A new sexual ethic

By Rev. Debra W. Haffnerexecutive director, Religious Institute On Faith recently posed a provocative question to its panelists: “Can religion … Continued

By Rev. Debra W. Haffner
executive director, Religious Institute

On Faith recently posed a provocative question to its panelists: “Can religion handle sex?” I was impressed by the diversity of voices that responded to the question. But I was dismayed (though not surprised) at the lack of diversity in their answers.

There were differing opinions, of course. Roman Catholics view sex through a different lens than their Christian counterparts in the United Church of Christ, and different still from Reform Jews, Muslims and Secular Humanists. No, what struck me was that virtually every one of the respondents took a question about sex and focused almost entirely on sexual intercourse.

Maybe the problem was in the question itself. I would have asked, “Can religion handle sexuality?”, and hoped that the respondents would address religion’s responsibility to “handle” the moral and theological dimensions of the full scope of sexuality issues. As a sexologist and ordained minister, I approach sexuality and religion from a unique perspective. I know that sexuality encompasses not just our physical behaviors or biological sex, but also our relationships, self-identity, personal and societal values, and physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Virtually all of the world’s religions understand sexuality as a divinely bestowed capacity for expressing love and generating life, for mutual companionship and pleasure. They teach that sexuality calls for responsibility, respect and self-discipline; they honor loving, ethical relationships. They understand that sexuality may be celebrated with joy, holiness and integrity, but that it is also vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Yet, with the exception of teaching that sexual intercourse belongs only in heterosexual marriage, the majority of U.S. faith communities are mostly silent about the broader dimensions of sexuality. Most congregations do not teach their young people (or their adults, for that matter) about sexuality and ethical sexual decision making. Many do not have the policies and procedures in place to protect their children, adolescents and vulnerable adults from sexual harassment and abuse. Last year, the largest-ever survey of mainline Protestant clergy revealed that nearly half seldom or never discuss sexuality issues.

Meanwhile, untold numbers of congregants suffer in abusive or dysfunctional relationships, struggle with questions of sexual identity, raising sexually healthy teenagers or marital intimacy, or harbor histories of abuse, rape or marital infidelity. All clergy, whether they are Baptist or Roman Catholic, Muslim or Jewish or Protestant, have people in their congregations who need help dealing with unplanned pregnancies, a child who is coming out, a marriage under duress, infertility, Internet use, domestic violence in the home, and unresolved issues surrounding assault.

But we also need faith communities to move beyond their traditional “non-marital chastity” ethic, so that we can engage unmarried adults seeking to make moral decisions about their sexuality. As a 30-year-old single man recently said to me, “Rev. Debra, how can I be a good Christian and still be sexual?”

He is not alone. There are more than 75 million American adults who are single — more than at any time in history. We are marrying later, divorcing at high levels, and living longer, so more of us will be widowed. At some time in their lives, almost all Americans will have sexual relationships when we aren’t married. The Religious Institute has long called for a new sexual ethic to replace the traditional “celibacy until marriage, chastity after.” This new ethic calls for sexual relationships to be consensual, non-exploitative, honest, pleasurable and protected – whether the partners are single or married, other sex or same sex.

Can religion handle sex? It can, and it must. Sexuality is too central to our lives, too connected to our spirituality, and too potentially damaging for religious leaders to remain focused primarily on whether single adults should be having intercourse while more urgent pastoral needs go unmet.

Rev. Debra W. Haffner is executive director of the Religious Institute in Westport, Conn.

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  • WmarkW

    In the USA, nothing perpetuates poverty more than single parenthood and nothing causes single parenthood more than having a disconnect between sexual ethics and contraceptive use. That disconnect is particularly present in communities with high degrees of religious faith and lower than average education, like Southerners of both races and immigrant Mexicans.Old models based on the bible, when girls married at puberty and lived their whole lives as someone’s daughter or husband under his control, simply don’t work in modern equal societies. And liberal religion and secularism needs to make more inroads into those communities whose obedience-oriented, unquestioning faith systems offer no framework for addressing modern issues.

