Mandatory Sex Education for Your Children

This is very bad news:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6905543.ece

Sex EducationThe laws are changing to remove parental ability to opt their children out of sex education in public schools. This means that every kid in public schools, regardless of religious background or the parents’ wishes, will be taught the school’s version of sex education at 15 years old. This goes into effect in September of 2011. Thankfully, this is in Britain, not here in the US. Still, it’s a big deal.

What’s so wrong with that? Perhaps little, assuming that children will be taught responsibly. My childhood sex education experience, however, was anything but responsible. I was lucky enough to have to go through sex education at three different public schools across junior high and high school. Looking back, all three of these experiences were damaging to my health.

My first experience in junior high was perhaps the most damaging. I was taught how to masturbate from a cartoon video. I won’t get into the moral or spiritual issues or non-issues with masturbation, but personally, I very much wish I had not been taught this at that point in my life.

Obviously, sex education is important, and I do believe it is necessary from a very young age. But the way I will choose to educate my children will be vastly different from the haphazard approaches used in public schools. Public school teachers cannot be trusted with such a delicate and dangerous subject; the potential for damage is tremendous, and assuming parents are doing their job, the potential for any kind of a benefit is extremely minimal.

What are your thoughts on mandatory sex education in public schools? Have you chosen to opt-out your children in the past? Why or why not? Are you concerned with this new decision?

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40 Responses to Mandatory Sex Education for Your Children

  1. In the last 40 years, the divide between Christian sexual values and public sexual values has grown increasingly wide.  It’s now more hazardous than ever to trust public schools to offer appropriate sex education to youth.
    Teaching basic facts about sexual reproduction is one thing, but it’s entirely different to teach how to masturbate, how to view homosexual behavior, values about premarital sex, etc.
    (Note: The blog wouldn’t accept my first drafts because it seemed too “spammy.”  That’s why the ‘sax’ word is changed in this draft.)

  2. Jason Carr says:

    Hahaha…I never would have guessed that would be an issue, but it makes sense.  Sorry for the trouble, Tom.  I’ve edited the comment to read correctly.

    Homosexuality is a whole new can of worms that I wasn’t even thinking about.  I don’t recall it even being covered when I went to school, but it’s certainly a lot more out in the open now then it was back then.  I’m scared to see what sex education teachers might be teaching on the subject these days…

  3. Justin Chmra says:

    I remember my sections of “sex” education in my school health classes. I never really paid much attention. I took it in the context that, I’m learning this from the school, so obviously it’s going to be weird and have biased views and what not. I don’t recall us learning quite the things you expressed but I guess it’s what is expected from it.
    I think in today’s day and age, that teaching complete abstinence is not going to do much good, if anything, it will make my kids want to do it more. Instead, I want to teach my kids to be smart, to be aware of the situation, and don’t do anything rash or stupid. They should know better and that they will have to live the consequences.

  4. Rich Hopkins says:

    My wife and I are expecting our first child any day now.  We decided a while ago to home-school.  Luckily my wife used to work as a teacher, but even if she hadn’t I see the need for home-schooling more and more for families that don’t want their children growing up with a worldview taught to them by the government.
    On a note about homosexuality, I can say that in the states that have passed laws to allow homosexual marriage, those school have homosexuality added to the curriculum.  In Massachusetts there has been a large exodus of Christian families pulling their children out of public schools, because even as early as the 1st grade they were being taught that homosexual lifestyles were normal.
    I’m all about hating the sin and not the sinner, but its that ideal that makes me sure I want to be the one to teach my kids about these topics and their spiritual ramifications.

  5. Jason Carr says:

    Justin, I agree that in the public school environment teaching abstinence may be a lost cause, but only because of the history behind sex education classes in public schools.  I am living and breathing proof that parents can teach abstinence to their children successfully.  And I’m very glad that I waited.

    But my parents didn’t teach me abstinence directly.  They shared Christ with me, and they shared God’s purpose for sex in our lives.  It was my faith that prevented me from losing my virginity, not my parents (though they did so indirectly).  I believe this method works and works well, because of the higher level of understanding that it yields.

    Not doing anything stupid is certainly better than the attitudes of a lot of teenagers, but it still amounts to ignoring God’s purpose for sex in our lives.

  6. Jason Carr says:

    Rich, congrats!  I’ll pray for the birth. :)

    I definitely see advantages and disadvantages to both homeschooling and public school.  I’m a little bit horrified to hear that topics of homosexuality have come up as early as first grade; there’s certainly reason to keep your kids out of public schools.

    The advantage of public schools, though, is simply that kids get used to the rest of the world, whether or not they believe what the rest of the world believes.  Still, a first grade mind is scarily open to the views of others around them.

    As of right now, my wife and I are planning on choosing the public school route, but we’ll do our best to make absolutely sure our children understand that not everything they hear from their teachers is the truth.  We’ll be sure to address the important topics hopefully well before they come up at school.  Still, it looks as if we’ll need to do this obscenely early on.

    If this were to happen in the US, though, we would most certainly pull our kids out of public schools.  It would represent a turn in a direction that is the opposite of where we want our children to go.  Though, we would most likely choose a private school instead of homeschooling because neither of us are teachers.

