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Why the Church Should Have More Sex

Church would be a lot more interesting if there were more intercourse going on.

OK, I know this sounds crazy. Just hear me out.

We’ve resisted it for centuries, but I think it’s finally time for us to give into temptation. After all, God created sexual reproduction as the primary way that life happens; why wouldn’t we want to get in on that action? Sure, there are species that reproduce through fission, but that’s boring. Asexual reproduction is just another word for cloning, which is about as creative as a widget factory churning out thousands of toasters and electric alarm clocks.

Sex is where it’s at. It’s when we come together, in all our difference, and agree to make something totally new. Not quite me, not quite you, but a new creation that defies all prediction and human control.

For centuries, most Christian communities have taken a strictly celibate approach to our faith. We’ve walled ourselves off from each other, seeking to grow only through mechanistic cloning. For so long, Episcopalians have been busy preserving their liturgy, while Quakers carefully guard their distinctives, and Presbyterians maintain good order. So many of us have been convinced that our little tribe has the one and only genuine article; we’ve rarely been willing to learn and grow, to adapt and co-create with others.

After all, sex is messy. Sex is vulnerable. It’s unpredictable, with consequences that are totally out of our control. It results in progeny that will have totally different thoughts, feelings, reactions, and dreams than its parents do.

And that’s exactly what we need.

Look around you. Look at all those clone churches. Struggling. Shriveling. Dying. The spiritual sterility of much of the established church in North America is no accident. Our long history of chaste cloning is coming to its natural conclusion. What we need at this point aren’t more replicas of 1950s church culture; we need fresh expressions of the kingdom of God, living out a unique mission in a rapidly changing culture.

That requires us Christians to get together. To know and love each other. To trust and work alongside one another.

It’s a radical idea, I know.

What if we Quakers stopped trying to clone our pristine Quaker past and instead partnered with Episcopalians, Pentecostals, Baptists, and Brethren to give birth to something entirely new? What if we had the courage to let the living power of Jesus Christ relativize our dogmatic traditions, rituals, processes, and documents? What would it look like for the Holy Spirit to play jazz with all the raw materials that each of our traditions bring to the table?

This doesn’t mean throwing tradition out, any more than parents throw their genes out when they conceive a child together. It’s about allowing everything about us to become the raw material for something new, something wonderful. It’s about re-mixing, re-combining, daring to face the unpredictable work of the Holy Spirit who inspired our traditions in the first place!

I have no idea what would happen if we truly broke down those barriers and got that intimate with one another. There’s no way to predict what kind of spiritual progeny might emerge from such a union. Fortunately, we don’t have to. If we’ll get out of the cloning business and start focusing on loving one another, all sorts of crazy, delightful things can happen.

What do you think? Could you use a little bit more love in your life? Would your tradition benefit from a deeper partnership with others? How can we grow deeper and stronger through risky co-creation together, leaving behind the cloning impulse that has predominated for so long?

Related Posts:

Love Beats Tradition Every Time

The Great Evangelical Break-Up

  • Mark

    Great, thought-provoking post, Micah. How do you think the age imbalances of church attenders play into this reactionary attitude toward sex? What I mean is that many of the mainline or liberal churches are overwhelmingly older (40+), or families with young children. In my experience, aging, death, dying, and raising children are far more often considered topics of importance, rather than our intense, confused sexual natures. There is such a distance from the findings of modern psychology and gender studies on the complexities of sexuality and gender. Certainly most Quaker meetings I’ve seen are like this, too. Is it possible these people are simply out of touch with sex the way young single (or coupled) people experience it? Is it possible that teenage and college student sexuality is something the majority see as something to police, and this leads to a generally repressed attitude toward sexuality in general, in even the liberal churches?

    • Thanks, Mark. Of course, this post isn’t about literal sex between individuals, but rather about the kind of creative intercourse that can happen between communities, traditions, denominations.

