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09 May 2007 @ 09:00 am
Random thoughts on Sex  
It's been a long time since I posted anything. It's odd that I choose this as a return.

Thoughts on Abstinence and Promiscuity

In light of the latest book in the Atheist genre, “God is Not Great,” I thought it would be good to address one of the main thrusts of the book, which is sexual activity. The author claims that one of the primary motives of religion is the prosecution of sexual activity so as to spawn repression rather than fulfillment. Naturally, the author presses many examples into our hands, noting that many world religions have sought to use faith as a tool to outlaw everything sexual from regular curiosity to deviance. He argues, in fact, that deviance in itself is deviance only from an accepted moral code based on religious values. What the author seems to miss in all of his ranting is the fact that sex is encouraged, but in a way that does not work well with the “do what you want when you feel like it” mentality.

Surely, all of us understand that in the course of a day, there are obligations to which we adhere – societal laws, the need to work and earn a living, the care of children, the daily upkeep of our lives. One does not take a job and then not show, expecting that no consequences come of that action. Why, then, does society assume that sex – the greatest physical manifestation of love – should not hold at least as high a place on our list of concerns, especially since it’s a physical act generally sought after by most of the population just after puberty? We know scientifically that our bodies go through a period of sexual maturity in order to continue the species. We are giving the impetus to mate, both for physical pleasure but also for biological reproduction, from an early age. We reach our sexual peaks when we are young enough to bear strong children and so that we live long enough to see them to their own maturity. This is God’s design, yet we rail against the design crying “abstinence” so loud that we sound like a general sounding the charge into battle.

A quick survey of the NIV Bible will give you nearly 50 verses that include the word “sexual” and pertain to guidance on sexual issues. Almost every one of them uses the word in conjunction with “immorality,” pointing to a less-than-simplistic connotation of sex. Sexual immorality is clearly not the same as sex. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is a popular piece of scripture quoted by both sides as a condemnation of sex, yet it is a condemnation of sexual immorality. But how do we separate sexual conduct, which is natural and inspired by God, from sexual immorality, which dishonors God?

Clearly, God intended sexual relations to take place between a married couple – man and woman – though I do not propose here to condemn my gay brothers and sisters on this earth. In man and woman, we find reflected the many complex facets of the Holy Trinity and the completion of a set designed for species continuation. But why narrowly within the bonds of matrimony, and what of free will?

With sex comes consequences, positive and negative. Those of us who have been sexually active understand that sex is an intensely personal and physical act that carries significant emotional baggage. Often, it brings couples closer together and it is not without hitches in the form of psychological issues arising from differing backgrounds. Much of this, within the bonds of a committed relationship, is dealt with by the love two people feel for one another.

With sex, however, comes the chance of creating life, again, as God so designed the act. It’s a very real chance, and whether a pregnant woman chooses to allow that life to live or perish, the outcome carries significant responsibility. While I choose to favor life, it’s clear that a choice is made by the woman in this situation. If life is chosen, the humbling and at times overwhelming task of raising that life to adulthood is the daunting outcome of a single act of passion. If an abortion is chosen, then the emotional scars from both the procedure and the lost life endure with the mother. I would note here, without stepping on the abortion soapbox, that no one I have ever spoken with who has undergone an abortion, speaks of it in joyful or carefree terms. In every case, there’s a statement of loss and a silent underpinning shown in faraway looks that tells me that no matter how much we talk about this as a “simple and easy” issue, it never is.

So, one result of sexual immorality is the very real possibility of creating a child that neither partner may be ready for. Another is disease, which is a very harsh reality for someone to discover after a single sexual encounter. AIDS, Syphillis, Gonnorhea and other sexually-transmitted diseases take only one instance to take root in a partner’s body and forever cause discomfort or worse, death. However, presenting this information is revealing nothing new. Why bring it up in a discussion of Biblical views on sex?

