Friday, November 14, 2008

The Inhumanity of the Megachurch Sex Marathon

Associated Press has a story on a pastor who challenged the married couples in his flock to a 7-day sex challenge (hat tip to the Ironic Catholic). While this phenomenon is not limited to megachurches, it has been a theme among some megachurches. Ralph Gardner Jr, writing for the New York Times, had an unforgettable quip. Commenting on a married couples who saw marathons as a way to improve their marriage, he writes: "That they thought a sex marathon would reinvigorate their marriages might say as much about the American penchant for exercise and goal-setting as it does about the state of romance."

To begin with, it is good that sex is affirmed as one of the goods of marriage. What's missing in these accounts, however, is the totality of the human experience. The most human way to affirm something is with awareness, consciousness. And if the affirmation is merely physical and quantitative, then it's not enough for the human person. For example, food is a good. Which way affirms the value of food more completely, more fully according the all the needs of human desire:
  • to eat as much as possible and as often as possible OR
  • to eat a good meal with friends?
Human beings need not merely sensory gratification and the satiation of instinct, but also need to understand the meaning, the value, the reason for their desire.

In the case of sex, intercourse is the form of the expression of love in which the husband and wife freely seek the happiness of the other, that is the whole happiness of the other, the destiny and total satisfaction of the other. And this happiness never remains alone but is oriented toward fecundity: including children, but also desiring a mutual fruitfulness in life.

If couples are seeking more satisfying sex, what they need is not necessarily more practice, but instead to begin to ask for more meaning, for a greater understanding of the significance of being instinctual creatures who enjoy each other sensorily and yet at the same time have an awareness of themselves and each other. Why is this given? Why are we made this way? If these questions are never asked, then frequent sex may lead to despair and a fear that desire is given in order to frustrate us.


MaryH said...

I'm so glad to see this, Fred. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. The first thing I thought was "he doesn't know anything about natural family planning." Then I thought "that's so sad."

Fred said...

Thank you, Mary.

It has come to my attention, by the way, that there is a similar approach among rigorists who reject NFP in all but the most extreme cases (so much for the role of prudential judgment!). I guess that's what happens when fans of the "theology of the body" focus too narrowly on the body and not on the totality of the human person...

Fred said...

See also Deacon Scott Dodge's positive look at "A Humane View of Human Life."