Sex, the Church, and Miss California: The Question Posed

meatcutsA few days ago, David Fitch posted an article at “Out of Ur” (Christianity Today‘s blog) that takes such an unconventional view of the Miss California controversy that I had to talk about it. You see, he may be right, but I’m not sure. So I figure that best way to sort things out is to write about them and see what other people say.

And he writes in such a way that he’s kinda hard to follow. But as I wrestle with his post, I keep thinking he’s saying something important. I’ve just got to figure out what it is.

He writes,

Here a woman prances before the media in a minuscule bikini (ironically designed by another ex-evangelical, Jessica Simpson), a woman who had (“sexually-enhancing”) cosmetic surgery, who had been in a revealing photo shoot of some sort, and she is asked about her position on same sex unions. She responds by saying, “I think in my country, in my family, that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.” …

By saying what she said about gay unions moments after the swimsuit competition, Ms. California was basically telling the world, “We do the same things, but for gay people it’s sin. Lust is good, objectifying my body is normal, the fulfillment of all desire is good.” Then, on the other hand, she says to the gay and lesbian world, “But you can’t do any of this, because you’re different.” …

I believe the gay, lesbian, bi and transsexual groups pose the defining test case of the decade for the witness of the church in the new post-Christendom contexts of North America. And we evangelicals are failing miserably. The broader evangelical church of my heritage has, generally speaking, not been capable of speaking (any kind of) truth into the sexual lives of anyone—nevermind the gay/lesbian community. We have been hitherto incapable (theologically) of embodying the sexual redemption made possible in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And until we get our own communities to line up with the sexual redemption in Christ, to the gay community we look like empty, judgmental, duplicitous fools who see everyone else as thieves stealing away our enjoyment. …

In my opinion, most evangelicals date and marry much like the rest of society, where an unexamined sexualized attraction is a guiding factor. We teach that lust before marriage is bad, yet lust after marriage is good (implicitly). In our practice of salvation, there is no formation of desire to be integrated and developed into a narrative of self-giving love and commitment to mutuality, self giving and procreation over time in marriage. Without a communal witness of love and redemptive sexual healing, our words are empty. …

I believe we need to become the kind of community that

a.) does not indulge hyper romanticist notions of sexuality that objectifies sexual attraction as the basis of heterosexual marriage,

b.) quits disembodying sexuality in the way we do whenever we make the Bible into moral propositions that should be enforced instead of a narrative world to be shaped and directed towards so as to live into.

c.) worships in a way that orders desires towards God and away from narcissism (feel-good pep-rallies), for any other kind of worship cannot train us out of our narcissistic obsessions with sex.

d.) stops acting like heterosexual marriage and sex itself are absolutely essential for a fulfilling Christian life. We should elevate celibacy/singleness as a vocation, testifying that sexual drive and all desire needs to be sub-ordered to God’s purpose and mission for anything remotely fulfilling to take place in our lives.

e.) loves and nurtures the hurting souls and bruised lost ones who seriously desire to be shown another way but are too consumed at this moment to see anything else.

Oh, wow. That’s kind of harsh, don’t you think? I mean, is Miss California (now the ex-Miss California) a proper symbol for the Christian view of sex? Or is she a symbol for what’s wrong with the Christian view of sex?

And then, I also came across this article from Prodigal Jon at “Stuff Christians Like” —

If Zondervan lets me write a second book, I’ll probably title it “How to grow a huge church in 1 easy step.” And inside the book, which I will insist on having my picture on, will be a single piece of paper. (Talk about being green!) And on that piece of paper will be the secret to instant church growth.

Want to know it? Want a sneak peek or really I guess it’s not a peek so much as it is the whole book? Here it is:

“If you want to grow your church instantly, do a sermon series about sex.” …

Some [of the following titles of sermons series] are fake and are from my head. See if you can guess which ones are which:

Sexy sermon series or something Jon made up?

1. “Yourultimatelover.com”
A. That’s a real sermon series.
B. Jon made that up.

2. “Great Sex for You”
A. That’s a real sermon series.
B. Jon made that up.

3. “Bringing Sexy Back”
A. That’s a real sermon series.
B. Jon made that up.

4. “Electric Sex”
A. That’s a real sermon series.
B. Jon made that up.

5. “Whatsbetweenthesheets.com”
A. That’s a real sermon series.
B. Jon made that up.

6. “Desperatesexlives.com”
A. That’s a real sermon series.
B. Jon made that up.

7. “Solomon is the OT’s version of the musician Prince. Love notes from a man whose awesomeness with the ladies eventually brought him to ruin.”
A. That’s a real sermon series.
B. Jon made that up.

How’d you do? Want the answer key? OK, they’re all real. Each one of those titles was from a church sermon series.

The National Review

Oh, and this month’s National Review has the former Miss California as its cover girl! Maggie Gallagher, who co-wrote The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially with Linda Waite, says,

Carrie Prejean — a young, beautiful woman who did nothing other than answer a question honestly in a beauty pageant — gave permission to conservative cultural elites to talk about the gay-marriage issue, and so gave ordinary Americans permission to tell pollsters what they really think.

