc. It was completely unattractive to be honest. It seemed to promote an extreme Islamic view of men; that they’re all such dribbling idiots that one look at a woman and their morality is gone. I have a higher view of guys in general than that. He’d have been much more attractive if he’d lightened up, enjoyed being with/looking at a woman, acknowledged to himself his desires for her but put it in it’s proper context. For me, that’s a far cry away from lusting after a woman in your heart to commit adultery with her.
Now I’ve come to believe that all sex should be responsible and caring and that pre marital sex can be healthy within those bounds. For me, within committed relationship. I don’t see anything in scripture to disallow this other than cultural constraints. (I’m not one to dismiss everything biblical as cultural, but some things were obviously cultural necessities. Like the rules for slaves. Or head coverings being worn or not in certain areas. ) the NT word pornea, translated fornication, does not mean pre marital sex but rather forbidden sexual activity.
With regards polyamory, I’m a liberal type, so I believe people have the right to do as they please if it’s not affecting others. But personal opinion, I think they’re missing out. To me that’s not more love but less. I think jealousy and possession occurs in different types and there is a type connected to real, romantic love that it is a sad thing to never experience. If my boyfriend didn’t mind if I/we had relationships with others, I’d feel less loved and special to him, not more. There is a possessiveness that comes from treating people like objects (bad). Then there is that possessiveness that comes from feeling this other person is part of yourself, part of your very soul. And it feels like someone might as well take your arm as take that person. With my darling, we often have called the other “mine”, and it feels glorious, not restrictive. Like no feeling like it before.
As for Adam and Steve: if god didn’t create Steve, who did? I thought we were Christians, not Gnostics believing in other gods. If God doesn’t like gay people, he sure seems to create a lot of them. And I have been out with a man who was obviously gay and trying to suppress it. Trust me, the results aren’t pretty and are definitely not fair to the opposite sex partner in their life, who constantly feels they’re doing something wrong.
excellent post, JaelSister!
once more in the defence of my poly friends…i have seen the love they have for each other…i didn’t see any difference between that love and that monogamous people have for each other
though i appreciate, it is an extreme, it is rare (not everyone could do it), but it’s worth throwing into a debate on “fornication”!
as for ancient people predating pornography…i went to an art exhibition at the Barbican in London that had this as a theme…there are some VERY surprising old vases and other bits…rather well rendered, too
Lol Corpsy. I’ve been to pompei, so I’ve seen ancient ‘art’ lol. Think I meant more the huge quantity of Internet porn/videos/daily magazines didn’t exist!
Your polyamory friends probably have a love that surpasses many monogamous couples. After all, it’s not monogamy in and of itself that causes love. Monogamy can be caused by politics, fear of hell, desire to control or just for appearances as well. Asexual people do exist after all. I just from personal experience, think there’s a level of love with a glorious kind of possessiveness, that polyamorists by their nature, can never experience. But then again, most monogamists probably never experience it either!
I love song of Solomon 8:6. Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.
7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.
It’s fierce and wild and definitely not tame. But this love is good. And now I sound all Lewisian
Well, yes, since Jesus and various authors of scripture judged people’s hearts that way and didn’t accept a rainbow of sexualities as being proper; and moreover tended to treat sexuality as analogous to God’s relationship with us, with God’s relationship to us thus setting the norm or ideal. There are also ways of applying that concept which the heterosexual monogamy team don’t like (I can testify to, being on that side of the aisle )!–such as an argument for polygamy based on the idea that since the man specially represents God and God is represented in the scriptures as having many wives in poetically describing His relationship to nations and humanity, then men can and should have as many wives and concubines as he can afford to (so long as he provides for them). Or again, an argument for (at least male) homosexuality based on the idea that marriage and sexual relationships should correspond to God’s relationship to us, and all of humanity (not only women) are portrayed in scripture as being married to God, even in some pretty florid sexual ways!
So if I’m going to be tagged for pointing out that there’s some solid scriptural authority to notions of mongamous heterosexuality being the norm or ideal for aspiring to, with a basis rooted in God’s relationship to creation (and particularly to humanity), then I might as well voluntarily mention other interpretative attempts with at least prima facie plausibility on those grounds. It isn’t only the people on my side of the aisle who make use of that concept for normative purposes.
