Email What you thought was naughty may actually be holy. Her way of interpreting the Bible is not systematic, for example, and she tends to feel her way through the text. For this reason, I decided to chat with her about her views on sex and why she believes the church needs to change its thinking. Sexually transmitted infections STIs can also be spread through the other forms of sex. But the question of feeling at home in our bodies, at coming to terms with our vulnerability, is a lot more complicated than that.
Marriage is no guarantee. And, indeed, our vulnerability, our embodied nature, our relationships, and our institutions are affected by sin.
Sometimes we feel shame because of our own sin; sometimes those feelings are undeserved. I am trying to explore the difference. In an age witnessing the rise of emotional affairs that discussion seems particularly prescient.
Also powerful is the way the church offered alternatives to the dominant culture, a culture that was often oppressive or dangerous. Living into vows of chastity could offer freedom from the potential of disease or death. Chastity in that case was not about limitation for many—especially early Christian women in religious orders—but about new freedoms to live fully into grace.
Is feeling good sufficient for concluding that something is good? We need mutuality and consent, for starters. Knowing if something feels good or bad is a baseline thing that we Christians, with some of our sexual moralizing and fear mongering, have failed to teach people. We all need to experience pleasure, relaxation, calm. Does that mean we all need the exact same type of pleasure?
To experience the rush of endorphins in response to the same stimuli? Some of us are beef eaters, some of us eat a bunch of tofu and beans. Denying the facts of our humanity seems like a theologically problematic move. How do you interpret this and why is it relevant?
That feeling of standing outside yourself, almost watching yourself choose poorly. Your subtitle claims this book is about what the Bible says about sex. Christians have tended to read the biblical story of Onan as a prohibition against masturbation or non-procreative sex. The practice of sleeping with your sister-in-law, or giving your dead brother an heir, was a means of providing economic security and protection to a woman who would otherwise be without support, set adrift in a society where women were pretty much only sustained through their relationships with men.
Onan has sex with Tamar, but denies her the means to protect or sustain herself. Pursuing pleasure at a cost to another, especially a vulnerable other, is displeasing to the Lord. You seem to take some Bible verses on sex as prescriptive but not others. What determines whether you think a passage should be taken literally or prescriptively and which ones do not apply?
I think a systematic hermeneutic, or interpretive lens, is not particularly helpful when it comes to the Bible. If a story, passage, or letter reflects what we know about God as revealed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, who called us to love neighbor and enemy, and to know abundant life, then we should take it prescriptively. And if it blames a rape victim, incites genocide, or offers an apologetics of slavery or misogyny, than maybe not so much.
What are your thoughts on polygamy? It seems a polygamous relationship could adhere to your principles here—fidelity, consensuality, etc. Polyamory, though, as a sexual and romantic relationship between three or more consenting people? I think it would be really hard insofar as intimacy is hard enough in a dyad, and mutuality would be well near impossible given the even more complicated power dynamics and the reality of sin.