More Sex, Sacred Sex

This blog is sex-positive.

This blog is body-positive.

This blog is spirit-positive.

fingers union starchildglobal com
starchildglobal.com

This blog promotes the union of all three of these positives. Indeed, the union of them is, I believe, God’s intention, God’s desire. That union brings us as close to God as we can be, or to put it another way, it is total union with the divine. It is the God spot within us, each of us, what I would like to call the G-Spot (different but not opposed to the physical G-spot many claim in women’s bodies and in men’s bodies).

However, this understanding of the relationship between spirituality, sexuality, and bodies may contradict at a pretty deep level how we think about them. We are taught, from a young age, that our sexual selves are at odds with our spiritual selves, and it can be difficult to overcome the inundation of social and religious messages that remind us to keep our sexuality and our spirituality compartmentalized.

man licking woman artbyani com
artbyani.com

So, part of what this blog (not just this post but the blog as it unfolds over time) hopes to do is to bring us into contact with new understandings and to help us navigate changes in our beliefs and practices as we feel ready to do so (and of course also to help us investigate and reaffirm beliefs that still feel right to us). This may be seen as an unlearning and re-orienting process. As with any unlearning process, it can feel clunky and awkward at first. The goal is quite simply to facilitate openness to and celebration of the sacred union of our–yours, mine and others–sex, bodies and spirits. 

In this process, we can be self-conscious in a way that we haven’t fully experienced before because we are, perhaps (or probably) for the first time, being fully present in our bodies with ourselves and our partners. That awkwardness isn’t an indication that we are “doing it” wrong… it is part of the process of growing and healing the chasm that results from seeing our sexual, embodied selves as sinners separate from God to seeing our sexual, embodied selves as holy and communing with God.

two naked men sacred kiss tumblr com
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One way to experience that sacred union is to be in deep sexual union with our partner(s). And such union is, it seems to me, to be an entirely fitting and holy way to observe Lent.

In keeping with last week’s edition, “In Lent: More Sex, Not Less,” (click here to read) I want to encourage all of us to consider intentional, multiple, deeply erotic and spiritual, sessions with our sexual partners.

In response to last week’s post, my friend and colleague Malachi Grennell wrote the following:

. . . sharing sexual intimacy can be a conduit to connecting with the Holy in our own lives. I am leaning toward saying, “Have sex! Have lots of sex, with yourself or with your partner(s), but do it with intention. Do it with the understanding that these bodies are holy, and we are created in the image of God and the Earth and this is a time of awakening, a deep thaw after a long winter.” We allow ourselves to be distracted . . . but now we can refocus, reconnect, and begin to thaw out our Spirit in anticipation for what is coming. Have sex, in ways that feel good and pleasurable and enjoyable, but perhaps, in this spirit of Lent, our sexual selves can come with a different form of intention: one of pleasure, certainly, but also one of connection… not just with the body, but with the spirit that resides in each person.

two naked women licking snowflakelove tumblr com
snowflake.tumblr.com

I could not have said it better myself. I hear Malachi encouraging us to be holy sexual and sexually holy, urging us to move more fully into sacred union. 

So, here are some suggestions.

  • Pray, ask God, by whatever name or description you relate to a power outside and greater than yourself, for guidance about how best to be connected sexually, bodily, and spiritually with yourself, with your partner(s), with the divine
  • Share with your partner(s) about this, too, telling them what you are learning, and encourage them to pray or connect however they do with their power.  Be as open as possible in your sharing; that will encourage your partner(s) to do the same. 
  • Set aside some time for you to talk together, perhaps even pray together (you might even consider doing this while naked, not so much with the idea of immediately jumping into bed but more to be aware of your mutual vulnerability and the divinely created/inspired beauty of each of your bodies/spirits). Again, openness is key to this really helping you. 
  • black-couple-talking-in-bed enorfaslitnaomilane blogspot com
    enorfaslitnaomilane.blogspot.com

    Agree on times you wish to engage each other in intentional times of sexual/bodily/spiritual sharing. Try to pick times/dates that will allow for sufficient time without interruption, and that are unlikely to be preempted by other concerns. I encourage you to commit to a minimum number of times (think of it as like trying out a new church–e.g., agree to go 6 times to give it a fair test). 

