Friday, March 21, 2008

Dave's Relevant Christian Sex Challenge

The Church of the Orange Sky has no place in the bedrooms of the world.
-- Pierre Elliot Trudeau Grand Prophet of the Clouds The Right Rev. Lord David of Azure

I've been thinking about the "Relevant Church" and its proclamation that married people should fuck on a regular basis to improve the quality of their marriage, i.e. their life, lest the heavens fall and the earth perish in fire and water and the divorce rates continue their climb into the evil red zone of sin at the top of every statistical graph, that terrible hellish realm of the "post-family values" West which lies somewhere beyond the grand glass ceiling of righteousness, which shattered years ago as our rampant liberal hippie society climbed up, up, up the stairway to Hades. Or something like that.

In my previous life as a relevant and loyal evangelical, I was a "youth leader," a curious creature who, having been more or less properly indoctrinated by the church, is sent out to high school students to teach them simple lessons about faith in words that everyone can understand, with answers always at the ready to questions about the meaning of life and the universe and everything (which is never equal to 42, at least not in Christianity). The "youth leader" exists for two reasons: (1) the relevant task of converting the children of "unchurched" parents to the righteous ways of God the All-Father, probably through a hackneyed story-and-drawing combination like "the bridge" or "the chair" or some other suitably fabulous exposition; and (2) the important task of creating a "safe" spot for the children of "churched" parents to hang out on Friday night, so that they won't be out drinking and taking drugs and fucking each other and listening to rock music and watching American Pie and possibly even experiencing life outside the comfortable walls of our worldly paradise, the Traditional Family® and its Traditional Church®. And always hope that we had enough influence that the debauchery did not resume apace on Saturday night, though for some of the kids it sometimes did.

Every year we had a talk on sex. Apparently the year I left the program they had an entire "unit" on sex and dating, which means they spent several weeks talking in small groups and listening to righteous presentations from the youth pastor, who is usually smiling and easy-going and usually on his way to a better job as a senior pastor somewhere, though in the meantime at least he's living what he understands as a full life of service to God, which is more than most of his congregation can say. "He" I use deliberately. Is there such a thing as a female pastor who is not a pastor of children or perhaps a pastor of other women?

Sometimes, churches like to bring in outsiders to do the sex talk. It is often an awkward one and youth leaders welcome some outside credibility. Thus there are two types of speakers on sex and youth: pastors who are always married, and outside speakers who are always married. We don't really need to bring in legitimate outsiders, because the message is the same anyways, and so instead we could just dress up the youth pastor and give him a mask of some sort and maybe create the same effect. There are always two parts to the lesson: (1) chastity and abstinence are essential things you as a Christian teenager must practice, and as a child of God this might be something you struggle with from time to time but it is something that all good children of God must do!; and (2) sex is a wonderful and pleasurable act which I (i.e. the speaker) practice safely within the context of the walls of marriage, a word which sounds kind of like "mirage," but is actually an illusion closer to the "halo," i.e. a glowing curtain of righteousness which descends for the sake of privacy upon the filling out of proper forms and licenses and certificates of the state, to which the church outsourced the rights to the regulation of marriage long ago, an act which led directly and inexorably to the present fight over gay marriage. Never trade away a power, because someone else might exercise it in a way you didn't intend! If only the church still exercised unchallenged authority on the subject of which orgasms are permitted and which are not, we could restore traditional family values and restore our country to the splendour and glory and general awesomeness which God must have somewhere promised to all good white children-states of old, white but now senile father-England, right?

But I digress. Sometimes the don't-have-sex talk is buttressed by bullshit myths like "condoms don't actually work," which come to think of it might go some way towards explaining why American conservatives cheer their government for pulling condoms from family planning charities in sub-Saharan Africa and thus inevitably and directly contributing to the growing body count of the ongoing holocaust of HIV/AIDS. Occasionally people proudly brandish Bibles and denounce fornication, though that is widely recognized as being not effective anymore. Back when I was in the game, we sometimes looked for fairly young people, in their late 20s or so, newly married but still young enough to be "relevant" to teenagers. Some of them turned quite a lucrative profit from the teenage abstinence business, like Joshua Harris, who wrote a book in 1997 about how he'd "kissed dating goodbye," and another in 2000 about how he'd successfully wooed a wife of some sort. Perhaps I shouldn't be too unfair to Harris, but my rage remains righteous because he has continued this "ministry" of his after being happily married.

Being married is a problem for someone who's going to preach on abstinence, because almost invariably they don't practice abstinence: they only expect others too. A position of such moronic moralistic inconsistency is difficult to reconcile in a culture where teenagers - inevitably, whether their parents wish it were otherwise or not - have been encouraged to see the benefits and possibilities of sex damn near everywhere. This indeed is something the religious right usually accepts, which makes my argument even easier, though their purpose is usually to denounce said culture, having safely been plucked from the maelstrom by Christ and brought onto the high safe ground of salvation, where not only is everyone fortunely holy and free of sticks in their eyes, but upon which God has conveniently stacked large piles of stones which we who are without sin may freely hurl at the heathen below.

The usual answer to the above would be that sex is permitted in marriage and in marriage only, which sounds like a nice response except that marriage is not a possible outlet for teenagers, and is clearly not a necessary outlet for teenagers. The righteous usually compound the problem by claiming that once you are married sex is a good and wonderful thing and that they are glad they are able to enjoy such intimacy with their partner - basically a "mine! you can't have it!" approach to teaching the young, which doesn't work with alcohol and unsurprisingly doesn't work with sex either, and ironically reinforces the suspicion that people can't really live without sex for any extended period of time, because this adult who is married and preaching about abstinence can't and doesn't live that way either.

So I now propose Dave's Relevant Christian Sex Challenge: all parents, teachers, youth leaders, and various others who presume to teach on the subject of abstinence should practice abstinence from the time they begin teaching it, to the time they lay down this "ministry" and move on to another, which in the case of parents would basically mean until your kids have married. I am confident that all people whom the Orange Sky leads to this challenge should be able to coast comfortably through from one end to the other, since they preach it to others, and surely if they preach it to others they can just as easily accomplish the task themselves, or else they would be self-righteous hypocritical pricks. If you want to be all things to all people, sometimes you have to climb down into the mud.

Those who are married but not teaching abstinence to anyone of any age may still join the Relevant Christian Sex Challenge! There is a very queer oddity about the teachings on sex in the church: it is a terrible thing which will inevitably destroy relationships of the unmarried young, but a wonderful thing which - according to the Relevant Church - is apparently the universally best way of strenghtening relationships among married adults. The Church of the Orange Sky has no place in the bedrooms of the world, so you may do whatever you like, but instead of the Relevant Church's idiotic challenge to have sex every day for a month, the Church of the Orange Sky challenges you to do something which is both intimate and relevant to your lives every day for a month. This Church shall not reduce marriage to sex nor shall it reduce sex to marriage, but it shall permit the freedom of all of its members in the guidance of their own lives!

The true brilliance of the Relevant Christian Sex Challenge of the Church of the Orange Sky is that it can give almost exactly the same advice to those who are married and those who are not married, rather than building up bullshit categories and telling those of us who are not married that we are lesser and incomplete. Thus those who are unmarried should also do something, every day, which they feel is relevant to the improvement of their happiness and quality of life, and perhaps even to the quality of someone else's life who is close to you, though that is entirely your own choice.

Thus the heaviest burden of the Relevant Christian Sex Challenge falls upon those who teach, which, according to James 3:1, is precisely where the heaviest burden ought to fall.