It’s a bit tough for me to ask that question, actually, because I haven’t struggled all that much to reconcile my feminist/sex-positive beliefs with biblical or Church teachings. I came to faith long after I came to feminism, and because of that, or for any number of other reasons, my convictions about how I should live in this world with respect to the promotion of equality are far less shakeable than the trappings of how I worship God or the specifics of how I understand God.
I don’t like to talk about my spiritual awakening on the internet. Many of the details are very personal, and speaking in generalizations doesn’t seem a lot better, to me, given the argumentative nature of internet discussions and the complete absence of any need, in my mind, to “prove” anything metaphysical to myself or convince anyone else of its truth. I’d make a terrible apologist and an even worse evangelist, because spiritually, the only thing I have to speak to is what’s been true and useful in my life.
In and of itself, that statement already establishes me as something of a heretic. I went through a short period in the very early days of my faith during which I thought I should look more into the theological foundations of arguments on either side of all those sexy, sexy issues, and the rules and apparent prohibitions about same-sex marriage/relationships, divorce/remarriage, or even sex outside of marriage. It was all very academic, really, and all the Biblical exegesis available in the world was never going to satisfy the need for which I came to the church in the first place. When the idea of divorce and leaving a marriage became of serious practical importance in my life, I spent some time looking at the points in scripture where the issue is mentioned, and I tried to be as honest as possible in questioning whether it was the right thing to do from a moral, rather than a self-seeking, perspective. And it’s certainly not that I wanted to leave my marriage – it was an incredibly painful decision to have to make, and though I’ve long been certain that it was the right one, it’s never been an easy one to implement, so I think even calling it selfish or self-serving is disingenuous at best.
While I managed to find ways to be rationally and intellectually comfortable with the way the idea of divorce is viewed in the Bible, and to reconcile that with my own situation, if I’m being perfectly frank, I don’t think I could have made a different decision even if I hadn’t been able to do so. When discussions of faith and spiritual practice happen online (or among any kind of religiously diverse crowd), I know that the least convincing, least rigorous argument/reason for doing something or believing in something specific is that one prayed, and received an answer. But that’s what happened in this case – I prayed, and I was absolutely certain that the right thing for me to do, in my specific situation, was leave a marriage that was preventing me from becoming happily and usefully whole, in relation to God and to others (I know this can strike some progressives as a dangerous methodology, given the fact that it’s also used by exactly those Christian fundamentalists I would claim to be countering, but I think Barack Obama’s recent speech on the separation of Church and state, and the limitations of application of this kind of thought, answers that political objection extremely well).
It turns out, somewhere along the line, that I became something of a pragmatist. I’m basing my faith on the foundation that God wants humans, as individuals, as communities, and as societies, to be united in love and to experience release from suffering. I think He wants us to be humble, equal, and useful. I agree with William James’ assessment of faith as “the sense of life by virtue of which man does not destroy himself, but lives on”. I’m meandering around a lot of thoughts (and actually really just solidifying some of them in my head as I write this), but it seems that the answer to how I became a sex-positive Christian is very similar to the answer to how I became a sex-positive feminist that I gave two posts ago. I couldn’t care less about dogma or about creating a coherent theory or about having a rational framework of rules and regulations against which I can evaluate every decision, every belief, every thought, whether that system would come from the Bible, from Germaine Greer or from bell hooks. I care about examining, on a case by case basis, on a day-to-day basis and on the basis of what I see right in front of me, whether my actions are serving to bring me closer to God or push me further away, and whether I’m acting in a way that creates unity and harmony or in a way that creates both internal and interpersonal discord.
One of the reasons I’m unhappy with the term “sex-positive” is that I don’t feel it’s comprehensive enough, or rather, that it doesn’t adequately describe the way that my affirmative attitude toward sexual autonomy actually has very little to do with sex. In comments to my sex-positive feminist post (which, in my state of bleh, I pretty much completely neglected to respond to), Jay said:
…I’m working myself through this whole tangle of what sex is/isn’t and what it is/isn’t “supposed to be” in western society, or world society, or from a religious standpoint.
I’d really just like more honest discussion about sex, rather than it being a “_____” topic, where blank can equal “taboo”, “risque”, “crude”, or “sensitive”. At the risk of being crude (and over-generalizing things)…it’s just fucking, people. Can’t we discuss it like rational human beings?
No, apparently…because most human beings don’t like being rational, and because for a lot of people, it ISN’T just about fucking. It’s also about power, and money, and morality, and religion, and emotions. And all of those things are complicated, and they complicate discussion of sex.
It isn’t just about fucking to me, either. It’s about how I treat myself and how I treat others. It’s about power and emotions and self-respect and respect for other human beings and unity and love and peace and acceptance. Just like everything else I do that involves existing in the world and actively engaging with other people in it, including writing blog posts, going to church, getting to work and buying coffee. Except naked (Jay – I’m not contradicting the point you made in that comment, I quoted it because I agree with it wholeheartedly; I’m just using the “just fucking” line to try to get at some other thoughts).
Like I said, I’d make a terrible apologist/evangelist, because I don’t expect people to be much convinced by my prayers and gut feelings and sense of spiritual harmony, especially since those things are all in my gut and in my soul and not really so much on this blog page. Then again, it turns out that I don’t really care, because those things are in my gut and in my soul and not really so much on this blog page.