entitlement + gratitude to the marine corps

When I was young my mother had the Safety Kids cassette tapes. I learned about not talking to strangers and having my own safety bubble (personal space). Something I also learned what to trust my gut and to take note (and act) when I felt unsafe. Nothing prepared me for two nights ago.

It was just supposed to be a night out to see a show. My friends and I had tickets to the Turnpike Troubadours. One of them knew the opener, but that act cancelled last minute and we opted to see venture out to Silver Springs, MD and see live music. The band falls into the country music realm, which isn’t my typical scene. I rarely go to concerts these days and when I do, it’s alternative rock.

We had just gotten through security (we got patted down) and I was getting a 21+ wristband just in case when I stood waiting for my friends. A drunk male stranger walked up and said, “I think I’m in love with you.” I laughed because of the absurdity of it and asked why. Not that this happens often, but when you are 32 and have had a life of barhopping from college, I just tend to go with the flow. He was nice looking, light brown hair, a few inches taller than I am, probably around my age, and a little geeky looking. If he had a good profile on an online dating site, perhaps I would have even swiped right. Now, this is where I made my mistake. I should have said, “Thank you, but I’m not interested.”

Instead I made small talk, nothing in my actions were flirty and my friends and I quickly attempted to head into the show without the guy. He didn’t take the hint, most do.

Knowing I wanted to lose this dude, I led my friends to the side and got into the crowd. The opener was playing so people were chatting and they sounded pretty good. The guy found us and started chatting. I felt uncomfortable and disengaged. As we tried to not talk to him, I spoke loud enough that the group of men in front of us heard part of it. I made eye contact with one of them and he picked up that I was uncomfortable.

This man came over and started to chat, I told him what had happened and how he couldn’t take the hint. Soon his other friends came over and chatted. They were a group of newly minted Marine Corp officers and they made me feel safe. The drunk guy still didn’t get we didn’t want to talk to him and at this point I would even look at him. My friends were champs and tried to deflect. Finally I told one of my new Marine friends that the drunk guy needed to leave. He very nicely pulled the guy away and said, they aren’t interested and to please go away. Drunk guy still didn’t get it and finally left. At this point there were six Marines around and they were fun to chat with.

The show started and the Marines danced and it was incredible to see the bond they shared after 6 months of training. My friends and I were enjoying the music, when drunk guy literally started circling us. It felt like being prey.

I felt (and still feel) so incredibly violated. We had asked him not to talk with us, one of my friends flatly told him to go away. A Marine had nicely said, you need to leave them alone, yet this guy wouldn’t let up. If we hadn’t befriend the Marines we would have had to leave. At one point I was close to calling security. Maybe that was my mistake. Just because someone hasn’t said anything inappropriate or touched you in any way, doesn’t mean they haven’t violated you.

My friends and the Marines would pull me to the other side or dance with me. I really enjoyed the band, shocking given my intense hatred of country music, but by the end I felt like crying because the drunk guy wouldn’t leave us alone.

By the time the show ended, I hugged the Marines and thanked them for making me feel safe. (I also told them I would be praying for their safety as they got their assignments.) As my friends and I left we were hyper vigilant walking to the car. It was outside where I lost it and cried. I just wanted to go home and be safe at home with my dog, Leo.

In the car we talked about what gave someone the nerve to feel so entitled. It hit the note of how I have started dating and have had a few not so great encounters with “nice” men. Being nice doesn’t entitle you to anything and real nice men should know that.

Forty-eight hours later, I still feel uncomfortable. As I write this out, I wish I had just said, hell no from the get-go, but no, my society conditioning of being nice and polite won. It will not win again because I never want to feel that way again. That drunk guy wasn’t going to learn a lesson.

Male entitlement is real and it can be really scary.

pinch me… i must be dreaming

In March 2016, I visited Washington, DC for a rally and a board meeting. I graduated in June and then in August I moved from Seattle to DC. In December I signed a lease to stay in DC another 6 months. Now it’s April 1st and my life is no joke. (Sorry not sorry for the dad joke.)

