Our Sexuality In God's Kingdom On Earth
By Dr. Adenike Yesufu
Introduction by Patrick Iroegbu:
What is our sexuality and how is it like for everyone? Can there be a difference in sexuality among God's people?
The topic of homosexuality raises religious and mundane fear, controversy, naive and in-depth natural and nurtured knowledge systems as well as the use of personal and cultural experiences to explain the concept of sexuality, sin, morality, law, human rights, bible and the God question, in addition to the inclusion and exclusion of population groups in society. No other topic has been hotly crafted and debated, energized, frowned at and names called on debaters more than on the issue of homosexuality in recent times.
I have personally been involved in various debates concerned with homosexuality, particularly in the social media columns. The recent Nigerian Anti Gay Law now in operation has provided a lot of focused debates on what is a valued sex culture of a people and nation. About 96% of Nigerians support the anti gay law and are prepared to argue anything to uphold the debate as a benefit to the country. In many ways, informed and uninformed arguments, including shouting down on other people's opinion has become the order of the day. Many lawmakers in Nigeria who rushed out the Bill and got it signed into law by the President of Nigeria still find it difficult to hold expansive debates to explain what is homosexuality.
One will quickly observe in any heat of discussion on homosexuality the pattern of saying - it is not our culture, it is western and therefore a wrong sexual frontier which must be killed as amoral and evil. Seen as Un-African sexual orientation mitigates a glossed way of explaining the sexual situation of same sex choices.
Lesbianism is in vogue in Nigeria today and it is being associated with Spirit Possession for its cause and interpretation. The main social forces promoting lesbianic lifestyle in Nigeria is being unhooked from poverty, unemployment and the excitement to belong and reach out to the big-men and big-women fun-seeking syndrome. Rituals and occult practices involved are spoken less. Yet the vigorous myth with which Prophetic Healing Churches are cashing on episodes presumed to be possessed by the Lesbian Captive or Possessive Spirit, if you like mami wota imagination is troubling.
We are yet to understand what this homosexuality is all about for Nigerian ladies immersed in it. It is in vogue and must be studied with a passionate policy to inform and redirect, not to impose laws that discriminate against them; and indeed, laws that will do little or nothing for a more valued transformation of their believes and practices of Nigerian life-styled Lesbianism.
Below is a powerful article written by Dr. Adenike Yesufu, a university don and a pastoral teacher and writer on issues of her interest. I took time and pleasure to read her submission. The article is very productive and I hope the debate on sexuality in God's Kingdom on Earth is very well discussed by the author with regard to the insightful perspectives, citations and reviews on the topic. By reading Dr. Adenike Yesufu's article, there is something one will discover - a genuine effort to grasp what is marriage, sexuality and homosexual fascinations and abhorrence in society and in God.
Dr. Adenike Yesufu writes that - Bishops in the Church of England which believe marriage can only officially take place between a man and a woman recently issued new guidance warning clergy they should not bless couples in same-sex marriages. The Bishops also said that people in a same-sex marriage should not be ordained as bishops, priests and deacons, nor should those in the ministry enter gay marriage. Quite some relief there!!! However the Church had approved the ordination of Gay Bishops provided they remain celibate, but the ordination of female Bishops was forcefully rejected The Church in an attempt to be politically correct adds that gay men and lesbians are welcomed into the Church and Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively to their needs in other ways. Meanwhile the Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches and some Pentecostal assemblies continue to avow that homosexuality is contrary to God's position "For this reason God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, men with men committing what is shameful and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due (Romans 1: 26 and 27).
The gay issue is not only being discussed in religious circles. The human rights activists are on the other side of the spectrum. Everyone is claiming to be right in the Nature/Nurture discourse. The nature people claim that homosexuality is genetic that those who practice it are born like that. One of the televangelist's response to that is not God is not prone to error. Men and women He made in his own image hence He made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. The implication is that God did not create anyone with that tendency. The Nurture group insists that homosexuality is a learned behavior because many homosexuals have been heterosexuals prior to their conversion or coming out of the closet. It is a choice they affirm. Homosexuality has also become a political issue. The British Prime Minister David Cameron recently vowed that the UK aid would be denied to nations that don't respect gay rights. While some African countries have threatened to send to jail those who dare to openly declare themselves to be gay or queer. The academia is not left out in the race with Gay/Lesbian Studies, programs and courses popping up in colleges and universities. Text books on gay relations, gay parenting, gay families, youth homosexuality are been reeled out at an alarming rate by writers and publishers. The gay movement is so vehement that some people have wondered if there is a gay agenda that is being advanced and moved by some unknown hands.
