Most of us do not think theologically about sexual questions. I’m constantly forced to because I teach sexual ethics in a seminary. Most of us do not sort out the implications of our sexual discernments for the way they make space for God to work in and through our lives and other people’s lives. We do not sort out the assumptions by which we engage our own sexual formation. What do we do with desire? What does it mean that I am attracted sexually to this or that person, this or that object? What if I’m married and attracted to someone else? etc. etc. etc. In society at large, there is an unconscious belief in the merits of self expressionism as the basis of moral action. Pursue sexual self expression as an authentic part of your self as long as you don’t hurt anyone else. It is left at that. In the midst of this, the sexual guidance and formation that our churches have given us has been brutal. The resulting confusion has been ubiquitous. And so, I offer some questions I ask in the midst of the many discussions that are provoked by sexual crisies in a person’s life or the life of the church. These questions, admittedly are at the level of a theologian/philosopher of culture. They are the questions that ferret out issues in the midst of church discernments. But they might be helpful in person to person conversations if they could be translated (maybe you can help me with this?). Yet I find these questions really important as the church seeks to navigate sexual formation from within its communal processes in the current culture. When someone presents to me “I believe such and such” about a sexual issue he or she is confronted with, these are the questions I find myself asking (often internally). I find these questions in particular often missing in the ensuing discussions. So here are 5 sets of questions that make explicit one’s theology of sexuality.
- Sanctification: What doctrine of sanctification is implied by your position? How do you believe God in Christ transforms/heals human beings and human life? What then does this mean for all people with sexual issues of any kind in their lives? What hope do you offer (from within your own discernment) for people with issues that need healing, renewal, change, transformation?
- Chastity: All sexuality, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, other assumes a form of chastity, the ordering our sexual desires towards a given end. For instance, gay marriage infers that a gay man shall guide and chasten his desires toward one male in one monogamous marriage. In your own discernment, how are the ends towards which we chasten our sexual drives determined in your views of sexuality?
- Subjectivity: Subjectivity after the post modern matrix, within post structuralism, after Foucault, Derrida, Zizek, Butkler, sees the human subject as the product of cultural formation, “the Big Other.” Part of this (if not the main part) is that desire is not simply given but shaped by these forces. How does this change the way we view sexuality and the formation of desire? Do you take this into account? Why or why not?
- Antagonism as Source of Sexual Life: In what ways is our sexual expression/identity formed in antagonism versus healing? What ways have we pointed out faults in others to better secure and avoid examining our own sexual identity and lives.
- The Limits on Self Expression: If self expression is the source of one’s sexual ethic, i.e. what you feel, desire should be fulfilled because it is given by God, what if any limits do you put on that expression and why? What is the source of that limiting ethic?
For those theologically minded people, what do you think of these questions for church conversations? Are there others that are more important? Do you find any of these questions helpful? offensive? Herein reveals much about our theology of sexuality. Why are they helpful? offensive? How would you rephrase them? I’m not looking to define the answers here for Christian orthodoxy. Instead I’m looking for the right questions that need to be asked and the ones, given our current culture, that often get missed. In this regard, do these questions help and why or why not?