June 26, 2013

The Missional Position: Life after the DOMA verdict

Today, the Supreme Court decided to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act from 1996. Many are celebrating, others are lamenting. Sex, sexuality and gender-related issues have been a hot button within politics and media for some time. You could not ignore this issue if you wanted to.

But rather than ignore it, this subject has become a battlefield within the Christian community. Denominations have broken apart. Faith communities divided. For certain, the issue is complicated. Sex is complicated.

I am one of the many who are happy with the Supreme Court’s decision. I may not appear as celebratory as some simply because the “debate” that matters most to me is within the Church, not the State. And that conversation is far from over.

I’ve never been shy about sharing my convictions about these issues but I have been careful. I’ve tried to be careful because saying that I support same sex unions can easily lead people to make assumptions about how I come to such an opinion that are… wrong. As much as Scalia worries about being made into a “monster” by those he disagrees with, those who agree with him often make the other side feel the same. I’m not worried about being called names. Rather, I choose how I engage in this debate because I think it’s important to be clear, to, as best as possible, make my convictions clear. In addition, I am careful because this isn’t just an issue for me. This issue has faces and names that rush to the forefront of my mind when I read headlines or participate in conversation.

Some of those people dear to me will view this Supreme Court decision as a blow to traditional family values. Others will celebrate this as a success for human rights. I would pose a question to both parties:

What is sex for?

I ask this as a Christian and from that perspective. As a Christian, what is sex for? We have to answer this question before we can address sexuality and gender related issues. My hunch is that too often, neither side of this issue actually comes at this from a consistent, biblical position. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s not. But this question matters. Here’s why:

Every week, Christians around the world pray that God’s kingdom would be present “on earth as it is in heaven.” This means that we hope for the rule and reign of God to be evident in our entire human experience. Think of “kingdom” in this sense more as a verb than a noun–that God’s presence and activity would be noticeable to us. If we mean this when we pray it, we have to consider how this relates to all aspects of life, even sex.

Like any rule and reign, God’s comes with an agenda–a mission. This mission might be summed as the redemption, reconciliation and renewal of all things. This conception is what the term “missional” (which is way over used and too often misunderstood today) is intended to get at. Therefore, I’m convinced that there is a “missional position” as it relates to sex.

This is the start of series of posts, a series I’m dubbing “The Missional Position.” I’m not a fan of long blog posts. So, this is only an introduction to the subject. My hope is that this can initiate some conversation. At the least, it’ll give me an opportunity to flesh out some thoughts I had just begun to think through towards the end of my seminary experience. While I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision today (and certainly not yesterday’s) I don’t believe that a position on this issue is limited to the two-dimensional manner by which we typically address it. I think there very well might be a third way. I won’t take the easy way out to say that my position is to not have a position as some have. But it’s the nuances of our positions that matter. Let’s be a little more creative than mimicking the two party system/opinions that govern the State. Let’s be honest about the fact that life is lived out in the grays, not black and white. Let’s have a conversation about how sex, sexuality and gender issues find their way into the Missio Dei.

So, I leave you–for now–with this question: What is sex for?


Steve Knight said...

I'm really looking forward to this series, Jason. I've written about my "missional" view of sexuality before, as well, and I'm continually surprised by how few people have really considered this discussion of sexuality from an eschatological/kingdom perspective.

I usually come at the typical binary homosexuality debate with this question: Do you believe everyone in the kingdom of Heaven is going to be having heterosexual sex? Most people who would be considered "conservatives" or hold to a "traditional" view of marriage and consider homosexuality a sin would agree that the answer to that question is (most likely) no. That is, in fact, not what they actually believe. But functionally they act as if it were true by living out of a backward theology that looks back at the Garden of Eden (Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve) rather than forward to the kingdom reality we are called to embody and point toward.

But I'll try to give a short answer to the question you've posed, "What is sex for?" because I respect the way you're going about framing this discussion. First, however, I have to stress that anyone considering this question should understand that "sex" is much more than simply *sexual intercourse*. Usually when we say "sex," it is short hand for the physical act of penetration, but "sex" is far more than that -- gender identity, body image, etc., as well as physical attraction, sexual orientation, etc.

So, to answer your question, I would have to answer pleasure, first and foremost, and procreation, secondarily. There's a whole lot about sex/sexuality that is purely for pleasure, bonding, intimacy, spiritual connection -- and a whole lot of sexual intercourse happening that never produces children. The vast majority of sexual intercourse (and the broad span of sex/sexuality itself) has little to do with procreation, I would argue.

I'll be curious to see what others say, or what your response is, Jason, to what I've said. Thanks again for "going there" ;-)

jasonevans said...

You are certainly right about the meaning of "sex." That'll probably take some unpacking in forthcoming posts.

In reference to your answer to "What is sex for?", I imagine that a lot of people–if not most–would answer something similar. Yet, I wonder how many of honestly take into consideration what sex is *for* in Scripture. My thought is that this ought to shape our conversation more than it does. At the least, an honest study of that would keep us more honest about our opinions on sex and sexuality and religious convictions.

Thanks again, Steve. Glad you chimed in.

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