After much thought and personal deliberation, I have decided that every now and again I will write faith based posts. For a long time, I avoided such public proclamations of my faith, not because I was ashamed or embarrassed, but because I never felt knowledgeable enough to join that conversation – others are much more versed (no pun intended) than I am. As a result, my faith based posts will not be formal or political – they will not deal with such churchy issues as tithing or leadership or anything like that. Instead, they will be how my faith has affected me personally.
This particular post is in response to Aaron Smith’s (The Cultural Savage) “Used Up; Spread Around – Virginity and the Church” – To better understand my post, it would be best to read his first. However, a brief (and inadequate) summary is how the Church often vilifies the female for premarital sex, but blames men’s actions on hormones and nature.
In the last few months, I have been seeing a Christian therapist. There were many reasons for this decision, the chief of which was unhealthy, and to my dismay, frequent sexual relationships. I was recently asked by my therapist if I felt shame for my past sexual relationships. My answer was no. But, after thinking about it, I have to amend that answer. No, now. But that has not always been the case. About a year and a half ago, I actually left a church because of the shame I was made to feel. I was approached by the pastors after 2 men (months apart) had “confessed” to the pastor without giving me the decency of discussing things with me. After the second time, the pastors came to me. I realized that they had yet to really sit down and talk to the man, and it just happened that he was out of town at this particular time. I did not appreciate how it was handled. They said that they held the man more responsible as he was the “leader” and “caretaker” but their actions were showing that they held me responsible, after all, I was the common denominator. I do not absolve myself of all blame. After all, I was the common denominator. However, as the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.” I felt that I was being unfairly blamed and vilified, and not enough responsibility was being given to the men. I was portrayed as the temptress, they the victim.
Shortly after that, I left that particular church and started attending the Genesis Project. I made many mistakes there too including sleeping with a man in that church. The difference was, I felt free to go to the pastor for counsel. He did not judge me. He did not shame me. He counseled me. And when I made the mistake again, he told me I was not starting back at the beginning. Finally, I had a sexual encountered that damaged both parties terribly, and I finally sought professional counseling (on the advice of my pastor). I have been abstinent for 4 months now. I say that the same way an alcoholic or drug addict might say they were clean for 4 months because that is how I feel. But with my pastor or my therapist, I have never been made to feel shame. Not this time.
I am now able to say “No” I don’t feel shame because finally I attend a church where the pastor and the people know what it is to make reoccurring mistakes. Don’t mistake me, the actions are not sanctioned, but the actor is not condemned with the action. Oh there are those who may let a judgmental look pass their pious faces, but for the most part I am with people who are like me: not perfect but striving to be better. I attend a church with a pastor who openly discusses sex in a sermon (our Elephant in the Room series, March 3). And in that sermon, he does ask boys and girls to hold close their virginity. Well what about those like me? Those who gave it away long ago? He makes clear that God can make all things new. I am not shamed. I am not vilified. I am understood. I am forgiven.