Sex and the Spirit
In the last of a three-part series to promote discussion on questions about sex and God, Carla Grosch-Miller looks at the relationship between sexuality and spirituality
Recently I gave a talk about sex and Christianity in a church as part of a series organised by a social worker. She said afterwards that, despite being involved in fostering human wellbeing throughout her career, she had never connected sexuality and spirituality. Her response is not unusual – sex and money seem to be the two areas that church people most compartmentalise away from their faith.
However, in the last few decades there has been an explosion of interest in the link between sexuality and spirituality. Writers as diverse as journalist Jo Ind (Memories of Bliss: God, sex and us, SCM, 2003), theologian Philip Sheldrake (Befriending our desires, Darton Longman & Todd, 2002), biblicist David Carr (The Erotic Word: Sexuality, spirituality and the Bible, OUP, 2005) have plumbed scripture and the tradition looking for a link. And they have found it. Well before late medieval mystics began writing commentary on the Song of Songs, as early as the late fifth century the Christian theologian and philosopher Psuedo-Dionysius the Areopagite identified God with Eros as the one who causes and is love.
The enquiry into lived human experience has proved equally fruitful. The Roman Catholic theologian Joan Timmerman, in Sexuality and Spiritual Growth, Crossroad 1992, argues that sexuality can function in human life as a sacramental reality, integral to spiritual growth: Both sexuality and spirituality are about personal relationship; both are involved in identity; both can touch transcendence; both may enable us to become moral agents, capable of responsible and ethical action in the world…
This is an extract from the February 2015 edition of Reform.