Churches Should Butt Out of Parishioners’ Sex Lives

Gustav Vigeland sculpture, Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.

After reading the articles and comments regarding Bethel here on aNewsCafé.com, I’m encouraged by the level of compassionate integrity the majority of responders have demonstrated.  It gives me hope for our community and our world.

As a clinical sexologist and passionate humanist, I have many concerns about Bethel and other church-based conversion therapy programs. I’m speaking from my field of study and expertise, which is based on the formal scientific study of human sexual behavior, which has contributed comprehensive data on human sexuality since the 19th century.

In fact, homosexuality was “de-pathologized”, along with masturbation, in 1897 by Dr. Havelock Ellis.

I hope sharing my thoughts here will fuel a desire to learn more from experts in the field of human sexual behavior, and to be more discerning about whom you allow to influence your entire sense of self.

I will start by planting some brain seeds for self-examination regarding views on human sexuality and sexual orientation.

1.  When did you discover your first awareness of a sexual preference?  When did you come out?  How were you received?  Were you led to believe you were healthy or ill because of your preference?

2.  Is your sexual gender preference a conscious choice, a changeable lifestyle, or just a part of who you are as a whole being?

3.  Where did you learn that it’s your business who anyone else chooses to have sex with, to love, marry, or make a family with?

4.  How exactly do other people’s sexual choices affect your own life?

Please understand that human (and most animal) sexual orientation is a continuum from strongly homosexual to strongly heterosexual; it’s not as simple as an either-or.

Also remember that humans (and some animals like the Bonobos) have sex for pleasure far more often than they do for procreation. This opens up the field for sexual exploration and it’s becoming increasingly more common for people to have intimate relationships with both genders at various times in their lives. Switching from one to another is not proof of being cured of homosexuality (which is not a diagnosis in the first place), it’s simply a sign of a new relationship or sexual partner.

Normal” expression of sexual desire and behavior runs from end to end along that continuum. This isn’t new information, which is revealed through erotic art history.

Cultural beliefs, which are learned, influence our bias and can result in self-doubt, confusion, shame or judgment. If free from such bias, humans would explore sexuality based on one’s own personal design and have no need to have someone pray their straight or gay away. They would simply be … a sexual being enjoying healthy sexual relationships.

The inherent tendency to create labels or judgments comes from a need for reassurance that we hold a desired position of superiority in the world. It’s the ego’s game, always comparing us to them, or the past tense of ourselves. These judgments give us a false sense of placement in the world. They lead us to believe that because we are different, we are somehow better or worse than the next person. This is simply not true. The level of melanin, wealth, religious affiliation or our politics don’t define us or our human quality. And neither does the person(s) we choose to be sexual with.

What will define us, is how we treat those our ego has classified as inferior. Will we love and accept them as we love and accept others? Does accepting them as equals somehow undermine our perceived self-value? If they are worthy of our love, are they really inferior to us? The root of our judgments and need to label others is fear of not being good enough. Acknowledging this is the first step towards becoming accepting of ourselves and others just as we are. Judgments cloud our view and cause harm to our personal happiness.

The conversion therapy programs grew out of these judgments and labels and are stubbornly stuck in ignorance. The need to label and fix homosexuality would dissipate if we filled the glaring lack of comprehensive human sexuality education, and removed the financial motivation for enlisting people into programs. This is one place that ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s harmful and dangerous.

We know better and we can do better. These programs have repeatedly been deemed unsafe by medical and mental health professional throughout the country. It appears this has become an obsession for those with powerful platforms and the need to control the sexuality of others. It’s a disturbing distraction away from so many pressing issues needing attention today. The fact is, we are all here because of sex and our precious Earth is over-populated and suffering.

It’s time to rethink our priorities. We have millions of people addicted to drugs living in the streets, devastating mental health decline of the males in our country, women still being raped and assaulted as a way of life, our oceans being so polluted that our sea life is rapidly disappearing, and so on. We have far more important things to worry about than whom is having sex with whom.

It’s time to ask churches to devote their time, prayer and resources for these and other truly life-as-we-know-it-on-earth threatening issues, and not poking their unqualified noses into the private sex lives of their parishioners.

This is just one more item on the long list of cruelties used to abuse a group of people who are vulnerable and confused because of the preaching, not their sexuality.

