Stewardship of Sexuality: A Christian call for Sex Positivity

Ruth Marston

Guest post from…Ruth Marston recently graduated from Claremont School of Theology with a Master of Divinity Degree. She is in the process of ordination with the United Methodist Church and will soon be beginning her very first pastoral placement in Washington.  

One Sunday morning a few years ago, back from college for the summer, I was sitting in Puyallup United Methodist, joining my family in the same pew we had been sitting in for the past fifty years.  The associate pastor stood up and invited all the teens to a weekend retreat sponsored by the church.  I grinned as I listened to the topics that would be discussed: How to use a condom and other forms of birth control; how should Christians teens understand sex; and, perhaps the most important topic, a two-hour guided conversation with the teens and their parents about their experiences, expectations, and concerns about sex.  Our church was stepping into the void left by our town’s conservative school board and offering safer sex education to the children of our church. 

This wasn’t the first time that positive connotations had been given to sexuality, nor would it be the last time that I heard sex talked about in the middle of a church service.  This is a highly unusual experience. 

For a couple of millennia abstinence and celibacy were upheld as the ideal models for Christian sexual practice.  Marriage was offered for those who must be depraved enough to be sexually active.  Those relationships outside of marriage were labeled fornication or adultery.  This model however fails to provide adequate protection against sexual violence.  Violations can occur inside of marriages.  Those who have been victims of sexual violence face similar or greater repercussions as their abusers.  These strict guidelines of what not to do leaves those we are called upon to care at risk of abuse.

Our squeamishness does not give us the certainty that we will need to address these problems of sexual violence.  As we have seen throughout the week with each of these posts our silence or stumbling has not helped those in our care.  Christians are called to care for the least of those among us and it is well past the time that we start recognizing that care also means giving people the tools and the responsibilities to say no. 

Therefore we need to start articulating both “sex positive” and Christian models for sexuality.  At its best, sexuality is about connection, communicating love for one another.  It is union, joy, and trust.  As the mystics taught us, there is bliss in our relationship to God.  Let us understand that sexuality can be an echo of that bliss in one another.   

Let us declare that Christian sex is based in mutuality, an equitable relationship without abuse or power differentials marring it.  Sexuality should be safe with our unwavering trust in our partner.   Let us say that a Christian sexual virtue is consenuality and that it can only be achieved through honest, unembarrassed conversation before sexual expression occurs.  Let us say that we must leave room for the Holy Spirit between two people, because respect, friendship and love must be inspired by and present in the relationship between two people before that relationship becomes sexual.

As my denomination, the United Methodist Church states: “Sexuality is God’s good gift.”  And we as Christians should encourage people to be good stewards of that gift; we are owners of our bodies and entrusted with that special care.  Positive sexuality isn’t leading to promiscuity, quite the opposite.  It’s insisting that each and every single one of these yes’s be present before that final yes.  Since every potential for sexual encounter will not meet even this basic criteria, there will be a lot of Christians saying, “No, I’m not ready for this yet,” taking place.  We will say no, not because we are afraid of having sexual relationships, but because we understand what a positive and important commitment that it is in the first place. We as Christians should invite God into all aspects of our life and into all parts of our relationships, including the sexual aspects of our lives. 

So, by all means, let us have more sexual education retreats for youth groups.  Let us start talking about what consent looks like from the pulpit.  Let us start having Bible studies work through what trust means.  This is not a time for taboo and shame, but articulation and hope. 

Because once we start actually saying what a beautiful gift of sexuality God gave to us, than we can absolutely say how any kind of sexual violence is not, and never will be, Christian. 

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1 Comment

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One response to “Stewardship of Sexuality: A Christian call for Sex Positivity

  1. Pingback: Stewardship of Sexuality: A Christian call for Sex Positivity | Our Stories Untold

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