In his text About the City of God Against the Pagans, St. Augustine dives into a bitter analysis of the human body and sexuality. Later, Thomas Aquinas picks up similar rhetoric in Summa Theologica.
However, neither church father denies the sanctity of birth. They deny the virtue of the act required for this holy conclusion.
And while theology has found ways to clean up Aquinas and Augustine’s sentiments (considering sex in marriage as a sacred act is a rather new idea). In many ways, these foundational texts in Christian tradition lay the ground for our current attitudes toward sex and sexuality in the church.
When I was growing up in purity culture, there was a constant question about “the line” marking how far is too far before a couple stumbles into the sin of sex.
Was it okay to kiss but not make-out? Hold hands but not cuddle too long?
Sex hinged on a specific act that marked the beginning of sin.
However, there was also a problem with lust. Lust happened when you desired sex with another person. While you could be attracted to someone’s mind, relationship with God, or sense of humor, being attracted to another person because of their body was a dangerous game.
(This was particularly dangerous for men who lust after women, but women supposedly didn’t struggle with wanting to have sex with men. Who knew!)
To make matters more confusing, while attraction to the opposite sex is appropriate (so long as it wasn’t lustful and leading to sex), attraction to the same sex was downright awful.
Meaning that the feeling in my stomach when I look at the guy I am attracted to is (while dangerous and could lead to sex if not capped off) is ultimately natural and good. That same feeling in an LGBTQ person is sinful and wrong, with or without any sort of action.
The problem with this narrative is it sees sex as an individual act instead of a part of who we are that pulses in every healthy human being.
It takes that essential pulse, and turns it into something to be feared and limited. Fueling an unhealthy understanding of sex and dangerous theology around the body and gender.
I want to invite you to view sexual desire as apart of your erotic self.
And eroticism is sex . . .
It is also: brushing your hand against another person, it’s a flirtatious wink across the room, it’s putting on a dress that makes you feel stunning, sitting out in the sun drinking tea, cracking up until your side hurts with a friend, and diving into a great novel.
It is connected to the way we are turned on to other people, and to the way we are turned on to the world around us. And it is rooted in deep respect, instead of fear, of our divinely made body.
When we lose turn on, when we label that light as wrong or dangerous, we subsequently turn off from the world, we turn against the turn on within ourselves, and we become very weary of turn on in others.
We begin objectifying ourselves, and others and make what is holy and right into the pornographic and offensive. And THAT is certainly a sin.
The fear of the erotic is a fear of the pleasures God created, in the bedroom and outside.
I believe there is a direct correlation to the damage done to the earth through global warming, the violence we commit against one another, through rape, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and war, to the fear and hate of our bodies, which demonizes our sexual selves.
If the natural inclinations within the body cannot be trusted, how can we trust what God has made, and how can we trust others?
St. Augustine, that same guy from above that had complicated thoughts about sex, also said, “The separation of the soul from the body is not good for anyone, as it is experienced by those who are, as we say dying.”
To sequester sex to a mere act, and then shut down our impulses that lead to that act is a form of disconnect from the body—a kind of death.
I encourage you to seek life!