Whether or not you are a Christian, I think we can agree that ‘shame’ causes more problems than it solves. That’s why I was pleased to learn about the push-back within Christianity against sex shaming and obsessions with purity.
My own beliefs are still forming; part of that process is deciding what parts of the Bible are truly necessary to faith, and what requires further interpretation. Which rules do we follow? Will braiding my hair or wearing more than two types of fabric together really impede my spiritual growth? Is pre-marital virginity required, or is that another outdated rule?
Some of this revisionism is based on reinterpretations of the Bible. In the Old Testament, King Solomon had 1,000 wives and wrote some pretty steamy verses about it. Additionally, most of the New Testament verses which are translated as being about sexual immorality don’t explicitly reference sexual immorality. Rather, the Greek word ‘pleonexia’ is used, which means ‘covetousness,’ or fixation on things of little worth. The emphasis is not on specific deeds but rather the mental attitude with which they are done.
So, with that introduction, here is a brief guide to doing sex in a godly manner:
Do it for the right reasons.
Christian theology has long recognized two types of desire: desire that springs from lacking something, and desire based on abundance and friendship. These are roughly parallel to the ideas of a zero-sum game and a non-zero-sum game. Love is the ultimate non-zero sum game, because the more you love the more you can love (Yes, that may, somewhere, be on a Hallmark card). Desire based on abundance is not about fulfilling a lack but moving towards and simultaneously creating something new and beautiful; it is the difference between eating a power bar and writing a symphony.
What does this mean for sex? It means that if you view sex as ‘taking’ something from someone else, or as dirtying them—then don’t bother. If you view sex as a manic itch that must be scratched—then don’t bother. Acting out of abundance means approaching sex as a creative act of giving, as “an attitude of open joy, in which our desire meets other desires with a sense of the beauty created through and among us.” Sorry if that got a little heavy but, you know, theology.
Do it ethically.
Whatever sort of sex you’re having, the most important thing is to treat your partner ethically. At the minimum, this means obeying the Golden Rule but also so much more than that: Christians are called to treat each other with generosity, with compassion, putting aside all bitterness and anger, and above all with forgiveness. And, of course, as The Ethical Slut would recommend, communication is key.
Finally, don’t obsess.
I think it’s fair to say that, like almost anything, sex can be a distraction from living a life of purpose and ethical orientation. This has nothing to do with sex itself; food, money, the need for approval, the love of achievement, gambling, the lure of adrenaline rushes—all these things can fill a life with superficial enjoyment. This is why we are steered away from ‘covetousness’ and why we are told that by looking at a woman with lust (covetousness, again), a man has committed adultery in his heart. Once again, it is what happens in the heart that is important, not the sexual act itself. If you obsess about sex, there is no room in your life for something greater. So don’t do that.
The idea that religions evolve should not be controversial. The trick is to preserve the core, the most important things. What I’m arguing is that sex-negativity was never the core message of Christianity. It’s time to welcome a new iteration of Christianity, one more focused on acting with love and respect and less on sexual shaming.