Queries on Sexuality

based on Peter Blood-Patterson's paper
"In the Presence of God & These Our Friends"

These queries should be viewed as my own shot at brainstorming to encourage Friends and others to reflect on important issues around sexuality and our life in God. I invite your feedback, new queries, responses, and suggestions for improvement. Can you encourage your meeting or faith community to come up with its own (far better!) list? (The statements in italics following each group of queries are some of my own personal reflections on each issue: articulated as a provisional sense of what God "wants" or "hopes for" us in this area of sexuality. These are drawn from my essay on this subject entitled In the Presence of God and These Our Friends.)

#1 Hearing God's Voice as a Faith Community:

Do you believe there is a Heart in the Universe that has specific intentions & hopes for us as humans generally and as a faith community specifically?
Do you believe that God cares what we believe and practice about sexuality?
What are you doing as a meeting (church, synagogue, sangha, etc.) to try and discover together what God wants of us in these matters?
Is your search for unity on these matters carried out in the spirit of humility, tenderness, mutual respect as well as forthrightness and courage?

[God cares what we do with our bodies and minds sexually. God wants us to struggle with each other towards unity of vision as to what is right and wrong sexually.]

#2 Personal Guidance:

Do you believe in the kind of God who has specific hopes or intentions for what you do personally in your life?
Do you believe God has intentions for us around the decisions when and with whom we marry?
Does your meeting consider clearness for marriage a shared search for God's will regarding the couple's intention to marry?
Have you experienced God as providing guidance for you around specific sexual acts?
What spiritual disciplines do you practice to make it easier for you to hear and obey God's leadings in your life?
Have you been obedient to the promptings of the Spirit in your sexual practices?

[God also cares about the sexual decisions we make personally. God wants us to attempt to hear and heed the leadings of the Spirit as we attempt to be faithful in our personal sexual lives.]

#3 Embodiment:

How do you embrace your own bodiliness?
What are the ways in which you treat your body as a temple of the Spirit?
Do you experience your sexuality as healthy and holy? How do you embrace your sexuality as being "of God"?

[We are physical beings. Sexuality is an integral part of our spirituality. Sexual joy can be as holy as any other kind of joy. Physical expressions of love can draw us closer to God as well as to the person we are touching physically.]

#4 Sexual Acts as an Expression of Love:

How do you think God looks on casual sex? Can casual sex be holy? Does it honor the sacredness of your body? Of your partner's?
Are you responding to that of God in your partner every time you engage in sexual activity? (inside or outside of a marriage)

[God wants us to utilize the act of physical lovemaking as the outward expression of emotional and spiritual intimacy with the person we are touching physically.]

#5 Long-term Partnering:

Do we mean it when we take vows today to be a lovely and faithful partner "as long as we both shall live"?
How does your meeting nurture and support the sanctity of the marriages among its members or the marriages of those joined together under the care of the meeting?
What, in addition to sexual infidelity, threatens the long-term stability of marriages within the faith community?
What can the faith community do to educate its members about the spiritual riches of live-long, loving partnerings?
Does your meeting take action to support and protect marriages among its members that appear to be challenged?
Would the meeting expect a couple whose marriage is in trouble to seek clearness of the meeting prior to any decision to dissolve the meeting?
How relevant today do you feel Jesus' strong spiritual opposition to divorce is?
If your marriage is in danger, do you seek the guidance of others in your faith community to assist you in discerning God's will about your marriage before reaching any decision that might affect its stability?
What are you doing to strengthen and enrich your own marriage? The marriage of your friends? The marriage of your parents? The marriages of others in your faith community?

[Sexual intimacy has a special and unique role when it occurs in the context of a permanent life-long committed relationship. God wants us to support and nurture stability in long-term relationships as an important part of God's vision for humanity.]

#6 Honesty & Openness:

What does the Testimony on Integrity have to teach us about sexuality and lovemaking?
Is there ever room for deception in holy love?
Would you ever countenance or collaborate with deception tied to marital infidelity?
What are the boundary lines among discretion, privacy, and untruthfulness in the area of sexuality?
What does it mean when the psalmist writes in Psalm 139 about being searched and known by God, even in the deepest parts of our being? Is there any part of our sexual lives that we would be ashamed to bring before the Living Spirit? Before our precious partner in life?

[God desires that we be radically honest with others in our sexual practices and to be willing to allow others to know what we are practicing.]

#7 The Testimony on Simplicity:

What does the Testimony on Simplicity have to teach us about sexuality and lovemaking?
Does our sexual practice make us more or less open to hear God's voice? To follow God's leadings? To be used by God in Meeting for Worship or in the gospel community?
Does our sexuality bring us closer to God or move us farther away?
Does our sexuality open up your heart to the Heart of the Universe or close it off?

