the sex knot - part 3

Here is Part 1 and Part 2.

So now that I have elaborated about my view of the responsibilities that come alongside having a healthy relationship with sex, I feel more comfortable eventually delving into the two major current debates that I have been having with various Christians over the past year: gay marriage and abortion. I don't write this to convert anyone to my side of thinking. As a debater, my biggest issue is that I understand where the people that disagree with me are coming from (because I have been them), and so I don't take a stand and say "this is my opinion." Normally I say "well this is the other side that disagrees with what you're saying." I actually believe that if God's will can be identified in any of this, it is the will that both sides be represented enough to have the struggle. Will it reach an inevitable conclusion? If we look at the past to arguments that have been similar, like slavery, racism, misogyny- we're still working them out all over the world, so I would say, not until Jesus returns.

But anyway, in my view, both the debates on gay rights and pro-life/pro-choice actually come to debates about sex. This may seem surprising because no one ever actually mentions sex itself, the closest people come is talking about babies. Just like in regular life, actually talking about sex open and honestly is avoided. I believe this is because people have had no practice and are not comfortable discussing sex with other people. It always gets awkward. Thus, my emphasis on understanding the sex knot in our brains and passing that information on as open and honestly as possible, first to those closest to us that require the benefit. If we want these debates to progress beyond where they are at, we have to raise the level of dialogue. We have to get to the root of the issue. We have to be more open and honest about what we all think about sex. Eventually, we have to own our opinions about sex and share them with people who don't know us very well.

Why don't we share what we think about sex now? Why don't we struggle through the awkwardness? It's because on the other side of the awkwardness is the threat of judgement. Even now, as I write these words, a part of my mind is wondering who is going to look down on me for them. For my culture, where I come from, I squarely place blame for this on the church- it's all tied up in their history. I have a general understanding of how following Jesus became a legalistic and judgment based religion, which I think would be helpful to share. Note that I am presenting this in an incredibly simplified manner, and also, there is definitely a strong bias towards the Anabaptist perspective.

The first Christians were Jewish. They were Jews that believed Jesus was The Messiah. At the time, there were people who followed other men that were not Jesus, but were also claiming to be The Messiah. When those "messiahs" died, so did their movements. This did not happen with Jesus, in fact the inverse happened, (arguably) because of His resurrection. Soon after Jesus walked the earth, He revealed to the disciples that followed him: not only was he the Messiah for the Jews but for the rest of the world as well! This is when the Jewish Christians started falling out of favour with the other Jews, because they were mixing with people who were "unclean." Then the Christians started falling out of favour with the Romans (who are ruling) because Ceaser was supposed to be their god, and no matter what way you slice it they couldn't recognize him as such. So for about 300 years being identified as a Christian meant people would probably try to kill you. But then, Constantine is the Roman Emperor and he becomes a Christian! The problem is being a ruler of an empire (which is always in a battle to conquer land or defend it) alongside following the way of Jesus makes you a huge hypocrite and threatens the existence of your Empire. But, if the Christians could reconcile this problem then they could stop being murdered!
How could Constantine be a Christian AND an Emperor? Enter Augustine. Augustine was probably not the first person to twist around Jesus' words such that it was suddenly OK to kill people in His name, but Augustine is certainly the most famous first person to do it. People still quote Augustine's writings today, his logic (especially when it comes to war) is still held as sound. Now the church had a place of power, and with it they exerted control. The church formed opinions on lots of different things which they implemented like laws. So from Jesus, the Man who said no human (aside from himself) is in a righteous enough position to judge another human; the Man whose main adversaries are the Pharisees (Jews that care more about following the letter of the law than understanding its intention); the Man who gave us the new commandment: to love God above all else and then to love others as we love ourselves... In Jesus' name the church turns into a judgemental, legalistic, institution of persecution. And the biggest legalism they fixate on is sexual purity.

I'm talking pre-protestant reformation still. The biggest authorities on sex were people who had vowed never to have sex! This can only produce ignorance. Then the protestant reformation happens. The reformation was essentially a whole bunch of Christians saying "Dear Church, you are so judgemental you can't even follow your own rules. We're leaving- you're now the Catholics. Peace out."  And then those new Protestants were like "OK people, this is the RIGHT way to judge other people." So while the new Protestants reformed a lot of the legalism that had been introduced into following Jesus, they kept a lot of it too. Including the sexual purity stuff. So, now days, while it might be fine in certain denominations for a leader of a church to have a wife and engage in sex (WHAT?!), we still hold to these ideas that were made up by the early church in order to control sex and a lot of Christians still use these ideas to pass judgement on other people- including hypothetical ones. 

