Many Christians are very critical of contemporary sexual culture, and rightly so. But what is the worldview behind this culture of so-called sexual liberation? Perhaps, by directly attacking modern ideas about sexuality, Christians are like people trying to scoop water out of their hallway with a teaspoon when it would be much smarter to turn off the flooding bathtub.
In their book Colossians Remixed, Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat make a very brief and powerful statement about the connection of contemporary sexual culture to our culture of consumption. Speaking about Colossians 3:5 they say:
Sexual sin, greed and idolatry – what is the relation among these? Why end a list of sexual sins with an economic sin? Because sexual sin is fundamentally a matter of covetousness, an insatiable, self-gratifying greed that has the control and consumption of the other person as its ultimate desire. Sexual sin is not sin because it is sexual but because it is invariably covetous. it replaces the pleasure and sexual enjoyment of two people in a loving relationship with a self-centered gratification of sexual longings that can never be fulfilled apart from commitment.
They go on to discuss what Wendell Berry calls “industrial sexuality:”
Like any other enterprise , industrial sexuality seeks to conquer nature by exploiting it an ignoring the consequences. (Wendell Berry)
To cut to the chase, is there there a connection between our contemporary industrialisation of the world, with its increased demand for consumption, and the reduction of sex to a consumer item?
Just as we in the West have learned to treat the earth as something to be conquered, an apparently infinite source of economic growth with no resulting negative consequences…
Just as we have learned to treat products like food, cars, entertainment products and communications items as things to be consumed, often as a status symbol, often to fill a bigger hole in our deepest parts, and thrown out at will…
Just as we have learned to be weary of commitment to brands, churches and people…
Perhaps so too sex has suffered from the same attitudes –
Something to be conquered; unlimited partners with no consequences.
Something to be consumed, often as a status symbol, often to fill a hole in our deepest parts, and throw out at will.
Something that allows us to avoid commitment to a single person, since that is undesirable.
Friends, we can bang on about sexual ethics all we want. But what if so-called sexual liberation is a symptom of a much bigger problem of covetousness and consumerism in our world? Would we not then be just as guilty? Would it not be hypocritical for us to attack those who consume sex while we consume the earth, material goods and industry products?
In this culture sexual “liberation” is the predictable standard and marriage the radical stance of commitment, just as unsustainable and high-consumptive living is the predictable standard, and harmony with God’s earth and consumptive limits are the radical stance.
Perhaps we should put down the teaspoon and turn off the tap.
Matt Anslow is the National Young Adults Coordinator for TEAR Australia, an Australian movement of Christians responding to poverty, and is also working toward a PhD in New Testament theology. He blogs at life.remixed.net, and you can find him on Facebook and Twitter.