1299) Who Invented Sex?

By my favorite living Christian author, Philip Yancey, in his October 16, 2016 blog at http://www.philipyancey.com , adapted from his book A Skeptic’s Guide to Faith, Zondervan, 2009 (previously published as Rumors of Another World, 2003).

—————–

     Elk rutting season has just ended in Colorado, and thousands of spectator-filled cars lined the roads of parks and wildlife preserves to watch the show.  I simply had to look out the window:  witness this photo I took in my backyard.

elk

     Elk are large hoofed mammals—like deer on steroids—that can weigh up to 700 pounds.  For eleven months of the year they hang out in segregated herds of cows and bulls, contentedly munching on grass.  In early fall, however, their behavior changes dramatically.  The bulls strut about, stomping their feet in a rumbling display of intimidation, and look for other male elk to challenge.

     Through the spring and summer, the bulls have grown spectacular racks of jagged antlers.  Come September, they start jousting with other bulls, at first practicing with head feints and then progressing to serious, antler-clashing combat.  Sound from the collisions echoes through the canyon where I live, punctuated by the bulls’ high-pitched screams known as ‘bugling.’  

     As you might have guessed, the goal of all this activity is mating.  After fighting off younger bulls, the winner takes possession of a harem of fifty to a hundred cows.  Then, for the next two weeks, he exhausts himself in a round-the-clock orgy.

Image result for elk pictures in the wild

    “You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel,” belts out a popular rock band from the 90’s.  The problem with that philosophy—a common view of modern sexuality—is that we humans don’t do it like other mammals.

     Elk take no precautions of privacy, acting out their instincts on a municipal golf course or even in my backyard.  Afterward, they don’t give sex another thought for eleven months.  Sex for them is a seasonal, reproductive act, and nothing more.  As winter approaches, the bulls lose their antlers, reconvene in herds, and look for more grass to eat.

     Humans, like all mammals, experience sex as a powerful force.  But I have yet to meet a hormonal teenager who does it like the elk: fighting for dominance, enjoying scores of conquests in broad daylight, and then setting aside all thoughts of sex for the next eleven months.  Relationship, intimacy, exclusivity, commitment, love—we humans want something more from our sexual experience.

     Zoologists puzzle over the oddity of human sexuality, unable to find any evolutionary advantage in sex that does not lead to reproduction.  Like the elk, most mammals confine their sexual activity to a specified time period: once or twice a year, when the female is in heat.  Humans have no such restrictions, and continue to enjoy sex long after their reproductive years have passed.  Why are we so oversexed?  Some scientists conclude that for humans sex represents a huge waste of time—certainly true if fertilization is the only goal.  (The elk demonstrate sex at its most efficient.)

     Christians look back to the book of Genesis, when God presented woman as an answer to man’s deep loneliness.  “They will become one flesh,” says the author, who then adds the telling observation, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”  Sex is God’s great gift.  Yet, somehow, over the centuries Christianity has gained a reputation of being anti-sex.  Outside the church, people think of God as the stern spoil-sport of human sexuality, forgetting that God invented sex, in all its strange and exotic varieties across the species.

     I mention the church’s attitude toward sex because I believe we Christians bear some responsibility for the counter-reaction so evident in modern society.  Jesus reserved his harshest words for sins such as hypocrisy, pride, greed, injustice, and legalism.  Yet we who follow him use the word “immoral” to signify sexual sins almost exclusively, and reserve church discipline for those who fail sexually.

     Perhaps worse, in its prudery the church has silenced a powerful rumor of transcendence that could point to the Creator of human sexuality, who invested in it far more meaning than most modern people can imagine.  Sexual power lives on, but few see in that power a clue to the One who designed it.

     (We are more than mammals, so) we don’t do it like other mammals on the Discovery Channel.  Animals do it forcibly, scripted by their genes, at certain times of the year.  Humans cultivate a relationship between consenting parties, best protected in a long-term commitment.  In every aspect, human sexuality encourages relationship.  We get to know, and make love to, not a body but a person.

