It is longstanding in the protestant tradition (that has devalued Roman Catholic sexual ethics) that mutuality and intimacy have been put forth as preeminent goals of marital sex. Indeed, because of the way the N. American evangelical church has elevated marriage in our churches in terms of identity, because of the ways we have excluded single people from our culture, and the way we have elevated sex as the supreme possibility for intimacy, denying what the Bible has to say about celibacy, intimacy, friendship and community outside of marriage, we should not be surprised at this logic of protestant sexual ethics being extended to same sex sexual relations (I have found Dan Brennan’s work here every helpful). What other alternatives have we offered?
This move to extend protestant marital ethics into same sex relations points to the stunning fact that evangelicalism (perhaps more than any other church) has completely ignored the reality of true companionship and intimacy found in non sexualized friendships of same gender and cross gender. We have then left our friends who have closer intimate friendships with those of same gender with no imagination for how this happens without sex. We shouldn’t be surprised then, no matter what side we’re on in this debate, when true intimacy and companionship are found in same sex relationships. We should not be surprised that such intimacy is found in same sex relationships when there is no imagination offered for any other forms of intimacy apart from sex.
I contend therefore that there are things in Tony Campolo’s letter we can all agree on as Christians no matter what side we’re on in this issue. Indeed, what I suggest is that each one of these two challenges points squarely at the evangelical church and the work we need to do to reflect on our own sexual culture and what we must respond to in order to be more faithful to God’s sexual redemption in Jesus Christ in regard to 1) heterosexual marriage (let us learn from Roman Catholic sexual ethics, 2) making space for friendship and intimacy outside of marriage between men, between women, between single people and single and married people, and 3a) making space for the unwinding of the antagonisms, anger, rejection of cultural misogyny and commodification of bodies, etc.
What do you think?