  7. Irene Lewis-Wimbley says:

    I teach sexual integrity in schools to address the rash of risky behavior in today’s youth.  The sex education was no where nearly as discriptive as the topics apparently in the British school system.  I am a firm believer however, that sex education must be started as soon as the child is able to ask questions (at an age appropriate level of course).  Open dialogue about the topic of sex is not easy for many parents and should be the goal of every Christian household to arm their children with the truth.  When they speak the truth souls recognize it whether they accept it or not.  Children armed with truth as agents of change for The Truth, The Way, and The Light. Isn’t it a beautiful vision of Hope for a hurting world.  I went to public school and private Christian school.  Personally, I wish the adults were equipped for training me to stand in the world rather than protecting me from it.  The 12 year old girls that are in violent and unhealthy dating relationships need someone to help them get off of cycles of risky behaviors.  My girls (5 and 6 yrs old) will be light and salt even in their 1st grade class.  God is faithful to complete the work he has started in me and my fruit.

  8. Karrie says:

    The mandatory requirement for education on human sexuality in British schools would be different, of course, than options in America.  The parameters of human sexual behavior such as morals, limits, and expectations are culturally imposed.  What is seen as mandatory or permissible will be different for different groups of people. European attitudes toward sexuality are extremely different than ours across the pond.  Ironic, since one of the foremost researchers in the subject was from Indiana!  If anyone wants to truly understand what we’re dealing with I suggest you read works by Alfred Kinsey but realize that he was approaching his research as a scientist.
    I truly believe that its vital for children and young adults have a better grasp of human sexuality and reproduction.  Even though American culture is obsessed with appearance and sexual activity most people don’t have a comprehensive perspective on what it is and why we do it. Tabloids sensationalize on who’s doing it with whom or more excessive behavior. Young people trying to understand and establish their own sexual identity are inundated with incomprehensible messages.   I do think its extremely important for parents take responsibility to learn about it as much as they can, so they may feel comfortable talking about a very natural part of being human and impart the significance and joy we can share in its expression.
    Its unfortunate that you had a bad experience in learning about this aspect of your humanity at a point in your life when you felt most vulnerable.   What is important is that people need to understand that the feelings, mechanics, and significance of sexual behavior in our lives plays such an huge role in ways that aren’t always apparent.  You may need to go back and reprocess that episode to insure those issues don’t continue to haunt you as you get older.  Since you and Amber will be talking to Reese about your own views of sexuality, be aware that cultural expectations change over time and he may face different issues or have different attitudes about it.
    Be aware, also, that your best intentions to shelter your child from learning too much too soon or set boundaries on sexual behavior may be frustrating.  As we are still mammals, our biology drives a lot of curiosity and experimentation.  My best advice is to learn as much as you can, teach your children appropriate facts early on without imposing too much judgment on innocent curiosity, and try not to freak out when they say or do something you didn’t expect.

  9. Jason Carr says:

    Irene, I’m glad to hear you’re making such a valuable difference.  I agree that sex education is important from an early age.

    Amber and I are hesitant to consider private school for our children because of the risks you describe (being protected and naive to the world instead of being taught how to deal with it).  Hopefully, we’ll be able to put and keep our children in public schooling.

    It’s encouraging to hear about your work in the public school system; was it difficult to obtain this opportunity?  Are you restricted at all in what you can say?

  10. Carrie: Great comments!

  11. Jason Carr says:

    Karrie, I spent the weekend with my parents, and my father made it a bit more clear to me how much my sexual views are (a bit ironically) influenced by our culture (probably more the culture of the church than secular culture).  What completely threw me for a loop was my father’s claims that much of my views on sexuality are not scriptural, and/or that they are simply not addressed in the Bible.  I have to admit that I have not studied this to an extent that I feel knowledgeable enough; I plan to research sexuality in the Bible to a much greater extent.

    Our discussions took some pretty crazy turns, from how the Bible addresses divorce, to polygamy, to a deep discussion on the institution of marriage.  Throughout all this, my father attempted to demonstrate how our “Christian” views on marriage and sexuality don’t necessarily match up to scripture.  He did not argue that scripture conflicts with them, just that scripture does not address them and in many ways encourages different views (such as polygamy).

    Needless to say, I came away surprised at my father’s views, and a bit thrown back.  I don’t believe I’ll ever change my conservative Christian views on sex, but I was disappointed both to hear my father’s views, and to hear that supposedly scripture does not support much of my views on sexuality.  This I need to research.

    I would be very interested in everyone’s thoughts on the subject, specifically how scripturally the Bible agrees, disagrees, or simply doesn’t address conservative Christian views on sexuality.

  12. Jason,
    Can you be more specific about which ‘conservative Christian views on sexuality’ that are apparently not supported by scripture?  I’m always interested in your dad’s thoughts.
     

  13. Jason Carr says:

    Specifically surrounding marriage, he claims that monogamy is not preached in the Bible.  He brought up one passage that states that bishops are to have no more than one wife, but claims there are no more passages supporting monogamy than this.  In fact, polygamy is supposedly much more prevalent.  Monogamy is fairly important to my sexual views, since I believe that we should have only one sexual partner (any other approach seems immoral to me).  However, my father claims that any moral obligations that I have in my mind towards monogamy are explained by culture, and that outside of my culture, polygamy is not necessarily immoral.  Obviously, I very much disagree.

    He also argued that God does not necessarily recognize marriage in the same way that the church does (or the government or our culture).  This has always been curious to me, and does not surprise me or throw me back, but this led us into a discussion on premarital sex.  My father seemed to be set on destroying typical Christian sexual views.  He suggested that perhaps (he was careful not to make any direct conclusions) premarital sex (as defined by our definition of marriage) is not necessarily a sin (perhaps sex is what defines a couple as married to God).

    My father’s purpose behind this discussion was to emphasize the fact that my post, and the thoughts behind it, was not scripturally-based.  I don’t believe I said or even implied that it was, but he found it important to state that it wasn’t, and suggested that in the future for an article like this I should state that these views of mine did not come from scripture, but rather from my surrounding church culture.  I did not fully agree.

