Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Waiting for no one

I recently discovered the blog Stuff Christian Culture Likes and I loved it so much I read the whole thing front to back!  Reading it was like taking a journey back to the weird and wonderful (but mostly weird) time in my teens and early 20's when I lived fully immersed in charismatic Christian culture.  One particular post on "Waiting to kiss until your wedding day" really stuck with me because it brought back a lot of memories about just how confusingly complex the church's view of physical intimacy is.

Having sex is the second worse sin anyone can commit (worst is having gay sex, obviously).  We use words like "dirty", "defiled" and "impure" to describe people who have been physically intimate.  You can lie cheat and steal all day long but the the only time anyone would tell you that you are "living in sin" is when you're having sex.  Sex is so bad you can't even have it by yourself!  Most congregations have groups for men that provide "accountability partners"* to help keep them from flogging the bishop.  They also help keep men from looking at the swimsuit issue of a sports magazine because sex isn't just a dirty sin when you actually commit it, it's even a sin when you just think these dirty and impure thoughts!

Sex is a wonderful gift from God and He want's His children to enjoy it.  Many churches have a several week long sermon series on Song of Solomon to teach congregations that physical intimacy is a blessing and that God intended it for their pleasure.  Churches therefore encourage Christian couples to have a lot of sex with programs like the 30 days of sex challenge.  In other words, Christians are supposed to have a lot of sex and they are supposed to enjoy it!

Confused?  You are not alone.  Yes, the Christian culture's views on sex sound a little bit like Schrodinger's petting.  It manages to be incredibly good and incredibly bad at the same time, the difference maker being marriage of course.  Marriage is the magic wand that turns the dirtiest, most sinful thing you can do into the most wonderful, holiest thing ever.  If you are unmarried then there is nothing more important to God than your purity, i.e. not defiling yourself with physical intimacy.  Get married and suddenly God no longer gives a hoot!  Purity shmurity!

It should be no surprise then that Christian young people tend to get married young and also tend to have very short engagements.  The problem is that it doesn't work out that well for everyone, mostly thanks to the unholy abomination that is Christian dating and courtship.

The first rule of Bible based dating is that dating is evil and immoral and should be avoided at all costs.  Since God has a perfect plan for your life, this includes the perfect marriage partner and you should let God be your matchmaker.  If you start dating different people you run the risk of stepping outside of His Perfect Will by following your own sinful desires, in which case: no perfect life partner for you!  Instead, a lot of churches teach "Biblical Courtship" which is a complex multidimensional system involving assorted small group leaders, accountability partners, the pastor and both sets of parents.  I would explain further but it would take a very long time and I'm not sure I understand most of it.  I wonder if anyone really does...  Anyway, the second rule of Bible based dating is no funny business before the wedding!  I'm not talking about sex, that should be a no brainer.  No, things that should be avoided are anything that could tempt you to slip and fall into the sinful morass of sexual impurity - so no kissing, no hanging out alone, no touching in the swimsuit areas (and this is Christian culture so I mean one piece, not bikini!) and preferably no hand holding (though it is grudgingly allowed).  After all, if everyone is destined for someone then you run the risk of getting frisky with someone elses spouse-to-be!  That would be sad and wrong because you would be robbing both your true future spouse as well as their true future spouse of something meant only for them.

Couple of problems with this.  First off, "Bible based dating" is not based on the Bible.  At all.  How could it?  There is no dating in the Bible!  People in Biblical times just married whoever their parents arranged for them to marry after all.  There may have been matchmaking involved but it certainly wasn't from God's side.  This is also why the Bible places such a premium on (female) virginity - women were property back then and their "purity" gave them value in marriage negotiations.  "Biblical courtship & dating" is probably based on Romeo & Juliet more than any other source material, only instead of "star crossed" lovers you have "God ordained" partners.  Secondly it places a lot of unrealistic expectations on libidinous young couples that they are often ill equipped to deal with, leading to downward spirals of (completely unnecessary) guilt and shame.  Thirdly, it clearly doesn't work for everyone.  If you look past all the engaged/married kids in their early 20's at church you are bound to see a smattering of lonely single people in their late 20's (and 30's and 40's) still desperately waiting on God to be their matchmaker.  Why do you think that is?  It's not that they are being punished for their impurity.  On the contrary, these folks are usually far better at "staying pure" than their married-at-20 counterparts.  I can think of three possible answers:

