Driving home from another ministry excursion, I pass billboard after billboard saying there are sex shops nearby. With each sighting, my stomach turns with sickness, my face falls into a frown. I am tempted to ignore the anguish, to shield my thoughts, to avoid that which feels judgmental and ugly within me.
Instead, I take a deep breath and offer a prayer for healing and conversion: may all people revere every other human as sacred and holy. I wonder, though, what else does Christ need me to do with the frequent reminder that our culture has an unhealthy obsession with sex?
My haunted mind wanders as I continue to drive toward home. I remember when I was first introduced to what sex was made to be about, while huddled into a tiny rectory living room with other college students. Crowded together, a bunch of us awkwardly stared into…
[This is the beginning of an essay I wrote for The Mudroom. Continue reading here.]
Last weekend I went to a retreat with other Catholic sisters younger than 40. I met a sister who ministers as a hospital chaplain in St. Petersburg, Florida. In addition to providing presence to all the suffering and miracles in the hospital, she listens to the prostitutes who come in for care. Apparently, pimps buy McDonald’s value meals for poor women as a way to lure them into prostitution. When the women work for the men the name of their pimp is tattooed near their private area. I had tears in my eyes as I listened to the other young sister dream about a ministry of tattoo removal and spiritual and mental healing for the women who desire to leave prostitution.
The two things that I despise most about our human sinfulness are the sins of the sex and military industries. Violence and destruction destroy experiences of holiness and dignity. We take the gift of our God-given creative power and misuse it in attempts to prove ourselves. We misuse our bodies while we live lies.
Really, though, we can give God great glory with our bodies and our lives. Alternatives are abundant. Although we are small and powerless, we can unite with Christ to do great things in Love. In chastity and service humanity is healed.
Brothers and sisters: The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one Spirit with him. Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. –1 Cor. 6:13-15, 17-20
When I was a kid I was just as confused as everyone seems to be about what is right and wrong. I was persuaded by our dualistic society and its messages. Older Christians showed me that the New Testament taught me that we should live according to the spirit and not the sinful flesh. Did that mean my body was not good?
Soon, my students and I will study sexual ethics. I’ll emphasize that our bodies are really good and sex is very holy. We’ll examine how sexual desires can become destructive and dangerous when they’re not controlled: when we fail to use our bodies to glorify God. Rooted in Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and I’ll use this book and this website. The holy power of our sexuality is alive in everyone’s bodies. As we seek union, we are capable of creating new life. As we love chastely, we can truly give God glory through our bodies.
Our bodies are holy and alive with the spirit of God’s goodness, which is why they are built for the morality of the reign of God. We are children of God. We are free. As we give God our powerlessness, God converts us into temples of blessing. When we say “yes” to God’s love our bodies are made powerful for humble service. As we serve, we build God’s reign of healing and justice now. God is glorified.
The problem is that not everyone gets this. Sins explode and people are seriously misused because of our desire to be powerful and great. Martin Luther King, Jr. calls this the drum major’s instinct:
And the other thing is that it causes one to engage ultimately in activities that are merely used to get attention. Criminologists tell us that some people are driven to crime because of this drum major instinct. They don’t feel that they are getting enough attention through the normal channels of social behavior, and so they turn to anti-social behavior in order to get attention, in order to feel important. And so they get that gun, and before they know it they robbed a bank in a quest for recognition, in a quest for importance. . . Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. . . You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.-The Drum Major’s Instinct By Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We can be the servants, who with Christ, show the world alternative ways to live. As we serve, God heals, loves, redeems. As we place our powerlessness in the hands of God’s we are set free to be temples of God’s goodness. In our bodies God is glorified. We unite together in great love and become God’s colorful, healing, chaste body of Christ- the true living God.