Let’s Talk About Sex

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Pleasant Sunday my friends. 

As a continuing post on the secular versus non-secular Points of View on religion and acts of good morality- I bring you the discussion on… Sex. It seems I break all the rules pertaining to good, clean, sweet romance with Healing Faith (and other stories more than likely) based on perceptions on the sexual immorality of two lovers (the term lovers meaning two people in love and not so much two people engaging in sexual activities which also carry ambiguous meanings).

Let’s talk about sex. 

Sex is bad. Dirty. Sinful. The devil’s work. 

Unless of course you are married and then you must only have the cleanest of sexual activity ( interpret as straight up missionary for the act of conceiving a child to the world). 

Any act of lust, lasciviousness, carnal pleasure is deemed a sin in the eyes of God. 

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; (TNIV, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)

But now- wait…  

What about showing our love to another?

What about that feeling inside that swells when you see someone (not that kind of swelling you perverts, but that is often the side effect)? The need to do everything in your power to keep the one you love safe from harm, to make happy, to please, to console, to embrace with all the love that God has for us?

How do we show our love to the one we wish to spend eternity with (whether it be in vampire form or in the Kingdom of Heaven)? 

We touch. It may be something as simple as a hug, or a kiss, or a brushing of the hand..

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Inspirational Fiction writers are instructed to minimize those carnal feelings their characters feel to just those things. A chaste kiss, perhaps an embrace that leaves their characters longing but frugal in their outward adoration. A tender brush along the cheek to convey the deepest of feelings of  the purest of love. 

Sex is not a topic to discuss. Because it’s dirty, remember?

Well- this is where I go breaking the law and finding myself in trouble with the folks who insist that love be dictated by the strictest of structure. 

He pulled me out of my contemplative thoughts when his fingertips drifted up my arm slowly. Glancing up at him, his eyes were transfixed where his fingers traced. I held my breath when he gently pulled my arm closer, edging his hand further up my arm into the crook of my elbow. 

But his touch paused, and when I glanced up into his eyes they were dark, his brow slightly puckered with tortured contemplation.

“I know what it is I do,” he murmured. It wasn’t an arrogant statement, just an innocent observation.

Dear God, did he really know?

Because if he did, surely he knew this was by all accounts sinful and against the rules. I must have made a noise, for he looked up at me with such innocent eyes I felt lost for a moment.

“Is it wrong?” I asked quietly, stilling his hand as it moved to draw away.

That molten rush ran through me once more at the tiny quirk of his lips.

“Does it feel good?” he offered when his finger slipped once more beneath the fabric.

I could only nod. Every sense was stupefied with that tingling feeling inside of me. His grin widened and his eyes creased up, a hint of mischief in them as he let out a measured sigh.

“Then it must be wrong,” he murmured, and let his fingertip linger there under the fabric for a moment before slipping back out to trace down to the inside of my elbow once more.

Hours after he had left, I could still feel the heat of him there along the inside of my arm. And just the thought of him touching me there offered me that flush I was beginning to desire whenever I was with him. If he could do that to me with just that simple touch, I had to wonder what it would be like elsewhere.

Most definitely sinful.            

-Healing Faith by Jennyfer Browne

 

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I don’t mean to demean the good, God fearing Church ladies that wish to escape from the vulgarities of the world by losing themselves in good and clean Amish/Christian romance. But to not see the trials of those vulgarities that good characters must face, doesn’t that just flatten the storyline of a good story to something boring and lifeless? Without conflict, what do our protagonists hope to achieve except the same humdrum happy ending?

Boy meets girl- boy courts girl- girl accepts and fade to black with lots of babies. 

Nope. Not me. 

I like it real. I want real life drama that I can associate with and cheer my heroes on when they kick Evil’s butt.

Boy is lost. Girl is afraid. Evil is after them, and they must make a choice to save themselves. And sex plays a role in ANY romance- whether it be a touch or getting dirty in the back seat of a Buick ( not in my story, but I do have hotel rooms that seem to go beyond the scope of chastity).

My point is that in order for you to be saved, in order for you to find your way- you need risks- you need temptation, and you need strength and love to see yourself past it.

And that love can take on many forms. Chaste, vulgar, sweet, taboo…

Enter my secular and somewhat scientific (and yes, even romantic) Point of View. 