  • Churchlady1

    It strikes me that much of the dis-ease about human sexuality comes from the fear that pleasure is sinful. It matters not at all what religion one is, or none, since the idea of duty and obligation, not fulfillment, is at the root of much of our society. It has a great deal to do with our role in the productive world – being good cogs in the machine – where our success level is measured by money and material goods, not by love and intimacy.Conversely, the shunning of such things does not produce intimacy or healthy sexuality but a kind of narcissism – sex for self but not necessarily sexuality for growth. In both cases, religion weighs in with a kind of false promise of sublime fulfillment in marriage, period, but without a sense of sexuality as a real gift. The self indulgence of pure hedonism – the distancing that can produce from concern for the well being of others – more or less justifies the self denial of being the worker bee and being “happy” with an indifferent sexuality so long as you’re productive, raising kids, and being a good citizen.So we’re in a vicious circle. Faith does not elevate all our senses as gifts from God but hedges them around with provisions ranging from caution to woe. Faith teachings on sexuality, first and foremost, really ought to help us teach ourselves and our children empathy – the balance between self and others and the mutuality of sharing – sharing everything, lovingly, unselfishly, openly. Then, I think, sexuality will begin to have a place in our lives rather than dwelling in our shadows.

  • YEAL9

    Sex-uality 101, part 1, ages 15-105It is obvious that intercourse and other sexual activities are out of control with over one million abortions and 19 million cases of STDs per year in the USA alone. “Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain STDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of STDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”How in the world do we get this situation under control? A pill to temporarily eliminate the sex drive would be a good start. (Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes, 4/18/2010 described them as anti-desire pills). And teenagers and young adults must be constantly reminded of the dangers of sexual activity and that oral sex, birth control pills, condoms and chastity belts are no protection against STDs. Might a list of those having an STD posted on the Internet help? Said names would remain until the STD has been eliminated with verification by a doctor. Lists of sexual predators are on-line. Is there a difference between these individuals and those having a STD having sexual relations while infected???

  • YEAL9

    Sex-uality 101, part 2, ages 15-105The general population to include many of the voters in California, rightly or wrongly, find gay sexual activities, “unionized” or not, to be “yucky” and unusual and typically associate such activity with the spread of AIDS which is of course wrong. Said AIDS epidemic in the gay male community at the start of the AIDS crises will always remain unfortunately a stigma on the gay community.And after all of this rhetoric, gay unions simply simplify and somewhat sanitize what are still “yucky” acts caused by a variant gene(s) and/or hormone imbalance. One wonders if stem cell research will find a cure?? From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, gay sexual activity is still mutual masturbation caused by one or more complex sexual defects. Some defects are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O’Donnell. Of course not all having these abnormal tendencies, show it outwardly as alluded to in the following synopsis:From Wikipedia:” No simple cause for sexual orientation has been conclusively demonstrated, and there is no scientific consensus as to whether the contributing factors are primarily biological or environmental. Many think both play complex roles.[1][2] The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have both stated that sexual orientation probably has multiple causes.[3][4] Research has identified several biological factors which may be related to the development of a heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual orientation. These include genes, prenatal hormones, and brain structure. Conclusive proof of a biological cause of sexual orientation would have significant political and cultural implications. [5]”

  • desmondravenstone

    A major factor behind this problem is how so many religious groups perpetuate a false duality between body and soul, flesh and spirit — and worse, pitting the two sides against one another.When the foundation of a moral code is about “overcoming the flesh” and striving to be “pure in spirit,” is it any wonder so many feel conflicted and afraid of their own sexuality?It’s time to encourage people to find wholeness, rather than a schizoid sense of self which wreaks havoc on the sensual and erotic realities of being human, and with it the full importance of finding connection and joy.

  • RobertCurleyJacobs

    Sex-ed should be banned. Teaching 5th graders about sex (like I was in 5th grade) IS ABOUT BEING A WEIRDO!!!

