Question 5: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Q: In what ways do your faith and sexuality intersect?

A: This question, as originally conceived, was a question that our Hopeful Abstainer did not wish to answer. I wanted to know what she wanted the church to understand about her sexuality, and her peaceful resistance to this form of the question revealed a bias of my own lurking in the subtext. While I imagined most of our Hopeful Abstainers as eager critics of the church’s sexual ethics, I was pleasantly surprised by her refreshing and gentle refusal. Her answer helped me refine this question, and I think we boiled down the meandering conversation to something like this: Her life has been an opportunity to live the countercultural message of the Bible—that our bodies are sacred by virtue of their created-ness. She ultimately decided to have sex with her husband before the wedding and never found herself wrecked with guilt or with a sense that she had dishonored the image of God in each of their respective bodies. She entered into their physical relationship with respect for herself and her lover—with a commitment to their shared love and humanity. When asked if she would be comfortable if her minister knew about their jumping the proverbial gun, she shot me an easily interpreted stare and volunteered that in her premarital counseling, they weren’t even asked about their sex life. So yes, faith and sex are inextricably bound together in her mind, but the ethical specificity of that is altogether of unclear.

With that, we conclude our first interview. I am grateful to my friend for letting me pry into this uncharted conversation. It seems that we didn’t develop 5 key points to remember when making sexual decisions as a single, 30-something Christian. Though I’m no closer to a definitive answer to this question of mine, I am reassured by the community that is formed when we speak without shame and with a sincere commitment to honesty and a sense of humor. This Hopeful Abstainer challenged the reshaping of my interview questions. Maybe she’s challenging us to ask a different meta question….

Yours Truly,

A Hopeful Abstainer

Question 2: Oops.

Only 3 days in, and I’m already getting forgetful. This is one of those questions that encouraged me to be self-reflective in my own critiques of religious sex education. Her simple, but thoughtful and sincere answer is worth a ponder. Much has been said about the larger state of affairs in church sex ed, but this is a reminder that each person experiences and interprets their experiences differently.

Q: Tell us about your adolescent sex education.

A: “I learned the mechanics from Dr. James Dobson’s cassette tape. I later learned that my sister cried when she heard the tragic news, but when my parents asked if I had any questions, I was too horrified for tears or questions. After that, we didn’t discuss it much at home. I was enrolled in the True Love Waits class at church, and my parents left the conversation to the Youth Pastor.  I definitely took seriously the idea of saving yourself as a gift to your husband.” When I pressed for more on this topic, she was straightforward and sincere, “I could tell you everything that is messed up about that kind of sex education, but I wouldn’t be saying anything new.” The truth, for her, is simple and optimistic. There are any number of reasons to gratuitously mock abstinence only sex ed, but she doesn’t feel damaged by the general lack of clarity on the subject that persisted through her early 20s. In fact, she is grateful to have inherited a sense of the sacredness of her sexuality, and she’s having good sex now so it couldn’t have been that bad, right?


Two Hopeful Abstainers