1 - God is a matchmaker but is also running an eugenics program.  Take a closer look, those singles are more often than not of the overweight, unattractive and/or socially awkward variety.  Matching them doesn't seem to be as high on God's to-do list as matching their attractive, vivacious counterparts.  Coincidence?

2 - God did in fact have a perfect life partner picked out for you but then said future spouse decided to obey the Word of God and chose to stay unmarried (as endorsed by both Jesus and the Apostle Paul).  Could God's perfect plan for you to get married be overruled by His own endorsement of life long celibacy?  That is a question for better theological minds than mine!  Alternatively maybe your perfect partner didn't go to a church that taught Biblical courtship and ended up marrying someone outside of God's perfect matchmaking plan.  OR perhaps your perfect partner did go to a church that taught Biblical courtship and dating and were so overcome by their sinful desire to have sinful intercourse that they married the first best person they could find just so their desires could stop being sinful

3 - Maybe it's none of the above.  Maybe God is not your matchmaker (good guess since as already pointed out, none of that is in the Bible) and the rules for finding love is exactly the same inside the church as it is on the outside.  Maybe you're supposed to do what you can to make yourself as attractive as possible, go out and meet some people, ask some of them out and find someone compatible.  Who knows, you may even find someone you get on with so well that you want to marry that person!  Could happen!

*This one time, at church camp, I met a guy whose mother (a Christian counselor) also doubled as his "accountability partner".  He would have to go to her every time he had "sinful thoughts" or masturbated and confess his sin to her.  I wish I was kidding about this!


GumbyTheCat said...

Religion is all about denying man the natural impulses God allegedly imbued us with. And money.

When my sister was 19 she started dating this guy who was a very devout Christian (don't know which flavor). She really, really wanted to bang this guy but he wouldn't unless she was Christian, and married to him. So, she pretended to be a Christian and they got married. The marriage lasted either less than a year or when the sex got boring, whichever came first. She was very into marriage though. Her next husband she married so he could get his green card. She made a quick $3,000 and got divorced a few days later. Ah, the blessed sanctimony of marriage.

LOL@ your phrase "This one time, at church camp...". Ha ha. I see what you did there. Very apropos of the subject.

TimmyMac said...

You forgot to address bisexuality (people who have sex twice/month) . . . Or in some cases (people who can masturbate with either hand) . . .

I love the oedipal accountability partner story . . . Now that's a real MLF (Mother's I Love to Fess up to) . . . Or in my case, Mothers I Love to Facebook)

Eugene said...

@Gumby - is your sister still into marrying dudes for green cards? Because I would sure love one! Full disclosure, I don't have $3000...

@Tim - I believe that is the worst kind of MILF!

digapigmy said...

I am sure the question everybody else wants to ask, but only Freud and I are willing to:

Did he ever have to confess to his mom that he masturbated while thinking about her?

GumbyTheCat said...

Eugene - I would not inflict my psychotic sibling on my worst enemy!

S.M. Elliott said...

Confusing is the only word for it. Topping even the Catholics, fundies have set up this nightmarish madonna/whore world in which you basically have to behave like a eunoch or a nun until about five hours after you're married. Then you have to become a sex god or goddess ASAP. It would be like going into Wimbledon after your first tennis lesson.

And now there are the purity balls, the purity rings, the purity pledges. Oedipus in the 'burbs. Can it get any crazier?

Eugene said...

You know, I wish I could say things are as crazy as they could possibly get but especially with Charismatic Christianity there is always a next level!