Scorpio Risen

Jesus died for somebody’s sins…

Posted on: 22 June, 2007

“Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine…
my sins my own,
they belong to me.”

Gloria – Patti Smith

But…isn’t it possible that sins are subjective? Well, sure, there are some sins which the majority of the world’s population will view as definitely sins – for example, murder – but there are some sins which are more “grey” and less black and white.  

There are crimes and then there is deviancy. I guess crimes are much like sins. Deviancy? Grey areas. For example, cross-dressing; not against the law, but considered by many to go against the norms and values of our society.

Christianity – there’s the whole 10 Commandments, where it’s very clear what thou shalt do and what thou shalt not do. And then there’s a bunch of other stuff which is Frowned Upon and are also sins, such as sex before marriage *Gasps*. Although, that said – I did use to internalise that damn message. (Pre-feminism days really.) But also…masturbation – a sin. Apparently it’s considered more of a sin than raping a nun. 😐

Holy shit. (No pun intended.)

Y’know the other day, I was ranting on the bus back from school (in front of some pretty serious Christians), about how I just couldn’t get that.

What, just what, is the purpose of making masturbation and sex before marriage a sin?! Why stigmatise such things?! Now, obviously, nowadays in wider society, people don’t tend to hold back on stuff like that so much anymore. But seriously? It’s pretty extreme – and in my humble opinion, fucked up – for a religion to tell its believers they can’t flick the bean or bash the bishop (thought that was a more appropriate euphemism, although I do like the ones they use of The League of Gentlemen, particularly “shaking hands with the Governor of Love”). I mean, if a religion’s going to tell its followers not to have sex before marriage, they can at least allow them all to have a bit of pre-marital, sometimes solo, hanky panky. I’m not being facetious. I’m not trying to be disrespectful – if people choose to abstain from sex before marriage due to their love of their religion, or if they choose not to masturbate on the same grounds, then fine. But, just, please…I really need some kind of explanation here.

God loves everyone (unless you’re from *shudders* that Wesboro Baptist Church cult) and I’ve seen fridge magnets – dammit! fridge magnets! the ultimate representation of the Word of God –  that there’s nothing you can do which will make God love you any more or any less.  Hey, that’s a nice message – I think that’s comforting. I kinda turned to Christianity for comfort; I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I can’t equate a lot of the messages in the Bible to my personal beliefs. I’ve been musing about this for ages, but I’ve seen some great posts recently which have acted as a prompt for this post; that, and listening to that fucking awesome song Gloria by Patti Smith.

 I really can’t understand why a God who loves people o so very much would impose such strict, pretty unnecessary, rules on them. No masturbation? No sex before marriage? Although, one guy I know once said that the rules in the Bible were brilliant for survival in a desert thousands of years ago or whatever, but didn’t apply to today’s contemporary culture. Well, yeah I’m sure there are some that can be applied – such as “love thy neighbour” – but, a lot of the more imposing and dogmatic of messages in the Bible…designed for the survival of people, to ensure future generations. To form an early patriarchal society??? Being serious here. The Church has, over the centuries, been a major factor in regression – even in crucial areas of life, such as medicine. Even, nowadays, Christian marriage ceremonies are full of patriarchal rituals, including the Bride being given away by the father to her new husband. 

But, no, let’s focus on Christian beliefs that masturbation and no-sex-before-marriage (and that includes sexual contact) are sins…
I really, really do not get it. I am stumped. I do not see what is so inheritently wrong with either, especially in the context of our modern society. Surely, if abstaining until marriage is to be followed, then why not let people masturbate?! Us mere mortals do have hormones and feelings, y’know? The only possible reason I can think of, is – control. It’s not like the Church or the Bible gives you much liberal freedom to live the way you want. I mean, granted, so long as – say – you don’t hurt anyone? It’s pretty pathetic to me – in my mind, masturbation and having sex out of wedlock is of little significance compared to some of the fucked up things that happen everyday in this world. Psch.

It’s not that I’m trying to be disrespectful to Christians, all I’m saying is – I just don’t get it. It sometimes seems as if the Bible and the Churches are pretty restricting; is a little bit of faith and love in the Holy Trinity not enough?

I think even before I got into feminism, my views on certain messages of the Church and the Bible were changing somewhat; I was becoming disillusioned. It’s not as if I were a church-goer, but I was (and still am, I guess) a believer. Is that not enough? Meh. I’d probably go to hell for writing this very post anyway ;).

