Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Talk, The Guilt, The Pleasure

Today's stories come from a European (oh la la), a New Yorker, and someone who wanted to make sure she remains anonymous. Yes, you're anonymous, I promise. If you like, I'll even say you are me. 'Cause your story's kind of a turn-on. heh heh.

But seriously, bravo to all as always for your bravery. We are changing Christianity for the better. Let us all bring sex into our worship of God (kudos to story #2!). Wait...isn't that smacking of New Testament temple prostitution??

ONE
Growing up, my parents never gave me "the talk" -- in fact, I know of few families where parents spoke openly with their children about sex. Moreover, from a very early age, I had the intuitive sense that all matters of physical, romantic love were unmentionables. Frequently I didn't even know the meaning of a word, nor had any notion of just what it was about a term that cautioned me to avoid asking my parents about it, but I knew that I knew, and thinking back upon it, I was uncannily correct.

Physical affection in my family was something my parents reserved for their children -- myself and my older brother, and after his death, for me only. I do not recall my parents ever embracing or kissing passionately, but for special occasions -- their birthdays, Christmas
morning -- my father would hug and cheek-kiss my mother, and she would protest and physically and verbally show her displeasure. From the time I was 12 or so, when my grandmother's death freed up another room in the house, my parents kept separate bedrooms. None of this struck me as abnormal, but looking back, I can clearly see the message they were sending me: Sex was of course reserved for spouses only -- we were, after all, good Catholics -- but sex between spouses was at best non-existent and at worst revolting. I didn't have to hire a
counselor to figure out how this conditioning skewed my own perspectives on sex as a clandestine and desirable matter, best avoided in settings of emotional intimacy, but I ended up spending a lot of money on working through "fixing" and adjusting it. I am, in retrospect, grateful that the Christian/Catholic message kept me from too much mischief -- and, more importantly, kept me from considering my parents' version of sexuality as normal.

TWO

1. Episcopalian by both upbringing and temperament. I really love the Episcopal liturgy and the church feels "right" to me, but I am not active. I was very active in high school -- lots of youth
conferences, served on a diocesan commission, ran for my church's vestry, et cetera. But I lost touch with the church in college -- all those great youth outreach programs just disappeared -- and do not currently go to church. (I hate getting dressed up, and it's hard to get up on Sunday morning, especially when your girlfriend (who you only see on weekends) is Jewish.) I'm starting to miss it, though, so I think I will cautiously, warily, start going to a local church's
"Come As You Are" services on Sunday evenings. TMI? I'm sure.

2. I'm not really sure I know what "Christian sex" is. It sounds like a setup for some dippy comedian's facile punchline. It sounds like something my atheist/agnostic/UU friends would snicker at. But I was raised to believe that sexuality is a gift from God...and like other gifts, it must be used carefully and with responsibility and thanks. That's what stewardship is all about, right? I believe that sex can be spiritual and moving, and allow communion with God -- why
can't a loving couple be worshiping God as they have sex? (I know this sounds weird, but bear with me here.) God has given us this wonderful life force, this drive, these intensely pleasurable
sensations. It can be used poorly -- in non-loving relationships, in casual flings, in careless or hurtful ways, and for the wrong motives. But it can be approached prayerfully and responsibly, to build intimacy in a loving, committed, monogamous relationship, and to celebrate our humanity with a spark of the divine. After all, I believe in the "resurrection of the body" -- with all of the attendant good and bad things about the body implied.

THREE
I have recently decided not to feel guilty about masturbation. Once I realized and accepted that all the "Biblical" arguments from my youth are arguments from silence, I made a concious decision that I don't have to be ashamed any more.

I have touched myself before, but because of my guilty feelings, I never really masturbated before - or at least not enough to give myself an orgasm. But somehow, just putting my fingers near my vagina was comforting to me, despite the lingering guilt afterwards, so I would do it often.

However, since deciding that I had nothing to feel guilty about, I have committed to the act of masturbation. I'm not sure yet whether I have actually had an orgasm - all the websites out there say "you know it if you've had it" which doesn't help me much - but I am going to
continue to explore and practice and find out what makes me feel the best. What does happen, though, feels good and is a great release of a lot of tension and frustration.

I am a Christian woman in my late 20s and am a virgin, nor indeed even kissed a man. I find it hard to love myself sometimes and wonder quite often if God really truly loves me too. Perhaps I can find some measure of emotional release in the act of learning to love myself physically?

---------------------------------------
Hmmm...you'll know it if you've had it? I bet it's not that simple. Can someone help out with a description of an orgasm? Or better yet, a "Christian" orgasm?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

These little earthquakes

I got a note from a longtime friend warning me about the stories I’ve been telling. She raised some doubts in my mind. Is it healthy – or even safe – to bare one’s innermost thoughts and deepest secrets on the world wide web? Even in the context of a completely anonymous blog (except for those of you who have walked up to me and nailed it – you’re just freaky) does one want to share stories which may reveal parts of oneself that are potentially embarrassing, hurtful to others, or shameful? Could honesty be abused?

