Pilgrimage Day 10: 'Sex-positive Christians'

By Symon Hill
June 29, 2011

I am currently on a pilgrimage of repentance for my former homophobia, walking from Birmingham to London between 16 June and 1 July. For more details and updates, please see: http://repenting.wordpress.com/

Over the last ten days, unpredictability has almost become a way of life. I set off each morning with maps and (usually) knowing where I’m going to stay, only to be surprised by conversations, emails, closed footpaths, media calls, accommodation problems and people’s reactions. And I have to say that, while I find this difficult in some ways, I am in other ways starting to really like it.

Today produced a big surprise on a personal level. I am having a non-walking day in Oxford, prior to speaking at St Columba’s United Reformed Church tomorrow. The church had kindly invited me to a local garden party this afternoon.

I arrived to find my girlfriend, Nicola, already there. I was amazed. Nicola lives in Cambridge, and I’d expected to see her next when I arrive in London on Friday. She’d secretly been in touch with friends in Oxford a week ago to work out how she could be here today, and attend the event tomorrow. She’s been really supportive of my pilgrimage, encouraging me by phone and text as I’ve walked, but I’ve missed her. In Nicola’s turn, she was surprised that I hadn’t even begun to guess that she planned to turn up.

I’m still feeling physically weak and aching quite a bit, despite a very long sleep last night. My friends Sally and Tom, who I stayed with in Oxford last night, had been extremely hospitable, providing me with a hot bath and large meal after I arrived wet, smelly and several hours late. This morning, they kindly left me to sleep instead of disturbing me.

Despite the aches, I discovered that the sleep had revived me mentally. Ideas about religion and sexuality had been whirring round my head yesterday afternoon, but it was difficult to think clearly as I was absorbed in my desire to reach Oxford after getting lost twice.

This morning, I found that the thoughts had clarified themselves into coherent ideas and concepts during my sleep. God does indeed work in surprising ways.

As you might know if you’ve read my blog a few times, I’m keen to promote an approach to sexual ethics that rejects both legalism and hedonism and is based on following the spirit of Christ in lifestyles rooted in love.

This means celebrating sexuality as a gift from God. My concern with this sort of language is that it often seems to be used by Christians who then go on to promote forms of legalism and concentrate on all the bad expressions of sexuality rather than the good ones.

Christians are not the only people to have struggled with a desire to be positive about sexuality while being concerned that it’s expressed ethically. Shortly after waking up this morning, I was thinking of “sex-positive feminism”. The phrase was adopted by feminists who had become concerned that some forms of feminism appeared to be very negative about sexuality.

And so to me, the obvious phrase to use seems to be “sex-positive Christians”. This seems a good term to describe those of us who want to be unashamed of healthy, ethical, loving sexual expression and to celebrate sex and sexuality as gifts from God. I hope that valuing sexuality in this way can help us to to be more determined and passionate about tackling abusive and selfish expressions of sexuality. Tackling them not because we are negative about sex, but precisely because we are positive about it.

If you like the term “sex-positive Christians”, please start using it. If you don’t, please challenge me and tell me why. Your thoughts are welcome, whatever your views, on my website (see below).


(c) Symon Hill is associate director of Ekklesia. For more information on his pilgrimage of repentance, please visit http://www.repenting.wordpress.com

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