Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughts on Sex Week

This past week was Sex Week at Yale, as students attended classes, lectures and parties to learn about sex. (And we worry about our educational system falling behind the Chinese. Hah! I bet their colleges don’t have a Sex Week. They’ll probably be sending their kids in even greater numbers to the U.S. colleges when they hear about this!)

Unfortunately, focusing on the human body in this way, to my thinking, is like focusing on a picture or icon of a beautiful woman, and trying to learn all about that woman from our intense focus. Meanwhile, the woman stands nearby behind a thin veil, but because we cannot see her clearly, we focus on the picture instead.

Sex Week is a focus on our body, without ever looking at the image out of which that body is created. God’s purpose, His mind, is the real image of our bodies, and His purposes are not about self-love, but a giving love. God did not create an image of Himself totally for Himself, but because “it is not good that man is alone.” He created us for others, our neighbors, that we might be His image to them. Not as one painting or one statue to be adored by another person, but as a being, a unique being, with His Spirit, not made of clay but of Him, to be His presence to others.

We were not made for what pleasures we can take from this world, but for what we can give to it --- His presence through us. We can reflect His love to others. If all we want or concern ourselves with is sexual freedoms, we are adoring the statues of ourselves, the clay of which we are made. It is nothing. Sex week to learn about sex? Man has known about sex since the beginning. Even Aristotle taught about the sexual freedoms of ancient Greece, and that those freedoms were only slavery to passions. Even in ancient Greece there were other wise men like Aristotle. There seem so few like him today --- although there are many who imitate the ignorant people he spoke about.

This focus on using the body for sexual pleasure reminds me of those people who have a focus on material items like, perhaps, a car. Many people own classic cars, but some are obsessed about them. They search the world for original parts; they optimize the engine’s horsepower; they find rare waxes to maximize the car’s shine. They seek to make their classic car the absolute best car it can be --- and they never take it out of the garage. It just sits there, and they worship it with their time and focus.

You likely know such people, with such a focus. Tell me, honestly, what do you think about them? It seems their every waking moment and every word is focused on their car. What do you think about these people and their focus?

In the U.S. today, there are many more people focused on their body than classic car owners focused on their cars, but their obsession is similar. They want optimum performance of that machine, their body, to enhance THEIR pleasure. And even if there is some consideration of another’s body (or another’s car) it is only to enhance their pleasures with their body or their vehicle. But none of these people are focused on the real purpose of their vehicles!

A car is not meant to operate optimally and never get out of the garage! The car’s purpose for existence is not to just operate optimally, but never go anywhere. A car’s purpose is to take you to mom’s or the children’s house, or to church. It is to get you somewhere. Your body functions in a similar way; it is a vehicle to get you somewhere, even like the car. It is to take you somewhere so you can give someone something, love, which cannot be defined in operational terms like car efficiency, but only in spiritual terms.

We were created to love. Human love has some small aspect associated with sexual functioning, which can be used to bring us to love better, but it is only a small part of our body’s true functional purpose. If the people at Yale wanted to truly educate the young, they would have a Love Week. Learning to love takes a lifetime. Perhaps at that week’s educational program there could be one short lecture on sex, or perhaps just a pamphlet. Or maybe they could just pass out copies of The Theology of the Body. It would teach them all they need to KNOW about sex, not just FEEL.

Worshipping and obsessing about statues of clay, or our bodies of clay, is idol worship. The purpose of the human body is not to be looked at and adored, or be lusted after. The purpose of the human body is to provide a vehicle for God to love us, even as His Son did. It is for giving of ourselves, using our bodies as He did His, for others.

If the best use of our bodies is to pleasure ourselves, than we may as well lock ourselves in our room or on a deserted island and stare at pornography all day. We need no one else. But as John Donne noted, “No man is an island.” And as Albert Schweitzer noted, “You don’t live in a world all alone. Your brother is here too.”

It is so easy to be caught up in the senses of our body, the pleasures it can feel, and even the pains. They are so real. But the sensual feelings are only clues to help us figure out the real meaning of our lives, the purpose of not our bodies alone, but our very being. We forget that purpose sometimes, the purpose we first learned at our mother’s breast. We had a feeling then of our purpose, and that feeling did not totally come through our senses: we felt loved.

Nothing made ONLY of clay can give or feel love. We are made of a greater thing than just clay. We are made of God, meant to live for His purposes, and to live forever with Him in celebration of having used our bodies for their ultimate purposes, to carry us home to Him, who loved us first.

Having finished writing these thoughts, I glanced at a book in which I read that “Jesus practiced heroic self-control during His earthly life,” and was a model of temperance for us. Jesus had a body like us, and He needed no Sex Week to teach Him how to optimally use it. If anyone could have maximized the pleasures of a human body, certainly the Creator of all bodies could. But He didn’t do that; “He practiced heroic self-control.”

Do we need any further example on how to use this vessel of clay?

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