By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

The  church prohibits  premarital sex. The Bible labels it fornication.  The church condemns premarital physical intimacy between intending couples. The Bible deems it  sexual immorality. The church abhors marital separations and divorces. The Bible says marriage is for better and for worse. And many Christian  denominations interpret the Bible to mean that a divorcee cannot re-marry. So Christian marriage is considered sacrosanct.

Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God

It then means that a Christian  wedding is an important Rubicon.  It has to be approached circumspectly and prayerfully. In the world, courtship allows sufficient  premarital sexual intercourse.  The assumption is that courtship is the time to fully test  chemistry and  compatibility before marriage. The church forbids Christians from such carnal explorations. Intending Christian couples  therefore are expected to the  reach that technical  point of no return without  looking into  or probing  each others groins.

Yes, the righteous must live by faith,  but eyes and ears and information aren’t totally useless to people of great faith. And Christians with baby faiths have to marry too. Christian courtship therefore encourages  as much non sinful disclosures and due diligence as possible.

The limitations placed on Christian courtship  have  generated a lot of anxieties over the ages. And many Christians freed themselves from those anxieties by breaking the rules,  by engaging in  routine premarital sex. If the church had done  any research, it would  have discovered that premarital sex was  nearly cultural even amongst Christians. So the  church ought to have shown concern long ago.

The institution of heterosexual  marriage is one of the main pillars of Christianity. That institution  is now particularly  threatened.  Divorce rates have become alarming,  even amongst Christians. The church recognizes that marriage can survive without children but  cannot  survive  without sex.  If marriage must be consummated with sex then at the very least the sex organs must be taken for granted  to exist. That presumption has become increasingly precarious.

The church must  be concerned about this age. This is the age of  proliferation and diversity of sexual orientations. Since the church restricts thorough due diligence, it must introduce measures to assuage growing old and new  anxieties. The church must seek to deny premarital sex legitimacy conferred on it by the need for greater sexual  diligence in the midst of so much confusion and transsexuality.

The Redeemed Christian Church Of God (RCCG)  conducts mandatory marriage counseling sessions for intending couples who plan to wed in the church. The would be couples  are informed  about the demands of Christian marriage and the gender roles. But counseling also  anticipates  prevalent marital issues and seeks to prevent them in new marriages.

So  a few medical tests are deemed necessary to improve the quality of  counseling. Intending couples are sent to designated hospitals to be tested for pregnancy,  HIV and genotype. The aim of the medical investigations  is to enhance fuller disclosures and help decision making.  Sickle cell disease in children has tested and damaged many Christian marriages. The world has prenatal diagnosis and embryo selection to rely on. But a strict interpretation of  Christian doctrine on abortion  may forbid these  medical procedures.  It’s therefore  important that couples understand the risks before they take the vows. And the church is right not to leave it to the couples to decide whether they want tests or not.

The church will not wed a pregnant bride. You can term it pretentious or sexist. But the church has good reasons which may not make sense to a feminist  for such a tradition.  The church will bless such a couple. The church  never refuses to wed couples based on positive medical findings. It counsels intending couples if a problematic  medical result turns up. But it always allows them make their  informed decisions. The church understands that faith and love can trump science.

Even where the results reveal HIV infection or some genotype incompatibility, the church doesn’t make the decisions.  The intervention of the church is to enhance positive freedoms, the personal autonomy of the couples.

Recently, the RCCG decided to include mandatory  medical physical examinations, to determine biological sex,  to the list of medical checks for  intending couples. And hell was let loose. The church was accused of acting like a secret cult. Some  scoffed that  the measures were too intrusive. Some said the tests were designed to determine virginity through the backdoor, so they are sexist.

The decision to include a mandatory physical examination by a doctor is moral. It’s minimal. It’s necessary.  It’s aimed at a legitimate concern.  It is therefore a justified  intrusion. There are many Christian bachelors and spinsters who would not have engaged in premarital sex if they were sure their partners had the right genitals. Yes, agreed,  the organ could be present and not functional, particularly in men.  Anatomical abnormalities discovered after weddings always seem fraudulent. Physiological abnormalities are less heart breaking.

The truth is that premarital sex has become rampant in churches. Were it not the case, were every young unmarried lady and man committed to celibacy,  they would welcome the checks. In the throes of love, intending couples wouldn’t  ask questions that could be misconstrued  to portray them as  being  too shrewd, too calculative. Love is supposed to be blind. But many marriages have crashed because simple checks were not done, not forced on  couples. Since  Christians do not have the freedom to do all the checks others do, the compulsory medical examination would help alleviate anxieties and deny premarital sex apparent legitimacy.

The church must not cave in to pressures from the outside. The church is supposed to be the light of the world. And the church isn’t supposed to be compatible with the world all the time.  The church must always be on the look out for new social problems   and create solutions to alleviate them.

If couples are honest, mandatory physical tests would harm no one. It would strengthen the hand of  one or two of the parties intending matrimony to resist premarital sex.  The church must stand strong. Mandatory  premarital medical physical checks  would please God.

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