CatalystCon Midwest

Notes and Outline for my CatalystCon Talk:
Christians Kink Too: Repairing the Relationship between God and Desire
jera@jerabrown.com
@emotichew

I had put off my garment; how could I put it on again?
I had bathed my feet; how could I soil them?
My beloved thrust his hand into the opening, and my inmost being yearned for him.
I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh,
upon the handles of the bolt.

Song of Solomon 5:3-5 NRSV

Overview of Session:

What this is and what this isn’t

  • This is an introduction by a self-taught kinky Christian writer
  • This is not a proselytizing attempt. You do you.
  • This is not an exhaustive apologetic and I don’t (nor should anyone) claim to have “all the answers” about things like God, faith, and how one should live

What theology platforms I’m using

  • Theology rooted in the Mainline Protestant Lineage
    • E.g. United Methodist, Presbyterian USA, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Quakers
  • Feminist Liberation theology

This impacts:

  • How we see Jesus
  • How we see the Bible

Important changes that happened in the study of theology over the past 30 or so years:

From the introduction to The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires and Sexuality in Christianity. Edited by and intro by Margaret Kamitsuka

  • Gender and women’s studies began impacting theology in the ‘80s
  • Paradigm shift in intellectual thought
    • “Many scholars influenced by the way postmodern historians, like Michael Foucault, exposed the cultural codes … and ‘discourses’ of sex for eras predating the term sexuality. Scholars have found that these discourses of sex turn out to be very diverse, culturally contingent, and multivocal.”
  • Theologians began seeing experience as a “valid and often preferred source and norm for theological reflection”

Why reclaim or revise a Christian sexual perspective

  • Beneficial in helping people work through baggage
  • To liberate practicing Christians
  • It shouldn’t be an either / or relationship between one’s faith and one’s desires
  • Promoting positive social justice in systems of power

Issues with the old perspective

Trapped in a cultural bubble

Archaic rules commenting on specific cultures. For example: how people in the Jewish and Roman cultures during the New Testament period thought about women, slaves, lack of the concept of orientation as a lifestyle or identity, and the power dynamics of homosexual acts

Augustine’s Influence

Sexual passion that can consume us and cloud our reason is the consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve. Only grace can save us from this corruption.

Paul’s Influence

Based his ideas around the second coming of Christ

What a new Christian sexual ethic might look like

Justice Love and Common Decency

A summary of the “Presbyterians and Human Sexuality,” the report of the Special Committee on Human Sexuality, 1991 from Eros Breaking Freeby Anne Bathurst Gilson

“The cornerstone of the report consists of a sexual ethic based on the norm of justice-love. Also referred to as right-relatedness, justice-love means that the goodness of sexuality is to be honored; gratitude for the diversity of all people is to be expressed; special concern for those who are sexuality abused, exploited, and violated is to be conveyed; people are to be held accountable for their sexual behavior, considering the well-being of their partners and the entire community; and an openness to learning from the marginalized and preparing for change is to be cultivated . . .

According to the report, the church should not waste time concerning itself with who sleeps with whom and under what circumstances. Instead, it should be concerned over commitment to an ethic of common decency consisting of equality and inclusivity: ‘We should be asking whether the relation is responsible, the dynamics genuinely mutual, and the loving full of joyful caring. That line of moral inquiry directs people to things that matter.’”

Just Love Framework

Norms from Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Margaret A. Farley

Note: Farley is using the word “just” to mean righteous or ethical as opposed to unjust.

  1. Do No Unjust Harm
    • Nonconsensual physical, psychological, spiritual, or relational violence
    • Failing to support a person when it’s called for in the context of the relationship
  2. Free Consent
    • People treated as ends and not as means including “respecting their capacities and needs for relationship”
    • “Sexual activity and sexual pleasure are instruments and modes of relation; they can enhance relationships or hinder them, contribute to them and express them.”

    Important violations of this ethic:

    • Using power against unwilling victims
    • Seduction and manipulation of persons who have limited capacity for choice because of immaturity, special dependency, or loss of ordinary power
  3. Mutuality
    • There is no active participant and passive participant in just sexual activity—both (or all) are active participants.
    • Just sexuality is not just about the relief of one’s libido, but ultimately “mutuality of desire and embodied union.”
  4. Equality
    • Seeing each other as equals – “if the power differential is too great, dependency will limit freedom, and mutuality will go awry”
  5. Commitment
    • At bare minimum, a commitment to the other norms and treating one’s partner(s) justly
    • “More than this, however, is necessary if our concerns are for the wholeness of the human person—for a way of living that is conducive to the integration of all of life’s important aspects, and for the fulfillment of sexual desire in the highest form of friendship. Given these concerns, the norm must be a committed love”
  6. Fruitfulness
    • “Love between persons violates relationality if it closes in upon itself and refuses to open to a wider community of persons.”
    • “The new life within the relationship of those who share it may move beyond itself in countless ways: nourishing other relationships, providing goods, services, and beauty for others; informing the fruitful work lives of the partners in relation; helping to raise other people’s children; and on and on.”
    • “A just love requires the recognition of this as the potentiality of lovers; and it affirms it, each for the other, both together in the fecundity of their love.”
  7. Social Justice
    • “Not specifically the justice between sexual partners . . . but the kind of justice that everyone in a community or society is obligated to affirm for its members as sexual beings.”

Ideal (sort of) specific to Christianity:

For Christians, the ideal is to integrate our loves somehow in an utter love of God. Our desire is for an integration that destroys no desire but transforms it, that ignores no love but makes it just, that harms no one, not even ourselves. This is the kind of integrity that nourishes our sexuality and makes it just. Little by little, wisdom and integrity bring freedom

Resources:

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