  • RobertCurleyJacobs

    Let me tell you how weird (unweird in reality) it has made me. I think that abstinence is the KEY to improving society. While I have always known that ‘God’ is a fantasy the concept of the afterlife (Heaven/Nirvana) is a real entity. So the way I see it is that everyone has a partner that they will live with for eternity in the afterlife. Imagine that one hooks-up a time machine in the afterlife and comes back in time with their partner for eternity. Imagine that if you and your partner were to come back in time and see yourself with another woman. That wouldn’t be cool and I think it would hurt your partner’s feelings. I know people think I’m crazy for explaining that abstinence is so important, but one day I know I will be exonerated as one of the few sane people.

  • SujaNawab

    As a sexologist and ordained minister, I approach sexuality and religion from a unique perspective. I know that sexuality encompasses not just our physical behaviors or biological sex, but also our relationships, self-identity, personal and societal values, and physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.I notice a SUV parked outside in the parking lot, a young beautiful woman leaning against it.I look straight into her eyes, even as I continued on my treadmill, for unknown reason she does not avert her gaze. The look in her eyes tells all.Rev. Debra W. Haffner, I do not know how much you know about Christian sex values, but that look in her eyes, if you ever had fortitude to know that look, as if she had not been laid for years!

  • SujaNawab

    As a sexologist and ordained minister, I approach sexuality and religion from a unique perspective. I know that sexuality encompasses not just our physical behaviors or biological sex, but also our relationships, self-identity, personal and societal values, and physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.I notice a SUV parked outside in the parking lot, a young beautiful woman leaning against it.I look straight into her eyes, even as I continued on my treadmill, for unknown reason she does not avert her gaze. The look in her eyes tells all.Rev. Debra W. Haffner, I do not know how much you know about Christian sex values, but that look in her eyes, if you ever had fortitude to know that look, as if she had not been laid for years!

  • revbev1

    Yeah Rev Debra! You are so on target. As a campus minister at an Ivy League school I can tell you that young adults are eager for some kind of meaningful moral discussions that will allow them to understand and appreciate the process of their own sexual development and that will assist them in their sexual decision-making.

  • thebump

    There’s precisely nothing new or ethical about what the authoress means by her Orwellian, lipstick-on-a-pig euphemism “new sexual ethic.” Far from being new, sexual immorality is quite literally as old as sin. Cynically relabeling old sins as “new” or “ethical” does not make them so, and does not make them any less deadly. Whether she is devious or merely ignorant, the authoress does her gullible followers a grave disservice.

  • SujaNawab

    As a sexologist and ordained minister, I approach sexuality and religion from a unique perspective. I know that sexuality encompasses not just our physical behaviors or biological sex, but also our relationships, self-identity, personal and societal values, and physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.I notice a SUV parked outside in the parking lot, a young beautiful woman leaning against it.I look into her eyes, even as I continue on the treadmill, for unknown reason she does not avert her gaze. The look in her eyes tells all.Rev. Debra W. Haffner, I do not know how much you know about Christian sex values, but that look in her eyes, if you only had fortitude to know that look in her eyes, as if she had not been laid for years!

  • patmatthews

    I think you already got your answer. Religion views sexuality as sexual intercourse. Religion does not see the aspect of lie that requires beauty and the emotions associated with them.Religions confuse their true emotional feelings with repressed emotions, as taught by religious groups and leaders.Patrick

  • Vipda

    As a 30-year-old single man recently said to me, “Rev. Debra, how can I be a good Christian and still be sexual?” Rev. Debra W. Haffner, see, how eay it is. Today is, the single man’s lucky day!

  • elwoll

    I think starting off with a virgin conception announced by an “it” wearing wings portends poorly for the future of a belief system headed up by a god, “the father” who had a son without any celestial sexual activity etc, etc, etc.. And then there is poor ol’ chaste (?) Joseph.

