For those who have been sexually abused and assaulted, what follows may be difficult to read.
I’ve heard a few jokes that start out, “A priest, a pastor and a rabbi … ” But it’s been a while. These days, I don’t hear much of anything funny about priests and pastors.
In fact, the news lately has been so “unfunny” I’m having trouble typing this editorial. I’m having trouble processing the sheer magnitude of the problem of sex in religious circles, in our circles.
There was a time when the problem with sex in religious circles was we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t talk about what husbands and wives do to become parents. We didn’t talk about how marriages are strengthened by … you know … um … well, physical intimacy. We didn’t talk about the gift and the wonder of part of God’s design. We didn’t talk about the blessing of sex.
We did talk about the dangers of sex. We talked about living in sin. We talked about the shame of sleeping with someone outside of marriage. We sniggered and blushed and shushed.
We talked about some of the dangers of sex, but not all of them.
We didn’t tell children how to avoid sexual predators or what to do when they couldn’t avoid them. When the unspeakable happened, perhaps because we didn’t talk to them, our children didn’t talk to us. Perhaps because sex was so shameful, so unspeakable in itself, so dangerous, our children were easily silenced by their abusers. Not all of them, but most of them.
Later, much later, when so many became brave enough to speak, we didn’t believe them. We said, “You’re making that up. It’s a case of faulty memory. He wouldn’t have done that. You seem to be doing just fine.”
We hushed them when they were terrified of the men we all trusted, the men our children were supposed to trust. We stayed silent about people—usually men, but sometimes women—who we knew acted inappropriately with other people. We came up with reasons why, surely, he, of all people, couldn’t have done … that. I mean, he doesn’t look like a pervert.
And now it seems all we can talk about are the scandals of sex.
After so long a silence …
After so long a silence, the stones are crying out.
Why were they—why were we—silent so long? Why didn’t they tell us sooner? Why didn’t we speak up sooner?
Whatever the reason, silence reigned, but now, it’s time to talk.
No, simply talking about sex wouldn’t have stopped the evils of sexual predation. No, talking about sex is not a magic spell to ward off destructive behavior. But talk is powerful, at least as powerful as silence.
Being tongue-tied about the sensual and the sacred may be behind our silence.
Perhaps one reason we haven’t talked about sex is that we struggle to escape Gnosticism.
Gnosticism is that ancient philosophy New Testament writers attempted to combat. Gnosticism, with a silent “g,” is the idea that the sacred (or spiritual) and the secular (or flesh) must not come into direct contact with each other and therefore are separated by many layers through which a person can progress only with special knowledge (gnosis).
According to this philosophy, Jesus could not be simultaneously God and human. In no way could Holy God take on flesh, not directly. In no way could the sacred be defiled by skin. As a result, Jesus’ incarnation and crucifixion must be understood as something other than a mixture of body and spirit.
An expression of Gnosticism is seen in the way religious people avoid talking about sex. For us, sex is all-too-human, leading us to question whether things like sexual pleasure could possibly be blessed by God. With such questions, we insinuate all things sexual are strictly secular, mere sensuality. We insinuate that elevating the sexual to the sacred is tantamount to sacrilege.
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Source: Baptist Standard