The other day I was watching a Bollywood film. It was delightful, if sentimental: beautiful blind girl diva falls in love with a handsome tourist guide rogue. It’s the idealized story about men and women.
Reasserters - those who elevate the 1st century view about the primary utility of genital sex – make a few assumptions about romance and attraction, I think. I’d like to examine a few.
A theology that emphasizes genital difference or prioritizes it as crucial to human nature is not distinctively Christian. Paganism places fertility, fecundity, and gendered sexuality as central to the human, and earthly, experience. Isis and Osiris, Sati and Shiva, Hera and Zeus – not to mention those of Babylonian origin – all demonstrate that genital difference is easily divinized.
Attraction and desire are not necessarily holy. If anything, Christians should steer clear of elevating the experience of attraction as being particularly holy. Romance, however, is easily elevated in the culture, and can be found in the way straight people spend on weddings. But a Christian marriage, if it is to be accurate, admits that “attraction” cannot be the crucial part of a marriage. Important? Perhaps. But not all important things are distinctively Christian.
Of course, once we argue that attraction is not crucial to marriage, we further undermine the genitalization of sexuality, because the reason why we intuitively know that particular men and women “fit” is because they are, largely, attracted to each other. Otherwise we would say that any man could marry any woman and it would be holy. Such a belief would be wrong because it undermines the particularity by which God is involved in any relationship.
What should we judge a “Christian” relationship on? Not attraction. Attraction is great: it is stimulating, electrifying, enlivening. But we judge the relationship based on the ability of a couple to live into a promise – to embody a covenant analogous to the relationship we have with God.
What makes a Christian marriage different than other kinds of relationships may be that it is fundamentally based on friendship. But it cannot be romance. Romance you can get without Christ, and without God.