Homosexuality and good sex

Posted: April 18, 2013 by J in Bible, Church, Pastoral issues, Theology
Tags: ,

The Joy Of Sex first edition cover from 1972

They became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools… For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged the natural good of sexual intercourse for unnatural,  27 and in the same way also the men, giving up the natural good of sex with women, were consumed with passion for one another.                           Romans 1:21-27

Paul is telling the story of how mankind, by losing its connection with God, became confused and disordered, and lost its connection with ‘the good’. We lost wisdom, and turned to foolish and destructive ways. Morality, for Paul, is inseparable from wisdom.

This is not primarily a story about the malice of mankind, about deliberate evil – though that comes later. It is mainly about the darkening of our minds, about folly – embracing evil as good and rejecting good as evil. Mankind rejected the worship of God – which gives life – and turned to the worship of created things – which degrades. The good things they had they neglected and lost. What they turned to instead was not good but harmful.

In this context Paul mentions sexual behaviour, as a key area in which this folly is played out. First he makes the point that they gave up the good of sex. Sex was a natural good, part of the good of a good creation, to be enjoyed, man with woman and woman with man. But they turned away from that to something not in line with nature, something unnatural: homosexuality. That’s a bad deal. Humans were duped, taken in, ripped off. Scammed.

If we are to tell this story to our society, we’ll be telling a story about how things are in the created order. It’s a story that starts with the blessedness God intended for us and built into the nature of the world. The creation is not neutral: it’s good. We need to start by talking about the natural good of sex.

When our spokesmen sound off about the evils of homosexual practice, the problem is they sound like men who aren’t getting much sex themselves, and aren’t that worried about it. They speak of sin, but not of loss. We don’t hear them saying, ‘These people are losing out’. There’s none of Paul’s emphasis on an exchange.

In other words, we’re only hearing half the story, the second half. The theology that helps make sense of all this is often sadly lacking. The positive message of the good creation, of sex as a created blessing, which we Christians should be boasting in, that is largely bypassed. We go straight for the negative.

Here’s what I think Paul would want to hear injected into this debate:

Isn’t sex good! It’s just amazing that we get to enjoy this wonderful blessing together, this radiant expression and consummation of our love. And to make babies! Babies are good too. We have been made male and female: sexuality is built into our humanity, it’s natural and right and good, something to be celebrated. Sex is so good, it seems too good to be true. But it is true, it’s a gift for us humans to enjoy as we make families together.

When we do that, when a man and woman come together and form and sexual union and have babies and start a family – they become more fully human, they fulfil their humanity in a new way. They learn to love in a new and fuller way. We grow as human beings through this gift. Thank God he gave us sex! God is that sort of generous God.

Once we’ve said that, then we’ve got some context to discuss questions like homosexual practice. The key word is going to be exchange.

I don’t hear much of this message in our evangelical circles. I think our bad theology of creation hinders us. Usually when we talk about sex, we sound anxious. We talk about it largely as a problem.

Our message about sex needs to be much more positive, and much less worried, if the negative is to get a hearing. The world (and indeed our own people in the church) get the impression we evangelicals are not that keen on sex.

But if we don’t love sex, then I think Paul would say we haven’t got much to offer on the homosexual issue.

  1. Charlie Ellis says:

    Very interesting view, Jono. Haven’t heard that perspective on the homosexual debate really at all. I applaud your approach. It is refreshing, and I think more true to scripture. Maybe something like what you’ve said is ‘assumed’ as pretext to any debate. Maybe it’s been assumed for a long time. So long, in fact, that it’s been forgotten. Or maybe it is because heterosexuals, even heterosexual Christians, still have their own ‘problems’ with sex. Maybe there’s is not necessarily ‘something to be celebrated’. I dunno, maybe we need to explore more about what redeemed sex is like. For everybody. Maybe that would give a clearer context for the debate to go on. A bit like what Jesus says with the plank in one’s own eye….

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks for your comments Charlie. Yes I think this positive stuff is kind of assumed by us Christians when we talk about homosexuality. But the world out there doesn’t hear our assumptions! They just hear the negative stuff we say. And often we too lose sight of those background assumptions. They might logically underpin our position, but if we’re not conscious of the created good of sex and family, we won’t be equiped to deal with this issue helpfully.

      And yes, it doesn’t help having so many of our own problems with sex, either. From what I hear the internet and TV have brought porn right into the homes of church people, so we’re in pretty bad trouble ourselves.

  2. verberat says:

    There is nothing wrong with encouraging full acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality in society. Gay sex can be beautifully intimate and it certainly won’t hurt anyone. It should be seen as normal and equal to heterosexuality, because it is! A huge benefit to society is that same-sex couples can adopt babies to give them a loving home and family.

    • J says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, verberat.

      I have heard and read so many reports and studies of health and mental health problems amongst people with a gay lifestyle, that I find it hard to agree with what you say.

      Here in Australia, a state government website says:

      Gay men and lesbians have higher rates of mental health disorders than the rest of the population. They also have higher rates of obesity, smoking and unsafe alcohol and drug use, and are more likely to self-harm.

      The promiscuous lifestyle that is so much a part of the male gay community leads to a higher rate of STDs including HPV virus, and of other dangerous viruses such as hepatitis viruses. This is widely acknowledged by medical authorities, which urge people of a gay lifestyle to get regular checks for these diseases.

      This is the context in which a discussion of gay sex practices should take place. I don’t think it’s as simple as saying ‘gay sex won’t hurt anyone.’ And I’m not sure that it’s helpful to try to normalise something with so many health/mental health risks associated.

      Whatever people’s view point on the rights or wrongs of it all, I do think it’s helpful to be upfront about the facts connected with a gay lifestyle.

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