Andy Duran is the Educational Outreach & Affiliate Manager for Good Vibrations. As a trainer for over 15 years, this California bear cub and proud blue collar dandy loves providing accurate and accessible sex information with hopes to arouse curiosity and spread truth.
When not philosophizing about all things sexual, Educator Andy can be found singing George Michael, blushing, and keeping up his teddy bear figure.
Jera: Tell me a little about your spiritual identity.
Andy: I identify as Christian, though I hold connection and spiritual appreciation for other religions as well. As a middle schooler my mother and I started attending church with my aunt. Shortly after we got baptized. The was the Church of Christ (not to be confused with the United Churches of Christ). It was pretty exciting for me to make a connection to God and fellowship with other members of the church. It wasn’t long before I started to feel that the literal and fundamentalist views of the church conflict with my own thoughts of God. Who was “saved” and what we are “allowed/not allowed” to do. This also came around the time that I began coming out to myself about being queer — a big no no in my church and something I struggled with for a very long time. My aunt was a bit more understanding of it all but my mom went full-on literalist, never questioning a word.
One day in vocation bible school we were studying a some story, and the leader of the group was like, “So the moral of this story is don’t drink.” And I was like whaaa? So I said they drink wine in the Bible all the time, and Jesus turned water into wine … and they said that was different. I got so discouraged.
Afterwards one of the women in the group came over to me and said, “You know, we are all reading the same book, but we may see it telling us different things. What’s most important is for you to learn what it is telling you.” That was so empowering for me that I never went back to church after that. I felt like my relationship with God was just that. Mine. And that I didn’t need to be told about what it is, or how it should be anymore. This gay guy in my friend group after high school used to say “Lots of people know the book, but I know the author.” That’s kinda how I feel about it all.
Jera: I really love that story. That you didn’t feel the need to find God in church and somehow knew that. Since then, how have you seen/felt your relationship with God grow? Like what has instigated growth?
Andy: It’s come in waves really. Sometimes that growth looks like how strong my faith is. Not giving up or losing hope and just leaving things “in God’s hands.” But in some of my darker days, I’ve noticed that I’ve lost that trust and connection. When recovering from my divorce, I noticed that I stopped praying. I stopped talking to God and feeling connected to my spirituality. It really tied into my loss of self-care as a whole. If I wasn’t feeding myself physically, I guess it’s no surprise that I wasn’t feeding myself spiritually. Luckily I’m climbing out of that deep hole and starting to feel realigned with God. If God is love, I’m starting to allow myself to feel and trust it again.
Jera: Do the other religions/spiritual traditions you feel a connection to meld at all with your relationship with the Christian God or do they feel separate? I wonder a lot about this. You know the idea of kitchen table or parallel poly? I feel like my own spiritual life feels parallel, but I wish it were more kitchen table.
Andy: Mine definitely feels more kitchen table. For example I love connecting with my Jewish friends because it feels so strongly rooted and connected to my own religion. The traditions and celebrations feel closer and more connected to the authentic experiences that are shared in the bible and practiced by many, including Christ. Christian traditions are so muddled with politics, judgement, capitalism, etc that they don’t make me feel closer to my Lord, just more patriotic. I’m from Berkeley. We grew up making egg carton dragons for Chinese New Year and reclaiming Indigenous Peoples day instead of celebrating Columbus. Celebrating diversity (without cultural appropriation) and learning that we aren’t so different is deeply engrained in me, and feels like the most Christian thing I can do.
Jera: Do you still read the Bible or theology books? Anything still work well in your relationship with God?
Andy: I don’t read the Bible much anymore, but honestly I’m not a big reader. I do love having discussions with people about spirituality, love, beauty, community…to me this is all like fellowship.
Jera: How does your career as a sex educator connect to your faith for you personally?
Andy: I believe that we must all help and support one another. My work in sex education connects to my faith because I get to help remove judgement from individuals, and the collective world. We should not shame or judge one another. Beauty, love, pleasure — these are all God’s gifts. Gifts that we get to pass along to one another. Our body is a gift. Taking care of it, understanding it, learning it, sharing it, celebrating it…these are all ways that we honor it and show appreciation of it.
Jera: Do you feel like you’re able to help others make God theirs in the same way you were able to find that personal relationship with God? Have any stories about it?
Andy: I think when people realize that there isn’t just one way to believe in God or be a Christian — that it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from the other parts of your life — then they are able to create their own relationship with God. As Christians, we are often told to let our lights shine bright on one another. Christianity isn’t a sales pitch for me. I want to show people that this is what Christianity looks like for me. This is my light. And if you find that inspiring or relatable, then I hope it empowers you to find your own light.