(This is aside from metaphysical arguments on the topic, which I haven’t inflicted on anyone here yet. But I have enough technical logical nitpicky-ness to have no interest in arguing from analogies.)
And speaking as someone on that side of aisle, there’s offense that goes both directions. The “Adam and Eve/Steve” thing wasn’t originally invented by Christian heterosexualists. It was a point attempted by homosexual exegetes (or those defending homosexuality) back in my youth, based on an argument about the language of Genesis suggesting that God created the first humans as hermaphrodites. So that, over against the argument (based largely on Jesus’ statement in that Synoptic portion I quoted, which wasn’t aimed at criticising homosexuality per se of course but which incidentally undermines it) that God intended monogamous heterosexuality from the beginning, the argument was that it might as well have been Adam and Steve instead of (only) Adam and Eve.
Without going into the back-and-forth exegeticals on this, that’s where the popular phraseology of the heterosexualist retort came from: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Which has stuck (for various reasons) while the original rallying cry of Adam and Steve hasn’t: a rallying cry that was designed to be popularly offensive to the “Adam and Eve” team.
I think it’s also important for everyone to keep in mind that people with natural heterosexual tendencies are asethetically offended by homosexual activity (in various ways and to various degrees. Straight men tend to be aroused to various extents and for various reasons by lesbian activity, for example–assuming the women are attractive to them! ) To us it’s like seeing or thinking about someone pick their noses and eat it in public, except unlike nose picking we’re less likely to do it in private ourselves. So having it thrust in our faces (so to speak) is naturally offensive, and there’s a similar natural reaction to insistence that we not only tolerate but cooperatively accept it.
I usually keep this in mind for self-critical purposes, since natural reaction to stimuli isn’t a rational assessment of the situation, and can easily lead to uncharity (and even to violent uncharity); an observation that isn’t reduced by the explanation of such reactions as an obvious evolutionary instinct for preservation of the species: evolutionary instinct is certainly not a good basis for morality in other regards, and heterosexualists who realize this are (to put it bluntly) cheating to appeal to it for this purpose (even if biologically speaking it happens to be true!)
But I wish people on the other side of the debate would keep in mind that our natural offense at such things isn’t an excuse for them to go out of their ways to offend us.
Back to other(?) fornications then.
(I should probably mention here that my views on homosexuality are complex enough that, in my experience, they make no one happy at all–and the topic is quite low on my theological priorities pro or con–which is why I rarely bother to talk about the topic. I would prefer to keep it that way henceforth, and hadn’t brought up Jesus’ remarks on marriage as criticism of homosexual relationships.)
obviously i am on the other side of the aisle, but yeah we can be civil and not go out of our way to offend (you didn’t mention the adam and steve thing, obviously, it just occured to me, and it is interesting to hear the history behind it!)
i still feel that archetypes were used to illustrate points…archetypes that made sense to those who received them. possibly, had the chosen people been ancient Greece, they may’ve received a different set of archetypes to illustrate God’s persistent love. the chosen demographic dictates the means of communicating with them, if one is hoping to make sense to them.
also, it is a fact that “most” members of any given species with heterosexual reproduction are heterosexual (and at the time extremely patriarchal), so again, it makes sense to use this sort of language to address.
now to be self critical too…the appeal to the Bible as a source of many vague non-“nuclear” family types (which it is) does not necessary prove that all those types of families are a-ok with God. just like slavery (accepted back then), perhaps we were meant to eventually work out God’s ideal. that’s a good and challenging point, i think.
in practice, however, i think western society is trying to move away from any form of discrimination. we have seen racism (rightly) fall into disfavour, and homophobia is currently in a pretty similar state of debate as racism was 50-60 years ago.
in that amount of time in the future, perhaps our children will have no problem Biblical or otherwise with what we currently struggle with. they will have some new battle to fight.
now that also doesn’t prove that we’re going in the right direction, however i would argue that we have stages of revelation that appear to be marked by increasing inclusivity and a certain regulation of various things.
