All of a sudden, sex is everywhere in the Christian blogosphere. Seattle megachurch pastor Judah Smith is starting a sermon series called “Jesus is bringing sexy back.” This Friday, Texas megachurch pastor Ed Young is going to lie in bed with his wife on the roof of their church as a 24 hour “sexperiment” (hopefully without doing anything that will get them hypothermia) in order to promote their book Sexperiment which challenges Christian spouses to have sex 7 days in a row as a way to reinvigorate their marriage. Then of course there’s Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage book.
I guess I’m supposed to say that I’m glad evangelical Christians are “finally talking about sex,” but didn’t this already happen? I thought it stopped being taboo for evangelical Christians to talk about sex at least a decade ago. Why are evangelical pastors pretending that this year for the first time it’s safe to jump into “such a controversial topic”? I’m sorry, but if I were a young adult “seeker” and the local megachurch pastor tried doing a sermon series on sex to “reach me,” I would be a bit insulted.
I see a larger problem here too though. I’m just not sure that sex is something we should be talking about. I understand the need to ease the fears of evangelical newlyweds who have spent their adolescence and young adulthood seeing their virginity as the single greatest concrete measure of their Christian discipleship. But how does it take away the pressures and dysfunctions of the marriage bed for us to read books that tell us there is a right way to be with our spouses and give us the 5 or 7 or 12 steps we need to follow in order to bat a thousand? What if it doesn’t work because I’m wondering if it’s going to work, which is the way things don’t work at certain moments in time?
I wish sex could be a mysterious journey that two people took together without knowing or caring how other people were doing it. I think that’s the main reason why God wants us to wait until we’re with our partner for life: so that we can discover the beautiful mystery at the same time together. To me, the problem with having multiple partners is that it makes sex into a performance or technique rather than a mystery. It makes it a commodity to be consumed rather than a holy sacrament in which two people experience the intimacy of the divine embrace.
To me, this is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:32 that marriage is a mysterious illustration of the oneness of Christ and the church (Greek mysterion = Latin sacramentum, by the way). I think Paul is saying that the perfect moment of physically intimate self-abandon that defines marriage is what unity with Christ in heaven will be like. But it can’t be that way if it’s a performance. It seems like there’s more than one way to kill this beautiful mystery of marriage. I’m not sure that reading a celebrity pastor’s how-to guide isn’t one of them.