Updated: Mar 9
Recently, an acquaintance posted a statement on social media about what she believed. It was a creed, really. With so much change in the world, she drew a line in the sand about some of her convictions:
This is a younger person who, no doubt, was taught that these issues are woven in and central to the Christian faith. In other words, if you believe in Jesus, you must believe that men were created to lead, women to follow, same sex marriage is wrong – that kind of thing. It was received well. Many felt she was speaking for them. The post had a ton of “likes” and positive comments. Even a few shares.
Sentiments like these reflect a larger fear by evangelical Christians of being marginalized and pushed out. Christians don’t have the level of power and sway in society that they had forty, thirty, or even ten years ago. They’re afraid that Christianity is losing. And they're scared.
I can understand the nostalgia of wanting things the way they used to be – of wanting some sort of grounding and control when things feel out of control. To some degree, we all have fear of change.
Standing up for these values are seen by many as standing up for Jesus. In reality, there’s a subtle danger in holding on to behavioral codes and calling them “Biblical” or “Christian.” It’s further evidence that modern American evangelicalism is focusing on things peripheral – things that are not central to Christianity. Things that aren’t Jesus.
In the gospels, it seemed like the Pharisees’ main job was to trick Jesus into committing blasphemy, heresy, or to simply delegitimize his authority. It never worked. In an attempt to trap Jesus with a question about the resurrection, Jesus gives a shattering revelation about marriage:
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:29, 30).
This is an uncomfortable truth for Christians who integrate their faith with what they see as cultural norms such as marriage, kids, and sexuality. Their philosophy is particularly and personally destructive for those whose marriages end, whose kids rebel, who find themselves single, or who happen to be gay. For these, this message claiming to be “Christian” pushes them aside.
To any that aren’t living the evangelical Christian American dream, the unspoken message is clear: “You’re doing Christianity wrong. Fix thyself.”
I’m not advocating an “anything goes” approach to sexuality. But I happen to believe the Bible teaches that sexuality, like everything else, must be based on love, not on our feelings, tradition, or historic cultural rules. When Paul warns against sexual immorality, he gives a reason:
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6a).
Other verses sexual immorality is mentioned is usually in the context of sins that break down relationships between believers. The purpose of sexual purity is sacrificial love – not salvation, righteousness, or personal piety.
Skye Jethani called this focus on sexuality by Christians “Crotch Christianity.”* It myopically focuses on gender, marriage, and sexuality as THE litmus for morality and walking with God. When Crotch Christianity is the focus, Jesus is left out. So is love, faith, hope, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit – and anything else that has significance for the Christian life. It’s worse than simply a distraction; it has become an idol.
This isn’t new. The apostle Paul dealt with these distractions in the first century when Christians wanted all believers to be circumcised. It was THE topic. Jewish Christians (Jewish people that had accepted Jesus as the Messiah) were afraid that these gentiles were not REALLY following God simply by believing in Him. They wanted these new gentile believers to follow the Mosaic law (God’s law) by following purity laws, observing the Sabbath, and – you guessed it – becoming circumcised. They wanted some tangible, physical evidence of a changed life. Hello, circumcision! This was a line in the sand for these Jewish believers.
I’m sure they figured this would winnow out people who weren’t “serious” about their faith. They thought not being circumcised was a slippery slope. “If they don’t get circumcised, then what’s next?” Their reaction was based on fear – fear of losing control. Fear of being marginalized. Fear of change. And this is at the heart of Crotch Christianity.
It’s a crude term, but no more crude than the apostle Paul‘s warning to leaders over their emphasis on circumcision. Paul (also a Jew) intervened and reminded them that being a Christian had nothing to do with these trappings, including circumcision. In fact, he wished those who relied on circumcision to “go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12) Yes, that’s in the Bible.
Paul gave a resounding answer that the requirement of circumcision was not only an aberration of the message of Christ, it was dangerous. It kept people away from God, because of the hollow excuse it was for real religion and faith. A few verses after the, um, emasculation verse, Paul reminds us:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When we focus on marriage roles, gender, and sexuality, we have a misguided faith that pulls us away from Christ. Instead of leading people to holiness as it purports to do, it leads people to a personal morality for which they can take pride. It teaches that maturity is found in the adherence to these markers, rather than what the Bible teaches – that loving one another is the measure of maturity for a believer.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6).
*Jethani, Skye and Vischer, Phil. “Rethinking Roe, Crotch Christianity, & Militant Masculinity with Kristin Kobes Du Mez.” Holy Post, Episode 419, Sky Pilot Media & Phil Vischer Enterprises, 26 August 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mdhkOe9Ens.