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Let's Talk About Sex & Shame. Part III.

More stories. It's only day 2, and I've already cried because I am sad for so many of us. At the same time, I am deeply encouraged that there is a real sense that things can (need to) change.

Here's the post that started the conversation.

And here are two stories that both come from "small towns." The first from a friend who is a minister:
I think the article was accurate in its portrayal in its depiction of the purity movement, though I can only appreciate it from a watered-down, small Canadian town. According to my wife and a few other female friends, she is accurate about the pressures and expectations the purity movement wrongly levelled at women.

What bothered me was not the critique but the (implied) conclusion, or lack thereof. The purity movement needs to be critiqued, but it does not need to be thrown out. Instead it needs (in my Christian opinion) to be infused and transformed by the grace of God. The sexual morals need to be tightly knit with compassion and grace.

Paul says that in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 6) that there were people who had all sorts of sexual experiences beyond the bounds of traditional Christian morality (homosexuality, adultery, premarital sex) but that there is plenty of forgiveness and redemption available to those people if they trust Christ. The underlying principle is not the sexually 'broken' vs, those who were pure 'til marriage, but the sexual brokenness we all experience and the grace available to each of us. Though I was a virgin when I got married, I found I had all sorts of hangups and issues because of the silence regarding sex throughout my teen years.

But I still think we should take sex seriously, we should take take seriously what God says about it, and it should be an issue that gets discussed regularly.

This begins (at least in my life):
1. By talking about it with my wife
2. By attempting to preach regularly about sex/shame/guilt as it relates to teens, singles, and adults of all sorts
3. By doing my best to keep an open dialogue with my growing kids about sex as they become curious

And from another parent, this one a mom:
I think that a lot of responsibility has been given to youth leaders to lead youth down paths they haven't yet walked themselves. If a leader doesn't have a healthy perspective on sexuality, they are not going to transmit that to the youth they lead. I feel that my youth leaders, who had been married for nearly 10 years had a really great perspective and were some of the most non-legalistic grace filled people I knew. I felt very fortunate to be able to go through something like True Love Waits with them and know that as a youth group, we were pledging together to make purity important in our lives. The modesty piece wasn't so much talked about (that I can remember!). But I was also in a small town of 5000 where fashion wasn't all that important and dressing immodestly would cause people to talk, and no one really wants to be the "talk of the town" . That's it's own ball of shame based living!
I suppose a lot of things come down to the kind of family and church you grow up in and the thoughtfulness of those parties. Have they thought about sexuality and developed a theology of sexuality? I think often as parents we spout things off without realizing what they imply. It's hard to teach kids and adolescents to not see things as black and white, so finding ways to teach them about sex that show it as something beautiful and something to celebrate is challenging with so much "sex" everywhere that is not beautiful. Teaching them to discern between healthy sexual responses and unhealthy ones without making it black and white, good and bad (shameful), requires much thought. And I think we need to teach both sexes to think of others first in all of their decisions. Dressing modestly should be about treating oneself with dignity and in a way that earns respect with both sexes and all age groups.

Sex is so complicated in our culture where anything and everything goes and sexual freedom is equated with doing whatever you feel like doing. As Christians we have overcompensated for this. And this is the challenge of passing on the faith in all ways - how to teach my children to be discerning and how to be obedient without teaching them legalism. Grace is so foreign to the human race and is so hard to understand and therefore very hard to teach. It is challenging to teach our daughters and sons about beauty and how to celebrate all of God's good gifts when TV and easy access porn and billboards and celebrities teach us an altered view of what that should look like. It's also hard to teach beauty that isn't self-indulgent or prideful. I mean, there is teaching by example, but what I find most difficult is articulating it verbally. 

I also wonder how possible it is for this area of our lives to be completely without shame as it is such an intimate thing. From a married perspective, my understanding of myself, men, and sexuality has changed dramatically since marriage as it has caused me to wrestle with things I wouldn't have had to otherwise. I would also say I've struggled more with sexual shame since being married than I did prior to marriage. 

And yet some of that shame is self-inflicted as I realize that God isn't one who shames us. He may discipline us when we go astray in order to draw us back to himself and He convicts us of our sin, which can be an experience that makes us feel shame. But hopefully in all areas of our walk with God where we feel shameful, we turn it to repentance and realize that God is full of grace and mercy and desires to forgive us and guide us in paths of righteousness. I do agree that as a church, we need to stop shaming one another into obedience. And this is the thing God has been confronting me most about in my marriage and parenting as of late.

Ah, again, thank you both for sharing these stories with me/us!

What are your thoughts, community? What stands out to you from these stories? You can tell what stood out to me; it's in bold!

Parenting and teaching about sexuality; that has got to be a dooooozy of a stresser. I would love to hear if any others (parents or non) have thoughts on how they do/hope teach their kids about sex in a shame-reducing way. 

Also, since last night's call for happy-Christian-sex stories was so successful, I'd love more stories from any of the following people:
  • non-married folks
  • non-hetero folks
  • non-church folks


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