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Sexuality and Christian belief (Was: Homosexuality and the Bible)

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Hmmm...is this a historical fact? I find it rather unlikely that they did not exist at all...even if Paul was unaware(which seems unlikely to me).

The whole notion of romantic love as the basis for a "committed" relationship--heterosexual or otherwise--is a relatively recent invention. It would have been entirely foreign to Paul or anyone in his day. The assertion that X is acceptable merely because Paul did not condemn it is pretty much meaningless unless you can prove that Paul was aware of X. It is rather a substantial burden of proof.

As an aside, phlox's assumption that Paul "condemned" certain practices because they were abusive or exploitative is at odds with what Paul actually says in Rom. 1. See Peter's post a few pages back: Paul doesn't so much condemn these practices as he describes them as the consequence of other forms of sin ... so, to try to divide those practices into categories of exploitative and non-exploitative in order to shield some of them from "condemnation" is to miss Paul's entire point.

Paul belongs to the same rabbinic tradition and cultural milieu as Jesus. What SDG said about Jesus earlier in this thread also applies to Paul:

One may contrive in the privacy of one's study to read isolated passages of scripture in this or that way; one cannot escape the basic shape of first-century Jewish sexual morality, or how all Judaism of Jesus' day saw acts such as fornication, adultery and homosexual acts in light of Torah.

So far as I am aware, there is no meaningful diversity of opinion or ambiguity to help us here; no cultural wiggle room for reinterpretation and the like. There is simply the Jewish understanding or the rejection of it.

Expecting to find an exemption for "committed, loving relationships" in all of this is rather like expecting Pliny the Elder to say something about uranium.

I would also note that if you accept the genesis chapter one as a literal event, then the entire human race is an incest factory...which means it was always a sin yet God gave no other option...or morality has SOME flexibility.

A Genesis-literalist will give you a couple of ways around that argument ... one of them being that people can't be held responsible for breaking the law of Moses until after Moses receives it. But regardless, I don't think we have too many Genesis-literalists here.

Edited by mrmando

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Because strict ground rules about specific sex expressions in marriage reveal a pettiness and rigidity of thought that betray any or all grandiosity or majesty in its supposed "theology of the body".

I'm somewhat baffled that you seem to have no problem with that one immense restriction — "in marriage" — but anything else is "pettiness and rigidity of thought." As you put it earlier:

It's another textbook case of making the Narrow Way even more narrow. "Want to enjoy sexual pleasure? Wait! You gotta get married!" OK. No problem. "Want to FINALLY enjoy sex with your spouse? Careful!!! Here's a short list of what God allows in the bedroom."

"OK. No problem"? Really? You haven't, at any time in your life, found that a problem? Other Christians haven't found it a problem?

You admit the way is Narrow — but if anyone suggests it might be narrower than you think, it's "pettiness and rigidity of thought." Hasn't it occurred to you that the restriction you do accept might look like "pettiness and rigidity of thought" to those with broader views?

You are apparently okay with a list of "what God allows in the bedroom" that excludes every kind of nonmarital sex, which, let's face it, is widely enjoyed by a very large part of the population, and is in fact increasingly the norm. The whole idea of restricting sex to marriage is becoming an increasingly marginalized minority view.

Couldn't one propose an empirical case that the one restriction you do accept has in fact had harmful sociological effects far in excess of all the rules within marriage that you find so outrageous? After all, look at the high divorce rates in red states where the pressure to stay pure till marriage forces kids to marry early rather than burn. What's so magical about marriage? God has given teenagers libido; why shouldn't they express it and experiment?

For that matter, what's so absolute about fidelity? Most married people say they "stray" at some point in their marriage. When the deviation is the norm, perhaps we've defined the normative too narrowly?

What's wrong with the arrangement that Will Smith says he and Jada Pinkett Smith have, where each of them is allowed to occasionally ask the other for permission to sleep with a third party that they're strongly attracted to? Wouldn't this be more realistic and cause less pain in the end?

Many gay activists, like gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan, say that this ethos has worked well for the homosexual community, and recommend it to heterosexuals as well. Absolute fidelity, in fact, seems to be a rather heteronormative scruple, and very often a hypocritical one at that.

Furthermore, some people seem to have a strong need for sexual variety. It might not be a full-fledged "orientation," whatever that means, but it can apparently be experienced as similarly inexorable. For instance, JFK reportedly told a friend, "You know, I get a migraine headache if I don't get a strange piece of ass every day," i.e., a different woman.

All men are not the same, neither are all women. Is it really right to constrain everyone to this binary choice of either total abstinence or complete fidelity within lifelong marriage?

If, for whatever reason, we grant God the restriction of sex to marriage, can we then predetermine that God is, what, not allowed to have a design for marriage and sexuality in which certain acts to which concupiscent, fallen human beings might be attracted, even within marriage, are in fact contrary and harmful? Under the magic umbrella of marriage, is the normative force of "If it feels good, do it" so obviously and self-evidently supreme that God himself is bound to leave it inviolate?

All of us intuitively understand the harmfulness of some things that are sinful, but we can have blind spots in other areas where we have it on religious authority that something is wrong, even though we don't see the problem ourselves.

That's why I keep saying it's not about "What's allowed and what isn't?" The question for me is: What is sex and marriage? What is fulfilling to human nature, and what is contrary to its good? Sin is not a matter of breaking rules, unless we are divine command moralists, which I am not. For me, sin is what is contrary to our true good, what harms.

Edited by SDG

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SDG said:

The question for me is: What is sex and marriage? What is fulfilling to human nature, and what is contrary to its good? Sin is not a matter of breaking rules, unless we are divine command moralists, which I am not. For me, sin is what is contrary to our true good, what harms.

I certainly agree with this in principle.

But of course this brings up the question of how much right religious authority has to decide for us, especially when we are all individuals with different needs towards what is good for us. But then if religious authority has this much control over what is "good" for us then where would that control end? Is it then unreasonable for religous authority to control how much we eat, exercise, etc. I know these aren't issues that the Bible deals with on the level of sexuality, but they are connected to the health of our bodies and the well being of our souls. Actually the Bible has about as much to say about ways to practice sexuality between married couples as this.

So if one was to take out a Bible only view and then add tradition, how come the tradition develops to have more control over intimacy then other aspects of human health? Also where does this leave room for Holy Spirit to work in individuals lives and help guide them into a moral non-harmful expression of sexuality that suits them as a couple? It leaves little to no room for Spirit but instead puts the religious authority in control.

Also getting back to the idea of mortal sin or strict condemnation of certain acts. Wouldn't this still be harsh, or even harsher to be something that is put upon a person for doing something that harms them. In other words if its against the person who did a certain act then how's it not adding harm to harm? Like Greg said, people are going through distress and anxiety, and fear over worrying whether or not they are doing something that is forbidden.

