By Joel Hess –
Since Luther rightfully returned the domestic life (marriage, family, and sex) to its proper place in holy living, most of non-Roman Christianity has not only applauded the domestic life but unintentionally promoted it as the ultimate venue for a Christian to be a Christian! But is that true? On one hand, St. Paul says “yes” as he compares marriage to Jesus and the Church. On the other hand he says “no” as he extolls the virtues of celibacy and singleness!
Much of the Protestant church tells people not to have sex unless married. Good. We tell people sex is great. Great! These are both gifts from God as we lift our glass of two hearted ale. So we implicitly tell people it’s bad not to be married. And of course, as I have said a million times, we falsely teach that God wants us to be happy as if there is no fall and there is no resurrection. Therefore we have cultivated an expectation by parishioners that God has a special someone out there who will make them happy. Many of our members probably think it’s a promise in the same vein as forgiveness and resurrection.
We lie to people, quite frankly. There might not be a special someone just for you! This perpetuated and invented promise of Christianity has led many Christians to accept same sex marriage. Surely God would not want someone to be alone! So, if they can’t find someone of the opposite sex, why not the same sex if it makes them happy and not alone!? It is wrong to tell some people they might never have a spouse! We might even be guilty of teaching that it’s wrong not to want or like sex! We have done a 180 from the dark ages, which is no better!
Certainly one of the wonderful fruits of the reformation was the return of the domestic life to its rightful place in holy living. Before Luther, many believed that genuine holy living or spiritual living involved vows against the domestic life: quests, leaving society, forsaking family and any comfort of home. Holy living meant intentionally making yourself unhappy for God in some way or another. These were the religious people. It was assumed their minds were above the needs of the body and therefore closer to God. The Reformation changed all that as it rediscovered the biblical path to righteousness did not lie in works, but faith in Christ’s work. It also, in good renaissance fashion, returned to the original texts of Scripture only to discover that good works were loving one’s neighbor and not living in a cave eating only prairie dogs. Praise God!
Yet, the age of enlightenment furthered the ascent of the domestic life over and against the monastery as it sought to focus on and perfect our tactile world: our here and now. This reformed Christianity created a culture that embraced creation and the domestic life so much so that it found itself spending more brain power on making this place our heavenly home rather than meditating on the city of God that will one day appear with Christ.
Consequently the single life, the life of denying a normal domestic existence, died. Monks and Nuns are even mocked today within the Protestant world. The American dream entails getting a wife, kids, house, job, and living to an old age. Again, if someone is not attracted to the opposite sex, how in the world are they going to enjoy the American dream? How could you deny them the American Protestant Christian dream? Surely, God wants them to not be alone and to have kids by any means necessary.
Even though St. Paul claims that the single life is the best, if you can handle it, the general tone of American Christianity, including Lutheranism, really says otherwise. It has never even offered another lifestyle possibility.
Because we have not properly extolled the virtues of denying oneself, embracing suffering, being celibate, poor, etc. the church that promotes “God wants you to be happy” is faced with a chorus of people now who demand to live in sin because they too want to be happy, but their situation does not allow for it: the barren couple, or the person with deviating sexual desire.
Protestant Christianity has created this false Christian culture that excludes any sense of self-denial or unhappiness in this world so that when Christians are faced with unhappiness doing God’s will versus happiness doing their own will, they choose their own will hoping God will tag along. Because, after all, He wants them to be…. This seemingly Christian argument is evident in people desiring same sex marriage, but before that- in vitro fertilization. I have to have kids! Right? Surely God wants us to be a part of a domestic life of some sort, even if it means in a messy unnatural way!
Meanwhile we have among us members who are not rejoicing in what they do have, let alone, God forbid, rejoicing in suffering. We have taught them to never settle for suffering! We have created clones of Abraham, remedying our situation to fit God’s promise by meddling with creation.
God promises that we will be happy indeed, but it is a promise we hold onto by faith today, not sight!
As a Church we have not taught people that it’s not only OK to be single but it could be a gift! It is fine to be barren, you don’t have to change that! If you are divorced, you might actually try not marrying again! It might even be that you shouldn’t marry again or you will commit adultery! Life is not fair. You don’t have to force a remedy for these things.
We don’t encourage people that their family is Christ. He embraces us through His brothers and sisters, the Church. We are not alone.
We don’t know what to do with people who don’t fit our Eden-ic vision of the happy Christian life. But didn’t that vision die in Eden? Yet when it is restored and resurrected, guess what??? THERE WILL BE NO MARRIAGE and no one given in marriage!
American Christianity is partly to blame for this cultural monster of Frankenstein. Now it is turning on us.
Written while drinking tap water, listening to ‘I’m falling away’ by Joel Allen Hess on Soundcloud, and enjoying some Copenhagen.