K ingdom Ethics This Is Not about Baseball There are two issues that are incredibly personal for me, central to my identity, yet I have never written about them: my sexuality and baseball. For someone who seems to process all reality by writing 750-word articles, it is notable that these two subjects leave me more or less speechless—or at least, article-less. I will save my first-ever baseball column for another day. But today I will try to write about sex, and in particular, male sexuality, and even more, my male sexuality, and still further, my effort with God’s help to construct my Christian male sexuality. It is such a primal force, this sexual drive. I can hardly remember a time in which this astonishingly powerful drive was not at the forefront of my thoughts and desires. Only now, at nearly 50 years old, does it seem to recede to take its place among a fuller menu of life’s good and pleasing gifts. I can even go three days without thinking about it! Wow, what a breakthrough! And all it took was four decades! I grew up in a quite secular northern Virginia community. Sex was in the air, in the music, in the movies, on the school bus. (Despite what some might imagine today, movies were actually more sexually explicit in the 1970s than they are today.) Not being raised in an especially countercultural family, I put up little resistance to the combination of internal and external sexual incitements that dominated my consciousness as a teenager. And so it was not at all easy to learn how to be an abstemious Christian teenager after my conversion at 16. Many things changed after Christ grabbed hold of me—I read the Bible every day, I prayed, I evangelized, I even learned how not to curse most of the time. But
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refraining from the sexual exploits that were available to me was much more difficult. Many were the Friday evenings that I drove home in despair, having violated my vows of restraint one more time. These encounters were not “intercourse”—such a quaint old word—but only technical virginity survived. I felt guilty, not just because I believed I was violating God’s commands, but also because I was hurting girls. Having grown up in a family with three sisters and no brothers, I knew pretty well how women worked and what they needed. I also knew that one could get pretty far with girls in exchange for some
David P. Gushee the centrality of this humble purpose for marriage that he not only married a nun, he also built his theological ethic of marriage around the necessity for a satisfactory sexual relationship, with the lack thereof one of his few grounds for a legitimate divorce. It takes a while for a married man to learn how to take the raging fire of his sexuality and wed it entirely, exclusively, and irrevocably to his wife. For years this phenomenon had been “mine,” but as of August 4, 1984 (our wedding date) it became “Jeanie’s,” or perhaps better, “ours.” It is one of the great things about meeting young and growing old with someone, this watching one’s sexuality become entirely and inextricably connected to one other person so that it becomes unthinkable even to entertain a passing fantasy about anyone else. My journey leaves me with a few clear conclusions. Sex is indeed a good divine gift, but we have messed it up. The sexual drive does seem to be more urgent and dominant and therefore more dangerous in men than in women. Marrying the right person young and for life is the best “remedy” for male sexual chaos. Without Jeanie my sexuality could have ruined my life and certainly would have hurt many women. And a society in which marriage is eroding, such as our own, leaves male sexuality dangerously unfettered. Luther himself could have told us what the results of that would be.
compassion and good listening. The latter came easily to me, and therefore so did the former. I hated myself for exploiting my skills to get what I wanted. The good thing is that I had been taught how to love, not just how to use the facsimile of love to get sex. I was both wired for, and saw modeled in front of me, the joys of marital love. I began looking for my own life partner by the time I was in high school. When Jeanie David P. Gushee is and I began dating at 19 we were both husband to one, father prepared to move into a courtship that to three, and director laid the foundation for a lasting marof the Center for Theriage. And Jeanie, with her iron will, ology and Public Life knew how to tell me no. at Mercer University, The Catholic tradition historically Atlanta, Ga., where he listed among its purposes of marriage is also a professor of this great old phrase: “remedy for conChristian ethics. His cupiscence.” Marriage exists to give the good yet fallen sexual drive a place to many books include Getting Marriage go. Martin Luther was so convinced of Right (Baker, 2004).