elaine a. heath

Spirituality, Theology, Creativity, Community

A New Set of Questions About Sex and Sin, Part 2



Here is the problem. We have not learned from childhood, growing up, that every person is uniquely sexual in the same way that we have one-of-a-kind fingerprints. We have not been told that our sexuality is woven through our spirituality and our personality, and that it is expressed in all aspects of our creativity, generativity, self giving, transcendence, compassion, and true worship. This foundational understanding has been missing. We have not learned that our sexuality is sacred.

Instead we have consumed the message a thousand times a day through movies, television, advertising, awkward parents, and shaming theology that sexuality is about body parts, that it is a power stronger than God and unless you are married to a heterosexual partner, in league with Satan. Our sexual imagination has been utterly colonized by porn, video games, beauty pageants for little girls and jeans ads for pubescent boys and by the intrusive, exploitive, abusive words and acts done to one out of three of our daughters and one out of five of our sons who then bear the scars of that abuse for the rest of their lives.

Is it any wonder that in the church we can’t imagine better questions to ask about sexual virtue and sexual sin? We scarcely know what sexuality is. We have reduced it to a few acts involving genitals and breasts, divorced from the rest of life. In doing so we have committed violence against ourselves and our neighbors. Yet our hearts know there has to be something different. Even when we lack the language to describe our longing, we yearn for sexual wholeness in our lives.

What would be the implications for our understanding of sexual virtue if we had a robust, deep, and sacred appreciation for the inherent, unrepeatable, unique sexuality of each person in the way described above? How might our theology of sexuality be changed for the better? What would it look like to help our children grow up respecting their own bodies and the bodies of others, their own personhood and the personhood of others, their own unique footprint of creativity, compassion, self-giving, generativity, and transcendence as well as the footprint of others, their own sexuality and the sexuality of others? What might this mean for how we build healthy boundaries to protect, tend, and honor our own sexuality and the sexuality of others?  What might this mean for sexual healing when our boundaries have been violated or we have violated the boundaries of others?


2 thoughts on “A New Set of Questions About Sex and Sin, Part 2

  1. I do hope you’ll continue posting your reflections on this!

    One of the most influential essays I’ve ever read on feminism was “Our Bodies, Ourselves” by Helen Marshall (featured in Feminist Theory and the Body reader). I wrote more about this here: http://billyymcmahon.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/mobius_strip_self/

    Marshall uses the picture of a Mobius strip to illustrate selfhood. Seeing a bifurcated self–sexuality divorced from spirituality, sex = physical, etc.–creates grounds for all sorts of oppression and shaming. Many Christians take a reductionist path because of supposedly separate “parts” of our lives.

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