for example, to the first Christians…Christ was for the Jews, not the Gentiles. than Peter had his vision, and suddenly God’s inclusion of the Gentiles became clear. in hindsight, they were able to spot this in the prophecies where perhaps they had just ignored them or not seen them before.
after much struggling, we now have another two stages of inclusivity that rightly (again, fairly clear from the Bible) have occured through a progressive and painful process. both of these are not complete yet, but it’s better than it was: these are to do with non-white (or non dominant at least) races, and the liberation of women.
again we see God expanding our understanding of His vision, the inclusion of all. maybe the next one is the LGBT community and all that entails? i think it seems likely, as currently it is the war being fought. at the same time, perhaps, there may be a smaller war going on over heterosexual sexuality, which is also important (“bastards” for instance are less discriminated against now then they were…which to me is a great thing. why should someone’s identity socially be defined by whether or not their parents signed some papers? committed but unmarried couples are generally only ostracised in some churches!)
this trend towards greater and great inclusivity and compassion IMO is strong evidence for UR, and i would argue is producing fruit akin to the Spiritual fruit in the NT we are told to look for. it seems to be happening IN SPITE OF the general beliefs of the church, and we often have to play catch up! sometimes it happens because God deigns to use people inside the church…but then there is often persecution! but then the world is the church in God’s eyes. we only separate ourselves because we are so sure of our own certainty we cannot see truth in the rest of God’s world. (i say “we” generally there)
anyway, i wonder what will the next to fight be?
back to homosexuality, Jason i am sorry you’ve seen bad situations. i have seen some lovely situations, personally. and i have seen enough heterosexual situations with badness involved that i think we can’t appeal to that for evidence for or against an orientation.
as to aesthetics…you’re right to say that isn’t proof. inter-racial marriages used to be aesthetically repugnant to white society! if we are not used to something, it can look at best odd…and if it challenges some core identity things (or things we THINK are core, like how MANLY we are (or fear we aren’t) ), then we may go so far as to be disgusted. i admit i am not used to seeing certain things…but then if some loved up straight couple won’t stop *snogging in front of me, that can disgust/annoy me too (or it did when i was single, anyway! now i just grab my OH and “join in” (not literally!))
*snogging, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, is just kissing…albeit with a bit of passion
Hi Jason. Always a pleasure to read your well thought out ideas
And whilst we’re on the subject of proper relationships, just wanted to say that when you describe your love and behaviour to a certain lady in your life; and when you call her your beloved; well, it warms my heart in a way I cannot describe and gives me hope for the decency of the male race. That woman is truly blessed to have someone like you love her, even from afar.
Just wondering if there was a reference for the Adam and Steve originating with a pro gay position? Only because I’ve only ever seen that reference in anti gay Christian literature or protests. And I’ve some oldish books on the subject, handed down by relatives. Would be interesting to see the history.
Weirdly, whilst I don’t believe fornication is pre marital sex, I am in the monogamy for life camp. Guess I just think that monogamy starts when you’ve made a commitment to that person, be it a legal marriage service or a promise to each other. However I think homosexual covenants can exist in the same way, and often have throughout history. I understand that people have an instinctual revulsion or fear of the unfamiliar or different. But I don’t think that that is a justifiable reason for remaining in this state of mind. People once felt revulsion at a white and black person marrying, at women having uncovered hair or ankles in the street. That doesn’t mean we should all just understand these feelings. Because it can directly affect someone else’s life, just because some people feel uncomfortable.
And as to the being in your face: with the exception of known, organised events or places, such as gay pride or gay clubs, I’m yet to encounter this ‘gay in your face’ or gay agenda people go on about. I’ve rarely seen a gay couple kiss or hold hands in public. Whereas I see multiple heterosexual couples doing this. I’m free to be affectionate and kiss or embrace my boyfriend as I please. No one ever calls it into question or tells me I’m in their face. There seems to be a simple issue of fairness and justice here.