    His stance on these matters is obviously much more liberal than I ever thought it would be.  My views on sex will not be changed by our discussion, but he did make me think about where my views come from, and I’ll be researching scripture to try and find any references to monogamy, what defines marriage, etc.  Any help would be appreciated.

  14. Let’s take one issue at a time.  First, on polygamy.
    In the Old Testament, polygamy is rather common.  Solomon, for example, “had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines.” (1Kgs 11:3)
    The New Testament reflects different marital standards.
    Matthew 19:8-9: Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
    1 Tim. 3:2, 12 require that overseers and deacons be “the husband of one wife.”  Funerary inscriptions from that era indicate that this is probably not a reference to polygamy. Instead, it was deemed virtuous, but not required, if a surviving spouse did not remarry.
    See 1 Tim. 5:9 where church-supported widows were required to be “the wife of one husband” (it’s the same Greek construction as 1 Tim. 3:2,12 except ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ are transposed).  No one thinks that women had a string of husbands, so why must we assume that men had a string of wives?
    Concerning premarital sex, Paul’s remarks in 1 Cor. 7 are helpful.
    1 Cor. 7:2: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
    1 Cor. 7:8-9: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

    1 Cor. 7:34: “The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit.”

    1 Cor. 7:36: “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin.”

    1 Cor. 7:39: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”

    I think these passages strongly suggest that betrothed couples were to refrain from sex until married. And when married, they are to help one another control those instincts by granting ‘conjugal rights.’
    I strongly agree with Jay that we need to distinguish between scriptural teaching and church teaching.  We are all heavily influenced by church teaching, and it’s tough to distinguish between the two.
    Here’s a comment purely designed to get a rise from Jay:
    Certain circles in the Methodist Church have been pushing for revised sexual standards and have been taking a “new” look at sexual scriptures.  Is it possible that Jay has been too influenced by these “church teachings”?  (I’m smiling; I hope you are, too.)

  15. Jason Carr says:

    Hahaha…I’ve sent an email to my Dad asking for his input.  Originally, he chose not to get involved online because there was “too much to address”.  It looks like I’ve pretty much ruined that luxury for him…

    Regarding monogamy/polygamy, the verses are clear in their meaning but none of them truly condemn polygamy.  My father argued at one point in our conversation that the few monogamy-related statements were for practicality reasons, as they did not apply to everyone.

    The passages surrounding premarital sex do make clear that it is wrong; my father’s arguments, however, surrounded more that God’s view of marriage might be different than the church’s view, which affects what is considered to be premarital sex.  Either way if a couple does not wish to be “married” and does not wish to devote their entire lives to their “spouse”, the Bible makes it clear that they should not be having sex.  Perhaps the question of what it means to be “married” doesn’t really matter considering that thankfully we do not decide what is or is not a sin.  Still, I would think that rather than to fight the culture it would be better (for the sake of building up instead of breaking down others) to conform to the cultural views of marriage.

    It would be very interesting to hear my father’s thoughts on this subject directly from him in open discussion.  I am, of course, not able to state his arguments half as well as he can.  Thanks for the scriptures, Tom.  Hopefully we can continue the discussion.

  16. An important part of any discussion about scriptural teaching about sex is a healthy discussion of grace.
    In my experience, many Christians have grown up with a repressive view of sex, so that they tend to have an overactive guilt complex on such matters.  Their marital life becomes unpleasant, and they become unable to have a natural, sane, and balanced conversation with their own children about the topic.
    It’s also possible to buy into ‘cheap grace’ so that Christians give in to sexual pressures, assuming that grace will always be there (see. Rom. 6: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”).
     

  17. Dad says:

    Dear Ones,

    All right, I guess I have to join in this conversation so that I can speak for myself.  I told Jason over the weekend that I had not written a reply because it would be necessary to “deconstruct” the cultural assumptions in his post to the point that it would move the whole conversation in a different direction.  Since he’s chosen to do that, and since he has included me in this conversation without my consent, I will now speak for myself.

    First, I agree with and appreciate the comments of Irene and Karrie. I find it interesting that the two women in this conversation are the ones saying that sex education in school is critical.  I agree that open dialogue about sex is important and that too many parents just aren’t having this conversation with their children. I’m thankful that Irene has the opportunity to present a healthy approach to sex in the public school.

    Second, just because I assert that what we call “the Christian view of marriage” is more a product of our culture than a product of Scripture, it is not appropriate for you to assume that I reject that view of marriage.  I am not calling for a redefinition of marriage.  I am objecting to baptizing that view and calling it “the” Christian view.  This is not about a “liberal” view as Jason would suggest.  It is about being faithful to Scripture, which I would contend is a very conservative view.

    Karrie’s first paragraph essentially makes the same point that I was making with Jason over the weekend.  Our attitudes toward sex are shaped in large part by the culture in which we live.  To go further, I would suggest that what is today normally described as the “Christian family” or the “Christian view on sex” is more a product of 1950 middle American culture than it is of the Bible.  Polygamy is a case in point.

    Tom is correct that polygamy is common in the Old Testament, and I would suggest even appears to be endorsed by God.  Take note specifically that Jesus comes through the polygamous relationship between David and Bathsheba. 

    I would further argue that the New Testament citations from Tom do not preclude polygamy at all, except perhaps (depending on one’s interpretation) for a bishop or “overseer.”  The reference to divorce could easily be applied to monogamy or polygamy.  I have no problem with Tom’s interpretation that the 1 Tim passages relate to surviving spouses.  Interpreting it in that way makes it silent about the issue of polygamy; which makes my point once again.  

