Christian Mythbusters

Christian Mythbusters

Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll: Part One

August 04, 2021

This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.

If you asked the average person what the church is opposed to, you’d probably get some variation on the phrase “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The phrase was first used in a 1969 edition of LIFE Magazine to describe the, in the words of LIFE magazine, “sacraments” of the counter-culture movement of the late sixties. It was then popularized even further in 1977, when British musician Ian Dury released a song using a version of the expression as its title.

But I’ve long thought the idea that the church is against sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll is not an idea that is terribly helpful, or even really true for that matter. And so, this week I’d like to start a three-part series breaking the myth of the Christianity and Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Let’s take them one at a time. So, this week we’ll start with Christianity and Sex.

You would be forgiven for thinking Christianity is against sex. In America, in particular, Christianity has long been connected to the puritanical movement that fled England before the American Revolution. Many evangelical traditions still have puritanical ideas about sex. I know when I was growing up, it was called “purity culture.” It made boys and girls feel very guilty for thinking about sex and also tended to blame girls for boys’ bad thoughts. Neither came away from the purity culture with a healthy understanding of sex or their body, much less questions of sexuality and gender identity. The purity culture was kind of horrible.

Alongside the puritanical impulses of much of evangelical Christianity is the moral theology of the Roman Catholic church (which of course is the largest denomination in our country), where sex is seen as the mechanism by which original sin is passed on and, technically, is only allowed when there is an intent to procreate children.

Now, you and I both know that neither evangelicals nor Catholics really practice much of that in their own lives, but that just means they spend a lot of their lives feeling guilty about their experience of sex and sexuality.

And I’d say, contrary to these widely held views, the church is not actually not really opposed to sex! At least, not the text of Holy Scripture or Christian theology or the Christian tradition when it is considered carefully.

In the Song of Solomon, for example, highly sexualized imagery of two lovers is used to describe the epitome of romantic love. There is a clear delight in the body of both people in the relationship. And rather than finding the book scary, Judaism believed that the passion in that book reflected the passion with which God loved Israel. Christianity finds within the Song of Solomon the passion that Jesus has for the church as the bride of Christ.

Jesus himself didn’t actually have much of anything to say about sex. He warned against using other people’s bodies for your own pleasure through lust. He also warned against discarding people through divorce. But in both of those, the ideal he is speaking to is how you honor another human being. And he is speaking contextually. So, clearly, not all forms of sexual passion are the lust he condemned and, furthermore, clearly there are times when divorce is about saving yourself from a damaging situation and not about simply discarding someone.

In the New Testament,  it is clear that the apostle Paul had some resistance to sexual excess, even urging people to remain chaste rather than get married. Paul allowed marriage as a sort of necessary second-best choice for those who would otherwise burn with lust. But when you consider Paul’s context, you need to remember that Paul truly believed (as did many of the first generation of Christians) that Jesus would be coming back literally any day. So, for them, marriage didn’t seem terribly important. It wouldn’t last.

In our own time, when sex within marriage is basically the only rule many Christians have, we’ve seen problems with that being the only thing you worry about. Because of that approach, we’ve seen the church turn a blind eye to issues of sexual violence and coercion within marriage. In our country, approximately 10-14% of women are raped by their husbands at some point during their marriage… and I would wager a fair amount of those are Christian men who think it is OK because they’re married and that’s all that really matters.

But that clearly cannot be all that really matters.

So, what should Christians do when it comes to an ethic of sex? Well, Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on two principals: love of God and love of neighbor. So, I would suggest that a Christian sexual ethic is one that promotes those aims: love of God and love of neighbor.

That means that abuse and coercion are clearly out of line because they are contrary to love of neighbor. A Christian sexual ethic honors the body of the other and the consent and mind of the other. A Christian sexual ethic would not engage in promiscuity because it creates such profound risk for emotional pain and damage as people become objects to be used instead of humans to be loved.

Most importantly, a Christian sexual ethic is reflective about how sex affects each person involved and strives for a relationship that is mutual, one that honors the other, and one that is not afraid to delight that is healthy and doesn’t do damage.

Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today.