January 25th, 2011
07:00 AM ET
By Tyler Blanski, Special to CNN
Editor's Note: Tyler Blanski is the author of Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred.
When it comes to sex, many Christians confuse the fences for the playground.
We’ve created what I call the chastity cult. Married and single Christians alike put sex on a pedestal. We’re more serious and obsessed with the rules than we ought to be.
Young people wear promise rings - pledging to delay sex till marriage - march hand in hand under the banner of courtship. Some won’t even kiss until they’ve walked down the aisle. Married couples pray before making love or sometimes even feel guilty about the joy and sensuality of it all.
Like the heretics of yore, we are so wary of sensual pleasure, we put up so many rules, rigmarole, and warning signs that we’ve made sex unrecognizable. We forget that sex is playful.
Ever since I was 12, the conversation of choice for Christian guys has been to confess addiction to pornography, habitual masturbation, and unbearable guilt. All the while, pastors warned us against holding hands, kissing or - even worse - cuddling.
By the time I had my first girlfriend at age 20, I was so guilty, so prudish, and so certain of what I thought was Christian sexuality that I lived in fantasyland. When I finally learned how to love and kiss and date a real, live woman, I realized that most Christian books about sex are as unreal and abstract as pornography.
It took a real girlfriend for me to discover the principles that lay the groundwork of what Christ intends for our sex lives: the best sex life possible, in marriage.
Through dating a real woman, and not just reading Christian books on chastity, I learned that chastity isn’t firstly about rules and guilt, but about intimacy and joy - at the right time and in the right way. It’s an expression of being created in the image of a relational God.
Ever wonder why the middle of the Bible is filled with sexual love poetry? Ever speculate why God created the clitoris? Or why human beings have almost always and everywhere celebrated marriage?
Christian sexuality at its best is actually an expression of what churchgoers call the trinitarian life - a holistic, all-encompassing, committed love, the kind of love we reach for in marriage.
A single person’s sex life does not have to mean the sex act itself. It can be a harvesting of all that sexual energy and directing it towards something bigger than sex itself.
The sex life of a Christian single person is not having sex - yet. It’s prayer. It’s dating and learning how to love and listen better through relationship. It’s the foreplay, so to speak, to the sex life God intends for us in marriage.
Marriage invites you into the life of another, to know and to be known. Marriage can be an invitation to become more fully human. For Christians, becoming fully human means becoming Christ-like. This is what the process of “spiritual transformation” is all about. And your sex-life, your marriage, even your singleness, can be a part of this journey.
God made us as sexual creatures. It’s a good thing. You can be prudent without being a prude. You can be holy without being holier-than-thou. And in this case, we would be trying to outdo Christ Himself. Christ never ignored or denied his humanity. We shouldn’t either.
The Chastity Cult’s obsession with boundaries clouds the meaning and mirth of Christian sexuality. The sooner Christians leave it - whether we’re dating or married, the sooner we will discover the kind of sex life God intends for us. It’s earthy. It’s erotic and playful. It’s deeply intimate. It’s 100% orthodox.
I’d wager it’s the best sex out there.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tyler Blanski.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.