By Chuck Colson
- Question 59: Don’t all the negative rules Christians have about sex come from a hatred for the body? Don’t they treat the body as if it were dirty?
- Question 60: Why are Christians so hung up about sex?
- Question 61: Why should I wait to have sex until I’m married?
- Question 62: But everybody takes having sex before marriage for granted. How can our whole society be wrong?
- Question 63: But a guy needs sex. Isn’t it just a natural function?
- Question 79: My school hands out condoms. If kids are going to have sex, isn’t it important for them to practice safe sex?
QUESTION 59: Don’t all the negative rules Christians have about sex come from a hatred for the body? Don’t they treat the body as if it were dirty?
The tendency to view the human body as unclean arises from the belief that we can split the mind and body; this is called dualism. This error has afflicted not only Christianity but also many other ways of thinking in every culture and time.
We saw a horrible instance of this in the tragic Heaven’s Gate cult. The cult members were easy to recognize. Every time they left their Rancho Santa Fe mansion, they looked exactly alike: they all sported black clothing, Nike sneakers, and buzz-cut hair. When police entered the mansion and found the bodies, they first thought that all thirty-nine cult members were young men.
One of the most puzzling aspects of this strange cult was their obsessive conformity. But the explanation is actually simple. The Heaven’s Gate cult taught a philosophy that is based in a hatred of all things physical—especially the physical body.
The cult members believed that to achieve salvation they had to shed their earthly bodies. They viewed the body as a sort of prison that has entrapped the soul, and they believed that salvation would occur when the soul left the body. That’s why they referred to their bodies as “vehicles” or “containers.” (Interestingly this is the principle used to justify promiscuity: Treat the body as if it were distinct from the self—a lie that serves both bestial and falsely transcendent purposes.) The cult prohibited marriage and all sexual activity and tried to avoid what they called “all human-mammalian behavior.”
Like the Heaven’s Gate members, all dualists believe not only in the existence of a radical split between the body and the soul but also that the human body and material world are evil.
Dualism had a particularly damaging influence on the Christian church in its early centuries. But it was rightly denounced as a heresy because Scripture explicitly rejects dualism. Genesis teaches that God created the heavens and the earth, including the human body. God said that he was pleased with his creation. The apostle Paul refers to our body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and writes to Timothy, “Everything God created is good” (1 Tim. 4:4).
As Paul Tillich writes, this is the meaning of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” By this confession, Christianity separated itself from the dualism that was inherent in paganism. In the Christian understanding, body, mind, and soul are one. It is the modern secularist who demeans the human body, demanding control over it and considering it something to be used for one’s pleasure.
The biblical message is clear: The human body itself is not evil; it’s the desires of the flesh—things like fornication, jealousy, and drunkenness—that are sinful and must be brought under control.
That’s why it’s so important to grasp the full message of the biblical worldview. Christianity’s appreciation for the goodness of creation leads us to value that creation, including the body; we are meant to care for the body by not violating its moral order. Christianity’s prohibitions against premarital sex, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual license are not repressive rules meant to deny us pleasure. They are there to respect human dignity and to enable the Christian’s freedom in the true pleasures of being God’s creatures.
QUESTION 60: Why are Christians so hung up about sex?
Many people besides our teenagers believe that it’s not healthy to repress our feelings, that we would all be better off if sex became just one of life’s great pleasures. President Clinton’s AIDS policy coordinator once called America a repressed Victorian society. The very idea of teaching kids to say no to sex, Kristine Gebbie said, is “criminal.” It “spreads fear,” robbing children of a positive view of sexuality. What we really ought to teach kids, Gebbie went on, is that sex is “an essentially pleasurable and important thing.”
In the America I know, we’re so repressed that people like Madonna can make a fortune from sexual posturing. So Victorian that every other commercial uses sexual innuendo to sell products. So puritanical that Playboy and Hustler are sold at neighborhood 7-Eleven stores.