I think there’s some truth in that, but what is it that the Christian church should say about gay marriage? How do we defend to an unbelieving world God’s choice to bless heterosexual unions and judge homosexual unions sinful?

The question posed

And so, what’s the real theology of sexuality that we should be teaching?

(By the way, The Case for Marriage is a must-read for ministers, I think — especially youth and campus ministers.)

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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12 Responses to Sex, the Church, and Miss California: The Question Posed

  1. Alan says:

    How do we defend to an unbelieving world God’s choice to bless heterosexual unions and judge homosexual unions sinful?

    Don't lead with that topic. The unbelieving world doesn't have the necessary foundational understandings, so it just won't make sense to them.

    The real answer lies in Genesis, and is further clarified in Lev 20, and in Rom 1, and in 1 Cor 6, and in a multitude of other passages.

  2. nick gill says:

    We teach that lust before marriage is bad, yet lust after marriage is good (implicitly).

    This is a *big* deal that we just don't address at all, and I think it is at the heart of our theological issues.

    I'd also disagree with Alan; any avoidance of the question will sound disingenuous.

    My response would be something like, "God doesn't bless every heterosexual union any more than he blesses homosexual unions. Have you looked at our society? All this wreckage is simple and clear proof that God doesn't bless heterosexual unions just because they're hetero. He blesses unions that strive to order themselves according to his creative intent."

  3. We aren't supposed to defend. We're supposed to demonstrate. Then, once we've done everything we can, we stand firm. If our marriages demonstrated the love that Jesus demonstrated, then we would have a platform from which to speak to our culture, and we would have some eager listeners.

    Pointing the finger at society while not having a practical alternate is what makes the church look foolish. Rather than rules, the Kingdom is about making things right.

  4. Alan says:

    I’d also disagree with Alan; any avoidance of the question will sound disingenuous.

    Jesus didn't lead with the topic of homosexuality. Paul didn't. Peter didn't. That topic plays only a bit part in the story. There's no point in going there until a foundation is laid about God and his dealings with man. Without that there is no basis to call for repentance. So you lead with the foundational parts. That is not avoidance.

  5. mark says:

    Is there a difference between moral absolutes and moral subjectivity?

    Does the virtues of virginity or singleness or lust free lifestyle give truly a better relation with God?

    Or is the mistakes of our lives and maturity to practice God fearing control give us the tools to teach purity?

  6. Alan says:

    Does the virtues of virginity or singleness or lust free lifestyle give truly a better relation with God?

    Paul thought so. (1 Cor 7).

  7. Gary says:

    First, kudos to Jay for trying to engage a matter that we find very difficult. Even more kudos to Brad, who I think gets at the heart of it with his concise comment. And it seems to me that Alan is on a similar track, and not avoiding the issue. I find several points of agreement with Nick as well.

    We (even the progressives among us) are all SO culturally-acclimated to a "rules-keeping" approach to "Christ-following" that we too-often feel compelled to embrace bright-line, rule-based, one-size-fits-all "answers" on issues of controversy. We've developed such an "issues-based" theology that we can't quite conceive how to make disciples without providing them with a handy set of rules for what is right and wrong.

    But didn't Jesus repeatedly emphasize that rules-keeping — even if they are "scripturally-based" rules — is not the answer? Didn't he and his disciples teach that it is grace, and Spirit, that transforms our hearts; something rules could never do?

    So why can't we "address" issues related to sex (as well as other important topics) by pointing out the folly of taking ANY rules-based approach? Why can't we tell folks instead that they should focus on God, and especially as he is revealed to us through Jesus, and with the aid of his Spirit, seek to discover His perfect and loving will for their lives and relationships, and "strive to order themselves according to his creative intent?"

    Like Alan, I don't think that is avoidance. I think it gets us out of the untenable position of trying to legislate, indoctrinate, micro-manage, and enforce a rules-based approach to Christ-following. We might just find more time and energy to demonstrate for them what that looks like. And maybe have a greater positive impact on those around us than we've ever witnessed.

  8. Jody B says:

    Good reading indeed. I thought what Fitch wrote. One of my friends and I were chatting the other day and he said, "We act like government endorsement of homosexual unions has destroyed the sanctity of marriage in our country. Well, that was done long ago when Hollywood stars could be married and divorced in a week".

    If we Christians don't treat marriage as sacred, then how in the world can we condemn homosexual unions? Judge not lest ye be jusdged by the same standard…

  9. Rich says:

    In his interesting book, "The Hidden Face of God", Gerald Schroeder discusses the God given differences in the male and female brain and provides some important conclusions.

    In describing the difference in male and female brain processing he says,

    "Though both women and men have the same general brain structure, and also left-hemisphere dominance, processing by the parallel lobes differs significantly. Neural connections between the two hemispheres have been reported to be larger in women than in men, both at the corpus callosum and at the connections between the two lobes of the cerebellum. The junctures facilitate the integration of the emotion and rhythm of the right hemisphere with the logic and language of the left hemisphere.:"

    The above physical differences in our brains lead to the following:

    "In standardized tests of skills, women in general do better at matching items having common characteristics. Men excel at rotating three-dimensional objects mentally. The language skills of women exceed those of men. Women develop language at a younger age. Men generally prove better at abstract math-like reasoning, while women are better at the details, at arithmetic, and at highly precise manual tasks. Men are better at archery, at hitting a target, catching a ball. Men can learn a travel route faster. Women are better at remembering landmarks along the way."

