A friend of mine has gone to a monastery to be a monk. Just before he left Kate and I were talking with him about what this meant for his spiritual journey. It was deeply moving and as he shared of his fears and anxiety of making such a radical commitment I found what he described to be familiar. I was reminded of when Kate and I moved from dating to engagement towards marriage.
This has lead me to wonder if we Protestants haven't missed something. Are the vows of marriage and the vows of celibacy analogous? Are we so confused about sexuality and marriage and gender because we have ceased to take seriously the theological importance of a celibate life as a permanent state?
Might I be a better husband if I could conceive of marriage as something related to and in partnership with the celibate life?
How is both celibacy and marriage informed by Christian eschatology? Is my marriage oriented towards the Kingdom, or is it oriented towards some form of disciplined pleasure? Are these at odds? If not how do they coincide?
As we conversed it was evident to me that part of what we were discussing was the degree to which we all are bound by our society's and culture's obsession with sex. "Having Sex" for pleasure and intimacy simply is ones right. When one chooses to abstain from this most (including fellow Christians) cannot understand or accept it as true. The only true sexuality is one that is articulated through "having sex."
How is one married in such a sexualized culture? My friend has caused me to realize that there is more to being married according the the Christian faith then simply choosing to live with and have sex only with my wife. The theological reality of my marriage should be clarified or else my marriage probably is Christian in name only; easily dominated by other conceptions of sexuality and human fulfilment. It is clear to me now that it is easy to be seduced by a culture that sees sex as the ultimate truth of self. If one is not "having sex" one is diminished as a person. If that is true than celibacy is a violation of our humanity. However, it is the conviction of my friend that he will be most himself when he is celibate. I accept his testimony and it makes sense. Jesus taught in responce to questions about the resurection that our sexuality and marriage as we know it will cease in the coming age. Given that teaching given my friends witness and the witness of centuries of devoted monks and nuns, how is my marriage oriented towards the Kingdom of God?
I am convinced in part it is through rejecting the cult of sexual intimacy and pleasure that is one of the religions of our time. Beyond that I am uncertain at the moment.
I invite your thoughts, or your answers.