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

(The first post is here.)

Today's story is one that is self-admittedly not resolved, and in that, their willingness to share this with us is even more admirable.

Again, as every time, added emphases are from me:
My faith began and grew in evangelical settings so I'm familiar with what's outlined in the article and, yes, even owned a copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye! I met my wife at an evangelical camp up North. We were both committed and passionate about God. While we dated and when we were married our sexual relationship was based in shame. If we ever "slipped up" while dating we felt guilty. As a result I think my partner ended up resenting me. Our sexual relationship never recovered even while married. My position is unique more so in the way that we are divorced, a big "no no" in evangelical circles. The details are complicated and vast but I want to stick to the topic. 

I have spent some time in the "wilderness" for the past couple of years. I still believe in Jesus and have have a relationship with God. I haven't blamed Him although am angry and distrust Him in some ways because I feel like He didn't protect me or our marriage. So, recently has been a time of exploration, which has included my sexuality. I haven't gone off the rails but when your life falls apart and your zapped of all your resources putting your best forward for God can sometimes be near impossible. So, I've been learning to rest in God, to understand and absorb His love for me and to know that there is nothing I can do or not do to make him love any more or less. What does this have to do with the topic? Everything. 

I am still bound by God and His story, but now know I am a sinner through and through. To a certain extent this has allowed me to embrace sin, which is counter intuitive and counter cultural for where I've been spiritually for the past ten years or so. This doesn't mean I can do whatever I want or that God doesn't care about how I live my life, but It has allowed me to experience freedom,which includes my sexuality. I just got out of a relationship where we were sexually intimate. I don't say this to cross boundaries but by way of a comparison from my marriage. In my most recent relationship, our bodies and desires were embraced and celebrated, they weren't dirty like I and my wife had grown up thinking. I'm not going to say that biblically or theologically this past relationship was "okay", but I know it was healing and restorative. This most recent woman, who didn't grow up in an evangelical setting was comfortable with her body. She loved it, knew and embraced it. She was comfortable with her sexual desires and expressed them openly, which made sex feel like a true gift from God, one that was a taste of heaven and an experience of the oneness we were meant to experience before the fall.
Needless to say this is a little confusing spiritually for an evangelical. I still believe that I am "orthodox" but my views on sexuality have changed. It's funny how evangelicals perceive divorced people and those that are sexually active as lesser Christians, as if there is a scale by which God measures or sin and worthiness. However, I have moved from a faith of rules to a faith that loves God's kingdom, Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Father's love in a way I have never before. Because I am a sinner God's grace abounds even more for me. Although I don't want to celebrate sin I have focused less on being pure and untainted and more on God and His love for me. This could of course just be a season in my faith life. I'm not saying that I'm an advocate for this kind of Christian living. To be honest I have no idea how to deal with sexuality theologically right now.
One thing that I do imagine and know is that a lot of evangelical theology on this issue comes from Paul. I feel like a lot of evangelicals, myself included, follow Paul's teachings more than those of Jesus. I'm not saying Jesus is a sexual revolutionist but he doesn't spend a lot of time on the issue and when he does its usually using extreme stories and analogies to make a point, which isn't always similar to what evangelicals teach. You could even argue that Paul is referring more to inappropriate sexual relationships between church members or with a few church members. I'm not saying this to uphold liberalism but I feel these stories have the power to loosen the oppressive grip that the purity movement has had on some.

Re-reading this I sound more similar to the liberals I used to despise and I suppose I am more socially liberal now, but I still want people to come to Christ, to know scripture and pray, to be holy and set apart, to share their faith, to love the outcast, to worship God for who He is and all He's done, to sacrifice and serve, to grow deeper in faith, to live in community, to be in faithful monogamous relationships. I just suppose that purity isn't on the top of my to do list spiritually. Am I pure because Jesus makes me that way or because I chose to be or both? And what does it mean to be pure anyhow?
To conclude, at this point, I would be very wary to date or marry an evangelical woman again, not that they'd want me. In my experience they come with a lot of spiritual, emotional and psychological baggage. And I suppose we all do, but I enjoy sex too much to let that part of my relationship be messed up again. And sex isn't just about intercourse, it's about being close and intimate with someone, to share oneself, all of oneself, openly and freely. And in my opinion those brought up in the purity movement or at least those who embrace it don't know how to do that because they are ashamed of their bodies and their sexual desires and have suppressed them for so long.

Thank you. This much honesty isn't easy, even with a level of anonymity, and I think this story is an important one to share because I know its teller is not alone in his experiences.

Three questions occurred to me as I read:
  • The idea that sex outside of marriage can be a positive/healing experience is one that I imagine many conservatives/evangelicals find troublesome. Are these two thing inherently mutually exclusive in a Christian framework? 
  • Jesus taught far more frequently and strongly about attitudes towards money than he did about sexual choices; is it plausible to say that the evangelical church has inverted the importance of these two issues?  
  • One of the tensions he touches on is the way in which church communities often assume sexual choices/beliefs outside of marriage-only are connected to other "liberal" beliefs. Is this a reasonable assumption? If a self-identified Christian has sex outside of marriage, should their commitment to Jesus be called into question?
What about the rest of you - what stands out? What resonates? What are you left wondering?

Tomorrow - a few stories from people who have left the church since their youth-group days.


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