I often have to take a moment and pinch myself. My life is so much better than I thought it could and should be at this point. I’m in a city that I love. I have found deep friendships with new friends. I joined a church that has a Sacred Resistance team that I am actively involved in. Leo, my dog, loves it here, or that I’m here. I have found an active lifestyle that includes lots of spin and yoga. I found more discernment that I will blog about later. Most of all, I have found a job that is in my vocation at Wesley Theological Seminary’s Center for Public Theology.

A year ago, I knew there was hope, possibility, and wonder out there waiting for me to actualize it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be working in public theology, at the table with people I have read about, surrounded by some amazing coworkers, found new friendships, and am making it in DC.

I am deeply grateful for my life and the fact I can live into my vocation.

i heart america

I fell back in love with my country yesterday.

A country that I fell out of love with in high school. I think it was the moment I was informed that the United States was bombing Iraq. No, I don’t think, I know it. I was at youth group playing sardines and I ran to the women’s restroom and sobbed. Images of trucks with American flags after 9/11 and the far too easy chorus of America the Great, instead of questioning filled my head. It was a year in the making and as human lives were lost in Iraq I mourned.

I have not loved my country for half of my life, and certainly none of my adult life. I saw glimpses of hope in the Obama administration and I came close, but still love eluded me.

Growing up, my mom would wistfully say that I should have been born in the 1970s, that’s where my spirit was. I am at my root a person of questioning, a theologian (theology is faith seeking understanding) who doesn’t assume that authority has the truth automatically. But, my mother is unfortunately wrong and the past few years have proven it. The rights that my foremothers fought for in the 1970s have been whittled down, dismantled, and the dream of equality is still not a reality.

But, the 2010s are here and I have finally found my entry into effective activism. It took me until my 30s, but I am here. My time studying theology has engrained the radical justice of the Bible, my time in the marketing department of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington gave new meaning of what it can be to be an American, my time at the Methodist Federation of Social Action taught me how to be both Christian and American, and my time at Faith in Public Life got me to DC in a time such at these.

I should have been born when I was born.

The past few months have been hard on my soul, but through refusing to sit down, rooting my justice work in the gospel, marching for justice I am finding my way.

Seeing the 1/2 million women who rallied and marched in Washington, DC cleared my mind and filled my heart. Hearing from friends across the nation who marched and rallied in major cities, and small ones. Even friends who live outside of the United States joined. Millions took a stand and practiced our American values chanting: Tell me me what democracy looks like! THIS is what democracy looks like.

I fell back in love with my country yesterday. The hope and possibility of a justice nation seeking out to embrace of of humanity was evident. As a person of faith, I saw a glimpse of the Kin-dom of God, the Beloved Community, and I will continue to dedicate my life to actualizing that hope and possibility.

“standing down is not an option”

I haven’t written for a long time. Truth be told, I just didn’t have it in me. Post-election was, has been, rough. The spew of hatred and bigotry that has come to light in this election made it clear, that it wasn’t going to be a good four years moving forward. Some people could bounce back and fight, but that’s not me. The election hit my gut and heart hard because I truly believed that if Hillary Clinton could have won, our country could move forward in many streams of social justice (perhaps pulling my lagging church with the culture). In the time of advent, of waiting, of hoping, I stayed in the darkness not wanting to come out. I needed to rest, listen, reflect, and strengthen my foundation for justice because it’s going to be a long four years.

I’m not alone. Many of my friends are overwhelmed at what is yet to come, the unknowing more fearful than if we actually had a grasp on what our President-elect is thinking. I had to sit a bit; licking my wounds because without healing I would burn out.

But I knew I couldn’t remain sitting, 2017 meant it was time to get up and fight. I have been daunted with the fact that I am a cis-gendered white straight woman because I want to be the best ally, co-conspirator I can be. Where do I turn my attention? How can I show love and compassion, yet challenge those privileged as I? Yet, to even ponder is privilege and that is no excuse to do nothing.

