An Exclusive Excerpt from God and Boobs

Robert H. Schuller is best known as the founder of both the Hour of Power television program and the Crystal Cathedral. He’s easily ranked among the kings of televangelism.

That’s why it’s a something of a shock that his granddaughter, Angie Schuller Wyatt, has just written a book exploring the intersection of faith and sexuality. It’s called (no joke) God and Boobs:

Christian publishers refused to put out this book (despite her famous name and the fact that her family members are bestselling authors in their own right) so she did it herself. When news of her book hit Christian circles, even the one closest to her, she was embraced with whatever you call the opposite of open arms:

… Schuller Wyatt was scheduled to appear on the Hour of Power broadcast where her brother Robert “Bobby” Schuller III preaches. But when word got out that Schuller Wyatt had written God and Boobs, she was unceremoniously dumped via email from a church executive who gave no explanation.

That happened despite both sides agreeing that the cover of the book wouldn’t be shown on air and the word “boobs” would never be uttered. Still, Angie stands by what she wrote:

“I’m tired of religious bullies dictating to women how we should live our lives. In my work as a pastor, I counseled too many women who felt ashamed of their sexuality and were silenced into submission. I am trying to empower them to feel good about themselves.

More power to her if she can help bring about that change.

Angie was kind enough to let me reprint an exclusive excerpt from her book from the chapter entitled “Sexuality and Art”:

Spiritual leaders have been guilty of teaching women to hide their figures in dumpy clothes, to avoid thinking about sex and to ignore their sexual desires. Whether Protestant or Catholic, most religious rules about sex result in women feeling their sexuality is shameful. Women in my religious circle won’t typically admit to their friends or pastors that they’ve felt this way, but they will tell their counselors. In the privacy of a safe setting, they talk of things like having to endure looks from their pastor that made them feel dirty. Making matters worse is the rampant hypocrisy in religion. The same leaders who set strict boundaries on sexuality are often exposed for exploiting sex in their private lives. When their sins come to light, they’re revealed as consumers of pornography, prostitution and illegal sex-enhancing drugs. Certainly, not all spiritual leaders are guilty of this kind of hypocrisy, but it is prevalent enough to cast a shadow on the world’s prominent religions.

The devout Christian women I know tend to heed their leaders’ advice. Every piece of clothing is viewed through the lens of lust. Will this shirt show too much cleavage? Is my hemline too short? Am I going to cause a man to sin? They end up thinking about their cleavage as much as the men around them do.

I once heard a pastor chide women in his church for wearing tops that were cut too low. If the congregation wasn’t thinking about breasts walking into the building, they were certainly thinking about them as they walked out. I heard nothing else the pastor said that day. I kept thinking to myself: How low it too low? Who is the appointed Cleavage Monitor? Who draws the line between sinner and saint?

Years ago, my brother told me that if a man is going to lust, he’s going to lust. You could put a girl in a potato sack and he’d still become aroused. It’s our own conscience that must resolve the questions of sexual expression and attire.

Enhanced by breasts, hips and figures that curve, a woman’s body is shaped by God. It’s a beautiful piece of art, meant to be alluring and sensual in all the right places. But religious women feel insecure about their curves to the point of layering on their clothes until they’ve covered every inch of their femininity.

This point was driven home by a friend, who told me about a film crew from a local news organization that was reporting on a major Christian women’s conference in her city. She knew about the situation because she worked at the conference behind the scenes. The crew was trying to wrap the shoot, but they couldn’t seem to get the footage they wanted. The hold-up? They needed an interview and couldn’t find a single woman, she was told, who looked like a cute, normal girl and not “a bag lady.”

Are women meant to live this way? Is this what God requires of us? Does God want us to feel shame about our sexuality? Women deserve a shame-free existence. They should explore, adore and adorn their shapes. There’s nothing shameful about a womanly figure that evokes sexual feelings, because women, like men, were designed to have sex. It’s natural. There are ways to embrace our figures, without putting them on display, to celebrate them and keep them sacred.

I should reiterate: Angie is still a Christian pastor and the book doesn’t shy away from promoting religion. But I love that she’s tackling these issues from her vantage point. If change is going to happen in the church, it has to come from within.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions for her, and Angie told me she is open to answering them. Leave your questions in the comments below and I’ll select a handful to send her way.

In the meantime, God and Boobs is now available for purchase.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Rain

    My question is: I hear that Hell is a nasty place. Do you spend all of your money keeping people out of it? Or do you have a nice house and cars and go to fancy restaurants and buy other nice things with your money. So do you spend all of your money keeping people out of hell, or only part of your money on that. I won’t bother watching for an answer because I don’t want to hear a load of BS. Have a nice day.

