Extract from artwork created by Siku (@theartofsiku, www.TheArtOfSiku.com).
I updated my ‘About Me’ page. It won’t be the last time, but here’s what it now says:
I’m actually quite a shy person.
But once I’m talking, I’ll tell it as it is. I’ll say the words that aren’t being said, I’ll delve the topics that are too taboo and I’ll throw out challenges for people to wrestle with.
As for this blog, it’s a space where I write at the edges of ideas that relate to hope, sexuality and consent. I want to lean into the grey places where people haven’t yet distilled their thoughts or figured out where they want to stand. I’ll disentangle complexities and dare to re-open questions where the standard answers now seem incomplete.
In practical terms, that means I write about:
- sex and portrayals of sex,
- consent and consent culture,
- purity and purity culture,
- inclusion and transformation,
- bodies and personhood,
- the Bible and Christian witness.
I approach these topics as a Christian and a feminist, but also with a listening ear to the sex-positive community.
Make no mistake, I hold a high view of the Bible and believe it to be inspired, so I ground my perspective there. However, I don’t think the Bible can be understood without – at least in some sense – recognising it is literature. I also think that the church can learn from people who are outside of the church. Certainly, this was my experience when it came to consent.
And Christians really oughta know about consent!
Who am I writing for?
A teacher once told me that people have a ‘comfort zone,’ a ‘stretch zone’ and a ‘panic zone’ when it comes to ideas. You could say my posts are kind of like that.
Some of them are well within the bounds of established egalitarian thought, others are a bit edgier, and others— well they might not cause a person to panic, but they are some way outside the comfort zones of many Christians.
Following the theme of ‘Light in grey places’ I thought it might be cool to refer to these three categories of content as follows: sunlight, firelight, and moonlight. (With an eye roll for anyone who suggests ‘twilight’.)
This caters for people who lean towards a traditional view of sex and marriage but want to clue themselves up on sex, consent and gender equality. (If this your stretch zone, you are very welcome here! Don’t feel judged!)
It’s stuff that’s broadly uncontroversial within Christian egalitarian circles, but I talk about them in my own words (trying not to assume too much knowledge for people who aren’t Christians). I also focus on the positive side, on how things should be when it comes to relationships.
But maybe you want to think a bit more out of the box.
Purity, virginity and masturbation are all up for discussion; for many in the church, these are stretch topics. There’s already plenty out there documenting the damage caused by purity culture, so my focus is more on the bigger picture and how people fundamentally frame purity as a concept.
(For the record: I was a virgin when I married, I needed psychosexual therapy before I could enjoy sex, and I have never masturbated. These aren’t proud achievements, they’re just part of the perspective I’m coming from. So you might as well know.)
The content in this category is also more bracing, looking at the problems of patriarchy and where things go wrong. That includes abusive relationships, sexual harassment and toxic theology (especially the kind that encourages gender violence).
Don’t get me wrong, my aim here is to shine a light in the dark. I’m not here to promote BDSM and I’m very happy being lifelong monogamous. But I want to take an honest look at these edges.
Is writing about the edgier topics a good idea?
A lot of people brush with this stuff, whether they choose to do so or not. They might be filled with shame and uncertainty about themselves, or find the ideas bewildering and concerning. Meanwhile there’s a lot of misinformation out there that can either trip people up or be unduly dismissive, and I don’t think either helps people.
So, the way I see it, there’s a need for a space like this blog.
In fact, these are pretty much the reasons why I started out analysing Fifty Shades of Grey. I read it so that others didn’t have to. (Oh — and here’s my mammoth series looking at redemption and how Fifty Shades compares with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.)
My goal is to chart out these grey areas and write up what I’ve found out.
For all I know, you might be on your own exploration; or you might not want to set out before you can be sure there’s a safe passage. (Or you might be anxious because someone you know has set sail already.) Whatever your circumstances, I hope my notes are useful for you and it’s up to you what you make of them. I’m not here to tell you what to think, but to help you gather your thoughts.
By the grace of God, I’ve managed to make it this far without getting ship-wrecked, but then I have no doubt that he called me to this journey.
Am I about to try and convert people?
I have little love of conversionism and I’m not here to make people agree with me.
That said, I’m not going to be dishonest about my faith. And no, I don’t believe there’s any way of life that can surpass a having conscious, active and living relationship with Jesus (and all persons of the Trinity).
From one angle, my beliefs are quite orthodox: I believe we are all equally in need of salvation and that there is no salvation outside of the cross. However, I’m really not sure how consciously aware people need to be of the cross and/or Jesus before they can participate in the resurrection life. So, from that angle, I differ from many Christians hold strong conversionist beliefs and this is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t describe myself as an evangelical. Meanwhile, although I believe Jesus is the one who saves, it’s not for me to judge who will ultimately be proven as having entered his salvation.
If I have an agenda then, I suppose you could say it’s to help people imagine what it might mean to know God, or to know him more closely.
So, I’m not about to hand out tracts. Instead, I’ll offer my writings in the hope that people will come and taste what the kingdom of heaven is really about. If you come here and walk away with a more integrated, rounded, and/or nuanced approach to life, I’ll count that as a success. After all, thriving relationships, being our full selves, appreciation for the world around us — I believe these are all part of what relationship with God is in its fullness.
Meanwhile, it’s taken me a while to get to where I am and I know haven’t got it all figured out just yet. But then, I think a person’s direction of travel is more important than where they currently are.
For myself, my faith has grown hugely over the last few years. Some of my long-held beliefs have gradually eroded and been rebuilt with a very different outlook (for one thing, I’m now LGBTQ+ affirming). Other beliefs have been renewed and are stronger than they ever were (e.g. resurrection, the Trinity).
So this is me: Christine, a thirty-something woman, living in England with my dearly beloved.
And the image at the top is what I would look like if I was a manga character. If you want to know a bit more about where that picture came from, it’s by Siku.
I’m also a borderline Aspie and a demisexual.
Not heard that word before? Demisexual is a strand within asexuality, where a person doesn’t experience sexual attraction towards a person unless they’re in a strong emotional relationship with that person. Is that part of why I’ve never masturbated before? Quite possibly, but not all ace/asexual people are the same so don’t jump to conclusions.
Things I enjoy in life include (in no particular order):
- Harry Potter,
- CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien,
- Piano, singing, writing poetry, Alanis Morisette
- Star Trek and Babylon 5, theology, physics,
- Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex
- coffee and cake, and
- going for long walks with my husband.
Some life-changing and challenging books (which you’ll see me refer to) include:
- Esther in Ancient Jewish Thought by Aaron Koller
- Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
- Body by Paula Gooder, Living Hope by Russell Herbert, Justification by Tom Wright
- Raise Your Voice by Kathy Khang
- The Twilight of Cutting by Saida Hodzic