     When sex becomes a mere transaction—as in prostitution, or pornography viewed online—we instinctively recognize the lie.  No amount of immediate pleasure can silence the nagging sense that naked intimacy should involve more than body parts.  Indeed, even our promiscuous society frowns on leaders (past presidents or current candidates) who, elk-like, act in predatory ways toward the opposite sex.

     G.K. Chesterton said, “Man is not a balloon going up into the sky, nor a mole burrowing merely in the earth; but rather a thing like a tree, whose roots are fed from the earth, while its highest branches seem to rise almost to the stars.”  He was expressing the most basic fact of Christian anthropology.  The gospel calls us to cast off the simple “biology is destiny” formula and to reach farther and higher toward spiritual reality.  In short, we are asked to transcend biological destiny and prove that we are more than animals.

     We are never more god-like than in the act of sex, as the New Testament passages often read at weddings make clear.  This most human act hints at the nature of spiritual reality.  We make ourselves vulnerable.  We risk.  We give and receive in a simultaneous act.  Quite literally we make one flesh out of two, experiencing for a brief time a unity like no other.  Independent beings offer their inmost selves, in a sign of promised faithfulness, and experience not a loss but a gain.

     What about when we fail to meet that lofty ideal?  Jesus set the example of how to respond by showing great tenderness to those who had failed sexually.  Recognizing the depth of their pain, he offered forgiveness and not judgment.

     Even the pain that lingers after sexual betrayal stands, oddly enough, as an indirect proof of sexuality’s original design.  Those who test that design, and fail, in the process gain a haunting sense of what we are missing.  As humans, we want desperately to connect, to grow in personal intimacy even as we progress in sexual intimacy.  We want to be fully known and fully loved, and we feel betrayed when sex doesn’t lead there.

     Sheltering sex within marriage and fidelity does not guarantee that we’ll realize perfect union with another person.  It may, however, create an environment of safety, intimacy, and trust where the true meaning of sex, the sacramental meaning, at times breaks through. 

     If only the elk could understand what they’re missing.

*********************************

Genesis 1:27  —  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:24  —  …A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:25  —  Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

*********************************

Image result for wedding prayer images

1248) On the Wrong Side of History?

Two articles from http://www.breakpoint.org:  the first by Eric Metaxas, posted September 8, 2016; the second by Chuck Colson, posted October 10, 2014.

————————-

PROGRESSIVELY REGRESSIVE SEXUALITY

     Sexual progressives claim to be ushering in a “brave new world” of freedom.  But their “new” morality is as old as the hills.

     How often have you heard sexual progressives claim that those of us who hold to traditional sexual morality and marriage are “on the wrong side of history?”

     But as one new book points out, it’s the proponents of the sexual revolution who are embracing a sexual morality that history left behind millennia ago— in the dusty ruins of the Roman Forum.

     Yes, today Western civilization is undergoing a dramatic cultural shift.  In just a few short years our society has fundamentally altered the meaning of marriage, embraced the notion that men can become women, and is now promoting the idea that grown men should be welcome to share a bathroom with women and young girls.  Not unexpectedly, we’re also seeing movement toward the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, and incest.

     It’s precisely in times like this that we need some historical perspective.  Which is why Lutheran pastor Matthew Rueger’s new book, Sexual Morality in a Christless World, is a timely godsend.  In it, Rueger shows how Christian sexual morality rocked the pagan world of ancient Rome.  The notions of self-giving love, sexual chastity, and marital fidelity were foreign, even shocking to the people of that time.

     Citing existing scholarship, Rueger details the Roman sexual worldview that prevailed for hundreds of years.  Women and children were viewed as sexual objects; slaves— male and female– could expect to be raped; there was widespread prostitution; and predatory homosexuality was common.  Christian sexual morality might have been seen as repressive by the licentious, but it was a gift from God for their victims.

     Rueger writes that “Claims in our day of being progressive and moving forward by accepting the ‘new prevailing views on sexuality and same-sex marriage’ are horribly misinformed … Contemporary views about sexuality are simply a revival of an older and much less loving view of the world.”