  • Shasta4737

    I say yes to mixing church denominations. I visit several churches frequently. I like certain qualities about each one. I visit a pentecostal type of nondenominational meeting. I love the lively, joyful, true-believing people there, but I don’t like the anti-intellectualism. I visit a Catholic mass frequently. I like the mystery, meditative and sacramental nature — but then I have problems with some of the dogmatism and lack of vitality. I also visit the Society of Friends meeting where I grew up, and I like the liberal social values and caring attitude but not the weak belief in God that (I think) I perceive there. It would be wonderful if somehow all these denominations could meet together to form something fresh and new. It seems pretty impossible, though!

    • I think the real challenge comes with forming coherent communities that are the result of such creative mixing. For me, the goal is new life, not just denominational dalliances! 🙂

      • Shasta4737

        That sounds much better, Micah. I have too many “one night stand” denominational dalliances! 🙂

  • Duncan Pugh

    After seeing the number of empty pews at the once thriving Methodist Church of my youth on Easter Sunday I think this is the only way forward. I usually get my worship from BBC Radio 4 just to keep tabs on the different denominations. I enjoy the vast majority of the services and they usually have a moving and inspiring theme. Growing up as a Methodist in the 70s I do not feel that their views on sex or sexuality were particularly prudish even then. We used to have a group called ‘Teen Meet’ where we discussed many issues like sex before marriage and all points of view were accepted. It was quite a popular meeting and non-Church attendees came regularly … with hindsight I think sexual attraction had quite a lot to do with that!

    • Most social gatherings among young people have pairing off as a subtext!

  • Shannon

    I have to say.. every time I see an evangelical Christian mega church esque service, i think these people would be really responsive to a radical form of Quakerism if it were presented to them, and there might be some mutual learning. I mean we have things to learn from them too. And some of their forms would serve Quakerism well.

    • Absolutely! I think there’s a lot of learning that can happen in both directions.

    • Shasta4737

      Shannon and Micah, one minister of an evangelical, nondenominational, Pentecostal-style church I’ve attended is very interested in early Quakerism. He believes that the original organization was a lot like his denomination although he can’t understand some of the progressive changes of today. I was intrigued that he had read books about George Fox and other early Friends.

      • Early Pentecostals had a LOT in common with early Quakers.

  • Rene Lape

    Well, this was a sweet post to read for me. I agree that all of us – all the denominations – from the Catholic Church to the most quietistic Quaker meetings – sort of assume that they have it “right” while others have it “wrong.” Divisions have always been in the church, the ekklesia or community of those faithful to the gospel propagated by the disciples. If we could in some way come together, bringing the tradition, the connection back to the beginning, the gifts people have found in the gospel over the years – the dedication of those in religious orders, the emotional uplift found in evangelical congregations, the poetry of Episcopal/Anglican English translations, the focus on lay faithfulness and personal connection with Christ’s Light in us that Quakers understood – I think this would be something “new” as Fox and early Friends sought. I really don’t have a clue as to how we get there or how we promote it. Institutional structures and identities are hard to open, hard to change. But somehow we must be “one” even as Jesus and his Father are one (John 17:21).

    • Thanks, Rene. It came to my mind repeatedly as I was working on this post that you’d appreciate this one. 🙂

  • Yelena Tower

    This was a joy to read! Also sparked a lot of fear in me, which tells me there’s a lot to work on…

  • Jesus prayed that we would all get along (John 17). He’s still waiting for that prayer to be answered. What we’ve done instead is walled ourselves off into denominations – 43,000 of them.

    • And you know, I think a lot of those separations actually made a lot of sense at one time. But I think we’re in a different historical moment now, and we’re going to be stronger and more vibrant by coming together and seeing what the Holy Spirit can do with all the many parts of the body of Christ.

  • Sandra A Smith

    I am a Roman Catholic. One Good Friday we were asked to host a forum with preachers from Baptist, Episcopalian, and Methodist churches. We noticed that 1) only people from our congregation attended. 2)this took several hours away from our traditional devotions. 3) It appeared that our guest speakers wished to convert us. I attend Baptist, Pentecostal, and Quaker Meetings from time to time, and find them valuable. But please don’t change the traditional quiet meeting into a forum.