Monday, December 23, 2013

Phil and Paul on Sexuality

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

A couple brief caveats before I get to the point. First, I have only watched the first season of Duck Dynasty, because we don't have cable and it is the only season you can watch for free on Amazon Prime. I love the show. I love the redneck banter and the wholesome prayer at the family table at the end of each show. I may end up even buying the rest of the seasons. I never dreamed of looking to these bearded men for sexual ethics. I just enjoy watching them blow stuff up. 

Second, and this is related to the first point, I have no interest in judging the heart of the actual Phil Robertson. I know millions of people apparently feel they know him because of what they have seen on TV and what they have read in his autobiography (which, by the way, according to the GQ article even Phil himself hasn't read!), but we have no idea who this person really is. So, in this little piece, my comments are not meant to be a judgment about the "actual Phil," but about the "textual Phil" (shall we say) that is revealed in his comments in this interview. I say this because you cannot reduce a person down to a few comments in an interview and make a sweeping judgment about their character. 

That said, the textual Phil has some rather big issues.

Understandably, everyone has focused on the comments he made about the sin of homosexuality and his rose-colored memories of past racial relations. Many Christians have rushed to his defense by pointing out that, though he articulated it roughly, he is just proclaiming biblical sexuality. Phil alludes to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which lists a series of sins that, unless repented of, will keep someone from the kingdom of God. Included in this list are two words that seem to indicate some type of male sexual sins, but what precisely Paul intends is unclear. (A quick way to see what I mean without getting into all the scholarly debate is just go to, search for this passage, and then look at it in a handful of translations, and you'll see just how widely these words have been translated and interpreted.) While it is possible that Paul intends to condemn all male same-sex relations in this passage, it is, in fact, far from obvious that this is what is meant.

It is worth reading on in 1 Corinthians 6 what Paul has to say about sexual sin:
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” (12-16, NRSV)
Apparently, some Corinthian male Christians were going along with the cultural vibe that thought of sexuality as just something involving body parts. You get hungry so you eat whatever you want eat, you get horny so you have sex with whoever you want. Sexual desire is just a biological drive like eating, so why not fulfill it? It's just about body parts and biological drives.

Paul's response is to assert that genuinely human sexuality doesn't just reduce sex down to body parts. He tells them that when you give yourself to someone physically, you should also give yourself to them emotionally and spiritually. Sex shouldn't be divorced from intimacy and bonding. Sex should be holistic and integrated. Sex creates a "one flesh" union, which was an ancient Jewish way of describing a very close interpersonal connection. Sexuality should express and cultivate this type of deep connection with another human being. 

Overlooked in all the discussion about homosexuality and racism is the fact that Phil represents heterosexual desire in a very immature, unholy way. As a heterosexual married man, I don't think about the advantages "a vagina" gives me. I think about how much I desire my wife and want to be united with her completely and totally. Mature sexual desire is about desiring union with a person, not about "hooking up" body parts. 

I want to emphasize again that I am not saying that the actual Phil (who, again, I do not know) is not really committed to his wife and that he just values her because she has a vagina. I am saying that his comments here, take on their own, seem to express a view of heterosexuality that is very immature and incomplete. And unchristian. 

It seems that Phil reduces both heterosexual and homosexual desire down to a matter of wanting certain body parts. He doesn't seem aware that just as a Christian heterosexual man desires more than just inserting his penis into "a vagina," a Christian homosexual man can desire more than inserting his penis into "a man's anus." Whether you think homosexual relationships are all sinful or not, it is not fair or accurate to assume that the sexual desire of all homosexual men is on par with the sexual desire of an immature heterosexual man who only thinks about consuming and penetrating body parts. Just like mature heterosexuals, I am pretty sure mature homosexuals are capable of desiring interpersonal connection and inclusive intimacy. 

It is intellectually respectable, in my opinion, to disagree with homosexual unions on well-thought out and lovingly articulated religious or moral grounds. It is not respectable, however, to falsely reduce all homosexual relationships down to one's own level of heterosexual immaturity. 

Paul spent a good deal of time in 1 Corinthians 6 articulating a view of human sexuality that is anti-reductionistic. It isn't just about body parts and biological drives. It is about people coming together in a total union. While the debate continues in the church about whether two people of the same sex should be blessed in this kind of relationship, we should not forget that a discussion is never advanced by false testimony. Phil's comment about desiring "a man's anus" reduces all homosexual desire down to the most immature type of heterosexual desire, and that doesn't help anything.

1 comment:

  1. after reading this my BLOOD PRESSURE went down.. yes down, thank you Heath