    It should be noted that a thorough study of this issue (which I did for my doctoral dissertation on “family”) would reveal that by the 1st century (the time of Jesus and Paul) polygamy had generally gone “out of fashion” though was not prohibited.   This, again, was a cultural movement, not a religious movement.

    There is no doubt that Paul preferred that Christians be single and celibate because it allowed for individuals to focus more on serving Christ. But he said, if you can’t control your sexual urges, it would be better to marry and have sex within marriage.  I would not argue against Tom’s conclusion that “couples should refrain from sex untill married….”  Howver, these texts have to be understood in the light of what was going on during Paul’s day.  There were Christians who were incorporating the pagan practice of using  prostituion as a part of their religious observances.   Paul made various arguments against this throughtout his letters.  So, it may or may not be appropriate to interpret these passages as related to betrothed couples, but it is clear that it is foremost a condemnation of the use of prostitution. 

    As to refraining from sex until married: the question is, “What defines the beginning of a marriage? ”  Is it a marriage license?  Is it a public ceremony? Are any of you going to suggest to me that Adam and Eve filed a marriage license and stood before a priest or judge at a public ceremony? I would suggest that Gen 2:24 gives the starting point of a marriage as “they become one flesh,” i.e., they have sex.  A marriage license is a modern invention.  For most of human history, marriages were “recorded” or kept track of for legal reasons.  And for most of this history no ceremony or license was required – you just declared that you were married to whomever it was keeping the record.   

    This does not mean that I am suggesting sexual promiscuity is acceptable.  My point is as at the beginning of my argument: our assumption that a marriage is only valid when we have a public ceremony and have a license is a culturally determined assumption. Please be clear, I’m not saying that it is a bad assumption.  I’m saying that you cannot defend that assumption with Scripture.  No where in the Bible does it say that you have to have a license and a public ceremony to be married.  According to Genesis, to be married means to “become one flesh,” i.e., have sex. (Which, by the way, is backed up by a study of the history of the church.  The tradition of getting your marriage “annulled” is based on whether a couple was ever really married in the first place, most often interpreted as if you never had sex with your partner, you were never really married, despite the license and ceremony.)

    Let me cite one more Biblical reference before I make my last point.  We usually talk of Hagar as Abraham’s concubine.  However, Genesis 16:3 says that Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham “to be his wife.”  No license, no ceremony, only sex and polygamy.  However, you must realize that for Abraham to take Hagar as his second wife also meant that he was giving her a new status and it gave her new rights.  It was not casual sex.

    That leads me to my last point.  Any discussion of sex and marriage in the Bible has to acknowledge that throughout the entire Bible women were understood as property and had virtually no legal rights.  A woman always belonged to some man, either her father or her husband.  That is why the Bible is so clear that if a woman’s husband dies, her brother-in-law is to take her as a wife.  She had to belong to someone.  Further, if she has not had children, the brother-in-law must get her pregnant.  Look at Deuteronomy 25:5, it is clear that God is commanding polygamy.  If the brother-in-law refuses the polygamous relationship, he may be punished.  In addition, adultery and rape were sins against the man who owned the woman; the adulterer had stolen the husband’s property.  Within modern marriage, our concept of “you belong to me” can be traced back to this idea.  And yet, today we say we reject the idea that women are property. 

    Now, since I’ve shown that polygamy is at least not prohibited by Scripture (though I’ve suggested that God endorsed it in at least some cases), and since I’ve shown that the only definitive Biblical definition of “when” someone becomes married is based on the act of sex between that man and that woman, and since I’ve shown that as a culture have rejected a basic assumption of Biblical marriage (that woman are the property of men) therefore, I would assert again that what we consider the “Christian view of marriage” is based more on our culture than on the Bible.

    I invite any of you to prove me wrong.

    With great love and respect and a conservative heart,

    Dad

  18. Many thanks to Jay for checking in.  I recall when you were doing your research for your doctoral dissertation on the family.  I have nothing but respect for all that hard work and research.
     
    I greatly appreciate virtually all of your remarks, and I find little to dispute. If forced to find a point of contention, I would question the notion of New Testament “silence” about polygamy.
     
    1 Cor. 7:2 is fairly potent: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”
     
    Speaking of 1 Cor. 7:2, Wayne Meeks, a liberal theologian from Yale, says it “shows that monogamy was understood by the Pauline Christians … as normative and the normal means for avoiding porneia.”
     
    The other NT epistles, Meeks says, “show that monogamy continued to be the normal expectation in the mainstream of Pauline thought.” (The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul, Yale University Press, 1983: 101.)
     
    I’ve checked a few citations of the early church fathers (ca. 100-350 A.D.).  They acknowledge that polygamy was still practiced in society, but they speak condescendingly of the practice.  For several writers like Tertullian, the Christian’s only choice was between celibacy and monogamy.  (See his treatise “On Monogamy,” ca. 200 A.D.)
     
    In recent years, I’ve become aware of another biblical principle that I had previously missed.  Throughout the Pastorals (1 & 2 Tim. and Titus), Paul repeatedly places strong emphasis on the importance of Christians maintaining a standard of behavior that is not scandalous to the culture.
     

    Titus 2:5 is a good example: “Train the young women … to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
     
    The key part is: “that the word of God may not be reviled.”  Paul wants Christians to avoid behaviors that would be reviled in society.  This directive is stated in several ways in about two dozen passages in the Pastorals.
     
    Here’s the point: In our culture (or in Africa or Russia or Argentina), it’s appropriate for Christians to avoid marital practices that would be scandalous to the local social norms.
     