Well of course it can. And I don’t care. For me, life has become about conquering fear. There is nothing to be afraid of thanks to my faith in God. The only thing that can hurt me is death and even then I trust in my resurrection.

The only thing I worry about when I tell you I’m clinically depressed or have a messed up background is that I’ll be boring. I want to be brutally honest with my life. I want to live, as one prayer put it, “so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity.”

So you will keep hearing about my messed up self as long as it keeps helping one other person out there feel like she or he is not alone. There is nothing new under the sun. And in my estimation, the only thing you can do with a story that will be harmful is to hold it inside – hide yourself from the world.

I will not hide. I am naked. Hear me roar.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Godly(?) Sex Talk

ONE
1. Baptist growing up; non-denominational and Episcopal through college (depended on the Sunday); none now

2. Christian sex conjures up an image of a passive, self-conscious and timid woman and an aggressive, horny man. Definite man-on-top imagery.

Or my mother talking about a movie she saw recently where it had some sexual scenes and she calling them "disgusting" which probably just means naked people and nothing truly disgusting. [Editorial Note: I am sick TO DEATH of my parents making "tut-tut" noises every time anyone uses the word sex or any anotomically correct name for a human organ. One morning I was watching The View of all things and so surely the talk wasn't that racy, and I remember dad saying "What is this?!" in that disapproving way they have...you know what I'm talking about?? - Femmy]

Or artificial insemination so you don't have to get all "messy."

TWO
My wife and had sex early on....while we dated in college and many times guilt followed the act. Ironically, we stopped having sex when we became engaged. This was mutually decided upon and was based in our, for lack of our better understanding, Christian Ethics. For 18 months...well not in absolute terms...we snuffed the emotional urges through self-discipline. Would I do it over? Not sure....I am still weighing the pros and cons. On one hand, we improved our communication and focused on the sanctity of marriage. On the other hand, we disrupted the natural expression of sex....tainting/suppressing the spontaneity and essence of it.
[me again - I got to hear this story in person originally and I was so impressed at the insight he'd gained from the experience - the idea that it can really cause a rift in a couple's intimacy to suddenly stop having sex. I remember him saying something about it being "hard to get things back to where they were"...and I can vouch for that myself]

THREE
First, I was raised Baptist; am now quasi-pseudo-Presbyterian.

Now, first, Christian Sex conjures up a joke my friends and I came up with regarding youth group kids massaging one another at summer camp and how massaging becomes a sort of a physical outlet of sexual desires that's okay. Ha ha.

Secondly, Christian Sex seems to me non-existent. Let me explain. Christians who are not married aren't supposed to have sex (an idea, by the way, that I buy into and subscribe to wholly), but when people mess up by having sex with a loved one it becomes a totally awful thing, when in reality it is not an awful thing. Sure, they took it "too far," but everyone acts as though they should totally hate themselves and die, but maybe that should just signal to them that they may be ready for a deeper relationship, like, say, marriage? I don't know. I could
be full of it. But we've all heard stories about people who never kissed until the altar and them couldn't have sex with their partner, which led to serious problems.

I guess that leads to a third response, which is, why most Christians are totally weirded out by the idea of sex or procreation with their loved one. I knew a couple who couldn't tell the girl's dad they were pregnant. Why? Because that meant they had been having sex... and you can't tell your dad that no matter how long you've been married. What!? That's ridiculous, no? Isn't that what married people are supposed to do? I don't know. It just seems all hush-hush and quite frankly, I think that's horseshit, because it's like, God's gift to married people or whatever and it should be celebrated, somehow, I guess. But, I've never been married, so I don't know how it works.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Stories from the other side

You guys are great. What a wonderful, healing exercise this is (at least for me!) - to learn I am not alone, to learn that so many of us had parents who pooh-poohed every little idea about sex until we were pretty sure a stork had actually dropped us off! I'm so into this. I hope you are too and I'm not losing you.

I just had to share a couple of really moving, brave stories from persons of the male gender. Thank you to the guys who are joining in.

