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Is it time for Christians to celebrate pre-marital sex?

One of the things about being divorced and remarried is that everyone knows that I’ve had sex with more than one partner. No one seems to hold it against me because I was married before, and I’m married now. I get a pass.

Recently, Sarah Bessey wrote a powerful post at Deeper Story, “I Am Damaged Goods“:

He passed around a cup of water and asked us all to spit into it. Some boys horked and honked their worst into that cup while everyone laughed. Then he held up that cup of cloudy saliva from the crowd and asked, “Who wants to drink this?!”

And every one in the crowd made barfing noises, no way, gross!

“This is what you are like if you have sex before marriage,” he said seriously, “you are asking your future husband or wife to drink this cup.”

She didn’t get a pass, because she wasn’t married when she first had sex. But she is now, and she’s not going to live in shame any longer because, as she proclaims, “There is no shame in Christ’s love.

From a very different perspective, John H. Richardson claims in Esquire that or sexual prurience in fact one of the least evolved, enlightened things about us.

I want to suggest that sex, be it adulterous or premarital or deviant or polyamorous, is a good thing, not a bad thing, and that sex itself is the moment of grace. And that our sterile idea of perfection is the actual sin. To start with the subject on the table, adultery is a brave rebellion against the invisible prison we build for ourselves.

Ayayay. That’s a tough one to swallow, as is his closing shot:

It is not our sex but our hypocrisy that is the annihilator of marriage and destroyer of lives and reputations. Marriage invites adultery. The uniform invites war. A rage for order always invites destruction.

Human beings are sexual beings. There’s no way around it. And the fact that, in the West, the age of marriage has been steadily creeping upward means that our bodies are ready for sex long before we’re walking down the aisle. In the U.S., men get married at 29 and women at 27, on average. And we reach puberty a good decade-and-a-half before that.

But to talk about Bill Clinton or Sarah or me is one thing. To think about my kids is another. They’ll be maturing soon, and they’ll be entering a world that is sexually charged, just as their bodies awaken to their own sexuality. I’ve already begun talking to the older two about it, and I will continue to. But it’s one thing to discuss sexuality with a pre-pubescent child. It’s another thing when they go off to college, or come home with their boy/girlfriend.

To pretend that those are two virgins walking down the aisle, approaching the coital bed for the first time is uncommonly naive  And it seems to me that Jesus was lots of things, but he wasn’t naive to the world in which he lived. He did, however, both preach and live prophetically within that culture. He didn’t take it as it was, without pushing back against it. In his day, it was that tax collectors were ostracized and that men shouldn’t pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath. Today, sex is everywhere. It’s unavoidable.

A new sexual ethic for Christians is desperately needed. I for one am going to work on that. Will you join me?

This post was written by Tony Jones and originally published on the Theoblogy. Follow him on Twitter: @jonestony

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