Get Real! I’m Becoming a Christian: How Can I Reconcile My Faith With My Sex Life?

Heather Corinna

Form-based ethics teach the Christian to ask the question “Am I allowed to do this?” Content-based ethics teach the Christian to ask “Am I truly loving the person or persons with whom I am doing this, including myself?”

This article is published in partnership with  Hugo Schwyzer co-wrote it with Heather Corinna.

kaylinha13 asks:

my name is Christine, I am 20 years old and I have had a boyfriend for
about 5 years. We have been having intercourse for over 2 years now but
recently, for about 3 months, I have started going to an apostolic
church and I am thinking about getting baptised and becoming a
Christian. But I have a question about what I should do about my sexual
life: should I abandon it until I get married now? Because this is
really weighing heavily on my morals. I have asked many friends in my
church on their opinion about this, and they tell me that premarital
sex causes to leave an open doorway for the devil get in so that he can
distort sex after marriage. I know that God will not love me any less
or be disappointed in me, but if you sacrifice something for God, it
will be so much better for you in the end. Everyone has heard that
silly line: "sex stops after you get married". I don’t want that to be
the case…so will sex be better in marriage or does it really make a
difference if I continue to make love to my significant other? Because
this sounds like a skeptical concept to me… please help!! Thank you.

Heather Corinna replies:

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I grew up with some Catholic and ex-Catholic family and can certainly
speak to your issues in some respect, I didn’t feel like I was the best
person to address them. I’m Zen Buddhist, and my spiritual belief
system and tradition not only doesn’t have a god in it at all, it also
has very different attitudes about sex (both in its core principles and
also among Buddhists) than most denominations of Christianity and many
Christians do. I also don’t view sex as marital or premarital. Given
all of that, I felt like you could use both an educated answer but also
one from someone who understood better what you’re grappling with than
I could, and could answer you in a far more personal way.

I asked my fantastic friend Hugo Schwyzer
if he’d answer your question instead. Hugo is a history and gender
studies professor at a community college, an animal rights activist and
an Episcopal youth minister. He’s very good people. I’m always so
impressed with the way he talks about sexuality and Christianity. I
think you’ll appreciate what he had to say.

(Just FYI for other readers, Scarleteen is space that serves
people of a wide range of spiritual belief systems and traditions. So,
when Hugo is talking here, understand it is in response to Christine
and her belief system: it’s not espousing any one belief system as the
only or right one for all of us.)

So, here’s Hugo:

Dear Christine,

Thanks for writing.

As someone just beginning a new faith journey, it’s understandable
that you’d be a bit confused by the messages you’re hearing from your
friends in church. Surely, they want the best for you, and they’re
giving you information based upon their own understanding of what it is
that God wants for us. But even though you’re very new in the church,
not even baptized, it’s perfectly okay for you to ask questions – and
maybe discover some answers that are different from the ones you’ve
been hearing.

First off, you need to know that a lot of what folks say the Bible
says about sex isn’t really in the Scriptures at all. There is nothing
in the Bible that condemns masturbation (the sin of Onan is about the
withdrawal method), nothing that condemns loving and mutually committed
homosexual relationships, and very, very little about pre-marital sex.
The references in the New Testament to “sexual immorality” and
“fornication” are based on a very loose translation of a single Greek
word, “porneia (yeah, we get the word “porn” from it) which is better
translated as “adultery.” Adultery, of course, is sex that breaks a
commitment to someone else. If you were to cheat on your boyfriend (or,
if you guys get married, your husband), you would certainly be
committing “porneia”. But sex before marriage between two people who
are not committed to others? Most scholars think the Bible says nothing
about that at all.

Let me suggest, Christine, that God cares more about the content of
our sexuality than he does about its form. Traditional Christian sexual
ethics are often discussed in the context of what Christians can and
can’t do. Some Christians will often say things like “the only form of
genital contact sanctioned by God is that which happens in a marriage
between one husband and one wife.” The implication is clear: if you get
the “form” (heterosexual marriage) right, then the sex that follows is
okay. If you haven’t got the form right, then you’ve “fallen short of
the mark.”

But “form-based” sexual ethics clearly have their problems.

For example, it ignores entirely the great likelihood that coercion,
disrespect, and force can take place within marriage. The Churches did
not start condemning marital rape — or even acknowledging that such a
concept was possible — until the second half of the twentieth century.
Is a situation in which a husband demands sex from his wife against her
will somehow more in keeping with the spirit of Christ than a situation
in which two unmarried people make love with mutual enthusiasm? If
you’re a stickler for “form-based ethics”, you bet. For the most
traditional of theologians, marital rape is less of a serious sin than
homosexuality or pre-marital sex, because form matters more than

“Content” based sexual ethics are concerned with the way in which
people, in the process of being sexual, value themselves and their
partners. Content-based ethics are deeply concerned with mutuality,
with pleasure, and with the willingness of each partner to take
responsibility for the physical, spiritual, and emotional consequences
of what is done. Form-based ethics teach the Christian to ask the
question “Am I allowed to do this?” Content-based ethics teach the
Christian to ask “Am I truly loving — in every sense of the word — the
person or persons with whom I am doing this, including myself?”

As for marriage, there’s no evidence that sex before marriage ruins sex after.

I know a great many happily married people (my wife and I are two of
them) who had great sex while they were dating – and great sex after
they were wed. God isn’t in the business of punishing people for
pre-marital sex by making the sex they have as husband and wife tedious
and unfulfilling! What makes sex in any long-term relationship seem
stale is a lack of communication and the habit of taking one’s partner
for granted – and that can happen just as easily to folks who were
virgins on their wedding night as it can to those who weren’t.

Good, just, and spiritual sex can happen both inside and outside of
marriage. And I’m certain that the God you’re just starting to get to
know, Christine, cares more about the care and concern that you and
your boyfriend share together than he does about the fact that you’re
not married.

Focus on the way you treat each other – the content of your
relationship – and give thanks for the pleasure you both give and
receive. Your friends may quote to you Hebrews 13:4, the chapter which
is often mistakenly used to condemn pre-marital sex. (It only condemns
infidelity and sex with underage prostitutes if you read the Greek
closely). Focus instead on Hebrews 13:15, from the very same chapter.
It says that the best sacrifice is the “sacrifice of praise.” You know,
even atheists sometimes cry out “Oh God!” when they orgasm; that’s
giving thanks for the gift of receiving and sharing pleasure. God made
our bodies to give and receive intense joy. When you make love with
your boyfriend, thank God for giving you that power and that

Here are a few links at Scarleteen which might also help you out:

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