1. Episcopalian
2. Christian Sex? Hmm...the quite rational side of me says "sex had either by or with Christians" and leaves it at that. But then there's all the guilt and exclusionary baggage about sex that bubbles up from my traditional upbringing that I still carry around, even post-closet. I won't speak for the whole community, but it has often been a challenge for this gay Christian to reconcile. On the occasions that I feel more like a gay Atheist or Agnostic I tend to do fine, unsuprisingly, but in all my incarnations I try to understand sex as experiential, that is, we understand what best serves us emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, by the experiences we have, the mistakes we make, just like any other human endeavor. The scripture can be one source to which we look for guidance, but just as everybody has a different professional, relational, or educational path to travel, why must all Christians adhere to a strict, moralistic, and frankly somewhat outmoded social code, especially when it is culturally impossible for a good portion of us to do so? Of course, I tend to get righteous about these things right before I start to dismiss it all as just excuses for bad behavior, but come on, we all have common sense, right? Obey the law, be respectful of others, try to make wise decisions, resolve to try harder when you don't, that sort of thing. Is that un-Christian? I don't think so. Is it too permissive? Then my apologies, but as much as folks like Antonin Scalia, George W. Bush, Rick Santorum, and James Dobson may wish to regulate my sexual orientation, they thankfully have no say in the orientation of my spirit.


When I was a little boy, I discovered that some things (usually certain thoughts) would make my penis get long and stiff like a rod. I had no idea why this was happening - but it kinda felt good - so I pretty much accepted it as being normal. Looking back, however, I see that some of the thoughts I had were anything but normal. Many times I would imagine scenes of violence and suffering that I had seen on the news or in movies - and that would give me a hard-on. Later in life (but not much later) it would devolve into fantasies about bondage and mutilation that were difficult for me to understand. I was a good kid and I didn't want these things to happen, yet thinking about them felt good. Maybe my little brain was trying to express some deep anger or frustration. I don't know.

The violent thoughts went away when I was about 12 or so. I had a pretty normal "Christian" teenage life, with the exception of a brief flirtation with homosexuality. As I grew older, I also gained an increasing awareness of God and a desire to serve him. I started going to Church under my own volition rather than being forced to go by my parents. I was finally becoming a man, a real, normal, Christian man -until the dreams came back. I couldn't tell you when they came back, exactly - but back they came, and with a vengeance, too. Now I'm 21 and plagued with these hurtful fantasies. I don't want to sound self-absorbed, but people have told me that I'm a really great guy. I believe them, sort of. I'm involved in my Church, in my college ministry, in Bible studies. I tithe when I can and I try to read my
Bible daily. Yet, deep down, I'm evil. I haven't the slightest desire to follow through with my fantasies, yet they still turn me on.

I keep telling myself that I'm not a monster - that I'm not some serial killer or psychopath. Maybe I'm writing this to try and convince the anonymous people who will read this letter - or maybe I'm trying to convince myself.

Will I ever be able to tell my future wife? Can she ever see the dark side of me? I hope I can get it out one day. I hope I can tell her everything, and have her smile knowingly - to have her smile with grace and compassion. I hope it works out like that. I really do.

What is Christian Sex?

1. Describe your faith community
2. What is Christian Sex?

1. I grew up Presbyterian, but am now Episcopalian.
2. "Christian Sex" conjures the idea of either no sex, reluctant sex in marriage, or one part sex and three parts guilt if outside of marriage. Basically I don't think there is such a thing as Christian Sex -- yet. Christians can't handle sex, speaking very broadly, from a theological perspective.

1. Baptist/Non-demoninational/congregational
2. The missionary position of course; and also hushed orgasms...

1. NONE
2. SEX WITHIN MARRIAGE, BETWEEN A HUSBAND AND WIFE

1. American Baptist.
2. Sexual acts between a heterosexual married couple. I'll add that I'm currently in the process of re-examining issues regarding homosexuality and the church, but at this point, that still doesn't fall into my view of "Christian sex."

1. Presbyterian (K-12) Methodist (College) Mennonite (post-college)
2. I ascribe to sex being a privilege only acceptable under covenant [between the couple and God.] In other words...there must be commitment sealed by the Higher Authority.

1. I'm E-Free
2. Christian Sex is just like any other sex. Right? I don't think there's a difference...sex is sex, for fun or procreation

1. My faith background stems from the Baptist tradition, but my undergraduate and post-graduate community has strictly been Presbyterian USA
2. "Christian Sex" - in the past I would say that this terms can almost be synonomous with "abstinence." Sex is dirty, evil, and wicked ... How can a Christian, therefore, have sex without sinning? However, recently (just in the past two years), I have begun to see that "Christian Sex" is good and can be quite honoring to God. Sex can be one of the fullest physical and emotional expressions for our love for another person but also our greatfullness for God.

1. Christian
2. I'd define it as:
Occurring in the context of a committed, monogamous relationship
Borne of mutual respect (“power” or “control” aren’t part of it)
Celebrated as one of God’s most intimate gifts to us

1. christian
2. yuck - "christian sex" just doesn't sound fun

1. Moderate modern Islam
2. I have NO idea! I would imagine it would be "married" sex? I don't know. It really doesn't conjure anything at all. I wonder if I'm really missing something obvious here!