Last night, for New Year’s Eve, instead of going out, drinking bubbly, and dancing; I went to Repairers of the Breach’s Watch Night Service. I heard person after person share their story on why we need a moral revival in this country, that justice was needed, that it was Biblically based, and that we needed to wake up as a nation. I needed this. Hope was restored and it refueled my soul.

At the end, the Rev. Dr. William Barber preached and at the end he said, “Standing down is not an option.” It isn’t. We all stood and yelled it back because sitting is no longer an option. It is morally imperative that we stand for justice, that we stand for the oppressed.

So I began 2017 standing and will continue the fight for justice for all people because that is what humanity is called to do. “Standing down is not an option” in this new year.

make america great again, more like keep America patriarchal

This post will be one of many for me exploring/reflecting on the past week in America as I grapple with the devastation I feel, my privilege as white and straight, concern about my body as a woman, and finding my hope again.

In high school I read The Portrait of Dorian Gray and a few days ago, I realized that novel was now my metaphor for America. For those of you not familiar with the novel by Oscar Wilde, it’s about a beautiful man who is painted and wishes to remain beautiful, to age through the painting. In his quest for beauty, he becomes cruel and it reflects on the painting. Gray continually does the wrong thing, purposefully at times, and the painting becomes heinous, where it is locked up in an attic. Tuesday night, America the Beautiful was revealed and we are more like the painting hidden in the attic than the ideal of democracy. Our collective sins have been illuminated and nation’s ugliness revealed.

What strikes me about this, is that it wasn’t as if people didn’t known that Gray was cruel, people had suffered at his hands, a woman died, yet, it was hidden away. People knew, people were complacent. What do we do now that we see America for what it is?

America is a patriarchal society. Period. We have not transcended to a nation where all are equal, we were build on the backs of the displacement of our Native Peoples and the enslavement of Africans, while treating women as property. White, cisgendered, straight men were lifted up, given a voice and power, and have yet to share it with the rest of society. But we know this, I have lived in Seattle, in the progressive haven of the West. How could the rest of America not have Indigenous Peoples Day? Have voter registration that is simple and accessible? Care about telling the truth during a political debate? Believe that Black Lives Matter? Believe that religious liberties are not only for conservative Christians? Who are these people subscribing to the patriarchal systems that make America ugly?

Before the election, I tried to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon that was sweeping the Republican Party and years before, the Tea Party. My white, middle class, college educated brain couldn’t fathom. Then the woman who I had supported throughout the primaries, had spoken for during my caucus, lost. I went to bed shocked and woke up crying in fetal position.

I failed to love my neighbor as myself. As much as a Trump presidency affects me as a woman in her reproductive years, it is nothing compared to my fellow Americans who are not Christian, who are immigrant or migrant workers, who are people of color, whose love is not bound by heteronormative expressions, and those struggling to make ends meet.

The patriarchal system of sin we live in, has been voted into office. Hope has been replaced by fear, and we will not be stronger together because Trump wants to divide us, pitting us against each other because he, and many others, is afraid of losing power. For the most part, America has seemed safe. For a white, cisgendered straight woman, it felt like home. American doesn’t feel that way today and for many of it’s citizens it never did.

America is ugly and now we need to deal with that. It’s been ugly and for those of us finally seeing it for the first time, we cannot turn away.

Those of us with unearned privilege must roll up our sleeves after we process this. It’s past time, but we need to seek understanding and be firming rooted in America’s next steps. The patriarchal system must be dismantled and it will take all hands on deck. It’s going to take a long time, it’s not going to be a quick fix. Mourn America the beautiful. Take the time you need, but come January 1st. It’s time to get to work.

beginning to reclaim the word tremendous

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people ruin things for me; whether it be restaurants, boots, wearing the color white, my initials, scripture, games… It rubs me the wrong way. A few years ago I decided I was done with the seemingly irredeemable and contentiously started reclaiming certain areas of my life. I reclaimed places I went with an ex, started wearing boots again, began looking more critically at scripture, and started this blog. Reclaiming is a part of my process and journey in life.

