By Pastor Robert Perez
I love sex. The tear each other’s clothes off, heaving and sweaty bodies in constant motion kinda sexy sex. I also love the passionate emotional engagement kind of love making that expresses your love for your partner in ways that somehow words cannot. I love the “hey, ya wanna fool around?” playful naughty sex that’s fun fun fun.
Not that it’s really anyone’s business, but I always have to contextualize myself and experiences in the subjects I discuss here in order to show that I’m as real a person as you are, and not removed from it all on some shamanistic mountainside or monastery. I’m a sexual person. Period. Leave it at that.
But I’m a Christian too. Some say, I’m not supposed to like sex. I’m also a Pastor, so I’m supposed to shun sex. THIS is a problem. Or is it?
The subject of sex, not what sex you are, but the act of sex, is one of the most, if not the most, contentious subjects in Christian Faith and philosophy. My concerns here are not about giving you permission to have sex, or the opposite, proselytizing about the evils of sex. Rather my concern is to not let the subject of sex, let alone the act of sex, keep you from a relationship with God, and more specifically Christ.
We should never avoid subjects by either silence or hushed whispering, just because they make us uncomfortable as Christians. Nor should we seek or accept simplistic answers, especially black and white declarations which say either yay or nay on subjects like sex.
Being sexual is baked into our DNA. It’s our species way of attracting mates and procreating, but as a highly evolved species, we also have pleasure and desire as parts of our natural state. For each individual this exists in varying degrees, from always hot and bothered to “nah, I’ll pass”, but the mechanisms are there. Sex is a physical manifestation, as well as a deeply psychological one, that is continually tweaked by our varying cultures, with some turning up the fire whilst others try to suppress it.
Working through my own spiritual development, this subject has been near the top of topics, a real spiritual conundrum. I needed to sort it out in the context of my new vocation to gain genuine insight into what’s-what. Most of us involved in the practice of religion are drilled into thinking that sex is an icky evil thing that could only lead to the self-destruction of our souls. But for every Pastor that’s condemning us, there’s a tidal wave from our culture that says, “shut up and party”.
When I became a Pastor, my girlfriend at the time was concerned how being a Pastor was going to affect our relationship, including our physical one. I assured her that I would always be the same person, just strive to be a better version of myself, while I unlocked the secrets of spiritual development in order to share that wisdom with others. Being a spiritual person herself, and a good genuine Catholic with a sincere and loving heart, she came to accept it and support it, and we continued to have a very wonderful relationship.
She did have a point though, and one that was not lost on me in the process of becoming a Pastor. I am a person acutely aware of myself and my motivations, endlessly analyzing my inner workings to excruciating levels (even if I don’t always put that good information into proper practice). In other words, I work to foster my spiritual self, but I’m all too human. I passionately believe that with all human behavior there should be a balance attainable between body and spirit, in spite of Christianity’s insistence that we are only Spirit, with crappy bodies that we must suffer with until we can shed their imprisonment and be truly free.
I’m going to refrain from quoting the Bible here in this writing, but it’s no mystery that it contains many instances where sex is deemed either prohibited or subject to stringent boundaries, most obviously marriage, where sex is acceptable, but out of wedlock it is not. This seems pretty straight forward. Do what you will together in the privacy of your union in marriage. Honor God with your faithfulness to each other and the promise of your union before God. You made an agreement, so stick to it. And don’t open the bag of chips and try one (or two or three) until you’ve paid for it at the register, know what I mean?
However, in today’s world we rewrote the laws of sexual engagement, and it now (rightfully so), includes options like same sex coupling along with the tried and true, boy and girl option. Sex is not the only reason why we get into a relationship, but let’s be adults here and state unequivocally that sex is absolutely a part of it for the majority. On the other hand, we no longer feel “required” to engage in sex within the parameters of the Christian faith, or any other faith. We can choose.
So, why is this important enough to write about? Why not let each individual and couple decide for themselves what is or is not acceptable sexual behavior? My concerns as a Pastor are to guide individuals into a state of union with God. Sex, all too often, gets in the way of that process.
The first thing to address is the way our spiritual leaders deliver God’s word. As they are the front line of our development, most teach the black and white versions of sex. Keep it simple, have a little fun, but make it about love and making babies. Don’t engage in “unnatural acts”. Avoid desire because it’s motivated by the enemy. Sex is sinful but acknowledged as necessary to a certain degree.
Lots to unpack there, but my response to this is quite simple. It’s non-sense. But hold on, before you sing “ding dong, the witch is dead” and declare it a Summer of Love free-for-all for Christians because some Pastor in the U.S. said it’s ok, we must consider with a clear and sincere mind and spirit what the real issues are concerning sex that make it not in favor with God.
No, I am not going to provide a list of dos and don’ts or best practices for Christian sex (that’s actually pretty funny thinking about it).
What’s always at stake is your Spirit and your relationship with God. You must understand that sex, like all human behavior, is a tangled web of nuanced right and wrong, clear to see at the extremes, but not so much in the middle.
