Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Worshiping at the Altar of S-E-X

So, I have this theory. 

I have this theory that 21st-century Western culture (and sadly, I include large portions of The Church) like the proverbial frog dropped in not-quite-boiling water, now finds itself worshiping at the altar of S-E-X.  

We are a culture that will give up, sacrifice, or quit nearly everything in pursuit of what we perceive to be the good.  

We have quit eating “refined sugar” and “trans-fats” because (with apologies to the author of Genesis) “if you eat of it, you will surely die.”

We have sacrificed time, money and convenience for food that is “locally grown, sustainably sourced, organic, fair-trade certified, etc…”

We sacrifice time with our family, self-contentment, and relaxation for hours at the gym or in the tanning bed, hoping to achieve “the perfect body”.  

We sacrifice health and hours of sleep for better grades or a promotion at work.

We sacrifice thousands of dollars for our kids to be in competitive sports.

We sacrifice TV and alcohol and Facebook for Lent because, somehow, we know that they just sort of…take over our lives.  

But would you ever quit, give up, or sacrifice sex?  

We have come to a place where the be-all and end-all of life is “good sex”, and barring that, “bad sex”, or at least “safe sex”.  

We know – know, for a fact – that sex causes pregnancy – even when you “are careful”.  We know – know, for a fact – that sex can transmit diseases – even deadly diseases – even when you “are careful”. 

And yet, we cannot possibly imagine why anyone – anyone at all – would choose to avoid sex.  We believe, as a culture, that giving up certain foods or patterns of behavior (couch potato-ing or smoking or drinking to excess), that sacrificing time with spouse or children or parents are all worth it because of “something” that is better in the end – health, fitness, weight loss, grades, self-control, career success, job security for local farmers, whatever… "something" is worth it.

But what would 21st century America say is “worth” abstaining from sex?  I would venture to say that most Americans, indeed, most “Christians” would have no answer for this.  Instead, sex is one of the things we give everything else up for.  We will sacrifice future relationships, our health, potential children, our dignity, our time, and our money – if the sex is good.  

Why is it that we will give up hot dogs for our health…but we will sacrifice our health for an orgasm?  Why is it that we will sacrifice time with our kids for a better job…but we’ll sacrifice our job for a fling with the boss?

Why is it that we will sacrifice money for our children’s success…but we’ll sacrifice our children’s lives for “safe sex”?

We have made sex our god – that which we fear, love, and trust the most – and it has wreaked havoc on our souls, and on the gift of sex itself.  

It has wreaked havoc on our souls because idolatry always does.  We have “given up” churches that encourage restraint of one’s sexual impulses.  In fact, our churches have actively sought to discourage restraint – so that “they” will like us more, but I suspect, also, to justify our own actions.  

Even in churches where an administrative nod is given to “sex in marriage only”, this is violated on a far more frequent basis than it is adhered to, and everyone looks the other way.  Sign on the dotted line here saying you won’t do this…but really no one gives a damn if you do.  And in doing so we have encouraged others to lie, only extending the sin further...

In our idolatrous worship of sex, we have walked away from the One who gave us sex in the first place, the One who thinks sex is lovely and beautiful and wonderful, from the One who wants us to open the gift and enjoy it, but who wants us to play with it carefully, so it doesn’t get broken, so we don't get broken.

Our idolatrous worship of sex has led pastors – preachers of the Word and administrators of the Sacraments to fancy themselves as sex therapists, “because sex is important.”  Our idolatrous worship of sex has led congregations to see the distribution of condoms in their local neighborhoods as “a mission project”.

Our idolatrous worship of sex has left no room for the Author of sex to point out that sex is not the pinnacle of human existence, it has left no room for the Author of sex to note the unfortunate consequences that result from misuse of the gift, and it has left no room for the Author of sex to offer forgiveness for our misuse of it…because we believe that there can be no misuse.

Our idolatrous worship of sex has broken the relationship between us and our Creator…as idolatry always does.  And it has broken the gift of sex itself.

Sex no longer serves any higher purpose than base physical pleasure.  Thanks to latex, synthetic hormones, and invasive copper wire (really?), we have stripped sex of its power to give life.  Thanks to one-night-stands and “booty calls” and “pity sex” we have stripped sex of its capacity to emotionally bond participants.  Thanks to STDs, we have shifted the consequences of sex away from “ripple effects of the gift” to things we must protect ourselves from. 

Idolatrous worship of sex has destroyed women.  Oh, we think we’re free.  Now that we’re out of those repressive Victorian corsets and allowed to actually enjoy sex, now this here is freedom.  Except that our greatest, most-close-to-divine power, the power to create and nurture life, must be destroyed.  Annihilated.  Neutralized.  We have freed ourselves to “enjoy sex like a man”, and in doing so, we have ensured that we will serve only as “plug and play” for our “partners”.  

Idolatrous worship of sex has destroyed our creativity, it has destroyed our pursuit of a relationship for any reason other than physical, sexual pleasure, it has all-but-guaranteed that there is nothing about us that is sacred, special, or reserved.  

