04 November 2015

Abstinence in a culture obsessed with sex

A friend recently passed on an article about what happens when men pledge abstinence until marriage. What intrigued her about the article was that the study about the effects of abstinence was done by those outside of Christian circles and passed on to her by someone who had no association with evangelicals. This seems to indicate that how Christians approach sex is thus of interest to people outside of Christian circles, albeit most likely less because of an interest in Christianity and more because of a fascination with sex.

The article confirms and highlights how our culture is overly focused on sex. What might surprise some people is that the same is true in evangelical circles. Only the focus is not about the sex that these unmarried men were getting but the sex that they were not getting. Abstinence is seen to bring with it many challenges and a strong need for accountability. The problem, though, is that it's only men that seem to be struggling so much with sexual desire, reinforcing a damaging untruth far too common in evangelical circles: women are nonsexual and men are highly sexualized beings.

The second half of the article, which talks about what happened after these single men get married, points to an area where Christians could improve: being more realistic about how complicated sex is in the midst its goodness. When the Bible talks about sex, it does so in a highly practical way, focusing especially on appropriate boundaries and how not to hurt others through the use of sex. This realistic view of sex, instead of detracting from the goodness, actually contributes to sex being more good. How else can we learn to build healthy and good relationships if we're not willing to talk about how countercultural sex within Christianity really is? Sex and sexuality is not primarily something to obsess about (either through abstinence or within marriage) but instead is messy, complicated and even ordinary (for more about this, see Real Sex by Lauren Winner).

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