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sexuality + spirituality

sexuality and spirituality: doing it differently

Each Sunday in October – live in person and online

Impact’s 2015 “Sexuality + Spirituality Experience Series” builds upon the wildly successful one that we produced in 2010. Five years ago we shared that God created sex to be good for creation and that we will not prescribe to anyone how they choose to engage or not in sexual activity. So, how do we make these decisions, the kinds of choices that help us to live with integrity within ourselves, before God and with others? Impact helps us all make these determinations by providing the tools for each person to make her/his own informed, educated and spiritual decision(s).

For further understanding, we invite you to join us this October as we unpack, affirm and celebrate what it means to be a whole, integrated person in God, one who is simultaneously and beautifully sexual and spiritual.

We are excited to share the good news of God’s love for all with our community – where all means ALL. Impact always endeavors to create safe and relevant space for worship of God and service to the world. We look forward to your joining us every Sunday in October – 8am, 10am, 12noon – in person or online (http://www.impactdoingchurchdifferently.org/live/)!

*Some content may not be suitable for all audiences.

we can’t handle the truth: chasing away who we are

we can’t handle the truth: chasing away who we are

Passion, desire, the erotic – supposedly emotions and feelings that ought to be avoided or at least strictly controlled by any person of faith who deems herself holy. Let’s (re)consider (from a Christian perspective):

Asceticism – the denial of desire and pleasure as an act of religious devotion – is not really a pronounced biblical theme. . . . [It] really develops after the biblical period in the third century C.E., mostly with the desert hermits, who renounced worldly affairs for a desert of silence and hardship in service to God, and then with monastic orders beginning in the fourth century.”

Too often, too much Christians forget and/or deny our roots:

Desire [in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament] is not something to be suppressed, discarded, or channeled strictly into religious devotion, but is presented as simply a facet of human life. . . . Desire itself is nowhere prohibited, just redirected or schooled.”

Let’s not even mention the erotic! Fear displaces erotica to a hidden and banned place in our lives when ought to be honored and utilized toward a fullness, a robust sense of being and doing.

Audre Lorde describes the erotic as somewhere between our ‘sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.’ That edge is both potentially disruptive and the source of our vital energies. This is why, for Lorde, it is worth the time to explore and celebrate sexuality. It is the resource for our truest selves and our creativity.”

How aware are we that chasing such a foundational and critical part of ourselves does more harm than good – for the self and for the communities in which we live?

[L]onging tells us about ourselves: who we are is our desire, what our soul loves. It need not be ignored, downplayed, or even displaced. And even if we opt to ignore our desire, Freud’s caution is that it haunts and scripts our life nevertheless in muted (or not so muted) screams of need, neuroses, and desolation. What is truest about our inner selves, our souls, is certainly worth knowing.”

Let’s put on our big-girl panties, allowing ourselves to (re)discover, accept, embrace, and share exactly who we are with all of our desires fueling truth, awareness, and knowledge!

Walsh citations – Carey Ellen Walsh, Exquisite Desire: Religion, the Erotic, and the Song of Songs – part of the second chapter, “Erotics in the Bible”

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

re lgbtq: a straight minister’s personal path of understanding

re lgbtq: a straight minister’s personal path of understanding

UPDATED 3 January 2016

“Why God Is Not a Bully”

Helpful references:

Homosexuality was never a big issue in my family as a child – one way or the other. Maybe ’cause like in most African American families such issues were simply not discussed. (Does the silence make it a big issue?) Despite having LGBTQ family members, which made it a relevant and needed conversation, we never talked about it. However, I do recall hearing close family members utter disparaging comments about gay men whom we saw in public (e.g., grocery store, college football games, etc.). I remember being very uncomfortable with the particular disgust and despicably tinged venom with which they commented about the men. When I looked at the focus of my family’s prejudice, I sensed about the men what I can best describe as discomfort – maybe even pain. Perhaps it was from the incredible struggle to be themselves in a society and subculture that disdains their very ontology.

This memory stirs a recollection of the testimony of a clergywoman as she struggled with her sexual orientation. Her story recounts a time of standing in front of a mirror, confident of her call to professional ministry, yet pleading to G~d for forgiveness for being lesbian. She cried out, “G~d, I’m so sorry!” Reading her story was heartbreaking. I cannot imagine asking G~d to forgive me for being black or for being a woman – for being exactly who I am, how I was born, for something I cannot change. Ahhh, for something G~d created me to be 😉 . . .

representing an enlightened path of understanding

representing an enlightened path of understanding

MORE MEMORIES

The family members to whom I refer were older and would babysit me until I became old enough to babysit their children. Hanging out with them was no different than hanging out with my straight relatives. They cared well for me, loved me, took me to fun places where I could play – generally spoiled me like most only children who are the youngest in their extended families for years at a time. Ya know, important stuff! 😉 What makes them “different” has no bearing on the critical parts of loving and living as family.

