Things weren't nearly as awkward as they could have been when I lead the small group discussion about sex a couple weeks ago. I thanked God for that.
We're studying I Corinthians at church, and I'm having a wonderful time, since I love me some Corinthians. Some of the best celibacy stuff is in I Corinthians (not that it convinces my mom I'm not a deviant). I love the fact that my pastor is addressing things most Christians don't even know are in the Bible. Maybe next week here, I'll talk more about my concerns with the group/church reaction to the celibacy idea. For now, back to sex.
Then the closing pray-er earnestly thanked God that a single woman would be brave enough to lead a small group in a talk about sex and lust. I almost hurt myself not laughing out loud. Bravery? Seriously?
I mean, I suppose if I were a "normal" single Christian desperately longing for a spouse and praying that I hadn't been given the gift of celibacy if it was nonreturnable, maybe it would have been more awkward. Or maybe if I were younger. Or if I didn't live in a culture that tries to sell sex to anyone who is not blind, deaf, or sequestered in a far-out nunnery.
But, come on, they know by now who I am: an observant, thoughtful 30-year-old, informed and willing to choose something else.
Sure, we were all a tad embarrassed: newly-marrieds, older-marrieds, and dating couple, along with single woman. (I think it was a good thing the new guy didn't come this week, either.) We're embarrassed partly because none of us have much experience talking sex with other people in the church. It still has that slightly tainted status as a topic incapable of being included in godly conversation, which is silly. God invented sex. It's part of who most people are, and it's wrapped up in a lot of current cultural baggage.
Sex and sexual identity are a big part of who people are in America and possibly even more important in more conservative church culture. We need to know how to talk about it biblically, compassionately, honestly, and rightly.
But with all this great biblical teaching about the benefits and goodness of celibacy, I can't understand why the church is so marriage- and baby-crazy. It's absolutely ingrained, to the point where no one ever questions it. When I asked if they ever considered not getting married, I got seriously blank looks. They never thought about it as an option even when it was presented last week. I'll bet other groups discussing this, groups that don't have a thrilled, celibacy-gifted member like me never really even went so far as to entertain the idea that some people actually choose it.
Celibacy is not an embarrassment. Let me rephrase that: a life style of celibacy should not be an embarrassment, especially not in the church. But it is.
Talking about celibacy with someone who is, in fact, celibate for one reason or another makes Christians uncomfortable, possibly more uncomfortable than talking about sex. Truly it does.
I've often thought that the only thing that would have traumatized my mom more about my sexuality would have been if I had told her I was homosexual. My celibacy seems like a similar blow to her; she simply doesn't know how to react, how to process this ersatz sexual non-orientation.
It seems so unnatural to most people. At least the folks in my MFA program were curious. They asked questions. Lots of detailed questions. Their obvious befuddlement was refreshing. They didn't understand, really, but they didn't pity me; they wanted to understand me as much as they could. Believers seem to just feel sorry for celibate people. I find the situation sad. And, to be honest, pretty irritating.
For now, I'm just glad that we got through our discussions the last few weeks without anyone being too ashamed to meet anyone's eyes or flipping out too much. The donuts probably helped. Maybe the sugar low mellowed us out?
Have you ever talked sex and celibacy in your church or small group? How'd that go for you?