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Friday, October 28, 2016

Sex and "God's Ideal"

Two men kissing. Image source.
In the arguments surrounding same-sex marriage, I've often seen Christians use this line of reasoning: God designed sex specifically for one-man-one-woman marriages. That's God's ideal- that's the way it was in Genesis 2, and Paul's letters say it's a reflection of the relationship between Jesus and the church. That's the best situation in which to have sex. Therefore, same-sex relationships are not okay. Oh and also, not okay for opposite-sex couples to have sex if they're not married. Because, again, God's ideal.

This is such a bizarre argument. Let's suppose for a minute that it's actually true, that the "ideal" context for sex is a one-man-one-woman marriage. Now, even if that's the best possible way to have sex, why on earth would that mean that nobody should ever have sex in any other circumstances? Just because there is one "ideal" way to do something doesn't mean if you can't do it that way then you shouldn't do it at all.

I mean seriously. Can you think of any other things that have an "ideal" implementation, and therefore should NEVER EVER exist in any other circumstances besides the "ideal" one? I think chocolate cake is the ideal dessert. Does that mean I never eat any other desserts? (Note: no. The answer is no. I love desserts.)

The argument "the ideal situation for sex is a marriage between opposite-sex partners, therfore no one should ever have sex if they are not in that situation" makes no sense. That's not what "ideal" means.

If you want to argue that having sex in contexts other than one-man-one-woman marriage is harmful, okay, give us reasons and we'll see what we think about that. But that is an entirely different thing than saying one-man-one-woman marriage is ideal. There is nothing about the word "ideal" that says "this is the only valid way of doing it."

Suppose we have a man and woman who are dating but not married. Yes, I can understand the arguments that say having sex in that situation would not be as good as having sex with someone you're married to. I can see why you might say it's "ideal." But guess what? If a person is not married, then it's not possible for them to have that ideal one-man-one-woman-marriage sex. They do not have access to the "ideal" circumstances. Okay, time for some problem solving: Let's say you want to do something, but you're not able to do it in the best possible way it can be done. What should you do?

Hmm, maybe do it in less-than-ideal circumstances and make the best of it? I mean, right? This is obvious. We all face situations like that every single day. There's a "best" way to do something, but sometimes it's not possible to do it that way, so we figure out a workaround. We don't say "oh well if you can't do it the ideal way, you shouldn't do it at all."

(At this point one might argue "ah, but how about this: the ideal situation to have sex is a one-man-one-woman marriage where neither partner has ever had previous sexual partners. See, now we have a reason to say unmarried people shouldn't have sex- then if they didn't marry that partner, they would never be able to have sex the ideal way." Okay, sure. The church definitely teaches that if you've previously had other sexual partners, it's impossible to have a healthy/"ideal" marriage. But I've never heard anyone teach "if you've had sex in the past, then you shouldn't ever get married or have sex again because you can't do it in the ideal way." It's not "ideal" to have a past, but nobody's saying that means people with a past should never have sex. Contrast that with the teaching that unmarried people and anyone in a same-sex relationship should never have sex because it's not "ideal.")

And yeah, let's talk about gay people. Or a bisexual person in a relationship with a partner of the same gender. (Or... there are many other examples you can list here.) For them, a one-man-one-woman marriage is NOT IDEAL AT ALL. How can you argue that it's "ideal" for everyone to be married to a partner of a different gender, even people who would be much happier in a same-sex relationship? There's nothing "ideal" about that. And if you say it's not about the individual, it's about "God's ideal", it's about reflecting God's design for marriage or some crap like that... you mean having an outward appearance like some kind of symbol is more important than how people actually feel and what's good for them? Yeah, that's totally what Jesus taught. (Ahem. Sarcasm.)

If you want to give reasons why it's not good to have sex outside of one-man-one-woman marriage, you have to actually give reasons. Just saying it's "ideal" or it's "God's design" isn't good enough. We all get things done with less-than-ideal methods every day. We all use tools in ways they weren't explicitly designed to be used. We make decisions based on what's practical, and make the best of our situation. I don't see why sex would be any different.

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