Blame growing up with Dr. Ruth, salt n pepa and discovering my dad’s (or his girlfriend’s, I don’t like to think about it much) copy of the Joy of Sex:

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Sex is a form of showing affection- it is more than propagating the species. We are animals, but we distinguish ourselves above base mating practices because we have EMOTION. We care for our mates. And we want to show them how much so. So is a good makeout session in the backseat of that Buick the same as a that stallion, Magnus strutting his stuff and nipping at the mare he wants to mate with? The cricket that rubs its legs together to call to its mate?

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GASP Scandalous!

 

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Or is it more? Is it a way of pleasing one’s mate because it makes them HAPPY and feel good, even safe perhaps? I suppose if you ask some boys, it is about getting in his girl’s pants and thus we have the “Men are animals” theory confirmed. 

But it is how you write it, I think, that changes the perception. Is sex love? Is love sex? Is the act of pleasing, sexually, a show of affection if its deemed perverted to some?

I don’t distinguish the act of love and sex the same as others, I suppose. What I FEEL is what I write. That love between two people is beautiful and gifted by God or simply the chemical spark that triggers when two people fall in love. We read about that spark and often make fun of the “electricity that jolts” between two lovers, but it’s there. We’ve all felt it. 

So how far do you take it before it is deemed immoral? Who is to say where that limit is? Truly? Does the Bible specify exactly what the act of sex is that must only be acted upon by married partners (note I did not say man and wife)? Is there a detailed and concise list of acts that shall not be performed? Clearly and succinctly, so that I may be sure of my spot up there in Heaven?

I will receive comments I know that quote many verses that state the words sexual immorality, adultery, lust, lasciviousness, even sodomy and lying with mankind… but what about affection? Showing someone that you love the affection that they may need?

Without that sinful act of penetration (eww, even that word seems evil, right?)

Who dictates that a hug to offer support and affection be sinful?

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That a touch is scandalous?

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That the act of providing pleasure to show your love is a sin?

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I think sexuality and sensuality have been blurred in people’s minds. I think the wish to make one’s mate happy to be sensual- not necessarily sexual, depending on the extent of the action- and I think that if we were not meant to do it (pun intended), the act would have been relegated to seasonal procreation like the animals (those poor cicadas and their 17 year cycles!).

I think affection to one’s mate is a beautiful thing- and that to offer oneself to the other is a way of accepting the union that God wished for. That you must love the other as you love yourself (no, I’m not making a masturbation innuendo here). But to offer the other the same affection you would have, and to do it so without restraint, to show all your love to your lover, that is precious.

 

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

And this is why I had never truly intended on having my books billed under the Amish Fiction genre. I knew that my view on love is different. Blame Masters and Johnson, The Joy of Sex, Dr. Ruth, and even Dr. Drew. I think that expressing that affection, as long as you respect your mate, and keep yourself true to the other, is acceptable in God’s eyes (cue the additional comments perhaps of sin and sexual immorality to come).

This is also why I chose to be true to my characters and while they did not have “penetrative sexual intercourse”- (gosh that still sounds so clinical and UNemotional), they did explore one another as any young lovers would, while still abiding by the basic tenets of Nathan’s faith in that they would save themselves until marriage. There is respect and trust for one another above all else.

“You are more than a thoughtless romp in the cornfield, Kate,” he whispered and tipped his head up to kiss me. “I know temptation. And I know what I want. But I will do this right. I am happy with what we have at the moment. I will not disrespect you because of my desires, Kate.” – Healing Faith

I will continue to have poor reviews from those that feel that “all that sex” was unwarranted and ruined the story. And that “all that violence” was unnecessary. Perhaps I should have written a warning in the blurb for the story on the sexuality and violence and the one “f-Bomb”- but then I think it would ruin it for those that see this as a story of faith and love- both holy and unholy, and perhaps a truer path of finding oneself. But I won’t delete those pesky sex scenes as one reviewer suggested, even the scandalous last hotel scene. I won’t remove that F-bomb. And I will keep the sensuality I have written in the second book. And the violence.

Why?

Because life (even an Amish one) is gritty and full of temptation… and is also full of love and passion and exploration, despite what people think the Amish are about. ( I can guarantee they have sex- a lot. 9 kids on average per household can’t be wrong). And even the negative reviews mean that I have struck a nerve. I have made that reviewer think- perhaps even venture to find an answer to why it upset them so much to read what I have written. I don’t apologize for what I write, nor do I judge what they have reviewed. Hopefully they will not judge me, expecting that I change, because I won’t. 

So prepare for some more rule breaking. It’s just what I do, I suppose.

