Human Sexuality & Christianity

A Brief History of Christian Views about Human Sexuality

How did Christian homophobia arise?  Here again is one of those gritty issues for and about which we cannot find explicit instruction in the Bible. The Catholic Church has had a long-standing tradition about human sexuality that was influenced early on by the writings of Clement of Alexandria (AD195) who said,

“Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted.”

and later by the writings of St. Augustine (circa 400 AD) and St Francis of Assisi (circa 1200 AD) who viewed any sexual act not specifically intended for reproduction as sinful. Sexual libido, otherwise known as lust, was a sin even if not followed by the physical sexual act itself. In fact, St. Augustine went so far as to argue that the only reason a man and women should marry is to facilitate human reproduction with the grace of God.  

To find a modern implementation of this religious doctrine, one doesn’t need to look beyond some of our state laws.  Non-procreative sex acts such as oral and anal sex even between consenting adults is a criminal offense in thirteen states (Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia).  Four states (Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri) also prohibit sex between same-sex couples. It seems obvious that a fervent adherence to the religious tradition that sex is only for procreation and nothing more is the basic reasoning behind the decisions made by these states to regulate the non-productive sex acts of their citizens.

In keeping with this Christian tradition, the Catholic Church has historically maintained a stubborn opposition to any kind of birth control measure thus endorsing the notion that sex should only be for procreation and never for recreation. In more recent times however, the Church adopted a modern view of relationships by recognizing that family unity and stability depends on a mutual love and respect between husband and wife that is enhanced by sexual intimacy. To promote this newly understood view of human sexuality, Pope Pius XII, circa 1968, approved the “rhythm method” as an acceptable birth control measure.

One of the criticisms leveled at homosexual relationships by Christians is that they cannot be procreative.  But the Church’s approved birth control method seriously weakens this argument.  The approved rhythm method is the very acknowledgement that sexual relations do not always need to have a procreative purpose.