Do Eroticism and God Mix?

Eros with label

“God designed us for love and beauty, and that includes beautiful sex.” Deb Haggerty, PositiveGrace.com

Where is God when it comes to passion and eroticism? Is pleasure part of God’s design for healthy sex? Are there options for sexual satisfaction, and if so what are they? When intimacy has turned cold in a long-term marriage, what about the spouses who are suffering in a sexless marriage?

The word “erotic” is based on the ancient Greek god Eros, their deity of love, sexual desire and beauty. Besides sexual passion and carnal appetites, the wider concept of Eros includes enthusiasm for work, play, art, friendship and other pursuits that bring heightened pleasure. So, does the God of the Bible embrace all these facets?

Questions like these arise in a scene from my novel, All of Me Wants All of You. Dean Nelson, the frustrated husband in a sexless marriage of 24 years, is sitting with his two best friends, Hal and Trevor, eating breakfast. He has just admitted to separating temporarily from his wife Kate after a fight over their chronic lack of intimacy, and has moved to a local motel. Trevor, the men’s pastor at their suburban church, is startled to hear Dean’s news. Hal wants to know if Dean is considering divorce.

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Balancing Love, Sex and Faith: Eleven Questions

Faith Love SexBalancing the roles of sex, intimacy and faith in love relationships can be challenging. The ratings you provide are meant to help you better understand the complex dynamics of your current situation. Is it time to take action on an issue or make a decision? I hope this information will benefit you and your relationship!

Note: click HERE to download a copy of this worksheet.

First, remind yourself of your relationship context. The issues of sex and intimacy can feel different depending on your current relationship status, your gender and your age:

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Why I Write Edgy Christian Fiction

Christian Worshippers At The Cross

What do I mean when I say that I write Edgy Christian Fiction?

Basically, it means that I identify with the people who live in this fallen world and with humanity’s redemptive struggle. As an author and as a human being I seek to engage with the world rather than to separate from it, to associate with a wide variety of folks rather than to avoid interacting with them.

So, if you go looking for my books in a Christian bookstore, you won’t find them there. That’s because the novels in those bookshelves are written from a different mindset, one of “safety first” that sees the world as impure and riddled with temptations, and therefore a place to be avoided and shunned (even to hide from). Please know that I don’t like violence or foul language or perversion or depravity even though, like you, I live in a world of profanity, crime, addictions, abusive relationships and flat-out evil. My characters fight against temptation, act selfishly at times, make love with their clothes off, and struggle to use their faith to mold their decisions and behavior.

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Is Anyone Out There Mating in Captivity?

mating_in_capStriving for intimacy involves novelty, surprise, mystery, risk, and adventure. That’s what couples therapist and author, Esther Perel, claims in her outspoken book Mating in Captivity. How many of these characteristics would you say describe long-term relationships and marriages today? Or how about your marriage? If you picked none (okay, perhaps one of the five), you stand to benefit from Ms. Perel’s book.

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Did the Church Get Sex All Wrong??

Guardian_angelDig around in historical sources and you will discover that early church leaders like St. Augustine frowned on married couples for engaging in sex and referred to it as a form of animalistic lust. Thomas Aquinas saw sexual intercourse as duty alone, strictly for procreation—anything else was immoral. In the sixth century, the Church went so far as to limit the days when sex was permissible until half the year and more was prohibited.

Unsparingly, the church fathers warned against pleasure. They viewed it as volatile, explosive, disruptive and detestable. These authorities, who spoke as the first “experts” of scripture, viewed pleasure, especially too much pleasure, as a slippery slope leading to hedonism and vice, wickedness and depravity—even in marriages where God ordained sex. In their references to sex, church fathers force-fed the masses the doctrine that pleasure feeds the wicked flesh.

Doing so amounted to control by threat . . . control by fear . . . control by displeasing God.

It irks me how this dogma of condemning sex has sabotaged the very Bible that they once used as a supreme source of divine wisdom and guidance. Of course, there most surely CAN be, and ARE, sexual excesses that justify such warnings just as there are scripture passages that rightly caution righteous restraint yet encourage pleasurable sex (Song of Songs most notably).

Commentators today like Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and author, laments in his book Breathing Under Water, “It has always deeply disappointed me that … we (Christians) have had such deficient and frankly negative attitudes toward embodiment, the physical world, sexuality, emotions, and nature itself. It often seems to me that Western Christianity has been much more formed by Plato (body and soul are at war) than by Jesus (body and soul are already one). For many of us the body is more repressed and denied than even the mind or the heart” (Rohr’s emphasis).

The accuracy of his next statement made me frown. “The body is like the ignored middle child in a family unit, and so now it is having its revenge through so much compulsive eating, sexuality, anorexia, and addiction” (pages 13-14).

An alternative

There is an alternative, I believe, and a biblical one at that. Numerous scriptures open the door to sex and pleasure, particularly within marriage, and flatly encourage sensual intimacy leading to rapturous lovemaking. Look up 1st Corinthians 7:2-5 and dozens of Song of Songs verses.