  • iamweaver

    One of the things that I like about Methodism is that it treats sexuality as a gift from God. If the author is correct, perhaps this is an atypical Christian view.Our church (and many other Methodist churches) have human sexuality retreats for Jr. and Sr. High youth, in which they explore what humans (and Christians in particular) are as sexual beings, differences between sex and sexuality, and some of the “nuts and bolts” of how it all works. It’s a chance for the youth to explore in a non-judgmental and supportive environment the mature, sexual beings that they are becoming – that God intended them to be.

  • lepidopteryx

    OFF TOPIC:Paganplace, please email me at Yahoo. It’s important.

  • areyousaying

    Virtually all of the world’s religions understand sexuality as a powerful human need they can use to manipulate, guilt, control, shame and judge their lemmings with.If you really want sex education for religions, teach pederast Catholic clergy to at least use condoms.Oh, I forgot, the Pope says condoms cause AIDS. Never-mind.

  • areyousaying

    God invented sex so men would talk to women ;-)

  • PSolus

    “It’s a chance for the youth to explore in a non-judgmental and supportive environment the mature, sexual beings that they are becoming – Nonjudgmental indeed.Are the gay kids told that they are as “god intended them to be”?

  • DaveHarris

    The anti-sex attitudes of Christians go way back in the history of their religion. St. Paul, who seems to have had serious personal problems in this area, is often blamed for starting it. In the early Church, it was not unusual for married couples to claim to be celebate, so as to enhance their status among fellow believers. Pregnancies were hidden and when babies showed up it was claimed that they were adopted. It is hardly surprising that Christianity today utterly fails to offer any useful advice to normal people about these matters. Even when they’re trying to be open-minded, the advice is so banal that it might as well be coming from the government.

  • iamweaver

    PSolus writes:”It’s a chance for the youth to explore in a non-judgmental and supportive environment the mature, sexual beings that they are becoming – that God intended them to be.”Nonjudgmental indeed.Are the gay kids told that they are as “god intended them to be”?Yes – nonjudgmental. What we stress to the youth is that sexuality is part of what we are meant to be, and not to be ashamed of it, or think that they are somehow different because it’s becoming a big part of their life. We do not distinguish sexual orientation – this message applies regardless, doesn’t it?In a delicious irony, your response to my post looks awfully judgmental :).

  • MPatalinjug

    Yonkers, New YorkCan religion handle sex?Obviously for me, the quick answer is “No!:The author of this essay, Rev. Debra W. Haffner, herself a Minister, is proof that it cannot–or that it refuses to do so.Here is what Rev. Haffner says: “Virtually all of the world’s religions understand sexuality as a DIVINELY bestowed capacity for expressing love and generating life, for mutual companionship and pleasure.”Yes, they do–but they are all dead wrong, factually and objectively. The world’s religions do so because they try to impose on mankind the dogma that a “creator,” an “intelligent designer,” or a being called “God” created man in his own image and bestowed on man this “capacity for expressing love and generating life.”The fact is that the primordial drive Nature imposed on all mammals–Homo sapiens included, of course–is the perpetuation of the species. To make this possible, Nature has equpped all mammals with the necessary reproductive organs: penises and testicles to produce sperm in the male, and vaginas, uteruses and ovaries to produce ova in the female.It is as biologically simple as that.The Roman Catholic Church, however, circa 1049, imposed mandatory celibacy without exception on all Catholic priests. The consequences this ill-conceived, ill-advised and biologically “unnatural” diktat have been disastrous: it explains the widespread and chronic spectacle of Catholic priests sexually abusing trusting and innocent Catholic children.Need there be more compelling proof that religion cannot handle sex?Mariano Patalinjug

  • derrickflannigan

    Pope John Paul II wrote extensively on sexuality and the human person in his “Theology of the Body”. This work provides a thorough understanding of the way God created sex, how it is to be practiced by married men and women, and most especially, the place of the human person as one that deserves the utmost respect.

  • PSolus

    “In a delicious irony, your response to my post looks awfully judgmental :).”There is no irony in that, Alanis, delicious or otherwise; I never claimed to be nonjudgmental.

  • ttyetrutyhdytriytuey

    Hello, summer, good place for shopping, fashion, sexy, personality, maturity, from here to begin. Are you ready?

