Sunday, November 23, 2014

Traditional Sexuality, Radical Community

Corey Widmer
Oct 03, 2014
 
I looked nervously across the table, fidgeting with my coffee cup. Do you realize what you’re asking of me? he questioned. We’d been meeting for more than an hour, talking about his struggle with same-sex attraction and his decision about whether to enter into a more intentional relationship with his boyfriend. He’d been part of our church and community group for a couple of years, always intelligent and effervescent, exhibiting many marks of a mature Christian. Yet my friend’s dark internal struggle had finally reached its culmination, and here we were together in a coffee shop, grappling with the reality of his decision.

Do you realize what you’re asking of me? I did. I was asking him not to act on his same-sex desires, to commit to a celibate lifestyle, and to turn away from an important romantic relationship. Yet as I reflect on that discussion, I now realize I didn’t fully understand what I was asking of him. I was asking him to do something our church community wasn’t prepared to support. I was asking him to make some astonishing and countercultural decisions that would put him out of step with those around him. In many ways, I was asking him to live as a misfit in a community that couldn’t yet provide the social support to make such a decision tenable, much less desirable. No wonder he walked away.

Several years have passed since that conversation, but it’s convinced me of the vital relationship between sexuality and ecclesiology. There are many churches like ours that believe there are two possible paths for followers of Jesus to live obedient sexual lives: heterosexual marriage and sexual abstinence. But among churches that are committed to a biblical sexual ethic, there are few, I’m afraid, that make living out that ethic possible for the average person dealing with same-sex attraction.

I’m now convinced any church that holds a traditional view of sexuality must also foster a radical practice of Christian community in which living out a biblical sexual ethic becomes possible and even attractive.

Thick Communities as Alternative Plausibility Structures

More than two decades ago sociologist Peter Berger coined the term “plausibility structure” to describe the sociocultural systems of meaning, actions, or beliefs that are basic to community life and tend to remain unquestioned by individuals in a given society. Had you told someone 50 or 100 years ago not to have sex before marriage, even if he transgressed he’d still agree abstinence “makes sense” and is “the right thing to do.” This idea was an axiomatic part of his plausibility structure, his shared sense of meaning with the broader culture.


But today, what the church affirms about sex and sexuality is so radically out of step with what’s commonplace in the culture that we cannot expect anyone to innately “get” the Christian view. Our beliefs are no longer part of the cultural plausibility structure. Yet the church often puts the demands of Christian sexual discipleship on individuals without creating social conditions to make those demands possible and attractive.
I believe one of the most serious callings of the church in our age is to create new, countercultural plausibility structures that make the demands of the gospel plausible, practical, and attractive.
I believe one of the most serious callings of the church in our age is to create new, countercultural plausibility structures that make the demands of the gospel plausible, practical, and attractive. If a gay friend is going to embrace a life of chastity for Jesus Christ, she must be able to look into the future and see not only the loss and pain but also the possibility that a real fulfilling life can be lived. If we don’t work at this task, if we don’t create the kinds of communities in which the countercultural lifestyle we’re advocating is supported and upheld, we’ll continue to see people choose plausibility structures that make more sense and have greater support from the culture.

Read more at http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/traditional-sexuality-radical-community

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