Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christian Case for Temple Prostitution

Erin Manning has a great post over at Crunchy Con relaying a Swiftian case for Temple Prostitution.
What are the biggest problems, practical and theological, that ... churches in America face today? I would submit the following:

--Inability to retain or reach out to young, single people, especially men. Think about it--on a typical Sunday in a typical Lutheran church, how many 28-year-old single men are sitting in the pews? How might we draw them in? What are their felt needs? [...]

--Declining revenue. Especially in a tough economy, we need new and creative ways to raise money if we're adequately going to fund critical ministries such as feeding the hungry or blanketing Africa with condoms. [...]

Now imagine all those problems solved with one simple innovation. The answer: temple prostitution.

I know, I know. Outrageous and offensive. I can hear readers already dismissing the idea out of hand. And I admit that we may not be ready for it quite yet. But please hear me out on this.

First off, let's address the common objections. Sure, there are a handful of Bible verses that might seem to condemn the practice. But all the condemnation of temple prostitution involves pagan practices or worship of false gods. The objectionable thing is the idolatry, not the physical act itself. Sanctified, faithful prostitution in service of the true God is a new thing. The Biblical writers never foresaw or contemplated sanctified, faithful, God-pleasing prostitution in the churches and thus never wrote about it. Attempts to find a Biblical injunction against the practice therefore fall short.

Secondly, let's not cherry-pick verses selectively. We don't stone disobedient children to death. We don't refrain from pork or sodomy merely because this or that verse says we should. We have to look at the whole Biblical witness in light of the freedom we have in Christ. For example, God ordered Hosea to marry a prostitute. Such Biblical precedent offers interpretive nuance to seemingly black-and-white prohibitions.
Funny stuff. Then comes the kicker:
[T]he things said by the writer about temple prostitution are exactly the things progressive Christians often say about things like cohabitation, homosexual acts, fornication and the like--that these things aren't sins, that traditional Christianity has gotten this wrong for the last couple of thousand years, and that really, if we understood Jesus as we should, we would realize that He approves of all consensual sex except perhaps adultery [...]

However we moderns ... may view divorce and contraception, the truth is that for the vast centuries of Christianity a Christian would have found the notion that any fellow Christian would ever approve of either, or insist that either was consistent with living a Christian life, to be every bit as funny as some of us today find the idea that a Christian church might approve of Temple prostitution. And there's a lesson there: we can't hope to strengthen and protect Christian marriage without getting back to the basics of Christian sexual morality, which means that we need to be as willing to examine our own favorite "exceptions" to this body of teaching as we are to focus on the exceptions that other people are insisting on creating.
Good point, Erin. Very good point.

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