Am I, Are You, Are We Sexual Illiterates?

The National Black Church Initiative is excited to feature guest bloggers for the months of July and August. Our guests will include seminarians and pastors from across the country.  We look forward to hearing your feedback and comments.  Our first guest, Minister Lacette Cross is currently a seminarian at Virginia Union Seminary and sexual health educator for the National Black Church Initiative Teen Pregnancy Prevention Project: Generation to Generation.

The following blog was posted previously.

   Minister Lacette Cross

A blossoming womanist theologian in my 2nd year of seminary.  A black woman concerned with the healing of all peoples through the reconciling of sexuality and spirituality.  This blog is a safe space for engaging conversation with people of faith on issues of healthy human sexuality and the intersection of faith-filled living, loving and learning.

The nature of blogging affords me the freedom to find inspiration in what may seem to be unlikely places.  This morning as I was pondering on what to write I perused my twitter account (follow me @Blkbfly_musings) and came across a tweet “Many adults in the dark when it comes to sex ed” and decided to check it out; especially since this is an issue I’m familiar with but rarely see it being discussed.

The article discusses the use of sex toy parties as a means for many adults to learn basic information about their bodies, sexual arousal, intimacy and communication.  The term “sexually illiterate” is used to describe a large portion of the American population who do not participate in sex education during teen years; which means that most of us could very well be viewed as a ‘sexual illiterate’.

Now if someone walked up on you on the street and said, ‘You’re illiterate’ I trust your response would be a very passionate and resounding, ‘No, I’m not!’.  But truth be told being illiterate is more than the inability to read and write it also means “having or demonstrating very little or no education”.  And I know there are a whole lot of sexual illiterates walking around…and I’m talking about the adults not the teenagers!

What role, if any, does the church play in helping shape, develop and produce sexually literate persons who are also spiritually whole?  We are increasingly living in a society which has become obsessed with sex and is more than capable of flooding our TVs, magazines, radios, billboards, and music with sex, sex, sex!  Where do we as women and men of faith go to learn about sex, specifically healthy expressions of sex?  What is preventing the church from being that place where sex and sexuality can be taught, discussed and engaged holistically?

Sexuality is a God-given aspect of our identity; it is the expression of who we are as persons created in the image and likeness of God (checkout Image of God post).  It encompasses sexual behavior, relationships, communication, beliefs, and values.  However, the Black church, through its practices and silence, has given us the unspoken message that the church is not a safe place to question, seek understanding or share in discussing anything related to sexuality thus is complicit in producing sexually illiterate persons.

For many of us the church is that place we come to seek healing and wholeness in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  The Black church has historically been a bastion for the healing of racial and social hurts experienced from being black in America.  However, it has lacked in addressing the sexual health of both the congregation and clergy/lay leadership.  The culture of silence regarding healthy sexuality and all that it encompasses will continue to impact the number of sexually illiterate teens and adults.

Even as we commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day today, the church’s silence continues to ring loudly as the statistics maintain the reality of the disproportionate number of Blacks who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.  It could very well be our silence as a church body, a black community, a group of believers that may serve to hinder the full expression of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  If the Black church is viewed as a place of healing and restoration then all persons – men, women, boys and girls – should be able to come to church with their questions about sex and sexuality.

The time has come for the Black church to deal directly and compassionately with issues of healthy sexuality.  We, the Black Church and community, are in need of open, honest and welcoming opportunities within the church to address issues of intimacy, relationships, sexual behavior, communication and STIs including HIV.  We are also in need of more and more clergy and lay leaders who are ready, willing and able to compassionately and courageously provide safe space for all of us to engage in healthy conversation and receive guidance from theologically sound and medically informed leadership.

As the author of the article reports:

“Everybody has sex, everybody does!  It’s part of what happens in life, and so if you don’t take responsibility and you don’t ask these questions, it’s going to continue to be the ugly elephant in the room.”

We have within our community all we need for healing to take place.  Now is the time to respond…or do we continue to ignore the “ugly elephant in the room.”?

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