This is the first in a special series on Sexual Health by guest bloggers Dr. Bill Bixler and Greg Hill, LPC (see their bio below the article).
Gnosticism is a theological cat with more than nine lives. Its most recent resuscitators include Elaine Pagels, the brilliant Nag Hammadi scholar, and Dan Brown, author of the best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code. Gnosticism continues to live in a church context whenever a pastor places spiritual formation on center stage and relegates physical life and health to the homilectical and practical shadows.
One aspect of physical life which many pastors struggle with is sexuality, so they place it in the deepest, darkest part of those shadows.Pastors who ignore their own sexual health are not only flirting with Gnosticism, but are neglecting a vital and God-given part of their identities. Affirming the goodness of sexuality should include more than an annual sermon on Adam and Eve becoming “one flesh.” Spirited Life encourages pastors to move toward a healthier lifestyle, which includes proper nutrition, exercise, and timely physical and emotional health checkups. In addition, a healthy lifestyle needs to include a healthy sexual life.
In the Scriptures sex is not viewed as peripheral but as an essential part of marital relationship. For example, a battle-ready army was essential to Israel as it was occupying the Promised Land. Despite the necessity of a military fighting force at the ready, certain males were exempt from military service as follows, “If a man and a woman have been married less than one year, he must not be sent off to war . . . He must be allowed to stay home for a year and be happy with his wife.” (Deut. 25:4) Thus, for Israel, even national security did not trump the need to safeguard sexual and relationship nurturing during that vital first year of marriage.
So while the Bible shines a bright light on sex as good and right, it also is unflinching in its narratives of sex gone bad. There are almost too many examples to illustrate this point, from the tragicomedy of Onan and his spilled seed to the horror of the rape of Tamar.
Whether describing the Song of Solomon’s beauty of sex, or the David and Bathsheba ugliness, the Scriptures address the issue of sex and sexuality head on. Sadly, many pastors do not. By not doing so they leave themselves and many of their church members adrift in the struggle to live out their sexuality Christianly.
Pastors often focus their entire energies on spiritual concerns and church business to the neglect of their physical and sexual well-being. This unconscious homage to the anti-physical tenets of Gnosticism often carries a terrible price. Sex ignored can become master rather than servant. When that happens, sexual acting-out by the pastor is bound to occur and with it the tragedies all of us are familiar with.
In the next two posts we will be looking at how a pastor becomes vulnerable to sexual acting-out, whether with another person or via pornography. We’ll look at the factors that create that vulnerability and the various functions served by that acting-out. Lastly, we will examine what steps can be taken to develop healthy sexual attitudes and behavior, including making lifestyle changes which will greatly diminish the potential for sexually self-destructive behavior.
-Bill Bixler and Greg Hill
Dr. Bill Bixler (above right), a clinical psychologist, and Greg Hill (above left), licensed professional counselor, have both received clinical and theological training and are co-founders of the Center for Emotional and Sexual Health in Cary. They are certified sex addiction therapists and specialize in working with: couples coping with infidelity; individuals caught in sex and porn addiction; teenagers struggling with porn, sexting, etc.; and spouses and families traumatized by the addict’s behavior. They are also available to speak to church groups on sex and sexuality. They can be contacted via phone: (919) 466-0770 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Image by Pixabay user steinchen
What about the single minister and sexuality?
Dear Rev. Kitchen,
Thanks for your comment! This is a great question. We will submit it to the authors and we’ll post their response.