How does one accept that as it is you are a sexual being, but also a spiritual being? Is there hope for both identities, important parts that make up the human psyche to co-exist comfortably at the same time without there being any discordance within? I have many friends who are gay, & as it is oftentimes they lament that the Catholic Church, or even most religions for that matter, are too limiting when it comes to accepting who they are. I’m saying this because most of my friends who are gay are quite sexually liberated, although I’m not necessarily saying that being gay immediately connotes that one is sexually active. Still, I’m not gay, but even I find myself wondering at times if I should go to Sunday Mass, after a Saturday evening spent carousing & hooking up with someone for a, well, much needed amorous treat.
Which brings this specific, personal dilemma to mind, is there room for the practice of one’s sexuality and spirituality in one’s life? How can one make heads and tails of such seemingly discordant messages? Much of the hullabaloo in this site awhile back had to do with the use of contraceptives, or that whole mess over the Reproductive Bill. I’m going to muddle the issue a little bit more by talking about sex. Can one be both sexual and spiritual at the same time?
The Bible certainly teaches us to shun fornication. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). A Christian friend of mine wisely had this to say, that rather than focusing on the dire warnings against sexual depravity, the Bible counsels against premarital sex for our own good. “Sexual immorality is so blinding and persuasive that we cannot linger around and “play with fire”. The pragmatic reason we are to flee sexual immorality is that it is a sin against our own bodies. The medical toll from promiscuity is high – abortion, infertility, AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract and bowel infections, emotional and psychiatric disorders plus the side-effects from various contraceptives are just part of the cost that our bodies are paying for a sexually liberated lifestyle. Our body does not like being sinned against.” (From a Christian counseling text advising against sexual promiscuity).
Much as the case for sexual purity as pointed out above makes sense, it’s still not very realistic, given today’s loosening of sexual mores. I also find the case of relegating sex to within the bounds of marriage too constricting & altogether impractical. Kudos goes out to those practicing celibacy. It’s admirable how there is even resurgence nowadays of people wearing chastity rings and the rise of celibacy clubs. Still, I find Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 7:8 for those unable to control themselves to marry than to burn with passion – just too much! Certainly sex is a very intimate act with deep spiritual and emotional consequences, where oftentimes a “bond” is established. Sex is serious – and that is what I think Paul is trying to state here. He is saying “there is no such thing as harmless casual sex”.
Perhaps, as in the case with the use of contraceptives and the matter on reproductive health, it all boils down to the same issues: to choice and acting responsibly. We all must deal with our own sexual dilemmas and come to terms with one’s sexuality in light of our religious beliefs. Easier said than done, especially for one who still professes to believe in Christianity. The only writing I came thus far in my research on the sexual/spiritual dilemma that was a bit more lenient on this matter is surprisingly that of a report on the Jewish Law and Standard in April 1994 by the Commission on Human Sexuality: Essentially the reports says, “Committed, loving relationships between mature people who strive to conduct their sexual lives according to the concepts and values described can embody a measure of holiness, even of not the full portion available in marriage”. The Conservative movement’s rabbinic organization is NOT giving carte blanche to non-marital relationships. The report still upholds the importance of marriage but does not condemn more, uh, modern practices. Ah, in this case, I wish I was born a Jew!
So how do you reconcile your religion with your sex life? The truth of the matter is, you cannot. Looking at it from the vantage point of religion is downright impossible. Ultimately, I think this is a personal decision. You have to listen to your own conscience, or since conscience is still a touchy reference point, maybe a better gauge would be how at peace you can be with yourself, hence the slant on spirituality versus religiosity. Whilst being sexually active doesn’t make it evil, it doesn’t necessarily make it right to be promiscuous either for any people of any religion. So look at your life and see how you are adding value to it and to your body by having sex with many different people. Sex is a powerful thing so as long as you respect it and respect yourself, as well as who you do it with.
Not that I’m making a case for premarital sex here, or advocating sexual depravity. It’s just that one’s sexuality is an important part of one’s identity. How you as a person experience the erotic and express yourself as a sexual being is a natural and beautiful part of being human. What is deplorable about religion is that it often paints a very constricting picture and limits the expression of one’s sexuality. Putting aside standards of morality and ideas as to what is wrong and what is right, sex by itself, has biological, physical and emotional aspects. Biologically, sex is as important as air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep as shown in Abraham’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Emotionally, sex is a natural progression in any relationship. After all, aside from physical intimacy, there are a lot of things you can get to know about a person when engaging in sex. From intentions (if he/she disappears after sex then you know he/she is just after the physical – poor you!), to knowing if he/she is a pervert (I mean really! From uh, bedside manners to unusual sexual acrobatics or fetishes!), to his/her sensitivity as a lover (does he/she put a premium on your pleasure and happiness in having a genuine willingness to assess the lover’s state of well-being and plan on doing something about it by asking the three most important words: “Did you come?”). Hilarity aside, after all, sex between two consenting adults can prove to be not just a highly pleasurable physical experience, but it can prove to be, a spiritually riveting experience as well.
So yes, in my opinion, it is possible, to be both sexual and spiritual, all at the same time.