Sexual behavior and reproduction seem somehow to be always major discussion points in the American conversation, including our religious and political conversation. The political left and the political right, the religious and the irreligious, all appear to be obsessed with sex, although those of every position (no pun intended) see those they oppose as the ones with the hangups.
Atheists and other nonbelievers seem to believe that Christians and our Bible are full of sexual hangups. After all, nakedness and shame are mentioned within the first few chapters of the Bible. And then there are all those restrictive regulations in the Torah about who could and could not have sexual relations with whom.
As a Christian, I must confess that the history of the church is filled with all sorts of bizarre sexual taboos and that there has been a still is a lot of hypocrisy by those of us who say one thing and practice another. The more rules there are, the more rules will be broken and the more hypocrisy will be practiced.
But are we more hung up than those who criticize us? I don't believe so. We see rather a sort of sick obsession with sex on the part of the entertainment media (which by the way, is not controlled by the church). And in our politics.
The Bible has a lot to say about sex and it isn't negative at all. And if those who claim to be Bible readers would read it open-mindedly in its context, we'd find that sex is treated approvingly. After all, as has been said many times, God is not opposed to sex - after all He invented it!
The opening chapter of Genesis treats sexual and reproductive behavior rather matter-of-factly. The animals are said to reproduce "after their kind." The original readers understood what this means and any modern day reader raised on a farm understands how this occurs. Then when God creates humankind, He tells them, among other things to "multiply and fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Though some medieval monastics may have imagined that our original ancestors were able to reproduce without sex in their "pre-fall" state, the simplest understanding is that God expected - even commanded - them to have sexual relations.
In the account in Genesis 2, God says that a man is to "cleave to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (verse 24). This of course involves sexual union. The Apostle Paul seemed to take it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:16. The author of Genesis even tells us that "the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (2:25).
The shame does not enter until the Fall (Genesis 3), after the man and the woman have disobeyed God. It is then they discover their nakedness. Their attempts to cover themselves were attempts at dealing with their recognition of who they now were and what they had done. There is nothing in the text that even hints that either their sin or their cover-up have anything to do with sex. Even the statement that Eve would have pain in childbirth is not tied to any sexual problems. Like the ground, fruit-bearing was from this point on going to involve pain (Genesis 3:16, 17).
We could go on and on. We read, "Adam knew his wife ..." (4:2, 35). Sexual activity is spoken of as being totally natural. Men are continually "knowing" their wives" and "begetting" even down to Joseph and Mary, after Jesus' birth (Matthew 1:25 - "he didn't know her until she gave birth to a Son.")
The regulations on sexual activity given in the Mosaic Law are not given to ruin sexual pleasure but to restrict it to the marriage relationship.
But God didn't give us sex only for reproductive purposes. He gave it for pleasure as well. And (speaking as one who is long past the reproductive stage) that pleasure was not given simply as a sort of "perk" to get us to have more babies; that pleasure continues long past the child-bearing age. In fact, no longer having to consider pregnancy as a possibility can increase that pleasure. In Proverbs 5:18, 19, men are exhorted to enjoy sex with their spouse.
"Let your fountain be blessed, and enjoy the wife of your youth;A loving doe, a graceful deer, let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Get drunk on her love continually."
This is pretty spicy stuff! Of course, some will object that it is only part of a larger passage on marital fidelity (Proverbs 5:15-23). But sexual pleasure with one's spouse is presented as the incentive to faithfulness. Paul echoes that concept in 1 Corinthians 7:5, 7.
Even more than this, there is an entire book in the Bible devoted to erotic love - the Song of Solomon. It's true that down through the years, both Christians and Jewish prudish scholars have attempted to make this poem into an allegory of Christ's relationship with the Church or the LORD's relationship with Israel. I believe that interpretation is simply due to their sexual hangups; there's no evidence in the text for this interpretation. However, even if this could be shown to be an allegory, we would then be confronted with a God who loves His people with an erotic passion!
Look at just one of the passages from this poem:
He: "A garden locked is my sister, my bride,A locked fountain, a sealed spring" (4:12).
She: "Awake north wind, and come south wind ...
Let my beloved come into his garden
and enjoy its delicious fruits" (4:16).
He: "I've come into my garden my sister, my bride,
I've gathered my myrrh and spices
I've eaten my honey and honeycomb
I've drunk my wine and my milk" (5:1a).
Chorus: "Eat, lovers and drink. Get drunk, lovers!" (5:1b)
If anyone cannot understand the metaphorical language, he or she has my sympathy!
And so, to my unbelieving friends and readers: don't judge God or the Bible based on real or imagined hangups of some believers. Check it out yourself.
And to my believing friends and readers: if you have sexual hangups, please recognize that you have a God who approves of sex - not only for reproduction but for pleasure with your spouse.