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Why do Christians obsess about sex, which Jesus largely ignored?

Published April 2, 2014 6:28 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I don't know about young girls, but I know from experience that young boys obsess about sex.

They crave it, fantasize about it, do everything in their meager power to obtain it, worry about their adequacy, get confused by their longings, and for the duration of adolescence — and often beyond — see people in terms of "getting laid."

I suppose this obsession is natural and that it serves some fundamental purpose, such as perpetuating the species or giving us something to think about besides our gangly bodies, weird thoughts, and being young and insecure.

I don't know any adult who would willingly repeat adolescence. Yet here we are — we Christians seeking hope, grace, mercy and purpose, we believers in a God of justice — treating our faith as an endless adolescence centered around sex.

We obsess about sex, a topic Jesus virtually ignored. Our public presence has narrowed to questions around abortion and homosexuality. The "Christian" political agenda has become nothing more than electing candidates who will deal correctly with abortion and homosexuality.

Never mind war and peace, never mind wealth and power, never mind caring for the "least of these," never mind human suffering. If it doesn't concern sex, forget about it.

We claim to care about life, but our views on abortion aren't about life; they are about women's freedom to have sex or to be independent. Proof: We ignore other assaults on life, such as warfare, profit-seeking obesity, addictions and destroying our planet.

We claim to care about Scripture, but our cherry-picking of a few Bible verses about, say, homosexuality, isn't reverence for Scripture. Proof: We feel free to ignore the rest of what the Bible says.

Instead of challenging one another to grow in faith, we use our sex obsession as a cover for being unfaithful in what God actually values.

We dismiss as "Marxism" the actual Christian life described in the New Testament's Book of Acts: owning property in common, giving to all as they have need, being profoundly oriented to communal living.

Instead of doing what Jesus did — caring for victims and outcasts, and speaking truth to power — we create victims and outcasts, cozy up to wealth and power, and bury Jesus in lavish and gaudy show.

We allow greed to run rampant because any constraint on wealth — such as the constraints Jesus himself voiced — would upset the powerful and dim our hopes of joining their plush feast.

We hide behind sex and sexuality as if life were an endless adolescence, as if living responsible, adult lives grounded in the faith Jesus actually commended was unnecessary.

God will be pleased, we say, if we legislate the bullying of gays or take women's side in gender wars. There's no need to live generous, self-sacrificial lives; no need to temper our lust for wealth and power; no need to love God, neighbor or enemy.

Entire denominations have reduced their public message to regulations on sex. It's as if the four Gospels weren't enough. They've had to write another book for God, in which humanity's ultimate purpose lies in genitals and gender.

Maybe we are hypocrites, using the other person's sexuality as a cover for our own greed and self-serving ways. Or maybe we are like the adolescent boy who lies in bed dreaming of sex because the rest of life seems so terrifying.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York.