ust in 1991, Salt ‘N’ Pepa hit the radio waves, encouraging us to talk about sex, like it was something new and novel. Every generation that comes along likes to think that they are the first ones to think of sex — that sex is new and novel and that no one before them has thought about it in the same way they have. With the rise of television shows relatively glorifying teen pregnancy and the hot debate about Planned Parenthood (I don’t know the politics and don’t want to get into it), sex is all over the media, in both our news and entertainment resources. The topic of sex is in the minds and on the lips of nearly every person you meet.
Except for in our churches. The topic of sex was strangely absent from the one place that Christians look to for spiritual guidance. Naturally, one could conclude that Christians are abstaining from sex outside of marriage. Why would the church need to address a problem that wasn’t there, right? I struggled with sex, though. Maybe it was just me. So I created a survey and asked all the Christians I knew to participate. I don’t know how many people I sent it to, but 45 people participated. The survey was anonymous and the ages of the participants ranged from 17 to 50. Over half of them have had premarital sex. In a cross-section of Christians from all ages and walks of life, over HALF of them have had sex before marriage. When asked what the Bible says about sex before marriage, there were a few references to scripture and a general consensus that premarital sex was “wrong”, but there were some responses that stated that the “Bible says nothing about sex before marriage”. I can understand the argument about scripture being dated and not applicable to our culture or about the misinterpretation of the original language, but to say that it says nothing? Why has this issue not been addressed?
I’m not saying that churches don’t ever address it. There are churches that address it and schools that address it. But, like so many issues, it is seen as black and white: “Don’t have sex. Ever ever ever. Until you get married.” Okay, so that’s pretty decent advice. Keep your legs together. But… what happens when you sin? When you slip up and give in? There are a lot of potential sins out there that people struggle with. We are told not to lie, not to swear, and to contain our anger. We are taught how to work on correcting these behaviors if we struggle. However, we are not taught what to do next if we struggle with sexual sins.
We need to take the sage advice of Salt ‘N’ Pepa and actually talk about sex. We need to discuss it, voice our thoughts, our opinions, the scripture. We need to be able to address it from our pulpits and in our small groups. We need to be able to talk to our children, teens, peers and elders about this taboo subject. If a subject is swept under the rug, that does not mean that it ceases to exist — it just hides. Obviously, people are having sex despite what scriptures tell us to do. Disobeying scripture is not a novel idea — people have been doing it for years. In fact, people were disobeying scriptures as they were being written.
So how do we address it? So far, I have seen it shouted at me from the pulpit and whispered in camp cabins and dorms. Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way to talk about sex amongst ourselves? Should we keep it under wraps or teach our daughters and sons how to apply condoms in Sunday School classrooms? I vote for middle ground and honesty. We need to be able to talk about urges, needs, and desires with fellow Christians without judgement. We need to be able to talk to people who have been “through the trenches” about how they feel. We need to talk about more than potential pregnancy, STDs, and hellfire (the “Holy Trinity” of reasons to not have sex). We should be able to comfortably convey the tangible loneliness that comes from a physical relationship that abruptly ends and the physical ache that arrives after the guilt fades. We need to be able to lovingly convey that, while unwed mothers are still loved, their choices hurt the ones around them. We need to be able to teach our men to treat a woman with respect and adoration and in doing so, seeing the females around them as more than Transporters of Boobs. We can instill our young men and women — and our old men and women — in the ability to make wise choices. We obviously can not do that through the previous methods, so let’s try something new. Let’s talk about sex.