Back in September, I gave you links to Tim Muldoon’s first five posts in the series Sex and Christianity. He’s put up three more since then.
Sex and Consumption looks at the value of toughening the will in order to be able to resist the allurements of Madison Avenue. Here’s a taste:
Ours is a media-saturated world in which our desires are constantly being manipulated. It is no surprise, then, that so much advertising relies on sex, because there is no other element of human experience that can arouse such powerful desire. We know this from experience, but neuroscience is shedding even more light on the mechanisms of this manipulation. The high from getting turned on can be more addictive than cocaine, and when coupled with a product, that feeling can be turned toward the product itself.
But here’s the problem. The normal release of brain chemicals associated with attraction and love move couples to think of each other, and eventually to bond and mate. The drive toward sex is the echo of our distant evolutionary past, but even as such it involves the bonding chemicals vasopressin and oxytocin (the “cuddle drug”). The takeaway here is that our brains can’t be satisfied with products instead of people, because products simply can’t provoke the same kind of constant response over time that people can. The constant ramping-up of sex drive is leading many to addiction (especially men), unable to exit the cul-de-sac of sex in order to engage in a real relationship with a person. And it’s becoming epidemic.
The Evolution of Organic Sex discusses the five stages Christianity has passed through in developing a theology of sex.
The most recent development shares something with the preceding ones: it builds upon the most prominent philosophical currents of the time. Marriage legislation was built on a theory of Natural Law; sacralizing sex was caught up in the same views of eros that fueled the medieval romances and troubadours; personalizing sex was rooted in the same lens on human experiencing that fascinated phenomenologist and existentialist philosophers and modernist writers. Today’s fascination with sustainable, chemical-free, non-corporation-mediated sex fits the zeitgeist of this postmodern age.
And Sexual Revolution 2.0 talks about the sexual revolution (so-called) of the 60s, the flaws in both that view of sex and the view it replaced, and a possible way forward:
Interestingly, the Jewish rabbinic tradition here can be very helpful, with its understanding of good and bad desires. Also helpful are ancient Greek and early Christian notions of spiritual exercise, which as a whole were dedicated to the idea that people could grow by patient learning of how to love the good and eschew the bad. In contemporary terms, that means learning the limited and self-defeating patterns of the limbic system in order to focus on greater goods.
Sexual revolution 2.0 will not look like adolescents escaping from an oppressive home. It must look like grownups asking an altogether different question from “how can I have fun and be free?” That question, I propose, is “what is good for the human family?” For such a question is about first expanding our frame of reference beyond pleasure to love. The one seeking pleasure is likely to fall further and further into selfishness, but the one who loves is willing to take on great challenges for the sake of the good.