I have come to believe – through my own personal experience and through the experiences of friends – that if I decline to share my deepest vulnerabilities with someone who will not first promise never to leave because of them – that I will remain forever single, forever celibate.  And that saddens me, because I long for companionship, for a fellow-laborer, for sex, even, and for children. 
But I will not worship at the altar of S-E-X.  I will not exchange the truth for a lie.  I will not allow my almost-supernatural power to give and nurture life to be suppressed for the convenience of men.  I will not be a plug-and-play device for people who do not respect me, or my body, or my soul.  I will not live as though the source and summit of my life is sex, rather than the God who formed me, and who redeemed me. 

And I will fight, with every ounce of my being, the golden calf.  I cannot bear to hear young children, teenagers, young adults, old adults be wrested by the culture into sacrificing anything and everything in pursuit of sex.  I cannot bear to hear of pastors who do not hear private confessions, but will gladly hand out condoms.  I cannot bear to be mocked for my values, or pressured to break my promises, or to risk a “series of unfortunate events” by people who claim to love me.  My dignity and my self-worth are worth more than an orgasm.  And so are yours.  

I don’t want to fight the culture war.  I don’t want to wring my hands over “today’s corrupt youth” or “the immorality of the times”, and frankly, I don't intend to.  I’d rather not fight the spiritual war either, thank you very much.  But I believe it’s been laid at my doorstep.  Christians, let us smash the idols and overturn the altars.  Let us worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Let us worship the God who died on a cross to free us from the bondage of false gods.  Let us worship the Author of Love, the Author of Sex, rather than sex itself.



W.B. Picklesworth said...

Yes, Amen. Baal is a piker compared to the Western god of Sex.

Incidentally, this is one of the things that I most respect about the Catholic Church. They've been willing to stand, however ineffectively, against the onslaught.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Elizabeth for this deep reflection on Western god of Sex. Please know that this is a Global god which afflicts people including those in Africa where I come from. And you're right we must worship God than idols of sex! Amen!

Kathy said...

I am a big fan of all-things-prophetic, so naturally I have read Nostradamus. Your post reminded me of one of his prophecies -- Century IV-27 -- "Salon, Mansol, Tarascon, the arc of SEX: where the pyramid is still standing. They will come to deliver the Prince of Denmark, a shameful ransom to the temple of Artemis." You know -- shameful, temple, altar. Oh well.

I disagree with Mr. Picklesworth -- imagine the world without the Catholic Church! -- Glad things are going well for you.

Amy Little said...

Amen sister, beautifully said! I am sharing this is every venue I can get my hands on because it is absolutely fabulous and the best thing I've read on this topic in, well, forever.
Keep writing and keep working on that bound conscience thing. It didn't work out so well for me- it got slammed and beaten right out of me. But that's a story for another day! Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, from a fellow ELCA Conservative. The truth (and well said) is always a joy to read.

Anonymous said...

I wish I knew where you lived. My son in Cleveland has the same views about relationships being about life commitment and partnering. Perhaps there are others like him who do not worship this 'god' and you will find each other someday. Blessings!

And so nice to hear this - well said! Especially the falsity of "plug and play" mentality. I so want women to demand not "live with me" but Marry Me if you want me - ALL of me - the ups and downs, the intimacy, the quirks, the laughter and the tears. Historically, it is the women who expect commitment who are the most stabilizing factor in society. Archaic? Prudish? maybe. But still true. And promise keeping is what separates humans from mere animal.

Anonymous said...

Your words touched my heart but I fear for me I'm at a loss to make any changes. The web is to thick and the burden even God himself would turn from so what now, do I even bother to try and turn things around? My thoughts and actions aren't holy but how I long for God. I can't find peace, I have tried but I am so tired and alone on this journey...
the prodical daughter

Elizabeth of Hungary said...

Thanks for all the supportive and affirming comments - it's good to know I'm not alone in thinking and believing these things.

To gracenotes2: sadly, I don't live anywhere near Cleveland! :(

To the Prodigal Daughter : Oh, my dear. My heart breaks for you, because I can hear yours breaking even across the cold threads of the internet. I don't know you, and I wish I was right there with you to give you a hug and anoint you with oil, but I can assure you, I can absolutely 100% promise you, that there is no burden so great that God himself will turn away from it. The Bible says that Jesus literally went and preached to the spirits in Hell - so I figure there is NOTHING that is beyond his reach or his scope or his desire to heal.

The beauty of the prodigal son (or daughter) story is that, "*****while the daughter was still a long way off*****, her Father saw her and was filled with compassion for her; he ran to his daughter, threw his arms around her and kissed her!"

I know it seems like you are a "long way off", but your Father sees you, and is filled with compassion - not anger or judgment - and is running out to get you. I'm sure it feels like you are alone, but I promise, you are not. I am praying for you right now, dear.

In the meantime, cling to this promise: the word of forgiveness I write to you comes from God. Prodigal Daughter, in obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you want to continue to talk, you can email me anytime at elcaconservative at gmail dot com.

May God's peace be with you.

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