Editorialist at WaPo Argues That Single Christian Adults Can Have Sex So Long As They are Chaste About It – Also Speculates that Jesus Was “Probably” Celibate
Edit: I originally assumed when first writing this post that McCleneghan is a dude, but it appears that McCleneghan is a woman(?).
I’ve said this before on my blog, but I will say it again: if you want to fornicate (have sex outside of marriage), go right ahead, but stop trying to justify it by saying God, Jesus, or the Bible is fine with it.
I’m over 40, still a virgin, I did not have sex with my ex fiance while we were a couple. I have a libido.
I’m still celibate. By this stage in my life, I’m now okay with the idea of having sex prior to marriage if I am in a stable, committed relationship, but should that happen, I will freely admit that it is a sin as far as God or the Bible is concerned.
I’m not going to sit here and argue that my fornication (should it occur) is peachy keen with God because I’m being faithful to the one guy and only boinking the one guy.
I have more comments below this long excerpt:
…I’m compelled by the idea that Jesus was probably celibate, but that it would have been for a purpose, and that it might have been hard to bear sometimes.
…Jesus was fully in relationship with many. He had intimate friendships, and he was dedicated to his work. If his celibacy was hard, he was not overly anxious about it; he leaned into the other parts of his life.
Jesus was different and his path was likely puzzling to those around him, even as it puzzles us still today.
.. One of the most unfair things the Christian tradition has foisted on singles is the expectation that they would remain celibate — that is, refraining from sexual relationships.
American Christians sometimes conflate celibacy and chastity, too, which is a problem. Chastity is a virtue, related to temperance — it’s about moderating our indulgences and exercising restraint. We’re all called to exercise chastity in a variety of ways, though the details will vary given our individual situations.
In the official teaching of the Catholic Church and some other churches, however, chastity requires restraining oneself from indulging in sexual relationships outside of the bounds (and bonds) of marriage. That is, chastity for singles means celibacy — no sex.
There might be other norms for chastity. Maybe our marital state isn’t the primary norm. I’d argue that we can be chaste — faithful — in unmarried sexual relationships if we exercise restraint: if we refrain from having sex that isn’t mutually pleasurable and affirming, that doesn’t respect the autonomy and sacred worth of ourselves and our partners.
There are those who feel that they are called to seasons of celibacy, or even years of celibacy, and if answering that call is life-giving and purposeful, then they should take it up as a spiritual discipline. But no call can be forced on an unwilling person, especially not if they find themselves single only by virtue of circumstance.
Plenty of women and men love sex, and need it — we need bodily pleasure, remember — and the abundant life for them will involve seeking out relationships of mutual pleasure.
..I offer the example of Jesus not because I think he was likely celibate, but rather because his life demonstrates what it might mean to be both different and beloved, chaste but never cut off.
…We’re called to see that way, too: to see and nurture the possibilities for life and love that are constantly unfolding all around us. We’re called to see ourselves this way: beloved, no matter (or perhaps because of) our refusal to conform to society’s expectations about sex, love and relationships.
Straight, gay, bi, trans, intersex: we are beloved, and do God and ourselves a disservice if we are conformed.
Bromleigh McCleneghan is a pastor at Union Church of Hinsdale in Illinois. This is an excerpt from “Good Christian Sex: Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option — and Other Things the Bible Says About Sex,” her new book from HarperOne.
That this author, McCleneghan, is questioning the celibacy status of Jesus of Nazareth is plain weird and bizarre.
Please, do explain, who is it you think Jesus was boinking, McCleneghan? All the prostitutes he was known to talk to? I doubt it. They were trapped in a lifestyle they apparently did not want, and would have been rebuffed, not attracted to a guy who was just another john (sex client).
It angers me to no end when anyone – Christian or not (usually secular liberals, though) – suggest that Jesus was not celibate or was not single – because Jesus is one of the few celibate singles that celibate singles like me have “on our team.”
The rest of the Christian church is busy idolizing marriage and treating single celibates like losers; don’t take Jesus from us, too.
At least leave us Jesus, who is the poster boy and hero of Single Adult Celibacy, thank you. Don’t make Jesus over into another horny horn dog who slept around or had a wife. You rob singles of the one role model or guy we have that we can relate to.
I am single by circumstance. I certainly don’t enjoy being celibate – I’d prefer to be having sex.
However, as much as the author of that page does not want to admit it, the Bible does in fact call all singles, whether they are single by choice or circumstance, whether they are homosexual, hetero or bi-sexual, to refrain from sexual activity with other people.
Has McCleneghan not heard of the word “masturbation,” I wonder? Sex with another person is a luxury, not a necessity. So why is he advocating that celibates start porking with another person?
I think the ending of that editorial gives it away: the author is not concerned with respecting celibacy or celibates, but rather, trying to justify non-hetero sexual behavior. Notice that the author defends inter-sex, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, etc.
McCleneghan also seems to believe that it’s asking too much for a person to remain celibate for years. It’s not. I’ve done it into my 40s, anyone can do it. It’s a choice and self-discipline.
I find the premise of this guy’s editorial bizarre and it’s contradictory. He spends a good half of his editorial defending celibacy, the concept of it, but then spends the rest of the page telling celibates why he thinks they don’t have to be celibate.
He’s (or she? Not sure of the sex of the author) inadvertently knocking down their lifestyle, not affirming it. He’s basically chucking celibacy for singles out the window by saying, “go ahead and have sex if you like, just make sure it’s ‘affirming, nice’ sex.”
Edit. Another site is carrying the same story:
Bucking against conservative Christian tradition advising against extra-marital sex, the Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan, a married mother of three and associate pastor for ministry with families at Union Church of Hinsdale in Illinois, says single Christians can have sex as long as it’s “mutually pleasurable and affirming.”
Citing 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, many Mainline Protestant and evangelical churches like the Assemblies of God Church, advise against sexual relations among single Christians.
…McCleneghan believes it’s unfair to ask single Christians who haven’t been called to a life of celibacy to refrain from sexual intimacy when both men and women need sex.
… While some Christian scholars have offered praise for McCleneghan’s views, not everyone thinks her advice is sound.
“We are to be Holy people, blameless and spotless unto Jesus Christ. One man and one woman married until death, not extra-marital affairs (adulterous behavior) even fornication. That is sin that will lead anyone to eternal Hell. Please show me Scripture that backs up your belief,” wrote Trish Nastasi, a longtime married Christian woman on (Link): McCleneghan’s Facebook page.
(Link): Typical Erroneous Teaching About Adult Celibacy Rears Its Head Again: To Paraphrase Speaker at Ethics and Public Policy Center: Lifelong Celibacy is “heroic ethical standard that is not expected of heteros, so it should not be expected of homosexuals”
(Link): False Christian Teaching: “Only A Few Are Called to Singleness and Celibacy” or (also false): God’s gifting of singleness is rare – More Accurate: God calls only a few to marriage and God gifts only the rare with the gift of Marriage
(Link): Permissiveness, Cheap Grace, and Easy Forgivism Run Amok in Christianity – Dallas Preacher Todd Wagner Says Christians Can Use Heroin (parallel to topic of sex, celibacy) / Why some Christians turn agnostic
(Link): Asexuality and Asexuals