Sex, Affairs, and the Absence of the Church

Single Rev's Guide to Life

Yet another woman’s life, pretty much down the drain, for a married
man.  First, the diaper-wearing astronaut driving to Florida to do
something illegal to her married lover’s other girlfriend.  Now
the local news reports that a woman used an on-line web site to
solicit a hitman to off her boyfriend’s wife.  History is
replete with women who do incredibly stupid things under the pretense
of love.  Juliet killed herself.  Call me unromantic, but should
healthy love leave you dead from a knife wound over your boyfriend’s
equally lifeless body?  A few hundred years later, and the romantic
tragedy has embraced the plot line of this happy ending:  keep
yourself alive, but kill your boyfriend’s significant other.
You may do twenty to life, but he will finally be wholly and utterly
yours.  Not an upward step, ladies. 

Fellow women, hear this:  Jesus is the only man worth imprisonment, and even
then, you’d better be getting in trouble with the law for
issues firmly grounded in justice, peace, and Godly love.

all for love and commitment, but, as a rule, if the man you think you
love is either already married, or dating you and even one other
woman, he is not an answer to your prayers.  He may be charming, even
flattering.  He may be intelligent – actually, scratch that.
Really smart men don’t enter the affair arena.  He may be rich.
He may be all that and a bucket of fried chicken, but he is not
worth entre into a felony charge.

Not that the men escape sanction, either.  Every week brings new and
titillating revelations of politicians and other men in ranking
positions having affairs, having children out of wedlock, or having
dalliances with prostitutes as they stand on the moral ground of
hypocrisy and decry the sexual behavior of other people.

Many people will dismiss the women as mentally disturbed.  Perhaps.  The
men may offer excuses and grand statements of repentance.  Others
will say the media caused this.    For all the pundits and
commentators and therapists that will offer their opinions, biases,
and reflections on women and men behaving badly,  I suspect the
Church will not comment, at all, on its responsibility in the
confused state of erotic love.

Love, at least in the Christian tradition, is about the mutual health,
respect, and dignity of all the people involved in the relationship.
The commandment to love God, love our neighbors, and love ourselves
isn’t a choose-one-of-the-above option.  We don’t love
God in a way that denigrates our neighbors, nor do we love our
neighbors in a way that implicates us in self-destructive behavior.
The commandment is one unified commandment that should guide us in
all aspects of our lives.  We love God, our neighbors, and ourselves
by serving others in kindness, by striving for justice and peace, and
by honoring the dignity of every human being.  That’s the love
the Church teaches, or ought to teach. 

We don’t, however, teach much on how the love of which Christ
taught and lived works between two human beings who are hot for each other.
The Church blushes, then says, “Don’t have sex until you
are married, and then, don’t like it too much,” as if sex
is all romantic love is about.  For a thousand years, give or take a
few hundred, the Church has given all its energy to two types of love
agape and phileo, those loves which are often
defined as “benevolent love” or “goodwill.”
We give little or no face time to eros, that erotic love.  We
simply preach about the sin of sex before marriage and act like
wedding vows really are the starting point for religious folk to know
each other in the biblical sense.  Believe that, and I have some
great property to sell you in the Atchafalaya Basin swamp.  It’s
really lovely in the steamy summer months and comes with its own
mosquito farm.    

Clearly, we might try another angle. 

What if the Church decided to couch all types of love, those we feel for
our close friends and family, those feelings we have for our brothers
and sisters in Christ, and even those we have for the man or woman
whose lips look really, really kissable – what if the Church
struggled and stretched to find ways to help its members see all
those loves as guided by the love of God?  What if we found ways to
dialogue about dignity and respect for God, ourselves, and our
neighbors in the love for sister and brother, the love for citizen
and global neighbor, and the love for those whom we desire

Perhaps the Church’s awkwardness about sexual love is a fearful
reaction to an emotion proven so powerful and so consuming throughout
history.  The great epics of human history are essentially about how
human beings do incredibly heroic and even incredibly stupid things
because of their love for another.  Love is that powerful, that
encompassing, and that mysterious.  When all the analysis, all the
theology, and all the reflections are said and done, we still aren’t
completely sure why we love who we love, why love causes people to
sacrifice, to speak up, to have steamy sex with, and to die for

Instead of accepting that love, like God, is far beyond our full knowing, we
try to control it or dismiss it.  Love cannot be fully explained,
contained, or even controlled through Church dogma.  Yet we can be
guided through community conversation, and discussions about the
vastness of love and its many expressions in human action are a place
to discern how the Church can quit ignoring a holy emotion that has
changed the face of humanity and is the foundational aspect of our
relationship with God.  Maybe, just maybe, the Church can relinquish
and repent of its need to manage and strangle love into a chaste and
dry expression and attempt with great humility to offer guidance
about how Godly love looks and acts in our relationships – all
of them, even the ones that involve hot body oil.

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