Thoughts to Ponder are my musings regarding community, things of the Spirit, and living as a Christ-follower. I don't offer the words of a professional or an expert; just a fellow traveler and explorer. Please don't take my musings more serious than I do. I've discovered a long time ago that I do not hold the keys of knowledge or wisdom. If I did, I misplaced them somewhere...typical.

Monday, June 01, 2009

It's Better To Wait For The Conductor's Cue

Maybe The Conductor and Composer Know The Music Better Than You Do

Throughout the years sexuality has been fearfully suppressed and recklessly expressed by extreme groups. Some very prudish religionists and philosophers have insisted the body is evil and therefore it should be deprived and otherwise punished for being such a bad kid. Pagan and Christian groups have fallen into the trap of seeing the body as a wild thing needed to be whipped into shape and deprived of basic desires.
Paul, a first century writer, reprimanded a group of Christians for buying into their local pagan superstitions when he wrote to them:
Since you put off the spiritual forces of the world by dying with Christ, why do you continue to submit to its rules as if you were still part of that system: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules are part of a scheme that is destined to perish—they are based on human wisdom and commands. Such rules seem to be wise with their self-imposed worship, false humility and harsh treatment of the body—but they really are useless when it comes to restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23, The Message)
The theology of the body and the creation according to Hebrew and Christian writings is: all of creation is good. In fact, the creation of human sexuality is “very good” (Genesis 1). The original “not good” is human loneliness (Genesis 2).
But the other side of “the-body-is evil-and-the-spirit-is-good” coin is: what the body does will not affect the spirit or mind. So, allow the body to do what it wants. Again Paul confronts this idea in a letter he wrote to a particularly wild town called Corinth:
You know the old saying, 'First you eat to live, and then you live to eat'? … that's no excuse for stuffing your body with food, or indulging it with sex. Since the Master honors you with a body, honor him with your body! … remember that your bodies are created with the same dignity as the Master's body. You wouldn't take the Master's body off to a whorehouse, would you? I should hope not. There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, "The two become one." Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never "become one." There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for "becoming one" with another. Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. (1 Corinthians 6:13-20 The Message)
It is unfortunate that some have been led to believe Christianity condemns the physical and especially sexual activity. The fact Christian teaching insists sexual intercourse should be relegated to marriage does not mean Christians view sex as dirty or the body as evil. Although some Christians may have been guilty of being overly repressed and silly, Christian thinking celebrates sexuality. Believing sexual intercourse should be reserved for marriage is not prudish, nor is it a condemnation of sex in general.
Paul’s argument above is a wonderful example of how sex is viewed as holy and precious. It is meant to be fully expressed and enjoyed in an environment designed to protect it from misuse and an environment that will protect the participants: a relationship bound by a solemn promise of commitment and loyalty. In modern society the solemn promise is reinforced as a binding and legal contract. Penalties for breaking the contract are set in place in order to protect all parties and to discourage divorce. Ancient societies also held marriage as something to be protected with the force of law.
This is not to say marriage is a perfect environment. Part of being human is the ability to lie, steal, cheat, and abuse. As long as humans are involved contracts and covenants will be abused, ignored, and broken. Such does not invalidate the use of contracts or covenants. The purpose of covenants and contracts is ideally to protect those who can be abused. If there are great injustices associated with divorce the answer is not to do away with marriage but to find a better way to enforce contractual obligations. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!”
If the choice is to live in a society without contracts where everyone lives according to their feelings at the moment or to live in a society that demands contracts and enforces them to protect innocent parties, then give me the latter.
“Sexual intercourse: a fully human activity”
Some feel sexual intercourse has been put too high on a pedestal and that is part of the problem. “Sex is just a human thing.” Perhaps there is a danger that the pitch just can’t follow the wind up. And there are those who set themselves up with an impossible expectation only to be severely disappointed. However, labeling something as human doesn’t necessarily make it ordinary or less powerful. The day sex becomes “ordinary” is the day I’m talking with a counselor or getting medication!
If by saying sex is a human thing I justify sexual intercourse outside of marriage, then I think I’ve made a fundamental mistake. Sex is human and it is a part of life and living. However, sex is also a very canine thing, feline thing, equine thing, bovine, porcine…so what? What does that justify or not justify? And there are a lot of things which are very human too: selfishness, conceit, rudeness, genocide, and picking your nose in public. The point is simply: acknowledging something as human behavior does not validate said behavior.
Just what does it mean to be human, anyway? What does it mean to celebrate my human and natural urges? Well, I suppose it could mean to use the bathroom in my pants. Before you snigger or stand aghast at my rude analogy think about it. Using the bathroom in one’s pants is so natural that potty training is often an act of war (if you’ve never had children you cannot understand).
Here’s an alternative question: Does being human mean to be capable of self-discipline and control? Animals are generally not self-controlled. They operate on pure instinct—on their feelings if you like. Humans have the ability to be self-controlled. Is it unnatural to be self-controlled? Yes (remember potty training?). Is it inhuman? No. It represents the best of humanity (ask any artist or musician).
