Intimacy With Jesus? Not thru Sex!!

Written by Father Bill 7 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.

 So, why not just become a Christian sister? If the highest experience of worship is feminine response to the romantic ardor of the Savior, why not just live your life as a woman trapped in male body?

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.

Intimacy? Hardly.

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.


7 Comments

  1. Audra Rudnik   |  Thursday, 17 November 2011 at 2:39 am

    I can hardly believe my priest wrote “randy sons” in his blog. You make me smile.

    Do you have any written teaching about companionship as it relates to God? There are many related topics of thought such as “constant prayer” and “the God sized hole in our hearts that no man can fill” and “God as our comforter and counselor”. All of those things are very intimate but not sexual and not holy communion. I would like some light shed on what the Bible actually says about his role in my life outside of service. So much seems to be experiential and not concretely in the Bible. If you don’t have something already written, perhaps you have read someone else’s work that is related and could recommend it.

  2. Fr. Bill   |  Thursday, 17 November 2011 at 6:00 am

    Hi, Audra,

    Let me stew in this a bit (and also check a place or two), and I’ll see what I can blog about later. I’m minded, if possible, to refer you to one or more older women, seasoned in the faith, who can address this for you.

    One thing that comes immediately to mind is a woman’s relationship with her father. Also her brother(s) (if she has any). These are the familial relationships which are with someone of the opposite sex and which are not erotic. And, so, these would be the place to begin, for in the economy God creates in the human family, these relationships would provide the concepts which would constitute the “vocabulary” for speaking to our relationship to God.

  3. Audra Rudnik   |  Friday, 18 November 2011 at 4:32 am

    I just spoke with a very seasoned lady on the topic. Thank you for letting me borrow her for the night. It was helpful and fun. I would still like to read anything you might come up with after “stewing”. It would be helpful to see Bible passages clearly addressing subjective relationship with God and clearly fleshed out in print.

    When I say “companionship” with God I mean living life with God daily.

    Like Detrich Bonhoffer says about the “this worldiness of Christianity” defined as- “Living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successess and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God, in the world– Watching with Christ in Gathsemeny”<– I am sure I got the punctuation wrong. I memorized that from a dramatized tape about his life.

    But like you say in your blog entry, obviously not sexual companionship.

  4. Sarah   |  Sunday, 20 November 2011 at 12:28 am

    Fr. Bill,
    I appreciate your article, as I constantly have issues with worship songs and a general lack of of a strong theology of worship in general in the church I am in.
    However, I really struggle with the idea that women are having a sexual sort of “spiritual” experience in worship. I came from a background in which emotion was looked down upon, a sort of litmus test for unbiblical Christian “experiences.” Combined with my desperate, legalistic attempt to be perfect so God could love me (a theology to which I never intellectually assented, but unfortunately the theology my heart believed), I shut my heart off from feeling ANYTHING while in worship–especially during communion. God is in the process of healing my heart, and part of that healing has been allowing myself to feel again in all my relationships–including my relationship with God.

    True, a Christian faith based ONLY on positive emotional experiences doesn’t hold water. But a faith DEVOID of emotion is not more godly; it is merely distorted in a different way. Joy and peace, two fruits of the Spirit, are emotional states. A right relationship with God does not always mean pleasant emotions, but suggesting that

  5. Sarah   |  Sunday, 20 November 2011 at 12:53 am

    emotions should not be part of the Christian experience is rather theologically weak.
    Secondly, sexual feelings are (as you point out) not the same as what we are to experience in communing with Christ–but the ARE the earthly representation of that heavenly reality. St. Paul explicitly states as much, exhorting husbands to show their wives love just as Christ showed to His church. The implication in that text is that Christ’s love is SUPERIOR to marital love. Thus, I don’t think having intense emotional responses to this love is strange. True, one man may meet the love of his life and be very quiet about it, while another may want to shout from the rooftops. And certainly women tend to be more expressive about their feelings when they fall in love than men. Just as we don’t judge a person’s love for their spouse based on their outward emotional expressions, we shouldn’t judge the lack or extremity of a believer’s emotional response to the love of Christ. And just like a healthy marriage isn’t all about emotion but does (and should) involve emotional intimacy, so, too, our relationship with the Lord should be emotionally intimate.
    And maybe I’m just fired up because–for the first time in seven years–I’ve found a love in Christ that makes me satisfied to wait for marriage and be content if it never happens. I spent seven years in anguish, feeling like I was starving, for someone to love me. But as I’ve let Christ win my heart (not walling it off as before), my heart does not ache for that anymore.
    Your comment “How can guys compete sexually with Jesus?” was off-based. No, men cannot ever compete with the soul-satisfying love of Christ–NOR SHOULD THEY. If the man has to bear that burden to love a woman to the degree Christ should, that poor individual will be frustrated; nothing he can do will satisfy her, and she will probably grow to resent that he does not meet her expectations. But when a woman finds that soul satisfaction, that communion deeper than even sex can provide, in Jesus, she is free to love her husband deeply and fully–and sexually.
    Your reply to Audra also bothers me. We should not cut out bride/bridegroom language when speaking of the Church and her Lord just because someone might misconstrue that metaphor to include sexual implications; God Himself gives us this analogy in Scripture. However, I do agree we can overemphasize this one metaphor and ignore the many, many others–He is our adoptive father and we are His children; He is the head and we are His body; He is the vine and we are the branches; He is the friend, the brother, the Captain (and we the soldiers under Him), the Judge, the King, and so forth.
    Just a few thoughts.

