OMG, this post makes me so angry!
It starts well. Rachel Pietka begins by saying that
Although these conversations [that evangelicals are having about abstinence and sex] are evidence that Christians are forming a more candid, holistic and theologically sound discourse about sex, an area that still needs more attention is the far-reaching effects of abstinence rhetoric on marriage.
While the movement is great at detailing— and exaggerating—the benefits of saving sex for marriage, it is dishonest about the challenges abstinence presents to couples who eventually tie the knot.
Yes, totally – I couldn’t agree more!
Pietka then references a Salon post where the writer, Jessica Ciencin Henriquez talks about her own tragic story of abstinence-gone-wrong. It’s a story about sexual incompatibility, disappointment, and divorce. In her conclusion, Henriquez writes:
Without having sex before marriage, I blindly walked up an aisle and committed myself to a man who didn’t know me and gave my long-held virginity to someone with whom I had no more chemistry than a second cousin.
And here’s where the Pietka article flies off the rails into WTF-land. Out of nowhere, she makes the claim that
sexual compatibility does not matter to Christians when choosing a spouse…
Pietka doesn’t support this claim theologically, biblically, or any other way – probably because there is no support for it!
Now to be fair, what she’s trying to do is ensure that Christians don’t make good sex into an idol – “sex is not our God.” I’m down with that. However, when she goes on to say that in order to avoid sexual idolatry we need to be
willing to make a commitment to someone with whom we may be sexually incompatible, with whom we may never have good sex, because the purpose of marriage is not pleasure, but formation,
I want to tear my hair out. (And I like my hair.)
This. Is. Not. The. Gospel!
For one thing, Christ never said, “I came that they may have life, and have it indifferently.” No, he said that he came that we might have life abundantly!
And I have no idea where her claim that “the purpose of marriage is not pleasure, but formation” comes from. Even if we set aside the fact that she never substantiates this statement, it’s still indefensible. Because what kind of people are we being formed into if we’re called to live our lives in pleasureless marriages?
And then there’s this line:
Although sex is indeed God’s gift to us, Christians are not directly commanded by God to have great sex.
Well, yeah, okay, but the opposite is also true – that Christians are not directly commanded by God to have bad sex.
And then there’s this stunning statement:
Sexual incompatibility, therefore, is a cross that some couples bear, and Christian communities could lighten this burden if we made an effort to put sex in its rightful place. If sex were viewed as a gift that, like everything else in this world, is marred by sin, it may be easier for couples to accept that bad sex is neither a reason for divorce nor an excuse to stop investing in a marriage. As with other trials, bad sex is an opportunity to rejoice in suffering (1 Peter 4:13) and to be further conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
I mean, in a nutshell, what Pietka seems to be saying is, “Be abstinent, wait until you’re married to have sex, and then if the sex is bad after that, well suck it up because at least you don’t have to hang on an actual cross – just a sexually unfulfilling cross. Sucks to live in a fallen world, doesn’t it?”
And no, bad sex is NOT an opportunity to rejoice in suffering! It is an opportunity to open up new lines of communication with your partner so that both of you can find and experience the pleasure that God designed our bodies to feel.
As Old Testament scholar, Tremper Longman notes in his commentary on the Song of Songs,
God is interested in us as whole people. We are not souls encased in a husk of flesh. The Song celebrates the joys of physical touch, the exhilaration of of exotic scents, the sweet sound of an intimate voice, the taste of another’s body… The Song affirms human love, intimate relationship, sensuality, and sexuality.1
In closing, I’d like to say that while I appreciate Pietka’s idea that we can’t worship sex (good or bad) above God, what she neglects is the idea that people like Peter Rollins are pointing out: that anything can become an idol, even purity, even marriage, even God.
Image source and the article I’m critiquing: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/christians-are-not-called-have-amazing-sex