    I certainly agree that many of our marriage customs are not biblically based.  But it would be inappropriate for any Christian, in whatever culture, to reject cultural norms and to engage in a practice that would be shameful or indecent.
     
    Thoughts?

  19. Dad says:

    Hi Tom,

    As I said, I am not suggesting we redefine what we understand as marriage in our culture.  And I do believe that as Christians we should live up to the highest standards within our culture (or perhaps an even higher standard).  But way too often we say something is “Christian” because a lot of Christians pretend to do it. We need to be able to identify what is “of our culture” and what is really “of God.”

    I completely agree that our behavior should glorify God.  And that acceptable behavior within one culture may be different than in other cultures.  Like Paul, we should become weak to the weak (1 Cor. 9:22) so that we might save some.  So, if I am trying to witness to a Jewish friend over lunch, I would not bring him a ham sandwich, though it would not be a sin for me to eat a ham sandwich.  Likewise, I practice monogamy, not because there is a Biblical injunction against polygamy, but because within our cultural context it would hurt the cause of Christ for me to be polygamous. 

    I think you citations regarding monogamy back up the statement in my earlier post that by the 1st century polygamy was out of fashion, not primarily because of religious issues, but because of cultural norms.  That early Christians understood monogamy as “normative” is not the same as revelation from God.  In my post I acknowledged that by the first century it was normative.  But, that it was even still being debated by 200 AD, also suggests that there was not a definitive word condeming it.

    So, in the end, we agree that we should avoid polygamy, not because God has declared it wrong, but becaue within our cultural context it would be scandalous to the Gospel.

    To wit, what is considered acceptable behavior in this case is determined by the culture, not scripture.

  20. Jay:
     
    I’m with you on almost every comment … but help me understand why 1 Cor. 7:2 does not teach monogamy.

  21. Dad says:

    Well, first of all, Paul acknowledges that his advice around sex and marriage in 1 Cor 7 is “not a command of the Lord, but I give my opinion…” (v 25, also see verses 6 and 12).  Isn’t it interesting that Paul hedges here – at least three times.
    Second, in this passage, Paul is not concerned with the nature or make up of the family here.  This is completely about “sanctioned sex.”  Paul is “giving in” to the Christians in Corinth.  He prefers that they all stay single and celibate because he believes that Jesus will be returning within days.  But because they have shown that they are unable to stay chaste, he wants each one to have someone to have “sanctioned” sex with, i.e., a husband or a wife.
    The question in this verse becomes: does the phrase “each woman should have her own husband” mean “each woman should have a husband all her to herself.” Young’s Literal Translation reads: “and because of the whoredom let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her proper husband.” Proper husband does not necessarily equate to “a husband all to herself.”
    If we tried to strip this verse of cultural prejudices, it could be paraphrased to read, “In order to avoid indiscriminate sex, every man and woman should have a designated sexual partner who conforms to cultural norms.”
    Again, Paul is not concerned with the nature or make up of the family here.  His argument here is completely different from his definition of Christian family in Galatians, for example.   His only real concern is about avoiding “whoredom” or casual sex.  I expect that if you asked a polygamous Mormon family if 1 Cor 7:2 applies to them, that they would say, “Yes.”  Each of the women has a husband with whom she can have sanctioned sex, and the man has his own wives.  Together they can offer the sexual release in a sanctioned relationship and avoid the loss of self control (v 5) that leads to “whoredom.”
    Again, I acknowledge that Paul was living in a day where monogamy was normative, and probably imagined a relationship of “one man and one woman” when he wrote this, but I would suggest that those in a committed polygamous marriage fit the intent of 1 Cor 7:2 which was to avoid “whoredom.”  I don’t see that this prescription requires monogamy.

  22. Thanks for this.  It’s helpful.
     
    I have a hard time swallowing the paraphrase: “In order to avoid indiscriminate sex, every man and woman should have a designated sexual partner who conforms to cultural norms.”

    Let’s assume that all of your comments are in keeping with the letter and spirit of New Testament teaching.  Let’s examine some practical questions:

    1. What would be wrong if two Christians living in 21st century America chose to decline the usual marriage vows and ceremony and live together and have sex as committed sexual partners?

    2. If I were a missionary to an African tribe where polygamy was the cultural norm, would it be appropriate for me to ignore the polygamous relationships and simply pursue the other areas of Christian teaching?

    3. How do your conclusions apply to two male Christians who choose to pursue a committed homosexual relationship as “designated sexual partners”?

    I’m going to hit Submit Comment and run for cover.

  23. Jason Carr says:

    I’ll jump in here for a moment.  Thanks, Dad, for coming in and elaborating on/better defining your points.  I apologize for dragging you into public discussion without your consent, but I do believe the discussion has been very good for us all.  It is good for me to be able to see your thoughts in writing, and observing the discussions between you and Tom has been enlightening.

    Tom, much thanks as well for all of your scriptures and points.  It’s all certainly been very good for me.  I’m looking forward to hearing my father’s answers to your questions above.

    As I’m headed over to California later this week, I think I’ll ask Amber’s father (who is a minister in the Free Methodist Church) to contribute to the discussion.  His views are typically slightly more conservative; whether that will make any kind of a difference or reveal anything new to the discussion I do not know.

    Once again, thank you to you both (and everyone else who has contributed) for the time you’ve put into this.  I’m very excited for what’s to come in the discussion.

  24. Jason, I’ll make a quick remark.
     
    This stuff is incredibly volatile stuff for anyone who gets paid by a church.  Jay has been very gracious to share some honest and hard-fought conclusions.  I’m convinced – and deeply appreciative – of Jay’s commitment to biblical teaching.
     