Abstinence, of course, is the primary method of birth control decreed by the churches. It’s a behavior counter to much of the world culture which presents a “do what you want as long as it does not harm another” manifesto, but the problem is that few actions we take in life come without any kind of result. I may choose to drink a glass of water that benefits me and does not appear to directly harm anyone, but I remove that much water from the reservoir, decreasing the amount for everyone else. Everything carries a result. In the case of sex, so much that is life-changing can occur that it must be treated with respect. In the case of reproduction and STDs, there are lots of wonderful inventions such as condoms, spermacides, and IUDs to both prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease. Some of them are even 99 percent effective – if used properly and if they do not malfunction during operation, which, interestingly enough, aided in the unexpected production of my second child – but none of them carry the 100 percent everytime guarantee that abstinence can boast. Further, unlike the use of most birth control devices, with abstinence, there is no learning curve, no chance of malfunction, no complex application. There is simply a positive result.

Those who argue against abstinence have a good point – it cannot be the only position taught. It should be, however, the primary position taught. Human nature tells us that we are weak-willed by nature and a host of reasons – curiosity, peer pressure, the desire to please, the desire to be loved – all hold the power to push us past abstinence. Knowing that, we should strive to include talk of birth control and disease and how to prevent such into all discussions of sex in order to keep society safer. But abstinence must be our goal for those who seek a positive sexual experience in an environment that benefits and honors both partners.
Sexual immorality carries other issues beyond that of pregnancy and disease. Prostitution, perhaps the oldest profession on the books, is both demeaning to women and to the partners they service. If a single individual hires a prostitute, it means they do not have the will to initiate a caring, honoring relationship with that person; they simply want to use them. No existing philosophy outside of religion that propones to support a positive, happy society condones the use or abuse of another person. If a married individual seeks a prostitute, then a number of assumptions can be made. First, it’s likely that the individual is doing this without the knowledge of the spouse which creates integrity issues in the relationship. Second, there is the risk of disease returned to the family. Third, it dishonors the prostitute, reducing them, effectively, to the same category as a jug of milk one might purchase at the local grocery. If we are to strive for a perfect society, one in which we have respect for our fellow man, then we should seek to ensure that people are treated with respect and not denigrated through the carnal use of their body.

I would also offer that sexual immorality can surface as a life pursuit – the nightly seeking of partners to fulfill physical desires – that comes as a detriment to a higher pursuit in helping a fellow human. By focusing on sating the constant desires of the flesh, we detach ourselves from a life that might be spent bettering humanity. In the same sense that we know the pursuit of greed leads to negative consequences, so, too, does the pursuit of immorality against all other things. Pornography, as well, seeks to demean those who participate in it and as we are learning with the use of 21st century technology, that viewing pornography has a negative result on those who take such viewing to an extreme. In many documented cases, the viewing of pornography by a spouse has led to the seeking out of extramarital partners, prostitutes and has destroyed relationships and marriages. In the case where children are involved, either as subjects of the pornography or simply those who were children of the viewers of pornography, a “trickle-down” effect is in place that forever alters their lives in a negative way.

God does, however, encourage sexual activity. In fact, He directs the woman to give herself to the man and for the man to love her. In this, we see the recognition by God of our need to couple with our spouse and suggests that such a thing is desirable in his eyes. This is not given a condition that it is solely for the propagation of our race, but for our pleasure in our committed relationship with our spouse. When the passages in Leviticus denote who should have sex with whom, we see these as arbitrary rules, commandments against that which may feel natural in some way. However, when viewed from a biological perspective, these rules are only falling on common sense – that same-sex relations can never produce children, that relations with family members may create children with congenital defects or as in the case above, sex with children can cause an abusive situation.

In summation, God does not ask of us to take care when treading in the sexual realm out of some whim; it’s because He who possesses the supreme wisdom sees clearly the pitfalls of sex without guidelines. We do not take the issue of firing a gun without extreme care, yet we rarely exercise the same judgment when viewing sexual activity. Like the use of a firearm, however, sexual conduct can result in a life-altering, and in some cases, a life-ending result. God encourages us to seek sexual fulfillment in situations that honor both ourselves and our lover and that minimizes the chances of consequences taking place that the partners are not prepared for – we know that a child born to a married couple has a much better chance of being received in love, and indeed, of living, than a child born to an unwed couple. We know that a loving, committed couple is more likely to embrace with the purpose of fulfilling one another and not acting in selfish regard. We know that those who act without promiscuity likely enter a loving relationship free of disease and therefore do not pose a health threat to their partner. When we take the time to look deeper at God’s commands on sex, we find that the directions are not random, but handed down with purpose, with care and with the knowledge that common sense must rule the day.