Pastors and Sexual Advice

I tried to go without commenting on this, but found that I couldn’t resist. And yes, that means I run the risk of doing the very thing I’m advising against.

Generally, I think it’s not a good idea for pastors to get involved in giving sexual advice, certainly not to large crowds at a time. I mean our intimate lives are, well, intimate, and maybe advice about sex is best saved for marriage counseling sessions. Call me a prude (but I bet my congregants are breathing sighs of relief right about now).

But Pastor Ed Young from the Fellowship Church feels otherwise. And I will grant that he deserves major, major credit for being frank and relevant about sex, which Christianity has a bit of a reputation for ignoring or worse. Pastor Young recently challenged his (married) congregants to strengthen their marriages and their overall quality of life by having sex  for seven consecutive days. Now, let’s leave aside for the moment that at least half of my congregation are singles– he told his singles to ‘eat chocolate cake’– and the fact that he and his wife proudly testified to their near-success in this challenge (which, I mean, is not something I’d like to share from a pulpit) I see at least two issues here.

Seven consecutive days? That seems to place a focus rather more on quantity than quality, and I don’t think that is a positive step for a marriage. Can relationships benefit from increased physical intimacy? Sure. But not if it is a bit of an obligation. That strips the spontaneity and a fair amount of the romance and sexiness out of the moment.

I’m trying very hard to not make this a gender thing, but some people (some are men and some are women) measure their satisfaction in their marriage or relationship or intimate life by sexual markers (quantity and/or quality), while others do not. Put simply, you can have a whole lot of sex and not improve the quality of your relationship if either you or your partner doesn’t measure closeness and satisfaction that way. Would you not be better served by attuning to your partner’s needs and desires– physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, however– than assuming that just because the person speaking enjoys sex and finds that it strengthens his marriage, you should too?

But probably the kicker here is the source. Can you imagine how that gets played out in congregants’ homes?

“Honey, are you ready for a little ‘intimate time’?”
“Aw, not tonight; I’m frankly kind of bored of it since we’ve been at it the past five days.”
“But, baby, Pastor said we should.”

Going out on a limb, but I think any sexual proposition that contains the phrase ‘pastor said so’ is bound for failure.

You want my advice to couples?

For seven consecutive days, spend quality time with your significant other, doing something you or they enjoy (which may or may not be a physical something, and I’ll bet when the physical something does happen–and it will– the quality is improved for both partners). Watch a movie *while sitting together*, cook a delicious meal, play a card game, go dancing, take a walk holding hands, whatever. And the best part? Singles can spend quality time doing the things they enjoy, too. Paint, read, (ice) fish, treat yourself to dinner, spend time with a loved one, turn your music up loud and boogie till you drop. Point is, in this hectic, frenzied season, take time once a day for the next week to do the things you love by yourself or with the people you love. And hey, if sex is what you love, go for it. But if you and your partner enjoy a to-the-death match in Scrabble, that can in many ways be just as special if you’ve intentionally taken the time to put your own well-being and the well-being of your relationship first on your list.

So go on, treat yourselves well. Pastor said so.

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7 Responses

  1. The entire messages (yes, it was a 2 part message, which you probably didn’t know) were about the intimacy and closeness…not just the sex. And your whole “pastor said so” thing is off base. In fact, Ed said specifically, “Don’t say, ‘Well, Ed said we had to.'” Listen to the messages that were delivered before you comment. Because you just might be shocked at what you hear – and not in the way you think.

  2. I think that part of the advantage of what this pastor was advocating is that a lot of times clergy do not talk about sex, and it perpetuates the myth that Christianity is anti-sex. Apparently some non-Christians were taken aback by this article. I wasn’t, but I already know that Christianity isn’t anti-sex… but it gets treated by a lot of people as a necessary evil. I’m glad that he said something to counteract that.

    I certainly don’t disagree with your advice there, but personally I think that sex falls under a different category of relating than spending time together, eating dinner, playing Scrabble, etc. Hubby and I spend plenty of time together and that’s never been a problem for us. (Ask me again once we have kids!) We did try this experiment earlier this year… well, without going into detail, I think it could have had beneficial effects different than those of quality time. Both are needed, of course! Also part of the idea here might be that a lot of people get out of the habit of having sex regularly. Getting over the hump, so to speak, might be what it takes to kick-start some people again.

  3. @ab,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I certainly meant to give no offense, but to generate discussion! I’m glad that the messages focused on a wider range of intimacy, indeed. Just speaking for myself, however, I still think it’s a kind of odd pressure, and again, if it were me, not thinking that Ed recommended more sex would be like trying not to think of a pink elepahnt when somebody mentions it. Again, thank you for commenting, and I am sorry that I spoke/wrote without having had access to the messages.

    @bitterlight,

    I definitely agree with you that it’s a good thing to break the taboo about sex that church so often wrestles with. As an insider, my perspective has never been that the church is anti-sex– in fact, the more conservative the church I’ve been a part of, the more sex was talked about and lauded, granted within the context of husband and wife only. I guess my point is that people need to attend to their partner’s needs, sexually and otherwise, and we can’t just assume that the need that needs attending is the sexual one. Like I said, you can in fact have a lot of sex and have a miserable relationship. I’m advocating that partners know each other well enough (or ask if they’re unsure!) to be able to give one another what they desire in the realtionship. Sometimes, yeah, what’s needed is physcial intimacy in a variety of expressions, but sometimes what’s needed is a conversation about hopes and dreams, or a walk along the beach. I guess it sort of tips my hand a bit, but I personally feel closer to my husband after we’ve had a really good/deep conversation than after really good sex. Of course both are needed, but he knows that both are important to me, and would never offer one to the exclusion of the other! Sounds like that’s not what this pastor was advocating, but I think it’s important to bring up nonetheless.

    Also, I think it’s very important to have advice that’s relevant for singles, too.

    Thanks again for the comments!

    Shalom,
    Becca

  4. I get the definite impression that there are a lot of former Christians out there who left the church (often as adolescents or young adults) because of what they perceived as it being anti-sex. So I was glad to see this hit the media and see people start talking about it, because it put that message in the public eye.

  5. 7 days!!! LOL!
    I bet there were quite a few married guys in the crowd saying under their breath “I’d like it just ONCE a week”…. (OK guy joke done now).

    I once read/heard from a marriage counselor that when the marriage is going good, sex is 10% important. When it’s going bad, it’s 90%…

    For many busy families, just finding alone time for the spouses once a week is major undertaking indeed.

  6. @Dave,
    According to the article, that was the reaction of a lot of guys!

    I agree with you about the 10% / 90% thing. That’s kind of where I was going in my comments– doing what you and your partner love, whether or not it’s sexual.

    Shalom,
    Becca

  7. Just stumbled across your blog today, Becca, and I’ve really been enjoying it! 🙂

    It seems like telling marriage couples to focus on what brings them together and what they enjoy (whether it’s sex, playing cards, or whatever) is not only a way of focusing on the relationship as a whole, but it also seems like it’d be easier for the singles in the congregation to listen to. Otherwise, it sounds not only awkward or annoying for the singles but it could also a possibly painful reminder that they are single. And focusing on quality time together is even something dating couples can practice, too.

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