When I am self controlled, I don’t lash out in anger—even though lashing out feels good. When I am self-controlled, I don’t take what is not mine. When I am self-controlled I can perform acts of generosity that will not particularly benefit me—that might even cause bodily deprivation or injury to myself. When I am self-controlled I don’t sleep around with any and everyone. When I am self-controlled I can actually say: “I will wait until marriage to engage in sexual intercourse.
Transcending Human Behavior
Personally I want to transcend natural human behavior.
Natural human behavior is self-centered and selfish. I want to be a person who loves. Love is so complex the Greeks had four words for it: eros (sexual attraction and sexual contact), storge (familial loyalty), phileo (affection—feelings—and friendship), and agape (unselfish action towards others). I would argue one could enter into marriage without affection or feelings and still end up with a fantastic marriage where the sex actually strengthens the bond! It happened all the time in ancient cultures where marriages were arranged and the bride and groom didn’t even know each other. This is still practiced in many oriental cultures today. From my understanding the divorce rate is very low for arranged marriages. (I would add one could also enter into marriage with great affection, feelings, and sex and end up with a terrible marriage).
It’s a fiction I know: but I can’t help but think of Tevye and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof:
Do you love me?
I’m your wife!
I know, but do you love me?
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him.
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?
Then you love me?
I suppose I do.
And I suppose I love you, too.
It doesn’t change a thing, but even so,
after twenty-five years,
it’s nice to know…
What an expression of love: commitment and action.
Love is more action than feeling—in spite of our popular culture. Jesus tells us to “love your enemies” he doesn’t say “feel affectionate toward them.” Love means to live for the ultimate good of another. You seek what is in that person’s best interest: not what is in your best interest. Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as a definition—they are all actions. Are you rude to your girlfriend? How can you claim to love her? Are you self-centered when it comes to your boyfriend? Are you easily angered? Are you jealous? Do you always seek your own desires and your own ways? Do you trust your boy/girlfriend, believe him or her, persevere in the relationship? If you don’t then you’d better re-evaluate your love.
The “difficulty” with sex is it is so pleasant, so exciting, so…you get the idea…that it is difficult to determine whose best interests I have in mind; and whether pleasing someone sexually is truly in that person’s best interest. For many guys it is difficult to separate our own sense of pleasure from anything else.
In the same way from my discussions with many teenage girls (and older girls and women) there is a desire to try to do anything to please the guy they are with out of their own personal need for security, a male image (from a negative, absent, or negligent father image), or just the need to feel wanted. Is that love or self-interest? Could it be a form of manipulation in order to receive security (or whatever it is I want). Granted it isn’t as crass and cold as all of that—and I am speaking in broad generalities.
The truth is when it comes to sex we rarely step back and say: Whoa! Why am I doing this? It is so difficult to be objective with ourselves. That is why controlling one’s behavior and sexual craving is important: using our minds to discipline our bodies.
In actuality, if I value discipline and view sex as a beautiful expression of love to be reserved for the person I love enough to commit myself for life to—then I will set it as a goal and I will exercise discipline to control my natural and normal desire until I have made the life time, irrevocable commitment to my mate. Holding such values have served us well in the past and are certainly worth a try today.
Sexual compatiblity
Honestly, I’m a bit frustrated with the talk of “sexual compatibility.” Can anyone define that for me? “We need to find out if we are sexually compatible.” What does that mean? Do you honestly think the physiology of sex works differently from one human to the other? And how long does it take to figure that out: just once, twice, a year or two?
I believe this “sexually compatible” argument is a load of rubbish merely used to justify sex before marriage. Where are the studies showing sexual compatibility is truly an issue in the early years of marriage? The truth is most often everyone has different rhythms and you work that out with your mate through the years of marriage. As you get older those rhythms will change (whether you lived together before marriage or not). You won’t get to figure that out until mid-life/menopause and after!
Here’s an idea for couples who want to find out about each other…
Divorces do not usually center on sex (well there are exceptions—but they are the exceptions). Most divorces occur over money problems.
With that in mind here’s an idea: instead of moving in together and having sex together—why don’t you just have joint bank accounts and own property jointly to see if you are compatible financially? Now that would be a way to measure if you’re marriage material. Oh wait; that would be a major commitment that could cause legal issues if you try to leave the relationship… oh yeah…maybe it really isn’t about trying to find out about each other after all.
And if you really want to find out about your potential partner. Instead of moving in with each other, move in with his or her parents! How they react to people and each other will tell you much more about your partner than you’ll ever discover in a sexual encounter.
Premarital sex has little to do with discovering compatibility.
The Conductor’s Cue
I’m not a musician. But I do know some things about music. The argument has been presented to me that premarital sex is like singing your own song rather than following the norms forced upon you by society, or religion, or whomever. But the analogy breaks down. When you write your own music, you still follow the basic rules of music. You still follow a scale and a chord progression that makes sense. And, while some experiments have been called “bold” and “inventive”, for society at large those “bold” and “inventive” songs never become popular because most humans recognize discordant sounds as unpleasant, chaotic, and meaningless.
And isn’t that the point anyway? Sex or music without any form of discipline or standards eventually digresses to a state of chaos and meaninglessness. While humans can live with many paradoxes and mysteries—they cannot live without meaning.

1 comment:

Bob and Suzanne said...

Great post, Darryl. Very well done! I think you should look at giving this some wider exposure.