When I have conversations about what joy-filled sexual authenticity looks like in a life of faith I am often met with an interesting response.
It goes something like this: Yes, It is good that our church does not exclude people for being divorced, or gay. In fact, most Episcopalians that I run across seem to be quite proud of the inclusion we have mustered so far. It feels good to be kind and welcoming. But, the person will say: “there have to be limits. There still must be rules. I mean we can’t just have a church where ‘anything goes.’”
When I ask further exactly what those limits should be, there are not universally clear answers. There just seems to be this feeling that liberated sexuality is some vast wasteland full of perils and if we let people loose danger and destruction await. As if out in the wilds of sexual liberation there is only menace and no true joy.
Worrying about what the world might look like if people live their authentic lives s a poor substitute for curiosity and compassion. If someone tells you that they are deeply in love with more than one person, please listen to the truth of their experience. They are sharing the gift of themselves. instead of telling them about someone you know who got a divorce after opening up, ask what their journey has been like. If someone tells you that their current job is their Only Fans page, it is fine to say “oh cool! how is that going for you?” It is okay to give someone the grace and respect to assume they have looked at the risks and rewards of their choices, and are making the brave move to share a part of their lives with you.
And yes I know that there are sexual predators in the world and therefore in the church. But assuming someone is a predator because they like their sex differently from you, is an old, boring, and harmful story. The sad truth is that is a culture of shame and sex negativity that serves predators quite well. If we truly want to protect the most vulnerable then we should not cordon off certain desires habits and lifestyles as outside the bounds of a life of faith. This only puts those who long for what we have decided is taboo to be less likely to care for themselves and less likely to report harm when it occurs.
I will write another post on consent because I think that is a much better strategy for a healthy sex life than rules and limits. Especially when those rules and limits are set by people far removed from the lived experience of those they are policing. Rules are usually a poor substitute for caring for one another as the beloved children of God. And assuming that we have the authority to set rules, wouldn’t we be better off using our position to speak to a life of generous courageous love rather than fear and humiliation?
I have had a number of y’all reach out to me and I would very much encourage you to continue to do so. Let me know what you think, what you need, and where you are at.