Does it not also put condemnation, fear and distress over people with addictions, or sexual issues because of psyhcological problems ect. When that is the last thing that they need, in order to overcome it.

Edited by Attica

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interactions that seem very free and seriously eyebrow-raising ("i put my hand in at the door and my fingers dripped with myrrh"

Rather less lascivious when read in context ... there is in fact no physical contact between the lovers in this passage (5:4-6).

That's a surprisingly literalistic take on the passage. Surely, even if the passage is describing separated lovers on the most literalistic level, it is doing so with a hefty helping of innuendo and whatnot. It is speaking to sexual *desires* that, as far as I can tell, are never condemned anywhere in the text.

Rather, the literal sense is primary, and various spiritual senses, insofar as the readings they propose are valid, presuppose and depend upon the literal sense. You can't simply throw the literal sense to the winds, or come up with a spiritual sense that either contradicts or is simply irrelevant to the literal sense. At least, you can, but it's arbitrary and unconvincing.

I'm wondering where St Augustine's take on Psalm 137 -- that the "little ones" whose heads need to be bashed against the rocks are not actual human babies but metaphors for sins or demons -- would fit here.

For that matter, I wonder where John 10, and its use of Psalm 82, would fit here. Psalm 82 talks about the "rulers" of the "nations" being "gods" of a sort -- that was how they were often viewed by their own people, at any rate (most famously in the case of the Pharaohs, perhaps) -- but then Jesus, or John 10's version of him, quotes this passage in a weird sort of "gotcha" way that has always felt like a bit of sleight-of-hand to me.

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That's a surprisingly literalistic take on the passage. Surely, even if the passage is describing separated lovers on the most literalistic level, it is doing so with a hefty helping of innuendo and whatnot. It is speaking to sexual *desires* that, as far as I can tell, are never condemned anywhere in the text.

Indubitably it speaks to sexual desires without condemning them. I merely questioned the implication that this passage necessarily describes any of the particular sexual acts on Greg's laundry list. Whatever the door represents, it's some kind of barrier between the lovers ... and by the time she opens it, he's already gone. The passage is full of anticipation -- but not consummation.

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But of course this brings up the question of how much right religious authority has to decide for us, especially when we are all individuals with different needs towards what is good for us.

I'm not sure what you mean here.

If by "religious authority" you mean religious leaders, and if by "decide" you mean something like "dictate" or "regulate," I might almost say I'm not sure "religious authority" has the right to "decide" anything at all with respect to the specific questions at issue here.

But if by "religious authority" you mean the Creator in divine revelation, and the Church insofar as the Church is believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit in correctly interpreting divine revelation, and if by "decide" you mean something like "establish" or "constitute," then I'm not sure it makes any sense to speak of "rights" at all. Reality is what it is; we can't set a priori limits on it.

The idea of "individuals with different needs towards what is good for us," unless it is balanced by the corresponding truth that we are also all human persons with a common human nature, eradicates the very possibility of a shared moral framework, a shared religion or even a shared culture. I explored one implication of that in my devil's-advocate case against absolute proscription the ethic of sex within marriage absolute.

Does "different needs towards what is good for us" mean that some of us may decide that what is good for us is the ruthless, rapacious pursuit of self-interest, which, let's be honest, is what many people, particularly the most powerful, do anyway? Of course you'll object that that's not good for the victims. But, among other things, who are you to decide that either the Golden Rule or the Categorical Imperative is "right for everyone"? Why shouldn't some people decide that what's "right for them" is a moral diversity theory in which society functions satisfactorally when altruism is widely recognized (and even sporadically practiced) by the mass of people, while those with the drive and ability reap the rewards? Or a moral nilism theory in which there are no moral imperatives at all?

So if one was to take out a Bible only view and then add tradition, how come the tradition develops to have more control over intimacy then other aspects of human health?

I'm not sure what this means either. Perhaps it was unhelpful of me to speak of "health" rather than, say, "well-being" (though I meant it in an equivalent sense). Murder and hatred, theft and avarice, disregard for parents, and impiety toward God are also matters of human well-being to which the Ten Commandments speak, along with adultery and lust.

All of these have been elaborated upon in historic Christian moral thought: for instance, the commandment not to kill bespeaks a larger veneration of life and the body, and also includes taking reasonable care of one's bodily health, among other things. Likewise, the commandment to honor father and mother is a case in point of a larger principle of respect for proper authority within the context of a functioning social order and a shared pursuit of the common good. (Note with what high-flown language I dress the do's and don't's of conventional morality!)

The historic Christian teaching on sexuality has assumed a disproportionate place in current discussion, not because the Christian tradition makes the biggest deal about it, but because that's the area in which our age has most disastrously rebelled against moral sanity.

Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about sexuality and chastity:

Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others...

Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man's belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.

If we are focused solely on do's and don't's, then all this is high-flown language dressing up what is, at bottom, a list of rules. Or perhaps there actually is something to this concept of the integrity of the person that is adversely affected in various ways by certain sexual practices, from rape to adultery to homosexual acts to contraceptive sex.

Also where does this leave room for Holy Spirit to work in individuals lives and help guide them into a moral non-harmful expression of sexuality that suits them as a couple? It leaves little to no room for Spirit but instead puts the religious authority in control.

Why as a couple? Do you deny the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in individual lives and help guide people into a moral non-harmful expression of sexuality that suits them as a threesome? Is the Holy Spirit unfree to work in people's lives and guide them to group marriage, or a playboy lifestyle?

The whole way your question is phrased seems to me to imply a controlling narrative comprising a specific balance or ratio of historic Christianity and the sexual revolution. We are sexually "liberated" enough to feel that God, or somebody, should stay out of the marital bedroom, but we haven't yet noticed that the whole rationale and basis for the absolute prerogatives and obligations of marriage have eroded under our feet.

Also getting back to the idea of mortal sin or strict condemnation of certain acts. Wouldn't this still be harsh, or even harsher to be something that is put upon a person for doing something that harms them. In other words if its against the person who did a certain act then how's it not adding harm to harm? Like Greg said, people are going through distress and anxiety, and fear over worrying whether or not they are doing something that is forbidden.

Again: Does this apply also to adultery and nonmarital sex generally? "Mortal sin" and "condemnation of certain acts" are not matters of Church sanction, but of proper pedagogy regarding what is and is not compatible with human well-being. The Church is not "adding harm to harm" in proclaiming that adultery is wrong. If adulterers are going through distress and anxiety, it is still compassionate, not cruel, to proclaim the wrongness of adultery.

