Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Christians have hotter sex?

When my friend Dave sent me a link to an article from Psychology Today with the the title "Do Religious People Have a Hotter Sex Life?" it got my attention. I am in the midst of a three-week sermon series that is focused on women and that the third of these sermons addresses how men and women relate in the bedroom.

And then there is my choice in vocation. Most would agree that a pastor qualifies as a "religious person," so it would appear that the article speaks directly to my profession.

Then again, not quite the way I thought it would.

In short, the article suggests that religious people are having lots of sex. Just not with their spouses, unfortunately. Dr. Nigel Barber, the article's author, has the research to back up his claims. Consider these troubling statistics:
  • A study of people that have sex in public restrooms reveals that the "typical" participant is "married and religious."
  • Residents of highly religious states spend more time viewing internet porn than do the residents of less religious states.
  • A study showed that the level of agreement with the statement, "Even today miracles are performed by the power of God" was associated with higher pornography consumption.
  • States that have banned gay marriage have 11 percent more porn subscribers.
  • Finally, residents of states that claim to adhere to old-fashioned family values purchase considerably more porn than those that do not.
Why the inconsistency?

Dr. Barber suggests that one of the causes might be what psychologists call "the white bear effect." That is, tell someone not to think about a white bear, and that becomes all they can think about. With regard to sex, he opines that a similar effect may be at work. The more religions tell people not to engage in illicit sex, the more they want to do so.

Although Dr. Barber might disagree - he recently authored the book Why Atheism Will Replace Religion - I think there is something deeper at work here. A spiritual dimension. Christians call it, "spiritual warfare." The Apostle Paul put it this way:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The church of Christ in ancient Corinth knew something about spiritual warfare.  In his letter to these Christians who were acting as salt and light in a culture that was imbued with sexual licentiousness, Paul urged his fellow Christ-followers to win the battle of the mind. He told them to "take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." 

In this respect, maybe Dr. Barber is on to something. The solution is not simply, "try not to think about it." But rather to embrace sexual thinking; to acknowledge the thoughts and redirect them. To take them captive.

For too long Christians have tried to refrain from indulging their sexual appetites when, in fact, we need, instead, to retrain them on the spouses that God gives us to enjoy. Here again, Paul speaks to this:
   Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations. But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.   The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.   Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
 In short, Paul counsels the Christian husband and wife to have sex, and lots of it.

It would be interesting, and probably more than a little illuminating, to learn how the level of sexual satisfaction within a Christian marriage relates to the statistics cited in the aforementioned article. I frequently tell couples that each of them is their spouse's first and best line of defense against sexual temptation. In other words, something that our great-grandparents said is probably quite true: when the home fires burn brightly, a man (or woman) is less likely to seek warmth somewhere else.

 I suggest you and your spouse test that theory out. Frequently.


David Mowry said...

A lot of what you mention in this post can also be taken from the book Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Leman. He iterates many times (from the few chapters I've read ;-) ) that marital sex is the best thing you can do for your marriage.

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