Thursday, September 22, 2005

Extreme Sex (part 2)

The church claims to have the Total Truth -- that is, truth that impacts every single area of life. And yet our society knows better than to ask Christians about sex. They know we'll most likely say, "No! Stop! Don't do it! Turn back! Pretend it doesn't exist! It's dirty!"

How did we get that reputation?

Well, I've been reading Philip Yancey's book Rumors of Another World. In one chapter called "Designer Sex", he traces some of the development of our anti-sex attitude.

Before Christianity came on the scene, sex was considered something of a sacrament -- a means of grace -- a holy thing. In fact, Jewish people would often pray and recite psalms as they were consumating their marriage. Pagan religions like the Greeks and the Romans actually went so far as to include sexual intercourse in their liturgies. A temple prostitute, for example, would pray for a certain god or goddess to inhabit her body. Then men would have sex with her as a means of communing with that god or goddess.

That's the religious atmosphere into which Christianity was introduced. It didn't take long for Christians to push the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. In fact, Augustine suggested that sexual intercourse was how original sin was transmitted and believed that sex for any purpose other than procreation was sinful.

St. Jerome went even further and said that marital sex was only one step above fornication. According to Jerome, virginity was the ideal and should be maintained as strictly as possible. He is quoted as saying, "Anyone who is too passionate a love with his own wife is himself an adulterer."

Before long the church decided that since Jesus died on a Friday, there should be no sex on Fridays. Then someone mentioned that Jesus was arrested on Thursday, so maybe we shouldn't have sex then either. Of course, Saturday is the day he was dead, so having sex on Saturday seems wrong. We should take that day to think of Jesus' poor, grieving mother -- who was a virgin! Oh, and what about Lent? Maybe we should give up sex for Lent. And Advent. And Pentecost.

Eventually, once you took out all the days of fasting and feasting and mandatory celibacy, you were left with only 44 days of the year that were cleared for sex. And even then you were only doing it in order to get pregnant. Do not enjoy it!

Michelangelo's Sistene Chapel is an amazing thing to see. The problem is all the people are nude. So, one pope commissioned a painter named "Daniel the Trouserer" to paint clothes on them.

It was around that time that some pope decided that all priests should be celibate. And then they banned women from singing out loud. A woman singing out loud in public? That could inspire lustful thoughts in a man.

Eventually, Victorian clergy advocated covering the legs of your furniture.

What kind of man lusts after the legs of the furniture? Don't answer that.

Here's what gets lost in all of our puritanical prudery: God actually created sex. And sex is brilliant! It's amazing. Just think of the body parts used. The soft parts and the millions of nerve endings. The economy and irony of the organs. The internal and external. The combination of visual appeal and mechanical design.

Sex is not meant to just be functional. It's meant to be enjoyable as well. That's part of God's design. And the Song of Solomon is in the Bible as a testimony to this.

Oh, and one other thing: Growing up I heard that the book wasn't really about sex. It was, we were told, about Christ and his relationship to his bride, the church.

People who say that usually haven't really read the book. There is nothing in there to justify that idea. And the people who read it initially knew. This book is a celebration of sex and romance. No two ways about that.

Question: Why would we want this book to be about anything other than sex?