Saturday, November 28, 2009

Church - The Sex Talk Continues!!!! Part #2

Hey Covenant Groupies,

The sex talk continues. It's unfortunate that we haven't been able to post since Tuesday. I know I promised to post part two on Thursday, but I completely forgot just how busy I'd be for the Thanksgiving holiday. But without further postponement, here's part #2.

MARTIN: And it was part of a - is part of the issue here to present marriage as something very special and apart?

Rev. SPENCER: No doubt about it. You know, when Adam woke up and saw Eve, he said, finally, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. He was excited and rightfully so, because when a man finds a wife, he finds a good thing, the Bible says. And so, we're trying to bring back the joy of being married in that people can rediscover that I have more freedom being married than I did, you know, when I was without. And so, there's a wholeness and completeness when two whole people get together and discover the blissfulness and the joy of great sex.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, this is Tell Me More from NPR News. I'm joined by the Reverends Stacy Spencer and Charlie Arehart, and they're talking about dealing with sexuality in the church. Reverend Arehart, what about that? How do you deal with that whole question of the marriage covenant and the specialness of the bond between two persons who are committed to each other with a congregation who, in some jurisdictions, their relationships may be acknowledged, formally and publicly, but in others, not? And it's obviously a big topic of public conversation, a very heated and controversial topic. So, how do you deal with that?

Rev. AREHART: Right.

MARTIN: In your community?

Rev. AREHART: The Reverend Dr. Norman Pittenger, Anglican theologian and pastor, said years ago in a lecture, sex is good; sex with somebody you know and value as a friend is better; sex with somebody with whom you're deeply in love and in a long-term, meaningful relationship is best. But sex is good. Now, we approach it from that perspective. We encourage people to experience the best, which would be deep, personal love, sexuality explored in all of its magnificent dimensions, within that bond of gay, lesbian, transgender, heterosexual marriage, but we also would certainly say to the person who is single that, if you know your partner and if you love and care about your partner, that is good. And we would make room for the individual who is also having a less than well-known encounter, perhaps.

MARTIN: Really? How do you set boundaries around - how do you set boundaries? Or do you feel that's not your job?

Rev. AREHART: Well, I'm a follower of Jesus, and I believe the great commandment is to love one another, and love is the great defining - and any human action which is an unloving action is sin for me, and we teach that. And human sexuality, when we take advantage of another, exploit another, violate the covenant, either which we've made or the covenant of another knowingly, is wrong because it's not a loving, caring act.

MARTIN: Reverend Spencer, you mentioned that sexual issues are a cause of a friction among Christian couples, just like among other couples. What were you talking about? Were you specifically referring to infidelity? And the other thing I wanted to ask you about is, what about that question of people who, even though they may be married, might be having questions about their sexual identity? How do you address that?

Rev. SPENCER: You know, in my talking with the married couples, there are a lot issues that come out there. There's adultery; there's masturbation; there's pornography. We call those sexual exits. Whenever you are not gratified, specifically by your spouse, those are sexual exits. And so, that can lead to adultery, physical and spiritual. And so, we try to go back and help people to explore those things that have caused those exits, and in some sense, there might be someone in a marriage who's struggling with their sexual identity. And that's where, you know, through a process of the Imago Dialogue, that people are able to discuss their inner desires and struggles with their spouse without being judged. A lot of people are afraid to talk with their spouses because they feel that they'll be judged for being too sexual or too freaky or too perverted, but when you're able to honestly share out of love and not be judged by your spouse, it opens up an arena where people can become whole and talk about who they are. And so, that dialogue is very important, but I teach in my book, "Naked and Unashamed," how to approach that dialogue, so that people don't feel like I'm going to be condemned by my spouse.

MARTIN: OK, and Reverend Arehart, I want to give you the final word. Do you feel that you're making progress? I don't know if - how you would gauge such a thing in helping members of the congregation to fuse, say, the physical and the spiritual in the way that is healthier?

Rev. AREHART: Absolutely, yes. And you know, I'm going to read his book.
(Soundbite of laughter)

Rev. AREHART: And we are going to have some classes for our couples because everything he's said about developing that kind of holistic approach to human sexuality within the bonds of that great love relationship, I agree with.

MARTIN: The Reverend Charlie Arehart is the interim pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C. He was kind enough to join us in our Washington, D.C., studio. The Reverend Stacy Spencer is the pastor of the New Direction Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and he was kind of enough to join me from member station WKNO in Memphis. Gentlemen, I thank you both so much for speaking with us, and Happy Valentine's Day.

Rev. AREHART: Happy Valentine's to you as well. Bye-bye.

Rev. SPENCER: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And of course, with Tell Me More, the conversation never ends. You just heard our two clergy members address the importance of intimacy. Now, we'd like to hear from you. Has your place of worship taken on the matters of sexuality, not just what not to do, but what to do? How do you feel about that? Do you wish your faith leaders would say more about matters of intimacy and sexuality, or maybe you think they talk too much about such matters and need to say less?

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