I stumbled upon the above tweets a few days ago in the timeline of Jonathan Merritt, author of â€œA Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.â€ The tweets linked to a video by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Generation Forum, an initiative established to â€œexplore the potential for evangelical Christians to be involved in collaborative efforts aimed at reducing the number of abortions in theUnited States.â€
My initial reaction to, â€œ80% of unmarried evangelicals btwn 18 – 29 have had sexâ€ (the first tweet on the subject) was, â€œGasp! And eye roll,â€ but I was curious enough to check out the video anyway and to look at NAE Generation Forumâ€™s website. I was hoping they would say something radically different about sex and the single Christian, like that they were going to look at the Christian theology of sex in a cultural, historical and even biological context and move beyond, â€œGod said, â€˜Donâ€™t do it,â€™ and the Holy Spirit gives you self control, so you donâ€™t have to do it. But if you do it, youâ€™re going to hell.â€
Their guide, â€œTheology of Sex,â€ is available for download, and another video shows a NAE Generation Forum in L.A.â€™s inner city in which mostly non-white clergy talk about showing love to people who sin, but I was hoping for something more. I want to see churches examining the writings of theologians like Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether, who, according to a Wikipedia page whose sources I havenâ€™t yet double-checked, said, â€œthat â€˜Christianity is riddled byÂ hierarchyÂ andÂ patriarchy.â€™ This created a social order in which chaste women on their wedding night were â€˜in effect, raped by young husbands whose previous sexual experience came from exploitative relationships with servant women and prostitutes. . . . Modern societies have sought to change this situation, allowing women education, legal autonomy, paid employment and personal freedom. But the sexual morality of traditional puritanical patriarchal Christianity has never been adequately rethought.â€™â€
I want to see it rethought. I want to see some feminism in the churchâ€™s teachings about sexuality.Â Single women (really, single girls) had no rights in the society from which we citizens of theU.S.get most of our concepts of sexual morality today. Although I havenâ€™t studied the theology in its cultural context, Iâ€™m willing to believe that God meant for biblical laws about sex to protect women in vulnerable positions. For example, the punishment for raping an unmarried virginâ€”the rapist buys the girl at a discount from her father and canâ€™t divorce her, everâ€”is meant to allow the girl to have a husband and be taken care of for the rest her life, instead of being damaged goods that would never attract a man and would therefore have no rights.
If weâ€™re going to assume that every law God created was for the love and protection of his people, to keep something bad from them, not restrict them from something good, then we have to ask: What does sexual morality look like in a society where women have far more rights than the Hebrew women of the old and new testaments did?