I am reading on facebook that 400 church leaders, Pastors and Deacons are resigning of the resent Ashley Madison reveal (article here). People are outraged and indignant.
I am confused. Why does it surprise us when we have wrapped up sexuality in so many layers of taboo and shame? Does it really surprise us that leaders within the church would use a dating site that fascilitates extra marital connections when porn surfing is a bigger problem in the church than without, when divorce rates in the church soars, when we have created a christian culture where sex (a fundamental part of our being) is generally a filthy sinful thing?
I mean, if you are a Christian and have marital problems of a sexual nature, what can you do? Who can you really talk to? When we struggled in our marriage we had no-one to reach out to. The few we could possibly talk to where certainly not open to discuss what was or was not happening in the bedroom. And this was before we stepped into leadership in the church. After becoming a church leader your options are even more limited.
On a progressive Christian page one woman writes:
I understand the temptation to have an affair, even the stressors that lead to it, but, to me, seeking out an affair through a website seems like a more serious problem. I guess I can see someone having an affair because they weren’t careful enough to prevent it or to protect their marriage, but why would you purposefully go looking for one? If the relationship is that bad, wouldn’t you just end it?
Ok, here’s the problem. If I am a pastor and I am struggling with my sexuality, I have NO ONE I can discuss this with. If I go inside the church I am often told to pray more and to read my bible which in most cases will not help me with the issue. Granted prayer might give me some serenity and a place of refuge in the turmoil but as the problem most likely is caused by my biology and or lack of understanding of my own sexuality it is not going to solve the issue. As a pastor I am also stopped from going outside the church for help since I am then forced to either go to proffessional sexologists whose sexual ethics are far more permissive than the ones in the church, and they also have no understanding of the spirituality of the matter. My other choice is to go to the sacred sexuality camp that is then immersed in New Age teaching and other religions, so while they understand the spirituality for me as an evangelical I am barred from getting help there. I can also not ”just end it” since doing so will loose me my vocation, my calling, my job and my entire social network. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Besides that I really feel that endorsing the serial monogamy trend is the wrong way to go.
So church leaders hide their problems in shame and try to cope on their own in secret, this secrecy and the shame it fosters leads in a never ending spiral to pornography and sites like Ashley Madison.
What we need is to open this up, let the light into the deep closet of shame in the church. We need to be able to talk about sex in positive and helpful ways. We need to develop a new sexual ethic not based on Augustines fear of women and sexuality but based on the sacredness of sexuality that is evident in for example the Song of Songs. A sexual ethic that includes our actual human experience and takes into account both the biology and the spirituality of sexuality. We need to remove the stigma and shame around the area of sexuality and see sexuality as one more area of human life, like health, economy, ecology and social justice. Further more I think we need to accept the sacredness and spirituality inherent in the union of lovers. The Christian church needs to offer a positive and constructive teaching on sacred sexuality allowing both members and leaders of our churches to openly, unashamedly talk about sex, their struggles and their relationships. But also that allows us to teach young couples to enjoy and nurture their sexuality and their sex life.
In Sweden the church often complain about RFSL/RFSU two sister organisations that has the monopoly on sex education. I have often asked and will ask again, when will we present a healthy alternative? When will we start listening to the voices that actually have something to say in this area?