Monday, May 08, 2006

Is Sex in Heterosexual Marriage Becoming A Sexual Justice Issue?

Is it really possible in 2006 that there are conservative religious leaders who are worrying that married heterosexual couples are having sex for pleasure not procreation?

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was quoted this way in the Sunday New York Times Magazine:

"I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill…I think there is no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation."

The idea that sex is only for procreation is NOT based in Scripture (see my blog entries on the Bible) but can be traced back to the influence of Platonists and the Stoics on the early Church. Stoic Musonius Rufus (30 – 100 ce) was the first to write that marital sexual intercourse was only for procreation:

“Sexual intercourse is justified only in marriage and is indulged in for the purpose of begetting children, since that is lawful, but unjust and unlawful when it is mere pleasure seeking even in marriage.”

Seneca went even further in advising passionless sex in marriage:

“In loving his wife, the wise man takes reason for his guide, not emotion…nothing is more depraved than to love one’s spouse as if she were an adulteress.”

Fast forward to Augustine three hundred years later. Augustine said that after the fall, sexual intercourse through semen carried original sin from generation to generation. Sexual intercourse in Eden is responsible for death. Had Adam and Eve not eaten the fruit, they would have been able to have sons “without intercourse, in some other way,” just as they had been created without parents. Augustine warned that married people are not to “run riot by immoderate license.” They are to limit “the lust of the flesh and order(ing) in a certain way within fixed limits its unquiet and inordinate motion.” Indeed, abstinence in marriage is a goal: “the better they are, the earlier they have begun by mutual consent to contain from sexual intercourse with each other.”

I wonder if that's the real goal of Christian conservatives like Mr. Mohler.

Stay tuned. I promise a blog entry on sex positive theologians from the first four centuries of Christianity later this week when I return from Omaha. I hope you’ll hold me in your prayers for this trip.


Questing Parson said...

O my God, I have sinned. We kept doing it after the kids were born.

Anonymous said...

The Reverend Nathan Day Wilson delivered the 2006 Rockefeller Lecture on Youth, Culture and Religion. It was titled, “Caught and Taught: The Art of Generating Faith with Young Adults.” He briefly addressed working with adolescents in mature and life-affirming ways regarding their sexual commitments and health.