Monday, February 12, 2007

Christian Sexuality Part 5


Monotheism, Polytheism and Sexual Distinctions



One of the more intelligent Pagan leaders today has correctly identified a link between polytheism, and open sexuality with multiple partners. Though the practice of polyamory (establishing loving sexual relationships with more than one person) is not necessarily tied to being a polytheist Isaac Bonewitz astutely connects his polytheism to his polyamorous lifestyle.

As spiritual beings our worship, and the actions of our bodies are intimately tied together. The false dichotomy established by religious leaders of various traditions through the ages which separates our common actions from our spirituality has been a factor in creating the false belief that our sexuality is not part of our spiritual endeavors.

For the worshiper of God (or gods and goddesses) sexuality has the potential to become a model of the character of the one(s) we worship. For the Christian this is an important part of our daily ritual experience. How we live sexually models the life of the One we worship, and creates the dynamic of making us living witnesses.

To Isaac Bonewits (who I have not met yet), and some of the polyamorous Pagan leaders I have met over the last 10 years there is a connection between serving and loving many gods and goddesses, and sexually loving multiple partners. Their behavior in bed models their beliefs. Many gods = many loves.

To myself as a Christian I similarly model my worship experience. I believe there is One God, and He alone is to be served and loved as the Creator of all things, and as the Lover of my soul. My single-minded love toward Beverly (yep that's her with me near the water in Nahant in the above photo - ain't she cute!?) models my single minded love toward my One and Only God. I live out my spirituality through my monogamy. It becomes a picture of the love my God has for me, and the love I should likewise have for Him Who is my Only.

This makes my sexual choice a ritual enactment modeling the God I serve, and witnessing the truths I hold dear.

It is for this reason that sexuality is defined in strict terms by the Prophets, and the Torah. Polytheistic worship was identified as a form of adultery, and the stories and writings of Jeremiah, and Hosea most particularly connect the intimacy of worship with the intimacy of sexuality.

If I was a Polytheistic Pagan I would understand people choosing a polyamorous lifestyle, though I have a deep seated sense of romantic love which necessitates giving all to One, and I don't think polyamory would sit well in my soul. As a Christian who sees the world through the eyes of One God I see monogamy as the best, the healthiest, and the most romantic form of sexual expression, and living in it provides an daily window into the worldview I profess.

30 comments:

Sally said...

Phil I like this, it shows how every part of our life should be conducted in relation to the God we worship- and that every part should reflect that.

It also enables understanding without judgement of those who may choose a polygamous lifestyle, I wonder how this relates to gender?

Agent B said...

Where'd you find this pic of the dork with the beautiful chick?

Anonymous said...

They make a good looking couple don't they? The amazing thing is that they have great personalities too. :)

Ultimately, as I think you've inferred Phil, Pagan sexuality is as personal as Pagan paths. Each individual will have their own personal preferences that are not dictated by their beliefs, but may sometimes find an echo in their beliefs.

Personally I've never been inclined to have more than one partner. But then, I'm not a polytheist Pagan. :D Even when my understanding of the divine was a relatively polytheist perspective I did not feel multiple partners was something that attracted me. Never having been a Christian, I don't think that can be said to have come from a previous Christian morality either.

Good topic, well presented. :)

BB

Mike

Tim Abbott said...

Phil - this exposition of Christian sexuality breaks the mould. Beautiful rather than shameful, affirming rather than demeaning, uplifting rather than enslaving. The link between mono/polytheism and numbers of sexual partners is something of a revelation and seems to make a lot of sense - the more I consider it the more it seems to connect with the reality of faith, whether of believers or unbelievers. I look forward to further installments.

mike said...

so what about the Mormans? or what about some Muslims who have more than one wife? or even the old test. in which multiple wives were acceptable?

sorry i am being so short, i am on lunch break and have to get back.

Pastor Phil said...

Sally,

Polygamy has traditionally been a male practiced institution, whereas the current trend in Paganism is toward Polyamory, whihc is practiced by botth make and female, and does not include the necessuity of marriage.

