Two items in the news this week highlight the ongoing debate in culture over sexuality. Is it possible that sexual norms are changing drastically because Christians don’t know how to answer the question, “what does the Bible say about sex?”
Recently, the United Methodist Church appointed a transgender deacon. Rev, M Barclay, as the appointee requests to be called, is the first non-binary member of the clergy in the one of the largest denominations in America.
“I understand the rules of the church,” Barclay said. “But here’s the truth: I’m queer, and I’m called to this. I tried to walk away”.
Barclay identifies as neither male nor female and prefers to be called by the pronoun “they”.
In the other development, pedophiles are rebranding themselves as “MAPs” or “Minor Attracted Persons” in an effort to gain acceptance and be included into the LGBT community, according to several reports from LGBT news sites.
According to Urban Dictionary, the blanket term MAP includes infantophiles (those attracted to infants), pedophiles (pre-pubescent children), hebephiles (pubescent children), and ephebophiles (post-pubescent children). Some MAPs also refer to themselves as NOMAPs or “Non-Offending Minor Attracted Persons”.
The stories will likely make many churchgoers uncomfortable but clinical psychologist Juli Slattery says that’s because sexuality, outside of a list of do’s and don’ts, isn’t discussed on Sundays.
“Sexuality from the very beginning was created with this embedded spiritual significance that nobody really talks about”.
Slattery, the author of Rethinking Sexuality was recently a guest on the ChurchLeaders podcast.
She told host Jason Daye that her passion is helping people make the connection “about why God cares so much about sexuality and how we steward our sexuality”.
“Why did God create sexuality the way he did? What’s the purpose of our sexuality if everything in creation has something spiritual to teach us; what’s the spiritual thing our sexuality is supposed to teach us? Why is spirituality so passionate; why is it so vulnerable? Why does it embody so much of who we are as people? Why is it constantly under spiritual attack? As I’ve studied this in Scripture what I’ve come to learn is sexuality is first and foremost, not just to have babies, but to teach us about the nature of God’s covenant love”.
Why Isn’t the Church Asking ‘What Does the Bible Says About Sex?’
The vacuum left behind by those unasked questions is being filled by the culture.
“Christians just don’t talk that explicitly about sexual things. We’re far more comfortable with secular talk related to sexuality than spiritual talk related to sexuality and that has accelerated in the last decade or so.”
“The culture at large has a narrative to help us understand the purpose of our sexuality” Slattery pointed out. “It’s a narrative rooted in humanism and individualism, but it’s a story that helps us make sense of why I might be attracted to women instead of men or what do I do if I’m in an unhappy marriage. They tell you what to do with that and how to make sense of that.”
“The church at best has given us a list of do’s and don’ts about sexuality that don’t involve a narrative. So when you’re looking at that list and it doesn’t make sense for your life….you tend to view your sexuality through the cultural narrative.
“We need to embrace a biblical narrative that helps us make sense of sexuality not just a list of rules that we keep reciting.”
The recent news stories feature people who claim they are simply being true to themselves and in some cases only acting the way God made them.
“This whole idea of being true to yourself has evolved because we have rejected God as a reliable source of truth and shifted to humanistic society where I can be the source of truth,” Dr. Slattery countered. “Even if you are a committed Christian, you can’t underestimate how that has affected how we reason with ourselves. You don’t find truth by looking inward, the heart is wicked, but you can find truth by looking to God.”
What the Bible Says About Sex Is More than Just Homosexuality and Porn
But Slattery also feels the church is being hypocritical when it wades into the sexual debates of the day.
“A church that has never considered a theology of sexuality will start talking about why gay marriage is wrong or why pornography is such a great evil. It smacks of hypocrisy because now all of a sudden we’re talking about this one issue that isolates a few people. Instead what we have to start with is laying the groundwork for a holistic theology of sexuality including how all of us are at some level broken, including the pastors, including the leaders, how we struggle. All of us need God’s grace.”