Pope calls conclave to re-examine sexual teachings

At this rate, maybe Pope Francis will be the last pope!

Contraception, cohabitation, divorce, remarriage and same-sex unions: They’re issues that pain and puzzle Roman Catholics who want to be true to both their church and themselves.

Now those issues are about to be put up for debate by their leader, a man who appears determined to push boundaries and effect change.

On Pope Francis’ orders, the Vatican will convene an urgent meeting of senior clerics this fall to reexamine church teachings that touch the most intimate aspects of people’s lives. Billed as an “extraordinary” assembly of bishops, the gathering could herald a new approach by the church to the sensitive topics. [Read more...]

Sex and the single Christian

My colleague Marvin Olasky is writing pastors for help with a story.  I thought I’d share it with those of you who are pastors in case you could help him and also for our more general discussion:

Dear Pastor,

I’d like your help in developing a story for WORLD.

The National Association of Evangelicals says 80% of single evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 have been sexually active, and 64 percent have had sex during the past year. The NAE also reports that nearly 1/3 of single evangelicals have been pregnant or made someone pregnant, with nearly 1/3 of those pregnancies ending in abortion.

Some dispute those statistics, but even with lower numbers the situation is grave. The NAE, concerned about abortion, applied for and received a $1 million grant from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which promotes contraceptive use by unmarried individuals. (The NAE has helped the National Campaign communicate its message, but the NAE itself does not endorse contraception.)

Should we accept the world’s wisdom and recommend contraception for the unmarried? If not, how have you and your church promoted a biblical sexual ethic, and how has that worked out? How have you dealt with this question in your sermons, in Sunday school, in discipleship programs, or through church discipline? What effect have abstinence movements, promotion of earlier marriage, or counseling had?

I hope you will give me specific suggestions and stories, withholding specific names (or giving only first names) as you wish. Please email me (molasky@worldmag.com) by Wednesday, July 11.

In His grace,

Marvin Olasky

Editor-in-chief, WORLD

via WORLD Magazine’s Marvin Olasky Appeals to Pastors: We Want Your Help.

Islam & concubines

A Muslim woman is calling for the legalization of sex slavery–which she describes as the temporary marriage of concubines–on the grounds that Islam permits it and that it is a cure for adultery.  From the International Business Times:

Sex slaves are OK in Islam, according to a former candidate for the Kuwaiti parliament, who is advocating for the legalization of sex slavery. . . .

In a video posted on YouTube earlier this year [see below], Salwa Al-Mutairi proclaimed that a sex slave trade would prevent Kuwait’s Muslim men from extramarital sexual activity, explaining that a purchase transaction for a sex partner would be tantamount to marriage.

“We want our youth to be protected from adultery,” she said.

Mutairi claimed that on a recent trip to Mecca, she spoke with several muftis, or Muslim religious scholars, who believe that there is a basis for the purchase of concubines in the shariah, or Islamic holy law.

She gave the example of Haroun al-Rashid, the third caliph or head of state of the Islamic Abbasid Empire, is rumored to have had some 2,000 concubines.

Appropriate candidates for the sex trade would be Muslim women from war-torn countries like Chechnya, Mutairi suggested.

In an earlier post, we talked about “living together” as a kind of revival of concubinage; that is, “marriage lite.” Islam apparently has a specific provision for it. The description of the “purchase transaction” is also something we blogged about: The woman is paid a sum, which is construed as a bride price. The man says something like, “I marry you.” Then, after having sex, he says, “I divorce you.” Given the acceptability in Islam of polygamy, that is all anyone needs for valid marriages and divorces. Thus we have prostitution without adultery, all of which is religiously-sanctioned and oh-so-moral.

This may be the perfect religion for our time: One that is legalistic–giving the pleasure of self-righteousness–while also, at the same time, allowing immorality! How can Christianity compete against that?

HT: Mary

Sexual moralism vs. the gospel?

John at Redeemed Rambling, a Reformed Baptist, maintains that many conservative Christians are talking so much about sexual immorality that they are obscuring the Gospel:

To my brothers, I have this plea: please stop with the sexual moralism. True Christianity finds its all in the gospel – God’s grace to take us in when we are wretched. We all come to God laden with sexual sin. The purest among us is an adulterer, for without the Holy Spirit our hearts burn with lust. This is who we are. The joy is that there is salvation! The joy is that Christ takes our filthy rags and clothes us in his own righteousness. The joy is that God’s own Spirit empowers us to enjoy God’s great gifts – even sexuality – in their proper and most delightful context.

But some have ignored this, and instead spend their energy “fighting” homosexuality in the public square. Do you realize, friend, that no amount of moralizing nor legislation will take away the depravity of the human heart? There is the third use of the law, but that conversation makes no sense without the first two uses of the law! Which is to say that we are sinners all and need the love, grace, and compassion of a savior who gave up everything – even His own life – to rescue a people damned to torment for our own wretchedness.

The problem, brother, is that a few of us are so loudly proclaiming that homosexuality is a sin that we may be guilty of actually preaching a false gospel. You see, some of us have got a beautiful, strong doctrinal position. On paper. But much of the world never sees that. They hear your moralizing. They read your blog. They visit your church website. And the “gospel” they hear is that until they clean up their life, they cannot be acceptable to God. Please hear me; this is a very deep evil. This is not the gospel of Christ! Are you so arrogant that you believe you are God’s own instrument to stem the tide of social depravity? That is God’s business, and he has ordained a means by which this may happen – the conversion of the soul.