    The questions I’ve asked are H-bombs that can end a career.  Since I’m not paid by any church, I can get away with speaking freely.  But I have great compassion and sympathy for your dad’s situation.  I wouldn’t blame him if he chose not to respond further.

  25. Dad says:

    This is my final post on this topic.  I just don’t have the kind of discretionary time that would allow me to continue this.

    First, I acknowledge that my paraphrase was pushing the envelope.  I was merely making a point, and that paraphrase out of the context of my argument is not valid.

    It is not my intent to promote polygamy or to suggest a change in our current culture’s understanding of marriage.  My argument is and has been that what we consider “the Christian view of sex and marriage” has more to do with culture than it has to do with Scripture.   I believe I have stated that case well and nothing here has refuted that.  Tom essentially agreed in his “scandalous” post.

    To answers Tom’s questions:

    1. It would be a “violation” of cultural norms.  Cultural norms are powerful, but I still can’t find anything in Scripture that says the ceremony is required.  I have had to address this issue several times as a pastor. What I ask of such couples is, “Where is God in your relationship?”  I also ask for evidence that they consider this to be a permanent relationship. Finally, we talk about how it appears to the rest of the world, particularly when children are involved.  I can honestly say that every couple I’ve had this conversation with has eventually bowed to the cultural pressure and had a public ceremony.

    2. Yes. However, you should not ignore what Scripture says about how husbands should treat wives, etc.  In many cultures polygamy still equates with woman being property.  Jesus elevated woman above that and Paul calls husbands to a higher standard.

    3. My argument has nothing to do with homosexuality.  Unlike polygamy, homosexuality is expressly condemned in Scripture.

    Finally, though no one has brought it up, there are implications for all of this on the nature of the family.  I’m not going to go there, expect to say that there are appropriate concerns about the role of family in our culture.  Maintaining a concept of a strong family is important to our culture.  You could use this reasoning to argue against pre-marital sex, polygamy, etc.  And I would likely agree with you.  But that has never been my point.  My point has never been whether I endorse polygamy or pre-marital sex.  My point has consistently been that what we consider to be “the Christian view” on these issues are more culturally based than Scripturally based.

    Amen and amen.

  26. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Dad.  There we have it. ;)

  27. Karrie says:

    OK, let’s be clear about some things.
    FIRST:  Yes, of course, we women should have a LOT to say about teaching children and young people about sex.  You seriously don’t want to wait to explain the process and its repercussions after the fact.  Its dangerous to patently assume that young people, especially young women, will innately know how their bodies work and how easy it is for them to conceive.  We then gestate and give birth to babies.  If you hadn’t noticed this is tough work.  We might make it look simple but fellas, it ain’t…
    SECOND: Ancient European sex providers in Rome were not always “prostitutes”.  Prostitutes in contemporary Western society are paid sex workers.  There were/are women in other belief systems who provided a sexual services for the people who subscribed to a particular world view.  We, as  Midwestern-American, middle class, Protestant Christians, do not necessarily share the values of this Classical Period world view.  The luxury of our current cultural perspective does not give us the right  to categorize/label/condemn these people who served legitimate roles within their culture for their time.   I think we seriously need to address the use of loaded terms inherent in translating texts from different languages and cultures.  It creates issues in contemporary understandings that cause drastic separation in how behavior and relationships are addressed.
    The Abrahamic Traditions share a different perspective on sexuality that was culture bound and regulated the behavior of women, perhaps due to the complex Judeo-Christian/Islamic ritual restrictions on inheriting family resources. If you control who has sexual access to your women you know to whom the offspring belong.  You want to insure that your resources are used by your family. It has a lot to do with early agrarian society and how to raise a workforce that ensured the survival of a lineage.
    What does not explicitly come out in the Abrahamic scriptures, but is still pretty universally observed, is that humans as mammals are inherently sexual beings.  Attempts to regulate sexual behavior were/are intended to keep peace between us.  As humans we constantly struggle with that, even among those who consider themselves Conservative Christians.  Seems we just can’t adhere to the standards we set for ourselves.
    I guess that’s why grace and forgiveness is so important.
    Realize, too, that although we turn to scripture to clarify how we should best conduct ourselves, much of what is in the OT Bible is problematic in applying it to contemporary people.  Seriously read some of that and then consider how often you could have already been dragged out and stoned for transgressing  Mosaic law!!  Many of these laws were made by men for cultural regulation. The fact that some Christian denominations cherry-pick scriptures to regulate their followers’ activities, dress code, diets, and attitudes really bothers me.  If our God is a loving God, not sure he’d still want us beating the tar out of each other for wearing the wrong cloth or eating something on the wrong day or claiming someone else’s country/resources/people for our own.
    Wish I’d been present at the Council of Nicea…
     

  28. Karrie says:

    I was just re reading your posts on FB regarding your perspective on human sexuality education, self pleasuring, etc
    Are you concerned about Christian conduct in regard to sexual behavior?
    I think sex is a wonderful gift from God, and if its true he made us in His own image, he intended us to enjoy it.  If you grew up in a rural area with active livestock breeding programs you might notice we aren’t the only species who enjoy the procreative act.
    But seriously, there are culturally acceptable ways that Christians can experience their sexuality, whether that is with their partner or by themselves.
    Reading up on this topic, not just about its scriptural basis, but its health benefits, its mechanics, and cultural parameters, might be in order.  You can find Christian-oriented resources on this.  I might also suggest that you read some of Alfred Kinsey, Masters and Johnson or other reputable authorities on human sexual behavior.  Realize, tho, that a perspective of a scientist or a social scientist may be vastly different than what you’ve known up til now.  Kinsey was raised in a very conservative Christian home.  Even as a bug biologist he had no idea of how human sexuality worked.  He researched it AFTER he got married and introduced a class on human sexuality into the University of Indiana curriculum.  For a long time it was wildly popular!

