Sexual sin

This response to a tweet I posted earlier gives me opportunity to blog about (discuss?) something that’s been on my mind for a few years. What follows is not perfect prose (by a long shot), but I’ve worked on it long enough and covered enough of the major points I’ve thought of over the years that I guess I can release it into the wild.

«Thinking humbly, I wonder if the non-hetero community will have to consider carefully how it can address the nature of sexual sin within non-hetero orientations and identities. It might be an effective way to help the UMC community to present a consistent salvation story.»

This tweet strikes me as having a particular focus on the non-hetero community’s sexual practices, as if one “community”[1] is more depraved than another. It seems as if to say “eww, gay sex, blech!” I believe ALL of our sexual practices could use a little consideration.

I believe Biblical injunctions against same-sex sex is really about something else. And that is: asymmetric power relationships, expressed sexually (in this case). Really, the Bible (and other great religious texts) is all about asymmetric power relationships: the marginalized (the orphan and the widow), the alien among us, the Psalmist beset on all sides by enemies, the wealthy vs. the poor, Caesar vs. those who “fear”[2] God, the Syro-Phoenician woman, and on and on. But, there are five passages that take a quick break from talking about money to talk about sex.

Truly, I believe the topic is sexual victimization. The master taking advantage of the hired help (or the coerced help). I understand this was part of the culture of that day.

And today.

So, yes, let us do talk about the nature of sexual sin. Girls are trafficked from China to pleasure NFL football team owners. Trafficking is an ongoing and widespread scourge; it’s not just that one story in Florida recently. Comfortably well-off (usually male) tourists travel to Thailand to partake of whatever is there. (I’m thinking it’s not usually a visit to Angkor Wat.)

Everything #metoo is about: the corporate executive, the movie director, the pastor (yes, even church), the law enforcement officer, the hotel guest. We are so familiar with these stories; they just go on and on and on.

There is so frequently a power dynamic at play.

And let’s add in people who have sex to validate themselves. You get the abusive boyfriend/husband. You get (maybe, I’m not as familiar with this side of the issue as I am the male side) the woman who feels she needs to use sex to gain protection or validity. (Why did the Samaritan woman at the well have five husbands? Was it just economics?)

Somehow, we don’t get as exercised about college hook-up culture (although some of us do get plenty exercised). Hook-up culture isn’t any worse than it ever was, but, apparently (I would’t know, being an old), it’s actually gotten less loving and intimate, as evidenced by this Hidden Brain podcast episode:

There’s the distortion created by pornography, the social pressure. There seems to be so much nonsense (I’d use a more pungent word, but I’m trying to clean this post up) promulgated by men with an agenda, advocating for things like polyamory. I know warm, loving relationships are possible in many contexts, but the world of “kink” seems to have more than its share of (male) predators.

(Not to equate tabletob role-playing gaming (which I love, especially the sci-fi types) with the above to any degree, but here’s another item that came across my radar recently, and speaks to this issue:

What do God and Jesus want? Wholesome, healthy human relationships. Not exploitation, manipulation, abuse.

I believe we, as the Church, need to be talking about this. Don’t manipulate or exploit other people. Don’t use other people. Don’t believe that you are somehow faulty if you’re not having a lot of sex. Sexual intimacy is not something to be taken lightly; it is powerful and precious. Irrespective of the risk of pregnancy and disease.

Do we support loving sexual relationships? Yes. (Really, we think true commitment (as in: marriage) between two people is best.) Do we oppose sexual relationships undertaken because one party needs to feel powerful, and can only do so by denigrating the other party? Yes. Do we oppose sexual relationships arising out of insecurity? Yes.

Do we care about the genders of the people involved? No.

Don’t be mean. That is all.

So, that’s my take on sexual sin, and it has nothing to do with whether one is in a “non-hetero community” or not.

We, the Church, very definitely need to talk about it. Not in a finger-wagging way, but in a supporting, encouraging, holding-each-other-accountable way (although, really, we should be careful that “holding each other accountable” isn’t a code phrase for something a bit more negative).

We also need to be careful of our messaging and gentle in our responses. I have heard stories of people raised in the “purity” culture who get raped. With the inputs of what they have been taught they are sometimes left wondering if they’re going to Hell. When they turn to their church for support, they sometimes get none. This is the sort of thing suicide is made of.

Somehow, sometimes, those in the church guilty of heterosexual misdeeds are not treated with the same sort of revulsion we reserve for gay people. Somehow, when this occurs, the conversation turns to “forgiveness”.


[1] Are we really dividing folks into “communities”. Isn’t that a polite word for an ugly tendency in this case?

[2] “Fear.” I understand the ancient word(s) used here might also be translated “respect.”

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