  • Agree, if you can in advance, on the kinds of things you might want to do (maybe even something new that has arisen during prayer and/or discussion)–but don’t feel bound if during a session you decide, mutually, to do something else. Again, keep talking, sharing not only your bodies but also your learnings and feelings. Discuss the ways in which you feel inadequate, awkward, or self-conscious. Don’t hide from or shy away from these things, but bring the whole of yourself–including those parts of you which feel most vulnerable–and present them to your partner(s). And don’t forget to laugh! 
  • Keep your appointments, make them a priority. Things do come up, of course, so if one of you feels the need to cancel, talk about what is going on–if it is a matter of unavoidable schedule conflict, see if you could reschedule instead of cancelling. 
  • two praying silhouettes clipart222 com
    clipart222.com

    Include time after to meditate or pray, and discuss, how it went, how you felt, what you learned, what gifts you received, what worries or troubles you encountered, etc. I encourage you to think about whether including God in this holy time of union (including God or your greater power in your sex, if you will), has changed–improved I hope–your relationship with God/power, yourself, and your partner(s).

  • Of course, remember to give thanks to God or the power you called upon for guidance
  • Commit to the next time.

And, if you are an observant Christian, I encourage you to begin thinking about how you might build this way of being holy sexual/sexually holy into your celebration of Easter, a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus’ body through the sharing of your bodies. The same for Jewish lovers, or interfaith lovers: as we approach Passover, think about celebrating the liberation of Hebrew bodies through celebrating your own embodied, sexual, spiritual liberation. 

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice_04
doctormacro.com

Two points:

  • I refer to partner(s) above, as does Malachi, because we realize that people engage their sexuality in multiple ways. I am encouraging you to recognize what is holy in whatever way you are sexually active–and I am not going to judge it, assuming that you are not damaging anyone through it. There is one “should” here: Sex should not cause trauma (if it does, it is not sex). 
  • I Love Me Written inside a Heart Drawn in Sand
    everysquareinch.net

    Next week, I will take a look at what is sometimes called solo sexuality or self-pleasuring–what I was raised to call “the M word,” i.e, masturbation–as  another way to experience sacred union with the divine.

So, to connect last week’s message with this one, here’s the word: Have sex! More sex! Intentional sex. Holy Sex. Enjoy the eternal, embodied, erotic sacred union with the divine within yourself and within your partner(s) and with Godself. Spend some quality time with your G-Spot! 

 

In Lent: More Sex, Not Less

Lent with crossChristians are in the season of Lent, the 40-day period of preparation for the glory of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. It is a time for prayer and introspection, a time to take stock of one’s spiritual health, and for many, a time to fast or otherwise give up something one ordinarily desires.

Roman Catholics are asked to observe some fasting days, giving up meat, for example, on certain days, or avoid food for a day or several days. Other traditions have less clear requirements.

LENT-2016  capitalfm co ke
capitalfm.co.ke

What about sex? Some traditions say that if you are fasting from food, or from certain food(s), you should also abstain from sex.

I observe Lent, and I am giving up reading certain kinds of political commentary, specifically what I call “horse-race reporting.” I am a political junkie and can get totally immersed in reading endless print and online reports and commentaries on the strategies of candidates and which ones are working and not working. I chose this abstinence because I realized it is addictive for me and gets in the way of my reading more substantive news (including reporting on proposals and issue positions by candidates) and spiritual writing.

My choice for this year’s fasting fits my criteria for a Lenten fast: give up something that gets in the way of my relationship with God.

sex gods great gift wnaz org
wnaz.org

Sex does not get in the way of my relationship with God. In fact, it is an important way for me to communicate with God. God gave me a body that I cherish (mostly) and sexual desire as part of the total mind-body-spirit system that is me. God also gave me my husband whom I cherish in all ways and the desire to share my body with his and to enjoy his when he shares himself with me. God also gave me the desire at times to pleasure my own body.

Atheist cry during sex radioornot com
radioornot.com

In all that sexual activity, that embodied intimacy, I am experiencing the God within as well as feeling the presence of God in my life (through my husband and my own embodied feelings with him and by myself). There is good reason for so many of us to cry out, “Oh God, Oh God!” during orgasm and ejaculation.

I am in a committed monogamous marriage, so my sexual life revolves solely around my partner and me, and me on my own. Other people make other choices, or are simply at other periods in their lives.  Those who are not in such a relationship can experience God through solo sex, of course, but also with others (discussions of types of relationships will addressed in this space at a later date).

I believe sex is good. More than that, I believe it is part of a healthy lifestyle. Pleasure is good for us. Connecting with our bodies is good for us. Connecting with God through our God-given bodies is good for us.

Talmud jewishjournal com
jewishjournal.com

Some religious authorities agree with me, at least to a point. In the Talmud there are discussions from ancient rabbis about how couples should have sexual relations daily (except if one of the partners, presumably the man, is away at sea or traveling for business). No once a week or twice a month routine for the rabbis!

