If you're expecting to read on only to find out how my provocative title cleverly relates to a much more "safe" topic then you will be disappointed. Now I know I've proven myself to not be above the use of gimmicks when it comes to titling my writing, but not this time. This time the title perfectly represents the message I hope you'll take away from reading my couple of pages of thoughts.
Recently, my home church addressed the slightly sensitive topic of money and how our faith informs how we view it. In the opening statement, the minister made the claim that as a congregation we would rather talk about sex than money, we find it that uncomfortable. I observed enthusiastic nodding around me at this and even my own head was making a similar bobbing movement. But I quickly questioned this agreement and scepticism took over.
Culture of silence
In the two years I have been attending this church I can recall at least five sermons that were money related; sermons about sex on the other hand? Zero. Maybe that doesn't sound odd to you and maybe you're thinking that of course there is no place to discuss sex in the church. Every good Christian knows that you don't have sex outside of marriage and if you do that's bad so what is there to talk about?
If this is really the case, then why is there a generation of church-goers who would struggle to explain to themselves, let alone to non-church goers, the value of abstinence? How does it protect us as opposed to being a sign of repression? Simply put, at least in my experience, no one bothers to remind us of the "Why?" in the equation. When faced with blurry, morally obscure situations, we're expected to somehow find our way to the correct answer without having been equipped with the formula.
Sharing the knowledge
The sad thing is that the reluctance to share the secret leaves those in the dark drawing a fairly understandable conclusion that it's because there is no good answer. Nobody wants to admit that "because we know that it's bad" is not enough to hold on to in moments of high emotion and confusion. Yet to pretend otherwise is to deny our very human nature and despite what I have or haven't been taught I believe that traditional Christian views on sex are still extremely relevant and more logical today than people might perhaps think.
It's true that if you take a look into our pop-culture that we come across as a very over-sexed population. However, our overdose of sexualisation and ease of access to information has not necessarily lead to an age of sex savvy, healthy, or informed people. Sure we know about how to be "safe" from disease and pregnancy but there remains a lack of understanding of what sex really means. If the general population really is so liberated then why are people still having sex that they don't want with people that they don't like?
People claim to be capable of separating sex from emotions. That they can enjoy sex for what it is without having to feel an emotional connection with someone. Unfortunately, I would hazard a guess that this is more often than not, simply not possible. Another argument is the need to "try before you buy". My mother put it to me like this: If you wouldn't trust this person with your bank account details or your life, then you shouldn't trust them with your body. The rest (she tells me with a knowing look that makes me squirm as of course I know who she's talking about) takes care of itself.
Feeling the fear
Sometimes I get the impression that many churches, in particular, are scared of telling young people what to do for fear of scaring them away; perhaps forgetting that there is an important difference between judgement and guidance. The attitude seems to be that as long as they're still attending then we're doing something right. Unfortunately, mind-reading has not yet become an evolutionary necessity and we can't be expected to absorb unshared knowledge just by sitting in the pews. I think the idea that people don't want concrete guidance is a total misconception. Everybody is searching for it and often in all the wrong places. Having people come to church and not receive guidance is damaging in itself.
How can we expect other religions and belief systems to see or at least appreciate our way of thinking when we don't even talk about it with each other? There are plenty of other question marks and unknowns, as is the nature of faith. That makes it all the more important to talk about what we do know from the Bible and also from our own experiences and understanding.
Starting the conversation
I do feel positive that we can change the current culture of silence. I feel encouraged by the initiative I've seen being taken by my peers to push for those difficult conversations. My home church is also starting a series on relationships very soon after a push from the congregation to assure our leaders that we are open to teaching on this topic.
If our leaders can set an example of openness then maybe it will eventually shed the taboo status. The more we are exposed to ideas the less frightening they seem. Disrespect, lack of restraint and suppressing our own emotional needs have been the prevalent messages for too long. To change our behaviour we need to change our thinking and I think that in church is a great place to start.
First published June 3, 2014
Helen McIntosh is a 21 year old trying to create more than she consumes. She completed a degree in English and Theatre in 2013, and for her writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new. With a childhood that consisted of moving around, home is where her family is, which for now is Blenheim but where she is in Wellington at the moment is pretty great too.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html