    • Pattrsn

      What is this some kind of weird drive by anarcho-situationist poem?

    • ortcutt

      I hear that Mordor is a nasty place too. Do you spend all your shillings keeping people out of it? Or do you have a nice place in Rivendell and fine horses and go to fancy taverns in the Shire and buy other nice coats of mail with your money. So do you spend all of your money keeping hobbits out of Mordor, or only part of your shillings on that. I won’t bother watching for an answer because I don’t want to hear a load of orcish grunting. Have a nice day.

    • Xuuths

      I hear the planet Vulcan is a nasty place. I’ve even seen photos and several movies that take place (at least in part) there. Do you spend all of your money keeping people away from it? Oh, that’s right, Vulcan is a fictional, made-up place. Reminds me of some part of your post…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000626052643 Gaby Abed

      I hear that the Ice Planet Hoth is a nasty place. It snows every day, there are no decent beaches, and infrastructure is woefully lacking. As the chief imperial quantity surveyor, I have to justify the costs of development in this lackluster backwater. Let the damn rebel alliance come here, I don’t care.

    • LesterBallard

      To whom is your questioned addressed?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I lived with some Christian friends years ago and his wife always wore the ankle length skirts and dressed very modestly even though she was, still is a gorgeous woman with a very nice figure but slowly overtime she started to wear jeans, first around the house and then slowly outside but never beyond the house but one day she went to the mall to get her hair done and she wore her jeans.

    When she came back she didn’t even look like the same woman. Hair was done nicely, makeup, jeans and a new top.

    Sadly it didn’t last and she reverted back to her normal self, the way she was raised to be a good wife. Cook, clean, make your husband happy and raise the children.
    She wore her jeans now and then but never around family. The horror that would have been if her father saw her in a pair of tight jeans showing off her butt. Kind of sad to see it first hand where a gorgeous young lady can be made to feel that way.

  • NewEnglandBob

    God has nothing to do with it, evolution does, just like it does for every species. Why does she not recognize what science has shown with tons of evidence?

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      Those who are raised with the idea that all laws are interpreted and even interpret only the pieces of “evidence” they wish to from their bible often have no trouble dismissing scientific proof of any sort.

      An extreme lack of education in the sciences is present in many theists.

  • Lucilius

    I’ve always liked the Buddhist story of the young and old monk coming to a river crossing, and finding an elegant courtesan on the bank. She asked them to carry her across. The young monk, mindful of monastic strictures against associating with women, refused to look at or speak to her. The old monk, however, willingly shouldered the woman and carried her to the opposite bank. The young monk was appalled at this violation of discipline, and spend several hours trying to figure out how a senior monk could have done it. Finally he asked. The old monk replied, “I put her down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

    Point: those obsessed by religious dogma of any stripe will also obsess about sex.

    Also, there’s the interesting contrast of behavior in places where people tend to wear little clothing, vs. where everything’s covered: In Saudi Arabia, an ankle can fuel sexual frenzy; but in New Guinea, if someone wants sexual attention they’ll add something to the bare body as adornment.

    • C Peterson

      Humans obsess about sex- it’s our nature. Some, but by no means all religions turn it into something used for control, typically by making it “dirty”. Those raised under those religions tend to be psychologically damaged by this.

      Your story is a good one, but I wouldn’t compare Buddhism to Christianity when it comes to sex. Buddhism does not generally treat sex as bad or dirty. It suggests that those seeking the greatest enlightenment should be moderate in all their impulses- sex is treated no differently than eating, drinking, or anything else with a sensual component. And those who choose a different path than the monastery are not seen as “sinners”. Buddhism certainly has its problems, and there are some sects that are purely crazy, but broadly, it is nothing like Christianity when it comes to sex and sexual “sin”.

  • houndies

    maybe this book will be a jumping off place for her and she will find her way out of religion into the world of the sane. Just the reception her book has gotten from her xtian family should be a wake up call.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-De-Fleuriot/611844223 Mike De Fleuriot

      if not her, maybe one or more of her readers will continue the questioning.

    • Marella

      These were my thoughts exactly. The whole point about Abrahamic religions is to control people, women especially, with shame and fear. She’s going to be shocked at the violence of the reaction she receives from Christians, her own people. This is bound to lead to more questioning and could easily be the beginning of the end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

    Weren’t the Christian publishers totally cool with it when Mark Driscoll was extolling the virtues of anal sex within a Chrisitan hetero marriage?

    • 3lemenope

      Yeah, but he’s male. They’re allowed.

