Sunday, March 13, 2011

A few words on marriage. And sex.

We drove a couple of hours into the valley yesterday for a wedding -- the last remaining single nephew of the lovely Carol is now officially unavailable. Besides the important point that marriage is for "as long as we both shall live," the pastor gave the rest of us a short reminder regarding our duties to support the marriage: the point I remembered was not to ah, "talk steenk" (as we used to say as kids) about one partner to the other.

This could be a very poisonous thing to do -- particularly if we suspect there's some strain in the marriage. I mean, if "Don" and "Mary" might be having some issues, and we send Mary the subliminal (or not-so-) message that if she decided to dump Don, we could certainly understand, what with all the stunts he's pulled recently, etc. -- that could be a terribly destructive thing to do. (On the other hand, it could also be a brilliant support of the marriage, if we know for sure that she'll rise up to defend her husband from these unfair accusations, etc., but that's a risky proposition.).

Instead, we should remind each other that the vow is "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health" and that it really is a permanent deal, a promise.

This morning I heard a brilliant sermon on "I believe in God but I'm in charge of my sex life," where our pastor reminded us of the concept of "chastity" and how it applies to all of us, whether single or married. He explained that the exhortation to us in 1 Corinthians 6:18 ("Flee immorality... ") was not because sexual sins are more heinous in God's view; it's because the consequences are greater upon me, the sinner. It's a helpful reminder to me about the importance of chastity -- I don't want to be hobbled in my pursuit of God any more than I already am.

Something else I liked from this morning's sermon was a bit of dialog between a young, "modern" person who expressed incredulity at the idea of saving sex for marriage. "Nobody's a virgin when they get married these days. I mean, were you and your wife virgins when you got married?" Upon hearing that in fact John and Nancy were, he replied: "No way! There is no way I could live like that!"

So John asked, "How's your way working out for you?" It wasn't working very well at all, as it turned out. Another pastor, Andy Stanley, was quoted as asking a congregant, "Has having sex outside of marriage made your life better, or just more complicated?" Just more complicated. A lot more complicated.

Not everyone can see the damage that's being done; some just enjoy the pleasure of the experience. But as Cameron Diaz's character says in Vanilla Sky, "[W]hen you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise, whether you do or not." Something profound happens there. "Casual sex" is an oxymoron.

Or, as Lauren Winner writes in Real Sex, "in Christianity's vocabulary the only real sex is the sex that happens in marriage; the faux sex that goes on outside marriage is not really sex at all..." (38). Don't take that too literally! Of course it's real in the sense that it can produce a child, that your body makes a promise, that it can destroy relationships and families, that it can produce intense pleasure. But it's out of place; it's wrong in a fundamental way because it's out of context.

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