While I was growing up, I felt like I was taught a postmodern version of the 10 commandments:
- Worship the Trinity only
- Don’t love material possessions more than God
- Don’t swear
- Go to church every Sunday
- Obey your parents
- Don’t commit murder
- Don’t commit sexual sin including but not limited to: lust of the eyes, lust of the heart, pre-marital sex (including dry-humping, inappropriate fondling or caressing, oral sex; other grey areas may include: kissing, holding hands, cuddling, touching in any way, shape or form), extra-marital sex, polygamy, divorce and re-marriage, fantasy, indulgence in pornography, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transvestitism, intersexuality; other grey areas may include: masturbation & oral sex in marriage!
- Don’t steal
- Don’t lie
- Don’t be jealous
From my perspective “sexual sin” seemed to be the most talked about of all the postmodern-day commandments. In my teen years I heard stories about the days when parents used to disown their own daughters for coming home pregnant and unwed teenage mothers had their newborn babies forcibly removed.
I heard about young adult friends and family being stood down from being part of the church worship team because they either confessed to having premarital sex, were dobbed in for premarital sex, or became pregnant out of wedlock. I watched as some Christian couples made the fateful decision to move in together and about a minute later, felt unwelcome at church and left, only to return within a year or two when they were legally married. Others rushed down the aisle to cover-up the possibility that they may or may not have conceived before marriage.
I heard gossip about which young people at church were secretly having sex, which older married couples had confessed to sex before marriage, and the double-standards applied to elite members of the church whose sexual sins were kept forever on the down-low–presumably below the belt.
“Sexual immorality” always seemed to be dealt with more harshly than any other moral failing: pastors ex-communicated for adultery; pornography burning ceremonies; exorcisms performed on homosexuals; abortions to cover-up premarital sex; verbal abuse, gossip and slander about or toward the promiscuous; and a church-wide fear of admitting to any sort of temptation or mistake.
It’s interesting because we don’t stand down pastors who are clearly overweight, which indicates the likelihood of gluttony, laziness or both, but if there is a hint of sexual sin, you can bet-your-britches that pastor is in big trouble! Most of the time we don’t even discuss whether it is right or wrong to buy houses and cars that pollute our environment, destroy the ozone layer, wipe out forests and rape the earth, but we will talk incessantly about how much of a slut little miss so-and-so is, and how GLBTI people are really perverted heterosexuals! Just last year (2014) an American preacher said that God gave us clear instructions in Leviticus that we are to wipe out–and I do mean murder, which, by the way, goes against commandment number six–all homosexual people. Another pastor from New Zealand said he was praying that a certain gay man would off himself.
Why is the western church so obsessed about sex?
I don’t know about you, but I tend to obsess over the things that I covet. Commandment number ten: don’t be jealous. I once heard a poem that I have never forgotten:
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods
Not even a penny bun
But say thanks to the Lord that he did not forbid thee
To court thy neighbour’s son!”
I believe that the western church obsesses over sex because we are generally jealous. While I was a very chaste virgin in my early twenties, rarely masturbating and certainly not engaging in any sexual activities with other people, I envied every friend who became engaged and got married. A big part of this was because they were about to begin–or were already enjoying–their sex-life and I was still keeping my legs tightly crossed in abstinence. For some people, abstinence and virginity last longer than others, but most of the time, this is not because we don’t “want” to have sex.
I don’t think it’s all that much of a stretch to conclude that in the deepest parts of many virginal Christians’ hearts, there is a secret envy toward the more promiscuous. This is not necessarily because we want to indulge in promiscuity, but because we think it is unfair that other people get away with it, while we don’t. We feel disgusted by certain types of “slutty behaviour” because we would never conceive of doing such a thing! But our claim that we would never entertain the idea is a downright lie. It’s something we think with our cognitive minds, while our subconscious is still reacting in immature jealousy saying “that’s not fair!”
This is also known as self-righteousness.
When we think we are better than other people; that we would never traverse the boundary the way someone else has; that we would never even be comparably tempted; then we have succumbed to the delusion of our own self-righteousness.
Jesus said: “Anyone who looks at a woman [person] lustfully has already committed adultery with her [that person] in his [or her] heart,” Matthew 5:28 NIV. I do not believe for one second that there is a single Christian, or even a single human being (who has reached puberty), who has not committed adultery of the heart. We are all adulterers and no amount of abstinence, self-righteousness or judgemental pride toward other adulterers, is going to change that.
I am not writing this to condemn anyone. I am writing this to liberate people. We are all on an equal playing field. We are all sexually immoral. So why do we need to point the finger at other people’s sexuality and beg them to conform to our self-righteous standards?
“Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” John 8:7 NLT