#ConversionTherapyIsAbuse #AbuseIsAbuse #TimesUp

If you do have concerns about your sexuality, please find a qualified health professional that has studied this field of health care extensively and understands the full gamut of human sexuality as well as the art of negotiating consensual intimate relationships. Their job is to offer unbiased guidance and honest, up-to-date education to help people live their idea of the finest intimate life – no matter who they are interested in, or consensually being sexual with.

Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce
Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce’s eclectic background places her expertise in a league of its own. The compilation of her career as an RN, health educator, intimacy author, radio talk show host, and yoga therapist all fuel her passion as an International speaker and clinical sexologist. Earning her Doctorate degree in human sexuality has broadened her reach around the globe teaching Conscious Living Sexuality™. When not traveling the globe inspiring others, Dr. Nancy enjoys her home life with the love of her life for more than 30 years. They’ve raised three children and now bask in what she refers to as “the dessert of parenting” -- being grandparents. Website. Contact Dr. Nancy
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28 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim says:

    Because if there is anything we’ve learned over the last 10 years it is that the morals of the majority ought to dictate what consenting adults do behind closed doors…

  2. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Thank you for this article. Although they shouldn’t need the reinforcement, I imagine reading what a professional has to say probably helps those who are struggling with their sexual identity. It would be a blessing if churches zeroed in on real problems rather than non-issues such as homosexuality and abortion,

  3. Avatar Aleeta Stamn says:

    Great insight. There is the monetary motivation (Bethel can still provide this type of harmful “therapy” to consenting adults – it just can’t charge them for it). However, Bethel is apparently not committed enough to this cause to forego all the profit this scheme can generate. It also panders to a particular church-going element, who demand to be told they are morally superior to others based on their in-born orientation, and somehow specially favored by “god”.

    Also, churches like Bethel rarely do much to address the real horrors and crises of the world, especially as it relates to human suffering. Most of these predominantly right-wing churches self-servingly claim that helping the poor and down-trodden is simply “enabling” them (as Bethel leaders do), and that Jesus would be against any form of “Socialism”:

    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/bethel-churchs-bill-johnson-why-i-voted-for-trump/100306.htm

    It’s impossible not to be struck by the selective hypocricy of these views. Not only is every sexual activity that doesn’t increase the population of the tribe treated with the same condemnation in the Bible, but wearing certain fabrics, eating certain common foods, and mundane activities performed at the “wrong” time are considered “abominations” that call for the same severe penalty. Why is there no mention from the church about any of those things?

  4. AJ AJ says:

    THANK YOU for this educated, well written reinforcement. My mother used to say, “Your freedom ends where my nose (in this case EARS), begin!” Your freedom to believe what you want does NOT give you the freedom to tell me how believe. Would ALLLLLL of us would practice this thought on a day to day basis.

  5. Mistress of the Mix Mistress of the Mix says:

    RIGHT ON. Thank you.

  6. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    It strikes me that most of the religious people who are homosexual or bisexual by inclination and decide to undertake conversion therapy are doubling down on Pascal’s wager. Pascal was a genius for the ages who converted to Christianity and pious living relatively late in life.

    Pascal argued that humans bet with their lives that God does or doesn’t exist. He reasoned that rational people should live as though the Biblical God exists and seek to comply with the Bible, even in the face of uncertainty. If God does not actually exist, such people will have only a finite loss (pleasures in this lifetime); whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell) if God does exist and they toe the line.

    Pascal was blunt: He said that the existence of God was so uncertain that the choice to believe or not was, for all practical purposes, a coin toss. He reasoned that he was compelled by probability theory—he had to bet on infinity, because infinity is a long-ass time.

    To argue to religious fundamentalists that they might be messing up their earthly lives or the lives of others with conversion therapy is somewhat folly. They’re thinking: Whatever, man……the Bible says it’s a no-no, and it’s the long bet that matters.

    Put another way: We’re at the point in this Bethel/homosexuality debate where we’re clearly talking past each other, and that seems unlikely to change if both sides keep focusing on what the other side is getting wrong.

    • The curious thing about infinity is that you can’t ever quite get there. That troubles me. (I miss Ally McBeal.)

      Mathematically a circle is never complete; the ends don’t truly meet. And yet we reference circles all the time when talking about family, love and friendship.

      So I guess the idea here is that the appearance of something being known and complete is enough.

      • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

        Well, no need to get hung up on infinity. Pascal said that his logic would hold even if you were betting just three lifetimes against your one current lifetime. It’s just that the Bible promises an eternity of satisfaction (vs. non-satisfaction).

        I’m with you (I think) on being satisfied with what’s known and complete. For me, there’s really no alternative.

        • Something that has long frustrated me is architectural marvels that defy gravity and yet are sure and strong — despite long infinite strings of numbers.

          I’ve read that eight decimal places is sufficient, although some go to forty decimal places.

          Either way pi is irrational. Like me, sometimes. :o)

          https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-much-pi-do-you-need/

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            Just this morning I was thinking back on an academic paper from the late 1970s: “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Program” by Stephen J. Gould and Richard Lewontin.

            Professor Pangloss, from Voltaire’s satire “Candide” was an optimistic idiot who taught that everything was designed “just so” to be perfect. Some Panglossian wisdom:

            “It is demonstrable that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles.”

            I won’t go in to the detail, but in rejecting the “Panglossian Paradigm,” Gould and Lewontin use the weird curves of the church spandrels (the space between the shoulders of adjoining arches and the ceiling or molding above) to argue that not everything is designed by architects (or natural selection) for a purpose or optimal performance. Sometimes Part B is the way it is just because that’s the shape it needs to be in order to transition between Part A and Part C.

          • Avatar Tim says:

            A recurring theme in Buddhism is that of two truths: the relative and the absolute. Greek architects designed the Parthenon to be relatively true. The roof is not straight, the columns are not parallel, etc – yet these “errors” are done in precise proportions to counter the optical illusions created by true geometry.

            It reminds me a bit of the character test Charlie Munger uses when determining whether he’d like to work with someone: Would this person rather be the greatest lover yet known as the worst? Or would he rather be the worst lover yet known as the best?

            As for Pascal’s wager, his error was in assuming his choice was binary: believe the bible and either go to heaven or not, depending only on whether God exists. But even then there were a multitude of religions, many with conflicting beliefs. Had he been thinking rationally, he’d recognize the chances of any particular agent (whether Bill Johnson, Bagwan Rajneesh, or Ali Khamenei) accurately representing the interests of God as infinitesimally low.

            Instead he was fooled by the magic of misdirection as commonly employed by insurance salesmen: “how can you afford not to?!” The implicit assumption is that the cost is small and minor when, in fact, it is not. Your choice, whatever it is, excludes others. That “few dollars a day” for life insurance can no longer be spent doing a great many other things. The time you spend praying to the virgin Mary is time you cannot spend praying to Allah (or meditating towards mindfulness).

          • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

            The Many-Gods Objection*. I’ve always wondered how Pascal failed to see that flaw, but to some large extent he must have been a man of his time and place.

            *My personal favorite is the Professor’s God, who rewards those who humbly remain skeptical in the absence of evidence, and punishes those who adopt theism on the basis of self-interest.

            On a related note, I’ve always wondered how people born where Christianity predominates can assume they somehow made the correct choice, and woe unto to those Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and all others who were also born into their religions, and are delusional. There seems to be almost zero appreciation for the luck of the draw.

          • Avatar Tim Nomdeplume says:

            Yeah, an enternity in Abrahamic heaven would be hell for me. Sitting at the beck and call of a powerful being with a fragile ego who rewards unquestioning followers with rungs of lesser power & authority kinda sounds like a job at the white house…

            The hubris of hardline Jews, Christians, & Muslims thinking of themselves as the “chosen people” has always rubbed me the wrong way. Using the most generous boundaries, Abraham’s promised land is ~60,000 square miles — less than 1% of the Earth’s land area. Do you really want to worship a god who would forsake those living on the other 99% of Earth?

            So I guess I’d pick a sub category of the Professor’s God, the Scientist’s God. Followers accept only the most robust religious tenents: those found all across the globe (tenents like the golden rule). Even then, they recognize them as only theories in the absense of proof.

        • A priest would argue that spandrels are God’s design so that the likes of Michelangelo could: “Veni, vidi spandrels, vici.”

