Why are Christians so negative about sex?

Last night we continued our series of doctrine slots that try to answer common objections. We want to try to understand  the reasons people give for refusing to consider the Christian faith. We want to take those objections seriously and treat them with the respect they deserve. But we also want to be able to respond and try and open up a conversation. I gave people 5-10 minutes worth of my first thoughts. My best thoughts would be much more thoroughly researched!

The objection we thought about last night was ‘why are Christians so negative about sex?’

What do people mean when they say that?

I think they mean that whenever Christians talk about sex we’re always so limiting. We hardly ever have a good thing to say about sex. Our sexual ethics sound so Victorian and we come across as puritanical. We expect to be unfairly presented in the media. But I don’t think that we do ourselves any favours either. Even in personal conversation we may not get it right.

Why do people think that we’re negative about sex?

Perhaps because we are. It’s often easier to make a negative point strongly than it is to make a positive point strongly. And perhaps we just need to learn to be better at being positive about the Bible’s view of sex. We might need to recognise that we’re only getting one point across and that point is ‘we’re against sex’.

But let’s not be naive, even if we do become as proficient at being positive as we are being negative, we’re unlikely to win widespread approval for our views. And there are three simple reasons for that.

1. We suggest that there are limits to appropriate sexual activity and people in general don’t like being told what to do. Commonly people want to be free to decide what to do, when to do it, how to do it and with whomever they want to do it. And we’re saying that it shouldn’t work like that. That won’t go down well.

2. We think that there needs to be more than mutual consent for something to be morally permissible. People commonly assume that as long as it’s not illegal and the other person doesn’t object then we should be allowed to do whatever we want. Obvisouly that’s a completely godless view of what’s right. But that’s the world we live in. Christians argue that we’re not the only decision makers in determining what we should and shouldn’t do.

3. We remind people that sexual activity can go wrong and there’s fallout and sometimes collateral damage. And commonly people don’t like to be reminded of the unintended consequences of their actions. It can appear that we take pleasure in pointing this out. We don’t. But often it’s the messengers that get shot at.

Why are people wrong to say that we’re negative about sex?

For the simple reason that we’re not. Just because we suggest that there are limits, that we suggest that consent is not enough and that there are consequences to wrongful sexual activity doesn’t necessarily mean that we have a negative view of sex. It’s the exact opposite. Consider these three reasons.

1. we’re aware of how valuable sex is

We have an unbelievably high view of sex. Sex is so unbelievably precious that we’re not prepared to share it around or give it away cheaply. We take care of it. We look after it. We protect the way it’s used.

I own two cricket bats. They’re both made by Gray Nicholls, which is my bat maker of choice! I’m prepared to lend one of those bats out to anyone who asks. It’s a ‘Single Scoop’ and it’s a few years old now. It’s battered and well and truly used. But the other one is special. It’s new and it’s a ‘Predator’ and it’s lovely. It’s precious and so I’m not lend it out to anyone. I am unbelievably restrictive in who gets to us that bat. Is that because I have a low view of that bat? Am I negative about it?

In general most people have a ‘Single Scoop’ view of sex [I know I’m going to regret this illustration]. They’re prepared to let almost anyone use it. For them, it’s not far away from being a recreational activity like a pilates class or power walking. That’s a pretty low view of sex. In contrast, Christians think that sex is like my new ‘Predator’ [not a helpful name in the context]. But sex is so precious and special and valuable that we’re very careful about how it’s used. We look after it because it’s so valuable.

2. we’re aware of who sex is from

God created sex. It was his idea. And he thinks that it’s good. In the Song of Songs, he’s given over a whole book of the Bible to the subject. It’s one of those good gifts of God that are supposed to be enjoyed. But like anything important it comes with guidlines. There are makers’ instructions on how it’s intended to be used. But in general people think it’s laughable that we should look in an ancient book like the Bible for who to take to bed and how to be good in it. I think that I can make a case for Christians making the best lovers. But perhaps that’s post for another day! But if anyone ought to be talking about it, it’s the church. We have done at CCB. I did a sermon at the end of last term in 1 Corinthians 7 on the issue. You can find a summary here. This gives you a flavour of what we talked about

If I might generalise, most men want more sex and most women want better sex. I think there’s common ground. Both want sex, which is something to build on! Husbands, if you were better at sex your wife will want more. Wives, if you let your husbands have more sex they should improve with practice.

