a curious christian attitude to sex

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The Christian Bible is quite clear in its attitude towards sex outside marriage: it’s very bad. So much so, the character Jesus, one of their gods, suggested that it is as much a sin to think about sex with someone other than your spouse, as it is to have sex with someone other than your spouse.

In Christian times gone by, sex was equated with lust, which was seen as a sin in any circumstances. The Bible is clear that earthly desires, including sexual desires in marriage, are sinful:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

‘Lust’ or ‘sensual passion’ or ‘inordinate affection’, depending on the translation, is clearly listed as being separate to fornication or sexual immorality, and therefore obviously referring to sex within marriage.

Indeed, the great church father St Augustine stated that sex should only be used for procreation:

The patriarchs possessed their wives for the work of procreation, not ‘in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.’ This is so great that many today would contain themselves more easily for their whole life from all intercourse than to hold to the norm of not uniting except for offspring, if they were to be joined by marriage. (The Good of Marriage)

And of course Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism was equally clear about the dangers of sex within marriage:

Whoever is too passionate in love-making commits adultery against his own wife. (Source)

So it’s curious that in our sexually enlightened world of today, where sex is generally understood to be a pleasant and positive experience, many Christian teachings have flipped the message to suit the mood of society. In the eyes of these Christians, women and men alike must be available to have sex with their spouse on any lustful whim, regardless of any extenuating circumstances on the part of the other:

What kind of woman refuses her husband access to her body? To me that’s as primal a responsibility as breast feeding my child; sleepy, sick, hungry, headache, dying in bed even, if its in my power to pour myself out for my family, it should be my pleasure. Sex and submission and mutual surrender are beautiful, wonderful gifts that God gives. (Emily Rose Lewis)

Dying in bed?? What about if she is of advanced years, in late stage dementia? Apparently if I don’t think an old woman with Alzheimer’s would enjoy sex with the now stranger she married, I am “sexually repressed”:

This guy was the woman’s husband and they had a relationship. It’s sad to me that some people can only see “rape” and not love and comfort. Do you know that intended her harm? No, but that is the automatic assumption. It’s interesting, because I find that to be a very sexually repressed idea. (Insanitybytes)

The automatic assumption by anyone with an ounce of sense is that someone who is institutionalised with dementia is unlikely to recognise their husband and unlikely to be able to give consent. As it turns out, the man was acquitted and his wife was in an earlier stage where she appears to have been able to make her own decisions. But the Christians were arguing that questioning the acts of the husband was a “horrible perversion of the whole idea of marital intimacy” before it was established what stage of dementia his wife had.

Curiously enough, after these two conversations I think I actually feel more comfortable with the old-fashioned Christians who only had sex for procreation.

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