The other big problem I have with typical church attitudes towards gay people is this idea that there is something wrong with them and they can become straight. I saw William Lane Craig advising this on his site the other day. Telling a young gay Christian that he should not be having sex outside of marriage. This is fornication and unchristian. But he doesn’t have to live a life of celibacy, because God can change him and he can enjoy life with a woman. This is morally wrong on several counts. One, it is extremely rare to have a real change of sexuality. Most documented cases have since come out as saying they were never really changed and are still gay. It has been shown to be extremely psychologically damaging to attempt such change. To potentially bind a woman for life to a gay man is to do a wrong to the woman, who should be able to be in a sexually fulfilling relationship with a husband who desires her. Trust me, it is not good when your partner barely kisses you but has to hide his arousal in the presence of men. Not good for me or them.
I always think our treatment of gay people would be like an authority demanding a heterosexual man suppress all desire and thoughts for women, never touch one again etc. But not only that. He must also begin a relationship with a man, kiss a man, have a full sexual relationship with a man. And not only that, he has to enjoy it as well.
That sounds extreme, but it is the scenario the church, in our discomfort, hang around the necks of gay people. And the love lives of those gay people are not affecting us. But our discomfort is affecting them. This is one area where I really think we need to get over it, maybe have a little of gay couples in our faces, so that it normalises in our minds and we feel revulsion no longer. This would seem right in the name of fair-mindedness.
Incidentally, I understand how a case could be made that marriage is more than a romantic coupling, but was originally a family contract, binding together of families and mutual assets and for rearing of children. Thus the term marriage could be considered inappropriate for gay couples and the term covenants might be better. But these days, our definition of marriage is not the same as the ancient one. And since gay couples often adopt and raise families themselves, maybe their unions should be called marriage as well?
I do think this issue is relevant to pre marital sex, since most gay couples, monogamous or not, cannot marry and thus have the option of either celibate relationship or ‘fornication’.
While I don’t much like talking of such things, I suppose I should add that I regard monoamorously (since “gamous” doesn’t always apply ) devoted relationships to be far more important in principle than the question of gender, (even though I regard the gender to be important, too).
While I don’t have sources to site on the start of the “Adam and Steve” phraseology, other than memories of seeing it go back and forth in newspapers etc. when I was young (so I remember the context of how it started), I can point to where I’ve said such things in favor of devoted homosexual relationships before, if necessary. I’m also in favor of civil rights for devoted monogendered couples, and I am on record once or twice (and now again here ) calling the idea of legislating against it by means of amending the Bill of Rights (in a backhanded fashion of making an amendment about marriage involving one man and one woman, or otherwise) to be “an abomination”.
(I understand why heterosexual advocates are doing it, because they feel like the legislative system is being usurped on this topic by supreme judicial fiat–about which they definitely have a principle case, and a right to be upset. But to deny rights to a minority by amending a bill intended to protect the rights of citizens is still to me morally abhorrent. Apparently most people in favor of the usual proposed method secretly agree with me in principle, or they wouldn’t be trying to get it done by sleight-of-mind sideways wording! They KNOW they would be rightly called out as wrong to put the wording like “Amendment X of the Bill of Rights guaranteed to citizens of the United States: sexual relations between more than one person and/or between people of the same gender are forbidden.” So they try to make it positively about heterosexual monogamy, fully intending the same effect, as though this is going to fool anyone when they point to it as evidence of their intentions. I really don’t have a smiley strong enough to express my annoyance at the dishonor involved in trying that, so please accept this tooth-grinding instead: http://www.wargamer.com/forums/smiley/00000018.gif)
As for the problems involved in adjusting, nothing I have to say on that is going to make any side happy, so I’ll just pass (aside from acknowledging there can be severe problems).
For what it’s worth, I am sure that my beloved is very disappointed in me on this subject, and wishes I was much more liberal about it.
(But then again, I am sure my beloved family is also very disappointed in me on this subject except in the other direction. I can’t say I blame either set of loved ones. I don’t like disappointing either set.)