What is wholesome or harmful appears at a certain stage in moral development as "rules," and the consequences of wholesome or harmful behavior appears as "reward" or "punishment." If people are at a stage in moral develpment where what they care about is rule-keeping and avoidance of punishment, then when they engage in harmful behaviors they may well suffer the additional anxiety of knowing they're breaking the rules and fearing punishment. That's baked into the cake.

Does it not also put condemnation, fear and distress over people with addictions, or sexual issues because of psyhcological problems ect. When that is the last thing that they need, in order to overcome it.

One thing people need in order to overcome destructive behavior is a clear understanding that it's harmful and wrong, so that they can form a firm intention of changing their ways. I can attest that from my own experience. Leaving everything up to individual discernment leaves people who are in the grip of destructive behavior twisting in the wind.

Edited by SDG

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Rather, the literal sense is primary, and various spiritual senses, insofar as the readings they propose are valid, presuppose and depend upon the literal sense. You can't simply throw the literal sense to the winds, or come up with a spiritual sense that either contradicts or is simply irrelevant to the literal sense. At least, you can, but it's arbitrary and unconvincing.

I'm wondering where St Augustine's take on Psalm 137 -- that the "little ones" whose heads need to be bashed against the rocks are not actual human babies but metaphors for sins or demons -- would fit here.

This would seem to be a pious dodge of some sort or other. As a spiritual gloss on the text, a personal meditation, it's perfectly legitimate, but it's got little if any relationship with the literal sense of the text.

For that matter, I wonder where John 10, and its use of Psalm 82, would fit here. Psalm 82 talks about the "rulers" of the "nations" being "gods" of a sort -- that was how they were often viewed by their own people, at any rate (most famously in the case of the Pharaohs, perhaps) -- but then Jesus, or John 10's version of him, quotes this passage in a weird sort of "gotcha" way that has always felt like a bit of sleight-of-hand to me.

I'm not sure Psalm 82 is assuming a pagan worldview or vocabulary. "Elohim," of course, means "mighty ones," and was used of pagan gods as well as, curiously, the singular God of Israel, despite the plural form. Powerful leaders could also be "mighty ones."

"Sons of the Most High" is more eyebrow-raising language, and not, I would think, pagan-worldview language. At any rate, certainly the Davidic king was called God's son, as was the nation of Israel itself.

Reading the OT from a Christian typological perspective, we can say that all the divine "father/son" language in the OT reflects the deeper reality of God's eternal Fatherhood, and by implication the mystery, unrevealed in the OT, of God's eternal filiation or Sonship.

So, it's because the Word is the eternal Son of God that what we call "fatherhood" finds purchase in the divine nature — or, conversely, it's because of God's fatherhood that we can speak of human fatherhood. And it's because God is a Father that He is able to be a Father to us, and to call David, or even the rulers of the nations, His "sons." They are "sons" because He is the Son. Their temporal sonship thus points to His divine Sonship. And so those passages can be typologically referred, as appropriate, to Jesus.

That's not to say Jesus wasn't playing an odd game of "gotcha," but that's the underlying typological basis for which, of course, Jesus' interlocutors would have been, as with many things He said, totally in the dark.

Edited by SDG

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"OK. No problem"? Really? You haven't, at any time in your life, found that a problem? Other Christians haven't found it a problem?
No, i never found it a problem. I was a virgin until I was married at 25. My complete celibacy during those early dating years was never a struggle for me.

If, for whatever reason, we grant God the restriction of sex to marriage, can we then predetermine that God is, what, not allowed to have a design for marriage and sexuality in which certain acts to which concupiscent, fallen human beings might be attracted, even within marriage, are in fact contrary and harmful? Under the magic umbrella of marriage, is the normative force of "If it feels good, do it" so obviously and self-evidently supreme that God himself is bound to respect it?
Since you haven't clarified what exactly might be "contrary and harmful" to you, this is all abstract. I believe I know what you mean, based on my own study of Church teaching, but earlier in this thread my assertions in this area were resoundingly dismissed, leading me and anyone else reading this thread to believe I was completely off base.

But since theory and abstraction are all we have to work with right now, I'll offer this: The very notion that married couples can do something "harmful" (To themselves? To their union with Christ? To the Church?) in their consensual, monogamous physical engagements with one another is exactly the kind of antiquated, Augustinian fear-mongering about passion, desire and sexuality I decried at the outset of this discussion. We are not talking about traditional morality or boundaries, we are in fact talking about a form of legalism and the Churches control over minutiae and the most private acts that married couples can share.

Under the magic umbrella of marriage, is the normative force of "If it feels good, do it" so obviously and self-evidently supreme that God himself is bound to respect it?
No offense brother Steven, but this whole statement is wrong-headed. "If it feels good, do it" is a phrase used by conservatives to describe a certain perceived hedonistic bent in society and would be a crass way of describing what loving, monogamous married couples enjoy in their sexual interactions. Is the contrasting Catholic position , "If it feels too good be extremely cautious (because you are probably veering into lust or disordered appetites and possibly damaging your spiritual life)"???

Trying to equate the secular, irreligious bent towards "anything goes" in our culture and what we are actually talking about is a false equivalency. Why the extreme, either/or propositions that imply if you reject the Church's micro-mananging of sex positions you must be part of a broader cultural separation from God's ways? The insistence on monitoring people's specific sexual gyrations in marriage, or as another group does, monitoring members with regard to the celebration of birthdays, Easter or Christmas, purchasing of Christmas trees, etc... is the very sort of ancient Judaic hand-wringing the Gospel is supposed to free us from, is it not?

All of us intuitively understand the harmfulness of some things that are sinful, but we can have blind spots in other areas where we have it on religious authority that something is wrong, even though we don't see the problem ourselves.
Again this is abstract and I have to assume what constitutes "wrong" in marriage, which you have informed me in other posts is false. I think the very concept that married Christians need an "authority" -- a divinely appointed Dr. Ruth-- to tell them the types of things that that they can do together, so as to not to somehow offend the God of the universe, manifestly diminishes the authority and respect it tries to assert. The gravity given to the subject by these religious authorities lacks any sense of moral proportionality and presents to the world a God who's gravely concerned about whether a husband ejaculates on his wife's breasts during romantic play. Edited by Greg P

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Greg: I still don't understand the basis for your apparently unquestioning acceptance of the absolute proscriptions against nonmarital sex. Why can't someone else turn around and say the following?

"The very notion that consenting adults of any number or any commitment status can do something 'harmful' in their consensual physical engagements with one another is exactly the kind of antiquated, Augustinian fear-mongering about passion, desire and sexuality that we rejected when we turned our backs on the historic Christian consensus regarding the lawful use of marital sexuality. The very concept that emancipated adults need an 'authority' -- a divinely appointed Dr. Ruth -- to tell them the type of relationship they must have in order to explore their sexuality with one person only for the whole of life, so as to not to somehow offend the God of the universe, manifestly diminishes the authority and respect it tries to assert."

