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Why Write a Book About Sex

I have wanted to write a book about sex for years but it has taken me quite a while to muster the courage–and equally as long to actually engage in sexual practises. I have never considered myself to be sexually normal. Not that there is a normal, but TheObsessed-Webexperiencing sexual abuse definitely has unique effects on a person’s sexual development.

I grew up avoiding all things sexual, while simultaneously craving the thing I lacked. In fact, I spent a considerable amount of time and energy crying–grieving–about my sexuality. Whether I was crying about my singleness, or crying because I felt guilty for masturbating, or crying because I was pushing my own sexual boundaries, or crying because I wanted to have sex but wasn’t married and couldn’t decide whether or not to simply throw caution to the wind, or crying over past sexual trauma; my sexuality, without a doubt, has been and may still be one of the most difficult and painful areas of my personhood.

Part of my inclination to write about sex comes from my desire to heal the wounds of my own past and equally passionate is my desire to influence others who may suffer with similar wounds, difficulties, fears, traumas, sexual secrets and potentially harmful restrictions. I struggled with extreme guilt over masturbation in my twenties and I want to help other people to at least ponder the idea that self-masturbation is a healthy expression of ones sexuality. I’ve experienced disappointments in my married sex-life and want to encourage people to talk about sexual issues honestly and openly. My hope is that through honest conversation, we may begin to heal our collective sexuality sooner rather than later.

I feel strongly that it is time for the church to start preaching grace above abstinence. When statistics tell us that more than 90% of people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have sex before marriage in countries like America and Australia, we are kidding ourselves if we think that vamping up the abstinence message is going to stop people from having premarital sex. We need better sex education about contraception and even about abortion. Also, the church desperately needs to re-think its hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner approach to LGBTIQ people. The church is not capable of loving sinners if it simultaneously shames, judges, criticises, condemns, avoids and slanders their sin. An article of mine was published in the news about this recently.

If I may be so bold: I believe that the Spirit of Love has anointed me to proclaim freedom from condemnation, guilt and shame, to heal broken-hearts, to free people from oppressive social norms, to bestow the halo of God’s grace and cast out the spirit of heaviness, that we may all rejoice in the glorious love of our saviour Jesus Christ. In a nutshell, I feel compelled to preach grace for sexual shame.

This book equates to about 110 A4 pages (58,000 words) exploring and challenging current Christian and religious norms around various sexual topics. It was written over the period of approximately 18 months mostly in 2015-2016. When I began writing it, I was an intercourse-virgin. When I finished writing it, I’d been married more than a year. You will note this progression within the book and I have included some dates or references to when certain sections were written, to try and give the reader a clearer picture of where I was at in this progression. Also, I am Australian and my husband, JD, is American.

It is an explicit book and should only be read by those under age 18 if they have parental permission and guidance. I know that some people will take offence to the explicit nature of the book, and for that I can only say that I had to follow my heart and write the words I have longed to hear but never read from other sources.

I pray that this book particularly transforms and reforms the body of Christ’s approach to sex and that it challenges every reader in healthy ways. It is available here.

I invite your feedback, discussion and confession (if you so desire) at mailto:elissaanne.author@gmail.com and I ask that if you quote me on Facebook, you reference my website. Blogs that have been included in this book can be found and re-shared from here.

Permission to be Happy

I’m taking a subject at Bible College called “Theological Reflection,” which involves pondering where I am at in my life theologically, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

Partly because of this subject, I’ve actually had to think a lot about how happy I am in my life right now … and how scary that is.

I was a pessimist growing up, with a deeply serious, melancholy personality. I often felt that my friendships were shallow and that most people didn’t know the real me. In fact, I didn’t know the real me. I was constantly trying to run away from the guilt and shame of my past imperfections. I even picked up and moved interstate as a young adult, in an attempt to make myself feel better, only to learn that all my problems came with me.

