4 Ways Christians Damage Sex

Jonathan Acuff explores how the American church has accidentally made sex more confusing.

The other day, pop princess Katy Perry said something interesting:

“I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen.”

I disagree.

Although that specific quote was about Lady Gaga, I think it’s indicative of something much bigger and much worse. Put simply, our culture has divorced God from sex.

I’ve long said that popular culture often acts as if God might have invented humanity and thus sex, but He was completely caught off guard that sex was an enjoyable activity. He was convinced it was a very clinical activity designed for baby-making. But then Prince showed up and told us all that sex was, in fact, awesome. Upon hearing this, God was as shocked as I was the first time I used the Shazam app on my iPhone to  tell me the name of a song I was listening to simply by me holding my phone near the speaker. (I swear, that thing is voodoo.)

That’s what we’ve been told. That God and sex don’t go together. And if you say something enough times, people start to believe it’s true. Even pastor’s kids like Katy Perry will reinforce the barrier between God and sex. You can’t have both in the same bottle. They’re oil and water. Cats and dogs. Spencer and Heidi. They just don’t go together.

So what has our response been to this dynamic, to the idea that God and sex shouldn’t be in the same sentence?

I’d love to say Christianity has knocked it out of the park and ransomed the beauty of this gift from the world, but I’m not sure we have. In fact, I think we’ve caused our own damage in four ways:

1. Sometimes, we teach guilt, not abstinence.

Lots of our churches and youth groups teach kids for years that “sex before marriage is bad.” And I agree with that message. I’ve seen the damages of premarital sex hundreds of times. However, the challenge is that’s only half of the message. I wish when we taught abstinence we would say, “Sex before marriage is bad, but sex when you’re married is awesome.” Because what happens is that during your formative teenage years, you hear over and over again about how bad sex before marriage is. And your head and heart shorthand that idea and just tell you, “Sex is bad.”

Then you get married, and on your wedding night, you’re supposed to magically, instantly shed all your guilt and fear about sex. We’re taught guilt for years and then left on the doorsteps of our marriages to figure it all out by ourselves.

2. We have very few ways to discuss it.

People often send me links to Christian stuff they think is funny. Every now and then, I’ll get links to “Christian sex sites.” The sites are typically forums where Christians talk in an honest and holy way about their sex lives. Now for the majority of us, that last sentence was weird. Let’s be real, our sex lives are not something we collectively talk about a lot in Christian circles. Our finances, our parenting, our jobs, our in-laws, deep regrets from the past—we’ll touch on anything in a small group. But broach some sexual topic at your next small group and people will look at you like you’re crazy. That’s off-limits. It’s supposed to be beautiful and holy and loving. And yes, the world is attacking it every day in thousands of ways, but you’re only supposed to discuss that on your own as a couple. Maybe you’ve had a different experience in small group, but we were in one that didn’t touch on that subject for the first three years or so.

3. We write 10 books about lust for every one book about the gift of sex.

God bless the stuff folks like xxxchurch.com are doing. Buy Breaking Free or the Samson Pirate book. I love both of those. I’m happy for all the work being done to free people from the bondage of sexual addiction. But I wish that for every time I heard about the poison of lust, I heard about the perfection of love. I wish every time someone preached on the problem of sex, someone preached about the untamed awesomeness of sex. The conversation has become very one-sided when it comes to Christians and sex.

4. We’ve made the crayon box pretty small.

Have you ever prayed before sex? Have you ever applied every ounce of God-given creativity you have to it? Have you ever made a Christian songs sex tape? OK, that last one is impossible, Michael W. Smith just doesn’t make music like Sisqo. But seriously, I think to some degree we’ve bought the lie that the world gets to have wild, crazy sex and Christians, holy folks like us, have to have black-and-white, two-dimensional sex. But what if that’s wrong? What if the God who overflows us with love and hope and mercy, wants that part of our lives to be as big and as colorful as two married people could possibly imagine?

Those are the problems, or rather some of them, but what’s the solution? What’s the answer? What’s the fix? Those are fair questions, but there’s no way I could possibly solve the sex situation in a blog post. Here, though, is what I hope.

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I hope that every time we say, "Sex before marriage is harmful," we’ll say, “Sex after marriage is neon awesome.” I hope that some well-designed, honest, Christian sex site will launch. (Feel free to use the variation, “Sexy Stuff Christians Like.”) I hope that Thomas Nelson and Zondervan and Baker and some other folks will release some wild books about the goodness of Christian sex.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Are we Christians getting it right or wrong when it comes to sex?

Jonathan Acuff is the author of Stuff Christians Like (the book) and StuffChristiansLike.net (the blog). This article originally appeared on his blog and is used by permission.