We’re more pro-sex than anyone because we believe in a good God who gives us good gifts to be enjoyed as he intended.

3. we’re aware of sex can do

The purpose of sex is to unite a husband and a wife and cement their marriage relationship. It’s a one flesh union. It sticks them together in an unbelievably close bond. It’s as though sexual union cements the promises made to one another in marriage. And so it’s unbelievable powerful. It’s more powerful than most people may have realised. And so when we have sex we ‘adhere’ to someone. That’s why it hurts when the relationship comes unstuck. But it also means that it can lose its’ adhesive quality if we use it too often. Sex can become a bit like sellotape. If we repeatedly stick and then unstick a piece of sellotape after a while it stops sticking. Christians want to preserve the specialness of sexual intimacy and not let it become like a used piece of sellotape.

What could we say in response?

These are some questions to suggest asking to open up a useful discussion

  • Do you think that this country would be a better or a worse place with a biblical sexual ethic? And what makes you say that? What would you want your children to believe?
  • What do you think that Christians hate sex? Is the one who hates something the one who protects it or the one ho abuses it?
  • Do you think that the Bible’s teaching on sex is a good enough reason to stop investigating Christianity? If it is, why do you think that sex is so imoprtant that it stops you from considering anything else?

If you wanted to chase this up further then you could look at

  • ‘Amidst Weights and Treadmills at the Gym’ in Corner Conversations by Randy Newman
  • If You Could Ask God One Question by Paul Williams
  • ‘Why is Christianity Hung Up About Sex?’ Simon Vibert in Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Questions from the Good Book Company

One thought on “Why are Christians so negative about sex?

  1. The Sophist Center (@SophistCenter) February 14, 2012 / 4:11 am

    This post is nice to read since it is so rational and explains Christian’s standpoint on sex. I hope the following does not offend anyone, that is not my intention.

    “We suggest that there are limits to appropriate sexual activity and people in general don’t like being told what to do.”

    I agree that people rarely like being told what to do, but within this context it appears that you believe the alternative to the Catholic church’s view of sex is an “anything goes” attitude. I don’t like being told what to do; equally i resent being judged.

    I do not believe in the God preached in The King James Bible yet I can still see that “everything goes” is not acceptable. Ethics exist outside of the Bible. Thinkers such as Kant, Hobbes, Locke and Voltaire offer alternative sources for example; many based on logic rather than faith.

    “Obviously that’s a completely godless view of what’s right.”

    That is 100% correct. People who are not affiliated with organized religion do, I will admit, base many of their actions on Common Law and their internal moral compass – wether that be Utilitarianism or Kant’s CI system. 

    My point is, I don’t need God to tell me it’s wrong to sleep with thousands of people. 

    “Commonly people don’t like to be reminded of the unintended consequences of their actions.”

    Having sex can lead to disease, pregnancy and emotional problems. I think what bothers ‘non believers’ is the Catholic Churches hostility towards any form of sex education as well as their hatred of contraception.  Abortion, in this area, is the only hostility that makes sense. 

    Sex education is all about consequences…is it not?

    Contraception helps reduce ‘unintended consequences’….do they not?

    “we’re aware of how valuable sex is”

    I don’t believe in God and I waited for years to find someone special before sleeping with them. Since then I have had a few partners, but not many at all.  Both sides of the fence judge each other badly, and I believe you see others as sleeping with everyone in sight like its a Roman Orgy. There can be a moral ‘middle ground’ in my opinion.

    “In general most people have a ‘Single Scoop’ view of sex. They’re prepared to let almost anyone use it.”

    Again, this is just judgmental and incorrect.

    “we’re aware of who sex is from”

    Again, I don’t believe in God so this line of your argument holds zero weight with me, as it does every other person who doesn’t. 

    “The purpose of sex is to unite a husband and a wife and cement their marriage relationship.”

    That’s not what it was in the thousands of years before the Bible was written, translated and changed some more.  I don’t disagree that sex with my wife is better than any other person I’ve been with, I love her more than my life. BUT BOTH of us agree that having sex with other people made us more comfortable in our own skin (we know whats out there, been there, done it, no regrets).

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