The Christian Tradition and Sexuality

Cranach the Elder - Adam and Eve"Our society is in a crisis over sexuality, in part because the churches have been paralyzed by fear of stepping away from the confines of the Christian sexual tradition to develop a responsible sexual ethic which not only accords with our scientific and experiential insights into sexuality, but which better accords with our understanding of the central revelations of the gospel. . . .  It is past time that we admit that the reason so many differ with specific conclusions of inherited sexual ethics is that the entire approach to Christian sexual ethics has been and is grievously flawed." (Christine Gudorf)

Rembrandt Bathsheba     



"The threat of the moral breakdown of western society and sexual and civil anarchy if the family ideal was not rigorously upheld, has kept the policing of the public's sexual mores a priority for hundreds, nay, thousands of years.  The Christian church viewed sexuality, particularly women's, as something potentially explosive and uncontrollable, capable of leading [hu]mankind into serious sin.  Sex had to be controlled and kept to its reproductive function.  Marriage was the only acceptable platform for the expression of desire and a convenient way to provide new, legitimate citizens.  Homosexuality and promiscuity were considered abominations, and nudity was stripped of its innocence by original sin: knowledge brought awareness of nudity, and with it shame, into the Garden of Eden.  Also, for the early Christian ideology to take hold, the old ways had to be discredited.  Pagan religions, with their strong matriarchal ties to nature, birth, fertility and magical rituals, sometimes involving nudity, were often portrayed as debauched and impure.  Sex and desire became pregnant with sin--only the weak succumbed to earthly temptation. (Michelle Olley, in Adonis: Masterpieces of Male Erotic Photography. 1999)