Also, while I'm afraid this may win as little sympathy from you as anything else I've said, FWIW, here it is.

OT1H, I appreciate the need for frankness and sometimes explicit language in a discussion of this nature, and my upbringing in a 60s-influenced household has made me allergic to the whole world of post-Victorian secrecy and euphemism around this subject.

OTOH, I also believe in decorum, respect and a certain level of restraint in discussing sexuality. While public discussion is necessary, the thing itself is inherently private, and the entire history of human culture, literature and mores bears witness to a universal human sensibility on this subject.

Certainly the Bible itself shows a huge amount of restraint in discussing this subject, not least in the book to which you have most often repaired, the Song of Songs. Why is it that practically every phrase in that book that most interests you is a metaphor? Why doesn't the Song of Songs say in so many words what the lovers will really do? What was that liberated, sensual Hebrew writer afraid of, for goodness' sake? Why is the whole Bible full of euphemism, metaphor and circumlocution on this subject?

All to say, whether or not you sympathize with my aversion to unnecessarily graphic language in this area, any restraint you would care to show in deference to my preferences would be appreciated.

Edited by SDG

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All to say, whether or not you sympathize with my aversion to unnecessarily graphic language in this area, any restraint you would care to show in deference to my preferences would be appreciated.

No problem.

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Hmmm...is this a historical fact? I find it rather unlikely that they did not exist at all...even if Paul was unaware(which seems unlikely to me).

The whole notion of romantic love as the basis for a "committed" relationship--heterosexual or otherwise--is a relatively recent invention. It would have been entirely foreign to Paul or anyone in his day. The assertion that X is acceptable merely because Paul did not condemn it is pretty much meaningless unless you can prove that Paul was aware of X. It is rather a substantial burden of proof.

In retrospect, I see your point. In that time, marriage was an arrangement between families and people (heterosexuals or otherwise). On the other hand, you have Paul writing about it being better to marry than burn with lust-but he recommends not marrying...that seems out of place for a society of arranged marriages and where people never married for love. And there certainly was the idea of relationships based on love, as some cultures you had the woman you married and the woman you loved...and they were not the same thing. It all seems rather confusing and messy as to the aspect of love and marriage in those era-not really better than today.

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Greg: I still don't understand the basis for your apparently unquestioning acceptance of the absolute proscriptions against nonmarital sex. Why can't someone else turn around and say the following?

"The very notion that consenting adults of any number or any commitment status can do something 'harmful' in their consensual physical engagements with one another is exactly the kind of antiquated, Augustinian fear-mongering about passion, desire and sexuality that we rejected when we turned our backs on the historic Christian consensus regarding the lawful use of marital sexuality. The very concept that emancipated adults need an 'authority' -- a divinely appointed Dr. Ruth -- to tell them the type of relationship they must have in order to explore their sexuality with one person only for the whole of life, so as to not to somehow offend the God of the universe, manifestly diminishes the authority and respect it tries to assert."

I think the sentiment you forward is a minority view in American culture, so in that regard your question to me is a bit of red herring. There are unquestionably some segments of the culture that subscribe to "anything goes" and that throwing off all moral restraint with sexuality is the only proper course of action in life. I think they are a minority in a country of over 300 million people. Of course, others believe the mindset you present is representative of a growing majority and is further evidence of the vast secularization of our culture, but I don't see it.

But to play along, I would answer that there's a moral code regarding sex-- and that the basic code is supported by Judeo-Christian belief, but that it also exists apart from it. Codes regarding monogamy, loyalty and commitment are innate. Our culture doesn't need the Bible or a Pope to tell them adultery or cheating is wrong or that promiscuous sex is unhealthy and could potentially affect their life long-term. Such propositions exist and have their proper sway among most reasonable human beings. Those that discard the code do so at their own peril. One does not need religion to understand that basic morality, such as loyalty, honesty and fidelity in marriage, is not arbitrary. And by extension, one does not need the hovering spectre of religion to feel the pangs of corresponding guilt when those codes are broken.

Edited by Greg P

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Greg: I still don't understand the basis for your apparently unquestioning acceptance of the absolute proscriptions against nonmarital sex. Why can't someone else turn around and say the following?

"The very notion that consenting adults of any number or any commitment status can do something 'harmful' in their consensual physical engagements with one another is exactly the kind of antiquated, Augustinian fear-mongering about passion, desire and sexuality that we rejected when we turned our backs on the historic Christian consensus regarding the lawful use of marital sexuality. The very concept that emancipated adults need an 'authority' -- a divinely appointed Dr. Ruth -- to tell them the type of relationship they must have in order to explore their sexuality with one person only for the whole of life, so as to not to somehow offend the God of the universe, manifestly diminishes the authority and respect it tries to assert."

I think the sentiment you forward is a minority view in American culture, so in that regard your question to me is a bit of red herring. Of course, many believe the mindset you present is representative of a growing majority and is further evidence of the vast secularization of our culture, but I don't see it.

But to play along, I would answer that there's a moral code regarding sex-- and that the basic code is supported by Judeo-Christian belief, but that it also exists apart from it. Codes regarding monogamy, loyalty and commitment are innate. Our culture doesn't need the Bible or a Pope to tell them adultery or cheating is wrong or that promiscuous sex is unhealthy and could potentially affect their life long-term. Such propositions exist and have their proper sway among most reasonable human beings. Those that discard the code do so at their own peril. One does not need religion to understand that basic morality, such as loyalty, honesty and fidelity in marriage, is not arbitrary.

Fascinating conversation here. I just want to pop in and say one thing in response to your comment here, Greg. I'm 30, Canadian, married 5 years, and a father and I would say that anecdotally (which sure doesn't amount to too much), based on the number of friends of my generation who are divorced, have experimented with "open relationships," etc., you're wrong. Such things are not innate to human beings. You may not see it, but I think that you're going to be shocked at how prevalent it is in the next generation (IIRC, you're about 10 years older than me).

I should clarify, that these "codes" need not be based on religion (let alone, Judeo-Christian religion), but they are socially inscribed cultural norms. And that norm is either "eroding" or shifting from what has been the "norm," however you want to see it. So I think these discussions are important, and the questions that SDG asks need to be addressed, not brushed off with a "I don't see it."

Oh, and one last thing, which perhaps goes without saying, that my critique of your position doesn't meant that I unquestioningly agree with SDG on this issue. I'm not a Catholic, but I'm listening to both sides of this debate.

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SDG wrote:

: What was that liberated, sensual Hebrew writer afraid of, for goodness' sake? Why is the whole Bible full of euphemism, metaphor and circumlocution on this subject?

