Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"I don't have the gift of celibacy" yeah, I noticed when you talked about your hot wife

But what about this comment from Paul, "Not everyone has this gift?" Is he harkening back to Jesus' words, "Not everyone can accept this"? Some men make themselves eunuchs while others
are eunuchs from birth and others are made eunuchs. Who wants to field what eunuchs are, eh? Maybe we'll discuss that some other time. Generally what is discussed instead is whether or
not people have the gift Paul talks about. Some people say it is the gift of singleness. Now in Reformed circles this usually is eschewed in favor of "gift of celibacy". Awesome, what is
the gift of celibacy? At this point definitions are often by negation. I've met plenty of guys who say "Oh, I definitely don't have the gift of celibacy." Really? How do you know? The
answer no man wants to say but tacitly gives is, ever having an erection at any point in life. In the case of young, restless Reformed pastors (and the not so young, really) the announcement comes in the form of "husband of X, father of Y and Z" sometimes with a reference to hot smokin' hot the wife is.

Jesus taught that if anyone looks on another with a lustful heart adultery has been committed. Ergo, all erections outside of marriage are sinful. But more sinful would be a heart or mind set on sexual things, craving sexual contact. This has been taken to mean that if you have sexual desire for anyone other than your spouse you're toast. As Driscoll explained at some length in a few sermons, Christians have often taken this to mean that sex is shameful, dirty, and sinful and that means you should save it for the one you love. Of course he's not disposed to that view and believes it should be celebrated. He doesn't have the gift of celibacy, apparently.

The average straight conservative Protestant in America may well believe he is not called to celibacy because at any point in his life ever he continues to experience erections. The apostle Paul and the apostle Peter had erections, too, and we may surmise they handled them in different ways because Peter had a wife and Paul (excepting those who insist otherwise) said that he advised that the widows and unmarried remained as he was (very probably single). Younger widows, of course, he urged to remarry.

All of the above comes to this point, an unmarried person in a conservative Christian social circle sees that marriage is held up as the measure of real adulthood. Not married, not really
an adult. Not married? You're probably a selfish single. I have spent a decade hearing conservative Christians say that singles are the most selfish people around and that a person isn't really an adult until they get married. They think they are defending a biblical precept in saying this but what it sounds like, most of the time, is hardly different from a worldly axiom,
that unless you've had genital intercourse with someone you're not fully human. I'm not sure how many people in conservative Protestant circles pick up this general impression but I've
noticed it a lot over the last twenty years. A pastor I knew a little a few years ago once had a couple come to him for premarital counseling. He asked if they struggled with sexual
temptation. Nope, they replied breezily, that was never an issue for them.

The pastor advised that they not marry because if they WEREN'T struggling with the temptation to get into each other's pants they shouldn't get married. The porridge can't be too hot and
it can't be too cold, it has to be just right. For gays, well, they just need to repent and avoid ever having sex. If ever being sexually aroused is a sign that God's design for you is marriage so long as you're straight then perhaps Christians need to rethink that. Maybe sexual desire even in straight people is not proof of a need to marry or suitability for marriage. So on the one hand you better avoid lust but on the other hand if you don't struggle with sexual temptation you shouldn't marry. One fellow told me that the best policy to avoid lust and sexual temptation is to just keep yourself so busy you don't have time to be tempted. He says, as he finished his premarriage class he's been attending with his girlfriend whom he plans to propose to as soon as possible. :) Yeah, sure, that totally worked out. I've met some conservative Christian couples where the solution for them was to simply race through getting married so at to legitimize the offspring they had already spawned but not yet delivered.

Which is to say that the more I think about it the more I believe a lot of American conservative Protestants have a fundamentally incoherent way of discussing sexuality and sexual desire.
I don't want to jump ship and stop being a conservative Protestant but I am no longer particularly surprised that conservative Protestants aren't any different from "worldly" people in
sexual conduct. I think that we are troubled by cosmetic similarities and pride ourselves in cosmetic differences while we are blind to fundamental similarities in cultural assumptions
while thinking we see how our foundational assumptions are actually different. We are not only blind people who think we see but are eager to tell other people who blind they are in
contrast to our sight. We have painted the sexual relationship in marriage as both a form of salvation and as the measure of funtional adulthood while telling ourselves we don't idealise or
idolize sex the way the world does.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

All of the above comes to this point, an unmarried person in a conservative Christian social circle sees that marriage is held up as the measure of real adulthood. Not married, not really
an adult.


How does that differ from the "Not gotten laid, not really an adult" that got inflicted on me without a church or Bible in sight?

Is "Married" just Christianese for "Getting Laid"?

Headless Unicorn Guy
56 and never married (and not for lack of desire or effort)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

It doesn't differ at all, of course, but because "we're Christians" we're supposed to not use "worldly" measures of being truly human, like getting laid.

Anonymous said...

As a 30-something single Evangelical (and also a virgin) who DOES realize the gift of celibacy, this article NAILS it. I'm not dysfunctional, I'm VERY MUCH an adult and God created me to be complete and evident of His glory, through this way. Protestants indeed DO idolize sex and marriage, to the point that one cannot differentiate where the secular culture ends and the believing culture begins. Thankfully, the (Protestant) Pastor who helped me realize my state understood that I wasn't any less of an adult or Christian because of this admittedly misunderstood call, but the fact remains that the vast majority of Evangelical Christendom fails...egregiously..here. Thank you for articulating so effectively, what I am at a loss to say.