Striptease, Biology and Perversion: C.S. Lewis on Sex

chicken_2Dbasking_small

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong,

But I have other reasons for thinking so:

  1. Biology: The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.
  2. Striptease: Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a striptease act—that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theater by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?…
  3. Perversion: You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful….We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

—C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian, pp. 127-128 (Reformatted for readability)

Using Your Imagination to Fight Sexual Sin

Like most men with a healthy libido, I too struggle with my oft sin-tinged imagination (yes, even as a very happily married man with a great wife and five kids.) And while I can quickly recall the seventh commandment regarding adultery and know Jesus’ words, “that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28), sadly sometimes those texts (and similar passages) aren’t enough to curb the imagination.

But herein lies the problem. I’m not called to merely curb my lustful imagination. I’m called to kill it.

Or am I?

God doesn’t call us to kill our imaginations as much as redeem them.¹ Jesus didn’t come merely to redeem your soul from hell. Rather, he came to redeem all of you for himself. So how do you redeem lustful thoughts? Surely there’s no one right way, but here’s what I often do: I imagine.

I imagine that 30 years from now, my three sons and I are gathered together. One of them asks, “Dad, were you faithful to mom all these years?” Then I imagine what would happen if I weren’t faithful to her, looking into my sons’ eyes and shamefully telling them I wasn’t faithful. I imagine how this might affect their marriages, their fight with sexual sin, their raising their children in a hyper-sexualized culture.

But then I also imagine a very different answer. I imagine that I have been faithful to their mother all of these years, and I could look into my sons’ eyes, and without a shadow of doubt truthfully say, “Yes, I’ve been faithful to your mom all of these years. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, it’s hard. But, by God’s grace I’ve been faithful to her.”

Yes, by God’s grace. But also with no small amount of redeemed imagination.

¹I fully realize that killing sin, i.e. mortification, is not an option for the Christian. But I consider the above exercise as a form of mortification, not antithetical to it. I also realize that the relationship between thoughts, imagination and fantasy is often complicated, as well as how sin influences both. Bottom line: there are many ways to kill sin (negative) and foster sanctification (positive). This is just one of the many tools in my arsenal that has helped me over the years. Your situation may be very different from mine (i.e. female, married/single, no kids, etc.). The question before us all is the same: How might a redeemed imagination look given your context? 

A Sex Addict, the Puritans and the Gospel: Ellie’s Story

Ellie Ellsworth is a direct descendent of Puritans Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Hooker yet didn’t grow up in a Christian home.

An actress in New York City hungry for acceptance, Ellie was a self-professed sex addict.

Watch this video to find out how Jesus changed her life:

Watch more fascinating stories about how Jesus ruined people’s lives in Redeemer’s New Birth Portrait Series.