In the wake of the Josh Duggar story, it is wise to remember that when a basic human hunger is demonized by church culture, weird things happen to people. Pornography, abuse, homosexuality, infidelity all can be traced to a failure of the church to celebrate sexuality.
The church isn’t sexy enough?
No, please, I am not arguing for “seeker-friendly” assemblies — dance-babe worship teams in black leotards, 12 piece bands, and sermons from Cosmopolitan. (In fact, maybe I shouldn’t mention “dance-babe worship teams,” because Mark Driscoll might actually try that..)
I’m really just talking about embracing the Bible itself — the dramatic, feasting, violent, sexy Word of God, presented without apology. Verses like:
More specifically, I’m calling for a dramatic change in church culture. I’m demanding that the “taste not, touch not” Victorian vestiges of mean-faced pietism and checked-out dispensationalism be purged from our thinking, and then our ranks.
I’m recalling, as I write that, a message given by a well meaning father in a church assembly I attended as a teenager.
“Sex,” he said, “in marriage is beautiful, enchanting, wonderful. Sex outside of marriage is disgusting, ugly, selfish and demonic.”
He meant well. He wanted to protect young people from the sin of fornication, but he didn’t quite tell the truth. A stolen piece of apple pie tastes just as good, if not better, than one you purchase. It isn’t the pie that is the problem. The pie doesn’t have horns and a tail and a pitchfork. The pie is really good, either way, and if you leave people thinking pie, or bread, or sex is intrinsically demonic in one setting and intrinsically “sacred” in another, you set up some weird internal conflicts. Not everyone can switch gears that quickly, and if a young person during his delayed adolescent wait for marriage has to see himself as perpetually evil for natural human desire, that desire can morph into some weird shapes.
In other words, Christian teacher: don’t get mad at the pie, or the sex. Get angry at its misuse and make very sure your flock knows the difference. Josh Duggar and his family were devotees of Bill Gothard, the celibate, legalistic freak who scolded teenage girls for talking too much to boys, before marriage, and who got called on the carpet for inviting the staff girls to sit on his lap in their nighties. This sort of thing (Bill Gothard, Jimmy Swaggart, David Hocking, Doug Phillips) is almost always the result of teachers trying to “out-holy” God on the subject of sexuality. Even Father Abraham, the patriarch Jesus chose to show us in heaven, comforting Lazarus, had wives and concubines. It’s not the sex that is the problem, Christians; it is the adultery and the fornication, the mis-use of sex. (Concentrate, and ponder the difference.)
In a truly Biblical age — an age unaffected by weirdo, Victorian false teachers (consider, for example, Adventist doctor John Henry Kellogg advocating young girls have carbolic acid applied to their private parts to avoid masturbation) — young people, in scripture, were encouraged to ponder the sweet, erotic love of wise King Solomon and his wife. The bible was the model for happy, abandoned, erotic love. King Solomon not only enjoyed his wife’s breasts — he wrote a poem about her, inspired by God, and meant to be read out loud during worship. When the children of Israel crossed the red sea, Moses’s sister led the ladies in a dance. When was the last time you saw something like that in church?
I doubt you will anytime soon, and I’m not sure the congregation wants to hear very much about the pastor’s love life, but, pastor you might want to consider letting Solomon take the heat on this one. Celebrate that sort of love from the pulpit. Laugh, happily, when you talk about it. Don’t whisper. Don’t apologize. Don’t hyper-spiritualize sex. Solomon wasn’t reading scripture when he sipped sweet wine from his wife’s navel.
..but he was writing it.