Share |

Sex: A Benefit or A Sin?

When is the last time we heard the good news that sex is good for us? Probably seldom, in spite of the fact that all kinds of research shows overwhelmingly support that a sexually active life keeps us physically and psychologically healthier. It is good for our relationships, in part, because it releases a hormone called oxycontin that is known as the ‘bonding hormone.’ This is what gives us the “warm fuzzy” feelings toward our lovers (even toward the total stranger one just hooked up with, a situation that can be rather problematic!) In addition, the release of this hormone also reduces pain. So if a partner has arthritis or aching joints, orgasmic pleasure can defuse that pain. There are so many other benefits to an active sex life such as how it reduces stress levels, prostate cancer risk in men and even improves cardiovascular health. There is even a positive association between sexual intercourse and pleasure and longevity! Research shows then that sexual behavior is good for us. So, one would think then that if we actually took the writings of the Apostle Paul seriously and viewed our bodies as akin to temples wherein God dwells, then Christians would be touting the importance of a healthy sex life and actively promoting it as consistent with a faithful religious life. Bring it on…

Alas! Seldom is this good news heard from the pulpits but, in the few instances when it might be, it is usually not as an inclusive invitation. Those without procreative capacities (gay and lesbian relationships), those without legal legitimization (such as those in premarital or post-marital relationships) and those whom society views as not sexual (older people in nursing homes, those in prison, singles and young adults for example) are not allowed to seek those benefits but usually condemned for doing so. The reason? The traditional Christian view is sexual expression=sinful behavior. However, if we have a view of the Creator as knowing what He/She was doing, is it even possible that something that is good for the mental and physical well being of humanity could be a sin?  How can it be a violation of the ‘flesh,’ and lead to condemnation by God, presumably, when in fact it is doing wonderful things for our moods, our relationships, and our long term well being? Such a view of most sexual behaviors as sin is totally inconsistent with who we say God is; Love and Goodness, a Merciful and Understanding Presence, the Creator who knows us intimately.

My views against homosexuality began to shift when I asked myself, “What kind of god would God condemn a 5 year old child for being gay who, though knowing he/she is different, has no capacity yet to assess moral behavior and lacks a conceptual framework to even grasp sin?” So why would God condemn us for behaviors that are obviously good for us mentally, relationally and physically?  (I am assuming of course well-considered, ethical and responsible behavior here.)  My conclusion to this thought experiment is that God would not condemn.

But this conundrum also raises the question of what is sin? Is sin putting “body part A” into “body part B”? (Or is it sin just to think about doing it?) Some would answer yes to both questions. But a one-size-fits-all blanket condemnation of anything but a hetero married couple in a missionary position for procreative purposes is perfectly consistent with a mindset that recognizes neither nuance or exceptions and that conveniently ignores scientific data and cross-cultural customs that might shift its rigid assumptions. We could ask of course why sin is rarely linked to greed, exploitation of the poor, or self-righteousness, topics that Jesus and the Hebrew prophets had a lot to say about, but so often linked instead to some variation of sex, a topic which Jesus addressed in only a few scant places of scripture?

If both our views of God and sin are so skewed then no wonder when it comes to Christianity and sex, we are screwed! I think we can do better than this. But an embrace of the positive benefits of sexuality will come about only when we  revisit the deeper ideas of who God is. What is the place of pleasure as well as the use of intellectual understandings in the life of faith? And of course, what is sin? Who decides and enforces its definition? And, how is it determined?  In the meantime, we can pretend, but there is no point in denying the benefits of a healthy sexual life in whatever form it takes.


No comments

Add comment

* - required field