I think we can safely say that people already know sexuality is a “pleasurable thing.” What they desperately need to learn is that sex can actually be much more satisfying when kept within the bounds of biblical morality.
Statistics indicate that modern-day “Victorians”—the name some people give to conservative Christians—actually enjoy the most satisfying sex lives. Several years ago Redbook magazine ran a reader survey and found, to its own surprise, that women who characterized themselves as “strongly religious” reported greater sexual satisfaction than the nonreligious survey respondents.
In fact, at the same time Ms. Gebbie was delivering her blasts against conservative sexual morality, the Southern Baptists were holding a fall festival entitled “Celebrating Sex in Your Marriage.” Richard Land, spokesperson for the denomination, commented that Ms. Gebbie seems to be equating abstinence outside marriage with a low view of sex within marriage.
But the biblical ethic does not teach a low view of sex. If Ms. Gebbie would take a closer look at the Book that shapes the attitudes of those supposedly Victorian Christians, she would find the most positive sex-education program ever designed. Far from repressing sexuality, the Bible celebrates it.
The Song of Solomon is a tender picture of the desire a husband and wife feel for one another.
The New Testament takes this attitude even further, with Paul teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 that husbands and wives should not deprive one another of sexual relations—that sexuality is an important part of the marriage relationship.
Imagine that: The Bible actually orders married couples not to deny their sexual desires.
QUESTION 61: Why should I wait to have sex until I’m married?
Once again, the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and marriage centers on who God made us to be—the type of creatures we are. We are not just a mind that resides in a body. We don’t use our body like a conveyance or tool for particular purposes. Mind and body compose a unity: They are one. Any sexual act represents a giving of the person—the whole person—to another. That’s why the Bible speaks of marriage as two people becoming “one flesh.” That’s what happens literally, and the union of our bodies has a psychological and spiritual dimension whether or not we like it.
Real love … can stand the test of time without physical intimacy. The sexually active lose objectivity.
Scripture is also clear about the impact of sexual sin: “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body” (1 Cor. 6:18, NLT).
As Princeton professor Robert George said in “Why Integrity Matters,” a speech given at the National Prayer Breakfast, “Where sex is sought purely for pleasure, or as a means of inducing feelings of emotional closeness, or for some other extrinsic [impersonal] end, the body is reduced to the status of sub-personal, purely instrumental, reality. This existential separation of the body and the conscious and the experiential part of the self serves literally to dis-integrate the person. It takes the person apart, so the good of having it all together—being a dynamically unified actor, body, mind, and spirit in harmony—is destroyed.”
In other words, the promiscuous person pledges himself or herself to love the other person through the act of sexual intercourse but then denies this same commitment mentally. The break that comes between the meaning of the action and the person’s own feeling about it inevitably creates emotional and spiritual suffering. The person lives a lie. He or she may lose the ability to distinguish real emotions from their counterfeits; the person may, in fact, damage or destroy his or her ability to love.
This may seem extreme, but how else would one account for our eroticized culture and the popular complaint of both sexes that love is impossible to find?
I was watching a wonderful old movie the other day, Yours, Mine, and Ours. The lead character (played by Henry Fonda) is taking his pregnant wife (played by Lucille Ball) to the hospital to have a baby. On the way there they stumble on their teenage daughter and her pawing boyfriend. The girl is fending off the boy’s advances but wondering exactly why. She says her boyfriend insists that she would sleep with him if she loved him.
Fonda points out that real love and real sex is about what he’s trying to do—get his wife to the hospital to usher new life into the world. ‘This is what it’s all about,” Fonda says. “If you want to know what love really is, take a good look around you. Take a good look at your mother.”
Lucille Ball interjects, “Not now.”
“Yes now,” Fonda says. “Till you’re ready for it all, the rest is just a big fraud…. Life isn’t a love-in. It’s the dishes and the shoe repairman and ground round instead of roast beef.”
His daughter tries to counter her father, “But Larry [her boyfriend] said—”
Fonda interrupts. “I’ll tell you something else. It isn’t going to bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him. It’s getting up in the morning facing the drab, miserable, wonderful, everyday world with him that counts.”
QUESTION 62: But everybody takes having sex before marriage for granted. How can our whole society be wrong?
Sadly, this teenage observation is dead right. Sex outside of marriage is the norm in almost every sitcom, movie, and love song. For a teenager to resist people’s common expectations becomes a heroic and profoundly countercultural act.
No man or woman, boy or girl, should put their trust in a piece of rubber. A condom never stopped a person from experiencing a broken heart or a shattered dream no matter how many you put on. For singles—
SAFE SEX IS NO SEX. Period.
That’s a 100 percent guarantee.
A. C. GREEN,
But some young people are responding to this challenge. “Everyone” doesn’t go along with the mass media message.
A recent issue of American Demographics magazine introduced readers to Ryan K., a nineteen-year-old student at Georgetown University. While Ryan is in many respects like the kids you see depicted on the screen—right down to a pierced eyebrow—his attitudes toward sex and morality are remarkably traditional.
Ryan says he has no intention of living with a woman outside of marriage. He told American Demographics that he plans to have sex with his future bride for the first time on their wedding night.
And Ryan isn’t alone in his embrace of more traditional sexual mores. In the past two decades the number of eighteen- to twentyfour-year-olds who say “it’s always wrong to have sex before marriage” has doubled. In the past two years, the percentage of unmarried couples who live together has dropped by nearly a third—a staggering reversal of past trends.
Kirsty Doig, vice president of a market research group called Youth Intelligence, says these figures indicate a major new trend among the young—a trend she labels “neo-traditionalism.” Other experts agree, predicting a surge in teen marriages and larger families.
What’s even more fascinating than these trends are the reasons behind them. Doig told American Demographics that today’s eighteen- to twenty-four-year-olds “have not had a lot of stability in their lives.” As a result we’re seeing “a backlash, a return to tradition and ritual. And that includes marriage.”
This openness to tradition presents Christians with an incredible opportunity for witness. We know that as positive as these trends are, they are not enough. These kids are doing the right thing. Now they need to embrace the right reasons for doing these things.
By teaching your teenager about God’s purposes in creating sexuality, you can help him or her find the true fulfillment of sexuality in marriage and family. You can inspire a different set of expectations that will give your teenager a reason for rejecting common and totally misleading assumptions about premarital sex.
QUESTION 63: But a guy needs sex. Isn’t it just a natural function?
According to the New York Times, the city’s pools were the site of a fad called “the whirlpool.” Twenty to thirty boys would link arms in a circle and surround a solitary girl. The boys would close in on her, dunk her head under the water, tear off her bathing suit, and grab at her. The problem grew so severe that several teenage boys were arrested for sexual assault.
Reporters asked several teens how they accounted for the boys’ predatory behavior. “It’s nature,” one boy replied. “Look at a female dog and a male dog. It’s the same thing: You see twenty male dogs on a female dog. It’s the male nature, in a way.”
How utterly repugnant. But how utterly consistent with what these kids are being taught not only in schools but also in popular culture.
The great prophet of sex education was Alfred Kinsey, who built his theory of sexuality squarely on the foundation of scientific naturalism. Kinsey taught that humans are part of nature—nothing more. As a result, he evaluated every form of sexual activity in terms of its role in the lives of the lower species. Any behavior found among the lower animals Kinsey regarded as natural for humans as well.
In his words, it is “part of the normal mammalian picture.”
Kinsey—as we’ve seen with others—was working on the assumption of evolution. Evolution teaches an unbroken continuity between humans and the animal world. And if we are simply advanced animals, then our guide to behavior is whatever the animals do. As Kinsey puts it, in sexual matters humans should follow the example of “our mammalian forebears.”
