The Answer is Not a Return to the Old Narrowmindedness about Sex
It isn’t as though Jesus ever recommended marriage to anyone.
In fact – he didn’t.
And it isn’t as if Jesus went around applauding couples for fifty years of marriage. Or forty. Thirty. Twenty-five. Five. Even one. No, he did not.
There’ve been so many times, over long years, when brides and grooms have urged me to read ‘the marriage texts’, instead of the few oldies about love they have heard so very many times. And I’ve had to tell them, there aren’t any.
Jesus is not interested in changing singles to marrieds. He’s interested in changing the wretched, rejected, lost, abandoned, ill-used, and hopeless folks in this world into those who can rise again, filled with the power of the spirit, able to take their place in the embrace of this world.
“Go and tell the others (the authorities, the priests, anyone)”, he says, as they rise up.
For a couple months now, we’ve had the phenomenon of women emerging from the shadows of hurt and shame that have stretched over them for thousands of years, emerging to talk about what has been done to them, by employers, by work colleagues, by the local DA when they were high schoolers clerking at the mall after school to earn a few dollars for clothes. Even by their Congressman, in the office or in the district.
And we are all too aware of how many Presidents belong on the list.
The excuses, coming from the men, by way of apologies or denials, are stunning.
From men who were never a bit shy about walking around in front of employees in untied bathrobes, or pulling their penises out to masturbate in front of young women, come words about being embarrassed now, when their sexual habits are exposed for everyone to read about.
And more words: one is sure he saw consensual desire in the women’s eyes while he was parading around their typewriters fresh from a shower.
Another felt that since he had asked and no one had sad no, he was free to masturbate in front of women who say they were speechless with shock at the request.
And yet another says at least a hundred women have put their hands below his belt when taking a selfie. He says they were suggesting something more. Does this mean it is alright for him to feel up other women, on other occasions?
Still others are accusing all the women of lying through their teeth. Why? In order to take away their political power. As Moore said when they were teens, they will not be believed, he will be believed.
Garrison Keillor, now accused and fired by Minnesota NPR, says in his Washington Post defense of Al Franken that he, Keillor, fears confessional retaliation by women will make sex so much less fun, and make life boring. I guess we know what he finds fun.
Woody Allen, a known predator a few decades ago, said something rather similar this September, when all this revealing was started in the New Yorker by his own son, Ronan Farrell, who researched and wrote a piece about sexual predation by powerful men.
And none of this gets to the point.
The point is this: that sexuality is relational. It is not about dominance of women by men.
So translating sexuality from a Victorian morality (in which dominance of women is allowed, but only in marriages arranged for them by their fathers) into a workplace setting in which wealthy men who are in charge may dominate women anytime, has not really changed sex at all.
Father-arranged marriages were based on money and class and family connections. And workplace sexual domination is based on money and employment connections.
Many of us can remember the time when it was a breach of etiquette to marry outside your religion, or to be pregnant before getting married, or to get a divorce.
Today’s women long for what yesterday’s women longed for: relationships of mutual attraction, based on mutual good will.
In an office, that means women want to be appreciated by the men they work with and under, for their intelligence, their effectiveness, the skill and knowledge they bring to their tasks. They do not want to have to engage the libidos of men in the workplace, at all.
If attraction occurs, let it be the desire to get to know a woman, after work, over meals or movies, on a number of occasions that may develop into a friendship with other benefits.
Yes, this is what turns women on. Not walking around in your bathrobe with an erection. Good humor, nice conversation, some consideration, that’s the beginning for women. And it isn’t to be part of a woman’s paycheck.
Jesus reached out to women who were harassed, abused, and used by men, and he defended them, time and time again. He didn’t try to turn them into housewives. He didn’t judge their love when they managed to find someone they loved apart from marriage.
And time and time again he told men, some of whom were objecting to these women, that these women were more faithful than they, who were self-satisfied, smug men.
He took women into his inner circle and defended their right to become his disciples. He called Mary ‘Magdala’, which is a nickname meaning Tower of Strength. She was the woman he leaned on in his work. And there is no suggestion in the Bible that he romanced her. He did admire her, though, and he seems to have left her in charge of his work when he died.
How did she get ousted? And by Peter, that buffoon Jesus sometimes called a Rock and sometimes Satan! By men who insisted that a woman’s place was not at the head of their movement.
Jesus’ loving tenderness and intimacy seems to be directed toward Mary of Bethany, whose right to sit at his feet he defended when her sister wanted her in the kitchen, whose tears brought him to his own tears, and then to a miracle of raising her brother. Her love was lavished on him when she anointed his feet with costly perfume and used her hair to caress him, in a deed he said would always be remembered.
The freedom to love, in Jesus’ Way, belongs to those who love each other. It is never about control, and is not part of gainful employment. It is always a gift of the Spirit, whose blessing shines onto everyone around it.
And the rest is about self-control, discipline, hard work, and friendship that can sometimes lead to something elsewhere, and is never to be exchanged for employment, nor for marriage, nor for a letter of reference or a film role or a job on Capitol Hill. And certainly not for a brief endorphin rush in a rich old guy that leaves a woman carrying shame and fear inside herself for years.
Images: Garrison Keillor, Wikipedia.com
Matt Lauer, Wikipedia.com
Harvey Weinstein, Wikipedia.com