I have often wondered just what sort of frank talk would even have been *possible* in ancient Hebrew. And besides, sometimes metaphors and euphemisms end up becoming on-the-nose terms in and of themselves, through frequent use. E.g., "penis" was Latin for "tail", and "tail" was the euphemism for whatever the *actual* Latin word for penis was -- but the euphemism was used so consistently that now no one remembers what the original word was. And scholars will often point out that when, say, Ruth uncovers Boaz's "feet", the ancient Hebrews would have known what she was *really* doing there.

Then again, Ezekiel apparently had no trouble talking about Egyptians having genitals like those of donkeys and emissions like those of horses.

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Greg: I still don't understand the basis for your apparently unquestioning acceptance of the absolute proscriptions against nonmarital sex. Why can't someone else turn around and say the following?

"The very notion that consenting adults of any number or any commitment status can do something 'harmful' in their consensual physical engagements with one another is exactly the kind of antiquated, Augustinian fear-mongering about passion, desire and sexuality that we rejected when we turned our backs on the historic Christian consensus regarding the lawful use of marital sexuality. The very concept that emancipated adults need an 'authority' -- a divinely appointed Dr. Ruth -- to tell them the type of relationship they must have in order to explore their sexuality with one person only for the whole of life, so as to not to somehow offend the God of the universe, manifestly diminishes the authority and respect it tries to assert."

I think the sentiment you forward is a minority view in American culture, so in that regard your question to me is a bit of red herring. Of course, many believe the mindset you present is representative of a growing majority and is further evidence of the vast secularization of our culture, but I don't see it.

But to play along, I would answer that there's a moral code regarding sex-- and that the basic code is supported by Judeo-Christian belief, but that it also exists apart from it. Codes regarding monogamy, loyalty and commitment are innate. Our culture doesn't need the Bible or a Pope to tell them adultery or cheating is wrong or that promiscuous sex is unhealthy and could potentially affect their life long-term. Such propositions exist and have their proper sway among most reasonable human beings. Those that discard the code do so at their own peril. One does not need religion to understand that basic morality, such as loyalty, honesty and fidelity in marriage, is not arbitrary.

Fascinating conversation here. I just want to pop in and say one thing in response to your comment here, Greg. I'm 30, Canadian, married 5 years, and a father and I would say that anecdotally (which sure doesn't amount to too much), based on the number of friends of my generation who are divorced, have experimented with "open relationships," etc., you're wrong. Such things are not innate to human beings. You may not see it, but I think that you're going to be shocked at how prevalent it is in the next generation (IIRC, you're about 10 years older than me).

Once again, I disagree. I think cheating is as prevalent as it's always been. I just had this discussion with two coworkers yesterday who are both decidedly irreligious. One who is an agnostic, and something of a serial cheat, expressed an unshakeable guilt over his past dalliances and how they'd affected those around him. The problem was not with his understanding of right and wrong, but of his power to control himself-- which he freely acknowledged and is a different subject altogether and is perhaps the area where religion steps in and provides a solution. He also told me --and forgive the frankness here-- that when he was married several years ago, he indulged in a threesome with another woman and his wife. It was enlightening to hear that without any religious reference the man could look back on the action and without hesitation declare that it was wrong and a cruel self-deception.

So I think these discussions are important, and the questions that SDG asks need to be addressed, not brushed off with a "I don't see it."
I didn't brush him off at all and went on to explain myself in some detail. I answered the question as straightforward as i could given my constraints at the moment. I think the question proposed suggests some kind of norm and that perhaps sexual morality is in the throes of some cataclysmic cultural/spiritual erosion. If that's the case, I don't see it.

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Hello gentlemen. I know I'm a little late in coming to this discussion, but rest assured I've read every last post (yes, all 23 pages), and have found found it far too interesting (and some parts bordering on far too infuriating) to continue merely being a silent observer.

First, I suppose a little background is in order? I was raised strictly Roman Catholic (Irish nuns no less!), and although I tend to disagree with several of the peripheral doctrines of the modern Church, I do still consider myself a part of the religion, and regularly attend mass, serve in my local Emmaus community, etc.

Oh, definitely. I remember being taught evolution-without any "it's just a theory" defenses in Catholic school

And Thom, like you I remember being taught the same way in Catholic school. Even the Irish nuns dressed in their full habits taught us straight forward evolutionary theory (with God as the first cause) and referred to the book of Genesis as symbolic or allegorical, not necessarily historical.

But this is a digression… This forum has gone in several directions, but it seems to be currently back on the issue of Christianity (often Catholicism) and sexuality, so I'll start there. I recently read a paper titled “The Experience of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages,” by Paul Halsall out of Fordham University and it struck me that it was perfectly relevant for this discussion. Halsall writes,

Late antique thought in general had turned against sexuality. The revival of transcendence in philosophy downgraded the body and exalted rationality as a path to divinity. Christian theologians took up the theme with gusto. In the West, St. Jerome and St. Ambrose conceived of sex as a way of tying the spirit to carnality. St. Augustine took up another platonic theme, that passion derogated from reason, and argued that, while procreation was a virtuous end for sex, attempts to gain pleasure were unnatural since rationality was inevitably compromised. His views set the tone for western Christianity. Sex was permissible only within marriage and when it aimed at procreation, and only then if you did not enjoy it too much. This general theme was particularized in discussions of what was allowable between married people. Masturbation was out, as were anal and oral sex; all were pleasurable and did not lead to procreation. Vaginal intercourse also was permitted only in what has become called the "missionary position" and there was an extended discussion of the sinfulness of having the woman on top, of entry from behind and anal sex. Eventually many commentators came to the conclusion that any unusual coital positions were unnatural, although it was never agreed exactly what was permitted and the concept of "natural" proved to be flexible.

The Catholic Church's views on homosexuality and what is generally sexually permissible in general, all seem to stem from this same place, namely, this early Christian obsession with human sexuality and the need to control it.

And it’s not limited to the early Church and medieval theologians. Just as clearly as I can recall being taught evolution by the Sisters of St. Joseph, I also clearly remember being lectured ad infinitum (especially once we entered high school), about the necessity of marital sex remaining “free, total, faithful, and fruitful.” Lust and passion were things that overshadowed the true purpose of our God-given sexuality, and that was the procreative and generative force of the act of copulation. We were taught that by saying “no” to our physicality, we were then able to say “yes” to our spouse, and to God. Sexuality was something to be approached with restraint, and always with an implied shame if this restraint was set aside. It always struck me as odd that the very thing that strengthens and unifies a marriage (the intimacy of the marriage bed), was to be habitually tempered and limited. I still feel this way. Why should our sexual expression be limited to merely vaginal intercourse, if any of the other things on Greg P’s infamous list brings pleasure and intimacy to a couple, and is freely and lovingly given?