Thanks bro, I appreciate that Not sure if I live up to your praise, but I do appreciate your kind words
I can resonate with what you’re saying, Jael… I’m 30 now myself, and still unmarried, and I’ve wrestled with my desires too, and with accepting them as natural… I long to be able to experience sex as something wholesome and good altogether rather than as something that feels good in the moment but then I feel bad about afterwards…
I think for Kaylyn though it has less to do with any religious reasons (she’s actually fairly liberal, like myself) than with emotional ones, and practical ones.
She was very close to her grandma, and wants to respect her wishes (there’s really no one in her family who’s pressuring her to keep her virginity till marriage, as they’re all fairly liberal too, it’s just her grandma wanted her to do that, and not for religious reasons necessarily, but because she believed it was wise, and Kaylyn thinks it is too) and also she doesn’t want to go and get pregnant before we’re settled and ready for having kids, including financially.
She’s going to school now, and she doesn’t have a job yet, and my own job is kind of up in the air in some ways, so we’re really not in a position yet to raise a child, and as good as birth control and protection may be, ya never know, better safe than sorry as they say…
Granted, we were planning on trying to hold off on having kids for at least a year or two after getting married, to have some time for just the two of us, before bringing kids into the mix, but even if something did happen, if birth control and protection didn’t work, we would at least be able to afford to raise a child then, even if it was a surprise…
And I know some might say, ‘why not just fool around a bit and not go all the way?’ Well, that’s a slippery slope as they say, and I know from experience that it’s really hard just playing around but not going all the way, and Kaylyn isn’t open to that anyways. Basically it’s hands off until we’re married, other than limited kissing, hugging, holding hands, and cuddling…
Yes, it is hard, but that’s how it has been and is for us, and I won’t try to pressure her into changing her mind, and anyways, I don’t really want to.
As hard as it has been, and is, for me to wait, I’m willing to keep waiting for her, because I love her.
But I’m not ashamed to say that I do hope she’ll be an animal in the sack (well, I’m sure she wouldn’t be at first, but hey, maybe after she gets into the groove of things ), and that we can make up for a lot of lost time.
And as far as her being scared, I think it’s just because it’s something that’s unknown to her, rather than because of any religious reservations.
Whereas I have quite a bit of past experience, she has zero. Heck, she doesn’t even masturbate.
So I can understand why it might be a little scary to her. I think it’s totally normal to be afraid of something you’ve never experienced before, even if people tell you that it’s fun and enjoyable. It can make you nervous, and especially when it’s something that requires a lot of trust and vulnerability on your part, like sex.
But Kaylyn and I will just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. I believe that God can help us both to work through any fears or any reservations that we may have, and can help us to be unafraid and unashamed and to enjoy each other, delight in each other, even if there may be some awkwardness in the beginning. He’s helped us to get through a lot of things already, so I’m thinking that He can help us in the bedroom when the time comes.
Thanks for your thoughts, Jael, and thanks for starting this thread.
Guess I was right, looks like this is gonna be a hopping one
Just been busy elsewhere. And I’m not as interested in actually discussing the topic as it may seem. I only posted the first time because up to that point there seemed a lack of some relevant scriptural data worth keeping in mind on a particular topic.
Still, I’ll be checking in to see how the fornication is going in this threaDANG THERE GO THE FREUDIANISMS AGAIN!!!
What a boring topic Can’t see what the fuss is all about. Just to add a note of interest into an otherwise tiresome debate Jason (seriously) is your point about the symbols in the Bible being inspired in any way influenced by Austin Farrar’s ‘The Glass of Vision’. I’ve never read this book - but I’ve always loved the title and his argument must be fascinating - because he was a fascinating man.
(I’m just limbering up for the Abrogation of the 42d thread at the moment - honest. As soon as I’ve got time for real concentration, I’ll fire up ) - nursing is taking up all my spare time at the moment. They doctor thought Mum wouldn’t last two weeks ago (hence my levity of late to keep cheerful and keep going since I’ve been doing the twenty four hour care job). But there are small signs of improvement. If we can get her sitting up in a chair again, I can do some serious writing again.