[We are called to practice sexuality in a manner that keeps our hearts as open as possible to God.]

#8 Equality within a Sexual Partnership:

What does the Testimony on Equality have to teach us about sexuality and lovemaking?
Does your touching another person respond to and give honor to that of God in the other?
What happens to the sacredness of lovemaking if you come to your beloved with more or less power than your partner brings?

[God intends for us to enter into sexual relationships as equals.]

#9 Equal Access to Sexuality:

What do you believe is God's hope for the person who is deeply attracted to the same gender?
Do you the perceive evidence of the fruits of the Spirit at work in life-long committed same gender partnerships that have been blessed by a faith community?
What is God's hope or intention (in terms of sexuality) for people with physical disabilities, older people, those with developmental disorders or others who are often denied full access to sexual activity?

[God wants to insure that whole groups of people are not excluded from being sexual because of prejudice or injustice.]

#10 Freedom from Violence & Force:

What does the Peace Testimony have to teach us about sexuality and lovemaking?
What is your faith community doing to educate itself about and prevent rape, date rape, sexual harassment and sexual abuse?
What are you doing to combat rape, sexual servitude and other forms of sexual violence in the world?
What is your faith community doing to support its members who have experienced sexual violence and abuse and to help them heal the scars of these experiences?

[Spiritually grounded sexual acts are only possible between partners acting out of free choice, making decisions to participate free from any form of violence or coercion.]

#11 Pornography & Awe:

Does your faith community wrestle together in any way with the ethical and spiritual implications of personal sexual practices such as the use of sexually explicit media?
Does viewing or reading sexually explicit media bring you closer to or move you further away from God?
Does such activity open or close your heart to others as children of God - including your sexual partner or partners, your family, your faith community, and any persons involved in the production of that media?
What is your relationship with a person whose sexual image you view? Is it possible to view pornography and still hold all human beings in awe and deep respect?
How is your faith community educating its young people and other members regarding the violence and degradation involved in pornography and the increasing use of exploitative sexual images in advertising and commercial media?
Is there a fundamental discernable spiritual distinction between pornography and erotica? If there is, how is your faith community providing guidance to its members about this?
What is the effect upon your heart of reading a piece of sexually explicit literature or viewing sexual images? What is the effect upon your relationship with your partner?
If you read or view explicit media, how do you seek to enable God to guide your practice in this?

[Pornography is based on addictive pulls and rooted in exploitation of those involved in its production and use. It at best avoids and at worst suppresses healthy intimate relationships with others. It is incompatible with treating all persons with awe, respect and love - as children of the living God.]

#12 Sex & Care of the Earth:

What does our emerging Testimony on Care of the Earth have to teach us about sexuality and lovemaking?
How do sexual attitudes contribute to overpopulation? To overconsumption? To other attitudes that threaten the viability of the planet?
Does treating another person with less than total respect and awe in a sexual relationship encourage similar attitudes towards the earth and its endangered species?
Is there a relationship between treating our own body as a temple of the Spirit and treating the earth itself as a vessel of the Living Spirit?

[Wrongly-ordered sexual attitudes and behavior are damaging to the earth.]

#13 Sexuality between Singles:

Is the traditional Christian ideal of chastity outside of marriage still relevant today?
Does sexual practice between single people ultimately undermine or strengthen the joy and stability of marital love?
What does your faith community do to encourage abstinence among its single members?
How does God feel about sexual activity between single people if it is practiced in the spirit of deep love and spiritual discernment?
Was the world a safer and more loving place when sexuality was (at least in the ideal) limited to life-long marital relationships?
Is there significant biblical teaching for singles regarding sexuality?

[I believe God embraces some kinds of sexual activity between single people when it is practiced as an expression of deep spiritual and emotional caring and in response to a mutual effort to discern God's will.]

#14 Fidelity in Sexual Relationships:

What is the meeting doing to encourage its members to love their partners single-heartedly?
Is your loved one first in your heart? (as opposed to your job, Quaker service, good causes, financial security, your children's needs, protecting the earth, personal enjoyment, etc.)
What actions draw you closer to the love of your life? Which draw you further away?
Is sexual infidelity ever permissible in God's eyes?
Do you believe a person can ever engage in sexual activity outside of marriage and still love her or his partner with all of her or his heart?
Would you ever protect deceit of a friend or meeting member regarding sexual infidelity? What action would or should your meeting take if it was aware of a member participating in sexual infidelity?
Do you have any reason to believe that God ever approves of plural marriage?
Is there ever any conflict between putting your life partner first and your ultimate loyalty to God?

[God longs for us to love our life partner with all our heart.]

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Quote that speaks to me

Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies

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They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.  
Death cannot kill what never dies.  
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If absence be not death, neither is theirs.  
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.  
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