Sex and the single Christian

This is a bit personal. If you don’t come here for that, please turn away. (If my mother reads this, she may want to stop now.)

I am divorced. If I never remarry — which the United Methodist Church allows but Jesus seems a bit more restrictive about — I will not have sex again in my life, or if I do, I’ll be violating both my vows as a provisional and (someday) ordained elder and my understanding of God’s will for human sexual behavior.

Does that mean I — as some people seem to argue — am consigned by United Methodist teaching on sexuality to being less that fully human?

In our church wars over sexuality, we throw around words fairly loosely. One thing that gets said from time-to-time is that the church teaching that sexual relations are only condoned within the bond of monogamous, heterosexual marriage somehow does violence to people who wish to have other forms of sexual relationship and denies their full humanity.

These arguments are usually made in advancement of a point comparing same-sex and traditional marriage, but I wonder how often the people who make such arguments consider Christians who are single. Do we really think they are subhuman?

And let’s be clear, Christian single people do not refrain from sex because they are not interested in it. By choice or by circumstance, they do not marry. But that does not mean they have no sexual feelings or desires. It means they — we — are called upon to discipline those feelings and desires in obedience to God, just as we are called to discipline other desires that are contrary to God’s intention for human beings.

It is unfortunate that our church provides so little support for single Christians in this challenging and deeply counter-cultural stance. I will confess that it did not impinge much on my mind before my divorce. But I’ve had readers who have raised it and circumstances have given me cause to wrestle with these questions.

Are single people fully human, even if they never have sex?