I suffered from depression for the first 4 years of adulthood. I didn’t think that my dreams would ever come true, that I would ever get married, that I would have the deep relationships I craved, or that I could actually be my true self. I was torn between wearing a façade of being a near-perfect, Christian woman, trapped in guilt and legalism; and the inherent belief that God’s love and grace has to be bigger than my failure, and for that matter, everyone else’s failures.

Then my mum got sick when I was 24, and I was still trying to find my feet as an adult in this world. No longer depressed per se, but still struggling with my dreams and my identity, with being single, and with trying to be a good Christian. Mum was sick for 4 years before she passed away and I spent those years caring for her, meanwhile working as hard as I could toward my dreams, writing books, trying to find the perfect guy to marry, building a piano teaching business, leading worship at church and pulling up the ranks of the worship team. Mum and I rubbed up against each other (as iron sharpens iron), and both started to deal with unresolved childhood issues. This in turn challenged what we believed about God and we both started to accept deep down that God is all-loving and all-forgiving.

Mum passed away when I was 28 and things in my life changed monumentally again. I not only lost my mum, but my entire theological foundation shifted as I became a Universalist-Christian. I changed churches and lost too many friends to count, including some that I never thought I would ever lose and still grieve over today. I failed a piano exam, and decided to prioritise my writing dreams over my musical aspirations. And I challenged myself to start writing publically about what I believe. Needless to say, my twenties were filled with struggle, grief, singleness and loneliness.

But then I hit thirty and I started to feel very secure in myself. I was no longer fighting who I really was, I was breaking down the facades. I met a man and started building a healthy relationship with him. I got married. My friends expanded to include my family-in-law and so many new relationships.

So here I am: content. And it scares me. I know what it’s like to be depressed and anxious. I know what it’s like to feel lonely and endlessly single. I know what it is like to grieve death. I know that things can change very suddenly for better or worse. Being happy, healthy, hopeful and content are fairly new to me and I’m somewhat afraid of losing these feelings. But I don’t want to live in fear, because it taints the blessings I have right now.

I also struggle with guilt. I feel guilty that not everyone is going through a season of happiness and contentment right now. I feel guilty for flaunting it, but I also feel as though I might burst if I don’t share it. Sometimes I feel guilty that I couldn’t make my mum’s life happier. As her oldest child I felt responsible for her happiness and often blamed myself if she was unhappy. So it is difficult to feel happy in light of the suffering that I saw in my Mum’s life at different stages – this I struggle with the most.

That’s why I need to give myself permission to be happy. Permission to bask in this season of contentment. Permission to pause and say thank you. Thank you to God for bringing me here. Thank you to my husband for loving me. Thank you to my family for accepting me. Thank you to the friends who have been around through so much of this, and to the newer ones who enrich my life.

And thank you to myself. For not dying. For not giving up. For pushing against the chains that bound me so that I could break free and become more truly myself. But even as I thank myself, I know I am really thanking God–the universal love–who lives in me.

Grateful For My Marriage

I just came home from the cinema where I saw, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” There was a scene in the movie where three generations of couples were kissing: the grandparents, the parents, and the daughter with her prom date.

I found myself crying because I felt so grateful to be married to a man that I love, who loves me. 5-10 years ago, the exact same scene would have had me in tears for the completely opposite reason. I would have felt a lonely longing for a spouse.

I was single for 30 years before I met JD. I went on my fair share of dates, but no one stuck. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I was warned about my desire for marriage being the sin of idolatry, told that I wanted it too much and should be content in my singleness. I was also told, “If you can’t be happy without it, you’ll never be happy with it,” and that marriage wouldn’t make me happier.

Well, the (mostly married) people who told me these things were, in my opinion, wrong. I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been in 33 years of life. Marriage has greatly added to my sense of contentment, and admittedly, to my sanity. I’m not obsessed with figuring out what is wrong with me. I’m not constantly looking around at all the single males and wondering, “Could this be the one?” I no longer feel the same level of loneliness and as though I am missing out. And I finally have a sex life!

I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude walking to my car tonight, that I thought to myself:
“If I cried a river of tears
My heart would still hurt
With the immense gratitude I feel
Being married to you, Joseph Daniel.”

