Conservative Christians, evangelicals, fundamentalists or whatever you want to call them claim a moral high ground in their arguments about sex. According to them, the Bible says no sex until marriage. But, it doesn’t. Not anywhere. While it may celebrate marriage in multiple places, it never says “Don’t do it!” (it meaning sex, not marriage) So, where did this idea of no sex before marriage come from? If I had to guess, I’d say the Church.
You’ll notice that’s a big “C” in church. I’m not just talking about the Catholic church; although, they are the likely originators of the “no sex before marriage” concept. And, by using that capital letter, I mean the church as an institution, not the universal church. I think they came up with it, not for spiritual well-being or anything like that, but to control the masses. Now, if you want to control people, sex is a pretty good tool because it affects everyone at some level. Calling it sin and a one-way ticket to H-E-double-hockey-sticks can be mighty damn effective.
What the Bible does talk about is sexual immorality. Wait a minute, you say, sex before marriage is sexual immorality. Is it? To understand that, you have to understand what the Bible means by sexual immorality. To do this, we use the tool I mentioned in “Inerrancy vs. Context Pt. III” First, what was the original author trying to say; second, how would the original audience have heard it; third, what does it mean to us today. Most of the places we see this phrase are in the writings of Paul in the New Testament. Paul’s letters (the ones he actually wrote) were written for a gentile (Roman and Greek) audience who lived in an incredibly unequal culture in which those with power and status were free to do whatever they pleased sexually as long as their partner was of a lower status or class. When Paul speaks of sexual immorality, he’s really talking about practices like pederasty, prostitution (sacred and otherwise) and sexual slavery. In that culture, a man could engage in pre-marital sex with relative impunity, so, it’s more than likely that Paul wasn’t talking about pre-marital sex when he said sexual immorality. Which is how the original audience would’ve understood the phrase, too. What it means for us today is that taking advantage of people is just as wrong when it comes to sex as it is in business.
Now, you might be thinking “If we stop telling people sex before marriage is a sin, society will fall into anarchy and people will be doing it in the street.” I don’t think so. These days, most adults pay little attention to the idea that they shouldn’t have sex before they get married. Some even liken the practice to test driving a car, saying if they’re going to buy into something that lasts a lifetime, they want to make sure everything works. The next argument involves teenagers. The idea behind this one is that teens are such a raging mass of hormones that unless we tell them that sex before marriage is a sin and they’ll burn in Hell for it, they’ll run around screwing like bunnies and incidents of teen STD’s and pregnancy will go through the roof. One look at the numbers testifies to the efficacy of this idea. In fact, calling premarital sex a sin may be making things worse. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I didn’t go blind from masturbating, I ignored everything my parents said about sex. And, calling it forbidden fruit just made it that much better.
Instead busying itself with controlling the masses and saying “no sex before marriage”, perhaps the Church should consider concentrating on Jesus’ greatest commandment:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind”… “And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself”
If this is the measuring stick used to determine the who, when and where of sex, people might start paying attention to what the Church has to say. It works like this: if you love your neighbor, you won’t take sexual advantage of them. If you love your neighbor, you won’t conceive a child you can’t (or don’t intend to) care for. If you love your neighbor, you won’t cheat on your spouse or significant other. If you love your neighbor, you won’t have sex with anyone until you are both emotionally ready. If you love your neighbor…, well, I think you get my point.