The answer is simply because the Church says so. Which leads to Attica’s question on just “how much right religious authority has to decide for us, especially when we are all individuals with different needs towards what is good for us,” specifically how it pertains to our sexuality. SDG, you tackled this question and finished your reply with this:

One thing people need in order to overcome destructive behavior is a clear understanding that it's harmful and wrong, so that they can form a firm intention of changing their ways. I can attest that from my own experience. Leaving everything up to individual discernment leaves people who are in the grip of destructive behavior twisting in the wind.

But here is my problem… why on earth would something that helps foster intimacy, love, and unity be a “destructive behavior?” How can it be “harmful and wrong” that my husband and I are choosing to expand our sexual intimacy beyond vaginal intercourse? Why should I feel shame if I enjoy the items on Greg P’s list and engage in them in a free, total, and faithful manner? Because the Church says so? It brings us right back to Attica’s question.

In Pope John Paul II’s 29th audience on the “Theology of the Body,” he inextricably ties lust to shame, stating that it is born out of our newly found need to hide ourselves after our expulsion from Paradise. In the following audience, he states:

When, in this vast context, we speak of lust as a limitation, infraction or even distortion of the nuptial meaning of the body, we are referring above all to the preceding analyses regarding the state of original innocence, that is, the theological prehistory of man. At the same time, we have in mind the measure that historical man, with his "heart," applies to his own body in relation to male/female sexuality. This measure is not something exclusively conceptual. It determines the attitudes and decides in general the way of living the body. . . .

Lust in general—and the lust of the body in particular—attacks this "sincere giving." It deprives man of the dignity of giving, which is expressed by his body through femininity and masculinity. In a way it depersonalizes man, making him an object "for the other." Instead of being "together with the other"—a subject in unity, in the sacramental unity of the body—man becomes an object for man, the female for the male and vice versa. Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 3:7 bear witness to this, with all the clearness of the contrast, as compared with Genesis 2:23-25.

He continues with this general train of thought of tying lust to shame and the destruction of the sacred nuptial union in further audiences (i.e. “The Heart is a Battlefield Between Love and Lust,” “Concupiscence as a Separation From Matrimonial Significance of the Body,” “Depersonalizing Effect of Concupiscence,” among many others). Although I do understand the theological/biblical basis for what he argues, I cannot agree with the conclusions as it applies to real flesh and blood human beings, at least not as it pertains to what happens between a married couple.

The bottom line seems to be this, despite Greg P’s sometimes combative and reductionist language, he’s not wrong in trying to pin this down.

The very notion that married couples can do something "harmful" (To themselves? To their union with Christ? To the Church?) in their consensual, monogamous physical engagements with one another is exactly the kind of antiquated, Augustinian fear-mongering about passion, desire and sexuality I decried at the outset of this discussion. We are not talking about traditional morality or boundaries, we are in fact talking about a form of legalism and the Churches control over minutiae and the most private acts that married couples can share.

The Catholic Church (the only religion that I can speak with any degree of authority about), is often outright hostile towards sexuality. The various sources that I’ve encountered, be they scholarly, theological, ecclesiastical, or drawing from my own experience at the hands of the nuns, all point towards this.

I have to go teach, so I’ll try and sum this up quickly. This view of sexuality as something that, in order to be spiritually correct, must be moderated, limited, and regulated to the point where only vaginal intercourse is on the sexual menu for a married couple (if you’re not married, or gay, then a complete negation of your sexual desires seems to be the only choice) seems, at best, absurd. It’s taking away from us something that is inherently human, and, if given freely, lovingly, faithfully, can undoubtedly enhance the intimacy and closeness between two people.

(My apologies if I've made errors in formatting quotes, etc.... still figuring this out!).

Edited by Kristen

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Greg, to be clear, I'm not talking about cheating. I agree that people seem to think dishonesty is harmful. I'm talking about what SDG was talking about: a disagreement about whether there are any boundaries, including marital status, on what two consenting adults should be free to engage in, including seeing other people. Or causal hookups etc. The idea that sex be confined to two marriet adults, whatever practices that sex entails, would be strange to a great number of people I know.

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EDIT: Kristen, welcome! To the board and to the discussion. Great to have a woman's voice here.

I can't address your thoughtful comments now (I've given way too much to this discussion as it is), but I'll do my best to do so soon.

Aside to Anders: Thanks for your input. My comments below dovetail with much of what you've written.

I think the sentiment you forward is a minority view in American culture, so in that regard your question to me is a bit of red herring.

Even if that were true, which I don't think it is, surely we can agree that there is no longer anything like a cultural consensus that premarital sex or cohabitation are morally wrong. On that score, at least, the consensus has certainly broken down, and continues to break down further.

For that matter, marriage itself, as a point of sociological fact, is in sharp, ongoing decline that shows no sign of reversal. The decline is less sharp among educated, affluent whites, perhaps exacerbating the attitude that "marriage is for white people" in other communities, especially blacks. Much of the alarm over this trend, unsurprisingly, seems to be coming from educated whites.

As for those affluent, collegiate, comparatively marriage-material types, while a recent study found that the so-called campus hookup culture may be somewhat exaggerated in the popular imagination -- apparently, twice as many students are having sex in the context of a romantic relationship than in casual hookups -- that still seems to be a third of sexually active college students having casual sex.

That's a vastly higher percentage of the population than, say, those having homosexual sex -- and that's only the ones actually doing it, not the ones who would like to, or who wouldn't do it themselves but have no problem with someone else doing it.

Furthermore, even the two-thirds of sexually active students in romantic relationships are, by and large, only in romantic relationships, i.e., few of them are actually married.

And all this from the population most likely to embrace marriage!

The norm today is not total abstinence until marriage and then complete fidelity afterward. Rather, it's widely expected and accepted that each person will at least have a number of sexual partners, serious or otherwise, before optionally pairing off in a more or less long-term relationship that will more likely be cohabitation than marriage -- and not de facto, common-law marriage, with at least an informal expectation of lifelong commitment, but simply cohabitation for the duration, however long that may be.

While marriage is still widely seen as an aspirational ideal, it's simply not the culturally normative context for socially sanctioned sexual relations. Nonmarital sex is widely and uncontroversially accepted.

But to play along, I would answer that there's a moral code regarding sex-- and that the basic code is supported by Judeo-Christian belief, but that it also exists apart from it. Codes regarding monogamy, loyalty and commitment are innate. Our culture doesn't need the Bible or a Pope to tell them adultery or cheating is wrong or that promiscuous sex is unhealthy and could potentially affect their life long-term. Such propositions exist and have their proper sway among most reasonable human beings. Those that discard the code do so at their own peril. One does not need religion to understand that basic morality, such as loyalty, honesty and fidelity in marriage, is not arbitrary.

