What persistently amazes me about many (if not most) devout Christians is the almost casual yielding of all their human agency to an unverifiable deity, not least when it comes to whom they sleep with, and when.
I was reminded of this curious carnal enslavement this week when I read an article by Sam Allberry, a seemingly nice Christian guy, about his ungrammatically titled book, Why Does God Care Who I Sleep With? Correctly — and, in fairness, I should note that the author pointed out this error in his introduction — the title should read Why Does God Care With Whom I Sleep?
However, the correct title seemed way too “clunky,” Allberry opines, a judgment he apparently feels doesn’t apply to unnaturally restrictive sex edicts supposedly commanded by a deity in the sky somewhere.
Grammatical flaws aside, the title of Allberry’s book is also dubious in two other respects: (1) it assumes without any evidence that divinities in general exist, as well as a specific “God,” and (2) it assumes with even less “evidence” that this imagined “God” does, in fact, care about how human beings respond to the extremely powerful, natural sexual impulses that such a deity presumably embedded in their natures from the get-go.
Unless God were a sadistic control freak, it would make zero sense for Him to demand such self-negating chastity in the real world from his human creations, which — let’s be honest here — are generally sex-obsessed. At least in my country, the United States of America, whose exhaustive and exhausting advertising, for starters, is predominantly sex-based (“Sex sells,” as they say). So is broadcast media, romance novels and music, to name a tiny few of other entities thoroughly engrossed in the nether regions of human emotion and sensation.
So, it would seem this Christian God expects an awful lot. Seems odd coming from a supposedly omni-benevolent, omni-compassionate deity. It seems punitive, in fact.
Allberry seems completely undeterred by the factual and logical issues inherent in his sexual views. Even more disturbing is the vastly shallow justification he offers to buttress his theory.
In his first chapter, he catalogs the horrors the propelled the #MeToo movement in which sexual predators were for the first time broadly called to account in the U.S. He references hedonistic Hollywood and its ruling lotharios, the fact that 20-30 percent of American women claim to have been sexually assaulted in their lives, and the massive damage of such experiences to women’s self-esteem and personal power. He even admits that religious institutions are far from blameless in this milieu, with televangelists and priests aggressively taking sexual advantage of those — boys and girls, men and women — who look up to them for moral and spiritual guidance.
Allberry then segues to Jesus Christ’s aphorisms on human sexuality, and his urging for people to avoid “adultery,” which, after all, is one of the Ten Commandments that his Jewish ancestors had long tried to observe (with limited success, I’m sure, if the Bible and history are any indication). He characterizes these commandments as “the executive summary of the whole of God’s law in the Old Testament.” Gosh.
All of this is well and good, but it really says nothing about why basic sex should be so rigidly prescribed in the first place. Certainly we’re the only animal who even attempts to do control ourselves in this regard, because it’s punishingly hard for most people because it’s unnatural.
Because Christians follow Jesus, a famously abused victim who was also “sexually exposed” by falling-open garments thrown on him by his abusers, they “should have an inbuilt sensitivity toward those who are victims,” Allberry tells us in his book.
Of course, this assumes that sex generally ends in victimhood, which, of course, it doesn’t. It generally ends in rapturous joy (if done consensually and even partly right). Sexual abuse, which every rational, kind-hearted person heartily condemns, is just the dark alley of sex, not Main Street. Not that most of us want to do it on Main Street.
The crux of Allberry’s proscription is a prejudicial conflation of sex and sexual abuse, and the idea that sex causes suffering in the world.
“To mistreat someone is to mistreat something God has made,” he writes at the tail end of Chapter 1. “Other people are not some irrelevant third party: they are people whom God decided to make and cares deeply about. An abuse of them is an affront to him. … Who we sleep with matters. Even who we think about sleeping with matter. If God cares about us, he will care about our sexuality. It is precious. A violation of it is serious, as we are about to see.”
In Chapter 2, he then immediately launches into a recounting of the litany of sexual abuses inflicted by Olympic doctor Larry Nasser on many of his teen-gynmast patients.
But then he incongruously pivots to the idea that just because we humans are animals doesn’t mean we have to do sex like the other beasts do.
“We may be animals to some extent, but we are also much more than that. What may just be physical for animals is often something far more significant for us,” Allberry writes in Chapter 2. “… It is undeniably the case that sex involves so much more than our bodies. Sexual activity is not trivial. So much seems to be at stake in how human sexuality is approached that it is fair to say that there really is no such thing as casual sex.”
I boldfaced three particular words in this quote because they’re reflective of the error inherent in Christian edicts regarding sex. Humans are not animals “to some extent”; we are animals to the core. The Christian idea that we have a “soul,” which is as unverified as divinity, and that this makes us accountable to behavioral requirements unobserved by every other species on earth, is all pure invention.
From everything we can know, there is no “God” and thus no requirement, except for natural human kindness and compassion, to embrace our sexuality in any way different than it instinctively leads us, married or not (gay, straight or otherwise).
Unfortunately for him, Allberry believes he must deny himself normal sexual experience until the day he signs a marriage document, although there’s literally nothing in evolutionary reality that requires that.
Too bad. So sad.
Please sign up (top right) to receive new Godzooks! posts via email, Facebook or Twitter
“Erudite yet readable … very illuminating”
— Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” in praise of “Holy Smoke”
Buy either book on Amazon, here (paperback or ebook editions)