  7. Avatar Liz says:

    Some sexual activity – even between consenting adults is harmful- adultery for example. Some attractions are wrong- hence laws against pedophilia. Some modern musicians have disgusting sexual lyrics- Missy Elliott as a case in point. Succubis and Incubis are scary— hedonism is something Ms. Sutton can address and many even here, may find it as defined and lived by her, to be way past their comfort zone. Churches do help to bring the best out in people including genuine kindness. People trying hard to be faithful to spouses naturally want to turn to their faith for strength. Sex is relatively low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the spirit triumphant is where true happiness is. From the many comments disparaging religion on this site, it is hard not to conclude that most visitors to aNewscafe are of the democrat and or non- religious persuasion. Shasta County is overwhelmingly conservative. How many of them feel comfortable advertising on this site? I believe that Christ was the most kind, perfect person and deity to have ever lived on the planet. When we have troubling questions and emotional pain no matter who we are, we can turn to Christ for answers. I do not attend Bethel but at a point of crisis for one of my family members they prayed a powerful, wonderful prayer that I believe made all the difference.

    • I hear you, Liz, and I appreciate the reminder. Thank you.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      From the comments, MOST visitors to ANewsCafe are anti-religious, you say? Nonsense. One openly gay contributor to this site has said repeatedly that Bethel folks can believe whatever they like when it comes to their religious tenets—he has no qualms about that at all. Many of us have said that “conversion therapy,” even if it’s harmful, shouldn’t be limited by the government if the person seeking it is an able-minded adult and there is no coercion involved.

      Kris Vallotten provided the seed crystal for this public discussion when Bethel posted online his remarks about proposed laws addressing for-fee conversion therapy—it thus entered the public forum. This website has repeatedly provided Bethel folks the opportunity to state their points of view on the topic, and they have. It’s an open conversation—points and counter-points are being made by both sides.

      People who disagree with you on this topic are not thereby anti-religious, and your characterization of them as Democratic is an absurd non sequitur (I’m not). And for the record, it’s fellow Christians who frequently call Bethel’s views and practices demonic. The secularists I know just find it to be interesting, and the church’s forays into local politics concerning.

      • I’m a fellow woman of faith who feels Bethel’s biblical teachings are New Age hypocritical.

        False prophets and all that fun stuff.

        I see a lot of good, meaningful discussion here and welcome hearing from Liz — and with my hoof in my mouth most of the time, I also welcome her spiritual testimony.

    • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

      Commenting here from admin: I have removed comments from proclaiming Christians that say in essence, “everyone who goes to Bethel is a heretic and going straight to hell.”

      We have writers and commentors who are religious but not of Judeo-Christian faiths. The majority of readers never comments at all.

      That’s a pretty oversized brush to paint with.

    • Avatar The Old Pretender says:

      “Churches do help to bring the best out in people including genuine kindness. ” There is just no way to reason with this kind of claptrap.

    • Avatar Nisa Donnelly says:

      I question your assumption that readers are “democrats” of the “non-Christian persuasion”. Do you actually mean that ONLY members of the GOP are Christians? Is that really and truly what you believe? That because you and I do not share political party viewponts or membership or philosophy, YOU are the “good christian” deserving of Heaven, while I, presumably, am consigned to your version of hell? How dare you!

  8. Avatar Liz says:

    Carla DeLauder- you are so welcome. : )

  9. Avatar Jessica French says:

    What an incredible article. Thank you, Nancy!

  10. Avatar Peggy Elwood says:

    I think an excellent article..we all label and judge in order to feel safe or superior and the challenge of recognizing this and not behaving in a hurtful way based on these judgements is so necessary. Acceptance of ourselves and others –healthy.

  11. Avatar Liz says:

    Nisa Donnelly– I can see where you would feel offended as, of course, Democrats can be religious- as my brother is. That was a rough generalization on my part which doesn’t help communication. I also don’t believe in a physical “burning hell” type of scenario, rather the mental emotional burning pain of serious regret (Frank and I have both “had a few”) –I believe a loving God works with all souls to help them progress from where they meet Him. Of course that is a conversation for another day. Best wishes,

  12. Avatar Dr. Nancy says:

    I thank those of you who shared insightful, pertinent comments on this very important topic, Upholding the freedom to choose one’s own personal sexual journey without fear of unwelomed opinions and misplaced judgment.

    I will be adding more responses when I return home – currently I’m teaching abroad.

    Take care of each other – and remember – kindness never goes out of vogue. Namaste, Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce