AS I HAVE SAID here in the past couple of entries, the views of humanity on so many things have been impacted by our ideas about God and about God’s desires that it’s hard to decide what other areas of life interaction to include on a list of them. Today we’re going to consider Sex and Homosexuality.
In our next entry we’ll look at Love, Money. Then, Free Will and Suffering. Finally, we’ll explore God’s desires regarding Morality and Death.
Then we’ll have brought you in this space a fairly complete summary of what our ancestors and our contemporary teachers have told us about What God Wants.
Here are the next two categories.
Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for sexual union to be experienced only with one’s spouse for the purposes of procreation and the expression of love.
One result of this teaching: Millions of people believe that sex may absolutely never be experienced in any way that deliberately prevents conception, and that while sex is wonderful, to experience sex simply for pleasure with no possibility of procreation is against the will of God and, therefore, “unnatural,” immoral, shameful and a giving in to baser instincts.
As with the combining of fear and love in the earlier understanding of God, the combining of pleasure and shame in this construction has produced chronic emotional confusion: wonder, excitement and passion, yet embarrassment, fear and guilt about sexual desires and experiences.
In most cultures the sexual parts of human bodies may not be referred to by name. The words vagina and penis are not to be used in public (except as absolutely necessary in a purely clinical setting), and never with small children. The words wee-wee, pee-pee, or bottom may be used freely. In short, the human culture agrees that the actual names of certain body parts are shameful and embarrassing and are to be avoided whenever possible.
Again, you may believe that the above assertion is a bit of an exaggeration. I assure you it is not. Internationally known columnist Molly Ivins reports in the September/October 2004 issue of Mother Jones magazine that Advocates for Youth, a group working for comprehensive sex education, had its funding for AIDS prevention yanked by the Center for Disease Control, a U.S. government agency, because “young people [in the project’s video] used the correct terminology for male and female anatomy.” That, said James Wagoner, head of Advocates for Youth, “is absurd. What is the president going to do? Issue an executive order that every man, woman, and child should refer to the penis as a dingaling?”
And, of course, if one cannot speak of certain body parts, one certainly cannot show them. Not even, apparently, to oneself. Yet another exaggeration? I’m sorry to say, no. So puritanical is the viewpoint on all of this in many places that the following letter could actually appear, without anyone blinking an eye, in over 300 newspapers in the United States on September 25, 2004 in an advice column:
Dear Abby: I went to wake up my 14-year-old daughter today and discovered her sleeping in the nude. Apparently she has been doing it for some time.
Normally she is good about getting up and I haven’t needed to enter her room to awaken her. When I asked her why she does it, she said it’s more comfortable and she sleeps better.
When I told her I was not comfortable with it, she asked me why, and frankly I could not come up with a good reason other than it seemed “wrong,” and fear about what would happen in an earthquake or fire. She questioned how it could be wrong if no one knows—unless they walk into her room without knocking (as I did).
She keeps a long robe next to the bed so she can put it on in case of emergency. (Indeed, she walks around the house in that robe, and I thought she had a nightgown underneath, when in fact she has been naked underneath since Christmas.)
I am still not comfortable with it, but we agreed to abide by your advice. Is it OK for her to sleep in the nude, and why—or why not?
–Worried Mom in San Leandro.
The columnist wrote back that there was “nothing inherently wrong” with sleeping in the nude. “Look at the bright side,” she advised the mother. “It makes for less laundry.”
As this parent’s letter makes clear, many humans feel that certain body parts must be covered and hidden, having been deemed too arousing or too shameful, or both. For those parts not to be covered is incorrect and unacceptable. Indeed, in many places it’s actually illegal, with punishments in civil law for those who fail to obey.
Many people believe that sex experienced in certain ways, even between husband and wife, is “unnatural” and therefore immoral. And again, in many times and places, some experiences, although between consenting adults, have actually been made illegal. Those who wrote such legislation said that they understand that God does not want certain sexual experiences to occur. God sends people to hell for this.
Humans also believe that intensely graphic depictions of sexual activity in photographs, drawings, comic books, video games, television and motion pictures are distasteful, repugnant, disgusting and unacceptable. Intensely graphic depictions of extreme physical violence and killing are, however, entirely acceptable.
Millions of humans believe that sexual energy and spiritual energy do not mix. They have been told that sexual energy is a “lower chakra” energy, and that sexual activity and spiritual clarity essentially oppose each other. Persons seeking to achieve spiritual mastery are therefore advised against engaging in sexual experiences. Some are actually required to remain abstinent.
