I feel a bit like a stranger has stomped through my soul wearing a hefty pair of Dr. Marten boots. I’m not quite sure how it happened, or even if I can point a finger at one particular interloper, but, to describe it in very female terms, I feel like my faith is suffering from PMS.
Mood swings. Irritability. Tiredness. A desire to inflict blunt instrument trauma. Itchy in this Christian skin. Why now? I’d floated on post-liptoning life into Christmas, gently enjoyed the eddies and flows of a reflective January, and arrive truly excited for growth both spiritually and professionally this year.
Yet I feel like my soul has broken out in hives. That from last year’s happy dance over reaching some Christian summit I’ve just looked up and seen a mother of a mountain. My faith is acting like a petulant teen. It wants to stomp its feet, head back down the mountain and get completely blind on apres-climb liquor.
“I don’t want to read a useful Bible verse and pray to feel better,” it whines at me. “Pass the vodka.”
Is it really my faith whining petulantly or an echo from my 42 years ‘before Christ’ (BC)? From re-arranging my molecules whilst holidaying with an old friend who knew me BC yet hadn’t seen me ‘after Christ’ (AC), to something as simple as sex, I am suddenly cranky, restless and resistant. My New Christian Dr Jekyll is being challenged by my older, less Christian Hyde.
Sadly, the old friend with whom I holidayed is not on social media. This blog and my whole hound of heaven year had gone unnoticed. A passing comment that I’d been attending church led to long aethist viewpoints. My Liptoning in the river left her speechless. The adjective ‘God Botherer’ was used. As I smiled and held onto patience, my Hyde began to itch.
Simple as Sex
If only sex was simple. Trouble is, it’s tied up in values, beliefs and religiosity. My many years BC have given me some fairly open-minded views about sex, that don’t necessarily sit well AC. Take 50 Shades Of Grey, currently on billboards as the movie approaches. Where does Christianity sit with the 50 Shades genre? After all, Christians have sex. Some of them, after prayer meetings, even commit to having sex with their husbands every day for a year. Yet sex with pain and humiliation? Books that ‘normalise’ using sex as power? Suddenly there’s no grey. Kim Gaines argues that the lens of Fifty Shades delivers an unrealistic view of sex and power while Christian sex therapist and doctor, Patricia Weerakoon warns Christians to stay away from the movie and the books, given it normalises “unconventional sexual behaviour”, including bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism.
My BC Mrs Hyde rolls her eyes and wonders what the fuss is about. It is fiction. If you’re a consenting adult and you’re daft enough to sign a contract with a billionaire who has S&M proclivities, then you know what you’re in for. I repeat, it is fiction. If you read it and take from it an unrealistic view of sex and power then, I would venture to say, as it is fiction, you had an unrealistic view to start with.
Yet, I can’t simply ignore Christians’ concerns because – and this is where my faith starts to whine petulantly – I did opt in with the whole baptism bit. It holds me accountable despite any nagging wishes to hide behind Christian-ish.
I realise some of my itching and wriggle-room seeking is because, if I challenge it on Fifty Shades, there’s nowhere else to look but at the elephant in the room that is the Christian view of sex. Within a loving, heterosexual married relationship.
The elephant in the room – everything else outside of this view, including same sex marriage and same sex sex – derails me often. The fuss about Fifty Shades has me standing in front of the elephant again. Wondering if I want to run away with it and join the circus. Or Mardi Gras. Oh, boy. Or girl.
(The irony that I have no wish to be tied down to exploring sexual mores when discussing Fifty Shades, by the way, is not lost).
The SAP once pondered why God hunted me down. I replied perhaps He wanted me to lead the change-communications campaign for the church and same-sex marriage. Crickets chirped.
There are churches that would wrap my elephant in rainbow colours and lead it in a mardi gras. It would make me far less itchy in this AC skin. Trouble is, my elephant and I keep coming up against pesky scripture and Jesus’ line: “I do not condemn you…Go and sin no more.” John 8 1-11.
So whilst the Bible does give a clear answer about my elephant, the answer is not to Mrs BC Hyde’s taste. She’s pulling the ‘salt, tequila, lemon’ grimace. Dr AC Jekyll? Well, she fancies lining up a few shot glasses herself in commiseration.
I have climbed high enough on this Christian mountain to understand I do my faith a disservice by seeking a hall pass on this. As well as feeling I insult ‘qualified’ pastor types, regardless if they wear smart alec stripes or not, who are honest enough to stick to biblical truths no matter how challenging and unpalatable they are in the modern world. Doing so turns me into my BC/AC friend, who tried to impose her views over my new faith to make it more palatable to her.
The elephant will always itch at my skin. So whilst I can’t climb over it or squeeze around it, I will instead keep pressing my forehead lightly to its trunk in prayer.