Intimacy With Jesus? Not thru Sex!!
Written by Father Bill 10 Comments
Lisa Colón DeLay has recently blogged “On Being Embarrassed When Worship Songs Seem Sexual.” I covered much of what she offers twice in 2006 (here and here ) and again in 2007. It’s time to bring this up again, for evangelicalism is, if possible, even more obsessed than ever with sexualizing its worship.
I will pass over examples of baptized soft-porn that evangelicals are offered on Sunday mornings. Ms. DeLay points to some of these, and her commenters offer additional examples (including one from a lesbian Presbyterian pastor who finds gay sex capable of healing one’s relationship with God).
Ma Google will reward the spiritually morbid with more examples of this kind of thing than any non-paganized Christian could possibly stomach. Before you go looking, be sure to ingest a generous dose of an anti-vomitic (be sure it’s stronger than dramamine).
For this bog I wish to emphasize three ideas that stand in high relief against the way paganized evangelicals combine worship and sex.
Jesus has a Bride, not a harem.
Jesus’ Harem is the obsession of modern evangelicals, or rather becoming a bona fide member of that harem. That seems now to be the function of Sunday morning worship, or Saturday evening worship, or anything else modern evangelicals wish to call worship – to create, to develop, and to consummate a psycho-sexual congress with Jesus.
You can see how toxic this is by its effects on the psycho-sexual lives of evangelicals who run in this rut seeking an experience of the evanescent state of spiritual exaltation known otherwise in ordinary sex. For women, such worship renders them permanent judges of their male sexual partners, whether they find such in marriage or in the serial fornication rites of modern evangelical singles. What guy can compete sexually with Jesus?
And for the men, who during “worship” are cast in the roles of sexually pliant females, the damage is horrendous, rendering their created masculinity irrelevant (even anti-relevant) to their relationship with God. It matters not a whit that such gender-bender dynamics are only “spiritual.” It’s not as if a guy were getting in bed with Jesus, dontcha know. They only need to feeeeeeeel in their hearts the thrill they’re supposed to share with their Christian sisters in worship, and for the same reasons.
The sordid notion about Jesus’ harem infects 100 percent of evangelicalism today, or at least 100 percent of its ecclesial expressions – from charismatic, to Anabaptist, to Presbyterian, to Lutheran, or Anglican, or any other version of the Christian faith one cares to name within Broadly evangelical American Protestantism.
And, don’t get me started on the treacly feminizing sentimentalism of Roman Catholicism. Leon Podles lamented that disgusting development in his book The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity over a decade ago. He wrote as a Catholic to other Catholics. But his book reads as if he were a modern evangelical speaking about evangelicalism at the end of the 20th Century.
Evangelicalism today serves up sexual Kool-aid to its followers every time it conducts one of its communal fall-in-love-with-Jesus events. Such things either drive away men who cannot overcome the shame of a spiritual sex-change operation such events impose upon them, or else it emasculates men by turning them into perverse sexual submissives to Jesus.
No Crying in Baseball, No Sex in Worship
Tom Hanks delivered one of the most memorable lines in cinema in A League of Their Own when he bellowed “There’s no crying in baseball!” at a blubbering woman whom he’d just upbraided for a stupid play in a woman’s baseball game. See the whole scene here for a sort of gender-mirror-image of what happens in sexualized evangelical worship services.
Just as there is no crying in baseball, there’s no sex in worship. Every religion surrounding Israel had sex in worship. You came to the temple and indulged in sex with temple prostitutes – male or female prostitutes – in order to consummate your fellowship with the god or goddess of that temple, who communed with his (or her) worshipers through the god’s or the goddess’ acolytes.
Not only was such sexualized worship forbidden, God’s judgment was severe on those who practiced it, beginning with the sexual orgy Israel indulged in at the foot of Sinai while Moses was up on the mountain getting the Law. God richly rewarded Phineas, jealous for God’s holiness, when he speared a man fornicating with a Midianite religious whore in the midst of Israel’s camp. And, judgment fell not only on High Priest Eli’s sexually corrupt priests who served with him at the Tabernacle, but also on Eli himself for not reigning in his randy sons.
There are two basic drives that impel us through life: sex and food. Pagan idolatry invariably incorporates sex into its worship. Biblical worship just as invariably excludes sex from worship. Whatever else one concludes from the laws of the Torah pertaining to sex, one must conclude that sex in the fallen human being is profoundly broken and polluted. It is never permitted entrance into the precincts inhabited by those who come to worship the God of Israel.
Instead, Biblical worship incorporates eating and drinking into the rites of worship under both Old and New Covenants. It is from the sacrifices of animals that God’s servants in the tabernacle were to live. It was from the same sacrifices that God’s worshipers were to celebrate their fellowship with Him.
And, in the New Covenant? There eating and drinking reach an apotheosis as the dynamic of intimacy with God through the Incarnation.
You Want Intimacy With Jesus? Here’s How …
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:53ff)
Is this intimacy, or what? What is more intimate than for Jesus to dwell in a disciple and for the disciple to dwell in Him? This is personal, individual intimacy of the most intense and profound sort. And, unlike sexual intimacy, the intimacy in Holy Communion effects a communion with Christ and with others in the same communion with him. The Apostle teaches us us that “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16-17)
What Jesus gave the Church when he finally answered the question “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” and so showed us how we may eat His flesh and drink His blood – well, for most evangelicals Jesus’ gift of Himself is reduced to a sort of pantomime picnic intended to remind us of something hopelessly removed from us in the immense ocean of history. What communion may we have with anyone two thousand years ago? Only the communion of memory. And, that is not actually memory – for memory is recalling what we have personally experienced. None of us were there at the foot of the Cross. None of us were there when Jesus first broke and offered His body as bread and his blood as wine.
And, so, communion for modern evangelicals is not even a memory. It’s merely a pointer toward the past. And, so what our Lord intends as a present communion with Him evaporates like a fade-to-grey transition in a film.
I sometimes wonder if this obsession with sex, if this preoccupation with melding worship and sex which one finds among evangelicals – epitomized by the soft-porn cast of modern “worship” choruses – is not in fact a consequence of the loss of the intimacy with our Lord which He provided His disciples when He handed them the bread and said “This is my body,” when He passed them the cup and said “This is my blood of the new covenant shed for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:26-28).
It should not need saying, but in today’s environment one must add this: such a communion with Christ, such an intimacy with Him, does not render female disciples into the sexual targets of Jesus’ romantic ardor. Nor does it turn His male disciples into women so they may commune sexually (even though “spiritually” so) with Him.