I thought – this must be a joke. It turns out, that’s what the MTV producer thought when she originally found our article online in the first place. MTV is producing a documentary on Christian alternatives to abstinence only and the producer said that she had to read our article “4 Reasons to Have Premarital Sex with your Evangelical College Sweetheart” a couple of times to make sure that it was, in fact, a reasonable and thoughtful argument for Christian alternatives to abstinence.
While I am proud to be someone who writes about body positivity, women’s issues, and healthy Christian sexuality, what amazed me most was that this producer, whose job it is to research and find all kinds of diverse perspectives, I have only written TWO ARTICLES and yet, as someone who works as a Christian pastor, I was considered an expert on the topic. I know that I am not alone (as evidenced by the fact that the article itself was co-written with Nathan), but where is everybody?
My experience is that this is a very Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell topic. It’s not like any of us are really great at talking about sexuality. It’s not like Christianity is a sex-repressed bunker, but as soon as you leave, the rest of the culture is comfortable and affirming and open about healthy sexuality. There are pockets, to be sure, but as a larger cultural community, we’re all still working on this.
I grew up in this hushed environment, and hung out with a lot of evangelicals in high school so I definitely got the conservative Christian machine messaging and all the classic object lessons they love like broken mirrors that never go back together, duct tape that is no longer sticky, and food coloring that has stained the bowl of water permanently.
When I transferred out of a conservative Christian college, I realized that, on all kinds of theological fronts, I had to start thinking for myself, and not just absorb the beliefs around me. It was through my own personal experiences with embodiment, relationships, and intimacy that I began to develop my own perspective and voice on these matters.
I became someone who asked, and am now someone who tells.
This is exactly why we need to speak up – because the problems that have historically plagued Christianity around sexuality are problems that the whole culture faces: being threatened by women’s bodies and sexuality (well, really, any bodies that aren’t straight white cisgender male bodies), narrow definitions of gender and gender roles, rigid concepts of virginity, and extreme perspectives getting the most attention.
What I learned in our conversation was that these topics are all interrelated; you can’t expect progress in one area without progress in others. The good news here is that if you don’t feel comfortable speaking up (yet) for Christian alternatives to abstinence, start talking about bodies in a positive way. Start talking about gender in an equal and expansive way. Learn from those who are different from you. Lend your voice to those who don’t get to be heard. Catch yourself when you say something disparaging about your body in front of others, and apologize.
I know that I’m not the only one that thinks there are healthy and faithful expressions of Christian sexuality outside of abstinence. I know that I’m not the only one that thinks bodies are incredible and meant to be celebrated and enjoyed. I know that I’m not the only one that thinks diverse sexuality and attraction are important to lift up in the cultural conversation. I know that I’m not alone, so please, speak up.
And until there are more of us, I’m going to keep going. If I’m one of the only voices MTV can find, then I need to keep speaking until more of us feel like we can. So here’s my soapbox:
I want people to know that shame and guilt are not inextricably linked to sexuality.
I want people to know they get to make choices about their own bodies.
I want people to know that a middle way exists.
I want people to know that their spirituality can be body-positive and sex-positive.
Let’s talk. I guess I’m one you can go to for these things.