Human Sexuality is perhaps one of the most difficult subjects to have a reasoned discussion about in a spiritual context, and yet have that discussion we must. The truth is that the Bible doesn’t say much about human sexuality, and Jesus says almost nothing. The biblical model of marriage was one man, many women, and all a man had to do to divorce a woman was write the words, “I divorce you,” three times on a piece of paper to get a divorce. Women could not initiate a divorce, while men could have as many wives and concubines as he could afford. Women were property, and their chief value was in producing a male heir. The many people in contemporary culture who support a return to the “biblical model of marriage” don’t really understand what the biblical model of marriage was and is!
The Bible is silent on the issue of sexual orientation. Why? Because the concept of sexual orientation did not exist in biblical times. What’s more, in biblical times much of what was considered “moral” was based on what was considered “normal,” and “normal” was based upon majority practice. For example. for centuries left-handed people were considered evil for no other reason than that the majority of people are right-handed. In the Old Testament, Levitical priesthood, men who were “wounded in the stones,” as the King James translated it (were missing a testicle or had an extra testicle) were disqualified from the priesthood.
What does all of this have to do with sexual orientation? Quite a bit! It means that in the seven or eight verses in Scripture that are usually assumed to address male homosexual behavior, what it really addresses is presumably heterosexual males having sexual contact with other heterosexual males. Further, many of the situations involved cultic prostitution – which is never a good idea! We cannot, however, honestly say that scripture addresses sexual orientation.
Birds do it, bees do it, and that’s only the beginning of the story. The truth is that, with few exceptions, virtually every species of life on our planet sexually reproduces with another being. In human beings, the onset of puberty occurs at a younger age that ever before. We could spend a long time debating why that is the case, but even if we could identify a reason or reasons for the change, it isn’t likely we could change anything about it. From a spiritual perspective, we do much better to talk about how we can best respond to the facts of being a sexual people rather than avoiding the topic through denial of pleas for more information. This much is certain, birth control, the right to abortion on demand when birth control fails, and responsible family planning have been historically approved by every major religion, including Christianity, until the last one hundred years. Social justice demands that we support those three things, along with adequate, medically solid sex education, as the basis for a responsible sexual ethic.
The Virgin Mary was an unwed teenage Mother. She was fifteen years old when Jesus was born, and tradition tells us that her future husband Joseph was much older than she. It sounds like a perfect episode of The Jerry Springer show, except that in Mary’s day it wasn’t at all unusual for teen age girl to have a baby. In fact, the ages at women have babies are culturally determined, and fifteen years old isn’t the youngest age at which women have typically had babies. At the time of Jesus, people could expect to live to be twenty-five or thirty years old, which meant if the population was going to survive they were going to have to start having children at a younger age.
Fast forward to today and we are witnessing young women having babies at younger and younger ages. We aren’t arguing in favor of unwed teen mothers, but we are pointing out that the “acceptable age” for getting pregnant is very subjective! Our time would be much better spent improving our sex education than it is in passing judgment on young, unwed, teen mothers. If you must pass judgment, why not start with the Virgin Mary?