lebacqzappropriatevulnerability - r AFTER THE REVOLUTION...

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r AFTER THE REVOLUTION Appropriate Vulnerability: A Sexual Ethic for Singles KAREN LEBACQZ A LL OF US spend our first years single. Most of us spend our last years single. As adults, we are single by circumstance or by deliberate choice. Given these sim- ple facts, it is surprising how little attention and how precious little support the churches have given to singleness (except for the monastic tradition, with its very particular demands and charisms). The scriptural witness on singleness is virtually ignored, despite the fact that Jesus never married and Paul preferred singleness. Throughout history, churches have simply assumed that marriage is the norm for Christians. Single sexuality, when it is discussed at all, falls under the category of "premarital sex." Churches clearly ex- pect that those who are single will get married and that those who have been married and are now single through divorce or widowhood will simply disappear into the closet until they marry again. The slogan recently adopted by the United Methodist Church might stand as a sum- mary of the traditional Christian view of sexuality: "celibacy in singleness, fidelity in marriage." A new ethic for single sexuality is needed, for the tradi- tion that requires celibacy in singleness is not adequate. This situation does not mean that anything goes or that the church has nothing to offer by way of a positive ethic for single people. The task is to thread our way between two views of sexuality: the "old testament" or "thou shalt not" approach exemplified by much of church tradi- tion, and the "new testament" or "thou shalt" approach evident in much of our current culture. Dr. Lebacqz is professor of Christian ethics at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California. The "old testament" or legalistic approach to single sexuality is well summed up in a delightful limerick by Joseph Fletcher (in Moral Responsibility: Situation Ethics at Work [Westminster, 1967], p. 88): There was a young lady name Wilde Who kept herself quite undefiled by thinking of Jesus and social diseases And the fear of having a child. The "thou shalt not" ethic was characterized by fear- fear of pregnancy and venereal disease—and by a series of "don'ts": don't have sex, don't take pleasure in it (at least, not if you are a woman) and don't talk about it. As the limerick suggests, sexual involvement was regarded as "defiling." "Bad girls" and "good girls" were defined according to their willingness to be sexual or not. There was no discussion of the sexuality of di- vorced or widowed men and women, and gay men and lesbian women simply stayed in the closet. With the advent of the so-called "sexual revolution" and the birth control pill, fear of pregnancy was gone. After the "thou shalt not" of Christian tradition, we en
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2011 for the course REL 261 taught by Professor Erics.gregory during the Fall '09 term at Princeton.

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lebacqzappropriatevulnerability - r AFTER THE REVOLUTION...

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