1. Reformed/Presbyterian Protestantism:
2. Well, it conjures up several things: the first is--what an odd combination of words. I mean, seriously: is there "Jewish Sex", "Muslim Sex" and "Buddhist Sex"? One tends not to think of "Sex" being modified by a specific religious belief.

Second, it makes me think of the category of sexual ethics that is/should be present in most Christians' lives, esp. those who are married to one another. For example, in the "ethic" of "Christian Sex" or "Sexuality", premarital sex AND cheating on your spouse, sexually or in terms of emotional intimacy, would both be prohibited or grounds for moral reproach. It would also define what conditions and manners of sexual congress would be acceptable between sexually active people and unto what end those acts of sexual congress would work (e.g. expression of love, procreation, maintaining a covenant relationship of offspring (e.g. what Onan failed to do...)).

Thirdly, and possibly the most crass: "Christian Sex" would be the ironical term used to describe the state of many Christian male-female relationships today and possibly, throughout the ages. It would be used ironically in light of the fact that many Christians are engaged in sexual congress/acts with people other than their spouses or with significant others who are not yet their spouses. This would be a commentary on the failure of Christians to uphold the Christian sexual ethic as stated in above definition #2.

Keep them coming!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

God's Politics

Jim Wallis did an outstanding job on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. A streaming video is currently available on Sojourner's website:
http://www.sojo.net/

(It requires a simple free registration)

He got right up there and told the gospel - right there on TV! He even dealt wonderfully with Stewart's remarks about Jews "not getting into heaven". I highly recommend watching it - it's all of 7 minutes of your time.

Also, those of you in the LA area, Jim Wallis will be at All Saints Church in Beverly Hills at 7:00 on Feb. 20 (that's a Sunday). Should be really interesting.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Everybody does it

I am opening the "Beloved" project to ALL genders. The issues we're dealing with here are not specific to one gender, they are about the common experiences we've had as Christian people (or people who know Christian people) growing up in a subculture that has deeply affected our views about and experiences with sex. So please, boys, join in!

Okay, now some bon mots from Song of Solomon (did you discover these in junior high like I did?):

While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance.
My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts.

Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits...
Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.

You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches.


More tales of sex and the Christian

send stories to monologues@sbcglobal.net


1. When I was about 6 or 7 I discovered it felt good to rub my crotch. I got in trouble for doing it during story time. I felt ashamed, but not sure why.

2. When I was 9 or 10, I started putting my Barbies and Kens into sexual situations...usually violent ones. This was because the only sex scenes I'd ever read were in some John Jakes historical novels owned by my parents--and the scenes were erotically-presented rapes. Lying in bed after reading them, I learned how to rub myself to orgasm, but I didn't know the words "orgasm" or "masturbation" for years later. I did know enough to keep what I did a secret. I still tend to focus on bondage-type scenes when I masturbate.

3. My parents never gave me a sex talk. They asked me "Do you know how babies are made?" and I said "Yes." Because being a kid who read all the time, I'd read a very dry version of the facts of life in a Reader's Digest story "How to Tell Your Kids About Sex." That was it.

4. I always thought of penises as long featureless rods, and I didn't even know balls existed; it wasn't until I saw A Room With a View in college that I saw a real penis, however briefly. I had no idea that they came in different sizes and shapes and changed both when they relaxed or were excited. I had no idea boys got involuntary erections that they had to hide--I never saw one in school, because I would never have looked at a boy's crotch directly. I would have been much less scared of boys if I had known they could control their bodies even less than I did.

As it was, once I knew what rape was and the boys started getting bigger than me, I was terrified of them until late high school. I didn't date at all in high school for that reason, which also made my parents happy (and yet also anxious). When I started dating in college, they were freaky about the whole thing, and wouldn't let me go see my boyfriend over vacation because it would "look bad." This was ridiculous, because we could have had sex any number of times while we were at school, but didn't, because we both had self-control and were committed to waiting till marriage. My parents still wouldn't let me. This was when I realized that years of being a good girl was not a guarantee of being allowed to grow up and do what I wanted--that I could never be good enough, really, to be trusted to make my own decisions. I never looked at my parents the same way again.

5. This is why, later, when I was engaged to my husband and the lease ran out on his apartment, I let him move in with me six months before we were supposed to be married, but didn't tell my family. We were both virgins on our wedding night despite living together, because we thought it was important. Now, I'm not so sure that it mattered. But our sex life is wonderful now, though we were very awkward at first and I didn't really enjoy it for the first few times. Neither one of us is technically a Christian or goes to church, and we don't do any of that submission crap; we're equals. And it's good that way.

