|“opening up” copyright 2012, C. Schroeder, all rights reserved.|
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
When I asked someone today how we deal with Paul on some of these issues, she said “IGNORE HIM!” (I’m sure that’s offensive to some of you.) Paul and I argue about lots of things, and if we were having a face to face he would probably be mortified that this stuff he wrote to particular communities with specific issues has become the ultimate authority for some about how to act, to be, to live out one’s faith 2000 years later.
I have to tell you that this scripture triggers people who are survivors of sexual abuse in a big way. There is a woman I know who made a commitment to Christ in the June of her 14th year. Two months later she was gang raped and suffered unspeakable things. What does this mean to her? She was raped, so she becomes one body with her rapists? God forbid. And so many people recovering from long term sexual abuse are “the prostitutes”, of which Paul speaks. They carry deep issues around about their bodies. 99% of the prisoners in our penal system were sexually abused as children. Well, you know I speak often of this issue because the way we “Christians” have handled it is shameful. And from where I sit, the way Paul speaks of it, is shameful as well. It is clearly a dualist, patriarchal point of view…but then that was Paul’s identity. He was a zealous follower of Jesus, but it seems to me that he missed some really important things…Jesus ate and partied and spent time in the company of the lowest of the low, including prostitutes. He understood the issues and was not afraid to engage with those who were outcasts in society.
Some years ago I attended an American Baptist Church for a while, when I was thinking about getting ordained. It was a welcoming and affirming church and they had a GLBTQ concerns class that I attended. In fact, the first class I attended they were talking about “sex.” And I just about fainted, (I couldn’t believe there was actually a conversation about sex happening in a church) and then I joined in the conversation. It was healthy, humorous, safe. We talked about sexual ethics over the next few months, and at the time I was reading a book called Touching Our Strength, by Carter Heyward. She addresses all kinds of issues in the book. I also attended a conference around this same time that was dealing with sacred sexuality.
What a different attitude these Christians had about sex. It is a gift. It is precious and certainly not to be made light of. It is important to be honest and ethical when entering a relationship. AND some of these Christians were in open relationships, had engaged in sex with many different partners over the years, and of course some were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and some were into Domination and submission kinds of roles, some had fetishes. All had at one time or another, and sometimes many times struggled with whether they could remain Christians when sexuality and in particular the way they struggled with their sexuality was treated with such disgust, disdain and disrespect at times within the church.
I am definitely not an advocate for a free for all kind of sexuality. Childhood sexual abuse is an all too common issue in our world, and it is soul destroying. The sex slave industry is a horrible thing, and there are women and children, perhaps right down your street that are captive to it. Prostitution certainly isn’t just about single mothers trying to make a living…young men and women are caught in it, forced to do it, sold into it. And the sexual violence, much of it against women, which is so often part of the television shows commonly watched, feeds into the really terrible abuses of sexuality in our world, and the indignities women in our society and worldwide suffer. We MUST do better.
But for heaven’s sake, people engaging in healthy sexuality that happens between two loving and consenting adults behind closed doors, do not deserve our disdain and judgment. There are too many other important issues to get into pointing fingers and gossiping over people’s private lives. Come on, what difference does it make if a woman loves a woman or a man loves a man? What difference does it make if Stan has become Ann? Why in the world does it matter to you or me, what Tom and Jake do in the privacy of their home? As long as it is loving and not abusive?
Okay, I’m simply honest about the fact that I do not like this passage, and believe it is dangerous to interpret it in literal ways for today’s world. Our bodies are indeed temples of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean to you? I’m willing to hear from you. I’m willing to listen to your honest struggle. I’m not however, willing to listen to judgments about someone else’s struggle, except where it is harmful to self esteem, abusive in ways that degrade and do harm, or where it has effected a child. And when we do make judgments, may they be tempered with compassion, with a broader view as to what is at the root of the things we see as perverse. And NEVER will I engage in conversation and gossip that treats someone in less than a dignified way about these issues.
So how about real conversations about our concerns? How about opening up and talking honestly about these issues that are essential. How about bringing God into it all.
I may just continue to rant my feminist rant all of this week on the topic. Because it matters. It really does.
Geesh…being a writer is scary as all get out!