Where I learned to meditate and practice being in G~d’s manifested presence was a wonderfully vibrant and socially conservative ministry. I cringe today when I remember the culture, recalling the countless times preachers proclaimed, “G~d created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Wow. How did hearing that powerful proclamation make our LGBTQ congregation members feel? (I know they were there – most closeted, 1 or 2 not.) Yet this ministry had a strong influence on me, to the point that I accepted their anti-gay rhetoric for a time – love the sinner and hate the sin. So I came up with this oppressing theory. A person can be gay; s/he just has to be celibate for a lifetime. That would be her/his cross to bear. We all have crosses, right? No – wrong, twisted perspective. Thank G~d for G~d’s forgiveness of my meantime, immature ignorance.

THE NEED TO KNOW, THE NEED TO BE RIGHT

When I accepted my call to professional ministry, I had an almost obsessive concern with getting the right understanding of G~d and theology. I wanted to be right. I wanted my teachings and sermons to be right. The very first thing I learned in my very first class, Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is that there is no such thing as the right anything. At first I found the lack of right to be quite disturbing, disconcerting. Yet what I knew for sure was not only G~d’s call, but G~d’s call to my particular seminary. So, whatever questions or confusion I had would eventually be answered and clarified. Not only am I today in a place of peaceful understanding that there isn’t any universal right, I get that the lack of it does not lead necessarily to chaos and ambiguity. That it does lead there is a great fear among those who cling to numerous rules and order to provide what is essentially a false sense of security through exclusivity. Rather, truth and reality live most purely in the respected freedom of difference and diversity.

A few years after seminary, some event or news story sparked a question within me about what is right concerning homosexuality. I sought G~d for an answer, as I do with any question for which I don’t have an explanation. For some time, G~d’s answer to me was the kind of silence I know to mean, “Not now.” I didn’t get my answer until it was time. And G~d’s response happened over a course of years – through recalling my childhood experiences; meeting, getting to know, and coming to love some wonderful people beyond my family who happen to be LGBTQ; reading literature, including the Bible, addressing this topic; and reasoning out all of this. (Wesleyan scholars recognize this process as The Quadrilateral.)

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

The Bible is a relevant, inspirational, potentially living testimony of G~d’s interaction with a certain group of humanity during certain periods of time. It can be “useful for teaching . . . and training.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NRSV) Whether it lives and whether it is useful depends on our perspectives, worldviews, interpretation, and application. It is not the Word of G~d in the sense that it is an unfiltered dictation of G~d’s voice to 2012 human ears, minds, and hearts. Therefore I tend to resist biblical debates aimed to establish the right side of an argument. My exegesis of a scripture or pericope to support my position can still directly oppose another’s exegesis of the same scripture or pericope.

For example, the part of the story of Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-11, NRSV) that we have historically considered to be an indictment against homosexuality is actually about hospitality, or the lack of it. The male residents of the city objected to Lot’s display of hospitality to the male visitors of Sodom (the angels). Their objection manifested in their demand to Lot to bring the male visitors to them so that they could have sex with them. This is a despicable act because of the view of women at the time. Part of women’s lower role in that society is the fact that she receives penetration in sexual positions. The fact that the man is the penetrator was part of what made him superior. So this act was the ultimate show of disrespect that the male residents could show the male visitors – put them in the position of a woman. It is interesting that in most of the conservatively moral objections to the characters’ behavior in this story we don’t hear of the horror that Lot offered the male residents his virgin daughters to appease their anger and desire to be inhospitable. Given the marrying ages of young women at that time and that his daughters were virgins, have we thought about how young they likely were?!?

SO, HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT’S RIGHT?

This question returns us to my seminary quest as described earlier in this post. It also leads me to a determination that a sacred text (the Bible) alone is an insufficient resource for making decisions. I must also include my intellect/knowledge, my ability to reason, and my contemporary experience – with a spirit of discernment operating throughout all of them.

Now, may I share some frustration (and anger)?

I struggle writing this post, feeling like every word choice, that every turn of phrase is filled with heterosexual privilege and unintended offense to my LGBTQ sisters and brothers.

To even pen this post, to feel like there’s a need to explain, defend, support, add my voice to a debate over the inclusion of people is some craziness. To say we love the sinner and hate the sin doesn’t cut it, not with most of us and not regarding an aspect of a person’s being as intimate and as integral as sexuality. To characterize living out one’s sense of love and attraction to another as a choice that is somehow intrinsically different from our own just because of how that choice appears is incredibly demeaning, condescending, and abusive. Whom we love is often not a choice – who we are never is. How can sincere love choices ever be considered a sin, like coveting, lying, stealing, or killing?

“‘[Love] the Lord your G~d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘[Love] your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV)

So, then, the choice, determination, etc. not to love is the actual sin – the actual separation from G~d.

(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

we gotta cum 2! feminine orgasm doesn’t think like a man . . . or act like a lady (nsfw)

“I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with liquid myrrh, . . .” (Song of Songs 5:5 NRSV)

The Shulammite is my hero! (I don’t like gendered words like heroine or shero.) Her orgasm represents a full expression and enjoyment of feminine sexuality, a sexuality that is not adjusted to socialized masculine behavior or thought patterns (thinking like a man). Neither does she allow it to be shaped into society’s prescriptive mold of femininity (acting like a lady). She is who she is, in and of herself, created in the feminine image of G~d – dark, beautiful, and so hot for her fine lover that she can’t stand it!

