Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meditations on the Good News: Valentine's Day Edition

I’ll be posting excerpts from Meditations on the Good News over the next few weeks, starting today with one that is particularly apt for Valentine’s Day. I hope you like it!

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:24–25

Thus ends the second chapter of Genesis, the second chapter in the Bible, and an alternative to the creation story in Genesis 1.

In Genesis 1, God creates humankind on the sixth day, creating a male and a female in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). The very first thing God says to these new human beings? “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) or in other words, “Go have sex and make babies.”

Genesis 2 is believed by most Biblical historians to have been written at an earlier time than Genesis 1 and is an alternative story of the creation. After creating Adam, God recognizes that Adam needs a companion and a helper: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Gen. 2:18). This version goes on to say that God then formed every animal and every bird, and brought them to the man, but Adam did not find among them a suitable “helper as a partner.” It is only after rejecting the animals as partners that God put the man into a deep sleep, and created Woman.

And then the words of Genesis 2:24–25 follow. They tell us the man and the woman were naked, they engaged
in sexual intercourse, and they were not ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality. Procreation is never mentioned in this version of the creation story. 
What a joyful reminder of the gift of our sexuality. At the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, humans enjoy their bodies without shame or guilt. We are made for each other, as helpers, partners and lovers. 

Side by side, the very two first chapters of the Bible emphasize the equality of men and women, recognize that we need a mate who is a helper, partner and lover, and affirm sexual acts as potentially procreative, but also joyous and re-creative without procreation. At the end of the sixth day, God “saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (italics mine; Gen. 1:31). Everything — including our sexuality. 

These passages remind me of a moment in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Shug says in response to Celie’s protest to an allusion about sexual response: 
“Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like . . . . Listen, God love everything you love — and a mess of stuff you don’t.” 
Rather than viewing sexuality as sinful, these opening chapters of the Bible teach that sexuality is God’s life-giving and life-fulfilling gift to us. Many people mistakenly believe that the Bible only contains two messages about sexuality: “Don’t” and “Sex Is Only for Procreation in Marriage.” The Bible’s view on sexuality is much richer and more complex than most people know. Indeed, the Bible teaches that our bodies are wonderful and to be enjoyed, that there are many forms of blessed relationships and that we must not abuse or exploit this sacred gift. 
For a few moments, take the time to think about what this means to you. Growing up, did you learn that your sexuality was a blessing from God to be celebrated? Or did you learn that sexual feelings were wrong, needed to be confessed and subverted? Can you open yourself to feel deep inside your bones that your sexuality is a precious gift? What would it mean for you to “be naked and not ashamed” with yourself or with your partner? What might it mean for you today? 

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Meditations on the Good News. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be blessed to read it.

Special Offer: For a limited time, you can get a signed copy of Meditations on the Good News for just $12, shipping and handling included. If you like, I will personalize your copy to you. Click here to order your copy.

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Thank you!


Anonymous said...

I really wish I could say that I was "raised to have a healthy attitude toward my own sexuality" but frankly I wasn't TAUGHT much at all. I had to have it happen to me and deal with all of the uncertainty and vagueness and double-standards that came with it. We talked about a lot of things (or rather talked AT them a lot) but not that topic. So naturally I came up with my own theoretical believe system about the subject but did not have much in the way of fact to go with those.

Dave Belden said...

Thank you Debra, I always enjoy your writing. I was raised in a very intense religious movement (the Oxford Group/Moral Re-Armament) that taught "absolute moral standards" one of which was "absolute purity." During its most severe period, when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, it was thoroughly homophobic, sex was for only for having children and only when the group agreed, there was no contraception, no dating at all, people hardly touched or hugged each other, and so on. But when I was about eight years old and asked my mother what sex was like, she told it was a beautiful and sacred thing, and afterwards you felt like you had eaten a big delicious meal: a great way to get the point across to an 8 year old. That was the one counterpoint in my early life to all the negative teaching - that and the way my parents so obviously loved each other. I knew from then on that, despite everything, sex was sacred. Maybe my mother had been reading Genesis 1 and 2.