Christian Sexual Morality
Although Christianity is commonly thought to be a religion based on Jesus Christ's teachings, I use the word "Christianity" in this book for the teachings of the Church establishment. I am justified in doing so because the Bible has rcorded nothing from Jesus Christ on marriage and sex. The exception being the sermon condemning visual and physical adultery:
- Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart, And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
The first person in Christianity to talk on sexual morality was St. Paul. He says, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman."2 In simple words this means that the Christian Church teaches that celibacy is better than marriage, and that human body is not for sexual pleasure but for the Lord only. "The body is not meant for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body ... Do you know that your bodies are members of Christ?"3
But St. Paul knew that celibacy meant suppressing human nature, and human nature cannot be suppressed. He knew that if marriage is totally forbidden, then people will still indulge in it unlawfully. So he says, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife and every woman have her own husband."4 Then as if to prevent the people from forgetting the holiness of celibacy, he continues: "I say this by way of concession, not of command. For I wish that all men were as I myself am ... Therefore, I say to the unmarried and the widows that it is good for them to remain singles as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."5 In other words, marriage, when compared to adultery, is lesser of the two evils!
St. Paul further goes on to describe that marriage means distress: "Now concerning the unmarried ... I think that in the view of the Present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is ... Are you free from a wife? Then do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry shall have trouble in flesh."6
According to the Bible, marriage and pleasing God are antipathetic to each other. St. Paul says, "I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife and his interest is divided ... The unmarried woman care for the affairs of the Lord, that she may be holy in body and spirit; but a married woman cares for worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord."7 he concludes the Christian position as follows: "So that he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marrying will do better."8
So the Christian view on marriage, in its original form, can be summarized as follows:
(a) celibacy is good and should be adopted;
(b) in order to refrain from adultery, marriage is allowed; but it is regrettable and one should try his or her best to avoid it;
(c) marriage retards salvation and is antipathetic to pleasing God.
Three centuries after St. Paul, came a theologian known as St. Augustine. Like his predecessor, he believed that sex was a threat to spiritual upliftment: "I know nothing which brings the manly mind down from the heights more than a woman's caresses and that joining of bodies without which one cannot have a wife."9 He went even further than St. Paul by associating guilt with sex. He acknowledged that sex was essential for reproduction but argued that the act of sexual intercourse itself was tainted with guilt because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Sexual intercourse was transformed from something innocent to something shameful by the original sin of Adam and Eve, which is passed on from generation to generation.
In his The City of God, St. Augustine says, "Man's transgression [i.e., Adam and Eve's sin] did not annual the blessing of fertility bestowed upon him before he sinned, but infected it with the disease of lust."10 In short, he preached that: (a) sex was something shameful because of the original sin of Adam and Eve; (b) chastity and celibacy was of a higher moral than marriage; (c) celibacy was a prerequisite for priests and nuns.
1. Matthew, 5:27-29.
2. Corinthians I,, 7:1.
3. Ibid, 6:13, 15.
4. Ibid, 7:2.
5. Corinthians I, 7:6-9.
6. Ibid, 7:25-28.
7. Ibid, 7:32,35.
8. Ibid, 7:38.
9. Basic Writings of St. Augustine, p.455.
10. The City of God, p.21.
Adapted from: "Marriage & Morals in Islam" by: "Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi"
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