Spirituality & Sexuality
Love in the world religious traditions
What the major world religions have in common, is they all teach LOVE.
My definition of Spirituality: a desire to grow and become a better, more loving human being.
Therefore, one can be atheist and spiritual.
The central teaching of Jesus is to "love God, and love your neighbor as yourself." One does not have to be Christian to follow this teaching.
The Sacrament of Love
In some Christian churches, sacraments (< Greek "mystery") are external rituals that mysteriously bestow grace in your journey of becoming a more loving human being.
Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation are rites that help you in this journey.
There is one sacrament that is preeminent amongst all the sacraments for teaching and imbuing love. It is Marriage. Marriage is the Sacrament of Love. The Hebrew scriptures are replete with references to the metaphor that the immensity of the love between God and humanity is compared to the intense, passionate love between a man and a woman1; even direct erotic references are found in Song of Songs.
This sacrament of love does not begin on your wedding day or at a ceremony. It begins when you first meet each other which may be years prior. It includes friendly conversations, dating, going to movies and parties, late night conversations, the first and fiftieth kiss, starry-eyed infatuation, and a stirring in one’s loins. ALL of this is part of the Journey of Love.
When I was a committed, celibate priest, women and men came to me for pastoral counseling; many were married, engaged, or dating. Over the years I observed that these people know more about Love than me. In relationship, you talk, dialogue, compromise, and discuss. You learn empathy, how to listen, how to be self-less, how to be loving and caring. You may have differences in your values. Or differences in libido. Or have different political affiliations. As a celibate priest living in the rectory, because I was not in a romantic relationship, I was at risk for being complacent about my spiritual growth. My congregation put me on a pedestal. I could become arrogant, aloof, and uncaring, and I would likely not be challenged. That cannot happen in a thriving relationship. It is truly a beautiful vehicle for becoming a more loving human being.
While celibate or filial relationships can be immensely satisfying and growth-inspiring, a specifically sexual relationship is distinctive. A sexual relationship has the potential to bring out joy, beauty, communication, passion, intensity, urgent longings, shame, anger, and fear. These are the elements of the Human Condition. Sexuality is a God-given gift we humans can use to grow to become better people.
1 Although I reference scriptural passages that mention love between a man and a woman, I include the romantic love between two women, two men, or any two humans as partaking in this same sacrament of love. Since it is the depth of love that prompts us to grow, it matters not the gender nor the orientation of the couple.