6. In college I masturbated a lot, because hey, what else have you got when you can't have sex at possibly your most horny time of life? I remember one day a woman came through town who somehow I thought could help me with this "problem" so I had her over to my dorm room. She spent 8 hours with me, essentially casting out this demon from my soul. I had to name and confess everything that had every happened to me or I had done that was in any way remotely sexual. And also nightmares since Satan could work through those, and any time I thought I'd sensed someone watching me, etc. etc. Anyway, after 8 hours of prayer, we bid adieu. She spoke the next day in chapel and openly shared how she'd been addicted to masturbation while in college. The funny thing is that she was my friend's MOM and he was simply aghast. That is pretty embarrassing, you have to admit!
Anyway, I went home and laid off for a few days, but before long I was no longer master of my domain. Ah, well. It's practice for my future husband became my new motto.

7. In kindergarten I remember the boy who sat across from me would tell me to look under the table and he wiggle his penis at me. I did not really know what that was about. Can you imagine if that happened today?? That kid would go to jail!

Notes from the Feminarian:
I'm not going to tell you which of these stories are mine, although I will say that more than one of them is. Here's a funny thing that's happened when I'm writing this: I can’t write the word vagina without feeling like I should change it to another word. Isn't that just what Vagina Monologues was about?! My husband thinks I'm disturbed because it just seems to me like it's a naughty word that one shouldn't say (penis is also). Actually, so is masturbate. Ah, what freedom comes to me in writing these tales!

I was considering making a new blog to just deal with this issue, but on second thought, isn't this whole thing of sexuality and Christianity a big part of being in seminary? I mean, it's probably one of the biggest issues we'll have to work with parishoners about, and obviously sexual identity is deeply ingrained in church politics. So here it stays for now. The email address and comment board are open for business.

To get things rolling here is a question I'd like answered (short answer is fine):

Describe what you think "Christian Sex" might be.
(Please include your faith background/community if you have one to identify yourself - might be interesting for comparison)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

OK, I did it

I officially put together a Discernment Committee, which puts me on the very early first step of the Process of Ordination in the Episcopal Church.

I honestly have no idea how it will turn out, and I don't have any expectation or really even a hope either. I am really going to make this committee live up to their charge as helpers in my discernment process, 'cause I got no earthly idea if I wanna be a priest!

Still, it is an exciting move. We'll start shortly after Easter. With fear and trembling!!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

My Beloved Waits for Me

Send more stories: monologues@sbcglobal.net

ONE

When I was a very little girl, so young that I can hardly remember this, I discovered that the parts between my legs felt good when something rubbed on them. Much later I learned that it’s quite common for children to discover this and innocently find objects, especially ones that vibrate, to use to touch themselves.

Somehow I remember that I felt guilty about it. I didn’t even know what I was doing, but I knew it was bad. When my friends and I played kissing games, or pretended like the people making out on TV, we knew we were being naughty. I think that’s why we didn’t do it around the grown-ups.

My siblings and I made a regular practice of playing by kissing and touching each other. Sometimes we made noises like the people on television, just acting it out. I know it was never erotic. It was simply play, and sometimes it felt good to us.

I do not remember how long it went on, but I remember exactly when it stopped. I was about 12 years old, and my brother would have been 7.

My mother walked in while my brother and I were playing. She asked me what I was doing, and I said nothing, and she asked why his pants were down, and I mumbled that I was touching him. She sent me to my room.

There I lay for what felt like a couple of hours. I could hear my parents crying and yelling in the other room. I was devastated because I had done something so bad and now they knew I was bad. And also I knew, from the news, that people who touch little boys are evil people. The longer I lay there the more convinced I became that I had really done something awful.

I remember my biggest fear, the thing I could most rationally imagine as the worst possibility, was a spanking with a wooden spoon. I tried to gear myself up for it.

Instead, when someone finally entered my room, they took me to my parents’ room. There my parents explained to me that they’d called the pastor and their best friends and told them. I was mortified. This was even worse than the spoon –I knew that the people they told would tell other people. Everyone would know. Everyone would see the evil person that I was. They put me in counseling, about which I remember very little. I sometimes wonder if the counselor told my parents what my several therapists would later tell me: that all children do this, that it’s not a big deal, and that it’s certainly no indication of the morality of the innocents involved.

It was fucked up, what they did to me. Excuse my language, but it was. I went into adolescence believing that I was a child molester. That I was a sexual predator. And my parents – I know they must have known that I felt that way – and they never did anything to reassure me that it wasn’t so.

In fact, one day I’d asked my mom what was going to happen now or something like that, and I have never forgotten the words she said to me. She kept putting away dishes as she calmly told me, “Well, you’re no longer a virgin. You’ve lost that gift.”


TWO

I am pretty sure that if I wasn’t a Christian I’d be a lesbian. Or I would have definitely checked it out.

I remember as a little girl I always practiced kissing with my girlfriends. We would check out how it felt, make sure we could hit lips with our eyes shut, giggle at how gross it was to use your tongue.