To all my single friends out there, I know what it is like to feel lonely. I know what it’s like to want and wait for a spouse. There is nothing wrong with your desire or your emotions. They are totally valid. Be honest about where you are at and I pray that God will give you the desires of your hearts.

Where Do Our Beliefs Come From?

Any good Bible College will teach its students that our beliefs as Christians come from four things: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. However, there is a lot of argument about whether or not Scripture is inerrant, what the traditions of the church actually are and how much of a part reason and experience should play.

Let’s start by looking at Scripture and why I do not believe that the Bible is inerrant.

Firstly, the Bible is not and does not claim to be a scientific textbook. So when the Bible says that the sun stood still in Joshua 10:13, we don’t need to take this literally. Science has proven that the earth revolves around the sun. Therefore, it would make more sense that the earth stood still, but the writer didn’t know that. From his perspective, it was the sun that stopped moving.

The Bible also isn’t numerically correct at all times. In the King James Bible, Ahaziah was 22 years old when he became King according to 2 Kings 8:26 and 42 years old when he became King according to 2 Chronicles 22:2. Wherever this error came from, whether the original writers or people who made copies of the originals, or during the translation process from Hebrew and Greek to English, clearly both cannot be correct. Both Bible passages published in more recent years now give Ahaziah’s age as 22.

Numbers 25:9 records 24,000 people dying by plague and places responsibility for these slaughters on the Lord’s anger. When Paul quotes this very passage in 1 Corinthians 10:8-10 he changes the number to 23,000 and deliberately states that it was the destroying angel (or the Destroyer), not the Lord who destroyed the people. This is critically important toward building a healthy God concept by interpreting the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. This also lends to the Bible being historically inaccurate at times.

Jeremiah writes a word of warning about other writers: “How can you say ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,’ when actually the lying pen of scribes has handled it falsely?” Jeremiah 8:8.

If the entire Bible were inerrant, why would Paul write: “To the married I give this comment (not I, but the Lord) … To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) … Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgement … ” 1 Corinthians 7:10, 12 & 25. Why did Paul ask Timothy to bring his coat and to try to get there before winter, 2 Timothy 4:13, 21? Was that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and if it was, then what spiritual relevance can it possibly have for us today? Paul was cold and needed his coat back. I’m glad he was human enough to write about it because it gives the Bible an authentically human feel.

Luke did a lot of research before writing the Gospel of Luke. “Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,” Luke 1:3. Clearly the Gospel of Luke was not dictated by God.

Let’s compare the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection:

Matthew 28:2-3 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.

Mark 16:5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

Luke 24:4 Suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.

John 20:11-12 Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

So we have: one angel according to Matthew, one man according to Mark, two men according to Luke and two angels according to John. Now, it could be that some people only saw one man or angel while others visibly witnessed two. It is also easily acceptable that they could not tell the difference between men and angels. But even if we believe that, it proves that we must put our thinking cap on when interpreting the Bible and not miss the forest for the trees. Does the number of men or angels matter? Probably not. The point of the story, and all four accounts agree about this, is that Jesus resurrected from the dead.

In fact, I had one lecturer who taught us that unanimous agreement about every detail of these accounts might be suspect because the writers all had different perspectives and agendas in their stories. If all accounts were exactly the same we might wonder if they conspired together to share the same details in order to unanimously claim that Jesus was alive. Having four different perspectives of the same event that draw the same conclusions, is actually more convincing. Here is an illustration:

Mary and Joe walked into a classroom. Mary noticed that the walls were painted a dark burgundy colour and there were some chips in the paint. The desks looked a little cramped and the carpet was very old. She guessed that there were about 30 people in the class and most of them were female. The lecturer at the front of the room looked like her grandfather and was delivering a lecture on global warming. Joe did a rough headcount of the pretty girls in the classroom: there were 12. He sat down next to a blonde and missed half the lecture, but he knows it had something to do with global warming. Both of these stories are true and correct from the witnesses perspective. Did they experience this classroom and lecture the same way? No. Their estimations of the female population in the room disagreed, but they generally agreed that the lecturer’s topic was global warming.