This post is almost a week late, but better late than never. The below is something I tweeted during the second Presidential Debate. Mr. Donald Trump, I don’t even want to go into my feelings about him and sexual assault right now, kept using the word tremendous.

After watching Trump in two debates, countless speeches and parodies (nailed it Alec Baldwin), I realized during the last debate that perhaps the word tremendous needed to be reclaimed because whenever I hear the word now I cringe.

But what does tremendous really mean? I felt so gaslighted by Trump I had to look it up to double check.

 very large or great or very good or excellent

Merriam-Webster

Or…

a combination between horrendous and terrible

Urban Dictionary

I feel that America is associating tremendous with the less classical definition aka the one from the always delightful Urban Dictionary.

However, proper uses of the word are as follows:

  1. He has a tremendous amount of energy.

  2. The engine’s power is tremendous.

  3. She is a writer of tremendous talent.

  4. We had a tremendous time.

Merriam-Webster

Trump when speaking seems to use tremendous about himself in the Merriam-Webster sense of the word, but factually, he probably should be using the Urban Dictionary form of the word. He isn’t a very good or excellent politician, his businesses aren’t doing excellent, and his morals are horrendous and terrible. Yet, he keeps saying he and the things he does is so very tremendous.

So how do we stop cringing when the word is used in vain? Does reclamation need to wait until after November 8th? Or maybe we need to start using it more. Here are some of my attempts of reclaiming tremendous.

  • Hillary Clinton is a tremendous politician.
  • The work that Hillary Clinton has done has tremendously helped women in America and all over the global community.
  • Hillary Clinton will be a tremendous President.

It feels pretty good reclaiming it, but at the same time, tremendous is such a great word that maybe it should be used sparingly. How would you reclaim tremendous?

guest post: i signed because i am passionate about the future of this church

Last week we got the news that the executive committee of the Council of Bishops has identified 29 nominees to the special commission on A Way Forward but that only 8 of them, a piddly 28%, are lay persons. As a response to that news, I joined with other lay colleagues to launch and sign an open letter calling out this lack of lay representation on the commission and expressing the need for more laity.

Many people had expected that this commission would be made up of approximately 50% laity and 50% clergy. I, on the other hand, find our preoccupation with such a 50/50 split to be intriguing. Historically, it derives from our origins of annual conference and general conference representation being made up exclusively of clergy. I take note of these historical details in order to provide some perspective. We have this history because clergy are members first of the annual conferences (and annual conferences are represented at general conferences) and laity are members first of local churches, and along our historical way it was recognized that we needed to have laity representation in our top decision-making bodies in part in order to make good decisions. Because the church is ultimately made up of laity, and laity have a vested interest in what happens to and within the church.

In terms of this special commission, however, there is no special rationale for why we need to have a 50/50 split. On the contrary, The United Methodist Church is made up of >99% laity. There is no particular justification for bishops and other clergy getting equal representation to laity on this body, way out of proportion to their composition of the membership of the UMC.

With that said, I’m no proponent of proportional representation by membership, which in my experience is a politically-motivated idea, but it is worth noting that laity make up >99% of the membership of The UMC in order to get some perspective on just how ludicrous it is to stack this commission with over 70% bishops and other clergy, thereby squelching the voices of the laity.

Bishops and other clergy may feel that they spend their days steeped in the church and thus have a tremendous stake in its future, whereas laity can come and go, from one church and denominational affiliation to another, or even to no church at all. I, however, am a home missioner, part of the deaconess and home missioner community, and we have committed our lives to ministries with marginalized communities in settings largely outside the local church but always maintaining a relationship with the church. This experience of being in ministry in non-local church settings–for me, that has meant nonprofit settings–often in contexts where we are surrounded by people who are not active members of local churches, if they are members of a church at all, gives us particular perspectives. Specifically, it gives me a lot of time to think about what it means for the church to try to be relevant to the world of people outside the church, most of whom think the church is irrelevant to the world today and that the church utterly lacks credibility due to scandals and hypocrisy. Focusing in on such matters is critical to the church’s existence and purpose and critical to the church’s future.