In all these I allowed my thoughts to dwell on what is happening to human sexuality in God's kingdom on earth. Homosexuality, bisexuality, same-sex union/marriage, ordination of gay priests, are not the only sexual issues confronting Christians of today. God's Kingdom on earth has continued to be severely assaulted by various definable sexual issues. Malcolm Muggeridge says Society has sex on its brain; it is a very uncomfortable place to have it. I remember The Thorn Birds, the movie based on the novel by Colleen McCullough. I also remember Richard Chamberlain's excellent performance as Father Ralph. Many people would see the Thorn Birds as a love story. But I see a priest's intense struggle with his spirituality (his love for God) and his sexuality (his human passion). There is no doubt that Father Ralph loves his God more than he loves the woman of focus as he claims in the movie. In spite of his unflinching commitment to God and his vocation Father Ralph succumbed to the lure of the flesh. For me this story represents the sexual struggles of many Christians in today's world.
World Health Organization in 1992 said that sexual intercourse occurs more than 100 million times everyday around the world. For all its frequency however sex remains a private individual matter in many cultures and at the same time quite complex. Heterosexual relationship was inaugurated by God in the Garden of Eden when God gave Eve to Adam. The Bible introduces sex, and celebrates sex. It is given for procreation and for pleasure. All societies have social norms that grant approval to certain sexual behavior and disapproval of others. No society grants unrestricted sexual liberties. All societies control sexuality. Even as sexuality is God's gift to human beings, He places limitations on sexual practices, not to cause discomfort for His creatures but to ensure that physical relations are the most special and unique expression of love and trust a human being can bestow on one another. God's limitations on sex are positive. Without limitations sex becomes mere performance and everything is devalued.
Society continues to experience a sexual revolution that has led to changes in many areas of human sexuality over the past few decades. Young Christians are dealing with the problem of premarital sex, with abstinence being touted as unrealistic. The incidence of premarital sex which had low tolerance before has increased for the female. Attitudes towards sexual permissiveness have changed with people having a more tolerant view of it. With celebrities and many high profile individuals coming out of the closet, homosexuality is receiving a high five. Negative views about homosexuality are waning. Heterosexual parents are becoming more accepting of their children's new sexual orientation. Bisexuality is receiving legitimacy with the first female bisexual congresswoman just elected to office in the USA. Within the Body of Christ, homosexuals are claiming that their sexual orientation should not prevent them from fully serving God and therefore they should be ordained by the Church. Some are saying that God loves all people and He would never alienate any of His creatures. Therefore gay people should be welcomed with love in various congregations and even be allowed to integrate and be assimilated. Some Christian homosexuals are becoming more emboldened and are establishing their own local congregations in various parts of the world purportedly to have the freedom to worship God in any way that they deem fit and acceptable to God.
Some unmarried Christian adults are dealing with issues of sex in their intimate relationships, which the Bible calls fornication. Sexual relationships in non marital situation have become so pervasive that it has become the norm. Celibate priests are struggling with their vows, claiming that they can marry and still be able to serve God effectively. The Catholic Church has been under pressure to abandon its position of celibacy for priests. Jesus said that some people become eunuch for the sake of the kingdom. Hence celibacy is a choice and has never been imposed on any. The Bible also talks about the merit of singleness. Those who are single have more time for the things of God while he who is married cares about how he may please his wife. (1 Corinthians 7: 32). But then God says it is not good that man should be alone. The Bible also counseled that people should marry if they burn because it is better to marry than to burn.
