Our great nation is deeply perverted. Perversion surrounds us.
Now, those who know me are probably wondering, “Perversion? What happened to Andrew? How did some Puritan wingnut get control of the blog?”
But wait, let’s make sure we are all on the same page here: According to dictionary.com, the origin of “perversion” is “action of turning aside from truth, corruption, distortion” (originally of religious beliefs). With that in mind, the common usage of the word “pervert” in a usually sexual context is deeply ironic: The whole fixation on so-called sexual perversion is itself a perversion, in that it uses scripture in a way that is much different than it was intended.
This is quite a claim. But I can back it up with three simple pairs of passages. First, let’s take another look at Sodom.
Yes, there were sexual misdeeds described in the tale of the destruction of Sodom (for the record, those were attempted rape and not consensual sex between men, which does not appear in the story at all). But after centuries of perverted teachings, most people just unquestioningly assume that these misdeeds (and imaginary consensual sex acts) were the reason for the city’s destruction. This is a fallacy of believing that after the fact means because of the fact.
But, some may say, doesn’t it seem like the city’s destruction immediately after this offense suggests it had something to do with it?
Perhaps, but nowhere in the Bible does God say that sex was the cause. In fact, God specifically says something different through the prophet Ezekiel. Specifically, “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.”
Considering all the rioting and unrest that has recently been wrought by current economic injustice, a city burning to the ground for this reason makes much more sense than because a city had too many boys who liked boys.
Not convinced? Here’s another pair of passages from another key story:
The book of Nehemiah describes the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which is a pivotal moment in the biblical narrative in that it ends the Babylonian Exile, which was one of the darkest eras of Jewish history. If we project our own fixation on sex upon this story, we would assume that it would at least briefly address the sexual deviance that must have caused God to withdraw protection and blessing. After all, that’s God’s pet issue, right?
The trouble is that sex had nothing to do with it.
Midway through rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the effort runs into trouble, and it isn’t because folks are sneaking off from work shifts to fool around. As I’ve described in detail, the rebuilding stalled because the people were struggling with debt. So Nehemiah demands debt forgiveness and declines to take the perks of his position.
The only time that sex comes up at all is at the end of the book, when Nehemiah puts an end to intermarriage as an afterthought to confronting a series of economic problems. But even here, the problem is more related to protecting the community’s identity than any sort of sexual restriction. And in any case he doesn’t dwell upon it and moves along to conclude his writing with a mention of how he made sure there was enough wood and grain for sacrifices. Ho hum.
Finally, consider Jesus’ response when confronted with economic sin and sexual sin:
As I recently mentioned, the only recorded case when Jesus freaked out at people is when he cleared out the commercial sinners who had defiled the temple, whipping them with ropes and knocking over their tables.
I have to say it looks like there’s a consistent pattern of economics being more important than sex. But you’d never know this from watching Christians.
It never ceases to amaze me that young people are encouraged to make promises to avoid sex while much greater temptations and dangers lie everywhere in the economic realm. Sex is portrayed as an existential threat while little or no effort is made to warn young people about the evils of credit card debt, exploitative mortgage practices and abusive workplaces.
And somehow it’s a major political issue that the “sanctity of marriage” must be protected. Republican presidential candidates are pressured to sign the “Family Leader” declaration of “dependence upon marriage” that throws in everything but the kitchen sink (and economic justice). Meanwhile they ignore the economic changes that put greater and greater strain upon those marriages they pretend to protect.
These perverts could not miss the point more completely. Our day’s biggest challenge is not to refrain from certain physical expressions of love (or even simple lust). Instead, we must actively seek a new way of being in community with each other, so that we may all live in peace and plenty.
I know this is challenging stuff. We have all been trained from birth to associate morality with sexual restraint. It’s hard for me, even, despite a relatively secular upbringing.
There’s nothing wrong with sexual restraint, and it is a valuable thing to cultivate. I’ll admit that I have work to do in that department. Even the Family Leader statement makes some good points about the benefits of a stable home life for children. But we all need to repent from this perversion of obsessing about sex, and turn back to God, who tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves.