Church and Sexuality

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 9 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

Chauncey linked to this the other day, and I finally had a chance to read it; I think this is a great conversation to be having:

It seems to me that many of us Christians are born, raised, and taught with a giant elephant in the room.

That elephant would be sexuality.

Most Christians don’t hear anything about it growing up or if they do it’s an entirely negative frame of reference that only shifts dramatically once the word marriage is attached to it.

I’m unsure how young adults who grow up without healthy conversation regarding sexuality are going to be able to participate in a healthy expression of it.

Chauncey helps kick off the discussion by linking to an article written by Tina Schermer Sellers, “a clinical professor in the graduate Family Therapy Department at Seattle Pacific University and director of their post-graduate certificate in Medical Family Therapy”, called Christians Caught Between the Sheets – How ‘abstinence only’ Ideology Hurts Us:


“The sex affirming Hebraic roots of Western civilization has been masked by Augustine’s legacy of eroticism-hating sexual dualism, perpetuated by authoritarian-rooted Christian dogma, which negated the basic worthiness of human beings. The evolution of Western culture is a history of theologically based sexual oppression.”5

“Traditional Christian sexual ethics is not only inadequate in that it fails to reflect God’s reign of justice and love which Jesus died announcing, but its legalistic, apologetic approach is also incompatible with central Judaic and Christian affirmations of creation, life, and an incarnate messiah. Because the Christian sexual tradition has diverged from this its life-affirming source, it has become responsible for innumerable deaths, the stunting of souls, the destruction of relationships, and the distortion of human communities. The Christian sexual tradition uses scripture and theological traditions as supports for a code of behavior which developed out of mistaken, pre-scientific understanding of man, anatomy, physiology and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships.”7

It’s a long read, but I think it’s worth it.


8 thoughts on “Church and Sexuality”

  1. So you’re merely linking to another blog, which merely links to a journal article… the blogosphere really IS an echo-chamber.

    1. I would contest your claim of an echo chamber. It was something interesting that I read and wanted to share. I also put it in the “Seen, Heard, Said” category.

      The echo chamber effect usually occurs when several large blogs basically all say the same thing without any additional discourse, merely parroting back what has already been covered elsewhere. I am not the New York Times. I contemplated not saying or posting anything, but I ultimately believe it was better to post what I did than nothing at all.

    1. I think we (as Christians) have a real problem that we haven’t been discussing.

      Sexuality has always been a taboo topic for the church when I think it should be one of the top 5 things talked about. Instead, the message is: don’t do it until your married to your wife; if you are doing anything sexually related, stop right now because you’re going to Hell; and that’s it. But sexuality is more than just having sex. Still we aren’t talking about it.

      I’ve always felt uneasy about talking about it, and I didn’t know exactly why or how to deal with it. At the very least, I feel this article gives me the “ah ha” to feel confident that the feeling in my gut is something important and worth talking more about. I don’t know how yet, so I’m going to be fumbling around quite a bit. I want this to be a conversation that is had because it ultimately affects everyone (Christian or not) and I think it’s a big factor in why we have a 50% divorce rate (

  2. I am curious what your take away from this was ferg – like Uncle Kit asked.

    I was caught by the title because there is a huge silence on this topic I feel like in the church for the most part. I think that there shouldn’t be as much of a hush. One exception to this hush for me was in my pre-engagement class Kristin and I took before we even got engaged. It was really affirming to talk about sex outright. What was also healthy was to talk about sex and still maintain abstinence before marriage. Although it was hard, it did was healthy for Kristin and I before and after because it forced us to rely more on God’s strength.

    I felt like the author of that link was asking for a more open dialog as well as a more open perspective on what is healthy to do out of marriage. Unfortunately his point seemed to rest on two reasons (as I read it): abstinence is an unrealistic measure to hold sexual being to and having sex in love (in or out of marriage) is the more relational and happy thing to do. I didn’t like the conclusion because God doesn’t call us to an easy and convinient walk with him. We give up those things because God has and will fill those holes with things that are more fulfilling.

    What do you think?

    1. I think that you make excellent points and I’m not advocating that we come out and say, “Sex for anyone who’s in love!” What I am saying is how we have approached the issue historically doesn’t work, causes lots of real emotional damage, and we need to step up and do a much better job.

      I think the place we need to start with is understand how and why we view sexuality the way that we do. Why is there so much stigma placed on sexuality and not so much on lying? Also, when it says in the 7th Commandment, “Do not commit adultery,” what does that mean? “Adultery” is being sexually unfaithful to one’s spouse. If you’re not married, how are you being unfaithful?

      Why can’t we have this discussion?

      1. I agree totally that we should be talking about this in the church. We should be shocked by that divorce rate and try to do all we can to bring that down before and during marriage.

        Your point about lying is good. It is. Of healthy to cover up things because in the dark, away from people is where so much damage can occur. The result would be to talk about it to bring things to light.

        With the adultry point I think that there is an overlap with lust here. The Bible says that even desire for another man’s wife is adultry. There is no physical action but that lust is also adulterous.

  3. First, thanks for responding.

    I’m not sure how you come by the idea that sexuality is a taboo topic within the church. As far as I can tell, the church has been abundantly clear about sex for as long as there has been a church. The church has always said that sex is reserved for a man and a woman in the context of marriage. How do you see the church shying away from that or refusing to cover the topic?

    And why do you think sex should be one of the top 5 discussion points? The church’s position is so unbelievably clear-cut, I can’t really imagine what else you think it should be saying. Are you saying that discussion of romantic relationships should be on the top-5 list? If so, I’d have to push back on that, if only because it almost never comes up in the entirety of Jesus’ ministry. I think we should get the top 5 from Jesus, which would include money, prayer, hypocrisy, service to others, care for the poor, etc.

    I think that the topic isn’t as taboo as you’re making it out to be, because people do talk about sex (as Kelly mentioned) when it becomes relevant to them: just before marriage. To have the entire church mired in this discussion would be inappropriate to huge swaths of the population. In fact, the vast majority of the church would have little or no need for repeated sexual education, especially when the church’s thoughts on the matter are so straightforward.

    As to what you think is unhealthy about this conversation, I’m getting the impression that you’re missing the thrust of the article you cited. The subtitle is “How ‘abstinence-only’ Ideology Hurts Us.” Caitlin Watkins uses sociological research to argue for a revised sexual ethic (i.e. not abstinence-only):

    “We are in crisis over sexuality in our culture in part because the church has been largely unable to step away from the old Christian ethic [no sex outside of marriage] and develop a responsible sexual ethic that is based on both what we have come to learn from science and experience, with the revelations of the Gospel.”

    I have no problem discussing a new sexual ethic, and I’m curious as to what you think that might look like. The problem is, to say that “how we have approached the issue historically doesn?t work” and “causes lots of real emotional damage” can’t serve as any kind of foundation in a sola scriptura context (which encompasses almost all protestant denominations). Fornication (as in Galatians 5:19, I Thessalonians 4:3, I Corinthians 6, etc.) is taken to mean “sex outside of marriage,” and is unequivocally condemned by Paul. What’s your counter-argument (the article you cited is completely silent as to the role of scripture in this conversation)?

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