I understand where the ideas of sexual purity come from in the bible- and I'm not trying to say they are wrong. The bible is a tool, used so that one can connect with God. It's not a weapon to be used to cut other people down. The problem I have is that people hold on to sexual purity so tightly that they let go of other ideas Jesus spent way more of his teachings on. Imagine if Christians cared as much about controlling urges to judge people as they do about controlling urges to have sex with people. Or as much about taking care of the poor. We would live in a different world.

*A note on my lack of sources: 
If you are curious about something I have said, feel free to message me or leave a comment. My opinions and ideas have been formed over years of study, so right now I just have a list of the general major influences that have created these thoughts. The things I present as fact are things that were presented as fact to me, and then sat in my head for a long time- this is only my perspective, only how I see the world. If you want to know more about where my perspective comes from check out:


the sex knot - part 2

If you have't read Part 1, start there.

Why do we have sex knots in our brains? the answer to that question is almost as complex as our knots themselves. We could be quick to point a finger at religions and claim they are the problem, but that is an oversimplification. The problem is legalism, or the making of rules, in situations where rules alone shouldn't be made. I was just listening to this sermon, From Moses to Jesus, and the ever-wise Bruxy Cavey said something to the effect of: rules exist where there is either a lack of love or a lack of maturity. When you have both love and maturity, you don't need rules because you desire within yourself, within your heart, to follow the ideas that the rules would give you.

Maturity and love are both things that are achieved through understanding. If all we can understand is the physical effect sex has on us and we never look at the emotional affects. If we never try to unravel our sex knot, then we can't have love or maturity in our relationship with sex. And we most definitely can not pass the ability of having love and maturity in our relationship with sex on to anyone else. So we are left with rules. Rules we have given to ourselves and rules that we project on to other people. Rules that we can use as a check list when we're trying to decide something that involves sex.

Healthy sex is easily achieved within a healthy monogamous relationship because there is maturity, trust and love in place. In a healthy relationship, the emotional attachment to the person is healthy- it is mature, it is full of love. You want to show the person you are with that you love and care for them, so you demonstrate it by making healthy decisions when it comes to sex. You have a healthy relationship with a person and by benefit you obtain a healthy relationship with sex itself. This is the reason why the idea of only having sex after you have entered marriage is encouraged. This is the reason religions have come up with the rule. They assume a marriage is a healthy relationship between two people, and so they can assume that those two people together can achieve a healthy idea of what sex is and how it should be used.

There are two problems that are ignored when spouting the idea. The first, obviously, being that just because two people are married, it doesn't mean they have a healthy relationship, and it's quite possible within their relationship that sex is being used as a weapon, as leverage... any number of bad things.
The bigger problem, I think, is that the context of the healthy relationship with the idea of sex is incredibly limited. If a person achieves their healthy relationship with sex as a consequence of being in a healthy monogamous relationship, they can't automatically explain to someone not in a healthy monogamous relationship how to have a healthy relationship with the idea of sex. With lots of things in life I like to do what I call "the teenager test." I think about how I would explain something to a teenager, a person smart enough to understand but without enough life experience to really know anything. You have to make them believe what you are saying and why you are saying it, otherwise they will just have to learn by building up their own experiences. In this case, if I only understand a healthy relationship with sex as combined with a marriage relationship (or equivalent), the only thing I can say to a teenager for guidance of how to have a healthy relationship with sex is to say "wait until you have what I have." To a teenager, who is filled with hormones, curiosity and no real concept of time relative to life, this is a failure.

We know it is a failure because studies show that teenager who get abstinence only sex education do not refrain from sex any more than teenagers with other types of sex education. It fails because people don't understand why they should wait. And no one is helping them maneuver the questions that follow the command. The irony you come to realize growing up is that all the adults that are telling you to wait: they didn't wait. Yes there are exceptions, but those people are normally much more expressive about their personal experiences. When you tell someone to wait, you have to elaborate. You have to share your experiences that brought you to the conclusion. You have to unravel your sex knot and lay it out for their benefit. Even if you didn't wait. Even if you are just saying it because you're looking at your kid going "when did you turn 12?! I am so uncomfortable talking to you about sex!" They have to understand why, otherwise they will dive in head first with the physical part of sex and realize the emotional consequences after the fact.

As a teenager, what I needed most was an honest, in depth and personal explanation of why a healthy relationship with the idea of sex should have been one of my top priorities as a developing person. Even if that came from a text book, it would have made an impact. I was missing an entire aspect of  my understanding about sex. I needed someone to give me a map and mark out some landmarks for me. I needed someone to say "you know the fact that you grew up without regular affection from your father has made you more emotionally vulnerable to any male that is willing to give you affection." But of course when it comes to talking to a teenager about sex, the prevailing argument is that it is irresponsible to give any kind of information that doesn't make sex look like a horrible thing. I reject this argument based solely on its simplicity and lack of context. Plus, the fact that the media has done an amazing job of explaining to children since before they can talk why sex is not a horrible thing.

