, Oct 2003 v47 i10 p46(6)
: how it ravishes our souls.
Christianity Today, Inc.
PHYSICIAN FRIEND OF MINE spent two months in a remote part of the African nation
Benin. The airplane on which he traveled home was showing current movies, and after
two months away from all media, he found them jarring. Each movie centered on sexual
intercourse, as though this were the only significant topic in the world, whereas David
had just been dealing with weighty matters-disease, poverty, hunger, religion, death-
while relating to colleagues in a way that had nothing to do with sexual intercourse.
When the plane stopped for refueling at the Brussels airport, David saw rows of
magazines for sale featuring women's breasts in various stages of exposure. That, too,
seemed odd, for he had been working in an area where women commonly uncovered
their breasts in public, not for sexual arousal but to feed their children, welcome back to
Western civilization, he thought to himself.
I know no clearer example of the modern, reductionistic approach to life than human
sexuality. We survey people about their private sex lives, and write manuals based on
data gained by watching people perform sex in a laboratory setting. To junior high
students we teach details of sexuality forbidden to previous generations.
At the same time, I know of no greater failure among Christians than in presenting a
persuasive approach to sexuality. Outside the church, people think of God as the great
spoilsport of human sexuality, not its inventor. The pope utters pronouncements,
denominations issue position papers, and many Christians ignore them and follow the
lead of the rest of society. Surveys reveal little difference between church attenders and
non-attenders in the rates of premarital intercourse and cohabitation. Surveys also show
that many people have left their churches in disgust over hypocrisy about sex, especially
when ministers fail to practice what they preach.
Nothing intrinsic in human sexuality keeps a person from experimenting with multiple
partners, both genders, even children, close relatives, or animals. Yet every tribe studied
by anthropologists has taboos that fence off some of these practices. As if by instinct, the
most “primitive” of humans recognize in sex something beyond a merely physical act.
Only in technologically advanced cultures do people reduce sex to an act of pleasure we
perform like any other animal. Music gives us away. A popular song by Bloodhound
Gang urges, “You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but mammals, so let’s do it like they do it
on the Discovery Channel.” Why not? The Discovery television channel often portrays
close-up detail of sex in the animal kingdom.
The attempt to reduce human sex to a merely animal act, however, runs into unexpected