27 Jan Let’s talk about sex
I will admit, I did not watch the Grammy’s last night. However as I perused Facebook news for my daily 10-minute catch-up I found out about the Queen Latifah wedding event that took place on stage.
Included in these newsfeeds were scathing articles announcing (once again) the destruction of mankind as we know it. Other people saw this as a beautiful witness to the openness of humanity and love and wanted to throw it in the face of “extremists” who don’t agree. It is far too easy to choose sides and amplify the deeply polemical split on the marriage issue.
At times like this, I tend to get very frustrated with the lost opportunity at actual evangelization. What ever happened to “teachable moments”? Why is it that Christians think a media event (that occurs just about every month) is a good reason to dig in their heals to point fingers and call names?
Let’s try a different approach. How about if we actually talk about why we believe what we believe? Yes, as a Catholic I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, ‘till death do them part, open to life – every time they engage in the “marital act.” This does not mean I hate people who think differently than me (including those who believe in homosexual unions to those who believe in using contraception.) I have a very rational system of belief that leads me to my conclusions. I’d like to share them with you.
I believe in the bible. Not a literal word-for-word type of belief, but a belief that it is in fact written as the inspired word of God. It is not just a book, but a living source of encounter with God. In the bible it says that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This can be a mysterious idea, being created “in the image” of God. First let’s break down a Catholic idea of God.
God is a Trinity of Persons- three persons and at the same time one God. This is another mystery in itself, but for our purposes here let’s just agree to accept that as a premise. God is a relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This means that God himself is a relationship. In theology we call God a “Communion of Persons.” Think first of the relationship between the Father and the Son. God the Father pours himself out, he gives himself to the Son. This is love right? To sacrifice oneself for another, to put another first, to love another with one’s whole being. The Son in return gives himself completely to the Father. The Father and Son share a relationship of mutual self-gift. There is a strong spirit of love between them. So strong, in fact, that this spirit is actually a whole different person, the Holy Spirit! Because the Father and the Son are infinite, and there is no limit to the love that they can give, the love between them is so strong it is actually a person. The love of God between Father and Son eternally gives birth to the Holy Spirit.
This is the God that man was made “in the image” of. Mankind was made in the image of relationship. What kind of relationship? Let’s qualify the love between Father and Son to get a better understanding of the relationship mankind was made to image.
Free, Total, Faithful, Fruitful.
First, the Father and Son freely give themselves to each other. Nothing forces the gift from Father to Son or in return. We see this as Jesus freely gave up his life on the Cross for the Father. Next, the reciprocal gift between Father and Son is total. They hold nothing back from each other. Everything of the Father’s belongs to the Son, and Jesus gives his whole self even to the point of death to the Father. Third, this gift of self between Father and Son is faithful. The Father is all for his Son, and Jesus in return gives himself faithfully to the Father. He was tempted to give himself to the devil in the desert, but even then stayed faithful. Lastly, the self-gift between Father and Son is fruitful. As we said earlier, the love between Father and Son is eternally generative, creating life in the Holy Spirit.
Now let’s talk about sex. First of all, sex is fruitful. Doomsday predictions aside, it is a pretty scary thing that the mystery of sex is lost on our culture. When a man and woman join together, there is the possibility for CREATING A NEW HUMAN BEING!!! There are not enough exclamation points to communicate how amazing/mind-blowing/crazy/totally-out-of-this-world-unimaginable this fact should be. Sure, when we think about humans as complex apes, it’s not that big of a deal. But HUMAN. Can we not stop a minute to compare the beauty created by Mozart or Da Vinci to the potential of an ape? I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that is simply a function of evolution. Even more wild, sex made Mozart! Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart came together, and in a matter of seconds, set into place a series of events that lead to there being an Amadeus Mozart. The world was forever changed. So, sex is fruitful, and whether or not this fact blows peoples’ minds, it is biologically structured to be.
In Catholic belief, marriage is the joining together of man and woman in order to live up to the image in which we were created. It is in a very real way our purpose on earth. Also in Catholic belief, marriage does not happen without sex. God-imaging sex is the “consummation” of the marriage, without which there actually is no marriage. In fact, every time a married couple has sex, they are engaging in their marriage sacrament. They are being married over and over again. Every single act of sex in marriage is a renewal of the marriage vows. Coincidentally (not really), those vows include the four ideas of entering freely, giving the whole self totally, faithfully, and open to having children.
Every single Catholic teaching on sexuality can be understood in light of this context. Sex is the living out of the way that man and woman are created in the image of God. The only way that sex can be an image of God is to be free, total, faithful, and fruitful.
Homosexual marriage is not possible because it can’t be fruitful. Infidelity is not acceptable because it makes sex unfaithful. Even many Catholics think contraception is acceptable as long as there is some openness to life at some point – not true. Every single act of sex is meant to be an image of God, including fruitfulness. This is not a bad thing. Sex was made to be DIVINE! The greater the purpose a thing was created for, the worse it is when it’s used for less than its purpose. Sex in any way less than being in the image of God is a terrible distortion of the true goodness and beauty that sex was made for. In my opinion, real sex is not desired enough. Real sex is God-like in its power, but our culture wants to keep God out of it.
In order to truly image God, sex has to be free, total, faithful, and fruitful. This can only happen in faithful, uncontracepted marriage, between a man and a woman, until death do them part.
It is not my right to dictate to others how they should live. This is simply a statement of what I believe the nature and purpose of humanity to be. As a psychologist, I feel it is important to have a statement of belief. I also happen to believe that living in accord with our created nature leads to greatest happiness, but again I don’t push that belief on anyone else. I hope and pray that people in our society can grow in their ability to openly listen to each other and learn about diverse viewpoints and beliefs.