Angie Schuller Wyatt, the granddaughter of famous televangelist Robert H. Schuller, wrote a book exploring the intersection of faith and sexuality called God and Boobs and I published an excerpt from it last week.
Afterwards, a lot of you had questions for Wyatt, who is still a Christian. I sent a handful of them along to her and she wrote back with responses, adding that the comments from all of you were “totally hilarious and nearly all respectful of my views despite our differences. For that, thank you.” Our exchange is below:
In the Book of Genesis, Eve starts the chain 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?
I write about the fall of humanity extensively in a chapter of my book called “It’s Not Your Fault.” I wanted to uncover how religious bullies have taken “Eve’s fall” out of context and used it to shame women. The women I know probably wouldn’t point to this specific story; however, they often live under the effects of its teaching. A great example is pornography. I know married women who think it’s their fault if their husband is addicted pornography. I write about one woman who got a boob job because she thought being sexier would solve her husband’s problem and improve their sex life. She thought, “his sin is my fault,” which is the basic teaching associated with the Genesis account. If women think this way, then what other sins are women responsible to resolve? At its extreme, this thinking is the premise to women assuming responsibility for physical and sexual abuse.
The real point of the Genesis account is that all humans are susceptible to deception. My friend says, “humans are the only species capable of lying to themselves, and then believing the lie.” For women, sometimes the biggest lie we believe is that it’s all our fault, when is just isn’t.
What’s your view on public school sex education?
My maternal grandfather taught Spanish as a first language at an East LA high school. Because of his influence, I have a profound respect for educators. They are often filling in the gaps for absentee parents. That’s the primary reason I support sex education in public schools.
Proper sex education, of course, includes teaching teens the ramifications of various types of sexual activities. It’s up to the families to instill morals; however, even non-religious therapists agree that teens are not mature enough to be sexually active. And so I would hope that public educators are not encouraging teen sex, and I’m sure most are not.
I don’t think that my faith has a specific influence on my opinion about sex education. Generally, I think sex should be discussed in school, at the dinner table, and in church. This is where I part ways with most people who share my faith; talking about sex in any context is still taboo. And when it is discussed, it’s usually done at marriage conferences and taught by married men who have weird, sexist ideas [about] sex. And then, they tend to over-shoot by talking about it in explicit ways so as to prove they aren’t prudish. It’s quite bizarre. In contrast, I believe that the more guidance we give our children, the better equipped they are to navigate our “sex sells” world. Children are exposed to sex at such young ages and in disrespectful ways. They need positive reinforcement at every turn, and particularly at school.By the way… the other topic that must to be taught in school is financial management.
Have you had any success in getting the men in your life to accept how their own thoughts and urges influence the “problem” of lustful thinking?
Yes! I’ve had great success in this area. It’s taken me by surprise. In launching God and Boobs, young women 18-35 respond the most enthusiastically to the message, followed by men 40+ who have wives and daughters. It’s typically middle-aged women who initially push back at the title and its provocative cover image. Men seem to understand the concept right away. A man already knows that a woman doesn’t have to seduce him in order for him to desire her or fantasize about her. I think they were just waiting for one of us to stand up and say so.
After I debuted God and Boobs, a male pastor approached me to share his thoughts. He said that his church doesn’t permit for male employees to lunch with another female coworker or congregant unless a third party is present. After listening to my message, he realized that this rule was degrading to both sexes. The rule was established because the organization assumed that male employees were incapable of seeing women as something other than an object. I thought his concession signaled a great success for women in his church.
What are your thoughts about abstinence before marriage?
When I got married, I was a 30-year-old virgin. I’m for abstinence. However, I do not talk about abstinence in my book. Teachings on abstinence are so abused by religious leaders that I didn’t even want to address the topic. If Christians were going to build a modern-day golden calf, it would be 10-story chastity belt.
In religious circles, virginity is idolized and girls who are or have been sexually active are treated as inferior to other girls. Omitting abstinence as a topic in my book was my way of declaring sovereignty. I want to say to women: Virginity is not my idol. And so, I’m not going to make abstinence a noose around your neck either. Instead, I talk about the sanctity of sex. I’d rather talk to women about seeing our bodies as valuable, our sexuality as something to be cherished, and intimacy as a private matter not meant to be shared with an entire online community. These are good frameworks for talking about a healthy sexuality. I don’t want to be the purity-police, but I do want to help women who have genuine questions about their sexuality.
If you appreciate her answers, you’ll want to check out the entire book!