What about verses in Chronicles that tell us that other books which are not included in our Bibles, contain further details that they have left out, 2 Chronicles 9:29, 12:15, 13:22, etc? We have to remember that a group of human beings decided which books to include in the Bible based on what was available and commonly accepted among Christians at that time. There are many other books and letters that have been excluded from the Bible and there are some books included in Catholic Bibles that aren’t included in other Christian Bibles. We also need to take note of the fact that there are multiple copies of Greek New Testament texts. These copies have discrepancies that scholars then have to weigh up in order to decide which Greek word is the most likely fit. This is called “text criticism” and I wrote an essay on the topic when I studied Greek at Bible College.

Then, when the Bible is translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English, it is always subjected to interpretation. Always. There is no such thing as a literal translation. Just to make my point clear, let me give you a very simple portion of a sentence in Greek and translate it as accurately as I can:

Transliteration: Legei autē ho Iesous
“Legei” means “he/she/it said”
“autē” in the dative form means “to her”
“ho Iesous” means “the Jesus”
Literal translation: He said to her the Jesus.
Most Biblical translations use: Jesus answered / Jesus said to her / Jesus replied.

Would you buy and read a Bible that used lengthy sentences like “He said to her the Jesus” instead of “Jesus answered?” Every time you read “Jesus answered,” or “Jesus said,” or “Jesus replied,” in English, there were probably other words there in Greek that were left untranslated. Meaning is translated instead of the exact words themselves and even the order of the words is drastically altered in English so that we don’t have to read ridiculous sentences that confuse us about who the subject is or that sound simply jarring to our ears if we translate them literally. This is one of the reasons there are so many different translations of the English Bible. No one translates literally and although they try to be as literal as possible according to their own standards, what they already believe about God and Christianity will always bias translations … including mine.

English, Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic; no book of the Bible is without human error. The Bible was put together by human beings who are imperfect and make mistakes.

But do not despair! The Bible tells us what we can count on when we are interpreting it:
2 Timothy 3:15-16 From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

Most Christians agree that the Bible is inspired by God. As the prophets and scribes, the disciples and apostles penned their books and letters–or had other people do it for them–God was whispering his truth. As Peter writes, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” 2 Peter 1:21. As 300 leaders gathered at the Council of Nicea where the decision was made about which books to include in the Canon, God was present. As scholars gather and spend hours on end translating the Bible, God is with them.

What does it mean that the Bible is inspired or God breathed? I believe it means that the Holy Spirit, who is the very breath of God, influenced the assemblage of the Bible, especially the weaving together of the overarching story or metanarrative of the Bible. As 2 Timothy 3:15 confirms, Scripture was formed to give us wisdom regarding salvation. The metanarrative of the Bible is the story of the creation and recreation–including the salvation, restoration, justification, redemption, sanctification, etc.–of the known universe and its inhabitants.

The Bible also points to Jesus Christ as the living and active Word of God. The ultimate way that we know the Word of God–Jesus–is through the Bible. And we know the Father-God because the Son–Jesus–has revealed the Father. And we know the Spirit of God because He is the very breath of God that inspired the Scriptures to reveal the Son and Father. The Trinity is intimately connected to the Bible, (see the verses at the end of this section).

So while I say that I do not believe the Bible is inerrant, I do not want to downplay just how powerful this book actually is. Let’s face it, it is difficult to know God without knowing the Bible.
I hold Scripture in the highest regard as the most authoritative book on earth. It oozes the love of God. The pungent aroma of salvation is unmistakable. Even among oft misinterpreted statements of wrath and judgement the Bible is rich with mercy, grace, repentance and forgiveness.

I love the Bible and everything I have to say about my understanding of Christian-Universalism comes from my interpretation of the Bible in conjunction with excellent teachers like Santo Calarco and the numerous books I have read.

Appendix:
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 5:39-40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Hebrews 1:1-3 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by Son, who he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Hebrews 4:12 For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Ephesians 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Isaiah 55:11 So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

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