Author Interview: Traditional vs. Edgy Christian Fiction

“[Charles Dickens] was quoted saying: ‘Depictions of cruelty and viciousness must be allowed. Though darkness must be part of a story, the darkness shall not overwhelm. But if the dark is not truthfully dark, the light cannot be truthfully light.’ If anything nails what edgy means, that says it for me,” says J.Z.

Click to read more of this interview where J.Z. discusses what makes Edgy Christian Fiction “edgy,” why it’s needed, and how it’s not really a new phenomenon.


Shame vs. Libido? And the Winner is…

Shame Vs. Libido-

“Make no apology for your strong desire to be intimate with someone; it is neither sinful nor selfish.”       Larry Crabb, Psychologist

Aside from the effects of a person’s hormones on libido, have you considered the role of shame as it affects your sex drive? Yes, shame. Our focus today asks, Is shame the enemy of sexual desire?

Basically, we never want to repeat a negative experience. When shamed, we shut down. Our libido gets frozen in the deep freeze of aversion and secrecy, hidden away and locked in a dark room. Our hormones follow suit. They obey our fears and the decisions we make, often subconscious, to protect our identities and delicate psyches.

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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” 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

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

Dangerous Beauty

Some years ago the movie Dangerous Beauty commanded my attention largely because the heroine, Veronica Franco (played by Catherine McCormack), discovered the pleasures and powers of embracing her potent sexuality. If you also watched it, do you recall how vividly the story of her role as a voluptuous courtesan (a highly paid, cultured prostitute) in 1500s Venice wowed the city’s male population with her beauty, wit, and courage? And that’s only one thread in a rich tapestry of dramatic events and memorable characters told artistically and tastefully.

If you’re intrigued by the ways female and male sexuality/love intertwine, conflict, and ultimately mesh, then this tale will prove a treat. In addition to the opulent Venetian culture of that time period and Veronica’s personal history (she really lived), there is abundant social commentary about feudal society’s rules and taboos that reflect our own social morals today.

Here’s a link to the trailer and full movie: Dangerous Beauty

Sexless Marriage? Here’s one solution….

s-SEXLESS-MARRIAGE-large“Even though we live in one of the most sexualized cultures ever, Americans are having less sex than they were in the 1950’s.” So says Jill Blakeway, acupuncturist, herbalist and author, who goes on to say:

“I’ve talked with thousands of people over the years about their sex lives. So I’ve heard over and over again about how much sex people are not having, how they just don’t feel much like it, how they are too tired or too stressed to even think about it. But I also hear, with equal fervor from women … how much they want to want sex.”

Ms. Blakeway goes on to offer a Taoist “solution” regarding one’s loss of libido, but I’m wondering if you are rather skeptical like I am. If you think it works — “intense orgasms” anyone? — let me know. If not, why not?

Here’s her piece on the Huffington Post: Sexless Marria

Reconciling Sex and Spirit

sex as spiritual practice“Pure sexual energy is as unstable as dynamite and just as explosive.” That’s one of the dozen and more pithy takeaways from a brief article I discovered by Robert Peng, Why Sex Should Be Treated as a Spiritual Practice. Brimming with wisdom in every paragraph, Peng’s insights will educate and inspire seekers hoping to understand the mysterious connection between erotic sexuality and cosmic spirituality.

In order to “reconcile the square of sex with the circle of spirit,” Peng writes, it is necessary to “identify the fundamental, seemingly irreconcilable differences between male and female sexuality.” Then he goes on to clearly explain understandable ways to unify those differences that makes inherent sense (information a person has always known but never put into words).

Click to read his article and find out for yourself. Are you as enlightened (and convinced) as I a

Sex 6 Times a Year is NOT Sexless

Sexless doesn’t mean “less sex” in the world of my readers, it means “no sex—period.”

Recently I read about a married couple in their mid-30s who had sex “six or so times in the past year,” and the writer made clear, “we’re perfectly happy.” The writer, an anonymous wife who stated her views in’s article, “Why I’m Happier in a Sexless Marriage,” said her husband’s and her own level of desire are equally matched.

I think that’s great. It’s healthy for her to go public owning that both spouses are sex-satisfied, and I am genuinely glad she is pleased that their degree of attraction and arousal are balanced. “We’re both on the same wave length in terms of how much importance we place on our sex lives.” She then cites the crux of the dilemma for many “no sex” couples, “I believe that problems arise when couples have wildly different sexual needs.”

Bingo. It’s the “wildly different” part that peeves rejected spouses and guilt-trips the disinterested spouse. There’s a common understanding out there in folks’ minds that sex a few times a year means “sexless,” which, of course, is the notion she is speaking about.

But she goes on to say it would be something else altogether “if we suddenly stopped having sex.” Ah, there’s the rub! As with thousands of “no sex,” long-term committed relationships (chronic and persistent rather than infrequent and intermittent) many of the positive factors she names are missing in the love lives of no-sex couples:

  • He’s hot!
  • He is attracted to me.
  • He and I definitely make time for intimacy.
  • I’m not a prude.
  • I’ve used a vibrator.
  • We sleep naked together sometimes.
  • We both stay in shape.
  • We enjoy sex when it happens.
  • We’ve always been like this.
  • We are just not super sexual people.

Relationship factors like these are the mark of a healthy union and evidence of solid, two-way communication—hardly descriptors typical of “no sex” couples’ relationships. The forums and blogs which readers of All of Me Wants All of You visit contain a dearth of such essential traits, and that’s why the fictional couple in my novel, Dean and Kate, strive to resurrect their stale and listless love life to new heights of vulnerability, trust, and sensual passion—even to discovering a sacred connection.

How do you rate your relationship? Sex-satisfied? Less sex? No sex? . . . Sound off!