A monk dipped his cloak into the decaying flesh of a dead woman, so the smell might banish fantasies about her. A young nun slept on a hard floor covered in ashes to tame her body when the flow of her periods first began. A monk in training prudently wrapped his hands in his cloak as he carried his elderly mother across a stream because he was taught the flesh of all women is fire. Monks attempted barbarous and bloody self-castration in their cells to banish evil desires that continually “defiled” their purity. Women who took the vows of a virgin were assured the very heights of heaven, but if those vows were renounced, they were relegated to the very deepest pits of hell.
In places, the early Christian record reads more carnal than a psycho-sexual horror movie. Granted, these are extreme examples that I’ve cited, but even if we allow for that fact, we have to ask, what sort of ideological backdrop would give rise to these particular extremities?
In Sex, Lies & Religion I make the case that early Christian views of human sexuality are very different from the biblical view. I will further make the case that these traditional misconceptions (in some cases, even heresies) still affect the thinking of Christians today. The result is a lot of screwed-up thinking about sex, ranging from a prudish suspicion (even outright hatred) of sexuality on the one hand, to rampant immorality—even among professing Christians—on the other. Both extremes are born of an unbiblical dichotomy between a pure soul and a sinful body.
The prude deals with this false rupture by subordinating the flesh; the libertine deals with it by pretending that the spirit has nothing to say to the flesh. Either person is in bondage. People (especially religious people) feel isolated and alone when dealing with sexual issues. Shedding light on misunderstanding and lies can lead to a life of freedom not plagued by unnecessary guilt.
Surprisingly, the freedom to enjoy a spiritually sexual life is far less limited than religion would have us think. Perhaps the most depressing thing about this wrongheadedness about sex is the fact that it closes off one of the most important paths by which God reveals Himself to us. God is our great Lover, pursuing us out of an ardent desire—a desire that we reciprocate when we are spiritually healthy. As we come to terms with God’s unconditional love for us, we experience a sexual freedom that is rarely experienced by modern-day believers. And as we experience that freedom as complete spiritual and sexual beings, we become fully alive.
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Sex, Lies & Religion by Randy Elrod
Available here or anywhere fine books are sold.