I remember as a little girl that I liked kissing the girls. I didn’t have much opportunity to practice with boys, but I liked the girls. I even pressured my friends who weren’t interested. I usually won.

I got older and I did the normal thing of stressing about finding the perfect right Christian man to be yoked with. The stress begins, really, in junior high. I never thought much about girls again because it was quite simply not an option. Not like that was forced on me – it was simply never presented to me as something that was done. I don’t think I even knew there were such people as lesbians until I was at least a sophomore in college.

I had a best friend in college with whom I could talk dirty, and we’d talk about if we had to sleep with a girl, who would it be? And it was, of course, Tori Amos. For both of us. I remember watching the movie “Threesome” with her and another great male friend, and my boyfriend at the time, and thinking that was actually something I’d do with these good friends of mine. We even joked about it. I wonder if anyone else ever had a serious thought about it.

I eventually got married, and I love my husband deeply. He is truly my best friend. But I am not sexually attracted to him. In fact, I find sex disturbing and painful.

I've watched a few movies, not porn, just movies like “Bound” and “Showgirls”, that gave me some mental pictures. And of course I’ve seen girlie magazines. And I’ve discovered that I can get aroused during sex if I close my eyes and imagine one of those movies’ scenes or just a naked woman. In fact, it’s the only way I can have an orgasm.

I dream about love and sex almost every night, and I am almost always with women in my dreams. I notice beautiful women walking down the street. I love to look at women’s bodies, and I am especially attracted to their breasts and their soft skin.

I believe now that it’s okay to be gay, even as a Christian, but I don’t think I am. I am married, and I am in love with my husband. He doesn’t believe I am gay and he knows me better than anyone. Maybe I’m bisexual. Maybe I’m just really curious. Or maybe I just really regret that I never got to even check and see if this was really real for me.

Because, come on, how could it be?


THREE

Here’s the weird thing about sex. I’ve had sex with two people in my life: the man I thought I was going to marry who left me through no fault of my own, and the man I did marry.

We had sex basically because we couldn’t stand not doing it any more. We were doing everything but, as all Christian couples do, and finally one day you just go, “fuck it” and he slips it in. And it’s over in about 2 seconds.

Every time I had sex with both guys, we would go through this horrible period afterwards of crying and praying and repenting, feeling terribly guilty and promising never to do it again. But we always did do it again (though usually we could hold out a few weeks or even months). And the wailing would begin again.

But here’s the weird thing: before I was married, sex was great. I loved it. I wanted it all the time. It was so wonderful that it completely outweighed the terrible after effects.

Then I got married, and that day everything changed. We had our first married sex and it was terrible and it hurt like hell. In fact, I was hurt so badly that we couldn’t do it again for three days. And after that it kept on hurting and it wasn’t sexy and it wasn’t fun.

I have slowly lost my sex drive over the past decade of marriage, not because I don’t love and want to be intimate with my husband, but simply because it hurts too damn bad.

Now you tell me, what kind of sick joke was that for God to play on us?


FOUR
I was on a silent retreat. It had been about 12 hours since we’d started the silence. I woke up very early – probably about five in the morning. I went outside while it was still dark. I sat on a bench and watched as the sky changed to gray and lightened enough for me to read. I read some prayers from a book. And as I was reading them and praying in the quiet and the dark…this warmth welled up inside my body. It sent a shiver up my spine and made me feel tingly all over. I thought it was a shudder but it kept going. It actually rose from my vagina through my middle and up through the top of my head, then back down again. It shook my entire body, and I was sweating and panting. Through it all I couldn’t see but I could sense that God was there…that God was, actually, entering me. And it was erotic. It wasn’t just a father love or a brotherly love. It was eros. And I will tell you, it was the best orgasm of my entire life. He took me and shook me and then was gone, leaving me satisfied and cozy, out of breath but completely alive.

Friday, January 21, 2005

What do we make of this?

"There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom."
(Bush inaugural speech, emphasis added)

"For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave."
(1 Cor 7:22)

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient,
Love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails;
but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away;
if there are tongues, they will cease;
if there is knowledge, it will be done away...
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."
(I Cor 13: 1-8a, 13)

Put another way:
http://www.therevealer.org/archives/main_story_001520.php

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Two Questions

A friend and I came up with a potentially marvelous idea for a play: a Christian version of the Vagina Monologues (http://www.dazereader.com/vaginamonologues.htm). Christian women have a very unique relationship with their sexuality, largely influenced by what they've learned at church. She and I want to put together stories of our Christian sisters' struggles, funny moments, revelations of truth, etc. It's not exactly the process the great Eve Ensler used, but I was thinking that perhaps you might want to contribute. Just post a story anonymously (unless you're proud of it!) to my comments (implicitly giving permission to use it). I don't know how exactly this thing will come together, and I surely don't know who the audience would be, but it feels important.

