I have a really low sacramental theology (because of the kind of church I grew up in), but I was telling Ari last night that hey now I have fancy new language to use to argue with.
I know that sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, and so they can be really positively powerful for members of the Body, but I still feel really uncomfortable with the idea that having an "official" Authority make a pronouncement makes something more "real" than it was moments before the pronouncement (I'm thinking particularly of sacraments like marriage and ordination here, but I have the same really low sacramental theology of ALL the sacraments I think).
Ari: "So how does this affect your opinion on premarital sex?"
That's a really good question.
One of my answers is that I think making public declaration of your commitment to another person(s), making that relationship publicly accountable, changes the subjective lived reality of that relationship.
But really I think it remains true that I strongly absorbed (from where I'm not sure, since it wasn't from my parents) the conservative idea that sex is ideally supposed to happen within a committed-forever relationship -- not that I think other people are Wrong for having sex in other contexts than that, but that I feel like _I_ couldn't do it.
I talked at great length to Ari about this last night, and in thinking back on that conversation, I think that part of my problem with developing a coherent sexual ethic is that the Scriptures are basically silent on this. Yes there's a big chunk of Leviticus, but as Christians we reject plenty of those laws (sexual and otherwise) as applying to us (and plenty of Jews don't seem them as applicable to them either) -- and they're not all that useful for developing a nuanced contemporary sexual ethics even if you do accept all of them as being still applicable.
Slacktivist has been talking recently ["Sex & Money, part 1: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the South Shore Bank" & "Sex & Money, part 2"] about major vs. minor themes in the Bible, and sexual ethics just isn't a major theme. Purity laws come up a lot (and get rejected by the dominant voices of the early Christian church), but sexual ethics in the way that we would think of them (mutually consent between equal partners) are a largely anachronistic concern for the writers of the Scriptures in a world where marriage/children were so intertwined with property/inheritance.
I guess the question of what a sexual ethics should look like requires an answer to the question of what sex is "for." I believe that sexuality is a good gift from God and it's definitely not (just) "for" procreation.
And yeah, I have no conclusion and I think I am tiring of this topic for the time being.
Speaking of having absorbed cultural norms...
In discussion on Lorraine's journal about when/where wearing shorts is appropriate, I articulated that I have internalized the societal norm of body hair being unattractive, but I have failed to internalize the part about how that applies only to women (and of course I don't think actual systems should be based on those aesthetic norms).