I’m glad to report that I’m feeling a little less panicked about being asked to share my “progressive views” on sexuality at the upcoming Generous Spaciousness Conference and Retreat. There are lots of reasons for this, but they have to do with another “cluster” of circumstances and conversations I’ve had recently. (I’ve noted before that God sends me “clusters” of conversations when (s)he is trying to teach me something.)
As recently as last night, I had a pretty raw and honest conversation with God. In spite of my academic work, I know a lot less of how to integrate sexuality and Christian spirituality (especially of a pentecostal variety) then some people think. I’ve been realising this is true in my life, along with not knowing much about physical healing and the emotion of anger (in all its varieties).
For me, a potential way forward is just to say, “Lord, I long for you. I want to learn.” Humility is essential, especially if I am offering something atypical (which, for the Evangelical and pentecostal folks likely to show up at the Retreat, is very likely). Several conversations recently have reminded me that other people have just as many problems as I do in remaining humble and exercising faith in God! Just today God reminded me that I need to be careful about measuring my faith as “more” or “less,” because the strength of faith is not its amount, but its object. Faith/fulness is a perspective that has to be well-directed, regardless of the amount–if my faith is in Jesus, my faith is placed well, and therefore the amount doesn’t matter much (“If you have faith as small as a mustard-seed…”).
It also helps to (inadvertently) find respected Christian theologians who make most of the statements I feel I need to with both eloquence and graciousness. These are people like Nancy L. Wilson, Robert Shore-Goss, Jim Brownson, and Elizabeth Stuart, who make points like:
- “eunuchs” include people that we would consider gay men and transgender people today, and they were (contrary to popular Evangelical teaching) sexually active outside of culturally-understood marriage;
- complementarity is not a biblical way of assessing how men and women relate in Scripture;
- the Song of Songs (easily the sexiest book in the Bible!) does not contain any married people, but lots of sexual activity and fantasy; and
- the concept of one-fleshedness does not necessarily need to include genital sexual expression, and applies to relationships that seem to include more than two people (Ruth/Naomi/Boaz)!
Perhaps the gist of this whole post is: I don’t have to feel crazy or alone for having the viewpoints I do. Other theologians and activists have arrived first and find them life-giving. I am not talking about theory as though people have never lived the ideas that they present. That sense of incarnation or of embodiment is crucial for Christian conversations about sex and sexualities.