The ideas of Church and Sex aren’t ones that we tend to associate with each other. The Christian church’s approach to sex and sexuality varies among different denominations, but generally, there is a historical tendency to shy away from discussing the topic openly. This has caused confusion and, in many cases, shame for people who are trying to figure out their own relationship with sexuality, and have healthy, enjoyable sex lives.
Why is there a tendency for the Church to shy away from the topic of sex? And why is there so much conflicting information? There are several reasons for this .
The church’s views on sexuality have been shaped by centuries of cultural and historical developments, including the influence of Greek philosophy, which regarded the body as inferior to the soul. This dualistic view of the separation of body and spirit has often led to a negative attitude towards sexuality, which is seen as being rooted in the physical and material world. As such, sexual desires are seen as something to be denied, and overcome. They are often viewed as a distraction from the pursuit of godliness and purity.
Christian theology emphasises the importance of self-control and the avoidance of sin, including sexual sin. This can lead to a focus on abstinence or restraint rather than exploring and celebrating the beauty of human sexuality. As you can see this feeds in to the Greek view of the body and its needs and desires being inferior to those of the spirit, as opposed to the Jewish view that the spirit and body are intricately connected, and equally important.
In some cultures, discussions about sex are considered taboo or inappropriate, and this can influence the church’s approach to the topic. In conservative cultures where sex is taboo, like South Africa, this leads to a lack of education surrounding sex within communities, leaving individuals without the knowledge or resources to have an informed conversation about sex. Many religious leaders believe that sex should only be discussed in the context of marriage and procreation, which can lead to a limited understanding of sexual pleasure and intimacy. This means that when churches do speak about sex, it is often without the knowledge and expertise needed to effectively communicate about the topic.
Fear of controversy:
Discussions of sexuality can be highly charged and controversial, and some churches may avoid the topic to avoid causing offence or controversy. Many religious organisations may wrongly fear that talking about sex will lead to more promiscuity and sexual misbehaviour. All of the research on the topic indicates that the opposite is true. This speaks to the fact that there is a lack of adequate knowledge about sex and sexuality in many churches.
Overall, the Christian church’s approach to sexuality is complex and influenced by a variety of factors. While there is a tendency to shy away from the topic, there is also a growing recognition of the importance of discussing and celebrating human sexuality in a positive and affirming way. This includes a more holistic view of the relationship between body and spirit, recognising that sexuality is a natural and God-given aspect of human identity. Many churches are now creating resources that help to educate people on the importance of healthy sexual relationships and how to engage in them.
Additionally, some churches are creating special programs and events, with subject matter experts, specifically designed to foster discussion around issues related to sex and sexual health. This is an important step in helping people of faith learn more about intimacy and healthy relationships. By providing resources for education, dialogue and exploration, these churches can create a safe space where individuals can talk openly about sex, sexual health and experiences.
The ultimate goal is for churches to create an environment where everyone can engage in conversations about sex, free of shame or fear. This could include discussions about birth control, abstinence, HIV/AIDS prevention and other issues related to sexual health. By promoting open dialogue and education about these topics, faith communities can make a powerful impact on the health and well-being of their members.
I work closely with religious organisations to facilitate conversations about sexual health in a culturally sensitive way. Partnering with religious leaders, I help them create resources that are tailored to their communities’ needs and values. I provide trainings for clergy and laypeople, so that they can better support their members and foster an environment of acceptance and inclusion.
If you or your organisation would like to know more about how we can work together, please reach out via email (email@example.com) or book an appointment. We can create a space to discuss sexual health without judgment or stigma.