By Aaron Brown, Crosswalk.com
Sex, sex, and more sex. Sex sells, we hear, and how true is that? Movies, television, music videos, books, billboards, commercials. Where is sex not present? Even the church has been a place cited for sex, and for the wrong reasons. Sex is seemingly ubiquitous. Wherever we are, we can expect sex to follow. Or rather, wherever we are, we indulge in sex. For as long as I can remember, sex has been mainstream in America. During childhood, songs that came on the radio omitted curse words, but not “sex” or “sexy.” In my childish voice, I would sing along, saying those words only to be corrected by my parents. Why, I wondered. Then in middle school, I saw pornography for the first time. No one taught me how to find it, but find it I did. Easily. Years later in college, parties were a hodgepodge for people ready to hook up. And afterward, as an adult, if I so chose I could find sex by simply using a dating app.
Virginity is not admired today. To call someone a virgin is to insult them, not honor them. With this much pressure to be sexual, no one is surprised these days to hear about children viewing pornography. We aren’t even shocked to hear about children having willing sexual experiences. Why? We ourselves have become desensitized by our sexual culture.
God’s Design for Sex
In the case of what came first, the chicken or the egg, sex always followed marriage, at least in the Christian faith. Yet, in and outside of my social circle, such a practice is not true, not even with Christians. Sex is when, where, and however we want, so long as we have consent. Since when was God’s design for sex limited to consent? What about God’s consent to our actions?
We can reconcile these questions by going to Scripture, where the Bible gives us various depictions of sex and how sex should function within the confines of marriage.
Sex is reserved for the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4). Sex is meant to occur after two people, a man and a woman, have made a lifetime commitment to one another (Proverbs 5:18-19). While we may disagree with God and sinfully wish for something different – this is God’s choice. Do we know better than He (Job 40:1-2)?
There are those who believe so, as not only the definition of marriage changes, but the classifications of sex do as well. Men believe themselves capable of becoming women, and women attempt to become men. People identify as homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, omnisexual, and the list continues.
Whatever label we hold, there are no new sins we can invent today (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). And though American culture morphs along with the fascination with sex, as Christians we should not fall into that category.
We need to stand apart from the crowd and set a godly example. This does not mean ignoring others who think differently, humiliating them, or harming them. We are called to love (Matthew 22:39). In that sense of love, I spoke with writer Richard Jennis to discuss his views on sexuality.
Richard is a Jewish-born atheist who writes primarily about stories that relate to the LGBTQ community. We have discussed shame, marriage, and this time talk about sex. We have known one another for almost a decade, first meeting in college, and maintaining contact throughout the years. While we have clear commonalities: democracy, freedom of speech, comedy, horror, and writing, we also have clear disagreements. Sex falls into the latter group.
Here’s how our conversation unfolded.
Conversation with an Atheist on Sexuality
For our conservation, we will define sex as the engagement in arousing behavior that if continued for an extended time would result in the climax of a man or woman. And we will define sexuality as an individual’s expression toward a thing that arouses them. Do you agree with these definitions?
I would define sex as arousing behavior with at least one sexual partner and sexuality as an individual’s expression of attraction toward the sexes.
How do you define sex that occurs morally?
Non-incestuous, consensual sex between adults without manipulation or harm. I would also include non-adult teenagers of similar age who are close to adulthood.
Should we have a societal consensus on what constitutes moral sex? If possible, how do we reach such a consensus?
A basis for sexual morality is needed for our legal system, though discrepancies are bound to occur. The best we can do is have conversations on sexual morality and elect officials who share our views.
Why do you think religions, Christian or otherwise, see homosexuality, bisexuality, incest, pedophilia, necrophilia, and anything outside of heterosexuality as a sin?
There’s a cultural and textual precedent in many religions stating that the only kind of moral sex is between a husband and wife. Religions were trying to create order and establish morality.
Any idea why Christianity is cited as being homophobic, but not Islam?
Some people are afraid to criticize Islam for fear of seeming prejudice. Western Christian countries also often attract more media attention than Islamic countries. In reality, surveys show that Christians are significantly more likely to accept homosexuality than Muslims.
You and I are working on a particular novel series with phobia in the name. Is the term homophobic appropriate to call people who disagree with homosexuality? I’ve never heard the term heterophobic.
I consider homophobia to be a poor term. Homodiscomfort or homodisagreement would be more apt.
Can you name a prominent civilization that thrived off of homosexuality whether in relationship or marriage?
