...I kind of understand the eagerness to stake out this sort of “middle of the road” position on sexual ethics. It’s the sort of “respectable” social conservatism that allows for everything sophisticated readers of The Atlantic might want–seriousness and purpose without the backwardness of chastity.
Or at least the appearance of seriousness, anyway. It also presupposes the sort of “make your own meaning” approach to sex that stands beneath the sexual malaise in our culture. Consider this as a good rule of thumb: if you have to resort to describing your sex as “meaningful,” then maybe that’s because functionally its not. Meaning isn’t made: it’s discovered, lived out, revealed to us over the course of our lives. No writer sets out to write a “meaningful novel,” or no very good writer does anyway. Because the meaning of things aren’t determined by fiat. They inhere in things and we respond to them.
Of course, to say that drives one into the possibility that maybe sex has a meaning in our lives that we don’t get to decide. What that meaning is, of course, might be in question. The traditional Christian answer, I think, has been to tie sex to marriage, and marriage to babies. We’re clearly losing the stomach for that one, though, both inside and outside the church. Still, the advantage of the traditional Christian sexual ethic is that it offers us sex without qualifications: sex in itself, the meaning given not made, in all its distinctive glory and freedom.
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