As we have approached the end of Pride Month 2018, it seems just as good a time as any to say that I’m one of those weird LGBTQ affirming Christians. I haven’t always been because I’ve read the same Bible as you who disagree with me. I was more of the “I will love the sinner, hate the sin” style of Christian. That middle roading let me seem “cool” while still being wholly judgmental. Funny thing is, if you pretend to love people long enough, you will mess around and do it for real. You will meet and come to know real people in real situations that don’t make you abandon your beliefs but struggle to understand them better.
So while I read those same verses you read, I’ve also read about the context of the day these texts were written. How forcible non-consensual, age-inappropriate, ritualistic … well, assaults were more in line with the connotation of the Bible’s mentions of homosexuality. How there is an argument that the biblical writers are making the point that shows of immense eroticism to impress the gods … don’t impress this God. I understand the argument that loving, consensual relationships between two humans who happen to be of the “same-sex” may or may not be addressed in Scripture at all, and even if it is, there are fingerprints of societal bias to contend with. I understand that the “plain reading” may not be that plain.
Yet, I understand the argument that all the previous is pointless rhetoric. I am not here to convince you to be affirming if you are not. I am simply stating my position because if churches and Christ communities were still unsafe for Black men, I’d hope the ones that were safe would say something, so I’d know somewhere to go to know that God loved me too.
But even though I know I couldn’t change your mind about homosexuality and the LGBTQ community, could I convince you to think about their relationships a bit differently? Just for the exercise? See I have this weird idea: I think the thing we seem to get ourselves caught up on about same-sex relationships, is that we simply can’t get past the sex. We can’t get passed the sex of any kind of relationship. I’m not sure this is a surprising revelation for anyone raised in or around the Bible Belt, but we are notoriously sexually repressed and obsessed. It cannot be denied how stigmatized sex is for us in our westernized, Judeo-Christian(ish) Country – no matter where we individually sit along the belief spectrum.
At times it seems as though we think sex is the most important thing on earth, even to God. We explain, teach, and debate the biblical rules surrounding sex, incessantly. Sex influences how we speak, how we vote, and who we will and won’t spend our time, treasure, and talents on.
We develop “biblical rules” surrounding it, with the grimmest of consequences within the church structure and the psyche of anyone involved. We judge each other based on these rules even though almost no one follows or subscribes to them to the letter. Not even our biblical heroes.
(if we did, we would only have sex to have more kids, and we’d never fully trust our older unmarried brothers (Genesis 38:8-10). If we did, we’d wonder how Jacob could marry Leah, then marry her sister Rachel, (both his cousins) but still become “Israel” when Leviticus 18 bans such behaviors (Ch. 18.) Let’s not even get started on where Cain’s wife came from, or who Noah’s grandkids got freaky with. If we did, we’d wonder why God told Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2) while Paul says a member of Christ should never align with a harlot (I. Corinthians 6:15.) If we did, we’d think it was all of David’s “extra” wives that got Him in trouble with God, not just the one he killed someone for (2 Samuel 11.) And so on and so forth.
Still, we pick and choose our interpretations and contradictions, in a way that allows for the most “fun” sex our moral and cultural constitutions will allow for ourselves, while anything outside of that is used to condemn the rest.
In fact, it seems that we feel required to condemn the rest. We even go out of our way to issue creeds (official statements of faith?) about these rules of sexual condemnation in the midst of national disasters, drawing lines in the sand, literally equating belief in hetero-normative sex with belief in Christ Himself.
Sex, my friends, is kind of a big deal!
Hey, I get it! Sex is fun, and at times it can be awe-inspiring, earth-shattering, and life-altering.
It is also typically brief and infrequent … or so I hear.
But let me tell you what sex is not? It’s not a good reason to be in a relationship.
Yet, the people most intrinsically tied to the idea of marriage and the spiritual significance of the union, are the most obsessed with what kind of sex is going on within it. Who can and can’t have it? When and where can you have it? How often is too often or not often enough? With how many people in your lifetime? What if they aren’t the same religion, nationality, ethnicity, or political affiliation? What if they’re the same or similar gender? We cannot get enough of who is having sex with who. It’s front page news.
One of our biggest crimes, as a church, in my opinion, is having helped make sex so taboo that it is all anyone can think about. Part of the problem is that the church got so focused on “no sex outside of marriage” we lost our grip on the concept and purpose of both. Sex became this dirty thing you should never ever have or even talk about, and marriage became the hurdle you must jump over to get it without disappointing God. We are afraid to talk about sex. Our social norms and Christian discretion have created countless new words to the lexicon just to not say “sex.” There are rules for when and how to discuss it in polite company. We avoid direct references to it. We are incredibly sensitive to anything related to it. We are above it. We are better than our base desires.