  6. Fr. Bill   |  Monday, 21 November 2011 at 2:20 am

    Hello, Sarah,

    Thanks for your comments and questions. Let me offer some response here and after your comment below.

    ” … I really struggle with the idea that women are having a sexual sort of “spiritual” experience in worship.”

    Actually, it’s irrelevant that women (in general) do or do not have a sexual sort of spiritual experience in worship. What’s on the table are the following:

    1. The blogger who inspired me to write my blog certainly recognizes an invitation to have some sort of spiritual experience in worship that may honestly be characterized as sexual. Hence her acknowledgement that such worship songs (that’s what she was blogging about) make her uncomfortable, precisely because of the invitation.

    2. My own observations of “worship sessions” in evangelical churches I hve visited confirms this blogger’s observations. Add to that the observations of a great many others whose comments may be found everywhere on the internet in abundance. If you doubt this, just put in “jesus is my boyfriend” as a search term in Google and spend the next year or so reading the hits.

    3. In this original bogger’s blog are lyrics. Read them for yourself. Again, whether or not any person ever actually has a spiritual sexual experience is beside the point. The lyrics invite the singer to do so. In the case of men, they cannot sing the songs without adopting the persona/role of a female speaking in erotic themes to and about Jesus. My guess is that most of them do not have spiritual sexual experiences with respect to Jesus, unless they are simply grossed out by such an idea.

    ” I came from a background in which emotion was looked down upon, a sort of litmus test for unbiblical Christian “experiences.”

    I know the sort of Christian communities you speak of. They’re found in various sub-groups of low-church Protestantism which tend to elevate the rational, intellectual dimensions of Christian piety (if we may use that word here!). The hedge these communities seek to raise is against the sort of Christian piety that makes a simple equation between spiritual authenticity and the experience of emotion. And, of course, such an equation is falacious.

    How, then, to protect against the fallacy? Well, one might raise the standard that emotion itself is to be distrusted, even barred or avoided. One can’t be burned where there is no fire, right? But, as you’ve probably learned, this merely trades one fallacy for another.

    The question, then, is not whether emotion is present in worship. Rather, one must ask what emotions are present and what is their significance (if any) and how is such significance evaluated?

    Here’s something I find amusing and telling: the emotions which worship leaders typically attempt to create are very few in number and they do not include emotions such as grief, or terror (!), or or despair. Yet one may find all such emotions as right and proper emotional responses to the presentation of God’s truth. Jonathan Edwards read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in a dull monotone; yet, people were fainting and falling out of their pews on to the floor in sheer terror. For a good many of them, I’m sure, this was the bestest, most rightest emotional response they could have.

    “But a faith DEVOID of emotion is not more godly; it is merely distorted in a different way.”

    Maybe yes, maybe no. Again, I think it’s already off the rails to suppose emotion — of whatever sort, of whatever intensity (or lack thereof) — has any bearing on any “level” of godliness. Some people are naturally very emotive; others are naturally as emotionally flat as pancakes. And, then, our histories may make us even more emotional than we would otherwise be; or less emotional. One simply cannot judge the presence or absence of faith by the display or nondisplay of emotion. There are simply too many variables. Behavior is what the Scripture holds out as the litmus test of faith — faith without works is dead.

    More in response to your continuation below …

  7. Fr. Bill   |  Monday, 21 November 2011 at 2:41 am

    “A right relationship with God does not always mean pleasant emotions, but suggesting thatemotions should not be part of the Christian experience is rather theologically weak.”

    Agreed. I trust you understand I did not make the suggestion you cite.

    “Secondly, sexual feelings are (as you point out) not the same as what we are to experience in communing with Christ–but the ARE the earthly representation of that heavenly reality. St. Paul explicitly states as much, exhorting husbands to show their wives love just as Christ showed to His church.”

    We disagree here, at least insofar as how we’re reading Paul’s use of the word “love.” He defines what that love entails in Ephesians 5, viz. the husband’s sacrificial giving of self for the sake of the wife, empitomized not by sex but by grisly death on the cross.

    “The implication in that text [of Ephesians 5] is that Christ’s love is SUPERIOR to marital love.”

    Again, I think we read Paul very differently. Paul is not concerned to weigh a husband’s love for his wife against Christ’s for the Church and to find the latter to be superior. Rather, he exhorts husbands and wives to relate to one another as shadows of relationship between Christ and the Church. The latter illumines the former. Indeed, at the end of his exposition, Paul tells us a mystery, viz. that the latter constitutes the design, the shape, and the ideal functioning of the latter. I’ll blog on this point at another time.

    “Your reply to Audra also bothers me. We should not cut out bride/bridegroom language when speaking of the Church and her Lord just because someone might misconstrue that metaphor to include sexual implications; God Himself gives us this analogy in Scripture.”

    If God gave us this analogy, then let us use it as He does — to speak of Christ’s relationship to the Church, rather than to speak of Christ’s relationship to an individual human being. Nowhere in Old or New Testaments is marriage, much less ex, used to speak of the realtioship between God and any individual human. Hence, the truth of “Christ has a Bride, not a harem.” Those who insist on applying Bridal imagery to the spiritual life of an individual Christian (male or female) implicitly posit a divine harem. They cannot find God in the Bible ever doing this.

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