     But they are also a revival of an older and impoverished view of human beings.  Imagine the reaction of a pagan Roman slave girl who learned for the first time that she had value— not monetary value as a piece of goods to be enjoyed or discarded by her owner— but eternal value because she was made in the very image of God.

     Or imagine the pang of conscience felt by an unfaithful Roman husband when he learned that God became incarnate, and took on human flesh, and that how he treated his own body and the bodies of others mattered to God.  Mattered immensely.

     Folks, we can’t look away and ignore this unholy revival of pagan sexuality and its cheapened view of human beings.  But we also can’t wring our hands in fear or throw them up in defeat.  As Rueger points out, Christ and His Church radically transformed a far more sexually cruel and chaotic world than ours.

     Look to those ancient believers who went before us:  Rather than succumbing to or accommodating the spirit of the age, new converts in the early Church came to understand, as Rueger writes, that “Christian morality is based on Christ’s all-encompassing purity and self-emptying love… Christians could no longer live as the Greeks or Romans.  Their worldview and self-view was distinctly different.  They were now one with Christ in heart and soul.”

     Now, their distinctiveness, as Rueger writes, “would not spare them from suffering; it would invite suffering.”  It’s pretty clear now that the same holds true for us.  Will we bend the knee to this revived pagan sexuality, or will we hold out to a needy world the freedom of God’s plan for human sexuality?

————————————-

JUDAISM’S SEXUAL REVOLUTION;  WHY JUDAISM REJECTED HOMOSEXUALITY

     So often we hear that allowing two men or two women to marry won’t hurt anyone, and certainly not “straight” people.  Well, the truth is, we already know what happens when a society promotes sexual license and devalues marriage.  We just have to look at history.

     Way back before anyone was talking about so-called “gay marriage,” radio talk show host and Jewish theologian Dennis Prager wrote a fascinating article called —  get ready for this —  “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality.”

     Before the Jews were placed in the Ancient Near East, the pagan world was already a sexual free-for-all that debased women, boys, and religion itself in the service of male lust.  Every aspect of life was sexualized.  The pagan gods engaged in no-holds-barred sex, and so did the people.  Homosexuality had almost unquestioned acceptance in the ancient world.

     But the key issue wasn’t gender, it was power.  Prager quotes philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who wrote, “The central distinction in [ancient] sexual morality was … between active and passive roles.”  Because boys and women were on the receiving end of sexual activity, they were “very often treated interchangeably as [simple] objects of [male] desire.”

     Not surprisingly, then, women were relegated to the sidelines, important for giving birth and running the home, but not important as real and equal partners to men, who had other sexual options —  with boys and other men.

     That’s why Judaism’s claim that God created sex only for a man and a woman in marriage was so revolutionary — and despised by ancient pagans and modern pagans, I might add, as well.  As Genesis said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

     Prager writes, “This revolution forced the sexual genie into the marital bottle.  It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, it heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and it began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.”  No wonder,” Prager notes, that the “improvement of the condition of women has only occurred in Western civilization,” which historically has been the “least tolerant of homosexuality.”

     Of course, I should note that it was the Apostle Paul who further carried this Jewish sexual revolution throughout the ancient world.  As Sarah Ruden wrote in her recent book Paul Among the People, predatory homosexuality was common in Rome and Greece; women and children were just property.

     Through Paul, however, Christianity ensured that western civilization promoted sex within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman, and placed off limits the sexual abuse of boys and slaves.

     Now the point is simply this:  God instituted marriage for the good of man (restraining and channeling his sexuality), for the protection and dignity of women, and the flourishing of human society.

     Western civilization, the greatest ever, took this to heart, but forgets it now at its own peril.

Image result for G. k. cHESTERTON QUOTE IMAGES fences

*************************************************************

Matthew 19:4-6  —  “Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Romans 1:21-22a  —  Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

Romans 1:24  —  Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator— who is forever praised.

Romans 1:26-27a  —   Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.