  • C Peterson

    The Abrahamic religions are utterly obsessed with sex. Indeed, more than anything else, any bit of dogma, they are fundamentally defined by their obsession with sex. It’s a powerful indicator that these religions are the product of damaged people, and should be rejected.

    More power to this woman for trying to change things, but it’s not going to happen. Instead of trying to make Christians go against their most fundamental dogma, against the very roots of their religion, she should be leading them away from Christianity completely, and on to more moral belief systems. That’s something where she might actually have some success.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      I agree with your sentiment but it would not work.

      Leading people “astray” is not easy. By working from within, if she can shift viewpoints far enough, then eventually, they may be ready for someone to throw off religion altogether.

      But many Christians in general are far too involved in their faith to abandon it. Their livelihoods, social lives, and family lives are all tied into their religion.

      • C Peterson

        A lot more people stop being Christian than actively become so. Our culture is changing, and escaping that evil is becoming easier all the time. Guides help.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

          Yes. But you have to introduce it in pieces, and some people are so tied into their identity as a Christian that it’s inextricable. Even if they’re still wrong with their religion, we can help them be less wrong by encouraging this kind of humanist dialogue and thought processes, and maybe eventually they’ll be ready to change overall. And even if they’re not, they’ll still be less bad than they were.

          • C Peterson

            Well, like I said, more power to her. I just don’t think the approach is likely to be very successful. Trying to maintain Christianity while rejecting its intrinsic sexual biases and misogyny is like trying to tell pedophiles they’re fine, just stop lusting after children. Not going to work.

    • Pseudonym

      The Abrahamic religions are utterly obsessed with sex.

      Compared to what. though? The Abrahamic religions have historically been far, far less obsessed with sex than modern Western culture is.

      It would be hard to argue that the Renaissance-era Catholic church, or the restoration-era Church of England, spent a lot of time obsessed with sex (in the sense of trying to control sex, as opposed to trying to have sex). Even the puritans were extremely pro-sex.

      Every generation thinks it invented sex (or invented good sex), which is never true. Sexual puritanism is actually fairly new, coinciding more or less with the rise of the middle class, but not really coming into its own until the 20th century.

      But it’s an easy mistake to make for two reasons.

      First, religions were often obsessed with stuff that was related to sex, but not sex itself. The ancient Hebrews, for example, were obsessed with lineage.

      Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Americans have always been prudes, and so Americans tend to project that prudishness onto other cultures and eras. Many of myths about supposedly prudish cultures (e.g. the Victorian era in Britain) can be explained by that alone.

      • Pseudonym

        Sorry, I forgot to complete one important thought: You say this like modern secular Western culture isn’t obsessed with sex. It’s on every billboard and in every magazine. It’s the main topic of pretty much every sitcom.

        If anything, modern (and it is a very modern development) religion’s obsession with sex could easily be interpreted as a reaction.

        • C Peterson

          I don’t think you read my comment elsewhere in this discussion. As I said, humans are by nature obsessed with sex. The obsession that Abrahamic religions have with it is to make it dirty and use it for control. These religions are obsessed with sex itself, not stuff related to sex.

          • Pseudonym

            I hadn’t read it, no. I don’t think it really helps your point, though. Religion’s historic relationship to sex is no worse than modern consumer culture’s relationship to sex.

            To almost all religions (including Abrahamic ones), sex isn’t dirty. Quite the opposite, actually: it’s sacred. The common only religions that think sex is dirty (that I’m aware of) are American ones.

  • ortcutt

    Robert Schuller was one of the scariest people from my childhood. The way he smiled and the weird cadence of his speech made him look like The Joker. Being in a “Crystal Cathedral” with an “Hour of Power” made him seem even more like a comic-book supervillain. I hated flipping through the channels on a Sunday morning for fear of landing on his ghastly visage. Am I alone in this?

    • Pseudonym

      It’s weird what we find spooky as kids.

      Having said that, isn’t “Hour of Power” one of the more benign and mainstream televangelism outfits? I can’t recall anything particularly odious from my early morning channel-flipping.

  • Revyloution

    Interesting topic. I do have a serious questions:

    Early on in the quoted piece, you said ” I kept thinking to myself: How low it too low? Who is the appointed Cleavage Monitor? Who draws the line between sinner and saint?”. This is an excellent question, who does get to decide what is decent or indecent? The very idea of judgement of others is against some of Jesus’ teachings (which is then in opposition to the laws of the Old Testament, some of which are quite specific about who can and should be judged by men), but that very judgmental attitude drives away people from their churches. How do you reconcile these opposing ideas from the Bible?