Kinsey’s philosophy has been the authority among sex educators ever since the 1950s. And it sounds to me as if some New York boys have grasped it precisely. “Look at a female dog and a male dog” is merely a vernacular translation of Kinsey’s more sophisticated talk about “the normal mammalian picture.”
The Bible does not teach that we are merely dogs in heat. It teaches that we are bearers of the image of God. We are indeed creatures, but we have been made only a little lower than the angels (Ps. 8:5). We do not act just out of instinct. We choose not only how we act but also the basis on which we act.
Sex is not merely a natural function. It’s a profound expression, as we’ve said before, of body, mind, and spirit. The Bible says that through sexual intercourse a man and a woman become “one flesh,” meaning not merely that the two are joined physically but that through this physical union they pledge themselves to love one another. Sex without love is always a lie, because the sexual act contains an inherent meaning—an implicit promise—to love the other person. This meaning is not dependent on how we choose to think about what we are doing; it belongs to the act itself. And that’s why so much ill-feeling is generated by casual sex. One person or both people feel lied to, even if both people try to convince themselves they are only engaging in a pleasurable activity.
Over time promiscuous behavior can actually convince a person that sexuality exists only for our pleasure—just as over time any lie or rationalization becomes increasingly convincing. But promiscuity actually alienates the person from true emotion; the person is no longer able to understand the full meaning of sexual union. This is why the Bible teaches that fornication and adultery are sins against ourselves—they are lies we are telling ourselves. They are lies that have disastrous consequences in our emotional and spiritual lives.
QUESTION 79: My school hands out condoms. If kids are going to have sex, isn’t it important for them to practice safe sex?
Handing out condoms in school—especially without any counseling and without parents’ consent—gives students no inducement to do any serious thinking about sexual activity and its risks.
Much sex education today is aimed at making sexual activity a common experience devoid of deep meaning. Sex educators are worried that teens tend to treat sex as passionate, romantic, meaningful—that they get swept away by their feelings. These educators believe that teens are more likely to use birth control and condoms if sex is treated clinically, stripping it of its meaning.
Sex without significance. No commitment, no emotional involvement, simple animal pleasure.
What an incredible irony: In trying to teach young people to be responsible, public schools have adopted an irresponsible philosophy of sex. The only controls on sexual behavior that schools promote are utilitarian: Don’t get pregnant; don’t get AIDS.
Here, have a condom.
It’s preposterous to think that this approach to sex education can teach kids responsibility. Do we teach any other subject that way? It’s like teaching driver’s education by not mentioning any traffic laws and then counseling kids to practice “safe driving” by wearing seat belts. It’s like teaching football by ignoring the rules of the game and telling kids to practice “safe sports” by wearing pads.
The truth is that educators have abdicated their responsibility for moral training. They’ve given up. We can’t stop kids from having sex, the argument goes; the only thing we can do is help make it safe.
By that logic, Commonwealth magazine says, schools might just as well offer supervised sex. Provide students with clean, monitored bedrooms, with condoms discreetly placed on nearby nightstands.
Outlandish as it sounds, some parents have actually come to the same conclusion. The Washington Post interviewed several parents who allow their children to invite partners home for sex. The kids are going to do it anyway, the parents say; at least they’re safer in their own home.
The sad thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Studies show that teens do care what their parents think. They are receptive to moral guidance. Sex-education programs that teach morality have been well received.
That should come as no surprise. Teens are just like the rest of us: They respond positively to a challenge; they are attracted to adults who expect a lot of them, who believe in them.
Sex isn’t the equivalent of a volleyball game. Our teens already know this, even if some of their educators have forgotten it. Teens respect adults who know it too. You can talk to your teenagers about how unwise (and morally wrong) it is to have sex before marriage. You can point out that free condom distribution in the schools is misguided and endorses a point of view that can only make worse the problems these programs propose to remedy.
Chuck Colson, Answers To Your Kids’ Questions (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2000), 125-132, 161-162.