St. Paul (1 Corinthians, chapter 7) stresses the duties of couples to be sexually active, only excepting for brief periods mutually agreed upon for the purpose of prayer.

Of course, both these authorities are addressing married couples only–although as we know, not everyone in the Bible limited themselves to one spouse (see David, Solomon, etc.). What many conservative Christians call “traditional marriage” is not truly based on biblical texts.

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This reminds me of Lent when I was an adolescent. I felt such great pleasure when I discovered the exquisite joy that comes from genital self-play and sexual fantasy. But I also was sure it was wrong. Anything that feels that good has to be bad, right? My mother caught me one day and spoke shaming words.

I remember trying to give it up for Lent. I failed. I was ashamed. I carried that with me a long time, although I feel free from it now.

What I wish is that someone, my parents or my priest or other trusted authority figure, had told me that masturbation was normal and good, and that I could connect with God through it (there are advocates for masturbation as meditation, and that is a topic for later discussion here, too).

That is not the message of the Virginia House of Delegates. Although they are not addressing Lent or masturbation, they are setting sexual and gender boundaries based on the religious views of part of the population.They have passed a bill that would prohibit government authorities from penalizing people and businesses who discriminate against same-sex couples, transgender individuals, and those who have sex outside marriage, based on the discriminating person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

Virgina State Capitol interactive wttw com
interactive.wttw.com

The bill, HB 773, now goes to the Senate. Based on my knowledge of that body, I would say it will not pass. But that is far from a sure thing. I cherish my former Commonwealth, but right now I am very glad to be living in Maryland!

We need to resist such social engineering–which seeks to take something Godly and turn it into something wrong and ugly.

sex is holy
sexisholy.info

I am often an advocate of resistance in the Ghandian and King tradition. In this case, I do not propose public “sex-ins” by the subject groups, but I do propose that during Lent, in order to celebrate the divine gift of sexuality in all its forms, that we all, coupled and not, have lots of sex. As the member of a Jewish congregation (by virtue of my marriage to Jonathan), I will do what I can to follow the Talmudic teaching.

Let’s thank God for our bodies and our sex. So, in Lent, more sex, not less.

 

 

 

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: The Real Story?

So, if Jesus had a penis (see prior post here), then Mary had a vagina, right? Well, of course. And Joseph had a penis, too.

Jesus may have been the result of immaculate conception, but surely his birth was like every other human birth–Mary carrying him for nine months to term (remember her visit to Elizabeth?), then her water breaking, and the contractions beginning, and her having to push and push and push. Apparently, he was her first child, so it was a lot of work (births after the first one are often far easier for the mother).

Mary, Jesus. and Joseph, in modern incarnation jesusisnotalone blogspot com
jesusisnotalone.blogspot.com

I don’t know the custom of that time, but I hope Joseph was there (while doubting it was permitted), encouraging her. Three of the absolutely most precious and wondrous times in my life were being present with my wife, Judy, at the births of our three daughters, holding her hand, giving her encouragement, hearing the first squalls from the newborn, and being able to wipe Judy’s sweaty brow and give her a kiss of the deepest gratitude and joy. I hope Joseph did not miss that.

Actually, I hope he did not miss the impregnation either. I know, I know. It was the Holy Spirit. But I have my doubts. In fact, I don’t believe he did miss it. I think Jesus was conceived in the usual way.

St. Paul's Brookline stpaulsbrookline org
stpaulsbrookline.org

I remember when, as a first-year seminarian in 1981 working in my field education parish, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookline, MA, the rector assigned me to meet with the weekly Women’s Bible Study. I began in Advent. As we finished what was my first meeting with them, I announced that the following week we would study Luke 1:26-38 (click here to read the text).

“Oh no,” said Elizabeth, a an older woman from England, “We don’t have to believe in the Virgin Birth, do we?” All eyes turned to me, the new guy (and the only man in the room), and as I took a deep breath, I said, “No you don’t. There are no litmus tests here.”

All during the week, I felt anxious about our next meeting. I chose not to tell the rector, feeling a bit like Joseph taking Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid trouble from Herod. That made me nervous, too.

giving birth pushing-lying-down  evidencebasedbirth com
evidencebasedbirth.com

During the actual discussion, these women, many of whom had given birth and all of whom were either married or engaged to men, were remarkably open in their story-telling and their hope that Jesus was conceived in the usual way. Frankly, I had never dared speak of my doubts until that night, and I kept much of it to myself–my job being to facilitate their exploration–but I felt sure they were right.