And much the same can be said historically regarding the idea that, for instance, it is shameful for a man to play the part of a woman in sexual relations. And that marriage and sex are ordered toward having babies.

Certainly contraceptive sex has historically been at least problematized in both Judaism and Islam, and what concessions have existed have been cautious and guarded. Likewise, the Protestant consensus against contraceptive sex that existed until 1930 was not because Luther, Calvin, Cranmer and Zwingli were taking their marching orders from the pope.

I honestly don't know what evidence there is regarding historical awareness of the natural law in this respect among non-Christian cultures. Something to look into.

Edited by SDG

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Greg: I still don't understand the basis for your apparently unquestioning acceptance of the absolute proscriptions against nonmarital sex. Why can't someone else turn around and say the following?

"The very notion that consenting adults of any number or any commitment status can do something 'harmful' in their consensual physical engagements with one another is exactly the kind of antiquated, Augustinian fear-mongering about passion, desire and sexuality that we rejected when we turned our backs on the historic Christian consensus regarding the lawful use of marital sexuality. The very concept that emancipated adults need an 'authority' -- a divinely appointed Dr. Ruth -- to tell them the type of relationship they must have in order to explore their sexuality with one person only for the whole of life, so as to not to somehow offend the God of the universe, manifestly diminishes the authority and respect it tries to assert."

I think the sentiment you forward is a minority view in American culture, so in that regard your question to me is a bit of red herring. Of course, many believe the mindset you present is representative of a growing majority and is further evidence of the vast secularization of our culture, but I don't see it.

But to play along, I would answer that there's a moral code regarding sex-- and that the basic code is supported by Judeo-Christian belief, but that it also exists apart from it. Codes regarding monogamy, loyalty and commitment are innate. Our culture doesn't need the Bible or a Pope to tell them adultery or cheating is wrong or that promiscuous sex is unhealthy and could potentially affect their life long-term. Such propositions exist and have their proper sway among most reasonable human beings. Those that discard the code do so at their own peril. One does not need religion to understand that basic morality, such as loyalty, honesty and fidelity in marriage, is not arbitrary.

Fascinating conversation here. I just want to pop in and say one thing in response to your comment here, Greg. I'm 30, Canadian, married 5 years, and a father and I would say that anecdotally (which sure doesn't amount to too much), based on the number of friends of my generation who are divorced, have experimented with "open relationships," etc., you're wrong. Such things are not innate to human beings. You may not see it, but I think that you're going to be shocked at how prevalent it is in the next generation (IIRC, you're about 10 years older than me).

I am going to disagree...I have seen a lot of divorce, but the open relationships and divorce are seperate issues...and I think the fact that people divorce and proceed to remarry, sometimes several times over, shows that people have an innate desire to connect intimately with another person. That they are unsuccessful does not mean that innate desire is not there in many or most people.

Are there people that do not fit that mold? Sure. Humans are not a one size fits all (which it what I find so problematic in some religious institutions approach to things). Some people have an intense desire to have kids, some do not desire to have any, yet we are told God has a singular plan for all mankind that is "get married and reproduce". Or, in the case of Paul get married if you cannot control yourself, but we would all be better off not getting married. smile.png

Of course, I am an umarried 40 year old virgin. (Which feels like a waaaay to much information comment now that I think of it...but there was a time in certain Christian circles such a statement would bring cheers)

Edited by Thom Wade

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Are there people that do not fit that mold? Sure. Humans are not a one size fits all (which it what I find so problematic in some religious institutions approach to things).

And that, right there, dovetails with my larger point.

Whether or not long-term committed relationships, or even marriage, remains an aspirational ideal or a positive goal for most people, it is not widely seen as the one right and necessary context for sexual relations for everyone.

Even if some kind of long-term committed relationship might be the best context for sexual relations for most people, if it doesn't work for you, that's fine. This is the natural conclusion of the post-sexual revolution outlook dominating so much of this discussion.

Edited by SDG

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Welcome Kristen!

This forum has gone in several directions, but it seems to be currently back on the issue of Christianity (often Catholicism) and sexuality, so I'll start there. I recently read a paper titled “The Experience of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages,” by Paul Halsall out of Fordham University and it struck me that it was perfectly relevant for this discussion. Halsall writes,

Late antique thought in general had turned against sexuality. The revival of transcendence in philosophy downgraded the body and exalted rationality as a path to divinity. Christian theologians took up the theme with gusto. In the West, St. Jerome and St. Ambrose conceived of sex as a way of tying the spirit to carnality. St. Augustine took up another platonic theme, that passion derogated from reason, and argued that, while procreation was a virtuous end for sex, attempts to gain pleasure were unnatural since rationality was inevitably compromised. His views set the tone for western Christianity. Sex was permissible only within marriage and when it aimed at procreation, and only then if you did not enjoy it too much. This general theme was particularized in discussions of what was allowable between married people. Masturbation was out, as were anal and oral sex; all were pleasurable and did not lead to procreation. Vaginal intercourse also was permitted only in what has become called the "missionary position" and there was an extended discussion of the sinfulness of having the woman on top, of entry from behind and anal sex. Eventually many commentators came to the conclusion that any unusual coital positions were unnatural, although it was never agreed exactly what was permitted and the concept of "natural" proved to be flexible.

Great quote- thank you! There's a straight line from Augustine to the present Church with regard to the philosophy that "passion derogates from reason" and that while strict procreative endeavors were permissible, other pleasures inevitably compromise reason.

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: Of course, I am an umarried 40 year old virgin.

Better that than a *married* 40-year-old virgin! wink.png

Fair point. :D

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Wow. This board has really been rolling since I was gone.

Kristen: Welcome from me as well. I appreciated your post.

Peter T Chattaway said:

:Better that than a *married* 40-year-old virgin!

Or a virgin that has been married for 40 years.

SDG said:

:But if by "religious authority" you mean the Creator in divine revelation, and the Church insofar as the Church is believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit in correctly interpreting divine revelation, and if by "decide" you mean something like "establish" or "constitute," then I'm not sure it makes any sense to speak of "rights" at all. Reality is what it is; we can't set a priori limits on it.

It seems to me that this touches on the fundamental differences in our approach to this topic. By "religious authority" I would mean the institution of the Catholic Church at large. Your interpretation of the Catholic Church seems to me to be that it is "God's flock" as it were, which throughout time has been led by Holy Spirit into thruth of reality, which is for all humanity (or at least those who choose to be within its flock.) Correct?

