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21 October 2009

Let's Talk About Sex

The desire for sexual intimacy is primal, evolutionary, ingrained, God-given, holy and wholly inescapable. And the long-standing teaching of the church, synagogue and mosque and all of our scriptures is that people who are not married and have sex sin against God and against themselves and in some religious traditions, against God in themselves.
Sin. That is a hard word.
Sex. That is a bad word.
Sex has come to equal sin for many.
Even sex within the sacrament of marriage has been (and remains) problematic in the Church. Do it only for religious reasons. Do it (only) to make babies. Don't do anything while you're doing it to prevent pregnancy. Don't do it just because it feels good. Do it whenever (and however he wants it). Don't do it that way. Don't tell anyone you do it that way. Don't enjoy it (at all or not too much) if you're a woman. Don't do it if you're menstruating. Don't do it if you're pregnant. Don't call forcible intercourse rape.
The rules for unmarried people are all the above, plus just don't do it.
Is that (really) what the bible (really) says? Is that (really) what it (really) means?
Interestingly enough, there are loopholes. For men. And to some degree for the women who meet their needs.
Only married and marriageable women are required to be celibate or chaste. And only Israelite women and girls are officially marriageable. There is even a marriageability continuum: never-married virgin girls are most marriageable and sexually experienced women or girls - rape victims, widows and divorced women are least marriageable. Prepubescent non-Israelite girls are less marriageable than prepubescent Israelite girls, but more marriageable than sexually experienced Israelite women or girls.
An Israelite man - including married men - could have sex with a widow, divorced woman, rape-victim or foreign woman or girl with impunity. Only sex with another man's wife was considered adultery. Sex with an Israelite's marriageable daughter was also punishable. A woman who had sex with a man to whom she was not married reduced her marriageability quotient. And a married woman who had sex with a man other that her husband was an adulteress. (One overlooked aspect of Jesus' teaching on divorce and adultery was that he expanded the Torah to restrict Israelite men's sexual access.)
This loophole for men is revealing. Men who reported and recorded their experiences of and with God - or claimed them, interpreted, preserved and canonized them did not hear or experience (or report or preserve) God as saying that women had the same sexual needs as men. Perhaps God said so and they could not hear or understand God. Perhaps God said so and they ignored God. What would the scriptures have said if women were their primary (or sole) producers, preservers, interpreters and proclaimers. These men did hear God say something that meant a single sexual partner over a (much shorter) lifetime was inconceivable for them.
The ancient practice of marrying off teenagers as soon as they reach puberty - not reproductive maturity, but the first blush of sexual desire - bears witness to the strength of sexual desire.
How can the church, synagogue and mosque live fully in the present era guided by our holy texts?
We must stop pretending. We must stop pretending that we still live in the Iron Age. We must stop pretending that women are fundamentally different from men. We must stop pretending people don't have and want to have sex. We must stop pretending that we don't know sex is good.

10 October 2009

Faith, the Assurance of Things Hoped For...

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

The Nobel committee has faith. They have placed their faith in President Barack Obama in a breathtaking manner. They have, as is their right and according to their own rules and precedents, given the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to another sitting U.S. President; one with less tenure than any previous recipient.
They have taken his words seriously and believe that he will do all that he can to bring his vision to pass - his vision of a world in which nations work together to address war and conflict, poverty and climate change. They have decided to encourage the President, both with one of the world's most prestigious awards and with $2,400,000.
What a stunning model! How often do people in this world say to anyone: "I believe in you." "I believe in what you are doing." "I want to help you make your dreams come true." "You and your dreams are making the world a better place." "I want to be a part of the world you're making."
With their affirmation, the Nobel committee has given voice to the longings of peoples far removed from the African Americans and other Americans who placed our hope, faith and trust in Barack Obama when we elected him as our President. The Nobel committee revealed a European (and perhaps a global) desire for change in the world order and hope that President Obama can and will bring substantial change. To that end they invested their currency - money and prestige - in our young President.
I pray that the peoples of the world do more than hope for change, peace, prosperity and health care. I pray that we will work together with the American President, world leaders, grassroots organizations and each other to be and bring the change we want to see in this, our world.