Naming such a civilization is difficult because homosexuality has been socially and legally forbidden for so long. Gay marriages are thriving in present-day US and Canada though, among several other nations to legalize gay marriage.
Can you name any that thrived off of heterosexuality?
England has long since celebrated heterosexual marriages as a basis for societal living arrangements, land inheritance, and the lineage of royal families.
I am aware that a more nuanced way of interpreting the Bible is that God is okay with homosexuality. However, outside of what people personally feel on the subject, have you read what we know God to think about homosexuality?
My reading and interpretation of the Bible is that God does not support homosexuality. Because I am a gay rights and gay marriage supporter, I disagree with the Bible in that regard. However, there are Christians who interpret the Bible and God to support homosexuality.
What is the possibility that all of humankind was wrong about homosexuality until today?
Extremely likely. Much of humanity has been wrong about many things up until a certain point: the morality of slavery, Earth’s place in the universe, child labor laws. It is absolutely essential that we not maintain concepts to be true or moral simply because there has been something of a popular consensus previously. Such logic is a barrier to progress.
Often we hear the question, “How many genders are there?” I think the correct question is, how many sexes are there? Language is gendered, clothing is gendered, both reflective of the sexes. What do you think?
I agree with your outlook. I believe there are two sexes, male and female. I agree that language, clothing, and other societal staples are expressions of gender.
No doubt you have witnessed or heard about children who are changing their gender. As I mentioned, people are not gendered, people have sexes, of which there are two. Sticking to the gender terminology though, is a child changing their gender to be encouraged or stopped?
I don’t think changing genders should be stopped or encouraged. Some people definitely live happier lives after transitioning and feel more themselves, others express doubts or regrets. Children changing their gender should definitely be an option, but a serious one.
Can a man become a woman or woman become a man if no one can change their chromosomes? Not only that, but a man cannot rework his genitals to where he would produce eggs.
No, a man can take on the features of a woman and a woman can take on the features of a man, but they cannot biologically change their sex.
As I have heard political pundit Matt Walsh state, the only criteria for sex today in America is consent. Not marriage, not love. If children can consent to such things as changing their gender or receiving hormonal treatment or surgery, what is to stop situations like pediastry from becoming mainstream? Why can children only sometimes give consent?
Society has already decided that children can only sometimes give consent. There is universally less concern surrounding fifteen-year-olds consenting to romantic relationships than consenting to sex. There are lower age restrictions for children working than their joining the military. We routinely make age distinctions. There are real cases in which children have been suicidal or committed suicide because they haven’t been able to transition. The need for this surgery is often great and I believe warrants a child’s input. There is no such need for children to have sex with adults.
If consent is all we need then why should we not legalize incestual relationships? Birth defects are more likely, but these couples don’t have to have children. There are women who abort children and those who get their tubes tied.
Incestuous relationships lead to a lot more psychological damage than non-incestuous relationships, so the goal is to avoid that trauma. Even with consent, there can still be substantial risk.
You and I agree that there are some significant issues with pornography. These problems include abuse of all kinds and suicide. Without grounding ourselves in a shared truth, such as God, how can our society ever agree on what constitutes acceptable, meaningful, and appropriate forms of sex?
As you stated, there are effects of pornography consumption such as abuse, depression, and poor relationships that can be measured and shown. Academically and scientifically speaking, truth should not rely on God, it should rely on empirical data and proof. Many Christians are totally split on issues such as gay marriage and abortion despite believing in the same God, so grounding ourselves in God doesn’t necessarily lead to shared truths anyway.
What’s one thing you want people to know about sex?
In US school districts in which religion guides sexual education and abstinence is stressed over birth control, STD rates, teen pregnancies, and abortion are consistently higher than districts that have comprehensive, secular sexual education. A robust sexual education is the solution to many sexual problems Christians identify.
Conversations like the one between Richard and I are beneficial for both parties because the end result is a reassessment of one’s beliefs and values. By asking questions and listening, we can sometimes find ourselves surprised at what we hear. This may offer us a chance to learn, or to teach.
May our conversation encourage you to have conversations of your own, whether with a nonbeliever, someone of a different faith, or even a Christian. We should be open to talking about sex with our parents, children, and definitely in the church. That’s how we find ourselves on one accord, and form agreements with people. Jesus communicated with the like-minded and those stuck in sin. We should strive to emulate this behavior too.
Whatever your views on sex, I pray that you would seek the Lord for guidance, and read His Word. The more we know truth, the less we will be led away by a deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9).
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images Prostock-Studio
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.