I’ve avoided writing on rape culture for a while, because it’s a difficult issue to tackle from a Christian perspective. In my experience, Christian churches don’t often talk about power and consent, and even more rarely do they truly acknowledge the reach and implications of rape culture for the body of Christ.
We’ve all heard them. Stupid jokes and thoughtless comments. Sexist sayings and caricatures. From the pulpit, at the altar, in school, from boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents, and friends. People pass off myths as facts and case-by-case examples as universal truth. Women are like this and men are like that. Women are obnoxious. Men are arrogant. Women are needy and men are emotionally unavailable. These statements are infused with cultural and gendered assumptions. They have no basis in the gospel and what’s more—they are rooted heavily in socialization. And yet, despite Christians’ pledge to reject unhealthy and sinful cultural messages, these painful and divisive gender jokes and ideologies have infiltrated the church. And it’s not no big deal, people. It’s a really big deal. Here’s why.
“If you don’t have sex with your husband anytime he wants, he’ll find it somewhere else.” Fresh out of college and a new Christian, this was my introduction to what I thought was the “biblical” approach to marriage.
The struggles of Christian women with sexuality, food, and their bodies reflect the Church’s historic ambivalence towards the body—particularly the female body. The embodiment of God in the Incarnation, Jesus’ embrace of lepers, prostitutes, and women, and Jesus’ bodily resurrection establish a radical foundation of body affirmation. Yet the history of the Church demonstrates a decidedly negative view of the body and sexuality.
It is okay to want deep intimacy, to not have it, but to not choose false intimacy—and to sit in the longing. God meets us there. Really? Then, why do I desperately want to avoid sitting in the longing?
Let’s talk about sex. Let’s talk about sexuality. And in so doing, let’s realize that we’re all sexual and we all long for connection with others that is not fully provided in sexual intercourse. Let’s embrace solitude, know ourselves, and bring that self to others in a healthy way in order to approximate that intimacy we long for.