This is, many of the world’s people believe, What God Wants.
Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for sex to be experienced between a male and a female only, and for same-gender sexual interaction to be considered an abomination.
One result of this teaching: Humans for whom same-gender sexual attraction feels most natural have been denounced, vilified, condemned, ostracized, isolated, assaulted, and killed by people who believe they are doing God’s will.
The sad account of the killing of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming offers us a now-famous case in point. Shepard, an openly gay freshman at the University of Wyoming, was dragged out of a bar in Laramie by two young men, driven to a deserted road outside of town, tied to a cow fence and beaten so severely that he lapsed into a coma and died five days later.
His youthful assailants were apprehended and sentenced to life in prison, but the Reverend Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas was not inclined to let the matter rest there. Every year for the five years following Matthew’s brutal beating and death this Christian minister has traveled to Laramie, as well as to Casper, Wyoming, Matthew’s birth place, to “celebrate” his death. And, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times by reporter David Kelly, on October 12, 2003 Reverend Phelps brought with him to Casper a granite monument engraved with Matthew’s face, followed by these words chiseled in stone:
“Matthew Shepard Entered Hell October 12, 1998 at age 21 In Defiance of God’s Warning: ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.’ Leviticus 18:32.”
It was the Reverend Phelps who also attended Matthew Shepard’s funeral and, as the young man’s parents, family, and friends stood in mourning, screamed: “God hates fags!”
With this level of clarity as to the Divine Intention and Desire, entire countries have been forced under power of governmental authority and rule of law to obey God’s Will in this matter. In some nations the civil penalty for homosexuality is death—burial under a 12-foot concrete wall. In many places civil law has been created making gay marriage illegal. In the United States the president in 2004 personally campaigned to have his understanding of God’s desires regarding prohibition of gay marriage written into his country’s Constitution.
While certain sexual feelings may be very natural to the persons feeling them, they are not What God Wants, many people say, and are therefore, by definition, “unnatural.” A report on October 20, 2003 by Chris Zdeb of CanWest News Service in the Calgary Herald in Edmonton, Canada points to the possibility that the exact opposite may be true.
“Scientists have discovered 54 genes that suggest sexual identity is hard-wired into the brain before birth, and before development of the sex organs,” the journalist reports, and goes on to say:
“The findings released today by a team of University of California, Los Angeles, researchers could mean that sexuality, including homosexuality and transgender sexuality, are not a choice.”
Nevertheless, the clergy of many of the world’s largest religious denominations continue to assert that God condemns such sexual experiences.
Reporter Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press reported on October 7, 2004 that the most influential Anglican leader in Africa—home to nearly half the world’s Anglicans—said that the U.S. Episcopal Church has created a “new religion” by confirming a gay bishop in New Hampshire, breaking the bonds between the denominations with roots in the Church of England.
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria also said in an exclusive AP interview with Zoll that he views the head of the Episcopal Church as an advocate for gays and lesbians and no longer trusts him. His comments come less than two weeks before an international panel was scheduled to release a critical report on whether the global Anglican Communion can bridge its divide over homosexuality. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of Anglicanism; Akinola leads the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
“The Communion is shattered. It is broken,” Akinola said. “The commonality that bound us together is no longer true.” (More separation in the name of God.)
Zoll’s report says that Akinola insisted he did not hate gays, despite his fiery comments in the past protesting the growing acceptance of homosexuality. He once called the trend a “satanic attack” on the church. But he said he could not accept attempts to “superimpose” modern culture on Scripture by ignoring what he said were Biblical injunctions against gay sex.
“I didn’t write the Bible. It’s part of our Christian heritage. It tells us what to do,” Akinola said. “If the word of God says homosexuality is an abomination, then so be it.”
The Zoll story goes on to say that those who support ordaining gays contend Scripture does not ban same-sex relationships, and that there was no understanding in biblical times that homosexuality was, as science is now proving, a natural orientation, not a choice.
Nevertheless, for many of the world’s people the afterlife consequence of engaging in such unnatural activities is understood to be everlasting damnation and torture in the fires of hell.
This is, those people believe, What God Wants.
© 2014 ReCreation Foundation - http://www.cwg.org - Neale Donald Walsch is a modern day spiritual messenger whose words continue to touch the world in profound ways. His With God series of books has been translated into 27 languages, touching millions of lives and inspiring important changes in their day-to-day lives.