Just over four years ago, a young man came to see me in my professional capacity as a sexual therapist. He was suffering from depression, sexual dysfunction and social isolation. Recognising that his primary needs were deeper rooted than purely the sexual and social level, I counselled him to discover God’s Love and to open himself to the potential that his life held for him if he made the shift to finding his Real Self; the immortal, indestructible soul within which is not separate and isolated from the Source of Love and Life. He took my words to heart and, over the next few months, and with the help of books, tapes, “God TV” and well-meaning Christian people he “became a Christian”. Recently, almost five years later, he telephoned me in confusion. In effect, he has been told by his pastor and the other members of his church, that any sexual thought, word or deed (other than sex within traditional marriage) is sinful and must be avoided at all cost.
Masturbation is sinful because, they have told him, he would need to be thinking sexual thoughts in order to get an erection suitable for masturbation and that the sexual thoughts were contravening Jesus’ warning regarding “adultery in the mind”. The young man, desperate to alleviate his depression and isolation through practicing Christianity, is still depressed and sexually and socially isolated but is now also confused, sexually repressed and frustrated.
I find myself wondering why the Christian Church seems to be so preoccupied by issues such as sex outside marriage, homosexuality, etc. when they cannot even come to terms with the concept of self pleasuring when one is alone with one’s Self. Where do they get this repressive doctrine of abstention from masturbation? Is it from the Bible? What scriptural reference would be quoted; a misinterpretation of Onan spilling his seed, perhaps? Masturbation in itself is not sinful, nor harmful. What is harmful is the mistaken belief about what sexuality is and our relationship to our own human sexuality that society has projected, and the Christian religion has bought into. It is this incomplete and erroneous perception of where the source of sexuality, sexual arousal and sexual control comes from that lowers our consciousness of the place of the Divine in intimacy. The Church would do better to stop debating the ethics of who we are having sex with, or where or when, and start re-discovering that it is the kind of sex that is being engaged in that is the important spiritual issue that differentiates between the sacred and the profane.
There are primarily two distinct approaches to intimacy and sexuality; one is the “Outside-In”approach and the other is the “Inside-Out” approach. The “Outside-In” is fundamentally masculine in model and therefore the resultant sexuality is measured by performance and goals. This style of sexuality depends upon mental fantasy or stimulation to achieve an end result. The hope is that, in some cases, the fulfilment will reach the “Inside” of the participants but, in reality, it rarely does The other approach to the sexual relationship is the “Inside-Out” approach, which is usually stereotyped as the feminine way, but is actually the naturally created, God-designed approach. “Inside-Out” sexuality starts on the inside, with the Real Self, and involves rather than being validated by the physical body. The “Inside-Out” approach is built upon spirituality and authenticity; the power is connection. This is the intimacy which God created all human beings to be capable of expressing. Fulfilment in the “Inside-Out” approach to sexuality leads the partners closer to a consciousness and an experience of God, rather than into conflict with Him / Her
Why does Christianity produce such sexually repressed children? One reason is that it may be afraid to re-evaluate a history of patriarchal abuse and denial of the Feminine aspect of the Divine and of women and female sexuality in general. The experiential affect of Christians allowing God to become The Source of All, both masculine and feminine in energy, would be massive and would pave the way for unity of fellowship with all religions and faiths as well as restoring sexuality to its rightful place as a true gift of God to all mankind. In that process of re-evaluation of gender theology, however, Christian leaders would also have to admit that they, themselves, might not know how to make love without it being performance centred. Others may have to open themselves to the concept of teaching their congregations the positive aspects of sexuality, and would realise their insufficiency. Some ministers may feel totally inadequate with the prospect of needing being more like a real father to their flock rather than hiding behind the role of teacher, priest and guru.
Spiritual sexuality requires openness, self appraisal and self awareness; to recognise vulnerability as being a character strength, which is attractive, rather than as a weakness. Others may have to open themselves to the need to counselling individuals and couples within their congregations in matters about which they have little personal knowledge. It is distinctly possible that some church ministers and leaders may have to face the personal difficulties within their own marriage or relationship that they can otherwise pretend does not exist.
It seems to be asking rather a lot of a religion which has built a dogma of sexual control and prohibition in the name of righteousness for fifteen hundred years; this change may take the next fifteen hundred years to effect. In the short term, the answer may be for some specialised Christian Ministries, rather than the whole Christian Church, to provide a lead and to offer help to the churches or to their members in the area of spiritual sexuality. Such help could be offered by way of seminars, workshops and individual counselling and teaching. Could this be an area where CSCS could become something other than another voice that sometimes appears to be trying to persuade or argue the same theological chestnuts with the same theologians as have already been polarised for as long as any of us can remember?
I attended the last annual CSCS Conference and, while being delighted to meet others there and to listen to an admirable talk in the morning session, I left feeling a little empty. Who are we as CSCS trying to reach? What is our aim? Are we simply here to represent a balancing view on the repressive views of the Church in respect to same sex relationships; a voice calling in the wilderness? If so, what of the countless ordinary people in church pews, and those who are not in the pews but are nevertheless searching for Reality in a Christian country; many who are sexually dysfunctional or repressed or even suicidal for lack of positive help and guidance.
If the scriptures are intended to reflect the context of our contemporary culture, it is possible that Jesus may actually wish to add to the list of omissions of which the “goats” were guilty: “Lord, when was it that I saw you isolated and in despair or divorced or broken, and did not help or accept you in your need?’ Then the ruler will answer them, “Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me”.