  • iamweaver

    MPatalinjug writes: Actually, yes. What you have shown is that at least some elements of a particular Christian sect are having issues resolving human sexuality and power. You also didn’t address the topic very well. The question is not (as was pointed out several times in the article) about the mechanics of sex – but sexuality, which often has to do directly with sex, but certainly not always.We are sexual beings. It’s easy for youth to confuse this with our physical sex – but the actual topic covers a much broader range of actions and activities, and whether looking at it from a secular or sacred perspective, there’s lots of things that can (and usually does) confuse a youth. Sexual ethics are often avoided because discussing them with youth usually makes adults uncomfortable, too – but our sexuality is an integral part of who we are, and needs to be discussed within whatever ethical frame you choose to live.

  • iamweaver

    PSolus writes:”In a delicious irony, your response to my post looks awfully judgmental :).”There is no irony in that, Alanis, delicious or otherwise; I never claimed to be nonjudgmental.The irony exists in the tension between your posted complaint (against pre-judging) and the pre-judging that you did by assuming (wrongly in this case) that our human sexuality workshops were judgmental against gays.Whether you deliberately choose to maintain the ironic balance internally or not does not alter the fact of its existence.

  • ThelmaMcCoy

    This is a good and useful article. Thanks.

  • PSolus

    “The irony exists in the tension between your posted complaint…”I did not post a complaint; I posted an observation, and a question.”…(against pre-judging)…”I wrote nothing for or against prejudging. Judgmental does not equal prejudging.”…and the pre-judging that you did by assuming (wrongly in this case) that our human sexuality workshops were judgmental against gays.”I did not prejudge or assume; I simply asked a question: “Are the gay kids told that they are as “god intended them to be”?””Ironically”, you did not answer that question.”Whether you deliberately choose to maintain the ironic balance internally or not does not alter the fact of its existence.”Your confusion of the meaning of the word “irony” does not alter the fact of its nonexistence in this case.

  • iamweaver

    Psolus, the irony exists in the phrase which you have carefully avoided repeating:”Nonjudgmental indeed.”There lies the irony. Without this sarcastic paragraph, there is no irony. Your comment becomes merely a request for information. But adding in this critical paragraph changes your comment from one requesting information into a sarcastic comment that presupposed that our church was deliberately judgmental against gays – your highlighted portion of my post makes your presupposition pretty clear.This comment is both hypocritical and ironic. It is hypocritical in that is uses the same logic that it despises as an integral part of its argument, and ironic in that because of the actual falsity of its presupposed conclusion (unknown to its author at the time of its creation), strengthens its argument against generalization and pre-judging of someone or (in this case some group) in an unexpected way.

  • PSolus

    “Psolus, the irony exists in the phrase which you have carefully avoided repeating:”I didn’t carefully avoid repeating it; I carelessly avoided repeating it.”There lies the irony. Without this sarcastic paragraph, there is no irony.”There is no irony with it either.”Your comment becomes merely a request for information. But adding in this critical paragraph changes your comment from one requesting information into a sarcastic comment that presupposed that our church was deliberately judgmental against gays – your highlighted portion of my post makes your presupposition pretty clear.”No it doesn’t. The observation, “Nonjudgmental indeed”, was aimed at your claim of a nonjudgmental environment, and then your invocation of the intent of a god, the most judgmental human creation there is.”This comment is both hypocritical and ironic. It is hypocritical in that is uses the same logic that it despises as an integral part of its argument, and ironic in that because of the actual falsity of its presupposed conclusion (unknown to its author at the time of its creation), strengthens its argument against generalization and pre-judging of someone or (in this case some group) in an unexpected way.”It is neither; again, I never claimed I was not judgmental, and I did not prejudge anything. I simply made an observation, and asked a question.And you have still not answered that question: Are the gay kids told that they are gay because god intended them to be gay?