Can I really reconcile myself with a religion which can, at times, be homophobic? Misogynistic? I am vehemently anti-homophobia and anti-misogyny.

So, if Jesus died for all of humanity’s sins…well, what are these sins? Some of these sins seem pretty inconsequential to me, seem pretty insignificant; really, they may as well not be bloody sins! It seems somewhat hypocritical for a religion to chastise all those who masturbate or have sex before marriage, or do something else trivial which is Frowned Upon, when it has homophobic and misogynistic messages; so much for being all-loving, eh?

*This isn’t very well articulated, I may have to edit*

*Edit: The reason why I focussed a lot on masturbation was because, although it’s not mentioned much explicitily in the bible, I just didn’t get any answers from the Christian folks on my bus. It’s not just that – it’s the whole restriction on sexuality and sexual activity outside of the confines of  the ‘proper’ Christian marriage. I’m sure that, in the times the Bible was written, it would’ve been practical in order to ensure bloodlines and that civilisations keep on going. So, I don’t know, maybe we kind of owe Christianity and other such similar belief structures or what have you, for ensuring our survival in those early days?  

In relation to the Patti Smith lyrics at the beginning –
“Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine…
my sins my own,
they belong to me.”

Well, those lines are – as Zenobia articulated perfectly – “about freedom through taking responsibility for who you have sex with – in this case Gloria.”
As I said at the beginning of the post (back when I was in a more articulate mood ;)) – sins are subjective. I don’t personally see how/why sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. I just can’t see them like that. And if I were to take part in any sexual activity with another person, or to masturbate, I don’t see why I should answer to anyone else, or to God. I don’t see why such things should be Frowned Upon, or should be made to shame people. I make my own decisions when it comes to my lovelife – I am fully capable of doing so – and therefore, the only person responsible for them, is me. I reject any religious guilt associated with sexuality. Dammit all, like I mentioned earlier, I did somewhat internalise the message about abstaining before marriage, but no – I just can’t get with that anymore*. I guess I resent the feeling of control – and it’s not like I went to Church or anything.  

*I think I will post separately on all that another time; I did once post about it, but freaked out and deleted the post!

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7 Responses to "Jesus died for somebody’s sins…"

The whole notion of masturbation being a sin is really tenuous on the surface. I mean, you have Onan, he really was in trouble for disobeying more than for “spilling the seed.” Other than that… it just doesn’t come up.

What does happen in the Old Testament is that God becomes really, really preoccupied with reproduction–he starts making rules and promising royal lines and whatnot. It’s honestly sort of creepy, from a storytelling perspective… this disembodied voice roving the desert, promising sons of sons of sons. And, so you’ve got all that lengthy retelling of genetic lines and obsession in general with lifeblood. Then you get to the New Testament, and it goes from God being obsessed with physical reproduction and lifeblood, to a total fixation on disdain for the physicality of life, and the power of death blood. So, there’s this set of definite contradiction in Christianity–it takes on those old stories, which are obsessed with patriarchal bloodlines, but one’s status as a Jew in Judaism is determined by the MOM. You’ve got old testament God being concerned with physical bloodlines, right up to and including the genealogy that’s supposed prove that Jesus is of the House of David, but after the Ascension, you end up with chapters and chapters of Greek-influenced aversion to human physicality. So, early Catholicism looked down not just on sex, but on things like food and water. So, subsequently Christianity as a whole ends up with an aversion to anything tactile, while at the same time, being totally preoccupied with anything reproductive in general.

And, that’s not even adding any feminist analysis to it–which arguably should be there, ’cause it’s a short jump from “masturbation is bad,” to the total distaste for the apparatus of human birth, while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of The Womb into the very start of the myth.

Humans are weird and complicated.

Hi Amy,

I think all the stuff about controlling people’s sex lives is all about protecting bloodlines and private property. It’s that much harder to pass on your property after you die, if you’ve had lots of kids of undeterminate lineage, and I think that’s a lot of the origin of family values and the patriarchy.

Of course, masturbation doesn’t result in pregnancy, but it’s all about controlling sexual urges, and only using them for procreation.

I’ve known people who use the Bible as moral guidance for everyday, and they’ll just quote any verse at random to justify what they do, which is kind of stupid because the Bible is just a collection of texts from ancient tribes, that’s been translated about eight billion times to suit various people’s purposes. There’s a lot to be learned from it, but certainly taking it all as gospel is ignoring a lot of its history.