    Now for the point of this topic, Schroeder concludes,

    "Considering the spread of individual talents between the sexes, if each of us is willing to accept that being different does not mean being less valid, less valuable, less intelligent, then it seems a woman-plus-man team makes a very good combination for survival in a world that moment by moment poses a multiplicity of problems each begging its specific solution. That seems to be what nature had in mind with sex and also what the Bible had planned from the start. 'And the Eternal God said, 'It is not good for the Adam to be along; I will make a helper opposite him … Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be as one flesh' (Genesis 2:18,24)"

    pages 144-145

  10. Larry Short says:

    While Rich's quote is fine, let's not build morality or theology on it. There were many in the 1700s that "proved" that certain races should serve others because they were mentally or genetically made that way. Opinnion on the male & female brain may change.
    Now to Gary. God created man and woman, and has some idea as to how they function best. As referenced in comments above, homosexuality is not His option. That's not rule making its God respecting. For us to micromanange each others lives is pure Pharasee.
    One reason we are not good at talking lovingly with hurting homosexuals, divorcees, etc. is that we are not secure in our own selves. Sermon on the mount, suggests if eye causes you to sin……. I do not see many self mutilated folks. We can learn from alcholics programs, admit you problem & don't drink anymore. If you have lustful thoughts, maybe you should admit it, avoid pornography, night clubs, gay bars or whatever causes you to sin. Perhaps it our whole society is too enticing, become a single missionary to a moslem country! God is not always politically correct.

  11. adam davis says:

    I agree, here is a woman who flaunts her body to the world and says "lust after me" and then has the audacity to condemn gay "marriage." Carrie Prejean embodies what is very wrong with the American Chrstian view of sex.

    Miss California represent the flagrant self-righteous hypocrisy of what is wrong with the American Christians' view of sex. The American Christian's view is basically don't have sex before marriage, anything else goes just don't have sex before marriage.

    Our mistake in America is that we view holiness as a line that is for us to remain on the right side of rather than something to be passionately pursued. For example, our view on our speech is as long as we don't say those four lettered words so commonly used in movies, we are being pure in speech and not engaging in "corrupt and filthy communication." Yet many gossip, speak very hatefully and vile of others behind their back, belittle, etc but they think they're good people because they don't cuss. Our view of sexual purity follows the very same type of thinking. As long as we don't have sex before marriage we are okay. Yet lust, pornography, masturbating is ever a problem. Yet we think we're sexually pure before Almighty and Holy God because we haven't had intercourse.

    Such a view of holiness produces nothing but self-righteousness and hypocrisy and only hardens the heart. It is sickening that we would use Miss California as our model for purity and Christianity and it's a sad commentary on American Christianity.

  12. A. K. says:

    Amen to Adam's comments. I'm constantly reminded of the words of Jesus to the Pharisees by witnessing the hypocrisy of so many Christians. The self righteous mindset is more dangerous than the deadliest sins…. since sins are easy to define and see- but hypocrits are blinded by their own holiness, then they are filled with pride and find it harder than anyone to repent.

    I've been brought to my knees many times when God opened my eyes to the 'log' in my own eye, while i was picking at the 'splinter' in someone else.
    it seems Satan is corrupting God's body of people with his tricks and lies leading to sexual sins. he is especially attacking the men, since they are to be the spiritual leaders of home and church– if he can bring them down, he's brought it all down. Men need to wake up and fight the fight with the armor God gave them, instead of being cowards and letting Satan fill their eyes with lust, their hearts with unloyalty and their bodies with the desires of the flesh.
    God warns us of this. it's flesh or spirit. You can't lust after others while living in the spirit, even if the culture you live in has given you permission. most of the t/v shows many choose to watch are just tempting tricks of Satan. it doesn't have to be full fledged porn to be against God. God tells us he hates violence, lust, and any kind of uncleanliness. so why do so many christians choose to watch what they wouldn't want to become. the truth is, many become that in their hearts- but then wait on the Lord's Table on Sunday and forget that Jesus sees who they are and tells them 'he judges the heart' and the unclean cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.

    Lest stop making excuses and start hating what God hates and loving what God loves. that is how you know your whole heart, soul and mind is set towards him:) =the things you once desired will disgust you.
    Married couples are to be one SPIRITUAL union before God, making the marriage bed undefiled. After studying God's word about this topic, i quickly realized how wrong i had viewed this topic.
    Sex is a pure, beautiful gift from our creator. if at any time one of the marriage partners lusts after another, the marriage is defiled. making it unclean and unholy. only the blood of Jesus can cleanse the heart who seeks to be clean from ALL unrighteousness.
    God gave us the desire to be loved and have intimacy with our covenant parter…. he never gave anyone the desire of lust-

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