Skip to comments.Minister works at combining sex and religion
Posted on 03/12/2009 3:51:36 PM PDT by SJackson
Debra Haffner delights in the reactions she gets when strangers ask her what she does for a living.
"I'm a minister and a sexologist," she says.
They blink their eyes and try to reconcile what seems to them to be two opposing forces. Religion in the U.S., after all, seems to have quite a reputation for trying to stifle the joy of sex. So how could she joyfully live in these two worlds of church and sexuality?
"Our sexuality and our spirituality are intimately connected," Haffner told a crowd at the First Unitarian Society in Madison earlier this month. At their best, after all, they share what Haffner called "a common moral vision" -- how to love each other and how to treat each other with respect.
Haffner is a Unitarian Universalist minister who in her previous career was head of SIECUS -- the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. Now she is the director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing.
As she reminded people at the annual Wartmann Lecture on sexuality, many people in American society carry with them a lot of negative messages from the religions of their childhood -- messages about gender roles, their bodies and the role of sexual pleasure in life. These messages have been amplified by the prominent place of the religious right in the political realm.
Her message is a very different one: "Sexuality is a blessing from God to be celebrated with joy." She strives to encourage religious congregations to help their members celebrate their sexuality while including all: male and female, gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered.
Haffner's personal story helps illuminate her approach to these issues. She grew up in a secular Jewish family with little exposure to the Bible. When she decided to pursue ministry as a career in the mid 1990s and took Scripture classes, she really was reading the Bible for the first time and she was reading it with the eyes of someone whose professional work was all about sex education.
What she found, she said, was a wealth of stories about man and woman being created at the same time and told to go have sex -- "be fruitful and multiply," was the phrase in Genesis. Even in the second creation story in Genesis, where man and woman are created separately, there is a sense that they were there for companionship to one another, for pleasure.
She talked about the erotic poetry in the biblical book of the Song of Songs, the wide variety of loving relationships in the Bible, and her realization that in the New Testament, Jesus was all about welcoming the people who had been marginalized for their sexual activity -- a woman at a dinner who washed his feet with her hair, a woman at a well who had had many lovers, a woman caught in the act of adultery.
"Both the Hebrew and the Christian Bibles have great messages," Haffner noted. "Sexuality is creative, good, our bodies are wonderful things, there are many forms of blessed relationships."
Which is not to say everything goes.
"Our sexuality must be exercised wisely so it is not in service of pain and exploitation," she cautioned. But that has to do with the nature of relationships, not with particular sexual acts. "The sin is never sex," she said, "but sexual exploitation."
So even as Haffner celebrates the joy of sexuality that she believes is a core message of the Bible, she also works against those who would use sex as a weapon. The Religious Institute has a new program called the Congo Sabbath Initiative aimed at the use of rape as a weapon in the wars that are occurring in Congo.
She wants religious settings to do a better job teaching about sexuality and to make sure that they are places where children are safe from sexual exploitation. She wants congregations that have prided themselves on their openness to all people, whatever their sexual orientation, to renew their efforts to make all feel welcome. And she continues to advocate for marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
After all, as Haffner put it, "our sexuality in all its stunning diversity is part of God's creation."
But I have an idea, it likely revolves around the unmentioned concept of husband and wife, yes once upon a time wives, and her inclusion of gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered in her revisionist Biblical version of joyous sex. She clearly doesn't recognize, not should she, she's not Jewish though she arrogates herself to speak specifically from the Hebrew Bible, that the sexual impulse, like many things from hunger to jealousy to greed, stem from our weaker (actual evil) impulses as well as the good, and must be controlled. It's not only about what brings short term joy. Ask any gerbil.
My dogs thank her for not including them in her list of "biblically approved" partners, and warn anyone thinking otherwise to stay away, else they'll be missing parts.
Should have added, as far as I’m concerned, she can have joyous sex with anyone or ones she likes, as long as they’re of age, pontificating that that’s mainstream Jewish or Christian (I’ll speak for Christians here, I know what they think of Unitarians) thought is dishonest.
Universalist Unitarian is not Christian IMO
Christians love the joy of sex... within the bounds of marriage
How can she be a minister. Unitarians are not Christians therefore she cannot be a minister.
See post 2, beat you to it!
When will the Catholic & LDS bashing STOP???
Photographic evidence is certainly needed to determine Haffner’s expertise.
at the link, though irrelevant.
Like E.G. Marshall in a wig.
Irrelevant? I don’t think so. Maybe a little rhino.
If she was ravishing, she'd still be wrong.
The church for people who don't believe in God.
Be careful! You piss off the Unitarian Universalists and they’ll come over and burn a question mark on your front lawn!
That's exactly what we as Catholics believe as well.
I think I know where she’s coming from. It’s certainly not biblical, but after becoming a Christian myself, I met more than just a few professing Christians who act as though they’re terrified that someone, somewhere is going to have an orgasm. They aren’t the majority, but they’re loud enough to appear larger than their real numbers.
But, you could get a second opinion from Bill Clinton . . . .
>> Haffner is a Unitarian Universalist minister
I see. Unitarian.
Then it’s SEX (almost rhymes with “secular”) with a capital S-E-X.
and religion with a little r. the smaller, the better (shhhh...)
2 Timothy 4:3
“3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
Yep, that’s the Unitarians in a nutshell.
Q: What do you get when you cross a Jehova's Witness with a Unitarian?
A: Someone who knocks on your door for no apparent reason.