marriage and sexuality

Have you ever stopped and considered how historically unusual the modern culture of sexuality and marriage is?

Sarah Williams, a history prof at Regent gave an excellent lecture on contemporary marriage and sexuality this week.  A few points that stood out:

Our private moral decisions have profound public implications.

In the last hundred years sex has been separated from procreation in a way completely novel in all of human history.  This widespread and complete unhooking of sex from procreation has allowed (not necessarily caused, but allowed) the separation of sex from marriage.  When sex and procreation were linked, there was tremedous community pressure for commitment to be a prerequisit for sex.  The moral authority of the church further bolstered this demand for marriage (commitment) before sex.  The Reformers insisted on a public commitment to be made involving both the church and the state.

Sex and procreation divorced.

Non-marital birth rates in the U.S. have gone from 5% in 1966 to 33% today.

Sex and marriage divorced.

Cohabitation before marriage has increased eight fold in the U.S. since 1970.

In the meantime marriage has become commodified.  Marriage no longer stands as a covenant to be entered but rather contract to be entered.  Covenants are meant to withstand uncertainty, contracts are meant to avoid uncertainty.  We have moved from spouse language to partner language (a partner is an economic term).  Our romantic basis for marriage results in those falling out of “love”  those in marriage to be “authentic” (the chief value of post-moderns) and true to themselves about the fact they no longer are in love, and hence dissolve the marriage.  Authenticity trumps covenant.

High divorce rates characterize all modern Western societies.  The U.S. divorce rate stands at 55%.

When sex and marriage are divorced and marriage becomes commodified, sex within heterosexual marriage simply becomes one option to be chosen or discarded, between the dizzying array of sexual choices which exist in the modern sexual culture.  Notice too, how sex now becomes a thing which is somewhere out there and can be analyzed and dissected and no longer fundamentally about a covenant relationship.

Sex is divorced from marriage, sex has no inherent morality about it, it is simply an thing, an activity, where numerous options of expression exist.

Which leads to sex divorced from stable relationships altogether.

Sex  is detached from intimacy, it is a private recreation, ethically harmless, with no real bearing on our lives.

We have now moved a long way from the Reformation view of sex within a marriage as public covenant with spiritual, social, and political implications.

If one does not need stable relationships for sex, why does one need partners at all?

So sex becomes divorced from partners.  Pornography, solo sex, becomes the natural outcome of this completely individualized view.

Finally, sex and physicality are divorced.  No longer does the sex we have need to correspond with the sex we are.  Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, monosexual, transsexual, become an array of options to be chosen between as one sees fit.  We have drugs to change our bodies and drugs to excite our bodies.  Sex is a thing, out there, to be grabbed and used as one privately chooses, and sex to create children with the covenant of marriage is one quaint option among many, and a quickly disappearing option at that.

How much of the current Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage comes from the current cultural privatized, individualized, romanticized, objectified vision of sexuality and how much of it is driven by a Biblical understanding of covenant and design for humanity?


2 Responses to “marriage and sexuality”

  1. 1 Debbie April 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    This is so true. I talk a lot about this development in my book since I believe it has marred our view of the relational example God gives to us through the Trinity. Masculine + Feminine = Life. We took the “Life” out of the equation and now the components drift apart and no longer offer cohesion and oneness. Terrible, terrible mess we created. Yes indeed.

  1. 1 theoryspace Trackback on April 7, 2009 at 10:47 am

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