I suppose the followers of such a lifestyle would consider Polyamory to be egalitarian compared to Polygamy.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Agent B,

Dang that guy messed up a hot photo. Didn't he?

Pastor Phil said...

Mike,

Yes, the inference of preference not necessarily attached to beliefs is there, but for those who desire their llife to model their beliefs it naturally falls to practice a sexuality which mirrors a faith system. This may not necessitate a direct poly-poly, mono-mono correlation, but Christianity has strongly modeled itself in that manner through the ages of our faith.

Pastor Phil said...

Tim,

This particular approach has been a great benefit in terms of presenting Christian sexuality as a liberating lifestyle here in Salem, and among my Pagans friends, when typically the church is seen as the last bastion of oppressive Puritanism.

Pastor Phil said...

Mike,

Mormons are henotheists. They believe that there is more than one God in the universe, and that those gods are polygamists themselves. Mormonism is by its theology a cultus built on the dynamic of a polygamous family.

Both Islam and Judaism are strict monotheism, but unlike Christianity Islam does not tie sexuality and life ritual together. Judaism appears to have provided laxity on the original design found in the creation story, and the blessings and dictates which were given to Adam and Eve. Why? I am not sure I have a answer in that one yet.

mike said...

good answers dude. i wasn't trying to be a jerk, btw, just adding to the discussion.

Webb Kline said...

Trying to figure out one God is difficult enough, can't imagine trying to figure out more than one woman. Why anyone would want to make not only this life, but eternity so hard for themselves is beyond me. ;)

Pastor Phil said...

Mike,

I didn't think you were trying to be a jerk. I thought they were good discussion questions.

Pastor Phil said...

Webb,

The Mormon polygamists I know insist that it is easier with multiple women, because they end up caring for each other as well. Even some of the women who are part of a polygamist marriage have said this. Strange huh?

SDC's_Angel said...

This fits in so much with what I believe. What happens here on earth also happens in the heavens, but it is much more powerful there than here. Does that mean I believe there is sex and marital union in the afterlife? No, I can't say I do. But here on earth sex is the most complete expression of love, trust, devotion and intimacy between to people and must always be respected for the power it has over people. It's not something to be toyed with. The bond it creates is should never be demeaned.

"True" Mormons no longer practice polygamy, but still hold on to one trademark of their polygamist heritage - celestial marriage. I could never understand why they'd hold on to that if they had renounced polygamy.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Karen,

There are some Mormons who are polygamists,and they consder themselves the "real" Mormons.

The LDS Church holds on to polygamy, because they still believe that they have the possibility of becoming polygamist gods themselves.

SDC's_Angel said...

Good morning, Pastor.

That's why I had "true" in quotation marks. There are branches of LDS that feel they are the only true Mormon church because they follow Joseph Smith's teachings and not those of leaders after him. The Reformed LDS still holds on to and practices polygamy with great joy. I'm sorry...can you imagine having several wives??

Rachel's home sick today. Gotta settle her and then do my Valentine's Shopping before the snow hits.

Shhhhh....Seth's not used to getting gifts at all for any reason, so each time I get him something he's sort of mind blown. Gotta get mushy card and funny card. I can't do just a mushy card! And Godiva chocolate for the girls. Plus shop for the special dinner for all of us tomorrow night. So much to do today!

Shiloh Guy said...

Bro Phil,

Your treatment of human sexuality as expression of worship is excellent and it is a view I also embrace. I believe it is the closest we can come to experiencing and modeling the Holy Trinity and the relationship they share. That is why God laid down such clear laws regarding sex. Properly expressed sexuality is a holy action and we are told to be holy in everything we do.

I am waiting to hear what you have to say about the universal nature of God's law concerning sex. It was an integral part of life in the Garden for Adam and Eve pre-fall. Following the fall sex was corrupted and corrupted to such an extent that it was part of the reason God determined to destroy mankind in the flood (Genesis 6:1-6).