This study (The Journal of Political Economy's The Effects of Sex Education on Teen Sexual Activity and Teen  Pregnancy) looks at the relationship between access to sexual education and sexual activity in teenagers from the 1970's. In the theory section, it says that "rational individuals become sexually active at the first age at which the perceived benefits from sex exceed the perceived costs." The map of my sex knot, the one I lay out to the next generation, is going to highlight the emotional costs of an unhealthy relationship with sex. I am assuming the kids will not have trouble figuring out the physical aspects on their own, so physically, the focus will be on using protection ALWAYS. The emotional side of things is what the sex knot is all about. It's easy to have sex, it's much more difficult to understand the effect sex has on you. Some people can handle the emotional effects, but many people don't understand what they are doing to themselves. Most people can't identify whether the sex they want to have is healthy or not. And society (read: the parent) doesn't help by just giving a single, limited context rule. We have to do better than that. And we do better not because it will help people follow our rules, but because it allows for love and maturity instead of rules.


the sex knot - part 1

Marc and I get together with a group of Christians who speak English every week. We have been meeting regularly for about three months now, though the roots of the group go back nearly two years. I call it the English Fellowship Group in my head but it does not really have a name. There are a lot of interesting things about gathering this group in Denmark, but the main one is its inherent diversity. We have eight regular attendees that represent seven different countries, six different denominations and three separate local Danish churches. It's really amazing to have a discussion together about anything. We've been able, so far, to just spend our time talking without much structure. We are getting to know each other still, so there are topics that we just don't touch. Mostly, those topics involve sex.

In the past year, God has really challenged me to see the role sex plays in how I think about others. Because of this, I have realized (mainly through debates with people about abortion and homosexuality) that the relationship people have with the idea of sex is what often defines where they stand on a list of other topics. Now when I start debating with someone, I don't feel like they can really understand my personal position on these issues if they don't understand how I hold the idea of sex, and moreover, the struggles that I have gone through with the idea of sex in order to get to the place I am at. Sex, unfortunately for me, is not what people want to talk about when they are using the bible to prove why abortions or same-sex marriage are concepts God does not agree with.

My assumption is that people don't want to talk about sex because they don't know how. And they can't without automatically feeling uncomfortable in their own skin (I can't either, yet). It is hard to understand how you truly feel about a topic when, in public space, the first sensations you have are to cross your legs and clench your butt cheeks together. But,is that not really the beginning of the problem we have as people with our relationship to the idea of sex? we can't get comfortable enough to think about it. Maybe we like to feel sexy, but start talking about penetration and the impact of penetration on our emotional lives and we can't get out of our own way in order to enter a open and honest discussion. What do you really think about having sex? What has having sex taught you about yourself? What has having sex taught you about other people? Ok, now relax all your automatic defense mechanisms and actually try to answer.

The culture I come from (developed and westernized) has made huge strides in the last 40 years. Generally, we can now talk about the physical aspects of sex in a purely clinical way without too much nervous giggling or feeling naughty. As teenagers, we seem the most capable of being open and honest with ourselves about what we think when it comes to sex- but when you are incredibly curious about something you don't have a lot of time to waste on inhibitions. As we become adults, and the sex we have had or have not had teaches us, we seem to become more awkward. It is an awkwardness that comes from not knowing where to start. How do I describe what I have been through? It is a perpetually jumbled essay of ideas and influences that we've never learned to express. It's just a knot in our brains. And we can leave it a knot, but then we doom the generation that follows us into having a knot as well. If we choose to work on the knot, to try and unravel it, even a little, we open up more options for our children.

As humans we have two basic choices for how to learn about things: hearing how others have done them or doing them ourselves. No one ever talked to me about the emotional side or pleasurable side of sex. I learned about those things through doing them myself. I don't know anyone who hasn't learned about those things from doing. The only shared experiences I have ever heard are from peers- people in the same place as me in life, learning exactly as I am learning. I never had a person from another generation, from another walk of life explain any part of their emotional sex life to me at all. Maybe my Dad did a little bit, but definitely not before I had started learning on my own. I look back at my experiences now and I can see where learning from someone else would have significantly benefited me. I work really hard to remember this because I want to do things differently. I have a personal interest in my own child having more information than I did. But, I also feel like so many of the world's problems could be helped or even totally solved just by people learning how to share their emotional experience with sex... yes, I really did say world's problems.

Part 2 
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