Sex can hinder or even abolish the two primary goals of faith, the well-being of your Spirit and how it’s connected to God. When you consider this vantage point, it’s really not about sex at all, but rather morality and ethics. For example, sex is not bad, but if you cheat on your partner, that’s sucky. Sex with minors is evil, period. The sex trade is unforgivably evil, period. An unchecked sex drive that overrides your better judgment, not so good. You get the point (I hope so).
In a brilliant podcast that I recently listened to, they were discussing Vegas as part of the topic and mentioned the “hookers” that openly walk the strip. The word hooker always has a weird buzz in my head, like they’re somehow a different kind of human and not like us, like a cowboy or astronaut, specialized humanoids serving humanity with a specific function. We even gave it a normal sounding name, “sex worker”, to legitimize the “trade” (really, a trade?). Or is the new name simply a way to assuage the terrible truth? That a person needing money enough to sell their body for sex to strangers, over and over again, is a horrible thing.
Watch some steamy porn and it’ll get you worked up! But watch it knowing that the woman may have been abducted and somewhere in the world she is a missing person whose family is looking for her, yeah, that’s entirely something different. She may be totally consensual, but she may also not be. And if you look at enough of it, you’re definitely coming across woman who are there against their will. Congratulations.
I am no saint, far from it, and yes, I’ve watched porn numerous times in my life as part of my contemporary way of life, in what a psychiatrist would probably deem as “normal”. It’s not illegal, right? In some places, prostitution is legal. No laws were broken. I’m healthy because I like sex. End of discussion.
But it’s not ok, because the reality behind the laws protecting the porn industry and the horrors that go along with it, are what makes it sinful. And if I consume it, I say it’s ok, and oh man, it is so not ok. My desires may be normal, but that outlet is not cool. My desires have not changed at all, but where I can manifest those desires has. Not because God said it’s wrong, but because it actually is wrong, and the moral truth is what God looks for in each individual.
Recently here in the U.S., Jerry Falwell, Jr., the son of famed Evangelist Jerry Falwell, was engulfed in a sex scandal that the media and many of his followers are calling a fall from grace. I avoid gossip and topics of this type, so I’m sketchy on the details, and they don’t really matter to me or my point, except that if we look at it from the highest altitude, let’s say God’s view, what matters is not that he’s a sexual person (good for him and for his wife), but that he may be violating something that falls in the gray zone of morality or ethical behavior. It’s for them to sort out, not us. But using his example, I am sure that he is a sincere man of God, and this incident is a human fault that needs to be worked out with his wife (and with God).
Sexual orientation is another hot topic, as we all know. Two men. Two women. Trans-sexuals. Whatever. There is no explicit guide to a healthy relationship which includes sex. We can only approximate much of it with our inner compass. But do you seek a relationship with God and foster your Spiritual self, that’s the pertinent question.
So, what’s the gist of sexual practice as a Christian? Is it simply nature vs God’s word in the Bible? Or is it really a matter of ethics, and not sex at all? Well, if sex is harmful, no Bueno. If it’s healthy, fun and loving between two consensual adults, right on. But all my blathering here still leads us to the only truth, maybe?
The Bible spells out what many adhere to as being the end-all-be-all of right from wrong. For certain, it is an invaluable spiritual guide with many truths that I would defend with my own life. But morality is gray when it comes to sex, because it spans from totally ok to completely evil.
Sex is as natural as being alive itself. But our moral behaviors, involving sex or otherwise, are tethered to the wellbeing of our other natural state of being, our spiritual selves. Each of us must understand and care for both body and spirit for the best possible development as a human.
Whilst He calls each life form to connect with Him, God is watching each of us on the inside to see what lurks in the depths of our mind and spirit. What we think and feel, what motivates us, and hence manifests itself in our behaviors, are what enhances or diminishes our “spiritual fullness”. Christ is a genuine road map to God that can include very normal healthy human interaction, like sex, if you gain insight into your inner self and don’t allow your body, mind and spirit to run amuck.
Ultimately, all this blah blah blah is not about sex, really. Using this one topic, of which there are infinite ones, I hope to spark that inner dialogue in yourself to seek more than your physical development, especially for those individuals that avoid Christianity because they’re convinced that it strives to abolish their humanness. Also, stop condemning yourself if you’re a practicing Christian, playing tug of war in your head. Finally, don’t keep yourself from God and Christ because you were taught that by virtue of being a human you were already condemned. Non-sense. Even the simplest of logic concludes that if God made your spirit, he also made the vessel of your spirit and deemed it good, even if we take that goodness for granted and squander it.
What is for sure a shame in our current cultures, is the persistent separation of the two halves that is body and spirit. Don’t negate one or the other. Be healthy by allowing yourself the joys of life on earth coupled with the connectivity of God’s energy, along with the promise that your spirit can live beyond your bodily form after it runs its course.
God is real and Christ offers The Way. Every human being can be tethered to the Higher Being through their Spirit that is already inside them, by fostering it with meaningful practice and understanding. Amen, to that. Peace and God’s blessings on us all!