    Another question, you seemed opposed to a person appointing themselves as the judge of what is decent or not, then you said “There are ways to embrace our figures, without putting them on display, to celebrate them and keep them sacred.” which makes me wonder, how low of a neck line is ‘putting your figure on display’ and which is celebrating it? Haven’t you just set yourself up as the next arbiter of what is decent and what isn’t?

    • J-Rex

      I don’t think she means “This much cleavage is celebrating, while this much is putting it on display.” It’s more about the feeling that women get when they put on clothes that look good, but then feel ashamed of themselves for wanting to look good. In Christian circles, there is basically no difference between looking good and “asking for it.” It’s about helping women realize that wanting to look attractive is completely normal, and looking attractive doesn’t mean that they’re trying to lure men in for sex.

  • flyb

    How does she feel about “no sex before marriage” (another silly religious idea seemed to be pushed on women mostly)? Is that addressed in her book?

    • jdm8

      I would hope she addresses that. Especially in view of the recent story where a Christian college fired a woman for engaging in premarital sex and then offered the job to her fiancé.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DAAWDM Denise A Wz

    I’d like to take a moment to ask the author (whose book is now in my list for purchase because of my specific area of interest and research) what her view is on public school sex education, and how does the topic of faith and female sexuality intersect with that, from her vantage point?

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

    Good for her! Although much of what the evangelical world teaches about sex is still harmful, at least this book is a step in the right direction.

  • Claude

    Ms. Schuller Wyatt,

    In the Book of Genesis, Eve starts the chain of reaction that leads to the Fall of all humankind. What effect does the story of Eve have on the Christian women you know, if any?

  • watert

    did someone say boobs?

  • http://twitter.com/dougphilips Doug Philips

    And on the eighth day, god made orb shaped mammary glands and in the process created a billion dollar business in the San Fernando Valley.

  • cipher

    Fascinating. It’s precisely the same among ultra-Orthodox Jews. Their rabbis are obsessed with sex – and of course, all of the responsibility is placed upon the women, who constantly exhorted not to tempt men to sin, or even to have lustful thoughts. Girls are thrown out of school for wearing skirts fractions of an inch shorter than the guidelines allow. It’s an absolutely psychotic subculture.

  • Mario Strada

    Nice cover picture. But no boobs? I would think the least we could expect of a book with “boobs” in the title is to get some examples to… evaluate?

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

    Every piece of clothing is viewed through the lens of lust. Will this shirt show too much cleavage? Is my hemline too short? Am I going to cause a man to sin? … Who draws the line between sinner and saint? … Years ago, my brother told me that if a man is going to lust, he’s going to lust.

    This is the crux of the problem, and it seems like Angie still accepts the premise that lust is a bad thing. Is there any way for evangelicals to embrace their sexuality, shame-free, if they truly believe that every desire and fantasy outside of marriage is inherently wrong?

  • Marella

    Interesting sub-title, “Balancing Faith and Sexuality”. This implies that Christianity and sexuality are in opposition to each other, which is true of course, but probably not what she wanted to say. Women’s sexuality has to be controlled at all costs for religion to suceed, and she is going to be in for a very nasty backlash if previous experience anything to go by.

  • Claude

    Does God want us to feel shame about our sexuality?

    In Genesis after the Fall Adam and Eve realized they were naked and felt ashamed. God did not encourage them to get over it and be proud of their bodies; instead he unleashed a world of hurt on the unhappy wisdom-seekers.

    So I would have to guess, “Yes!”

  • CJ

    What she calls “sexual lust”, I call instinct. r

  • http://profiles.google.com/jennie.erwin Jennie Erwin

    Hemant, Thanks for covering this and getting an excerpt!

    I have a question for Angie. All the shaming in Christianity is done to women, it’s always the women’s fault for showing *insert body part here*. Has she had any success with the men in her life in getting them to accept/own-up-to the part their own thoughts and urges have on the “problem” of lustful thinking? Beyond her brother’s private thoughts on the potato bag.

    How does she handle the arguments based on the fictional character of Eve? (i.e. Eve sinned first, so all women must pay the price.)
    Thanks!

  • Thin-ice

    I’ll bet 90% of evangelical pastors look at internet tits every week, and then preach against pornography addiction on Sundays.

    It took me 46 years to de-convert and then finally admit that male homo sapiens actually have a biological proclivity to find naked female bodies attractive, and that it’s not evil to gaze upon the same.

    Hypocrisy continues to reign supreme in evangelical culture.

  • McAtheist

    Breathlessly anticipating the next two volumes of the trilogy: ‘God and Pussy’ and ‘God and Cock’.

  • OnlinecounsellingJamaica

    Looooonnnnnggggg overdue…..!!!!!


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