The Separatists couldn’t make up their minds about sex. Was it good? Or bad? Well, that’s not exactly accurate–they never thought it was good. More like accepting sex as a necessary evil? Or totally opposed. Remember, their goal was to get to heaven–be saved. That’s what made this life on earth palatable. If they sacrificed pleasures now, they’d reap the reward in the next life. A not uncommon belief even today.
From the beginning of recorded history, sex has loomed large as sinful. Remember David of the Bible? The Scarlet Letter? The downfall of world leaders?
According to Zoar historian, Kathy Fernandez, birth records reveal that there were several “early” babies born to the Separatists. In the famous court case when a man, evicted from Zoar for violating their rules, charged leader Joseph Bimeler with fraud, witnesses testified to sexual misdeeds in the village. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing a play about the case to be presented at Zoar’s Bicentennial in October 2017. You’ll have to wait to see if Bimeler wins!)
After the period of celibacy attributed to the need for the women’s work and they dug the Ohio Canal through their lands and paid off their mortgage, marriage was again allowed. Celibacy, however, was always revered, believing that remaining celibate brought you closer to God and, presumably, more likely reach heaven.
However….some of us wouldn’t be here today, would we, if the Separatists had decided to forego sex?