port of harlem magazine
 
 
Can You Love God and Sex?
 
NOV 2005 - JAN 2006
 
Health

Rev. Dr. Susan Newman



Do you remember the sexual revolution? It was the short-lived revolt in the sixties against American society’s puritanical ways.  The popular catchwords of the day were “Make Love, Not War,” and “Free Love.”                 

It was also a break from a time when the walls of heterosexual marriage confined a woman’s sexual pleasure. It did away with the “good girls don’t” excuse, increased the need for birth control, and offered more freedom of choice. It also gave men the feeling of freedom to have sex whenever, wherever, and with whomever. 

Many conservatives have blamed this age of “permissiveness” for present problems such as the high rate of divorce, and the rise in the number of single parent families, drug use, and pornography. No matter what one believes about the results of that period, one definite positive that resulted from this time was that people finally began to talk more freely about sexuality. This was a major accomplishment, especially when we realize that even to this day; discussion of sexuality is taboo in some circles, especially the church. That needs to change.
I answered, “Beloved, God does not mind if you use your cell phone, palm pilot, or microwave oven—if you cannot hear, get a hearing aid. If you cannot see, get eyeglasses, and if you need help in the area of genital stimulation for sexual fulfillment—get a vibrator and thank the Lord!” God created our sexual responses, and we created sexual repression.
With teachers and parents, the church can lead a more active role in community discussions on our leading less confining, but sexually responsible lives. An additional aspect of a much needed evolution of the sexual revolution would bring us to an  understanding that our sexuality is a gift from God, just as our spirituality and intellect are gifts.   

Many women of faith are wrestling with the teachings of their church and their desires to be sexually intimate – even though they are not married. In 2002, with the release of my book “Oh God! A Black Woman’s Guide to Sex and Spirituality;” a reporter asked me, “Dr. Newman, are you saying that it is all right for single women in the church to have sex?” I calmly answered, “No, what I am saying is that single women in the church are having sex, and I want to help them see that Jesus wants us to love our neighbors, not our neighborhoods!” 

In a day where HIV/AIDS is killing women and men, we must live sexually responsible lifestyles. We cannot afford to be “permissive” and have sexual behavior like many did in the “swinging sixties.” 

In the Bible’s “Song of Solomon,” the writer describes her love for a man in chapter 5.  Referring to him, she says, “This is my beloved, this is my friend.” Rarely does one see the portrayal of a person being a lover and a friend in today’s cultural icons of relationships. Many Hip Hop and Rap music videos portray women as half naked sex objects who the musicians refer to as their “bitches and ho’s.” The catch phrase of the 60’s “to make love” has been replaced with “Getting some,” and “Doin’ somebody.”

When dating someone new, folk must now include in their “getting to know you” dinner conversations such questions as “Have you been tested for HIV?,” “Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease?,”  “Are you bisexual or have multiple sex partners?,” and “What do you think about using condoms?”

It is easy to have sex with someone and share your body. But the far greater and
fulfilling choice would be to have a relationship with a man or woman based on friendship, respect, and love. Don’t get me wrong, I know that physical attraction plays a major part, but usually that’s what gets folks into trouble—they are hormone directed rather than heart directed. Your hormones will have you make a choice that has consequences that your heart may not be able to bear. You have to ask yourself a question and answer it with brutal honesty – “Is this what I really want?”  We need to think about our choices and their consequences before we choose someone as a partner.

 
But for many, the question remains:  Can I love God and sex? This is a question that every person must answer for himself or herself. I say, “Yes.”  We do not leave our sexuality outside in the parking lot when we come into the sanctuary. Our sexuality is more than our reproductive organs and hormonal urges. Every person must live by their own sexual ethics, not yours or mine.  There is such a thing as ‘practical theology.’  We need to start using our common sense and intellect to make choices for ourselves. 
In the Bible’s “Song of Solomon,” the writer describes her love for a man in chapter 5. Referring to him, she says, “This is my beloved, this is my friend.” Rarely does one see the portrayal of a person being a lover and a friend in today’s cultural icons of relationships.
A few years ago, I was on a panel about sexuality and spirituality at the Essence Music Festival and a woman emailed me a question ahead of time that I addressed. She asked, “Is it all right in the sight of God to use a vibrator? ” I answered, “Beloved, God does not mind if you use your cell phone, palm pilot, or microwave oven—if you cannot hear, get a hearing aid. If you cannot see, get eyeglasses, and if you need help in the area of genital stimulation for sexual fulfillment—get a vibrator and thank the Lord!” God created our sexual responses, and we created sexual repression. All things are good in an appropriate context and within the bounds of your values and ethics. This is what is foremost in my spirit when talking with people about their own sexual ethics and values.

The Reverend Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor once said, “We all know the ‘oughtness’ of religion, but we must deal with the ‘isness’ of people’s lives.” For us to grow in knowledge and appreciation of a sexual lifestyle which is healthy and holistic there are things we must do. First, we must be committed to a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum for our elementary, middle, and high school children. There are enough age appropriate materials that teachers can use in schools and that parents can use at home.

There are now even faith-based curriculums that congregations can use with youth and adults. The Black Church Initiative of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choicedeveloped “Keeping It Real: A Faith-Based Model for Teen Dialogue on Sex and Spirituality,” a free and very useful faith-based curriculum for African American youth and adults. Its adult companion, “Breaking the Silence: Bible-based Sexuality Education Dialogue Model for African American Adults,”is equally compelling.

Secondly, for us to evolve sexually in an empowering way, we cannot afford to be silent any longer about sex related issues in our communities like sexual assault and domestic violence. We can sponsor more forums and conferences that empower our men, women, and children with information about reproductive health issues, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, ovarian cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Let us learn how to make love without risking our lives and endangering the lives of each other. We’ve come a long way baby, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Let’s be committed to loving each other and ourselves with respect, information, and a commitment to live sexually responsible lives.
Newman is author of “Oh God! A Black Woman’s Guide to Sex and Spirituality” (Random House, $23.95) and “Your Inner Eve: Discovering God’s Woman Within” (One Word, $13.95). Religious Coalition for Reproductive;202-628-7700.          

Join Newman in a discussion and book signing at the Alexandria Black History Museum and Port of Harlem magazine’s Museum Holiday Open House in celebration of Port of Harlem’s 10th Anniversary. See Coming Up on page 40 for details.

 
 
 
 
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