We are incessantly inundated with tips, narratives, and guidelines for how to be sexy. And slithering in the undercurrent of these messages is the idea that being sexy is somehow essential to being worthwhile and having “made it” as a social human being. Our beloved TV show characters measure their social success by the number of days it’s been since their last sexual experience. The more and more convinced people become that sex makes them worthwhile, the less they feel they can participate in an intimate sexual union that maximizes people’s dignity.
In the midst of being immersed in the culture’s narrative, it is easy to become confused and overwhelmed. At the heart of the Biblical narrative is the reminder that human beings bear the image of God, and therefore are imbued with dignity and value as reflections of their Creator. Applying this to sex, one can counter the narrative that litters our culture’s view of sex. Instead, we understand this: it’s not sex that creates worth and dignity; it’s human dignity that makes sexual intimacy so worthwhile.
While this message clearly exudes from Biblical principles, the Church seems to take a different tack. Instead of providing this counter-narrative, the Christian teachers and speakers I’ve encountered simply encouraged us to turn tail and run from any and all sexual content put forth by the world. Instead of digging into the narratives of our culture, we were encouraged to scream, “Get behind me, Satan!” in an attempt to tune them out and somehow escape with our minds unblemished. The subtext created by this was that sex was perilous, gross, and something to be avoided at all costs.
As many of my fellow writers have highlighted, the Church has no shortage of preventive measures to stamp out premarital steps. Using various metaphors, teachers describe how our purity is at stake, and once we’ve lost our virginity, we can never get that pesky toothpaste back in the tube. We’re forever marred. For the unsuspecting teenager, this communicates more than just a loss of virginity; it risks communicating that we have lost our dignity and worth when it comes to sexuality.
Dignity and worth are irrevocable aspects of being created by our Lord. The failure of the Church to sufficiently communicate this goes beyond sex. It seems too often absent from discussions of community, charity, social justice, and meaningfully attempting to love your enemies. By reinvigorating and reaffirming human dignity, I think the Church can create opportunities for more meaningful relationships among its members.
So, when it comes to discussing our sexuality, the Church can benefit from a stronger sense of theological anthropology. Who are we? What does it mean to be relational beings? What does it say about God that he created us in his image? And if he mandated procreation for the sake of increasing the population in the Old Testament, why did he create the act of intercourse to be a mysterious mixture of pleasure and vulnerability?
Maybe it’s the shrink side of me, but I can’t help but wonder how much more we would be able to discuss the things people do if we took more time to understand more about the people who are actually doing them.
Matt Coldagelli (’14) majored in English writing and psychology at Calvin. He’s currently pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis on children and adolescents. He watches an absurd amount of TV and is a certified craft beer snob. His emotional wellbeing is overly dependent on Wisconsin sports, and thus he finds himself often in a state of disappointment. Matt lives with his lovely wife and daughter in Phoenix, AZ.