Over the years since, I have become convinced that the virgin birth was invented by the story-tellers and gospel writers of long ago. I don’t doubt it could have happened, and still could happen in another situation–all things are possible with God–but I have three reasons for thinking it did not in this case.

First, the God I know, from the biblical record, as well as my own life, chooses ordinary human beings and ordinary human situations through which to manifest the divine desire for wholeness in the world. I believe Joseph and Mary were, in this instance, the ordinary human vehicles God chose.

young_couple_having_passionate_sex_3-4_tmb anybunny com
anybunny.com

Second, I think they had sexual intercourse that led to the birth of Jesus before they were married. It is entirely in keeping with the biblical record that God would select the child born out of wedlock to carry the mantle of Messiah.  In fact, to do otherwise really runs counter to that record. But the disciples, and probably Mary and Joseph, and others, worried that the wider world would be scandalized by an illegitimate child being the Messiah. So they changed the story (biblical texts are filled with these “edits” by scribes and others).

Third, I surely believe Jesus was the son of God, but then I think each of us is a child of God. Jesus did not have to be born through impregnation of Mary by the Holy Spirit to become the Messiah–he did have to choose to use the gifts God gave him to be so but then God gives us similar gifts, too. The thing is, Jesus made the choice, and did not change his mind.

Children of God bobjones org
bobjones.org

There is a bit of the divine in each human being, and that holiness is passed on from God through our parents. Conception, the mating of a female egg and male sperm, is a moment of divinity in the body of the mother–a moment that is the continuation of the holy union of penis and vagina, followed by continued lovemaking, ejaculation by the male, and receiving of the semen by the female (as well as her own natural lubrication).

Now, I can hear abortion opponents saying, “See, abortion is the murder of one of God’s children.” I do not share that view. There are times when this union is not holy, certainly in the case of rape and incest. But even in the absence of those horrors, God gives us free will to choose how we will live with the gifts of God. Many women, for all sorts of reasons, choose to refuse the gift.

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elobservadorenlinea.com

Mary chose to keep this gift and nurture Jesus. Indeed, what we call the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) could be her response to the birth of Jesus even though the writer of Luke has placed it with her meeting with Elizabeth (and it is a wonderful hymn of gratitude for the gift, wherever it is placed in the story).

The view of Jesus’ conception espoused here has not only biblical resonance in terms of so much else in the record (just think of all the unlikely people God chooses to work through), but also undermines the sex negativity inherent in the texts we have received.

The church and indeed most of us as Christians have been influenced more by Platonisn–with its severe split between body and spirit–than by the earthiness of the Bible, the union of body and spirit that happens over and over again. This influence was enhanced by the account of Jesus’ conception.

shame-on-you cherispeak wordpress com
cherispeak.wordpress.com

Jesus and sex are kept a safe distance apart from conception to death–no sex between his parents leading to his birth, no hint of sex by him during his life, and a chaste cloth to cover his genitals on the cross. Nobody ever said this to me, but I imagine some priests or parents, or both, have told pubescent boys, “You mustn’t masturbate, Jesus didn’t, you know. He doesn’t want you doing it either.You must be pure like him.” Of course, that would involve those adults admitting (at least to themselves) that Jesus had “one of those things.”

jesus-feet-walking  umcholiness wordpress com
umcholiness.wordpress.com

Of course, this is my opinion. Biblical literalists will throw every text they can at me from the Gospels to prove me wrong. Many of them will even most likely tell me I am not a Christian (the good news is that not many such people read my writing).

But I know I love, and I do my best to follow, Jesus–the flesh and blood, fully embodied, incarnate, Jesus who walked the earth, taught, healed, loved, ate, peed and defecated, sweated, cried, wiped and maybe even picked his nose, and, I believe, had sex (as did his parents).

My Messiah was a real man, and his mother and father were real human beings, too.

Praise God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Had a Penis

SpotlightJonathan and I recently saw “Spotlight,” the film about how the Boston Globe exposed the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. It is a magnificently done film, a strong reminder of the absolute necessity of a free and responsible press, and a powerful indictment of secrecy in church and society.

Indeed, it is the push I needed to begin this new blog.

As I sat in the theater watching the film and talking about it with Jonathan later, I realized that I had been treading water about my desire to write and publish this blog about sex, bodies, and spirit–mostly out of fear of what “people” (church people, professional colleagues, family members and some more traditional or conservative friends, perhaps even neighbors, maybe others) would think.  I had been keeping my own secret in deference to unspoken social pressure–exactly the combination that had caused the Boston Globe and community leaders, as well as the church hierarchy and ordinary members, to keep for many years what really was an open secret in Boston.