  29. Jason Carr says:

    Karrie, thanks for your thoughts.  I am in deep understanding that sex is a beautiful thing, and that it was meant to be enjoyed.  It is clearly a blessing from God.  Still, I do believe that I am tempted to “enjoy” sex in ways that are not wholesome.

    We can argue whether masturbation is a sin all day, but the fact of the matter is we are not to lust over what we do not have, neither sexually nor non-sexually.  Supposedly, some of us are able to masturbate without lusting.  I, unfortunately, am not.  I believe this might have been the direction you were taking.

    Truthfully, there’s nothing wrong with lust in a marriage relationship.  However, it is extremely difficult (at least for a man) to keep his mind focused entirely on his wife during a solo session.  For many/most/all? men, it is of course nearly impossible to lead a completely sexually pure life, but it is important that we strive to do so.

    Therefore, yes, sex is meant to be enjoyed, and there is nothing wrong with sex strictly for pleasure.  Still, sex tainted by lustful thoughts not directed at your spouse is no longer pure.

    I am outspoken on this subject simply because of the saturation of sex within our culture.  I cannot watch most sitcoms without being tempted to lust, nor can I go to some church services without my eyes wandering to areas they shouldn’t wander.  Much of this, of course, is my own sinful fault, but most of it could be prevented with a deeper understanding between men and women.

    I am not “cherry picking” scriptures here to say that the Bible mandates a certain dress code.  However, clearly we are not to cause others to stumble.  It is important for us not to judge, and not to turn nonbelievers away because of what they are wearing.  Still, I do believe it is the responsibility of a Christian woman to be modest in what she wears.

    I recognize that there is often an incorrect tendency among conservative Christians to believe that sex is the enemy.  Clearly, it is not.  The reason this tendency sadly exists is because of how much it is forced into our lives within our culture.  In many ways, it is the enemy, because of our culture’s corruption of such a beautiful thing.

  30. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Hi, Jason:
    First of all, let’s clearly define lust in the context of what comprises the male human sexual being.  LUST is defined as an unrestrained desire or craving, it could be anything we irrationally desire, but we tend to associate lust with sexual desire. But because human males are visually oriented as opposed to emotionally oriented there is a  subconscious (or maybe not so subconscious!) tendency to assess other females as potential sexual partners.  This is a biological phenomenon of the human male as mammal, with innate urges for reproduction.  It is how we react to our inherent biology with our adaptation to cultural expectations that defines us as the people God created ‘just below the angels’ (Thomas Aquinas?).
    Lust, then is unrestrained.  I guarantee that you are much more restrained than you assume.  If not, Amber would assist in your restraint.  While it is something that you should manage to the best of your ability now, I don’t think that a somatic biological response should warrant paralyzing guilt.  As you get older you’ll be able to manage this more effectively. But be prepared for a long battle…As long as you have a pulse hopefully you are going to have a sex drive.  But if I may quote Ira Gershwin regarding the aged Methuselah, “…who calls that living when no gal is giving to no man of 900 years…”
    Again, I think we really owe it to ourselves as a culture to have a better understanding of human sexuality.  When we understand something more clearly we have a greater mastery over it.
    Here’s an idea:  the best way to learn more about a topic is to teach it.   Why don’t you learn about this and teach a youth seminar on Christian perspective of human sexuality??  Several years ago the Roscoe UMC did human sexualtiy weekends for the Methodist Youth Fellowship.  These weekends were intended to teach pre-adolescents and young adolescents about their sexuality within the parameters of church  in a non judgemental setting. I think there are several people who had been involved in these efforts still around.  There are definitely former participants of these human sexuality weekends that still attend the church.
    Ask around, you might be surprised!!
    Re: Paul…  Although one of Paul’s most moving verses were about the nature of Love (1 Cor 13) I also wonder, much like the 1937 work by Arthur Darby Nock, if the Apostle Paul was an extremely repressed homosexual who had an imperfect understanding of Hellenistic culture. He seems conflicted about how people should handle their sexuality in the present (1st century Mediterranean), and encouraged people to remain celibate as the nature of the physical body would pass away upon the return of Jesus.  Odd of him to impose his opinion on the Judeo-Christian world view of the 1st century Mediterranean since our OT God seemed intent on populating the world since the time of Genesis.  It also seemed to be the intent of the Catholic church as well as the Hebrew traditions.  It is also argued among scholars of the apocryphal canon that sexual purity was imposed by Christian patriarchal cultural much later (again, thank you, Council of Nicea) on the stories of Jesus rather thanwhat may have actually been the case.
    We have to be very careful about what we think is based in scripture and what actually is in scripture.  We must then try to understand the intent of the chapter/verse within its context.
    After we get a better understanding of sex, then later we can discuss the nature of the soul when released from the physical body.

  31. Jason Carr says:

    Karrie, to be completely honest I don’t think we’ll ever see entirely eye-to-eye on this matter.  I would suspect that you see more along the lines of my father’s views, which I do not wholly agree with.

    My lusting may be “restrained”, but that does not make it any less sinful.  Whether or not you call it lust, I am still tempted (and moved) to think some rather disgusting thoughts and (hopefully only in the past) to partake in some rather disgusting behaviors.  Male sexuality is often so strong that to “let it free” in any manner would be incredibly dangerous and ill-advised.  Clearly, the thoughts that run through my mind on a regular basis are the definition of lust.

