Sex & God Do Mix
Katy Perry recently made headlines by criticizing the blatant co-mingling of sexuality and religion in Lady Gaga’s new music video “Alejandro.” Perry especially took offense to the scene where Gaga takes a rosary and seductively lowers it into her mouth while making bedroom eyes at the camera. Perry tweeted the following “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.” A case has been made in the media that Perry’s own sexually charged videos and music preclude her from making such pious comments. I could care less about the viability of her critique—it is neither disturbing nor provocative to me. However, another statement found in the same Rolling Stone interview is both. Perry stated:
“I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen.”
Being aware of her reputation as a “good Christian girl gone bad,” it occurred to me how poignant this statement is. Not because of its veracity, but because of its representative value. I grew up in the same environment as Perry and am now labeled in the same way by most of those who I served with when my membership to the evangelical Christian world was still deemed valid. Just as many in the Christian world grieved the loss of a gospel-singing Katy Perry, many in my world grieved the loss of a former missionary, Christian school teacher, Bible study leader, etc. Perry and I share the same scarlet letter. Open sexuality. Katy Perry kissed a girl. I, on the other hand, came out as a full fledged lesbian and watched the Christian world that meant so much to me run screaming in the other direction.
Why? Because many in that world view sexuality through the same lens that Perry described above: sex + spirituality = bad. Not everyone believes that and, obviously, there are other issues that contributed to my excommunication from the evangelical world at large. As I began the excruciating process of “coming out” to my Christian friends and family, I realized that it wasn’t just homosexuality that they were uncomfortable with—it was sexuality in general. Sure your run-of-the-mill Baptist church still does a yearly sermon on Song of Solomon and may even praise the delights of marital sexual intercourse. More progressive churches may even go a step further and talk about how in Song of Solomon 2:3 when the writer refers to her Beloved’s “fruit that was sweet to [her] taste” the passage is most certainly referring to oral sex. But in the hallways of the traditional evangelical church, in its classrooms and youth groups, the subject of sexuality and how to deal with its formation is mostly eschewed with righteous determination.
Sexuality formation, identity and even confusion are relegated to the self –help groups that meet on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This relegation acted as a catalyst for the formation of many of the ex-gay groups that are still in existence such as Exodus International and Living Waters. These groups were formed, specifically, to “deal” with the subject of homosexuality in a way that the church had been unable to. Why? Because sexuality is a messy subject. Many pastors that I’ve spoken to, speak of words like “orientation” and “sexual identity” in a dismissive way, believing that those are psychology’s contributions to the muddying of the theological waters. Yet, every person biologically and empirically goes through a stage of sexual identity formation—a stage when sexuality comes to forefront and demands to be recognized. Others still admit to not wanting to grapple with the subject because of its inherent “gray” nature in the black and white world of Christianity. Hetero or homo—sexuality is a natural part of growing up. Shouldn’t churches be excited to help guide their young members into full knowledge of their heterosexuality?
The reality is that most Christian young people are taught, as I was, that sex and God have nothing to do with each other. God created the two sexes to procreate and populate the world and that’s all. Beyond that factoid the sex act and God don’t mix. When faced with questions about normal teenage sexual urges, the answer was simply “abstain.” When asked about the logistics of sexual activity the answer was “you’ll figure that out when you’re married” or (my personal favorite) “Sex is GREAT…..in marriage.” When faced with questions about same sex attractions, the answer was simply “that’s wrong according to the Bible.” All of these answers are tragic to me. Sex and God DO mix. If God created man and woman, then God created sexuality. Sex is not diametrically opposed to spirituality—it’s a crucial part of it because it’s a crucial part of us as humans. I’m not saying that Lady Gaga’s imagery didn’t shock me, but then again isn’t that the point? To stimulate thought and provoke questions and opinions such as Perry’s? To get teenagers talking about the relationship between sex/sexuality and God? I, for one, fully support her provocation of thought. Sexuality needs to be talked about, normalized, explained–especially for the sake of Christian youth everywhere.
The church, in many ways and in many denominations, is just now realizing that sexuality has to be talked about.
Apryl Prentiss is a right wing dropout. Born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA and heavily involved in the evangelical Christian community for her entire life. She lives in Richmond, VA with her partner, Adrian, and enjoys trying to dialogue with those in the evangelical community about sexuality.
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