A follow-up on “Porn shaming”

My post from 12/28/14 titled “Porn shaming” has been my most-read post by far (three times that of the second most read post). In it I discuss how conservative Christianity uses “porn use” and “porn addiction” interchangeably — to them, there is no distinction (at least when it comes to any remote regularity of use). So, I was very fascinated when I came across this article by the American Sexual Health Association (HT to Shaun Miller’s Ideas for the link):  Continue reading

Sexual morality initiated, but did not cause, my unbelief

The other day I came across a book review Dan Savage wrote on Jeff Chu’s Does Jesus Really Love Me? There was one paragraph that really resonated with me:

Chu worries that gay people like Mr. Byers have been “pushed out of the church.” That’s not true for all of us. My father was a Catholic deacon, my mother was a lay minister and I thought about becoming a priest. I was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband. I haven’t spent my post-Catholic decades in a sulk, wishing the church would come around on the issue of homosexuality so that I could start attending Mass again. I didn’t abandon my faith. I saw through it. The conflict between my faith and my sexuality set that process in motion, but the conclusions I reached at the end of that process — there are no gods, religion is man-made, faith can be a force for good or evil — improved my life. I’m grateful that my sexuality prompted me to think critically about faith. Pushed out? No. I walked out.

I loved this. The first area of my faith I dissented against was homosexuality. I’ve written about how I have LGBTQ people close to me in my life (here, here, and here), and I saw first hand how the homophobic positions of Catholicism (and other conservative forms of Christianity) negatively impacted their lives. It got to a point that I couldn’t in good conscience agree with my church’s approach to LGBTQ people. A couple years later, I realized that my church’s teachings on premarital sex and contraception had very real and very negative effects on my and my friends’ lives. So, I discarded those teachings as well.  Continue reading

Purity culture and real life: “have sex already”

During my drift from faith, I encountered this post by Hannah Ettinger that helped me shake off whatever ghosts of “purity culture” still lurked in my closet:

Here is my best advice for good Christian kids looking to get married: have sex already.

I’m watching too many couples play Russian roulette with their lives because they aren’t listening to their gut instincts about who they want or need to spend their lives with because they happened to have found one person somewhat enchanting and willing to play the Christian marriage game and the stakes are: your whole future on this decision, made in the worst possible state of mind, horny celibacy.

[…] Within Christian purity culture, sex, as an unknown and desirable thing (known to be powerful and good, but forbidden), necessarily becomes the bullet that we imagine blowing our brains out with if we pull the trigger at the wrong time, and we trick ourselves into believing that marriage will somehow protect us from spiritual suicide by pre-marital sex. We can’t know better if we’re still treating sex as a huge scary-and-wonderful unknown entity, but you’d think that our elders/wisers/more-experienced influencers would bother to let us in on the game before we sign on the dotted line.

[…] Thus, when we good [read: virgin] Christian kids decide to accept this system, trusting our parents and pastors’ terms and wisdom, and denying ourselves basic understanding of ourselves as sexual beings (which we are, but they help us overlook this by telling us that perpetual fear and denial of sexuality is a form of healthy [and therefore godly] sexuality), sex as an unknown other becomes a non-factor in our choices for who we date and who and when we marry, or it becomes the secret but driving factor for who and when we marry. It must remain secret as a motive, because everyone knows that marrying just to have sex is a bad idea, but there is no other alternative for healthy, safe, and consensual sexual experience when we have bought into this system.

And if we are unlucky enough to be just a little too horny to effectively deny the existence of our sexuality until the approved time and place (the wedding night), we are caught in an impossible place where in order to keep being Good Christian Kids, we have to not question what our parents and pastors have told us—which is, essentially, that everything I just laid out in layman’s hermeneutics about biblical sexual ethics is lies and that God’s best plan for sexuality is total ignorance and total commitment to one person and one form of sexual experience forever and ever, amen—and to jump through all the Christian social hoops to land in bed with someone and not get ostracized or shamed for wanting to have sex in the first place.

I’m awake for about 17 hours a day. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say I have sexual activity every day (ha!) for an hour (let’s pretend this is pre-children, before foreplay’s thrown out the window). That would mean I spend just under 6% of my time awake having sex. Now in real life, I (along with nearly everybody else) don’t have sexual activity every day for an hour, so it’s actually closer to about 1-2%. That means that I spend 98-99% of my time awake doing non-sexual things. And, yet, during my time as a conservative Christian, the vast majority of moral imperatives had to do with sex. Continue reading

Secular spirituality: two songs that helped me contextualize my doubt

Ever since I ran into the concept of “secular liturgies” (Rock and Theology has a great series exploring this concept), I’ve been noticing that human beings are liturgical beings. No matter what our religious or non-religious preferences are, we still use liturgical means to express something bigger than our individual selves – music, visual art, ceremonies, recitation of commonly-held values, a lecture or a show where we gather together to try to understand, or marvel at the mystery of an aspect of human existence, and so on.

The thing that has drawn me to literature and music is the way in which they contextualize the human condition. There are two songs that have helped me contextualize my religious doubts – Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Hozier’s Take Me to Church. Both of them use explicit religious language and imagery to simultaneously question the existence of God and to find spiritual meaning in humanity, specifically the very human act of sex. During my doubting of religion and God, I’ve worried about losing spirituality. But, as these (and many other) songs indicate, there is something spiritual in being a part of this thing called humanity. Continue reading

When my faith clashed with my reality (Gay Edition Part II)

I’m sorry this post is rambling and fragmented, but I’m trying to connect the dots in my shift in religious mindset.

Life occasionally brings those Oprah-style “aha moments.” I remember watching an episode of Rules of Engagement with my wife about two years and one child into our marriage. I never found the show that entertaining or funny, but it was one of the few shows at the time that we both liked to watch. Right after the episode was over, my wife initiated sex, something that didn’t happen a ton at the time. After the sex, I recognized a pattern – she initiated sex after every episode we watched as far back as I could recall. The insecure person I was at the time, I just had to know if it was Patrick Warburton or Oliver Hudson who was getting her all hot and bothered – and of course I couldn’t converse with her directly about this. So, the next time we watched the show, I was tuned in to her reactions to the show. But, I noticed something different, she was more focused on the show when Bianca Kajlich’s character was on the screen. I found Kajlich’s character, while attractive, to be the least funny on the show, but I noticed that my wife found all of Kajlich’s character’s jokes to be hilarious. And then, as usual, we had sex after watching the show. Continue reading

The “pro-life” movement is about sex, not life

Today, I came across this post on Salon‘s website, discussing a video by Cosmo in which they interviews so-called “side-walk counselors.” There were gems such as this:

“Men and women are made different,” Father Andrew Beauregard explains on camera while protesting at a clinic, “in that women, as the church teaches, reach their full potential in motherhood.” There’s a tight if inhumane logic to this thinking: Women exist to give birth. Thus, if a woman is choosing not to give birth, she is not working as she is supposed to. Which means she must be broken and needs fixing. Ergo, “counseling.”

Continue reading

The questions that got me thinking (Part II)

Below is the second (slightly edited) email I sent to a few friends about what got me questioning Catholicism and Christianity in general. Like the previous one, my thoughts have developed since this email, but I think it illustrates some of the bigger questions that got me doubting. I hope to flesh out some personal circumstances that influenced my doubts and delve deeper into individual questions in the near future. Continue reading