As for the idea of sin, it’s not all just stuff that’s convenient at the time, there is some kind of religious concept behind it, but it’s more about self-discipline and ascetism and attaining some kind of religious enlightement than being “bad”, although you’d be best to ask a theologian to be honest.

As for Patti Smith, you can find more of her musings on religion in the sleevenotes to Radio Ethiopia. She was brought up a Jehovah’s witness, so she’s got quite an interesting perspective on it. As for Gloria, well, those lines are precisely about freedom through taking responsibility for who you have sex with – in this case Gloria.

Anyway, interesting post.

Aye. Well, it’s just the complete restriction of sexuality, outside of wedlock. Like I said, I think I will have to edit this post – I wasn’t at my most awake!
Zenobia – like I said, (I think!) many of these rules were probably perfect for living thousands of years ago, trying to build up civilisations, so yeah, maybe in that context no sexual activity outside of the confines of marriage would be practical, but the same isn’t true of today’s society.

“As for the idea of sin, it’s not all just stuff that’s convenient at the time, there is some kind of religious concept behind it, but it’s more about self-discipline and ascetism and attaining some kind of religious enlightement than being “bad”, although you’d be best to ask a theologian to be honest.” Aye, I think a lot of it is about living how God expects/wants you to live – live as pure as possible, by – in this case – not having sexual intercourse, or any sexual contact outside of the decent Christian marriage, but…that is restricting. And really, who’s to say that any of it is right? Or even, what makes people happy?

But thanks for the interesting comments.

I know what you mean, because I too do not understand why, if religion advocates no sex before marriage, masturbation is a sin. I’m not religious, I don’t believe in a God and I don’t necessarily think the bible is “true” (although I do think that some of the stories are perhaps interesting). But I used to be a C of E Christian, yet when I finished primary school I stopped going to church and figured out my own feelings about it all.

Anyway – this is a genuine puzzlement because I happen to agree with you about the sin thing. I don’t consider it a sin to masturbate, have sex for pleasure etc. In fact, the concept of “sin” to me has parallels with men’s usage of porn and their concept of what is “dirty” or “naughty”.

So many people find the rush of being “sinful” as a draw towards going to strip clubs, using women in prostitution and using porn. And then, because these things are “sin” it means the women in porn are seen as “sinful” and to be used and discarded, if that makes sense? I’m even confusing myself! Never mind…maybe I’ll come back after I’ve thought about it more clearly!! 🙂

Wow, great post and great comments by the ladies! I don’t see how you can “sin” against yourself anyway. I can see how we shouldn’t use other people as objects for our gratification, such as how men use women, but I don’t see why the church should care about masturbation at all. It’s private. It hurts nobody.

Veronica and Zenobia have it down right: it’s to protect the male bloodline and passing on of property.

Good stuff! 🙂

Zenobia – like I said, (I think!) many of these rules were probably perfect for living thousands of years ago, trying to build up civilisations, so yeah, maybe in that context no sexual activity outside of the confines of marriage would be practical, but the same isn’t true of today’s society.

Yeah, well I think there’s a point where it went from practical rules (for instance no extramarital sex for economic reasons, no pork because that stuff goes off if you’re in the desert and you’d get hella tape worms…) to a litteral interpretation to get people to keep coming to Church and paying money to it.

And you need to remember that the Church was a powerful governing force for centuries and had to retain its power over people so they’d keep paying it huge amounts of taxes. Obviously that has changed over the last century, and in a way by going into the realm of personal choice (as in chosing your religion, not chosing which parts to obey) it’s become a lot more intrusive.

I don’t think anything’s objectively wrong, just wrong for the time and place, but sin actually has very little to do with ethics in the first place, and more to do with political power and coercion.

You might find it interesting to read up on Buddhism, since on the one hand it’s a pantheist religion so there isn’t a god or anything supernatural, but on the other hand it’s a bit like looking at Christianity from a different angle in some ways.

The thing that really confuses me about masturbation in the Bible is that when one guy spills his seed God kills him for it but then Judah one of the important men has sex with his daughter-in-law who he thinks is a prostitute nothing happens to him.

I think the message could be interpreted that masturbation is bad but having sex with prostitutes is fine. Hopefully that is not the only interpretation.

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