God's laws concerning sex are therefore not limited to the Jews in the Old Testament nor Christians in the New Testament or in the present day. The abrogation of God's laws about sex is a manifestation of the matrix of darkness in which our society exists. No, I cannot expect a person who does not share Christianity with me to agree with God's laws, nor can I expect that person to succeed in obeying them. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that God still demands obedience.

I share with you a love for people who are not Christians. I share your passion to see them come to an understanding of God and Jesus Christ. That is what makes it difficult, though necessary, to recognize that sexual immorality is one of the things that will bring "God's wrath on those who are disobedient" (Ephesians 5:6).

The Phariseeism of the church/Christianity of my youth is responsible for the ridiculous caricature of "Puritan sexual mores." (One need only read the Puritans to understand they were no prudes!) The church with which I grew up stood around pointing a judmental finger at the woman taken in adultery and falsely projected itself as a worthy judge of society and the individual members of society. There were no tears for the lives that were broken, only judgment. Let us put off our self-righteousness and weep and mourn for the demeaning of the image of God and the lives that are being destroyed by sexual immorality.

Phil, keep up your excellent thinking and writing. Sorry this got so long!

Dave Moorhead

Pastor Phil said...

Dave,

Thanks for a great post. I will be writing about this for a bit, and thinking through it from a ritual lifestyle perspective, and how that relates to the Christian initially.

As far as the universal message it communicates, and the resulting elements of social, and eternal consequences, I am not sure I will pursue that angle of it this time around - probably on the basis of wanting to present the issue out of a heart of grace, and looking for that angle first.

At least so-me-thinks,
Phil

ded said...

pastor phil,

This series is so important. Thanks for articulating it well.

As my eldest son reached sixteen or so, I realized I needed something powerful and positive to tell him and his brothers about sex, if they were going to have a reason to be abstinent. Countering the "thrills" the world promised and going beyond the "don'ts" of the church was wisdom I didn't have. After all my errors in the area of sex, how was I to make myself convincing in the plea for holiness?

I asked the Father for help and
here's what I felt "in the spirit" (if one allows the phrase):

Son, why is there a male and female besides procreation?

NO answer, but I had his attention.

Well, the feminists make a big deal out of our "patriarchal" view of God, but if we are to accept the Scripture, God has revealed Himself as Father. So where did feminine come from? Yep, He created her. From where?
Deep within His own heart. He took some of Himself and put it into the feminine of creation. She reflects a very special part of Him.

When the male and the female come together in a holy union in the moment of intercourse as married and committed lovers, we have a small picture of God's emotions--the deep intimacy He longs for with His church.

I am not suggesting there is sex in heaven, but there is a deep emotional communion; afterall, the metaphor He gives is Jesus as the Bridegroom and us as His bride.

It's a beautiful mystery. The world is only a little bit right when it whispers there is pleasure and comfort in sex, but doing it the world's way spells LOSS. The only way to come into the fullness of the emotional union God intended for people to experience is to enter into a life-long commitment and practice fidelity.

Honor women, honor yourself, honor God. Don't use folks for sexual gratification and don't waste your chance to know the beauty of what God has for you. Sex inside of marriage is a little foretaste of eternity.

I didn't call it sex as ritual worship, but I think you and I are on the same page on this one.

Pastor Phil said...

ded,

Yes, it seems we are on the same page. My point in placing it into ritual is threefold: 1) to contextualize it for the people I know who are spiritually sensitive non-Christians, and look at Christian sexuality as oppressive, 2) to emphasize the holiness of all life choices, by making every breathing moment a ritual lifestyle, and 3) to place sex into the beauty of living ritually.

ded said...

you are a needed type of pastor...
going way beyond the formulas to give spiritual meaning to life

keep it up

SDC's_Angel said...

I think I'll share something from my own life. This is a fairly big step for me to take.

I was married for 18 years. Still married as it's not finalized yet. There was an awful lot of mental and emotional abuse in my marriage, along with sexual abuse in some not-so-typical ways. Some of those ways were more of what you hear men complain about regarding their wives. Spiritually we were not compatible either. I can't even begin to go into what the effect was on me or my kids here. Too much.