Seriously, this thread goes deep into the heart of something very wrong within the church, in my opinion. Like Matt, I’m right with you when you say: " … I spent years trying to suppress my natural desires, feeling that even my feelings in that direction were somehow wrong and dirty. I did this because the church taught and so I thought God demanded, a suppression of this part of me. It left me with huge swathes of guilt and a fear of sex itself. In my mind, it had become this huge, scary prospect. All idea of playfulness and enjoyment of it had gone for me."
I too, even to this day, have problems with sexuality. Or should I say expressing my sexuality. I can’t talk to my wife about sex, and, from time to time, I undergo serious feelings of guilt about sex. And I agree with you that the church was a big factor in making me feel this way. Sex between two people who love each other and are committed to each other – male or female, straight or gay – ought to be one of the most natural and beautiful experiences humans are capable of. But for so many of us, much of the time, yours truly included, it is a veritable minefield of repression and confusion.
I am firmly of the opinion that ‘marriage’, the legal union, is not necessary for a relationship to be Christian and godly. For me, it is the commitment that counts. While I respect the notion that polyamory works for some people, and I do not judge those people who practise it, it could never work for me. For me, absolute faithfulness to one’s chosen partner is one of the few total ‘non-negotiables’ in my personal code of ethics. I have never, ever forgotten a conversation I had with a mate many years ago, in which he confessed that he had had an affair. He had told his wife, and she had forgiven him, and they were, so far as I could determine, okay in their relationship. But, he said, it’s there. It’s always there.
And that’s the problem for me. Adultery can be forgiven, but it cannot be rescinded. Once that special bond of trust is broken it can be glued back together again, but the crack – even if it is only a hairline crack – will always show.
I actually do think marriage is worthwhile. I think married couples are, on the whole, more likely to stick together through tough times than unmarried couples, and this is often a good thing – especially when there are children involved. (However, I do not believe people should stay together come what may; sometimes relationships break down irretrievably, and I think it is madness for couples to stay together in a loveless – or perhaps even abusive – relationship purely for the sake of supposed church teaching or decorum or misguided loyalty or whatever.)
I am married because I love my wife, and I wanted to make a public commitment to her, and also to give her all the legal rights and protection that marriage brings. But I lived ‘in sin’ with her for a number of years before we actually got married, and it didn’t really bother me, I didn’t feel I was doing something sinful.
I say it didn’t really bother me, but it did, actually, at the beginning, especially when my wife and I were courting. For I was involved with a divorcee, and the church I was a member of, and the ‘religion’ I followed, both basically condemned our relationship. Every now and then I’d hear something, or read Jesus’ words on divorce, say, and feel that indeed I was doing something sinful. It doesn’t happen anymore, now that I am much more comfortable in my relationship with God, as it were, and know how much He loves me, and forgives all my manifold failings.
But it irks me that I was put on that guilt trip all those years ago. Now I am no longer ‘religious’, I believe that God blesses every loving and faithful relationship, and the church can say what it likes, it matters not one whit. (Actually I don’t care for an awful lot of things the church says, but never mind!)
If the church would stop tying itself in knots about human sexuality and just come out 100% in support of loving sexual relationships of whatever hue, the world would very quickly, in my opinion, become a better place. And personally I believe the church would find it a lot easier to attract members.
Don’t get me wrong, I respect the right of Christians to believe what they feel the Bible and their conscience teaches on issues of human sexuality. But what I do not respect is them trying to impose that belief on other people – which is what happens so often at the moment. Traditionalists oppose gay marriage, and it is their right to do so. But they have no right to prevent Christians who are in favour of gay marriage from marrying gay people, or getting married themselves.
It’s the same thing with censorship. Whenever a film or a book or a play comes out satirising or attacking or ridiculing Christianity, they want it banned. Famously they wanted to ban Monty Python’s Life of Brian. The tragic irony here is that the Pythons’ ‘message’ in that rather brilliant and very funny film was one of tolerance and respect for other people’s beliefs and lifestyles – something I’m sure Christ would have supported.