But somewhere along the line, we got fancy and started calling it “making love”, I think we were well on our way to confusing it with love itself. We blended the idea of love and sexual attraction to a point they can’t be distinguished. They tend to follow each other, but they operate entirely different functions. They satisfy entirely different needs.
Many Christian marriages, sadly, begin as an obligation to avoid sin by “making an honest woman of her”, and not the birthplace of true love. Lifelong intimacy sacrificed for momentary integrity. Now exist many Christian marriages full of sex that remain loveless. Now exist many Christian marriages that have become sexless because they are loveless. Now exist many Christian marriages languishing in agony because they tried to “live right” (read: have proper Christian marital sex [probably missionary]) with the “wrong person” (read: first person with whom they had improper Christian pre-marital sex [probably miserable]). We have couples believing they are representing the love of Christ for the Church while never actually experiencing much of it. But as long as it checks the boxes, it must be holy, right?
So, what if we removed sex from the equation? What if marriage and relationship weren’t about who you had sex with but who you actually love? – who your soul longs for before your libido even wakes up?
I only ask because that’s the real question, isn’t it? When people say they want their love recognized, this is what they want. Not their sexual attractions or interactions; their identities and their love. They want… we all want, to simply experience this incredible blessing called life in the fullest ways; not with a hedonistic purpose but a relational one.
Love is not the right to have intercourse in a way that would otherwise offend your parents or your diety. Love is an undeniable, powerful force. That is why falling in love feels scary at first, you know it is wildly outside of your control like an ocean current. It will take you where it takes you. And Love, outside of sexual attraction, does what it wants with whoever it wants. Love is companionship. Love is an experience. Love just happens.
God, we are told, is Love Itself. Ever-flowing Communal Love.
Want me to tell you what Love is? Love is a great reason to be in a relationship.
We hear a lot about this idea of the lifelong covenantal union meant to signify the covenantal love between Christ and his bride the church.
Lifelong. Covenantal. Union.
That’s the beauty. That’s the key. That’s the goal. Yet, we are so preoccupied with sex, it overshadows the Union. How often have we heard someone’s spouse described as a “the one/last person I’m allowed to sleep with?” That is not how I would describe Christ’s feeling for the church, and while, yes, I personally prescribe to monogamy, I also realize sexual restriction is not the point of the union. What we need, what this union is for, as my lovely spouse would put it, is someone to “do life” with.
Actually, there’s a story in the Bible about relationship where God plants a garden and fills it with all kinds of vegetation and animals. Every kind had its kind. Then God, taking his time, forms Adam (or The Human) with His bare hands. He breathes life into the human and gives him the garden to tend. God allows The Human to name each of the animals, but soon it becomes clear they each have companions and The Human does not. A realization that was perhaps the point of the exercise. Before God created Eve, (Life), He allowed The Human to understand and experience the desire for a companion. Not a sexual partner. A partner.
God allowed Adam to feel about Eve, what God felt about humanity. Once the Human understood, God gave him Life. He gave a “helpmeet”. That which completes you even if you thought you were complete already. Someone who evinces a smile from your heart, mind, and soul.
Someone who, when you are at your absolute lowest, darkest, rawest and most vulnerable points in life, willingly comes down there to meet you, standing next to you in it, whether they can help you back up or not.
Someone who understands how your brain pieces things together, compliments it and becomes its complement. Someone to who “out of sight, out of mind” never seems to apply because nothing is real until you’ve told them about it.
Someone whose coffee order you get just right.
Someone you can build a home with, change a career for, cry in front of, and fold underwear with.
Someone to stumble through raising children with. Someone you are comfortable enough to fight with one minute and dance with the next.
Someone to grow old with. Someone to grow old for. Someone who wants to take of you, and some you want to take care of. Someone your heart would break to lose or even miss. Someone who will miss you.
Someone who makes wading through the mess worth it. Someone to give your life to. Someone to give your life for. Someone to love deeply, infinitely, eternally and beyond all logical reason just as Christ loves the Church.
Someone to be a partner, a friend, a helpmeet, your undeniable, powerful force. Someone you feel so strongly for, the emotion itself improves your understanding of a Loving God.
That someone is, whoever it is, there is nothing you can do about it.
And that has nothing to do with sex.
…Sex is just a bonus.