  • iamweaver

    PSolus writes:And you have still not answered that question: Are the gay kids told that they are gay because god intended them to be gay?I did answer your question, pretty clearly:”We do not distinguish sexual orientation – this message applies regardless, doesn’t it?”We don’t stop and say, “This applies to gay people, too”. We also don’t say “Hey, you transsexuals – this applies to you”, either. Why should we single out any one group in particular, and make them feel different? That is one of the things we are trying to avoid – the sense of isolation and confusion that so often accompanies puberty. Occasionally, we might use a general phrase like “regardless of sexual orientation” – but that’s as far as it goes.Thanks for the explanation that your sarcasm was aimed at my God and not my church. IMO, it missed the meaning of the word “nonjudgmental” (which in the given context pretty clearly refers to the judgment of a Christian, not their God), but it framed your next question a bit differently.It’s quite possible to be a nonjudgmental Christian who follows a judgmental God – mostly because the judgment is reserved for His use – frankly, because we can’t see the bigger picture. This should make a nonbeliever comfortable, knowing that those stupid Christians claim to have a “divine blueprint” that they aren’t supposed to apply to people outside of themselves (of course, many Christians have historically ignored those rules. Eh. We are fallible).

  • Fitzs_Family

    “and living longer, so more of us will be widowed….”… living longer really isn’t relative here, is it?Regardless of how long we live – roughly half the married population is going to be widowed….the other half dies first..that hasn’t changed much since the beginning of time.

  • DoTheRightThing

    Rev. Debra misunderstands “chastity.” Chastity is the virtue of using one’s sexuality as God desires. It is not the opposite of celibacy. Each Christian is called to be chaste both before and after we marry.

  • lufrank1

    Posted by: DoTheRightThing | May 4, 2010 1:21 PM

  • PSolus

    “I did answer your question, pretty clearly:”I disagree.The question was: Are the gay kids told that they are as “god intended them to be”?Here’s the scenario:At a human sexuality retreat for Jr. and Sr. High youth, a 16-year-old youth asks a counselor, “Why am I gay?”Does the counselor answer, “We do not distinguish sexual orientation – this message applies regardless, doesn’t it?”Or, does the counselor answer, “You are gay because god intended for you to be gay.”Or, does the counselor answer something else entirely; if so, what?

  • j2hess

    I agree that religions need to re-examine their conceptions of sexuality and moral behavior. Anthropological investigations of cultures around the world show that while sexuality is always bound up with morality, what is regarded as moral or immoral changes. It is not intercourse (or any other physical act) in and of itself that matters, but its relation to the context of social relations. A social order needs reproduction to preserve itself. At the same time, reproduction can be used to subvert the social order by subverting legitimized orders of status, role, and power. So sexual taboos are about preserving a social order. When these taboos become encoded in religious beliefs, they tend to outlive the social orders they once protected.My personal belief is that most current religions also rely too much on shame for policing sexuality. Sex is one of the ways in which we participate in the ongoing creation of the world, embodying in a real if small way the power of the creator. Fertility needs to be respected and celebrated. The May dance and other ancient rites of spring were celebrations of positive sexual energy, gradually subverted by patriarchal religions. Energy denied doesn’t disappear; it becomes channeled in less healthy ways.

  • PSolus

    “We all sin.”I don’t.

  • fishcrow

    “But we also need faith communities to move beyond their traditional “non-marital chastity” ethic.”The Reverend might want to put the New Testament back on her reading list. Perhaps no one told her it’s the manual for her job.

  • cassie123

    I agree that Christianity has not always handled the issue of sexuality well. I think this stems from the fact that God is so clearly against immorality. This fact caused Christians to label sexuality as taboo. This is sad. While God has clearly indicated his hate for immorality, the Bible also promotes loving/romantic relationships between humans (read Song of Solomon). I do think Christianity would do better by explaining this especially with young people. Now…that being said…there is a difference between respecting sexuality when in line with God’s commands and just ignoring God’s commands in order to keep up with society. This author says: “But we also need faith communities to move beyond their traditional “non-marital chastity” ethic, so that we can engage unmarried adults seeking to make moral decisions about their sexuality. As a 30-year-old single man recently said to me, “Rev. Debra, how can I be a good Christian and still be sexual?” ” I appreciate the fact that this minister wants to reach out to people in her congregation, married or not, but she should not being doing so by just eliminating God’s truths that are just “too hard” or “not modern enough” to implement. It is IMPOSSIBLE to eliminate out what God says regarind premarital sex and still use faith (at least the Christian faith) to deal with these issues. You cannot just pick and chose what you like out of the Bible. When you do, it undermines the ENTIRE Christian faith that you have.