Top Comments

Alroy Ndhlovu


Alroy Ndhlovu replied to Deborah Ola's comment

If we are talking of God's requirement sex is to be had in a marriage relation. The fact that you will get married later does not nullify obedience. Obedience is not required as a future tense but as a present requirement.

Church is one thing. Churches twist stuff a lot these days. We are to seek the source of wisdom and that is the word of God. Man leaves father and mother and becomes one flesh.

But I don't want to preach. I just know believer or not we will all be judged by our actions and our actions will bring about their results.

I hope you do get married and that you may see an error in sex outside of its permitted spheres.


Okay Ana


Okay Ana commented…

Sex is great before marriage too! It's not like you have orgasms until after marriage, that's just stupid, it's stupid saying that, incredibly stupid. I don't even know why it's so important controlling the sex a person gets, you think it's awkward talking about your sex life with other people but you do tell people when to have sex, why does everything in the church has something to do with sex? It's terrible and boring when youth pastors or any kind of pastors talk to you about their sex lives and how awesome they are because they waited. And also, that whole "even pastor kids reinforce the barrier..." Pastor kids are human!! it's not like their bodies can't have sex or their brains don't react to sexual stimulation, so don't do that.
Sex is awesome, I waited enough and I'm proud of myself because I didn't do it at 15 like many of my friends, I waited until I was with the right person and until we both knew what we anted for the future and we could finally be together, I did it with a great man and I'm proud of that, sure we're not married but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen in the future, it's in our plans and it'll happen, but I'm glad we can have sex and enjoy it because we love each other and we'll stay together. Our relationship is great, even better than christian relationships, we don't have to worry so much about not saying or asking certain things, to get married soon because we'll suffer temptation.. just have sex if you want to, but if you're going to do it, wait, wait to do it with someone who you are sure will be one with you. If people in churches said that, I'm sure teens would get the message and wait for the right time, the right time does not necessarily means marriage, just think about it, years ago churches used to preach over kisses and hugs in relationships or wearing jeans for girls.. so this whole anti-sex movement will pass too.

Alroy Ndhlovu


Alroy Ndhlovu replied to Deborah Ola's comment

If we are talking of God's requirement sex is to be had in a marriage relation. The fact that you will get married later does not nullify obedience. Obedience is not required as a future tense but as a present requirement.

Church is one thing. Churches twist stuff a lot these days. We are to seek the source of wisdom and that is the word of God. Man leaves father and mother and becomes one flesh.

But I don't want to preach. I just know believer or not we will all be judged by our actions and our actions will bring about their results.

I hope you do get married and that you may see an error in sex outside of its permitted spheres.

Danielle Marse-Kapr


Danielle Marse-Kapr commented…

I feel like I've heard a lot of sermons, youth group lessons, Christian college things that are about marital sex being awesome. Really the whole thing is creepy. The church LIES so much about sex that I'm not sure they can redeem themselves at this point.

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Michael Evan Bertoni


Michael Evan Bertoni commented…

I think that traditional Christian teaching about sex asks us to deny our humanity. My wife and I have been married for 25 years - 24 of those years have been celibate because of the brainwashing that my wife received from her Pentacostal parents that sex was bad and that to even acknowledge that she had a sensual side was the unpardonable sin. Despite my best efforts in our first year of marriage, I was unable to help her get past her programming. The damage appears to be unrepairable. Aside from that, we have a good marriage, but it's more like friends that live together without benefits. I have to admit it's dampened my enthusiasm for church and created a lot of anger inside of me toward Christian teachers on this subject.

Alroy Ndhlovu


Alroy Ndhlovu commented…

There are two ways we can approach the issue of sex. The first way is according to our preferences and wisdom. Now if you are a true believer then we cannot substitute God's requirements for ours. The second is carefully following God's word.

Sex feels good all the time to some extent. If I am not married and I have sex chances are it will feel great. it is just a part of our make. But it will feel good for the moment and then guilt will come. That guilt comes from God's Spirit letting me know I have done something wrong. This type is not worth it.

There is also that sex before marriage for people that do not know God. This sex will feel good naturally but because God's natural way has been broken then heartbreak and all often result when people just sleep with one person after another. It becomes a thing, and its special nature is stripped.

Sex God's way is awesome. You sort of imitate the creation process. You unite flesh and bone. Two people become one in so many levels. Sex according to the Bible has the function of reproduction and bonding. Then God confines in in marriage because He see's it right for only one pair to be brought together in that way.

Many of us have messed this up but there is hope but only after repentance and reformation.

As for creativity in sex that is not Christian advice at all.

And books like Songs of Solomon are so misunderstood. We must not forget the Bible is God's message to us. So looking at it in that way we must be able to extract the poetry in the words.

Creative sex? That is worldly. Any creativity that would come out now would be a result of exposure to pornography or some tips published in various media.

That is a private matter. How we have sex is between a couple and they too are accountable to a God who considers all.

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