When was the last time you heard a moderate to liberal preacher take up the issue of sex? Probably not recently. If I'm honest, I tend to steer away from the topic, not really knowing how to approach it. Of course those of us who pastor congregations with significant numbers of folks over 60, probably feel like this isn't a topic that would be well received.
A recently released report Religious Institute on Sexual Justice, Morality and Healing suggests that while conservative preachers have been talking about sex, mainly speaking against homosexuality, abortion, and pre-marital sex, progressives remain silent. The the head of the progressive organization that put out the report, Debra Haffner, notes that many of our congregations have people suffering in silence from any number of sexual injustices, and we give them no guidance or help.
Jeanne Carstensen, writes in a Religion Dispatches essay:
Even as the Religious Institute is at odds with the religious right on many issues, particularly LGBT and reproductive rights, Haffner sees important common ground between progressives and more moderate and even conservative faith communities on many sexuality issues, including the need for marriage counseling, clergy education on sexual violence, and HIV and child abuse prevention. The Institute’s Rachel Sabbath campaign to reduce maternal mortality worldwide is drawing a broad spectrum of support.
But the road to consensus on other sexual justice issues, including reproductive rights, will be longer. While conservative clergy and politicians dig their heels in on birth control and abortion rights, it’s young women, and the poor, who suffer the most when they are denied safe, affordable methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy—or, if necessary, to terminate it. In fact, Haffner and her fellow progressives argue that all sexual justice issues are integrally linked to economic justice. People who are victims of sexual violence, or denied adequate maternity care, or who are denied rights on the basis of their sexual orientation, too often suffer related economic consequences. In times of crisis, many Americans still turn to their place of worship for support. The many caring clergy who hear about this suffering first hand need to break the silence barrier and speak out in their congregations and communities about the need for sexual justice.
This report and article is timely, in part because of the recently released book from Chalice Press on sexuality and spirituality -- Oh God, Oh God, Oh God! (Chalice, 2010). This book, which I reviewed here reminds us that our younger adults are crying out for a safe space to have this very conversation, for these very reasons. And again, I must confess to remaining largely on the sidelines.