Our theme for the month of June is “sex and the church.” To read posts from our first pass at this theme, check out our June 2018 archives.

Clearly, the answer to this antiquated question should be “yes.” After all, we aren’t living in a world where opposite-gendered people are discouraged from interacting with each other. It’s not like this question still exists as a hypothetical to me, either. Some of my closest friends are women.

However, this question, once a prompt I overheard at a discussion group my siblings attended, has stuck with me for nearly two decades now, and I’ve begun to think a lot about it since the post calvin informed us about this month’s theme back in April. 

This is clearly not the profound question it once was to an eight-year-old’s ears. 

However, it feels like the church still hasn’t made the leap to trusting platonic friendships between opposite-gender people.

This, of course, isn’t even mentioning many churches refusing to accept people who don’t identify with gender binaries and codifying same-sex relationships as sinful. Cis-straightness is the only way in the church.

It has, admittedly, been a while since I was fully involved in a church. There are several reasons why I’ve avoided connecting with a church, and I feel rather under-qualified to be writing a piece about anything between the church and something else.

However, one of the reasons I do feel so disconnected from the church is how they handle discussions of sexuality and gender. The following is a relatively simple take, but I do hope it adds to the discussion that’s been ongoing on the site for the past month. 

My first observation is that the church is still very binary when it comes to gender, and in turn, binary when it comes to sex. Men and women are encouraged to interact, but anything past a light conversation in a group setting is seemingly off-limits. God forbid two opposite-gendered people be alone together in a room. 

When the Billy Graham Rule is still being advocated for (and even renamed for a certain politician), it’s clear that the church doesn’t really believe that guys and girls can be friends. This, of course, disregards gender identity and sexual preference, but that seems to be certain churches’ MO. 

The belief that men are so incapable of sexual restraint when alone with a woman that the guardrail required is to never put one’s self in that position to begin with is ironic. It feels like the church’s solution to this supposed uncontrollable monster known as male sexuality is to simply lock up the woman.

Growing up, sexuality was completely taboo. However, the vague sermons on purity always focused on a woman’s responsibility, with a few throw-ins for the men in the audience, while the homeschool community was just an extension of Christians who didn’t trust the secularity (and sexuality) of public school.

When I attended a Christian international school the emphasis was again placed on what women should do. Once a year, there’d be a conversation about the dress code, where the guys and girls would be shuffled off into separate rooms. The guys would have a free period while the girls would be reproached for wearing shorts that were centimeters shorter than the reach of their fingertips. 

When I first heard of the Billy Graham Rule as a teenager, it sounded commendable. Why wouldn’t you want to prevent yourself from misperceptions (or even worse, a sinful interaction)?

However, looking back, it’s clear to me that 1) The church is still not capable of a nuanced take on sexuality (most recently apparent within the CRC); and 2) Even assuming cis-gendered heterosexuality upon each member, in churches, at least outwardly (I’m trying not to overgeneralize), opposite-gendered friendships cannot exceed a superficial level of interaction.

While churches can have mixed-gendered youth groups, college groups, singles Bible studies, and everything in between, the projection they believe men and women can be platonic friends is overstated at best and false in most situations.

This will continue to be the case as long as the church continues to emphasize female purity, oversimplify male sexuality, and dismiss the gender and sexuality spectrum as a whole.

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