    I am not personally taking any scripture into play here other than Christ’s simple commandments for us not to lust.  It is dead clear in Matthew 5:27-30.  There is no question that I am constantly guilty of this very thing, exactly how Christ describes it.

    It would be detrimental to my faith to accept these thoughts as healthy and righteous, or to excuse them as part of my physical nature.  We are often fighting our “physical nature” as Christians, whether it be to fight emotions of jealousy or hatred, or our tendency to overindulge.

    It is also personally very clear to me that my sexual thoughts and habits often get in the way of my relationship with Christ.  They can also be a positive influence, when I am enjoying righteous sex.  Still, it would not be spiritually healthy for me to take a less critical eye to myself regarding sex.  It would most certainly take me in the opposite direction.  I’ve tried it quite a few times, and I’ve always come out farther away from Christ.

  32. Karrie says:

    Hi, Jason:
    You mustn’t feel that your earthly, physical struggles separate you from God.  What is most fortunate is that although you may have feelings or concerns about your own issues of the flesh, scriptures tell us that God who created you and Jesus who was God in flesh both intimately understand the conditions of life in human form. When scripture says Jesus Christ was God made flesh, we need to understand he was a man physically and had first hand experience with the biology of the human body.
    There exists recent scholarship and speculation regarding the extent of Jesus earthly experience.  Religious Studies scholars and theologians studying the Apocryphal Canon have stated that Jesus Christ himself may have been married.  Jesus’ own “sexual purity” was later added and emphasized when the teachings of Augustine of Hippo, along with those of Paul, influenced the leadership of the early church in the late 4th and early 5th century.  While some may consider the more recent opinions as “fringe,” what they compel us to do is gain a clearer understanding of the detailed and nuanced history of the Early Christian Church.
    This would put into perspective what we follow in our dogmas and doctrines.
     

  33. Carrie: You’ve said many things that are helpful and insightful.  But your last posting left me wanting.
     
    There have been, and always be, attempts to reinterpret history.  The alleged scholarship behind the claims that Jesus was married is, bluntly, not credible.  The vast amount of relible data from the earliest and best sources supports the view of Jesus found in the gospels.
     
    I acknowledge a tendency in early Christian writers to overstate and overglorify the traditions that had been passed to them.  But frankly, I have a hard time accepting the notion that Jesus’ sexual purity was ‘later added’.

  34. Jason Carr says:

    Sorry for the long period of silence.  I’ve been on vacation and we’ve been through an H1N1 scare with Reese (as diagnosed by a doctor), when in fact he did not have H1N1.  But that’s an entirely different topic. ;)

    It is clear that obviously Jesus was sexually pure, as he is purity by definition.  Therefore, the decisions that Jesus made surrounding sex are very important, as they are our best example of sexual purity.

    The concept of Jesus having been married is extremely foreign to me; I can’t imagine his lifestyle fitting in well at all with any kind of a healthy marriage.  Jesus was entirely focused on His purpose, and it seems that a marriage relationship might have gotten in the way.

    Clearly, Jesus struggled with the same bodily urges that the rest of men do.  The difference, however, is that his faith was strong enough to never give into them.  It would be nice if we had clear evidence of what Jesus did or did not do sexually, but I think the lack of examples of Jesus’ sexual experiences is a testament to the likely fact that Jesus refrained from sex for much (or more likely all) of his life.

  35. Karrie says:

    First to establish some points, lets go waaaaaaay back, and understand where our knowledge of Jesus originates, the Bible.  The Bible exists in multiple manuscripts, none of them original, and multiple canons, none of which completely agree on which books have authority.  Scholarly perspectives fall within a spectrum of maximalist (Everything is true) and minimalist (A work of theological fiction) approaches.  What is true is that only a fraction of texts survived the Early Christian Era, that was reviewed and edited by the early church fathers beginning in the reign of Constantine in the 4th century. Investigations of ancient Syro-Palestinian cultures in connection with the OT manuscripts are extremely important in how we understand this.  I recently visited a small Biblical Archaeology museum at a Seventh Day Adventist college made me realize what we are contending with.  Archaeologist William Dever (formerly of the U of Az, now in retirement in Cyprus) , has pointed out that there are in fact multiple histories within the Bible, including the history of theology (the relationship between God and believers), political history (usually the account of “Great Men”), narrative history (the chronology of events), intellectual history (ideas and their development, context and evolution), socio-cultural history (institutions, including their social underpinnings in family, clan, tribe and social class and the state), cultural history (overall cultural evolution, demography, socio-economic and political structure and ethnicity), technological history (the techniques by which humans adapt to, exploit and make use of the resources of their environment), natural history (how humans discover and adapt to the ecological facts of their natural environment), and material history (artifacts as correlates of changes in human behavior). Dever notes that the role of archaeology increases as one goes down this list, and that archaeologist’s interpretations of the written record can differ markedly from the record itself.
    The current understanding of the New Testament leaves out several books, the Apocrypha and the Gnostic Canons.  Dr. Karen L. King of the Harvard School of Divinity has researched and written extensively on the Gnostic and Apocryphal texts and presents a cogent argument for a broader understanding of the times.
    Second:  The history of marriage is problematic as well.  Marriage had originally been an agreement between 2 families.  In Medieval European history there had been a series of restrictions on what constituted marriage.  By the time we get to the American Colonies, marriage had been recognized as extended cohabitation.  The introduction of licenses was originally intended to keep “racial purity” in early American society.  While contemporary physical anthropologists have completely debunked the myth of race, we still have the license/document that makes it a legal arrangement.
    Meeting coming up, more later…
     

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