9.14.2006

Sexuality As Christian Practice

My senior pastor and I have been in conversation about sexuality. Our conversations have revolved around teenagers and their parents because of its relevance to our context, as well as the topic of homosexuality because it is such a divisive issue in our denominiation. In our conversations, we have come to some conclusions. These conclusions are not new nor are they simplistic-- they do not solve the complex problems. However, they are very true theologically & psychologically. As well, they provide the right kind of language by which to understand ourselves as made in the image of God.
First, our job as the community of faith is to form Christians who see their "selfs" as made in the image of God and are able to understand their bodies and sexual being as a gift to be cherished, guarded, and guided. The reason for this is that sex is such a good and poweful aspect of humanity. We want our students (and all our congregants) to cherish self and cherish the other-- to revere, honor, dignify self and other. Such a practice and habit has the ultimate effect of turning sexuality into a virtue. A virtue goes beyond practice or habit to being an instictual way of living out core convictions. As such, sexuality as virtue cannot possibly injure self or other. What we are after with our young people is to help form sexual practices in them that create virtues. Indeed, sexuality is a practice of Christian virtue.

4 comments:

  1. "Sex is dirty...oooooh!" said Apostle Paul.

    I am really glad to see the approach you are taking with this. I think that the kids and parents will eventually be blessed by this. They may be pissed now, but they'll realize where you are going with this.

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  2. Glad you're reflecting on this theologically and morally in terms of Christian discipleship in history. Several things:

    First, sexuality is not a virtue as much as its practice can be guided by virtue. We want to form Christian character in young people, whose trained practices (modeled, taught), become habits, which become virtues...instinctive as you've said. Once instinct a young man will be much less likely to be agressive sexuality because his not only honors his own body, but more importantly the body of the other. It is still possible to become abusive as lust rules the body and mind, but it must war against and defeat the virtues. We want to begin that journey with young people so that the voice of virtue begins speaking loudly enough that one day, it trumps lust.

    Second, some will argue that using shame is more effective now with teenagers. We want immediate guards against the voice of lust and shame works: have sex and your damned (in hell maybe, but certainly at home), or get someone pregnant and you ruin your life. The short term "benefits" of shaming kids from sex are not worth the deep pain such shame-based morality begets.

    Third, it's true that sex is good, and we must proclaim the goodness of God's gift of sexuality. However, we must not loose sight of the doctrine of the fall and sin, nor miss the doctrine of the powers that play on our sin, dragging us toward misuse of God's gifts. The goodness of sexuality is marred, shrouded by sin and the bad and abusive practices that come from its focus on selffulfilment. This is why practices toward virtues are so important. We are forming new lives who can live the new way of God in the midst of the clamour and glamour of old deadly ways.

    Sex is too good to be cheapened.
    The goodness of sex is a better motive for living virtuously than is shame.
    The Fall makes this teaching so vitally important.

    Below is a list of the 7 virtues (a google search gives more information).

    A list of these virtues might help parents think about their role in formation.

    Ranked in ascending order of sanctity, the seven holy virtues are:

    * Chastity (Latin, virtus) (purity, opposes lust, Latin luxuria) —
    Courage and boldness. Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought through education and betterment. Practicing [sexual] abstinence.

    * Abstinence (Latin, frenum) (self-control, opposes gluttony, Latin gula) —
    Constant mindfulness of others and one's surroundings; practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation.

    * Liberality (Latin, liberalitas) (will, generosity, opposes greed, Latin avaritia) —
    Generosity. Willingness to give. A nobility of thought or actions. The ability to realize that money is not the most important thing in the world.

    * Diligence (Latin, industria) (ethics, opposes sloth, Latin acedia) —
    A zealous and careful nature in one's actions and work. Decisive work ethic. Budgeting one's time; monitoring one's own activities to guard against laziness.

    * Patience (Latin, patientia) (peace, opposes wrath, Latin ira) —
    Forebearance and endurance through moderation. Resolving conflicts peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. The ability to forgive; to show mercy to sinners.

    * Kindness (Latin, humanitas) (satisfaction, opposes envy, Latin invidia) —
    Charity, compassion, friendship, and sympathy without prejudice and for its own sake.

    * Humility (Latin, humilitas) (modesty, opposes pride, Latin superbia) —
    Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one's own self.

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  3. To post a line from the movie Last Kiss:

    For you, love is an emotion that you feel inside. To others, love is what you do, and what those actions do to others, how they make them feel, how they heal or how they hurt.

    We are a society that has forgotten the cliche that love is a verb.

    Thanks Chris for your comments and the virtues thing is very important and helpful.

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  4. I liked it. It isvery interesting.

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