  • Alex511

    fr yeal9:>…Some defects are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O’Donnell. Of course not all having these abnormal tendencies, show it outwardly as alluded to in the following synopsis:…QUIT spamming the board with this junk. This is at LEAST the fifth time that you’ve done it.Oh, and it’s Billie Jean King, not “Billy”. I met her about 11 years ago, and found her to be a truly delightful and gracious woman.

  • iamweaver

    Ah – I understand your question now.————The counselor would probably answer, “Why are any of us sexual beings? Because that’s the way God made us”. But I cannot guarantee that that would be the answer – because I don’t know if the question is in an emotional context of “why am I different?” or “why am I damaged?” or “Why does God make me so different that everyone hates me?”. Your “simple” question can be a real time-bomb.On another note, the Methodist church does not declare as a corporate body that homosexuality is a choice. That doesn’t mean that some churches might choose to take that stance – but our church doesn’t.

  • PSolus

    “Your “simple” question can be a real time-bomb.”This particular answer is the time bomb, not the question.A 16-year-old kid is told that he/she is gay because a god, the most powerful entity known to man, the creator of the universe, the earth, the heavens, hell, and who-knows-what-else, took the time to decide that he/she is not going to be like his/her mother, father, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, or, for that matter, 80% of the population, apparently, for what reason, a whim?

  • PSolus

    “You see why there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer.”A better answer would be to tell the kid what we know and what we don’t know about homosexuality, instead of what some people want them to believe.”Personally, I haven’t had a teen ask me that – mostly, I suspect, because we don’t treat gays as though they were lepers.”From my brief experience as a kid, I suspect it’s because they already know what you will say, and they don’t want to hear it.

  • iamweaver

    PSolus writes:” ‘Personally, I haven’t had a teen ask me that – mostly, I suspect, because we don’t treat gays as though they were lepers.’From my brief experience as a kid, I suspect it’s because they already know what you will say, and they don’t want to hear it.I and others get asked some amazingly raw and brutally honest questions as the retreat moves along, and the teens realize that we really will answer any and all questions they want to ask in a nonjudgmental fashion. There’s usually a brief period where questions dropped in the question box test to see if we actually will answer their questions; then after that, the real questions come out.You keep looking for a dark side, as though you expect me to suddenly announce that Jeebus h8es gays. Sorry, you will have to look elsewhere for someone to vilify for divisive, hateful or hurtful remarks. I am commanded to build my brother and sister up, not drag them down.No doubt I do harm. I am fallible and human. But since everything Christian can be stated in two principles that both revolve around love, I hope that such actions are unintentional.

  • iamweaver

    Ah – I forgot, PSolus…”A better answer would be to tell the kid what we know and what we don’t know about homosexuality, instead of what some people want them to believe.”We already do talk about this. Remember, I mentioned that we discuss “nuts and bolts” – physical aspects of sexuality, sex and sexual behavior and orientation.But it’s not what we “want them to believe”. It’s up to them to make their own decisions based on the fact that they are a professed Christian. If they, like you, aren’t Christians, then studying sex and sexuality from a Christian perspective isn’t really all that helpful.

  • revmatthew

    Thank you.As a minister, I speak to young people, and people of all ages, who are wrestling with these questions. People who have rejected the old, tired, ideas that tell them their bodies and their sexualities are bad and wrong, but are now asking- “what do I replace that with?” One young woman asked me, “Pastor, I feel like my choices in terms of how to live my life are abstinence, or MTV, is there another way?”People are looking for a sexual ethic that honors the body, honors sexuality; an ethic that is neither not the denial of the body and abstinence and shame, but is also not the objectification and commodification of the body they get from pop culture. I’m glad you and the Religious Institute are working to try and fill that need.

