Friend of mine, Jonny Mellor, recently wrote an interesting blog on discussions taking place in the world on the place of sex within our society and where things might be heading.
The full article is found here – http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/normal_sex_cat_person_and_possible_futures
He referred to a blog written on a feminist website of a sexual encounter with an American TV star, Aziz Ansari. For once I had heard of him, as I watched the TV show Parks and Recreation that he starred in.
The blogger wrote about connecting with Ansari, going out on a date followed by sex in his apartment. She recounts how she felt increasingly uncomfortable as the evening went on and eventually left crying. Her response was to publicly shame Ansari for ‘the worst night of my life.’
Apparently, this blog led to debates across social media as to whether Ansari is a sexual abuser or simply an insensitive lover? Whether the blog is a helpful revelation ‘so maybe the next girl doesn’t have to cry on the ride home’ (as she claims) or simply an act of revenge?
However, it also caused some to ask, ‘why not consider only having sex with someone you’re committed, or, dare I say it, even married to?’
Jonny says, to ask such a question a year ago could have seemed incredibly naïve, both by people who aren’t Christians and by Christians trying to find a relevant conversation starter in sparking questions of faith. Now, I wonder whether things are somewhat different.
He quotes the feminist writer Jessica Valenti who tweeted defending the blog
A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.
He sees that maybe the light is starting to dawn that “normal sexual encounters” cause complex problems and that it could lead to a significant backlash against permissive libertarianism and a fresh openness to the idea that keeping sex exclusively in a long-term relationship is actually not such a bad thing.
He goes on to say, I think that Christians should see this as an excellent opportunity to come out of the bunker on issues of sex and relationships, and confidently let people know God’s wisdom in this area. His wisdom has always been wise, but while broken families, mental health problems and STI epidemics may not have convinced people of this, perhaps a realisation that ‘normal’ sexual encounters are actually not very fun (and ‘the patriarchy’ isn’t the only reason why) might strangely be the thing that makes us think again about this one. Maybe.
However, he warns against another way the conversation could go, using the example of the TV series based on Margaret Atwood novel The Handmaid’s Tale. In the story America turns to religion in a crisis. Convinced that the problems must be the result of some sort of divine judgement brought about by sexual immorality, the society of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has become very moralistic in a bid to appease whatever deity may have caused the problems. Homosexual acts, and in fact, any unapproved sexual relationships receive the ultimate sanction.
He suggests that it could well be that the voices calling for a return to traditional values in this area become louder and start to emanate more and more from outside of the church. I think we as Christians need to think carefully about what we would do in such a case. Would we punch the air with delight, shouting gleefully ‘we told you so!’ Would we forget all of the soul searching we’ve done recently about how we may have treated single mothers, divorcees and gay people harshly in the past? Would those of us who’ve been forced to reacquaint ourselves with the Jesus of John 8 by the challenges of a sexually permissive culture, quickly pick up our stones again if that culture decides to turn on itself?
We live in interesting times, and it’s far from clear where our culture is heading. Wherever it goes though, we’ve got to learn the lessons that God is teaching us now to prepare us for whatever future awaits us before Jesus’ return. Let’s confidently hold on to God’s wisdom, and, whatever happens, continue to actively and graciously work through how we can show kindness to people we disagree with, as God has done to us.
A church that could manage this will make any possible future considerably brighter.
Written by Tony Thompson