Posts Tagged ‘shame’

Sex…and Why We Keep God out of the Bedroom

Monday, April 19th, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

There is one place most of us stop thinking about God: the bedroom. No, I do not mean when we sleep. I mean when we have sex. For most of us, God stops at the door to the bedroom. In the most intimate moment between husband and wife, God is polite enough to wait outside. God is not a voyeur, no Peeping Tom–or Peeping Jesus, if you will. God obtains no sexual gratification by observing others surreptitiously. But does God’s participation in our lives exclude our sexuality? Does God gain no satisfaction from our engagement in the most intimate form of interpersonal relationships? For God, is sex only a means of procreation? The answer, I think is that we envision God fundamentally as a non-sexual being. As a result, we see sex as an element of the Christian life that does not engage the existence of God.

Of course, sexuality is a precarious topic, even on a blog (and particularly when the blog is an official blog like this one). We are comfortable discussing politics, economics, and popular culture, but there is a barrier when it comes to sex. While we should respect this barrier when it is the result of a particular cultural formation and tradition, there is no reason to shun the topic from theology, in principle. In fact, the absence of questions about sex in theology books, sermons, seminaries, and classrooms is symptomatic of a much larger problem: relegating our thoughts about God to only certain areas of the Christian life. We engage God when we have the time and place and occasion to do so. What we forget to ask is when God desires to engage us.

God desires to engage us at all times. God is never tied up, never tired, never ashamed. We, on the other hand, live a constant battle with the most immediate result of original sin: shame–the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something we consider dishonorable, improper, or ignominious. Original shame is the reaction Adam and Eve show with regard to each other’s nakedness. But more importantly, it is seen in their desire to hide from God.

Even as Christians, we often continue to live out the consequences of original shame. We may attribute to God the creation of a child, even the moment of conception, the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg. But often, these things are spiritualized or seen from a clinical perspective. We hesitate to find God in the sex itself, the way husband and wife honor and engage each other, the sexual intercourse, and the orgasm. All these things are too … well, what are they? Too graphic for us to consider as Christians? Too offensive? Too untheological? Too human? Too private? Too personal?

These questions are compounded when it comes to sexual activity outside the biblical paradigm of marital relations. Sexual immorality, homosexuality, and masturbation are just some examples where we would rather not consider the presence of God. Overeating, extreme dieting, hurtful exercising, visual over-stimulation, and many other activities that engage the physical body often show a similar avoidance of God. The question is not whether God condemns such activities but to what extent God is present in them. We can answer this question only if we first of all reflect on it, not as outsiders or in hindsight, but while we are pursuing these activities. We may discover that God is deeply interested in engaging us on these most intimate levels of life, because these acts fundamentally engage us with our own selves. In the sexual act we are the most vulnerable. Sex engages us as a whole person, body, soul, and spirit, and it is this engagement that shame is trying to hide from us. As a result, we dichotomize God’s engagement also in other areas of human existence, especially when those areas include any activity of the physical human body. God has become a God of soul and spirit only, and to most of us that is sufficient enough to say that we have made God the Lord over the whole of our lives.

The solution to this problem is, of course, to allow God into the bedroom. But let me suggest that that is the end result; it does not suggest a way to get there. What we need first is an extension of theology to all areas of Christian living. We need to take our doctrines of God, the Trinity, Christology, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the like, and celebrate them at all moments and events of human existence. Theology is not a particular activity we engage in only at certain times. All of Christian life is theology.

… To be continued