By not spending the overwhelming amount of our time within local church settings, many laity come to gain perspective on such matters that can often be different from that of clergy, and especially different from that of bishops.

We stack the commission with bishops and clergy, giving laity an almost token minority position, to our peril.

So, to the topic of why did I sign the laity open letter? I signed because I am passionate about the future of this church. I am passionate about the church’s relevance and credibility. I am passionate about the importance of the voice and perspective of laity in church decision-making in order to make good decisions as we look toward crafting a path toward the future of The UMC.

And I also signed because I am passionate about how we live out Christ’s ministry to the marginalized. How we live out Christ’s message of God’s character being one of love, justice and compassion and how we are called to be likewise. I am passionate about the grave harm done to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual children of God at the hands of the church. I find this grave harm to be unconscionable, and I recognize that Christ would view it as a grave sin and he would have a blistering message to the church today over it, like he did with the Pharisees in his own day.

Stacking the commission with individuals vested in the institution of the church, rather than with people passionate about the church as an expression of seeking to follow Jesus’ message about God’s character and live out his example, is a recipe for bad decision-making. This commission needs people willing to take risks, not people invested in protecting the church’s assets.

It is my hope that more lay voices would provide balance in perspective, helping us to best take advantage of the wisdom of our ordained church leaders while also protecting against institutionalism. It is my hope that more lay voices would lead to more willingness to take risks to follow God’s will wherever it may lead, keeping an eye on a certain degree of protecting the institution of the church from those who would do it harm, but not substituting the institution of the church for God.

Click here to sign the letter today!

Kevin M. Nelson is a home missioner and activist who works to use his white, male privilege for righteous insurrection against unjust power structures that serve to marginalize other individuals and communities.

guest post: why i signed the open laity letter

We have heard Jesus say – to all persons without exception – “follow me.” Yet the Commission on Homosexuality says otherwise. When the numbers came out of the representation of the Commission on Homosexuality, I was absolutely horrified knowing that the 3 categories I represent were disproportionally unrepresented (laity, young people, and LGBTQIA people).

Laity are the building blocks and the glue that stick the church together. Laity are the ones you see helping on Sunday morning at church with everything from coffee hour, being a greeter and usher and, speaking the litany and scripture during the service. Yet, that’s not all laity do; they also help with service projects both near and far. Laity like us have been at the disaster sites of Hurricane Matthew from the start and will be the last people to leave. Laity are ordinary people doing extraordinary things both inside and outside church walls.

Time and time again I hear that the young people are the future of the church. Well I hate to burst your bubble we (as a young person of the church) are the now of the church. If we aren’t involved now in the church, or don’t feel like we have a place in the church because we are looked down upon for being young we aren’t going to stay in the church. This quote from the 2008 GC Proclamation says what I have seen with my peers “The young notice. They notice the church denying, refusing, threatening, removing, closeting the lgbtq people who faithfully serve the church.” The young notice their peers and friends leaving the church because of lack of acceptance of their queer siblings and because of the failure to recognize the young people as the now of the church instead of being just thought about the future of the church.

Queer people are in our churches and have been from in them from the beginning whether you realized it or not. At General Conference this year a list of called out clergy was released by Reconciling Ministries of 111 clergy, and candidates for ordained ministry the list is now up to 141 clergy. As a queer person myself (I identify as non-binary and use they/them/their pronouns) I know we have people willing and wanting to be on the commission of homosexuality which in reality is really a committee on debating the human worth of the LGBTIA community both inside and outside the church. Yet, queer people need to be on the commission in order to show people on all theological spectrums that we want to be in this church and we need the church just as much as you, and we can create a common good together.