Brothers, we must be faithful, and part of being faithful is being clear that we are sinners in need of a savior – and sexual sin is just that. Even homosexuality, today’s hot topic, is a sin against the one true God. So is the rampant lust, pornography use, and divorce that afflicts our “Christian” churches. Our actions do not make us less sinners. We do not need less grace. And the other part about being faithful is being faithful to proclaim our gospel of grace! The other part of being faithful is to actually obey Christ – to love God with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

So my plea to you is to please stop the moralism. I’m sure we mean well, but the gospel you take for granted is the precious water of life that alone can soften the cracked desert of the lost soul. Stop damming it up.

via Redeemed Rambling: Please Stop the Moralism.

Good point?  Or not?  Or good but not complete?

Granted that the enemy of the Gospel is not sin but self-righteousness, isn’t it necessary to teach the sinfulness of sin, so as to puncture self-righteousness?  Isn’t the problem of sexual sin today actually a problem of self-righteousness, insisting for our every sexual sin that “there is nothing wrong with it” and achieving social approval that makes it easier to feel good about the sins we commit?  Whereupon we no longer repent of them and no longer recognize the need for Christ’s grace?

Still, though, the notion is that Christianity is about “being good,” and the implication that if you aren’t good, you just need to try harder–these surely leave Christ and  the Gospel out of consideration.  And yet this is indeed what many people think Christianity is all about.

And now, consensual adultery

Gay marriage is not the only revolution in the works.  The lead article in the last New York Times Magazine makes the case for consensual adultery as a way to keep marriages together:

[Rep. Anthony Weiner's] visage was insisting, night after night, that we think about how hard monogamy is, how hard marriage is and about whether we make unrealistic demands on the institution and on ourselves.

That, anyway, is what Dan Savage, America’s leading sex-advice columnist, would say. Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage. In Savage Love, his weekly column, he inveighs against the American obsession with strict fidelity. In its place he proposes a sensibility that we might call American Gay Male, after that community’s tolerance for pornography, fetishes and a variety of partnered arrangements, from strict monogamy to wide openness.

Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.

“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”

The view that we need a little less fidelity in marriages is dangerous for a gay-marriage advocate to hold. It feeds into the stereotype of gay men as compulsively promiscuous, and it gives ammunition to all the forces, religious and otherwise, who say that gay families will never be real families and that we had better stop them before they ruin what is left of marriage. But Savage says a more flexible attitude within marriage may be just what the straight community needs. Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners. And that, Savage says, destroys more families than it saves.

via Dan Savage on the Virtues of Infidelity – NYTimes.com.

So, if adultery is OK, why worry about keeping marriages together?  What does keeping marriages together even mean?   What this is surely about is ending the institution of marriage.  Or trying to.

“But it’s not really adultery!”

My old friend Karen Swallow Prior has some interesting observations about the excuses of both Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner and their underlying gnostic assumptions.  The good news is that the public is no longer buying it:

Media coverage of the story and the public’s reaction seems to indicate that we’ve come a long way in our professed sexual ethics since the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, circa 1998. At that time, then-President Bill Clinton insisted that oral sex did not constitute actual sex, and that he had therefore not committed adultery. Although 87 percent of Americans disagreed with Mr. Clinton then, much public discussion at that time centered on the exact definition of adultery, and which particular sex acts crossed the line (fellatio?) and which ones didn’t (cigars?).

However, with Weinergate (as the case, naturally, has been dubbed), the discussion is a bit more morally sophisticated. For the moral debate swirling around this scandal, besides whether or not Weiner should resign, centers not on the merely technical definition of adultery but on the more holistic, and even more biblical, idea of fidelity. If the Clinton sex scandal focused on the letter of the law, the Weiner situation seems to be more centered on the spirit of the law.

Neither the public nor the proliferating experts and bloggers seem to be buying into a bright line between actual physical contact (which Weiner denies) and online liaisons, despite Weiner’s attempt to cop that plea in his confession. In fact, a quick poll done by the Associated Press in the wake of his Monday confession found that many Americans say that it doesn’t have to be physical to be cheating. In another poll, “60 percent considered sending lewd photos over the Internet ‘to people other than your partner’ to be cheating.”

Like the public, experts, rather than being concerned with one specific sexual act, have been discussing the larger context of marital fidelity, one describing Weiner’s online behavior as “foreplay for an affair,” stating simply that “cheating is lying [to] and betraying your spouse.” Over and over, the experts are wisely identifying the litmus test for infidelity as the question, “Would you do this in front of your partner?” Many say the congressman’s conduct does constitute adultery or, at the very least, an “emotional affair.”

Both national sex scandals — first Clinton’s and now Anthony Weiner’s, with oodles more in between — reveal at work the old mind-body dualism that Christian tradition has worked hard to overcome. This dualism sees the human being not as an integrated whole self, but as a composite of warring elements, material vs. immaterial, physical vs. spiritual, and, in this brave new world of technology, “real” vs. “virtual.” The Clinton scandal emphasized the physical aspect, such as which kinds of bodily contact are considered adultery. Weiner, on the other hand, parses his transgressions according to this body-mind split: he acknowledges virtual liaisons, but suggests that his alleged lack of physical contact constitutes a difference in kind not degree.

In the space of a decade and a half, these two cases reflect a subtle transition of our cultural mindset away from a modernist way of thinking, one based in black and white classifications and definitions rooted in a scientific worldview, to a more nuanced (some would say postmodern) way of thinking that focuses more on the relationships and contexts that transcend the old categories.

via Her.meneutics: Anthony Weiner, Gnostic.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X