A New Sexual Ethic

A New Sexual Ethic August 18, 2014

As I’m on the journey of “de-Christianizing” myself I’ve openly challenged the idea of sexual morality found within conservative evangelicalism. I’ve written a couple times on the “issue(s)” of  pre-marital sex, masturbation, and the devastating effects of shame and guilt perpetuated within a Christian culture of purity. The question I’m asking is, “Is it possible to find a Christian/biblical understanding of sexual morality that leads to the acknowledgement of our innately and biologically given sexual predisposition allowing for both healthier lives and better relationships?”

Needless to say my sexual ethic has drastically changed since undergrad, for instance:

  1. I do not believe that pre-marital sex is universally wrong.
  2. I believe that God has much better things to do other than smiting you every time you lust.
  3. Anytime law trumps love, we’ve missed the point.

Let me explain…

Predominantly within Christian circles [both catholic and protestant] there’s been a moral sexual ethic that has been institutionalized and confined within the parameters of a legalized marriage. It’s commonly believed that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart [Matthew 5:28].” In non-biblical terms, anything sexual outside of these confines of marriage would be considered “immoral.”

My primary concern is that a sexual asceticism has become a repressive legalism. We’ve taken something made to enhance our lives [a sexual ethic], and turned into something that robs us of our lives. Evangelicals are widely known to say that sex is “a gift,” but their doctrine is saying otherwise. If one glimpses over a Christian universities code of conduct, they’d quickly understand how repressively damaging this legalistic sexual morality could be:

Christian Universities Dating Code of Conduct
Image from Friendly Atheist on Patheos [1]
In Christian conservative bubbles guilt and shame have become more deadly than any sexually transmitted disease. Lately we as Christians seem to have a knack for ignoring things like natural law and, in this instance, our biological predisposition. We’ve ignored research and gone with our knee jerk response, “because the bible tells me so,” but does it…?

Solomon had 300 concubines. In Genesis 4:19, “Lamech married two women.” David, Abraham, and Jacob infamously had multiple wives. Not to mention that in 2 Samuel 12:8, the prophet Nathan said that if David’s wives and concubines were not enough, God would have given the king even more. To be clear, polygamy and bigamy are not overtly condemned in the Christian Old Testament. From a nontraditional perspective, it’s arguable that pre-marital sex is not explicitly condemned in either the New or Old Testament. Neither does the text layout, incontrovertibly, where the line is drawn and/or what exactly is considered to be sexual “immorality.”

I am not suggesting that polygamy and/or bigamy are okay, what I’m suggesting is that these issues, from a biblical perspective, are not black and white [2].

As Christian’s we’ve been inundated with a theology handed down to us in a box. But we find ourselves in a different time, place, context, and environment, and as times change, as they always do, and our theology is not contextualized we begin to see that this theology no longer fits or is understood.

I’m suggesting that we, Christian’s, consider being less dogmatic. Morality, I believe, is interconnected with Christ but this morality should never go outside of the shadow that is cast by Christ.

In other words, when law overshadows love it is outside the confines of our given Christology. Law should never trump love.

In Christ love always trumps law. The woman at the well. Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Mary Magdalene. The list goes on… When these people encountered Jesus they did not walk away feeling unloved. Neither did Jesus shame Mary, or guilt trip Zacchaeus. I think that for many of us our ethical oppressor lives within us. We are our own worst enemy. When we do something unwise, or what we might consider to be sinful for ourselves we internally beat ourselves up, feeling the need to punish oneself.

But what if instead, like Christ, we internally handed ourselves grace? Not a militant discipline, but a compassionate grace… I think that if we loved ourselves first we might become more prone and enabled to love the other next…

Comment Policy

[1] Friendly Atheist Blog over at Patheos

[2] Depending on how one defines them, and the context their found in neither am I suggesting that they’re universally wrong.

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  • “I think that for many of us our ethical oppressor lives within us.” This! And I think t shame go along ways toward encouraging more sin, not repentance.

  • ps-your links in the first paragraph are returning 404s

  • brian

    So what is the new sexual ethic, exactly? You’ve mostly just relaxed the ‘rules’ of the orthodox one. Is it basically to just use common sense?

    What of casual sex?