What is human sexuality anyway?
I feel that for years the Church has shied away from teaching about sex and sexuality and has therefore made it a taboo subject. I believe the Church should be active in teaching what God says about sex and embrace the fact that we are humans with a sexuality. Our sexuality is part of our humanity and shouldn’t be ignored.
And just like the rest of our humanity, our sexuality is flawed, distorted, broken by sin. My sexuality, as a straight male, is distorted in its own way, just as any gay man, woman, or non binary being, albeit in different ways, but also still the same.
Cherith Fee Nordling is a brilliant theologian who specializes in “what it means to be human.” She too addresses the fact that our sexuality is part of what makes us human and is effected by sin all the same; though the way it takes shape will differ from person to person. Below, I’ll add a couple links to check out and do some more reading of hers if you like. Here’s an excerpt to mull over:
After an hour of questions concerning my current research and about the theological influences that had shaped my thinking, one of the theologians at the table clearly wanted to shift the conversation from theory into practice. “Cherith, I’ve been asked to meet with a congregation that has just had one of their leaders tell them that she’s a lesbian. They want help in working through their reactions and then must decide on an appropriate response. What would you do in my place?”
I waited a moment and then replied, “I’m not sure what I’d do, to be honest. But to be equally honest, I’ll tell you what I’d like to do, were it my congregation or any other. We’d start the day this way:
‘Welcome, sisters and brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ, children of our Father in heaven through the life-giving Spirit. We are gathered here today under the transforming grace of Jesus of Nazareth who, in his new male human body, is praying for us. He prays that we would be empowered to look and act and think and respond like him, the New Adam, the first-born, High Priest of a new race of human beings, the “children of the resurrection.”
‘We’re here to try to listen in community to the Spirit, for our sister and ourselves, for together we bear the glory and fame of the Name of YHWH on the earth. The Spirit has chosen in love to dwell among us as his living temple. He knows the mind of Jesus and the Father, and he will give us wisdom and power if we ask, to keep us faithful to who and whose we are today.
‘So, as we begin to worship and confess and listen to the Father, Son, and Spirit for awhile, let’s just have a quick show of hands. How about we start with everyone who has had premarital sex–could you please raise your hands? Thanks. Just keep them up. Now, everyone who has looked at porn at any time in the past 24 hours to 24 years, could you raise your hands as well? Thanks. How about those who’ve had affairs, been to strip clubs, “adult” video stores or theaters, gay bars, sex clubs? Let’s get those hands up. Excellent. Thanks.
‘Now, those who perpetually masturbate with fantasies fed through video games, films, TV, books, internet, and magazines–yep, join the hands. Anybody involved in prostitution? How about crossdressers among us, or anyone who lives with the constant feeling that they’re male in a female body, or the other way around? How about those who’ve been abused sexually, physically, or emotionally? Thanks for those hands. Okay now, all of you who are into self-mutilation, eating disorders, other kinds of body hatred, those of you who have same-sex attraction, and you married folks who withhold sex from your spouses for reasons of power, shame, neglect, whatever–we welcome those hands.
‘Finally, all those who are simply confused by, ashamed, or afraid of your sexuality and would love to wake up each day as a female or male follower of Jesus Christ in relation to other men and women and know that your “very good” human life is the particular delight of the Triune God who chose you before the creation of the world to be you and to be God’s–go ahead and raise your hands.
‘Okay, now that about 98 percent of us have our hands up (and I assume the rest of us either didn’t hear or didn’t understand the questions), it’s easier to remember that we come as fallen, beloved sexual beings in the presence of our male High Priest, Jesus Christ. So let’s pray, remembering that no sexual brokenness or healing is greater than another in the creation/new creation economy of the Lord Jesus, who not only happens to still be human but who was tempted in every way we are–which would include sexual temptation–and who prays for us constantly, from experience! Let’s confess before our Lord Jesus that we need his help to figure out how to be like him, and the Spirit’s power to actually do it–to get up every day and follow Jesus as a man and a woman in relation to other women and men–which is the only way to be a Christian.’”
I love this! And it just goes to remind us that we’re all fallen, we’re all broken in some way. We’re all in the same boat.
One thing this approach does suggest is that homosexuality isn’t “right,” so to speak. But then again neither is heterosexuality, at least not the way we know of it because everyone’s sexuality has been effected by sin. This, to me, is a great eye-opener and I find it very helpful when addressing the pastoral needs and concerns of the LGBTQI community as a Christian. First, I can’t ignore my own distorted sexuality and pretend that I’m perfect and my sex drive, my sexual desires, etc. are altogether good, where gay people’s are altogether bad.
I think before moving any further into this conversation (either in personal reflection, group talk, or actual practice of ministry) we’d all do well to pause and really take this in. It will help you come from a better place of understanding, which is always good.
I just reminded myself of a point I wanted to make.
Sometimes its easy for people to make up their minds about something that they’ve never personally experienced. For instance, if you’ve ever experienced alcohol or drug addiction first (or second) hand, your understanding of the complexities involved greatly changes your pastoral approach to others who struggle with the same thing. As, too, would your theology change accordingly.
It’s often not until we experience something for ourselves that we can truly understand it, and thus know what to do, say, think, or believe.
It’s the same thing as Christians who would say that they’ve had true encounters with God, that they’ve felt God’s presence, heard God’s voice and have been changed by those encounters. A non-believer who’s never experienced this would have their mind made up already and they woudn’t be coming from a place of understanding.
The same thing can be said of LGBTQI people and our first hand experience with them as people.
For the longest time, the (majority mainline Western Protestant) Church could make blanket statements about gays and their lifestyle because it was extremely rare that there’d be any first hand experience with gays. And if there were gay people in the church, they were probably in hiding or trying to suppress their feelings and force themselves to live a “normal” “straight” life.
BUT NOW, since being gay is much more common, it’s no longer something foreign to the Church, nor is it something Christians can develop ideas about abstractly from a distance. Still though, the tendency isn’t for LGBTQI people to just walk into many churches, nor is it a tendency for many Christians to go make gay friends, but I argue that everything changes when you open yourself to understanding.
If you try to understand someone – anyone – without trying to first make them understand you, I promise you’ll start to see things in a new light. And when it comes to Christians and the LGBTQI community, you have to work from a place of understanding, or else they will never be open to understanding you.
so here’s a link to that full article of Cherith Fee Nordling (which also has an audio clip so you can listen to it instead of reading it all) – https://reformedjournal.com/embodied-human-sexual-the-only-way-to-be-christian/
and another very detailed interview with her which can be downloaded – https://www.gci.org/files/Nordling160808.pdf
also, feel free to search for her on YouTube. most of her videos are live keynotes and are pretty long, but totally worth checking out – and not just for the sake of sexuality, but her whole thing is “Embodied Theology;” what it means to be human, made in God’s image, and what the humanity of Jesus truly means for us.
peace and blessings as you go.