The United Methodist baptismal liturgy calls all of us to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. It is our duty – our baptismal covenant – to stand against the sin of the church, to stand for God’s freedom and power, to affirm God’s entire body of Christ that is the church.

2008 GC Proclamation by Audrey Krumbach and Rev. David Meredith

By signing this letter for an equal representation of laity on the commission of homosexuality you are just doing that. Will you join those who have signed and create a powerful impact by saying we are laity and we are here and we are not giving up our position in our United Methodist Church? Click here, sign, and join us.

About Reclaiming’s first guest bloggerAaron Pazan resides in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, where they are highly involved in the Conference and Episcopal Area. They are a senior at Central Washington University majoring in recreation management and minoring in religious studies. In their free time they enjoy hanging out with friends, running, writing, photography, and reading about the emergent church.

Photo is from izquotes.com.

i had a dream last night + stood up against being objectified

Two things to know: I rarely dream and if I do, I can barely remember what it was. That said, last night I had a dream and remember most of it. Also this post is overly simplistic, but this is an honest reflection of my dream from last night and part of my processing of years of systemic sexism.

I’m on a crowded city street with my oversized purse (I mean bag) hustling to my ending point. I’m side stepping and minding my own business, close to what I think is a Metro station when some bag just slaps my ass. 

I’m describing something that happened a lot starting in middle school and am not referencing walking to the Metro. Walking while girl or women is something to be cautious of though. Starting in middle school my anatomy become fair game. I had to dress not for myself, but in defense to what a boy or man may react too. For years I did nothing, laughed it off and walked away because the few things I said something there was backlash. Who in middle school wants to be labeled a prude, a bitch, or cold? I was just looking for acceptance and often remained silent.

I stop slightly shocked (I’m 32 this should be done) and check who it is. It’s a man who walks off casually because he thinks he’s done nothing wrong. I become frozen. I do not know him and the flashbacks from the years flood me.

What does a girl or woman do when it happens? The context if off for this to be an appropriate behavior, I’m in public and do not know the man. I was taught stranger danger and that I had a safety bubble (which was violated in my dream). Yet so many times in my life, this unwanted touching (thank God it’s never been a groping) has been responded with ignoring and a little laugh.

My mouth starts to open and I yell, he touched me and I ran to find someone safe. Most of the crowd ignores me, a few women notice and I’m brought to a female police officer. 

I can name off instances when I was in situations where I felt uncomfortable and just let an ass grab or something else breeze by. In fact, it got to a point where it felt normal and I never spoke up. I thank God to this day, that this aggressions never turned into sexual violence, into being raped.

I just accepted that my ass was going to be slapped, dressed appropriately, guarded my drinks at bars, watched out for my girlfriends’ safety… and all the other things girls and women are told to do so they aren’t asking for it.

The man doesn’t get caught in my dream. We look, but nothing.

I woke up this morning and as I took my shower I remembered. I rarely have spoken up for myself in those situations, but something happened in my sub-conscious last night. I’d like to think that I would have gone a step further and hit him with my oversized DC bag of tricks, but I at least said something.

But what is also telling is that only women came to my rescue. The men around in their well-fitting suits kept walking. This has been the norm for many of my gender (cis & trans). It’s okay to objectify us because, well, we are objects to be conquered. Women are not objects, we are fully functioning humans.

I have to think that this dream is related to the Presidential Election and all the backlash that Mr. Donald Trump has finally received. His bragging on sexual assault took it too far for many people (but not me) and lack of repentance even further. But what was ultimately highlighted was the systemic sexism that plagues our society. The one that teaches girls that they are not enough, that teaches boys that girls are objects. The one that makes it so a sorority girl doesn’t report rape because it will shut down there sorority on campus, that doesn’t prosecute men for sexually assaulting that woman. The one that takes it so women feel unsafe on the subway because a man feels entitled to grope her.

