Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Christian Witness to Contemporary Culture regarding Sex

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Christian Witness to Contemporary Culture regarding Sex

Article excerpt

Questions surrounding the normalization of homosexuality have generally turned on biblical testimony, on rights issues, on debates about biology versus experience, or on pastoral concern. None of these, however, takes account of what homosexual normalization implies for the common good. Suggestions in favor of ordaining unmarried, sexually active persons and in favor of adopting rites of blessing effectively privilege homosexual unions over heterosexual ones. The article examines this normalization from the perspective of ordained leadership that is called to provide a wholesome example to the flock of Christ and, beyond that, to the society as a whole.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.

Corinthians 6:19-20

The homosexuality debate raises many questions, including the ancient question of the one versus the many. Having been swamped by the ideology of individualism, the current debate in the church has been deeply informed by the modem emphasis on individual liberty in which the question of the public consequences of sexual behavior is muted.

This essay offers a fresh approach to the debate on homosexuality by treating it not as an issue of justice, individual rights, pastoral care, hospitality, creation theology, creation spirituality, biblical authority, or traditional church teaching, but as a question of public welfare. It is a reminder that individual freedom must be filtered through, and at times subordinated to, concern for the general welfare. That is, after all, the fundamental point made by Jesus in his death.

The issue is framed as a question about care of the body as a civic responsibility, at least for the ordained, with special attention to sexuality using homosexuality as a case in point. The essay argues for a single standard of sexual behavior for all the ordained regardless of sexual orientation or preference. It discusses sexuality in terms of marriage and family life, suggesting that both marriage and celibacy are paths of sexual responsibility that offer wholesome examples to the church and the culture for the sake of the common good.

Christians, Sex, and Contemporary Culture

Christianity holds that everyone belongs to God, whether one acknowledges it or not. All persons are God's by virtue of being created in the divine image. From a Christian vantage point, any self-understanding that takes its starting point outside this doctrine produces a false consciousness and thus leads to a false life. This godward identity is axiomatic and automatic, as digestion and the circulation of the blood are to being alive. One does nothing to earn this identity and one can do nothing to expunge it. It is ineradicable. It can be denied, even mutilated, but it cannot be "scorned" away, or destroyed by sin. Failure to attend to one s identity in God is a failure to be one-self. From a Christian standpoint, then, everyone is called to see him/herself as living from and toward God, as one created in the divine image. The job of the church is to help people be themselves in this theological sense. For Christians, then, sex must be approached in a theological framework. We will develop that framework a bit before engaging in a theological discussion of contended contemporary questions regarding appropriate use of the body, in this case, sex.

Christians-those who have been baptized, either by their own request or forcibly-have their godly identity further specified in baptism. They are taken up into the divine life by the Holy Spirit in two ways. Immersion in water-as brave Christians do it-enables the baptizand to act out plunging into death, just as Christ did, and coming up into new life, as he did. Adding further weight to the event is the belief that in the Incarnation, God joined "himself" to the fullness of human existence to claim permanent solidarity with us. …

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