When I started this blog, I planned on it being a more serious expression of my faith journey. Then, I read Stuff Christians Like and everything changed. SCL is a blog (and a book) written by Jon Acuff, a preacher’s kid and copywriter who lives in Atlanta. It’s a very funny look at whether things we like get in the way of our relationship with God. It inspired me to start exploring my own satirical abilities, which is an attitude much more in line with my personality than the serious tone I was taking to begin with . Since Jon has most ably taken the high road by writing about what we like, I’ve decided to take the low one and write about the things we don’t like, or at least don’t like talking about. Today’s topic is certainly in that vein.
Many folks who don’t follow our peculiar faith think Christians don’t like sex. I can see why they might think that. Nothing gets some folks more riled up than the idea that someone, somewhere might be having fun (nod to H. L. Mencken, who I paraphrased). But, the truth is, we like sex as much as anybody; we just don’t want anybody to know it. I’m not sure where this attitude came from, but I blame it on the Puritans. That bunch was so uptight, they’d make the staunchest Baptist look like an absolute libertine. The thing is, the Bible is almost as full of sex as it is violence. If it was any other book, it’d the first one thrown on the fire at fundamentalist book burnings. That last is something else I lifted from another place, a fictional church website called Landover Baptist Church. The funny thing is that, usually, the Old Testament is the more hardline, unforgiving part of the Bible and the New Testament presents a more enlightened view. In this case, it’s exactly opposite. The Old Testament is filled with people happily knockin’ boots while the thrust of the New Testament is “Jesus is coming back any minute, so don’t waste your time getting busy”. That was mostly Paul and, truth be told, a high colonic and a roll in the hay would’ve done wonders for his personality. I’m not sure what it would’ve done for the faith, but I digress.
Early on, in Genesis, we have our first mention of sex. In Genesis 4:1, it says that Adam “knew” Eve and she produced a son, Cain. It’s fitting that our first mention of sex is also our first euphemism, because the writers of the Old Testament rarely, if ever, were blunt about it. While it may seem literary gymnastics to avoid a distasteful subject, I wonder if the words they used were similar to the ones we use today. I mean, nobody says “having sex” when they’re talking about it; it’s always something like “getting it on”, “got laid”, “knocking boots”, etc. I’m sure scholars much wiser than me could answer this, but they’d bore the crap out of us and who needs that? Some more euphemisms for doin’ the deed include “came in unto her”, “went in unto her” or some variation of that phrase. Another involves feet. In the 3rd chapter of Ruth, where it says she “uncovered his feet”…, well, it wasn’t his feet she uncovered. And, that whole “spread your cloak over your servant” didn’t mean “cover me up, I’m cold”. There is some controversy over whether Boaz took advantage of the offer. All I can say is that he was a strong man if he didn’t. Leviticus is full of this stuff. The term “uncover her (or his) nakedness” usually doesn’t just mean someone saw someone else naked. In fact, there are some scholars that believe that Ham did more than just see Noah lying drunk and naked in his tent. Whoa.
As I said earlier, the New Testament’s take on the act is a little different. Where it seems people are getting it on all over the place in the Old Testament, in the New the idea seems to be one of constraint. Jesus, himself, didn’t say much about sex other than “Don’t commit adultery”. And, like I said, most of Paul’s advice on sex seemed to be “Don’t do it”. There are a few places where he gets on someone about “sexual immorality”. Those occur in Romans and 1st Corinthians, letters written to churches in two of the wildest towns in the entire Roman empire. Rome and Corinth were both big trade centers and Corinth was seaport, which meant it was full of sailors and we know what those guys were like. But, both cities were centers of worship for the cult of Aphrodite, a fertility goddess descended from the old Persian goddess, Ishtar. Ishtar had several incarnations of the years and all of them had one thing in common: sacred prostitution. If you think that means they had sex in church, you’re absolutely right. In fact, another version of Ishtar, Astarte, was worshipped by the Canaanites in the old days of Israel. Which explains why the Israelites had so much trouble sticking to the worship of Yahweh. Work my butt off, make sacrifices and follow a ton of rules or have a romp with the temple prostitute as worship? Hmmm.
If I have a point, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with sex. In fact, it’s great and it’s a gift from God. So, why are we ashamed?