You are bob on when you talk about the unfairness of gays being condemned for ‘flaunting’ their sexuality if they kiss or hold hands in public, while straight couples can suck each other’s faces off with impunity in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. (Personally, being completely uptight and repressed about sex, I find the spectacle of couples canoodling in public rather revolting. The gender of the couples is irrelevant. It’s the flagrant tonsil hockey I can’t stand. Holding hands, yes. Walking arm in arm, yes. Hugging, yes. Embracing, yes. Quick peck on the cheek, or even lips, as a salutation, or a spontaneous display of affection, yes. But shoving of the tongue down the other’s throat? Nay, nay and thrice nay. )
You are again right on the money here. JS. William Lane Craig is a very clever man, and a brilliant apologist. I’ve listened to him absolutely shredding atheists, respectfully and Biblically, in public debates. But I’m afraid that on this one he is just plain wrong. As you say, imagine how a straight man would like it if somebody – eg the church – came along and told him that wanting to make love to a woman was sinful, that he should repent of those desires, suppress them, and instead focus on trying to feel attracted to other men. He’d go off his nut, and, if he bought into this charade, end up deeply screwed, er, up.
My brother told me that when he was in his early teens he tried to do precisely that. Not because he was particularly ‘religious’, but because he just felt he ‘had to’. He got off with a couple of girls at parties, did a bit of snogging, maybe a little more than that, I can’t remember now. But it did absolutely nothing for him. He knew he was gay. Indeed, he had known he was gay from the day he became aware of his sexuality at all. In just the same way, I know I am straight. I’ve always known it. I’ve never been sexually attracted to men, although these days I’m sufficiently metrosexual (horrible word ) to acknowledge that if I were a girl, or a gay man, I’d definitely go for Steve McQueen!
A lot of conservative Christians insist that not only is homosexuality a sin that must be repented of, it is a lifestyle that is chosen, not innate. What absolute tosh! And dangerous, damaging tosh at that. I have never, ever met a gay person who had successfully repented of being gay, nor have I read about such a thing happening. I am sure there are plenty of gay Christians living in denial right now, but I would be astounded if any of them had truly had their sexual orientation changed through prayer and repentance. Blimey, we might as well repent of being short, or tall, or blonde, or brunette!
What most of these anti-gay Christians (I hesitate to condemn them all as homophobes, although many undoubtedly are) won’t admit is that it is not the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality which lead them to have such strong anti-gay views. Because as we all know, the Bible actually says very, very little about homosexuality. There are a handful of verses that appear, on a prima facie basis, to condemn homosexual practice, although not necessarily orientation, but even some of those are highly ambiguous and depend on disputed translations. And it is a fact that Jesus spoke not a single (recorded) word on the subject.
No, what most of them haven’t got the guts to admit is that their anti-gay prejudice is precisely that – prejudice, based on their own (innate?) abhorrence of gay relationships generally and gay sexual relationships especially. Now it is entirely possible, as has been alluded to here, that there is some evolutionary factor at work here; maybe those of who us who are by nature heterosexual are genetically ‘programmed’ to be “aesthetically offended by homosexual activity”*, to use Jason’s phrase, because of the obvious evolutionary disadvantage homosexuality confers.
Plus of course, as Jason points out, you have the irony that most blokes find the idea of attractive women getting it on a turn on. Allegedly. Ahem. Incidentally, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but apparently there has never been a law against lesbianism in Britain, mainly because Queen Victoria did not believe lesbians existed!
Actually, I think for straight men, gay male sex is more than simply aesthetically offensive; it pierces a deep, almost visceral nerve, eliciting something nearer to repugnance – and in many cases, doubtless, shame or anger at repressed homosexual tendencies within the individual.
Maybe this is genetic, I don’t know. I guess none of us can help feeling the way we do. We don’t choose who we fall in love with. Neither do we choose what turns us on, or off. In that sense I have always felt very sorry for those poor sods who are born with paedophile tendencies. It must be hellish finding yourself, through no fault of your own, attracted to underage girls or whatever, knowing full well that if you indulge that attraction you risk imprisonment and the opprobrium of society. However, I have little sympathy for actual abusers; anyone who abuses a child for their selfish gratification is both wicked and a criminal, who ought to be locked up for the protection of society. (I say ‘little’ sympathy, because I am aware that many abusers were themselves abused as children, and who knows what kind of mental scars such abuse may leave.)
