#RingbySpring: Let Me Be the One Who Says the Thing Behind the Thing


I get the caricatures.

A high schooler—male or female—chooses not to date until after high school. They arrive on their evangelical Christian college campus for Welcome week, starry-eyed & looking for the Christian unicorn we politely call ‘the one.’

They spend their waking hours combing through the possible matches. They spend their sleeping hours tangled up in fledgling fantasies of romance & being made complete by this ‘one.’ They wake up with a tunnel vision that never goes away.

At Bethel—the Christian college I belong to—we might feel the pull to a romantic relationship, but all pretty much hate that narrative.

I’m one of them. There are too many holes in that story not to hate it.

If there is ‘the one’ for you, then what if you mistake them? What if you marry the wrong one? What if you don’t ever meet? What if all of this is null anyway because it lends itself to a Western lie that the height of romantic love is at the beginning? Maybe it's covenant, space, time, conflict, & grace make two strangers into soulmates.

And are we completed by romantic love anyway?

In part, yeah. But regardless, we all know the ugly stories that stem from a never-ending search to be made complete & how starry eyes looking for ‘true’ love quickly become bitter nights looking for any kind of love at all. And I’m sure lots of us have known somebody who doesn’t have any time for you as a friend because they’ve given most of it away trying to find somebody that doesn’t exist in reality.

So, yes, I get the caricatures, and I get that sometimes the caricatures are a little closer to reality than we’d like.

But as humans within a young Jesus-following community, it’s time we stopped trying to critique caricatures of desperate men & women that, in reality, represent the outliers & not the norms.

So let’s talk about the norm: Christians have libidos. And whatever our theory, our practice with premarital sex is pretty unambivalent.

88 percent of unmarried people are having sex right now. Among self-identifying unmarried ‘evangelicals,’ 80 percent have had sex before marriage. [1]

Back in the time the Bible was written, the dawn of the sex drive happened around the same time marriage was culturally anticipated.

The statistics vary, but the average American enters their first marriage in their later twenties (women, 26.5; men, 28.7). [2]

As Christians, we’re saying sex has a sacred meaning that’s supposed to be housed within a covenant marriage.

You add these together, and you’ve got a little crisis on campus: a group of attractive, messy, Jesus-loving, intelligent, & gifted people (1) in the peak years of their sexual desire, (2) years away from a space to express that desire, and (3) more or less expected to just not do any of that stuff.

So you’ve got four options as an evangelical. [3]

  • Keep your integrity, leave the church, have sex however you want, & come back when you’re married.

  • White-knuckle your way through it.

  • Divorce your public & your private life, i.e. keep your sexuality in a box of shame & smile your way through the rest of your Christian life.

  • Do something like Ring by Spring. Seek marriage at an age way before it’s considered normal.

So as far as Ring by Spring goes, I get that all kinds of unhealthy beliefs about romance & what it means to be human are out there.

But let me be the one to say the thing behind the thing: you’re taking a pick ax to Mt. Everest. It’s time to confront a deeper reality of how we talk about sex and, perhaps more importantly, how we don’t talk about it.

Kasey & I are chosing marriage way before the cultural norm; I can tell you honestly that this isn't the primary reason we chose it, but it defintely plays a part.

I don't have answers. I’m trying to follow Jesus in a cultural moment that doesn’t lend itself to black-and-white distinctions.

But I do have a question: how will we talk about sex that demonstrates an awareness of what actually is going on among us?

Will we even talk about it all?

And if we do talk about it, will we try on the kind of love that creates spaces for people to be who they actually are, addressing situations we’re actually all experiencing in one way or another? Can we live in that tension of wanting to be faithful followers of Jesus while admitting that we need to address the gray areas with courage & honesty?

Let the conversation begin.


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/evangelicals-sex-frank-talk_n_1443062.html

[2] http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/14/barely-half-of-u-s-adults-are-married-a-record-low/

[3] Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 118-120

photo credit: the lovely kelsey sagen, a fantastic, detail-oriented, natural light lovin' photographer. check her out at kelseysagen.com

#Bethel #sex #reflections #engagement