Christopher Hitchens has used the word "toxic" to describe the teachings of many Christian faiths regarding sex. My own experience as a Catholic "indoctronee" tells me this is not far off the mark.
While there is plenty of room for disagreement with the Church's teachings regarding the nature and purpose of sex, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, etc., these teachings are not what necessarily offend me most. As I recall the earliest days of my subjugation to Catholic education, one firmly-planted idea stands out more than most: the notion that Jesus, both God and the son of God at the same time, was conceived by, and born of, a woman who, the whole time, remained a virgin.
In the second grade, of course, I didn't understand what a virgin was. It wasn't until I reached adolescence that this concept jelled in my mind and I began to question why virginity was a prerequisite for the birth of man's saviour. The message I was receiving was not even subtle: sexual intercourse would have tarnished Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her image, as well as offended God himself. Why was it necessary for the Holy Spirit to be the vehicle for this non-corporeal impregnation?
To my mind, this doctrine of the virgin birth had the distinct effect of sullying the whole concept of sex, and in so doing implanted in my psyche the idea that sex is a bad thing. After all, if we were to aspire to be Christ-like, or God-like, then certainly we should not engage in anything that either of them would look so disdainfully upon. This was plainly an ugly first message about sex.
It took a while before an understanding of the normalcy of sex replaced the "toxic" notions instilled in me as a young person. I eventually learned that when sex is seen as the basic, instinctual human need that it is and not as a vehicle for sin and evil, it assumes a much healthier role in the development of mind and body.
3 years ago