Monday, July 1, 2013

"There Is No Sex in the Church!"

I've posted some excerpts from Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov's essays in the past and am delighted to see his new book in print. He is often a sagacious, patristically-minded counterweight to the more progressive posts written by people with axes to grind that dot the Internet.

There Is No Sex in the Church!
On the Problematics of Sexuality and Gender in Orthodoxy
Authored by Sergei Sveshnikov

This work is a collection of essays written over the years on topics related to human sexuality and gender issues within Russian Orthodox Christianity: marital sex, homosexuality, ritual impurity, and others. In an introduction to one of the sections, the author writes:

"...Having written a couple of opinion papers touching on the difficulties of discussing matters of human sexuality in the context of the Russian Orthodox Church, and having pointed out the existence of a wide spectrum of opinions on what Christians should do in bed-ranging from the strictest and almost total prohibition of any form of sexual behavior with possible exceptions for the most penitentiary of position and then only a few times in a lifetime specifically for the purpose of procreation, to an attitude of total permissiveness brushing off any questions with assertions that the marriage bed is undefiled and whatever married people do in their bedroom is all blessed-I have, quite naturally, been asked to clarify my own position on what should and should not be allowed... I should like to discuss three topics: 1) the idea that a husband and wife should attempt to live "like brother and sister," that is to say, abstaining from sex altogether or limiting it only to specific times and forms necessary for procreation; 2) the idea that a husband and wife can do whatever they want as much as they want in the privacy of their bedroom and none of it is the Church's business; and 3) a possible middle ground which does not reject the joy of the married state moderated by a certain measure of ascetic discipline of the body and the soul..."


This book deals with adult subject matter and is intended for adult readers. If you are offended by the discussion of human sexuality, this book is not for you. Some sections of this book contain very graphic language and reader discretion is strongly advised.

There Is No Sex in the Church
  • O tempora, o mores!
  • Sex by the Bible
  • Why does God care?

The Problematics of Orthodox Sexuality
  • “They lived as brother and sister…”
  • “Eat, drink and be merry…”
  • “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
  • A way forward

Thinking Out Loud About Gay Marriage
  • Why gay marriage now?
  • Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?
  • The Church’s history with gay marriage
  • Does gay marriage redefine marriage?
  • Does God believe in love?
  • On times and morals
  • So, what is marriage?
  • There is no sex in the Church!

Wise Virgins Don’t Let Their Oil Lamps Go Out!
  • On ‘Ritual Impurity’
  • History
  • Ritual impurity
  • Theological dimension
  • More to the point: should nuns light their icon lamps?
  • Popular piety
  • Christians and the law
  • Women in holy places
  • Canonical evidence
  • Canons of the church
  • The fabric of piety
  • A way forward

Reflections on Female Spirituality
  • Adam’s rib on the grill of creation
  • Should nuns light their icon lamps?
  • Holy elders and their women
  • Power of handkerchiefs

On the Role of Women in Church
  • A few notes on society and the Church
  • Women in the Church
  • Women in the family

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