*************************************************************

O God, you command us not to commit adultery.  May we so fear and love you that in matters of sex our words and conduct are pure and honorable, and that husband and wife may love and respect each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Prayer based on 6th commandment and its meaning in the The Small Catechism by Martin Luther

502) The Joy of Sex

This article was written by Jim Tonkowich and was originally posted at:   http://www.ReligionToday.com   

     The Joy of Sex was first published in 1972.  Written by Dr. Alex Comfort (Yes, that was really his name), it carries the subtitle A Gourmet’s Guide to Lovemaking.  According to the introduction:  “the people we are addressing are the adventurous and uninhibited lovers who want to find the limits of their ability to enjoy sex.”  The book advocates “sex as play” with the primary end being adult physical pleasure.

     There are chapters on all things sexual with one rather glaring omission.  There’s no chapter on pregnancy and childbirth.  Yet babies (how quickly we forget—assuming we ever knew) are the primary point of sex, which engages our “reproductive organs.”

     To the popular mind—perhaps even the popular Christian mind—that statement is, of course, ridiculous.  Babies, we think, are not the point of sex.  They along with venereal diseases are among the hazards of sex, things to be avoided.  Whether it’s fighting about laws governing abortion or arguing about the HHS Mandate concerning free contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, or counseling couples about to be married (pastors take notice), we spend much more time and energy on the prevention babies than we do on welcoming them.

     But last week we welcomed a baby and I held Omie Louise Tonkowich for the first time a few hours after her birth.  Omie is our second grandchild and, along with her brother, a joy to hold and behold.

     Sitting with Omie in my arms, I thought of C. S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory. “There are no ordinary people,” he wrote, “You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

     He might have added that it is immortals whom we conceive (or strive with all our might to avoid conceiving), immortals to whom we give birth, immortals whom we swaddle and embrace, and immortals whom we nurture through childhood.

     Conceived by means of sex, Omie’s life dwarfs that of “nations, cultures, arts, civilizations” in duration, dignity, and value.  Theirs is to hers “as the life of a gnat.”  Dr. Comfort and our joy-of-sex culture that he helped create have a one-dimensional view of sex, focusing on pleasant activities with body parts and miss the larger and much greater point:  sex gives us a share of the creative power of God by involving us in the making of immortals.

     God’s command to Adam and Eve was, after all, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).  It wasn’t, “Have a lot of fun with your body parts”—though He who designed and created the human body created sexual pleasure as well.

     Thus we can’t deny the good of pleasure and spousal unity that are part of sex.  The sexual coming together of a man and a woman as they give themselves to one another and receive one another is, in fact, an expression of our being made in the image of God.

     As George Weigel writes regarding John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” in Witness to Hope:  “…This yearning for radical giving of self and receiving of another, which Adam symbolically affirms by recognizing Eve as ‘flesh of my flesh,’ is at the foundation of our humanity.”  Then he goes on, “It carries with it, ‘from the beginning,’ the blessing of fertility, another way human persons are images of God, for procreation reproduces the mystery of creation.”

     Not long after The Joy of Sex came out, the National Lampoon satirized it in The Job of Sex.  If sex is a matter of proper technique, it will become—and has become—tiresome.  If sex is a matter of pleasure for pleasure’s sake, it will become—and has become—compulsive.  Worst of all, if sex is simply a bit of fun between adults, not unlike gourmet dining, it will become—and has become—trivial.  Stripped of procreation, it’s just another hobby—a fun, pleasurable, even exciting hobby, but just another hobby that people do together.

     Sitting in the hospital holding Omie, it was easy to see beyond the cultural blinders for there in my arms was the joy of sex.

********************************************

Genesis 1:27  —  God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:28a  —  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number…”

Genesis 2:23-24  —  The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

********************************************

THANKSGIVING AFTER THE BIRTH OF A CHILD from Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal:  Occasional Services Book (1958):

O Lord our God, Creator of all that exists:  We thank thee for the joy of a new life begun, and for the privilege bestowed upon us of being participants with thee in the ongoing stream of life.  Grant that these blessings may be continued to our children and our children’s children, that all generations may praise thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.