The Israelites are to be defined and set apart by their sexual morality. Its pretty funny in a way, they are not to be like the people they left behind in Egypt, or like the people they will find in Canaan. Basically, they are not to be like everyone ever. Sexual morality doesn’t come naturally.
But neither does endlessly rampant sexual behaviour. Societies seems to naturally settle somewhere between a degree of sexual wildness in certain contexts, and a degree of stable self restraint.
The Israelites sex laws are a mixture of things that our current society either judges severely still, regards as taboo, or thinks nothing of. Paedophilia: severely, incest and bestiality: largely frowned on and taboo, homosexuality and adultery: meh.
We as christians are now free from all those laws, through grace, and free to follow our own rules for living right with God. In my lifetime and society, divorce has not been harshly judged, though Irish Catholics were perfectly logical to observe that it sets up a situation of serial adultery. But that’s not mattered here.
Of late many Christians seem to be getting progressively less hot under the collar about homosexuality, but that wasn’t the case when I was young and there remains of course significant and deep divisions about it. Society is judging christians much more harshly than when I was a kid for anti-homosexual ideas. And don’t we hate it, it drives us nuts being on the wrong side of the mainstream even though the bible says to expect it one way or other.
Homosexuality per se I think does pretty much zero emotional damage compared to adultery and cheating. Or homophobia. The most devastating sexual experience of my life was technically chaste hetero dating, ie: kissing, holding hands… and breaking up. Killed me.
Though the gay grindr type of scene I do find confronting and crass, as I do demeaning hetero porn or promiscuity. I don’t think there is no consequences in allowing yourself and others to be lust meat, I think on some level its got to eventually spill over into other aspects of your humanity and compassion. I think of it a bit like scar tissue, a progressive deadening of sensitivity and nuance. Emotionless sex. I understand the urge, I do profoundly in my being, in fact compared to proper love with emotion gone wrong it can seem like a great idea, but I don’t believe it is, really.
Adultery is probably worse than bestiality in the societal damage it does, in my opinion, though bestiality is just, well, weird.
Incest, to a degree, and most certainly paedophilia are easy to see as exploitative and unfair, though different societies view the limits of it differently (we are horrified by 13 year olds getting married, other societies not so much). Incest has the public health factors mixed in too, as with much in Leviticus.
Its something I really don’t know what to think about. I am confused and evolving. Its all always been, and mores are fluid from society to society. Though there are themes.
I did like the idea in this chapter of sex being owning each other’s nakedness, and inappropriate sex being taking that other person’s nakedness from them when it is not yours, that’s something that gets to the intimacy of sex and the hurt and betrayal that can come with it. Its romantic.
The reference to Molech, a nasty canaanite deity, is interesting too. Historians speculate that the Molech rituals involved harsh child sacrifice, maybe as a way of killing babies from inappropriate relationships like rape, incest or affairs. A sort of late birth control. Perhaps more than just a simple ban on child sacrifice, Israelites are being told to love their illegitimate children, which would make sense of mentioning it in the rules about sexual morality.
There has never been a consistently monogamous society or culture on earth, research suggests. But – it seems from Wikipedia at least – there has been very few societies in which some form of monogamy or stage of exclusive commitment to a stable relationship was not seen as an ideal, and which had no sense of jealousy, passion and betrayal coming from sexual relationships gone bad. Ironically the gay marriage debate has produced public paeans to the ideal of monogamy such as I’ve not witnessed up to this point in my life.
I’m quite resolved to let it all flow, I don’t see any point in opposing gay marriage in fact I believe christians should support it, even those don’t think homosexuality is right in God’s eyes. Marriage is not a sacrament, ie: an ordained ritual of god’s blessing, its a social construct which periodically gets redefined. It becomes unfair not to allow it if the negative taboo falls away. It all part of a piece.
You can’t separate church and state and then join them again when it suits you. And you can’t argue for the continuance of an alliance, however convenient, between homophobes and christians who may be sincerely not homophobic but honestly believe that condemnation of homosexuality is an essential part of christian theology. The sincere christians still have to view the death of homophobia as a good thing, and be prepared to give voice to their theology in a way that is compassionate and kind, as well as marginal to the point of being generally loathed, which is way harder than it used to be. Thats how its gonna be now.
Every time a christian who is not personally tempted by or interested in homosexuality, in fact is culturally afraid of it, finds themselves about to condemn it, they should stop and condemn their own sexual and gender sins instead. Ditto abortion. There is way too much ignoring of logs in christians own eyes in the sexual area. Sins you are upset or threatened by are easy to condemn, and broad to define!
And fortunately nothing about transitioning to other genders or gender fluidity, that’s all unregulated, whew!
Father, give me self control, give me wisdom.