So until next time- maybe we’ll talk about Perception of the Amish in the next segment- Do the Amish really live as they do in Amish fiction? (I’ll give you a hint- it’s in the word FICTION). 

Pleasant Sunday to you all! 

-J

Let’s Talk About Religion

Time spent on the road in the Deep South, reading some of my reviews from Healing Faith, and sitting in an Inspirational Romance Author’s Seminar got me thinking.

About religion in general but also about how we as people interpret what is right and wrong based on the teachings of the Church or personal faith. This will end up being a few posts to blog about, as I know I can’t offer my thoughts in such a concise and tidy singular post.

Growing up in a very secular-minded household (an atheist father and an agnostic former Southern Baptist mother) it was my choice to determine where my faith came from. Our King James Bible sat beside the Unabridged Oxford Dictionary on a bookshelf- the fine leather trim a little intimidating for a young child to haul out and read. My sister found religion in high school and I remember stealing her demin-covered Bible (it was the late 70’s) to read, curious. One has to wonder if by stealing the Bible I damned myself- but I digress.

I was curious- and soon I found myself going to church with my best friend and her strict Polish Catholic family. I relished in the guilt and their structure- I wanted nothing more than to be baptised so that I could receive the blood and body of Christ and feel worthy (and perhaps wash away that sin of stealing my sister’s Bible). But growing up with a family that allows their children to question is both a blessing and a curse.

I found the Catholic’s beliefs were not enough to make me feel whole.

I tried Southern Baptist while I lived in the South. Too friendly for my reserved and private demeanor.

I tried Wicca. Because what is more powerful than the energy of the Earth? But still something was missing.

I tried Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, and just about every hybrid New Age philosophy you can think of. Nothing seemed to fit what I searched for- what felt right for me. I am a logical person at heart, thanks to my atheist father. Was I doomed to be faithless because I had not been shown God at an early age? Made to believe back then?

Does the Bible not say to have faith? To love and open yourself to the Spirit, in whatever form it takes. It’s an age-old debate- who is the right religion? Wars have been fought for millennia over beliefs. Since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, how many Christian religions have formed- similar yet different enough to warrant a separation amongst a billion Christians worldwide.

So here I sit- writing from a secular point of view about a religious community that little know anything about. A private people that interpret their Book quite literally- and yet still different from region to region. I wanted my book series for In Your World to be told in a more secular point of view- from the outside looking in, much as I have searched all my life. A person, Kate, looking to find something that has been missing in her life. What her interpretation of the Bible Nathan gives her must be- having never truly read it before. And how would Nathan learn to love an outsider that perhaps never experienced the will of God as the Amish believed.

Add to that the time of Nathan’s Rumspringa, a coming out and experimental phase in every young Amish person’s life- and you have a story full of testing faith, temptation and finding oneself. The point of Rumspringa is to show the Amish youth what it is they have with their tight knit and faithful community. Many experience the English world (and all its vices) and still they return to live amongst the Amish.

But you have to wonder- how much of the English world do they bring back with them. When their doors close from prying eyes, what do they do when they are alone?

Do they have secrets like us?

Do they have desires that are not specifically denied them in their book?

Do they forget everything they saw in the English world and go back to what they have always known?

Or do they interpret those experiences as moments that God wanted them to have, in order to be better Christians?

And who are we to judge what they do or do not? Who are we to purse our lips and shake our heads and say something that is said or done is not Godly? We will debate these issues for centuries. And my hope in writing is to illicit some thought on how we view things that may be foreign or possibly not fitting our own sacrosanct mold.

I am still searching- having even married a minister (who is also a Taoist)- I still find myself wondering. But I believe my eyes are open to interpretation- which may be my greatest weakness and strength. I have centuries of established faiths to challenge my views. Perhaps I take all the best parts of those religions with me as I search. I can only hope it is all enough to find peace and understanding. I have faith it is, because judging by the multitude of interpretations from scholars and theologians, even the Bible is open to interpretation.

In my next entry- I’ll chat about something that is not talked about in traditional Amish fiction…. but is clearly a part of my book- because it is a part of humanity, and my book was never really intended to fit the mold of traditional Amish Fiction- it just fell into that category because it centers around the Amish community, seen from a very secular point of view. It’s just how you do it…or how we don’t…do it in traditional Amish or Christian fiction. We’ll talk about what the Bible says about… sex… it deserves its own long post, based on some of the reviews for Healing Faith.

More soon!

-J