Jesus-loves-porn-stars I thought I may as well get all the taboos out there for discussion this week. In the wake of football sex scandals in Australia, attention has also focussed on the group sex practices of the young and shifting attitudes towards it. Yet dischordant voices are still heard. One young woman confesses, "It felt really good at the time but afterwards I felt cheated and used." So I have a question: in a post-Christendom era, what should the Christian stance be towards non-Christians?

8 thoughts on “‘Generation sex’ as norms shift

  1. I think that Christianity — or at lest the Christians I’m most familiar with — need to take a long, hard look at their sexual ethic and how they present it to others, for starters.
    As a start, I’d personally recommend abandoning the focus on virginity. The primary focus on virginity sends one loud message: that anyone who isn’t a virgin is “damaged goods” and therefore less of a human being. No amount of clarification or rephrasing is going to change that, either. And it’s to the point where I often find myself thinking that deep down, Christians don’t feel that marriage makes having sex okay so much, but just makes being “damaged goods” less of a problem.
    I think that Christians need to focus on positive reasons why waiting to have sex for various reasons sex-positive — like wanting enjoy true intimacy with one’s partner. Treating it as if having sex is a dirty thing only causes people to treat sex like it’s a dirty thing, so it’s time to raise sex up to the great and sacred act it is and focus on why that might mean waiting is a good thing.
    Of course, the other thing that Christians need to do is deal with the reality that not everyone is going to wait. In fact, a lot of people — adults and teens alike — are going to make foolish and even bad choices. And the Christian response needs to be less about judgement and more about support, love, and addressing those things that drove the person to make such choices in the first place.

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  2. Jarred, as a person who embraced Christianity around age 25 it probably comes as no surprise that I was sexually active prior to that, that I was never a ‘virginal’ Christian. I expect this shapes my attitudes to some extent. I think you are spot on in suggesting Christians need to focus on the positive reasons for waiting. For me, abstinance was a practice that did not come easy. Nor, as you might imagine, was a simple “because God said so” a sufficient answer to questions from an enquiring mind like mine. It was no till I received some wise teaching on emotional bonding in sexual relationships that things started to click for me. Unfortunately, as in most cases, its not the wise voices that make it into the media.

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  3. I tend to think this issue is one more symptom of “holy huddle syndrome”. If you are mixing with lots of people from outside the church, you just don’t batt and eyelid any more over sex outside of marriage…. how common is this? We need to love people as they are… if they become disciples of Jesus, then sex too needs to come under his Lordship… hopefully for all the positive reasons, because sex is sacred, and covenental intimacy is the best place for it!
    I heard a phrase recently that “leaders have a self-defined, non-anxious presence”. I’d like to think Christians can relax a bit and be a “non-anxious presence” around others. Not only about sex… also about assorted new age religious practices that spiritually sensitive people often participate in (to the histrionics of some Christians I know… sheesh… you’d think the devil overtakes the life of a person who goes to a yoga class at the gymn if you talk to some Christians!)
    While the media spotlight is on the sexual practices of (I think) absurdly young people, it’s a good time for Christians to give out positive messages about how sexual intimacy is a blessing where there is covenental love… but can be very emotionally damaging when people are used like a commodity for selfish pleasure.

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  4. I think its also time for some clearer thinking of what it means to comment on Christian ethics in a post-Christendom society. After all, who do we think the audience is? Seriously! Should we expect non-Christians to live by Christians standards, particularly when we affirm Spiritual transformation is a pre-requisite for life transformation? When we push Christian ethics onto non-Christians do we not to run the risk of pushing a graceless works theology? On the other hand, should Christian leaders continue using mass media as a means of speaking to the church? I think Christian ethics should only be expected of Christians, that beyond that our focus should be on the good news, that in a post-Christendom society we need to differentiate between our audiences, implicitly if not explicitly. I find it very interesting that when I threw out the sex question for public comment, it’s a Pagan reader (Jarred) who comes back suggesting we focus more on the positives, on the good news. Christians listen up. As Janet suggests, we need a “non-anxious presence” when discussing sex in public. I remember a year or two ago being invited to a Pagan orgy, a festival which involved ritual group sex. I am not sure they realised I was a Christian, probably not I suspect. I just let it slide. I think there are times when its appropriate to challenge, but I think those times generally come after a lot of listening and learning.

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  5. Matt,
    I agree with your last comment especially. If we try to get the world to accept Christian morality without Christ, then we are not evangelising, but moralising. I think it is better to be evangelistic than moralistic.
    But we also need to recognise that the secular world is itself very moralistic, and can sometimes be far harsher than Christians in trying to enforce moral standards that are important to them, even when (and sometimes especially when) they clash with Christian views on morality.

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  6. Agreed. To clarify, its not that I think we should be silent on morality, but when we speak publically on morality it should be done from within an evangelistic framework and not independant of it. Taking particular note of the apostolic injunction to do so with gentleness and respect.

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  7. Yes. As a Buddhist friend once told me, Buddhist missionaries when coming to a new place with people who had not heard their message would confine themselves to two kinds of statements: “This is what we do”, and “This is what we do not do”. If people expressed interest in knowing more, they they would tell them.
    It might be good if Christian missionaries and evangelists did the same, perhaps even in places where people have heard the message, since the message they may have heard may have been primarily moralistic.

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  8. Yeah Steve, I think people are reasonably clear that Christians don’t do group sex. I think we can ease up on that.
    Where I find non-Christians seem less clear is on what we do do. I think we may need to work on communicating that Christian missionaries are permitted to go beyond the missionary position for instance. I often find non-Christians coming out with blanket statements about Christian prudishness that have little basis in reality, that are formed primarily from listening to the rantings of fringe extremists and not everyday Christians. In fact, I come across many people who are even surprised to learn Christian clergy get married in most denominations. Been listening to Dan Brown’s anti-Catholic rantings too much I suspect.
    I think it would be healthy to place more emphasis on just explaining why Christians value life commitment.

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