I respond to the upcoming Restored Church billboard reading ‘God is the author of sex.’
Yesterday, an article in The Times Leader highlighted Pastor Dan Nichols of Wilkes-Barre’s Restored Church who will display a billboard displaying a message reading — in part — “God is the author of sex. He loves it, and He has a very specific design for it.” Nichols’ view about sex, though, is limited to being loved by God in, according to the article, “the proper context” and in marriage – “a covenant between a man and a woman.”
I have become familiar with Pastor Dan Nichols following his reaching out to me in 2011 following an incident in which a banner I displayed, with the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, was vandalized. Since then, Pastor Dan and I had an open recorded discussion in his church and have eaten several meals together discussing a plethora of topics inside and outside of religion.
Some reactions to Dan’s comments about the billboard — particularly surrounding LGBT individuals — are of the reactionary ‘Nichols is a bigot who hates gays.’ From my interactions with Pastor Dan, I don’t agree with this sentiment. Pastor Dan’s views about sexuality, though, are obviously exclusionary or otherwise condemning of sexually active non-married individuals.
Pastor Dan’s Christian perspective on sexuality is quite unrealistic; people are going to be having sex outside of man/woman marriage. Sending a message of ‘no’ and not educating about safe(r) sex [although, to be fair, I do not find a church responsible for teaching about sex – but in upcoming sermons Restored Church will be discussing sexuality in a very limited framework] will very likely lead to harm which could be averted if a more realistic perspective is presented.
Sure, sex, just like almost anything else, can be destructive. People enter into poor relationships (including marriages which Pastor Dan supports in a limited context) and remain in them. Unwanted pregnancies happen and children are born into a world without a sufficient support system. Sexual violence occurs. Sexually transmitted diseases are spread. With proper education and a good dose of maturity/experience — contrary to a ‘do not have sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman’ message — sex can be a good thing in more instances than the limited perspective of Pastor Nichols.
I also worry — and am often confused — on church teachings which oppose legal marriages between two men or two women. Pastor Nichols and other religious individuals can both believe God ordained a specific type of marriage and not oppose government-recognized marriages outside of his framework, but it’s often the case that religious individuals believe that their religious perspectives on marriage should be congruent with a law for all Americans.
Although I am friends with Pastor Nichols, I can’t support his billboard message, but I can support his view — echoed in the article — that people can disagree and not hate each other. I hope Pastor Dan and his congregation respond to my response and perhaps we will have another dialogue — whether recorded or not — in the near future. For now, I will keep my thoughts to fewer than 525 words.
— Update: Pastor Dan Nichols and I will have a recorded discussion on 8/27/14 which will be released soon after recording. —