“My beloved thrust his hand into the opening, and my inmost being yearned for him.” (Song of Songs 5:4 NRSV)

If we both cum during intimacy – not necessarily at the same time – then we’re experiencing great sex, what Christian Ethicist Miguel De La Torre calls “orthoeros.”

“Mutuality is a characteristic of orthoeros. It is with mutuality, rather than the requirements of covenant, like marriage, that we ‘gain full security. Only by giving of oneself can there be hope of fully possessing another. . . . Mutual giving (rather than taking) presupposes autonomy. . . . Total surrender, each to the other, cannot be achieved as long as one of the two parties is holding onto power over the partner.'” (Candi Dugas and De La Torre in Dugas’ Who Told You That You Were Naked?)

Now we’re talking – intimacy in a relationship without hierarchy, patriarchy, and ossified gender roles. A woman isn’t adjusting to a man. She is herself. He is himself. They come together as full human beings when the two connect well. They connect in ways that can be transcendent and newly experiential of themselves and G~d. We miss this most amazing life-experience when we become distracted by antiquated gender roles, rules and games.

The wonderful box office success this weekend of Act Like a Lady . . . Think Like a Man, unfortunately, only signals that we are stuck in antiquity. I celebrate its success and I am thinking about what it means for women and the genuine fulfillment we seek in relationships with men. On Twitter, Roland Martin encouraged Black people to stop hatin’ on the movie; go see it and just “laugh”: “All of these haters of the movie @thinklikeaman are ridiculous. It’s a MOVIE! You know, fiction. Do some Black folks know how to laugh?”

I do intend to see the film for several reasons, including simply that I enjoy Steve Harvey’s humor and I’ve read great reviews from moviegoers. Yet it remains a work that celebrates a book which reinforces antiquated gender roles, rules and games. And that is not simply a laughing matter.

Many women take seriously the advice in Mr. Harvey’s book of the same title. Yesterday I read several women’s comments on Essence’s Facebook page lauding the movie, identifying with certain female characters, pledging to change her ways accordingly, and following up with a purchase and read of the book to reinforce her new relationship ways. Mr. Martin and everyone else who thinks similarly, it’s not simply a laughing matter.

When I listened regularly a few years back to Mr. Harvey’s “Strawberry Letter” segment of his morning show, I found his responses humorous with the kind of rings of truth good humor has to have to make it absolutely hilarious. My issue begins with the book and women’s acceptance of it to create the relationships they believe they’ve always wanted. My issue begins when we perpetuate traditional gender roles, rules and games that at the end of the day do not advance the quality of relationships.

If we want to keep the same-ol’-same-ol’, then this type of advice, I suppose, will help us do that. Well, Mr. Harvey, almost guarantees that it will from the title of his book’s  introduction – “Everything you need to know about men and relationships is right here.” (Harvey; Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man)

But if we want something more and something else, as I hear from women, then we need to think, understand, and act differently.

As I study what keeps women from enjoying sex, I find orgasm among the top reasons. The more I think, the more I find that it makes for the perfect symbol of equality in intimate relationships. Pretty much men will get their satisfaction – erection to ejaculation – from an intimate encounter. Women? Not so much. If there is no unhealthy circumstance (physiological dysfunction, sexually related trauma recovery, etc.), orgasms elude women for very solvable reasons. A woman may not get the amount of time she needs to build up her arousal or the kind of stimulation in/on areas of her body or with ways that are pleasing. She may not even know for herself what gets her off. Furthermore, she may not have the ovaries (guts/courage) to communicate to her partner what feels good, where, and for how long. So she takes what she can get (settling for saying she enjoys the entire act/foreplay is more important/it’s not just about orgasm), endures the rest, and maybe satisfies herself later on.

Does anyone agree with me that this is totally unacceptable?

What are we gonna do about it?

Truly, I am a fan of Mr. Harvey’s work. I also applaud him for doing something to try to make things better between women and men since we all want, need, and deserve to be desired and fulfilled. Stating so is not enough. Something needs to be done to make it happen. He is one person who did something.

But we must keep going further and deeper.

Can we start moving beyond conceding to socialized gender roles that leave both women and men stuck in thought and behavioral patterns that continue to leave women responsible for the man’s stepping up and for the success of the relationship?

“He [Mr. Harvey] essentially advocates sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy as truth. He supports, then, the objectification and commodification of women masked as empowerment. . . . Her [the woman’s] call to be prophetic is not only to get rid of these issues, but to offer a better alternative.” (Dr. Miranda Pillay, Presentation of Paper in Response to Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA – 13 December 2011)

I [woman] am not responsible for his [man] stepping up. I am not responsible for creating conditions to force him to step up. I am aware of what pleases me and I am willing to communicate that to a man whom I choose as a lover.

We are more and capable of more than traditional teachings from the Church, society, and family have conditioned us to know, believe and understand.

Are you restless too?

Are you looking for something more and something else?

What are your thoughts? Is mutuality in intimacy even important to you? What about orgasm?

Leave a comment, anonymous, if you’d like.

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(c) 2012 candi dugas, llc

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