The other thing is that I'm facing a job decision and I need wisdom. So send up a prayer that the Feminarian will know whether to change course (back to full-time work, part-time school) or stay on track. It's a good enough position that the decision is proving extremely difficult.

Thanks, you guys.
Oh, and see Sideways. Funny movie!! The most hysterical moments involve men running around, either drinking crazily or naked with their little penises swinging around. I enjoy laughing at men sometimes!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Both Diverse and Inclusive

Dr. Barbara J. Resch writes:

"500 teenagers who participated in my research study have stated what many of us already know: that the Church's song both reflects and forms what that Church believes, that importing a musical expression into the Church from a conflicting culture is dishonest and ineffectual, and that the music of the Church needs to carry its text clearly and understandably to all of its members. When it does not reflect the popular taste of any particular age group, and when it nurtures its own particular language, the Church's expression becomes both diverse and inclusive, because it is unbounded by the considerations of age. It becomes "our music" early in life, draws on the richness of past centuries, becomes ever fuller with the discovery and endurance of new creative expressions, and then remains ours for a lifetime. "

more at...
http://www.lifeoftheworld.com/lotw/04-03/04-03-04.php

Speaking of...gay marriage

This week's "Speaking of Faith" will feature a discussion (debate?) on the topic of gay marriage.

I have high hopes for this show, as the two people discussing this issue are people I like, as is the host, Krista Tippett, who is a brilliant interviewer (and a really sweet person based on our one meeting). Unfortunately, the "con" side is headed up by my seminary's president, Richard Mouw. *sigh* He's a great thinker. I hope he comes around someday.

Anyway, it's nationally syndicated or you can listen to it here (lots of great background material here too - what a responsible show to actually go through the broadcast and provide all these resources based on things brought up by the interviewees):

http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2005/01/13_gaymarriage/

Notes from an expert on worship

Continuing our fun and fruitful conversation, here are some ideas from my music director, who literally "wrote the book" on Anglican worship:

1) EVERYTHING related to worship has been examined and questioned by virtually every generation of the Church, and that is especially true of the past 50 years.

2) It’s pointless to argue with a person whose heart is not moved by music, and he can say until he’s blue in the face that all the fuss over music is pointless and a waste of time and money, but it’s no more true than if someone were to say that religious painting, or painting of any kind is pointless and a waste of time and money. There is no intellectual or religious merit to saying that, because God does not speak to me in a particular way (which, in fact, is probably not God’s fault), it’s pointless and a waste of time and money.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More on Worship

(some responses to recent comments)

I always assumed we sing because Christians have always sung, and before there was Christianity, the Hebrews sang, to the glory of God.

Having a choir is a practical consideration to provide musical leadership and give choral artists an opportunity to practice their craft. Also, there are angelic choirs, and so we aspire to same.
I'm checking with my music director on the other questions. I'd say the organ, like the $200-million cathedral in Los Angeles, is just an instrument created to the best of our ability to please and glorify God. Why shouldn't God get the very best - and why can't it be expensive? I'm sure Solomon's temple wasn't cheap.

I think God does care a great deal about our worship - that is the only reason I care so much. I don't think everyone should worship the same (if I ever get a PhD my dissertation will probably be on diversity in worship), but all worship should share the common elements of glorifying God and, secondarily, being aesthetically excellent.

Nicolas Wolterstorff wrote an awesome chapter in his book "Art in Action" about liturgical art in practice. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A response

Phil said...
I think there is room for variety here. Why can't we have churches painting in the service and others not using any visual art at all - and not criticise each other. Just a thought. Perhaps tolerance is an art form too...


Phil (and whoever else),

I don't think I am an intolerant person for suggesting that churches think through the theological implications of their modes of worship. Or if anything, I am intolerant of ignorance and especially of faulty worship.

My questions about having painting in a service are: what exactly is it accomplishing? Who is receiving the glory of the action? Is the worship experience of painting something that the community is a part of or is it just for the artist? Do we want to encourage private forms of personal devotion within our corporate worship? Is the painting something that is leading every person in that congregation towards God? What is the biblical, traditional or reasonable basis for including this art form as part of worship?

I'm not saying churches can't include it. But they should think through it. The same goes for lighting candles, putting up a cross, singing a Taize, using Ignatian prayer, etc. etc. etc. I am witnessing an alarming lack of preparation and theological basis when it comes to worship. Sadly, this seems to be the trend in the emerging churches most of all.

Are we doing the things we do in worship for God's glory, or for our own?
Even the desire to fill our church can be to our own glory, along with more obvious things like doing something "cool", or different than our parents did. Motivation, people. Dig into the why.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Some history and a little rant

Hey, I got a really nice mention in Vaughn Thompson's Icthus blog:
http://www.vaughnthompson.com/ichthus/archives/2004/11/index.php

I haven't had a lot of time to dig around in it, but it looks like he's on track. Good stuff, check it out.

