Viewpoints

Churches have long demonized sexuality. Let’s end the shame and talk about it openly

Almost 30 years ago, hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa released their record, ”Let’s Talk About Sex.” It was known for its frank discussion on the positive aspects of sex and the women’s encouragement on what to consider before having sex. When it was released, the group wasn’t sure it would be played on the radio, because, you know, that word – sex.

As women co-pastors, serving an LGBTQ-affirming congregation in the heart of Sacramento, we are often asked about our church’s response to issues of sex, sexuality and gender. Most of the time these questions come from people who have been harmed by a church in some way, often profoundly. Questions come from people who have survived sexual abuse, who were demonized for being LGBTQ and who suffered because their churches didn’t openly talk about sex and sexuality. Their questions are often grounded in shame.

Churches, and our broader community, have given people good reason to doubt whether constructive conversations about sex and sexuality can happen.

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Right now, across churches, courts and Congress, we face medical restrictions on bodies with uteruses, the cover-up of clergy who sexually abuse minors, continued support for anti-gay conversion therapy, the devaluation of women’s leadership abilities and the promotion of a purity culture that equates moral purity with premarital virginity. These are movements born and fueled from within churches and propagated by local, state and federal elected officials.

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Joan Cusick

At Parkside Community Church, along with our sister churches and community partners, we are having the honest sex talks many of us yearned for years ago as youth. It’s now, as adults, that we recognize the damage done being raised in communities where sexual shame and rape culture are the norm.

As Christians, Jesus calls us to love completely and gloriously. It’s the church’s responsibility to play a role in moving sex from the shadows into the light. Because silence on sex is silence on love.

We are putting our faith into action. We are committed to creating places where young people have access to comprehensive, ethics-based sexuality education. This means leading youth groups that are open and affirming to all youth regardless of gender expression and sexual orientation. This means as church leaders we show up to rallies and gather in solidarity with those who fear their right to reproductive health is at risk.

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Joan Cusick
sex education curriculum faith communities

Building on this work, Parkside Community Church, in partnership with Planned Parenthood, Intersections and the United Church of Christ communities of Loomis, Elk Grove and Pioneer, brought people together for an intimate conversation on sex on July 21.

Open conversations like these empower us to work on justice issues like rape culture, LGBTQ rights, comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive justice, gender equality and other issues connected to sex. We know people in our churches and communities are eager to see community events like these.

As Salt-N-Pepa boldly urged us: “Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things … And the bad things that may be. Let’s talk about sex.”

It’s time for churches to lead on this front.

Rev. Elizabeth Griswold and Rev. Bonnie Rambob are co-pastors at Parkside Community Church in Sacramento.
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