A Small(ish) Rant about the Church, Relationships, and Sex   8 comments

For you to fully understand this post, you need to know a few things about me:

1.  I’m single.

2.  I don’t have children.

3.  I’m divorced.

4.  I’ve had sex.

Okay, so with those things out of the way, let me say that the way church talks about all four of those things is – often – totally screwed up.  Let’s take them in order, shall we?

First, there is nothing wrong with being single, but in many parts of our church, being single means you’re only waiting to get married.  That’s a pretty terrible place to put a person – as if her/his whole life depended on that one element of life.  It seems we think if you’re single you’re somehow incomplete.  I blame Jerry Maguire.

Secondly, not having children is a choice some of us make; it is also something that, for some of us, is out of our hands.  Whatever the reason some of us don’t have children, it’s not because we hate kids (necessarily) or because we’re selfish.  For some of us – like me – it’s just not feasible on my own, and I don’t have a partner to have them with. For others, it’s a physical or financial constraint.  For some, this situation is fine, and life feels complete as it is.  For some, it is not; instead, it is, for me and many others, a fairly regular source of sorrow.  What is absolutely true is that the church needs to recognize its people, not its families alone, as valuable.  We aren’t always good at that.

Third, divorce is painful no matter the reason it happened.  Because of that, the church’s response to that pain should be ONLY compassion, not judgment or limitation.  Also, divorce is not always a sin.  Jesus gives reasons it’s acceptable, and honestly, we need to consider broadening our definition of adultery to something more like a wise man taught me after my divorce – An acceptable reason for divorce in God’s eyes is if one partner has hardened her/his heart.  That can mean abuse, neglect, and, yes, actual sexual (or just emotional) adultery.   Even so, even if the person made a bad choice or left a marriage for reasons we don’t deem acceptable, it is NEVER our place to judge.  We are called to love.

Finally, sex is awesome.  Yep, it is.  It is also something complicated and painful and very, very real.  To just tell people, but especially young people,  to “wait” without giving them explanations and alternations, without explaining about anatomy and health, without loving them no matter what is failure.  We have failed them.  We need to do more than just forbid.  We need to love and teach, like our Jesus did.  Love and teach.

I’m sure there are church communities doing amazing things around all these issues, so please tell me about them.  Maybe they can be examples for the rest of us.  But to be honest, I haven’t really been a part of a church that is handling these topics particularly masterfully, and I’ve been part of some amazing churches.  I think these are just hard topics, and they’re not black/white topics – so for us humans, they’re really tough.

But there you have it, the things about the church, relationships, and sexuality that bug me.

Now, what are we going to do about them?  I’m still thinking through that, but I’d love your ideas.  I really would. 

Many thanks to Leigh Kramer whose post “The Church Needs a Different View of Sex and Singleness” got me thinking about these things.

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8 responses to “A Small(ish) Rant about the Church, Relationships, and Sex

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  1. I’m honored to have inspired such a post! Great thoughts here. I love your admonition that the church should “love and teach.” That’s really what it boils down to but we seem to have such a hard time balancing those. Also, I blame Jerry Maguire too. 🙂

    • Oh, thanks for reading, Leigh. I really appreciate that. Yeah, I’m not sure why we can’t seem to be less one-sided about things, but perhaps just having conversations will help us be better. Stupid Cuba Gooding, Jr. 🙂

  2. Thanks for this post. I think a community of faith should be talking about things like this in ways that don’t alienate. This helps in that light!

    • Thank you for reading, Krista. I agree, just talking would be a great thing to do. . . perhaps I’ll think about encouraging that in my community.

  3. Wow. I have been waiting for someone else to think these things out loud….to write them! I completely agree with your frustrations here. I too have been married. Have had sex. Now am divorced. Have no children. Am in a relationship. There is so much focus in the church on sex but only really before marriage (meaning it isn’t about sex, but rather lack of it). I was a virgin when I got married. I waited. I did things “right” according to the church and my parents. But, I think that the way sex is approached before marriage, causes trouble within the marriage. I don’t have answers for all my frustrations, just my experience. 😉 But now…..it is a strange place to be. Sex isn’t something that is “saved” anymore…it’s been used. The church’s “wait for marriage” is somewhat irrelevant, and it’s frustrating, and extremely alienating. Ok….this was my rant. 😉

    • I am so with you, Erin. A friend and I were just talking about how when we got married it took years for us to get past the “sex is bad” things we’d been taught, even though we were now, suddenly, supposed to think “sex is good” because we were married. Thanks for reading.

  4. There is a lot of talk these days about “relevant” churches, and I think part of what the term means is approaching theology in light of new lifestyles and moral dilemmas. The reality of the world changes all the time, and while I think there are basic tenets of Christianity that will (and should not) change, the church itself has to change the way it applies those tenets to its membership.

    The one constant teaching within the Christian church is the Golden Rule – and if we applied that more often, many of the world’s problems would be moot.

  5. Amen, Becca. I couldn’t agree with what you said more. Thanks.

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