Monday, September 01, 2008

The Married Christian Bed and Hard Truths:

Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy is incompatible with historic Christianity, for a number of reasons, the least of which is that Christianity teaches self sacrifice, and Objectivism teaches selfishness or pursing self-interest.

I'm neither a Christian nor an Objectivist. But I do find something intriguing about the religious notion of self sacrifice for the greater good. It has lead to heroic acts of martyrdom and human achievement. But also great evil. It also makes for interesting theoretical discussions. So let's.

Christians are supposed to be in the world, not of the world. And their religion teaches self sacrifice for the greater good. Their worst sacrifices have come from religious persecution, being burned at the stake for heresy, for instance. I respect someone who has the courage to face that, however I might disagree with his or her religious beliefs.

So one of the things that turns my stomach is when I read arguments for religious conversion on how much better it will be for you (in the world) when you convert to Christianity. Now, religious belief does indeed give many folks psychological comfort. But that life gets easier after converting is not the message of authentic biblical Christianity. Rather the message is you have your spiritual freedom and that's all that matters. So even if you are a lifelong chattel slave, are thrown to the lions or burned at the stake, you can deal with it, because you have what matters most.

So on to sex. I've seen some studies that show married couples have the best sex, and I've seen Christians assert there is something magical about the married "Christian" bed that gives them the best sex lives. I'm not familiar with the "Christian" married sex surveys, but I have seen some that show simply "married couples" report the best sex. There could be some self-reporting bias in these surveys, especially if one tries to use them as a tool for religious conversion. Exhibit A, Ted Haggard testifying that married Christians have the best sex and how good his sex life with his wife is (while he was having gay sex behind her back).

Indeed Christians can use biblical passages about "one flesh" to argue for great Christian marital sex. However, the early Church Fathers did not at all interpret the “one flesh” parts of the Bible to require Christian couples to have a good sex life. They tended to view sex as a necessary evil for the purposes of propagating the human race. If you are done having kids, for a husband and wife to simply cease having sex altogether would be a completely reasonable option, indeed arguably mandatory given the early Church Fathers forbade contraception.

Telling a married couple with enough children to stop having sex puts them in a hard position. But look at the position historic Christianity places homosexually oriented folks in. I far more respect the "don't act on your orientation, make the hard sacrifice" message than the promise of a "conversion" to genuine heterosexual orientation which is a joke. Christianity teaches life is about hard choices and self sacrifice, with a great promise in the end. I might disagree with the theology; but I respect hard hitting, honest answers far more than "you can have your cake and eat it too."

My understanding of human nature, couplings and sex lives is some/many married couples are fortunate to have regular great sex until old age. With some/many their sex/romantic life totally fizzles after so many years (especially after children and as couples age into their forties). And many, probably most, fall in between.

Do married couples have better sex? Probably. And here is likely why: Most folks are not typically George Clooneys, but average. And average folks, especially as you leave your twenties, typically have a hard time finding dates and mates to begin with [I've spoken to a number of divorced and never remarried older women who admit to not having sex for decades]. At least if you are married, you have a permanent potentially available sexual partner which is better than nothing. There is nothing magical about the "married bed" and expect your sex life to get worse with time. And if it doesn't consider yourself lucky in this regard.

Why is this important? One word: Divorce. Reading up on divorce, I see whatever the nuts and bolts statistics on how it eats wealth or produces children with worse education/more likely to get into social trouble, it's terrible for the children's psychological well being.

I think the expectation that you will be as romantically and sexually satisfied with your spouse as when you first met is one of the leading causes of divorce. With many folks the magic just fades and you may find new, perhaps more attractive partners with whom to start that magic all over again. I'm not a Christian; so I have no religious issues with divorce. And if a couple has no kids, I see nothing wrong with divorcing because the romance and sex has faded; move on to greener pastures.

However, if kids are involved (at least minors) a more noble choice is you don't get divorced. With a few exceptions like adultery or your spouse threatens your life or safety; I think the Bible speaks of judicial cause for divorce, which is quite narrow. You can always work on your sex and romantic life. But if it's over, so be it. That's not sufficient biblical cause for divorce. And the Christian religion is about making self-sacrifices for the greater good. For non-Christians, given how hard divorce is on children, I would advise to seriously consider a sexless (or sex rare) relationship and stay together for the children's sake.

I know easier said than done. But given traditional Christians are supposed to have a religious conscience that forbids almost all divorce and non-religious folks have only practical reasons (it's bad for children), you'd think Christians would be better than non-Christians on divorce. But the data doesn't show it.

Gary North, whom I generally regard as an extremist Christian Reconstructionist nonetheless writes a great column slamming former Reconstructionist, now Roman Catholic Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue. Bottom line, Terry got a divorce, was kicked out of his fundamentalist Church for it, but never admitted moral guilt.

From the article:

Terry actually told the press that the Bible doesn't oppose divorce, but it does oppose homosexuality. This, despite the clear teaching of Jesus that anyone who divorces his or her spouse without judicial cause thereby commits adultery -- a capital crime under the Mosaic law (Lev. 20:10) -- by remarrying.


Terry, of course, later turned out to have a homosexual son. According to traditional biblical Christianity, the sex Terry has with his second wife is by its nature, adulterous and morally equivalent to the homosexual sex his son has.

Some more interesting details about Terry's life:

[I]n 1998, Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, abandoned his wife of 19 years, along with their four children (three were adopted), and then declared bankruptcy, so that the National Organization of Women would get off his back. This declaration deprived his wife of their home. He then married his assistant, 16 years his junior, age 22. Without informing his followers of what he had done to his wife and children, he sent out a fund-raising letter to his supporters, who responded faithfully, whereupon he bought a $432,000 home -- not in New York state, where he could see his children regularly, but in Florida, where the state's bankruptcy laws don't permit creditors to get your home. His church in New York had brought him under discipline before the marriage, but he paid no attention.


This does not illustrate Christian self sacrifice, but rank hypocrisy. And here's the hard truth: Terry is probably having better sex with his second wife, the one 16 years his junior. And his sex and romantic life probably fizzled with his first, who is no doubt less physically attractive than the younger. When a man married with children leaves his wife for the younger blonde (and fornicates with her before he perhaps marries her) he has better sex. The Christian thing to do is practice self sacrifice even if it means sacrificing the better sex you will get in the non-marital bed. It's not to peddle a myth about great Christian sex.

I have no doubt that George Clooney, the permanently single philanderer has a better sex life (defined by the amount of sex he has and the “sexual thrill” he gets from it) than 99.99% of the population and that includes 99.99% of married Christians.

The biblical Christian response is not to try to argue, "no as a married Christian couple we must be having better sex than any fornicator because ours is SUPERIOR." Rather, it’s to say, “So what? There are far more important things in the grand picture,” and not covet George Clooney’s sex life which will ALWAYS be superior to yours ("superior" in a "thrill," not necessarily a "moral" sense). After all, you have something more important.

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