Managing the Erotic Life

In Boston, more Catholic priests made the news as serial pedophiles. In California, two pastors got 4 million hits in a week on their Web site for people addicted to pornography. Twenty-three percent of the male Protestant pastors sampled in a Christianity Today survey admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives.

What's a Christian to do?

While some prefer to "just say no" to the bunny brand, most people need a safe place to ask honest questions about managing their erotic lives. Do we bury our sexuality in public, then practice prurient behavior in private? Do we let the culture set the boundaries of our sexual mores and ditch Christian teaching as hopelessly archaic? How do we develop healthy and holy sexual disciplines?

Historically, the Catholic church has laid down sexual laws that reflect a certain imperial attitude: Have as many children as possible in order to spread Catholicism far and wide. Protestant teaching emphasized that sex should be dour, painful, and an assigned duty of marriage. It was definitely not something one talked about. As Christians we have a lot of bad history to overcome. Maybe we should add "sex is good, sex is holy" to our daily prayers.

It's also true that sex is not the be-all-and-end-all experience that our culture makes it out to be. Television, movies, music, commercials, billboards, and certain American presidents all tell us that sex is a necessary part of being powerful. What we learn is that our sexuality is chattel bought and sold in the marketplace. It goes to the highest bidder.

How can we recover a sacred sexuality? Sex is one of a whole range of ways that we incarnate God. Sex can be recreational, relational, reproductive. It is primarily sacramental (which hopefully includes all of the above). We can be our best selves—and our worst selves—when we are our sexual selves.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2002
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