A manifesto of sorts by sex therapist Tina Schemer Sellers, PhD is leading the charge. It is titled, “In Pursuit of a Sex Positive Gospel … Restoring Faith in an Erotic God” http://bit.ly/1NZOZbd. In it, she describes the “extensive negative cultural and religious upbringing” of couples whom she sees, including many who are “desperately desiring a different relationship with their body and sexuality” yet who also want to stay rooted in their faith as they seek healing.

“Recognizing this need,” she adds, “myself and a group of grad assistants at Seattle Pacific University spent four years tracing history, combing many forms of Judeo/Christian literature, talking with theology and history scholars, mining ancient stories (and). . .  Amazingly, we found story after story in ancient Hebrew scripture and mysticism of Yahweh’s attempt for us to know the creative power of sexual desire and the delicious sensual touch of pleasure.”

Her activism in this area of renewing intimacy for couples is exemplary, and sorely needed. For more about her work and the Passion for Life Retreats she leads for couples, go to http://tinaschermersellers.com/.

The good news? Today’s 21st century church leaders and scholars are making 180-degree turns in a healthier direction. You will also find I explore these issues in depth in my novel, All of Me Wants All of You (free excerpt: click here).

What’s your take? What do you think motivated the early leaders of the Christian church to view passion and sexuality as inherently sinful—as dirty, as cursed, as taboo—rather than the sacred gift God meant it to be?

How and why do you think this negative perspective has persisted until the 21st century, tainting millions of men’s and women’s lives?

I’d love to know your thoughts — share your ideas in the comments below!

Is Anything Sacred About Sexual Intimacy?

EnnymansTerritoryA prolific blogger and all-around gifted communicator, Ed Newman–– otherwise known as ENNYMAN in the cyber world–– is my long-and-steady friend of 29 years. His interviews of thought leaders as well as writers, educators, pastors and musicians appear every week or two.

I’m honored to say one of them features me: JZ Howard Talks About Intimacy and His New Book: “All of Me Wants All of You” Read it here. Christian intimacy? Sexless Christian marriages? I’d love to know what you think – please comment below!

Has Sex in Your Marriage Flatlined?

shutterstock_flatlinedIn monogamous relationships, it’s almost a cliché that the frequency and enjoyment of sex—let’s also include intimacy and deeper emotional connection to your partner— fizzles as the years add up. In our modern era of relaxed sexual standards and anything-goes expectations, you have to wonder, “What keeps something so enjoyable and invigorating off your to-do list?”

Note the word “partner” in the first sentence. It takes the partnership of two people with adventurous attitudes to create a satisfying love life. Especially nowadays, when science is regularly providing a better understanding of libido, arousal, and brain stimulation. So what’s holding some people back?

When one partner itches to end the bedroom blahs and the other partner remains stubbornly on the sidelines, a standoff results. This produces friction, often from too much familiarity. Couples therapist and author, Esther Perel, offers this perspective, “Eroticism requires separateness. When there is nothing left to hide, there is nothing left to seek.”

In long-term relationships, ironically, the caring and protective aspects of security and familiar routine tend to stifle, or block, a person’s sexual energy and erotic pleasure.

What about you? If your love life has flatlined, what things are you doing (or not doing) about it? Sound off!

 

Sexless Marriages Hurt People

PrintAllow me to be blunt and to the point: sexless marriage hurts people. That’s the message from 49,293 people (and counting) who have posted their troubling stories on I Live In A Sexless Marriage, an online forum. Here is one of those voices selected at random: “How is it that one partner in a marriage can utterly deprive the other partner of their basic needs for love & affection for years on end?”

That’s also the tenor of the messages in my novel, All of Me Wants All of You. Thanks to people like these whom I researched online, their raw experiences helped make my story all the more real.

You can check out the online forum here: I Live In A Sexless Marriage

The Power of Positive Thinking

Since 1999 as a professional addictions counselor, I’ve encountered hundreds of miserable people trapped in destructive habits. While the initial goal of treatment aims to help the individual sever their dependence on the specific substance (alcohol, painkillers) or behavior (gambling, pornography), it’s their beliefs and self-talk which invariably intensify their misery.

I often use my greatest tool to help rescue these sufferers. What is it?

Say hello to Positive Psychology (the science of happiness), and its founder, Martin Seligman. You can be sure more about this will follow in future posts.

More on Positive Psychology.

Is life purpose real? Or a bunch of BS?

purpose-in-lifeJoy Pecchia, a life coach and certified business coach, poses this question on her blog. Joy specializes in helping people reach peak performance. From a “couples’ intimacy” perspective, connection between individuals involves more than love and sex. When each person connects solidly with her or his life purpose – richer and deeper relationships are bound to happen.

Certainly my life became richer and deeper many years ago when I began to live out my life purpose. Are you living out yours? Or is it all BS?

Check out more of what Joy has to say here: Life Purpose – Is It Real?