In the creation story, God looks at the only being he has made in his image and his first thought is that “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

I think this line contains the essential beauty and ugliness that emerges when Christianity and sex intersect.

First, the beauty.

There is a duality within nature that also forms a key foundation of Christian metaphysics. Perhaps the clearest biblical expression of this duality comes when God makes a deal with Abram in Genesis 15.

God offers Abram the choice to join in a covenant, where God will bless and multiply Abram’s family if they follow and serve him. To seal this agreement, God instructs Abram to cut animals down the middle, then arrange the halves so both Abram and the spirit of God can pass between them.

As a Sunday schooler, I remember encountering this passage and feeling uncomfortable with how pagan it all felt. There was something unsettling about how Abram’s cutting highlighted the shared symmetry of each animal’s body.

Almost all large multicellular animals have some form of symmetry in their bodies, but this story takes place long before the world was even round. Splitting the flesh of animals in two feels so darkly primal—representing something Abram understands wordlessly, innately—that I had never been able to understand.

Years later, it occurs to me that perhaps the point of the story was for God to communicate to Abram a fundamental duality designed into the world. Perhaps God, by showing Abram the blood and dirt, the light and dark, the life and death—he was explaining that each was an evidence of his presence in the silent workings of all that is.

As readers today, we know that heterosexual reproduction has allowed for more efficient genetic diversity and the emergence of large, diverse, sophisticated creatures like humans.

Regardless of how we now think about the societal role of sexual preference, we cannot ignore the fact that biological heterosexuality has led to much of the manifold beauty in the world around us through the entropic diversification of traits and species.

So earlier, when God poetically “splits” Adam to create Eve, he also places a duality at the core of humanity, an inescapable diversity baked into the code of our very being. God looks at the homogeneity of Adam and immediately says “different is better.”

For Christians, sex isn’t just about pleasure or reproduction, it’s about taking part in a very spiritual cycle of reunion. Sex can be God’s grace manifest, a powerful harmony that is made richer by its discord and resolution—and yet it rarely feels that way.

Second, the ugliness.

The story tells us that when God sees Adam’s loneliness, he decides to create another creature, but not an equal.

According to the narrator, Adam was formed from nothing—from dirt—but Eve was just a rib. I believe that distinction of personhood, where one being is described a “man” and the other is just a “helper” arises simply because it was a story told in an ancient, patriarchal society. Yet, it persists.

And that inequality persists in much more than sexism or heteronormativity for the Church. It also persists, sometimes unconsidered, in the self-concept of anyone who participates in Christianity.

The origin of sex—God’s creation of Eve—can be the foundation of human diversity. Gender, orientation, intercourse, and more can be seen as the diverse expressions of God’s grace. But sex can also just be a tool used to think of and treat others as lesser.

I believe Christianity includes two conceptions of sex: one leads to holy reunion, the other leads to twisted inequality. There are verses and voices to support each view, but only one reminds me of something Christ would teach.

Jack Van Allsburg

Studied psychology and writing, works at a design firm. Film junkie, amateur photographer. (’16)

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