He asked the inevitable question about what my parents think of my "conversion" to Anglicanism. The funny thing about my parents is that they used to be hippies, Jesus People, and they never really changed. They are fairly conservative politically, and I suppose theologically, but they have always trusted that as long as their kids love Jesus, we're fine. They have seen how my switch to the Episcopal church relit my fire for God, and how could that make them anything but happy?

So they haven't been changed by the fundamentalist churches they served in - in fact, they were always much more critical of their church than of their children's search for something better. How's that for a twist on the old story?

I have to get reading (I have a ridiculous amount of reading to do!), but I wanted to post something I wrote during my Theology and Art class. Context: someone raised their hand in class and mentioned that their church is very "arty" and people paint during the services and there is lots of drama etc. etc. ad nauseum (of course they go to Mosaic, famous LA emergent church), and this person was concerned that the church may be losing its focus on relationship with God in favor of spectacle (ya think?). Then a woman raised her hand and stated that her church has the opposite problem: they won't let anyone show film clips or do dramas because they don't want to "sell out" (good for them!). So here is what I wrote in my notes:

The problem is bringing the arts into the church irresponsibly. You can't just have it because it is cool and different and contemporary. And you can't just have it because it is entertaining. You can draw upon our fantastic history of artistic expression, what has worked for 2,000 years, for a long time without getting into anything that is selling out. There is plenty of inherently Christian art. You can't have art for art's sake in the church. If anywhere, it is most important for church to be the place where art is most excellent and focusing all attention on God - never the artist.

There's a lot more I could say about this but duty calls. Perhaps you'd like to join the rant.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I'm Outed!

Did I actually say I was at Fuller, or did somebody just figure it out? Or did somebody who knows me out me? I'm referring to the comments from the last post.

Well it was bound to happen someday and I was probably fooling myself to think anyone didn't already know. Yep, I am at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.

And what I said about the girls...oh, I must recant. Only because I was just as bad today. I guess it depends on how comfortable you feel with your subject. Today I was in Theology and Art (which I have nicknamed "T&A") and was babbling up a storm. So shame on me for berating my sistren, for I am also a gabber like thee.

Back to School

I started classes again yesterday, which means I'll be musing less and trying to report more about actual seminary life. Sorry to all those who were working on my potentially false views of dualism. We'll come back to that another time.

Yesterday I had New Testament: Acts to Revelation. This quarter is my first taking a "real" class: meaning that I am doing reading assignments and writing papers, instead of just memorizing a language. Which means a couple of things:

1. I am terrified because I don't remember how to write a research paper.
2. There are many more women in my class - it very well could be over half. Coming from my Greek intensive, in which only three females dared to sit (out of about 30 students), this is a change of pace.

And at least from day one, I am feeling disloyal to my sisters. The thing I learned from day one is that women talk too much. Now all you men are of course nodding your heads; this is a truth of life in general, certainly, and not simply of school. And yet, it's something of a revelation to me. For one thing, I hear how annoying I must be when I jabber on (a little self-improvement is in order), and for another, I realize that women simply aren't perfect. I know, it is a shock.

I don't know if it is because of our large numbers in the class, or because the professor is a woman, or because of some need to prove ourselves, but the girls were answering every question, asking every question, and frequently raising their hands to tell (unecessary) stories to add to the lecture. And I gotta admit, I was a little bothered by the whole thing. I mean, it is great that the women feel comfortable enough to be participating so much. But there is also a time and a place for just soaking in what the professor has to tell us instead of always adding our own thoughts to the mix. I feel like the place for that is in our papers, or in the coffee time that the prof graciously offers after class. Let's use the classtime to learn from this incredible woman!

Is it this way at other seminaries? I would love to hear from some of the other seminarians and alumni of same who read.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Final movies

Briefly, here are the final things I watched and LOVED:
Open Water
Tape (Richard Linklater)
Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 1
Sylvia
The Closet
Simone (ok, I didn't LOVE, love it, but it was much better than people give it credit for, and I love Andrew Niccol)

And I would say, if you've ever been curious about the Osbournes, watch season 1 (classic) and 2 (good moments) but skip 2 1/2.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The new economy

A great issue of the Village Voice, featuring a section entitled "Generation Debt", included this article with which I wholeheartedly empathize:
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0451,kamenetz,59416,6.html

There are also stories about young men and young people's parents coping with the new realities of our economic life; about the impossibility of affording to live in cities where young people once got their start; about how the privatization of Social Security will affect everyone but especially my generation.

I highly recommend giving it a read!

I'm a Soul Man

Okay, here is my question:

Do you believe that something of us exists after the body is deceased?