Hot Evangelical Sex!

In class several weeks ago, we were talking about the Trinity and the use of sexuality as a metaphor for God, for the Trinity, and even for our relationship to God. A few students in class really had a problem with the sort of marriage-centricity (got a better word?) that such language reveals.

I think that talking about the Trinity and the spiritual life in terms of sexuality is a little bit like Ted Haggard claiming in 2005 that "Evangelicals have the best sex lives." And not only because Ted Haggard was a closet-homosexual, but because there's nothing about Evangelical culture that could legitimately claim to foster healthy sexuality. We shame and condemn young people for temptation, experimentation, exploration or even for frank discussion - until they're married. And then we expect years of repression to magically melt away because the couple said "I do" in front of a pastor. The one thing Evangelicals are more uncomfortable with than sexuality is homosexuality. So when the question legitimately comes up in class, "why is marriage posited as the ultimately picture of spirituality?" (or however it was worded) my first answer is: latent homophobia. If you're single, you might be gay. If you're married, you've at least managed to convince everyone you're straight.

When I volunteered in youth and drama ministries at a large Pentecostal church several years ago (before I was married), a pastor took me out to dinner and asked me if I "struggled with homosexuality." I was shocked. At the time, I was even a little offended. The pastor explained, "Some of the pastoral staff have been talking. The last guy to be so involved with drama and music ministry was gay..." Yup. I know about the one that got away... At the time, rather than deeply questioning the ethos of a church that would function in such an overtly homophobic way, I simply worked at making my dating a lot more public. I dragged girls to church to erase any doubt (but I still listened to Depeche Mode).

Secondly (and directly connected) is that Evangelical culture values assimilation, more than secular culture at large does. It informs everything we do. When someone breaks that mold - chooses to live differently (i.e. celibate, ascetic, starving artist, anarchist, queer...) and still identifies with our religious narrative, it leads to all sorts of questions we aren't prepared for: "what if we're wrong?" "What if I need to change?" "What if I have to invite the OTHER over for dinner?" Assimilation (and the "advertising spirit" of Evangelicalism) is also what would make Ted Haggard's claim at least partly true: Evangelicals HAVE to say they have the best sex lives, because to admit otherwise might undermine our marketing strategy, our inspirational literature, and our positive, encouraging music.

I still love the idea of using sexual concepts and imagery in relation to spirituality - in a way that is respectful and inclusive of other models. But in every way I've seen it discussed or promoted within my Christianity-of-origin, it comes off forced and disingenuous. I hope our churches get a little braver about welcoming alternative ways of being Christian and being human, even if it stretches our own comforts and sensibilities.


Existential Punk said...

i saw this documentary and wanted to puke when he said that about Christians and sex! It came across so inauthentic to me! So sad!

Existential Punk said...

BTW, LOVE the title of this post as it sounds like either a documentary or a porno flick! ;)

Matthew Gallion said...

These are great thoughts! And I agree with Adele: that Haggard clip is downright disgusting.

Thanks for posting!

Luke said...

agreed! great post!

Peter said...

"LOVE the title of this post as it sounds like either a documentary or a porno flick!"

Adele, I'm sure I don't know WHAT you're talking about ;)

Wickle said...

Alright, for the record ...

If some guy beside you asks how often you have sex after he just said "everyday, sometimes twice a day," what are you going to say?

"Well, you know ... twice a week, usually, sometimes once if we're really busy"? No. It doesn't work that way.

And we won't even touch the level of false-bragging involved in the climax count they're presenting.

That video is really, really silly ... It should be given as much credibility as a couple of high school boys bragging in the locker room.

anthony said...

I don't get it. Is he talking about the Christian side hug?

Nathan Hockney said...

There is a Ted Haggard inspired story in the book In the Devil's Territory by Kyle Minor. It is called "A Love Story." It is not flippant or making fun. It is a compassionate story from the preacher's point of view. You should check it out.

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