Whereas my view of the Catholic church is that early in its development some bad thinking in regards to sexuality (and other things) entered in and throughout the centuries the church has been entangled in this thought in various ways, having believed that this early thinking was lead by Spirit, thus leading to our current discussion. Kristen's post indeed touched on some aspects of this early thought.

I don't mean this as a point of insult. But as means of pointing out that people are approaching this discussion from a very different initial point of view, and therefore I think we might just be in a stalemate on this.

:The idea of "individuals with different needs towards what is good for us," unless it is balanced by the corresponding truth that we are also all human persons with a common human nature, eradicates the very possibility of a shared moral framework, a shared religion or even a shared culture.

We'll there's levels of decision as to what is right for each of us. I'm sure that we all would agree that someone saying human cannibalism is right for them is insanity, because it obviously isn't right for humanity at large (or obviously for the cannibal). But we also would surely all agree that what kinds of food we eat is different according to the individuals, and that this is just fine. In fact desireable.

So I would apply the same concept to sexuality. I think most of us here agree that in a perfect world sexuality aught to be confined to marriage, and that our modern cultures rampant sexual revolution is in fact insanity. But what we are disagreeing on is the ability of a married couple to eat different kinds of food in their marital relationship.

It seems to me that what I'm saying is that this decision should be between them in their wisdom with Holy Spirits guidance. What your saying is that Holy Spirit has already given this guidance through the tradition of the Catholic Church. What Greg is saying, and Kristen touched on, which I tend to agree with, are that some of these "foods" which the Catholic tradition rejects as being destructive are in fact not destructive. I think all of us would agree that this doesn't lead to an anthing goes mentality, as there certainly are things that are destructive.

When looking into history it would seem clear that the current sexual revolution (at least in North America) has come out of a response to a more puritanical view of sexuality, which was indeed wrongheaded (I'm not comparing the puritanical view directly to the Catholic view as much as I'm saying that it was a major cultural influence), so people say "this is wrong" and they recoil against it by going too far the other way.

So, I can't speak for the others, but what I'm arguing for is a middleground view, as it were. A view that sees sexuality as being good within marriage, where our society doesn't shy away from supporting and talking about this, where we can eat the foods that we desire and that are good for us, while still swaying away from eating what is poisonous. Thus we have the help and guidance of the consciences of the marriage couple as well as the Holy Spirit.

:I'm not sure what this means either. Perhaps it was unhelpful of me to speak of "health" rather than, say, "well-being" (though I meant it in an equivalent sense).

Well-Being works for me.

:Why as a couple? Do you deny the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in individual lives and help guide people into a moral non-harmful expression of sexuality that suits them as a threesome? Is the Holy Spirit unfree to work in people's lives and guide them to group marriage, or a playboy lifestyle?

As touched on above. I mean that Holy Spirit is free to work in the lives of a couple within marriage.

But having said that I do think that Holy Spirit can and will work in the lives of those outside of marriage to a certain extent. Not to help them in their lovemaking per-say. But to help guide them away from destructive tendencies, if they are able to "hear". For instance. I've heard stories of Holy Spirit guiding prostitutes away form certain men, saying something along the lines that they were bad news, stay away from them. Now obviously this doesn't mean that Holy Spirit is fine with prostitution, but it does mean that Holy Spirit, in mercy, is working to help protect those girls nonetheless.

:The whole way your question is phrased seems to me to imply a controlling narrative comprising a specific balance or ratio of historic Christianity and the sexual revolution. We are sexually "liberated" enough to feel that God, or somebody, should stay out of the marital bedroom, but we haven't yet noticed that the whole rationale and basis for the absolute prerogatives and obligations of marriage have eroded under our feet.

As I mentioned above. I'd argue that much of the sexual revolution has come out of a response to bad thinking about sexuality, which of course had led to more bad thinking.

Also as touched on above, I'm advocating another way of thinking that is neither.

:"Mortal sin" and "condemnation of certain acts" are not matters of Church sanction, but of proper pedagogy regarding what is and is not compatible with human well-being.

As decided by the tradition of the Catholic Church, as to which I've shared my understanding. I don't share that view of human well-being in regards to sex within marriage.

:The Church is not "adding harm to harm" in proclaiming that adultery is wrong. If adulterers are going through distress and anxiety, it is still compassionate, not cruel, to proclaim the wrongness of adultery.

Yes, it is compassionate to proclaim this, with a concern for when and how to claim it, as I touched on in a post above. Proclaiming it as a mortal sin or bringing on strict condemnation of the church is a very different thing than compassionately proclaiming that something is bad for someones well-being.

:What is wholesome or harmful appears at a certain stage in moral development as "rules," and the consequences of wholesome or harmful behavior appears as "reward" or "punishment." If people are at a stage in moral develpment where what they care about is rule-keeping and avoidance of punishment, then when they engage in harmful behaviors they may well suffer the additional anxiety of knowing they're breaking the rules and fearing punishment. That's baked into the cake.

I agree that harmful behaviour can have bad "rewards". The question is of course, as to whether some of these sexual acts are harmful or immoral.

But there also is the argument that someone who views the world through a view that breaking rules leads to punishment from God, can have an awfully hard time seeing God as being a loving father, or moving into that understanding. Especially those people who grew up with abusive fathers.

But teaching of a God that is full of love and wants to help us out of the consequences of our sins, instead of condemning us with the churches strict disaproval, leads to a healthy view of God as a loving father who is on humanities side, but also doesn't take away from the truth that sin is destructive.

:One thing people need in order to overcome destructive behavior is a clear understanding that it's harmful and wrong

But not in ways that are condemning. As the scripture says "there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus" and "the Adversary is the condemner of the brethern".

Of course there are things in which the understanding of what is harmful and wrong are not that clear. Hence this conversation. For some of us it would seem more clear that certain limits on sexuality within marriage are harmful and wrong.

Greg P said:

:But to play along, I would answer that there's a moral code regarding sex-- and that the basic code is supported by Judeo-Christian belief, but that it also exists apart from it. Codes regarding monogamy, loyalty and commitment are innate. Our culture doesn't need the Bible or a Pope to tell them adultery or cheating is wrong or that promiscuous sex is unhealthy and could potentially affect their life long-term. Such propositions exist and have their proper sway among most reasonable human beings.

What Greg said. Yes the culture has gone off the track in this regard and people are following the culture to a large extent. But this doesn't change the fact that the Bible is very clear that our consciences are attuned to God's laws. Deep down inside peoples conscience DO know what is right and wrong. Their consciences just get scathed over.

We need to spend more time attuning into our conscience, and the "Kingdom of Heaven" which the book of Luke says resides within all humanity (note it doesn't just say this applies to Christians in its particular context.)

Edited by Attica

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