Now, I am not sure what the answer is, but I have a few quick suggestions:

  • Talk and teach your children about consent.
  • Teach boys and men healthy masculinity.
  • Women, start speaking up and sharing your stories if it is safe for you to do so.
  • Men, start listening to women.
  • Men, start standing up for women and telling the Donald’s in your life that they are partaking in unacceptable behavior.
  • Vote on November 8th. #nevertrump

Dream rewrite: Someone slaps my ass and I turn around immediately swinging my DC bag at the bag yelling, “did you just grab me?” He falls backward and those around me stop, check in on me, and someone has a chat with the man about his inappropriate behavior. 

good christian sex part 3: my failed “purity” + rethinking celibacy

If you haven’t read good christian sex part 1: theologically solid + enjoyable and/or good christian sex part 2: integrating postmodern sexual ethics + empowering beyond the “one”, I would highly recommend reading those first to provide a context for this post.

I used to wear a purity ring, but first things first: I’m not a virgin. I’ve never been married, but I have loved deeply and it ended. I have had nights of fun, had strings of short-term relationships, and no longer feel the shame I long associated with premarital sex. This is where I am going to remind you that I am no longer seeking ordination in The United Methodist Church (save some time and don’t bother filing charges) and being able to frankly talk about this topic is one of the reasons I left the said process. I refuse to silence my voice. Now that we have all that out of the way, judge me if you will, but there are girls and women in your life, regardless of what end of the theological and political spectrum, that have been like me or are like me.

Back to my ring that actually said: true love waits. I picked it out. It was my decision. I wore it proudly for a few years. I continued to wear it in college and after a few Busch Lights or a Boone’s Farm, when asked about it I would lift my hand to the sky and proclaim no sex until marriage. This lasted for a few months, but after my first kiss and realization I didn’t have to wait if I didn’t want, I took it off.

Eventually I was no longer a virgin; the world did not shatter, the devil didn’t pop up and do an evil laugh, God did not smite me. My views on sex before marriage started to shift and continue to shift. In the back of my head for a long time, I still had a glimmer of doubt about toeing the line of Christianity and being not celibate. I am not the only one: “That we are children of God, living in a broken world, usually at odds with ourselves and others, but nonetheless, all at once, also loved beyond measure and being drawn into reconciliation and holiness” (Good Christian Sex, 172).

I bought into “the One,” that I was looking for my other half, that I wasn’t enough and because of that, I sinned. My sin was that I wasn’t living up to my full potential. It wasn’t because I was sexual active at the time, it was because I forgot my God-given gift of freedom and action. What I have learned is something that the Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan said so well: “There is a distinct difference between actually losing the boundaries of one’s self and the ecstatic joining of hearts and bodies that sometimes happens in the best sex” (139). I would argue that losing yourself into another person is worse than joining another person between the sheets.

I don’t think I actually failed purity; I think purity failed me. Because it led me to relationships, attitudes, and choices that I do not regret but the impacts of which have been hard to shake.

The thing is, I am pure. That’s my theology, right? I’m Wesleyan and have a theology rooted in God’s abundant grace. I have had my moment of justification and my sins have been forgiven. Even if I thought sex before marriage was always a sin (I’d argue some sex in marriage is a sin as well), God’s grace grants us love and forgiveness. Relationships are not easy and can be work, a friend and I once decided: “The joy must outweigh the work.”

I want to live into mutuality in all my relationships, sexual or not. I do not subscribe to celibacy in singleness, and I believe it’s high time we started having real conversations about sex. It’s time to talk about it beyond abstinence, beyond fear based comprehensive sex education, and to realize that as a church we are failing our singles by limited their, my, sexuality. I want to create that conversation, this is my ultimate goal; it’s not about the shock value, it’s about fidelity in relationships and journeying in grace. I’m not done speaking and will continue to post about sex, gender, birth control, inclusivity, society, and my beloved church. I will be authentic and stand my ground theologically. I’m ready to challenge celibacy. I hope you are too.