  • YEAL9

    “The information I got from my mother consisted of her telling me that my sex drive was something to be fought, subdued, and conquered until I was married – in other words, “good girls don’t” and “no man wants damaged goods.” Maybe Mom was right: To wit:Sex-uality 101, (for all Moms out there) part 1, ages 15-105It is obvious that intercourse and other sexual activities are out of control with over one million abortions and 19 million cases of STDs per year in the USA alone. “Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain STDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psychological consequences of STDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs associated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”How in the world do we get this situation under control? A pill to temporarily eliminate the sex drive would be a good start. (Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes, 4/18/2010 described them as anti-desire pills). And teenagers and young adults must be constantly reminded of the dangers of sexual activity and that oral sex, birth control pills, condoms and chastity belts are no protection against STDs. Might a list of those having an STD posted on the Internet help? Said names would remain until the STD has been eliminated with verification by a doctor. Lists of sexual predators are on-line. Is there a difference between these individuals and those having a STD having sexual relations while infected???

  • PSolus

    “You keep looking for a dark side, as though you expect me to suddenly announce that Jeebus h8es gays. Sorry, you will have to look elsewhere for someone to vilify for divisive, hateful or hurtful remarks. I am commanded to build my brother and sister up, not drag them down.”Wrong; I was just trying to sort out your particular superstitious beliefs.Telling a gay person that he or she is gay because god decided that that’s what they should be is no different than telling them that they are gay because the devil made them gay, or the bogeyman made them gay, or that they are gay because their mother was frightened by a window-dresser or choreographer while she was pregnant.

  • iamweaver

    PSolus writes:”Telling a gay person that he or she is gay because god decided that that’s what they should be is no different than telling them that they are gay because the devil made them gay, or the bogeyman made them gay, or that they are gay because their mother was frightened by a window-dresser or choreographer while she was pregnant.”This paragraph conflates “how” with “why”.In the secular world, there is no “why” answer. Things simply are as they are. There is no motive, beneficial or malefic, and one deals with the hand they were randomly dealt. In that world view, attempts to answer “why” are simply refused.But be careful when assuming that any and all superstitions are equivalent, which is implied in the above paragraph. Some provide comfort and strength in times of need, some provide easy answers to a difficult world, some provide reasons to divide humanity, some to build bridges – each is unique.However I must correct a misconception. I never said that the answer was “…because god decided that that’s what they should be”. I said, “Why are any of us sexual beings? Because that’s the way God made us”. That’s a general statement about the creation of humanity, and it’s a starting point for a serious discussion about what sexuality means for humanity in general, then about what it means for each of us. But again – that’s just one possible answer that helps the teen begin to answer their own “why” question. Large portions of the Old Testament (especially the Psalms), and some of the material in the New Testament letters address “why” type questions – but usually in a very unsatisfactory way for we who want God to explain it all to us.This diatribe is veering quite far from the topic, so I will cut it short here.

  • iamweaver

    Psolus writes:Telling a gay person that he or she is gay because god decided that that’s what they should be is no different than telling them that they are gay because the devil made them gay, or the bogeyman made them gay, or that they are gay because their mother was frightened by a window-dresser or choreographer while she was pregnant.You are conflating “how” with “why” here. A secularist isn’t interested in “why” – “why” is meaningless.But you are working under a misapprehension. I never said that “…god decided that that’s what they should be”. I said, “why are any of us sexual beings? Because that’s how God made us”. Notice the plural there. My answer was a general discussion about humanity’s sexuality, and a good starting point for a serious discussion.The Bible, Old and New Testaments, is full of “why” type discussions – but in general the answer seems to be “worry less about every personal why answer and more about where do I go from here”. There’s a lot more to it, but if you really care to know, you will have to research it yourself – for one thing, this all is *way* off-topic.