Fr. Michael Shanahan
Fr. Michael Shanahan churchmilitant.com

So, here I am today, out in the open, feeling the fresh air and sunshine of telling the truth as I see it. And hoping others will respond as they feel moved, disagreeing or agreeing or simply sharing information. We just need to talk more about sex, bodies, and spirit!

Two days ago, Fr. Michael Shanahan joined the conversation in a very public way. On February 1, Fr. Shanahan, pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Chicago, came out as a gay man in an article in The Washington Post (click here to read the article).

He is not the first Catholic priest to come out, far from it, but for me his courage is an important affirmation of what the Boston Globe and its work did earlier–breaking open the dangerous silence in the church about things sexual.

Homosexuality and Social Justice by Kevin Gordon
The author of this 1986 book, the late Kevin Gordon, was my neighbor and friend at Union Theological Seminary, and he, along with the late Fr. John McNeill, showed me and many others about the presence and beauty of gay and lesbian people within the Roman Catholic Church.

The truth is that there are many gay priests (and at least one Bishop) in the Roman Catholic Church (I have known personally quite a few over the years). No one knows for sure how many, but studies indicate it could be as high as 50%. Others say 10%, but either way it seems the priesthood may be one of those vocational homes known to be especially “gay” (like hair stylists and florists, etc., at least so goes the conventional wisdom).

As more and more priests, and sisters, too, come out, it may be hard for the Vatican to maintain the official teaching that homosexuality is an “intrinsically disordered” condition.

Of course, I believe the disorder lies with the church and its teaching, and not just about homosexuality but about sexuality in general. And this is true of more than the Roman Catholic Church. So much of Christian doctrine about sex seems intent on locking it up in tight boxes, compartments that deny that our spirituality is intimately connected with our bodies and sexuality, indeed that we can learn about God and from God through our bodies and sexuality.

According to the Washington Post, Fr. Shanahan “doesn’t disregard” the church’s teaching on sexuality, but he thinks most important is the teaching that sexuality is an expression of the divine. He wants people to pray and discern how to express that divine part of themselves, for themselves.

That sounds a lot like Jesus to me, not much interested in rules handed down by those who think they have been called to run things (and other peoples’ lives), and much more concerned with helping people open up to the divine inside each and every one of God’s offspring (us).

The church wants people to open up, but only to the approved, standard, versions of the divine. And one of those versions is of a sexless Jesus–the Jesus who was born without the messiness of human intercourse (and how often have we heard about Mary’s labor?), the Jesus who (although fully human and divine) appears not to have had body parts, or sexual or romantic interest in anyone, male or female.

Crucifixion wooden Michelangelo in Naples
Michelangelo, wooden Jesus on the cross. naplesldm.com

But Jesus had a penis and a scrotum–we do know he was circumcised–and may well have had erotic feelings for the “beloved disciple” or Lazarus or Martha or Mary or Mary Magdalene. Or maybe all of them. He was a young man, after all!

And most likely, because the Romans wanted not only to kill those on the cross but also to shame them as a form of torture–grisly sexual abuse and violence–as a reminder to the public to stay in line, Jesus and his two cross-mates were naked for all to see.

It may be considered in bad taste to show Jesus naked on the cross, but that has more to do with our notions of what people, including children, should see than it does with what actually happened on Calvary. And do we really think children would be harmed by seeing a naked Jesus? I think they might like it–and it surely would help them know he was a real, flesh and blood, breathing, human being.

And it could help us confront and overcome sexual abuse and violence. As the Rev. Wil Gafney says, “The reason the Church has such a hard time thinking critically and talking about sexual violence is because it has a hard time thinking critically and talking about sex.”

Crucifixion of Chrsit Max Klinger centrosangiorgio com
Crucifixion of Christ, Max Klinger centrosangiorgio.com

Michelangelo did not shy away from the truth of Jesus’ embodied humanity, nor did the late 19th-early 2oth Century German Symbolist painter Max Klinger. What of course neither showed was the horror that would have been visible on the bodies after having hung for a few hours (most likely at least grotesque swelling of the arms from hanging with body weight pulling on them). If they had, we would know more about the horrors of sexualized violence.

It might even be that if we, as a culture in general, were less uptight, less secretive, about bodies, including naked bodies, our society might be far healthier about sex, and more open to talking about not only the beauty of our bodies but also the truths they can help us learn.

Then, we might stop keeping priests, and many others, in tight boxes, we might even do more to stop sexual abuse, and oh my, we might even begin to claim the full joy and power of sex as God intends it for all.