catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 17 :: 2008.09.26 — 2008.10.10


Abstaining in a culture of entitlement

Or we’re married! Now when can we have sex?

Last fall my husband and I got hitched. Now, you know what’s top-of-mind for every soon-to-be-wed-Christian-couple. And we’re not talking tulle, tuxedos and taffeta here. We’re talking about S-E-X. Or more precisely, “When can we get some?”

Now there’s this little thing about us Christians. We don’t talk about things we’re really thinking (at least not often enough). So, because we lack the necessary vernacular for topics such as sex, we avoid the discussion altogether. And let me tell you, this is no big help for the kids out there just waiting to jump each other.

As Christians, when it comes to decisions around sex, we differ little from our worldly compatriots. Today’s Christians and non-Christians share something in common: a theology of entitlement.

My husband and I were never asked in our premarital counseling sessions what family planning methods we would employ. In fact, the question of using birth control never even came up, it was assumed. The only question we were asked about sex was how often we planned to have it. Our prudish medley of answers fell on deaf ears, I am sure. We were young! We were going to do it morning, noon and night.

Young evangelical couples do not bat an eye at birth control. Prescriptions of Try-cyclen, Depo and the like flow from the hands of medical doctors like champagne on consummation night. The impulse is this: We’ve been waiting for it this long, gosh-darn-it, we’re gonna have it as much as we want!

Modern birth control methods have never made it so easy (thank you love children of the 60s!). We can have all the sex we want without consequences-avoiding pregnancy until the day of our choosing. C-sections are booked months in advance, yet we’re not asking, “Is this the way it was meant to be?” The truth is, God has some stuff to say about sex, but most of us aren’t listening.

Last summer a friend recommended I read a book by Cambridge and Columbia-educated Lauren Winner. It was called Real Sex. My friend knew she’d hook me with a bio as impressive as Winner’s. She was smart, savvy and feminist-leaning, all things I look for in a good author (and a trustworthy soul). 

Winner writes with heroic humility. She refrains from discretion as she describes both her pre- and post-conversion sexual encounters. In her book, she journeys through Scripture, trying to understand what God is saying about sex.  She reflects on three characteristics that she believes God intended for sexual intimacy: that it be unitive, sacramental and procreative.

As my soon-to-be-husband and I reflected on Winner’s perspective, we began praying about God’s will for our sexuality. We agreed we couldn’t justify purely recreational sex, as if all God intended was the enjoyment of orgasm. To us, this didn’t mean boinking out babies from day one, but it did mean understanding our fertility and abstaining appropriately.

I share this story because I believe we all need to question how we live our day-to-day lives: how we eat, how we sleep, how we have sex, how we pray.  Maybe the most vital question we can ask ourselves as Christians is: “Do our lives differ from the world around us?” If the answer is no, then we have a problem on our hands.  In a sex-obsessed culture, considering our conjugal habits is not a bad place to start.  It’s worth considering the bigger picture.

Last fall environmentalist David Suzuki published an article recording the influence birth control pills are showing in water and fish populations. He writes: “It seems the widespread use of birth control pills has elevated the amount of estrogenic substances going into our waste stream [causing] male fish [to become] ‘feminized’ when exposed to human hormones.”  In other words, in cities like Toronto, Chicago and New York, fish populations are being put in danger by a sex-on-demand culture. Suzuki opines, “In the modern world we are connected with each other more than ever… but we are also intimately connected to the rest of the natural world.”

Our physical and spiritual choices impact those around us and the world God has made. We need to use wisdom and prayerfully consider our choices because our individual choices are never just that. We are connected to our churches, communities, and to all of humankind.

And people are watching how we live.

When our world is going one way, will we dare to live differently and abstain in a culture that tells us we’re entitled 

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