Stoicism made its way into Christian culture both as an ‘enduring’ style of religion and a distrust of emotion and pleasure. Inhibition was lauded in public but not in private where licence was celebrated to the extent that it was a denied its proper place in wholeness and holiness. Such dichotomies were exacerbated by the knowledge of good and evil that has become a substitute for the raw wholeness of Christ as our life.
Just as Victoriana made a ‘thing’ out of ‘We are not amused’ the scions of religious propriety made a virtue out of ‘not being on fire’. These are they who would make a kind of righteousness out of ignoring sex, defining it as somehow ungodly and something to be left unsaid or ashamed of.
GOD MADE IT
As a Christian teacher I had a lot to say about the ‘Ok Status’ of sex. Sure I taught young people that the right place for it was marriage. But I also taught them that sex was created by God for pleasure and the celebration of togetherness. There is something wild and elemental about sex which is tied to the spiritual and animal part of our being. Since we are sons/daughters of God this is also part of God.
It’s also part of Godliness as the entire Song of Solomon attests.
It’s by design that new people come into the world as a result of sex. This indicates that sex is a pursuit of both pleasure and sacredness.
Religion in many of the 'religious colonies' has both attempted to separate this sacredness and joy with a suspect denial and make a thing of it. The temple has their prostitutes and the patriarchs their many wives.
Sex has been incorporated into religious culture for a reason. There is life in it. There is a joy and Godliness in sensuality that has to do with a state of being that we call human. Fully human, that is. Research indicates that those who have a personal Jesus life have a better sex life than those who live in religion. I can believe it. They have more of themselves and a real humanity. Religion insulates us from God and from each other.
The incarnation – which is our new testament reality – joins us to God and each other.
A colleague at the school at which I taught was taken aback - nay affronted - when I pointed out that “I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the bolt” (Song 5.5), was what it appears to be: Sexual arousal. Those of puritanic bent might well chorus as they have a habit of doing, ‘Is it necessary?’ According to God’s word, it is.
It is necessary. It is part of life and even more necessary because it is at the core of life. The ‘Is it necessary tribe’ usually belong to those who have found religion but have never found life. They live a life of over-all hibernation. Others live a double life at the whim and control of drives that cannot be controlled because they cannot be acknowledged as part of ourselves. We either live whole in Jesus or divided and paranoid in some version of ourselves.
Well not all do. Years ago I read a book by a thoughtful Catholic entitled Original Blessing. You need not agree with everything Matthew Fox says, but you can agree with Fox that everything God created was declared good. Anything that is in God is wholesome and part of our new creation living when we live in the new covenant instead of in the knowledge of good and evil. We no longer live in the categories, opposites and dichotomies of the knowledge of good and evil today if we have embraced our treasure in the field. We live in life and this life is a person and this life is God. This is why Christ is our life and not even Christianity is our life.
It's easy to give sexual sin a bad rap. It’s easily identifiable. Linked with exquisite pleasure and also with great guilt. But it’s not more sinful than other things. Sex out of bounds not more sinful than capitalism, partisan greed, rationalising the status quo, denying climate change and robbing islanders and future generations of life. How could sexual sin be any more sinful that adopting a version of Christianity that justified getting Donald Trump into the White House?
I found this today in any essay about cardinal George Pell, which makes the point nicely. “Behind rigidity [and contrived blindness] something always lies hidden,” he said. “In many cases, a double life.”
The core of our existence will either be in God or in ourselves. If we are still attached to the law we will be stuck in ourselves and insulated from the infinite life that is ours in God. We may be sincere but we have not been born again. An obsession with sin and its overcoming is narcissistic and ungodly. God wants us to be obsessed with the life that is Him.
Michael Kapler writes,
“The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented the morality tree where man would choose to determine right and wrong based on his own standard, instead of trusting in the life of God that had been gifted to them. The result was passing from life into death, and it affected the entire world around them. Where Adam had been created in the image of God, after his own likeness, sin would cause everyone else to be born in the likeness of Adam, after his own image (see Genesis 5:1-3).” (1)
But Adam has been undone. His dire culture of death has been brought to a halt. The culture of the knowledge of good and evil has been replaced. There is a new culture, a new life, a new spirit that is Christ for you and Christ as you. This is the new covenant. New Creation life in which the personified life of Jesus becomes you.
(1) Kapler, Michael C.. Clash Of The Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee . Kindle Edition.