And, I should just point out, I am not drawing parallels of any sort between sexual orientation and paedophilia. There are far more straight paedophiles than there are gay, I would say, and yet certain sections of society always seem to want to tar all gay men with the paedo brush whenever a gay paedophile hits the headlines.
Now I must be honest here and admit that despite loving my brother and his partner dearly, I prefer not to think about what they may or may not get up to in the bedroom. But then again, I also prefer not to think about what my mother and father get (or got) up to, or indeed my neighbour and his wife, or indeed anybody at all, ever.
I mean, sex! The very thought of it makes me feel filthy and sordid and disgusting. I mean, you’ve got women going around dressed in the tiniest scraps of material, flaunting their … their unmentionable areas; it’s a wonder any decent, God-fearing chap can make it to Sainsbury’s and back without exposing himself, I mean being exposed to the worst sort of Jezebel harlotry! Like that bally Jackson woman, literally ripping her clothes off in front of billions of viewers at the Superbowl. Disgraceful! Thank goodness I had recorded the terrible incident, otherwise I might have missed it and not been able to replay it, in slow motion, repeatedly, just to check how disgusting it really was. Now speaking personally, I think the most sensible thing to do is to cut off all the more disreputable parts of the body, and use the space for playing fields. Er, I think I need to go and lie down. On my own, on my own!!
I’ve pretty sure I’ve read at least one book by Farrar, but not that one (and I don’t recall it having to do with Christian marriage principles).
I’m a strongly mystical marriage sacramentalist, although I’m broad about how God brings that sacramental union about. I’m glad to see someone brought up St. Paul’s argument earlier about why prostitution is wrong: it isn’t that a sexual act was done without setting up a relationship, but rather that in any human sexual relationship (in principle this would be true for any rationally active creature, or between rational creatures of different species) a supernatural connection is forged between the persons which is then abused and broken by treating the persons and/or the connection in various ways.
(Various people have told me that when they got to the point in my novel where two particular characters make love to one another for the first time, shortly afterward the readers realized I was illustrating “the Pauline view of marriage”. I like it when readers pick up themes. )
While I agree with that, I do want to point out that it can and does go the other way, too: there are lobbyists successfully lobbying to bring legal pressure to bear on Christians as having no right to speak against homosexuality at all, nor to refuse to provide homosexual marriage ceremonies.
Toleration is one thing, but people are being pressured to actively support and cooperate against their conscience. (Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, insert irony as applicable. )
I’m not saying it’s a simple problem to solve: obviously there’s an ethical logic about the government protecting a minority and so not supporting or allowing their own cooperation (I mean government cooperation) with behavior that doesn’t protect the minority. So if the government (whether state or federal) permits civil marriages between same genders, then how can the government in principle keep that permission while licensing institutions and people who refuse to exercise (or in some cases even acknowledge) that permission?
There aren’t any easy non-oppressive answers there, even when as much charity as possible (under the circumstances) is given by everyone involved. But people rightly become unhappy about the oppression per se. Even if that leads them to be more sensitive to oppression the other way around (which is generally a good thing), there’s still a painful conflict.
And that doesn’t yet count attempts at coercing public square speech or even in effect private speech. Churches see this starting to happen small scale, and worry that the larger scale is on the way. Slander and inciting to riot (or inciting to harm citizens in any way) are rightly illegal, but not every ethical denunciation counts as slander (legally anyway) even if it’s wrong.
I’d better read your novel I think Can I get it on Amazon?
I’m not really geared up for the discussion here - but it is interesting and nicely nuanced/evne handed.
My point about Farrar is that, as far as I understand, he argued - against fundamentalist understanding of scripture - that while the words of the Bible were not actually dicated by divine fiat, the symbols of the Bible are. That’s all I know - and I’ve probably got it a little wrong. But something you were saying earlier in this thread about mongamy in the Bible reminded me of The Glass of Vision for some reason. Anyway look forward to being a reader of this thread.