Anyway! I'm not proud of the fact that I had to leave the man I had committed my life to, but I was left with no other choice last April. Nor am I thrilled about the circumstances of how Seth and I met, but what I've come to realize is that God does work in every situation no matter how unclean it is.

I never thought that He would put in my path the man that I had always desired to have by my side, a true partner, friend, lover and companion. Seth is all I ever dreamed of and more. We work well together. We lift each other up, we keep each other focused and accountable. We adore each other and revel in making that clear all the time. We strive to make our worship of Him who is always present evident in all that we do together. I have never known such high respect from a man in my life, and I thank God daily for this gift.

The expression of our love for each other isn't limited to private times, and that is a freedom which everyone should be able to know. Lord, I wish the entire world could experience life as I've been able to experience it with Seth and God. What a beautiful treasure I have!

Pastor Phil said...

ded,

Thanks bro. I apppreciate the kudos.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey SDCAngel,

I can see what youn are talking about on your face and on Seth's face everytime I see you two together.

Lisa said...

What a cutie pie you are Pastor Phil :)I love the picture, your wife is beautiful... I feel so fortunate to have found you... the "big guy" no doubt has something to do with that!

Anonymous said...

Just came across the following news article that might be relevant. :)

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/susan_brooks_thistlethwaite/2007/02/sex_and_the_single_god.html

BB

Mike

Pastor Phil said...

Mike,

Thanks for the heads-up. I responded to the blog.

MickyMcB said...

First, Great blog series... Yes, the church gave up its voice on sexuality by using it in a condemning and usually insane manner, but post like this may give the church a right to enter into a conversation about sexuality again rather than just railing against it.

As for the content, a couple things to consider:

First, in ancient Judiasm, all life was sacred... they even had prayers for bodily functions you would never consider praying about. I dont know when sex became a tool of repression, but I am guessing it was sometime around Augustine who's guilt over his own ability to destroy his own natural urges wreaked havoc on a lot of things in the church (in my opinion). So if we base our argument on an historical model, just like the insane christian music fight, we have to be either very careful or very honest about what (and whom) we pick as our temporal reference point.

On monogamy as a ritual representation of monotheism, that is a wonderful model for the modern church, but not terribly biblical... consider most of the Patriarchs. I dont recall that Jesus ever spoke about monogamy. He spoke about marriage, which was a socio-economic contract at that time that had less to do with love than it did with economics and social order... I honestly dont know if Judaism became strictly monogamous in the marriage contract by Jesus' time or not, but either way, we have to be careful how infer His intent onto our modern cultural concepts in all areas.

Finally, my understanding is that what much of what Paul wrote about was not regarding sexual practice as an act between two people, but rather sexual practice in the context of pagan temple worship rituals (much like the eating of meet offered to the gods). Though he did speak of getting married if you cant bear celibacy so there he was allowing for sexual urges beyond worship rather than for the idea of sex only as worship. We also have to read Paul in the light of his belief that Jesus was coming back any day... not centuries from when Paul wrote.

That said, I dont think God honors random, indiscriminate sexual behavior, not because its inherently evil, but because too much focus on sexuality, detracts from enough focus on God. I also think that objectifying people based on gender (which i am culturally tuned to do) dishonors God by dishonoring His creation... but then so does dishonoring the earth which is also His creation (hey how about a series on that :)

The paradox of the churches is that by taking sex out of life as a natural and beautiful part of life, is that it led to repression ... and repression in one area, generally leads to the waters overflowing the damn in other areas.

Were the church in general to be so open in the discussion of sex as Phil has been, I think we might be able to begin to lead people back to a healthier relationship with themselves, their bodies and their practices... but we have to be both very careful, practical and honest about what we call the biblical model (for anything... not just sex).

Great posts Phil... thanks

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mickey,

I'd have to disagree with the monogamy model not being Biblical. I have enough reasons that I decided it might be best to place it in another blog post. So - coming soon - Christian Sexuality Part 5b.

Thanks for a great post.