Married Christians including men of God at the top of the hierarchy are struggling with the laws of attraction and are daily being drawn into extra marital affairs, which the Bible calls adultery. Jesus even puts a severe injunction on adultery. He says it is not just the physical violation but also engaging in thoughts about it. Sexual issues have become so overt with the incessant bombardment and assault by the media that it is definitely always in everybody's face and thereby almost on everybody's mind. Who can resist the temptation of thoughtful engagement? The Media generally permissive with sexual content continues to portray non marital sex as exciting, spontaneous sex as romantic, and engagement in sex with several partners as poly-amorous, extra marital sex as normal and inevitable. Indiscriminate sex is not related to unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. There are numerous shows and programs that focus on sensational conjugal infidelities, incest, child pornography, both male and female prostitution, mother/daughter rivalry over boyfriends and even pregnancies of unknown paternity. Many people even Christian adults have great interest in these shows, are exposed to them and watch them. The media has redefined moral and sexual values.
Infidelity has become the most prominent reason for divorce. Studies show that both men and women, some of whom may be Christians are equally engaged in extra marital affairs with the workplace being the most fertile ground for it. Many Christians are dealing with the issues of divorce despite the fact that God says He hates divorce (Malachi 2: 16). Christians constitute a sizeable portion of the 50% whose marriages end in divorce. Christians are brushing aside with deep conviction their marital commitment of till death do us part with the right to divorce if there is no more love in their marriages and of course if there is violence. Divorce has become the preferred option with the low tolerance that human beings now have for each other's violations.
Christians are having struggles with remarriages. Christian religious leaders, pastors and reverends have become serial monogamists. The Bible says that a woman is bound by law as long as her husband lives. Remarriage can only occur when the divorced spouse dies. This is being ignored and remarriages and blended families are on the increase. Some Christians are engaged in polygamy which is contrary to the Church's position of one man one wife, because their culture supports and accepts the practice. What happens to a polygamous man who becomes a Christian? Traditionally, the Church has urged them to divorce the women and keep one, but which one has always been the problem. These days the church does not impose such limitations and choices. Polygamous men proudly come to church with their multiple wives in tow, on their arms actually dressed alike for uniformity and identity. Today in many societies polygamy is being practiced in various forms because of the lopsided sex ratio between men and women. It is manifesting itself in kept women, official mistresses and children born out of wedlock by both single Christian men and women. And maybe there are Christian women out there engaging in polyandry. Who knows? Even old couples are wondering if it is christianly and holy to have sex at an advanced age. Does God approve? they ask. Who knows? All I know is that Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old when they were blessed with Isaac.
Genesis 2: 25 says the two shall become one. That certainly speaks of sexual relations but the Bible never limits it to one dimension. The fact is that if people in intimate relationships are not spiritually and psychologically one, meaningful physical oneness is impossible. This probably accounts for the emotional estrangement and disconnect that is often seen among Christian people and others. Corinthians 7: 3-6 has the most important view of Christian sexual relations. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her and likewise also the wife to her husband. Proverbs 5: 18-19 also adds rejoice with the wife of your youth ………let her breasts satisfy you at all times and be enraptured with her love. However many in today's society rebel against the limitations on sex dismissing them as intolerable, dictatorial, austere and old fashioned. Ephesians 5: 33 says let each one of you so love his wife as himself and let the wife also sees that she respects her husband. Today submission to one another, mutuality and reciprocity are now deemed as archaic and non practical concepts.
Overall, sexuality has become thorny for many Christians. God's gift to humanity is its sexuality as well as its spirituality. St. Augustine says that our hearts are restless until they find rest in God. Paul drew attention to the perennial struggle between the flesh and the spirit. God's various commands and injunctions are designed to make life better for humans not complicated. If "Sex is God's Idea" as Earl Paulk suggests in the title of his book, why is there so much confusion about it among His creation? Just a thought! The Bible says as Christians we are in the world but not of the world. At times it looks as if the world has taken over the church in sexual matters. Que faire? as the French would ask. What should be done about these various struggles? I cannot claim to have the answer. It is complicated.
I think only God has the answer .But one word that comes to my mind is chastity which however is not being used in today's world. St. Augustine's prayer: Lord make me chaste, but not yet!!! is quite poignant. If not now, then when?