CTBHHM: Sexual Intercourse = Our Relationship With Jesus

by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love, Joy, Feminism

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 171—173

This week’s section brought up a lot of fairly random thoughts for me. For instance, is possible that the Pearls’ discussion of sex as “holy” has helped some couples get over the sexual hangups they’ve developed from years of seeing sex as sinful and wrong? (I actually think yes.) And, is Debi printing letters she actually received, or is she making them up to illustrate her points? (I really really want to know this!) But perhaps most importantly of all, am I the only one disturbed by the idea that God designed sex between a man and a woman to be an illustration of his relationship with us? (I think no.)

But enough of such musings! Let’s get started!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,

When I picked up your book, Holy Sex, I was afraid to read it. I thought you would tell me that what I was feeling was wrong—but you didn’t, and instead you have given me a wonderful gift.

We have been married for twenty-six years, and our love is getting better as we grow older. Sex has always been fulfilling; we each seek to please each other. I have a wonderful partner in bed, and I am blessed!

Enjoying my husband has always been fine with me, but I have experienced a deeper longing and a “hunger” for him. I thought this was wrong. Times when I kissed and touched him from head to toe, for me were feelings of adoration and sometimes worship of him, and I felt it was wrong. I loved him so much, and I desired to pour all of my being into him, but I struggled with whether it was right to do so.

There are times when I am so into him that at the end of our loving, I weep. He has asked me why, and I can’t explain, other than, with all that I am, I feel grateful for his love, I feel completely satisfied.

You have helped me accept that our Creator designed us to be spirit, soul, and body, and that “oneness” in flesh can be more than physical; it can have a spiritual and emotional essence that is pure.

It was two this morning when I finished your book. I woke my beloved and shared myself with him without reservation. I wept in his arms afterwards, and all was good. Thank you for your book, Holy Sex.

Brenda

First, did Debi make this letter up? Maybe? Second, if the letter is real, did Debi’s books help this woman deal with some sexual hangups? Maybe? This letter left me with questions.

I can’t help but feel that Debi is still avoiding female pleasure here. Maybe this is unfair of me. After all, Brenda does say that “Sex has always been fulfilling; we each seek to please each other.” However, this letter taken as a whole made me think of what Debi has written earlier, actually—that a woman is to be an active and engaged sexual partner for the sake of her husband’s pleasure. Brenda writes that she adores her husband, and is totally into him, and even that she worships him, but she never really talks about her husband’s orientation toward her.

Overall, this letter’s tone made me uncomfortable. Of course, there are some things to like here. The brief mention of each seeking “to please each other” and the suggestion of sexual hangups left to the wayside are both positive things. Still, I found the one-sided talk of worship, proceeding from wife to husband, a bit problematic, and I found the last paragraph more suggestive of an invented letter than a real one.

After this letter, Debi adds some words of her own.

Marriage between a man and woman is a picture of our relationship with Christ. It is a great mystery. The physical union between a man and a woman is so beautiful, so otherworldly, that God uses sexual intercourse to illustrate our relationship with him.

No.

I’m trying to figure out how to even make sense of sexual intercourse as an illustration of our relationship with Christ. Christ . . . penetrates (and Debi is talking about penetration here) the Church? Christ and the Church mutually pleasure each other? But that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? Christ and the Church do not have an equal relationship—at least not in fundamentalism or evangelicalism. Christ has all the cards, and the Church’s role is to worship and reverence him. Yes, Christ loves the church, but there’s a tremendous power differential there (again, we’re talking about the evangelical/fundamentalist view). This is what Brenda’s comment about worshiping and adoring her husband was meant to refer to—if the sexual relationship between her and her husband is to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church, her worship and adoration of him is clearly an integral component.

The great mystery includes spiritual closeness, emotional openness, the intensity of feelings, and the act of loving copulation. Marriage in all its completeness is what God chose as an example of Christ and the Church. It wasn’t something figured out by Adam and Eve passed down through the ages to us.

In other words, God designed sex, on purpose.

“Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). 

This message, like that of the previous paragraph, is a very positive one when delivered within evangelical and fundamentalist culture. For some evangelicals and fundamentalists, who grow up feeling guilty about their “lust” and sexual feelings, it can be difficult to embrace sex within marriage without struggling with feelings of uncleanness, or of doing something wrong.

Brenda’s great satisfaction did not come because her husband was so spiritual, sensitive, or endowed with some special gift. This couple is experiencing what God intends for all married couples. In husband-and-wife relationships, God always speaks first to the wife, telling her to submit, and then to the husband, to love. Brenda’s relationship with her husband started with her attitude of honor and thanksgiving toward him. You can see where it took her.

I’m really not sure where Debi gets this idea that God speaks to women first from, and it seems just weird that she says God speaks to women first . . . and simply tells them to shut up and obey their husbands. Notice, too, that Debi follows this with the idea that Brenda’s relationship with her husband “started with” her love and honor of him. This is the idea, again, that if a woman just honors and submits to her husband, her husband will come to love her as Christ loved the Church, but that her submission comes first—something Debi has said before more than once.

Finally, if we’re to assume that Brenda’s letter is real, I don’t see how what Debi says here completely fits. Brenda doesn’t say that her relationship with her husband started with her honor and thanksgiving toward him, or that he was unloving to her until she showered him with adoration—these are Debi’s suggestions and Debi’s suggestions alone. Brenda, in contrast, says her sexual relationship has always been good, and frames the problem as one of her own hangups, not as a problem between her and her husband that required her adoration and submission to fix. Whether this suggests that the letter is real and that Debi is misreading it, or that the letter is fake and Debi is adding backstory, I do not know.

Next comes this introduction to a second letter:

As I was finishing up this book, I received a large box in the mail. It was full of nice, home-canned apples and pumpkin-bread mix. The office ladies who receive the mail could smell the wonderful aroma through the unopened box! Since I did not recognize the name of the sender, I searched and finally found a letter explaining the wonderful gift. Here is her letter for you to enjoy. We ate apple pie the next day.

And here’s the letter:

Dear Michael and Debi Pearl,

Hello! My husband and I are very thankful to you both! We have just finished watching the videos on marriage (Husbands Love Your Wives, Wives Honor Your Husbands). I found myself apologizing to my husband many times. We watched the wife tape first, and a week later my husband said it was time to watch the husband tape. As he put it in, he jokingly said to me, “I’m a little scared.” It was great.

What was great, the video, or hearing her husband admit to being scared?

Well, then I read the Holy Sex book and, WOW, thanks a lot! That is when I decided to send you my apple pie in a jar and the pumpkin spice bread, which are two awesome aromas to have baking.

Question: Why was this letter not packed in the box with the apple pie filling and the pumpkin spice bread mix?

My husband recently commented on how great God is, and he said that a year ago he would have said it was God who was breaking us up (my fault for trying to play his conscience), but NOW it is God bringing us closer together!

I cannot tell you enough how grateful I am. I can see the peace and joy even in our children. I personally think every woman should read the Holy Sex book, and I have already passed it on to several friends, and they and their husbands are also very thankful. I am currently talking to my pastor’s wife to see if she would read it.

This is a very accurate example of how the Pearls’ ideas—and their books—spread.

My friend and I joke that when we are older, she will teach wives how to submit and I will teach them to belly dance in front of their husbands. Smile! Oh, what a joy life is becoming in our house! I praise God for being so patient with me and for the many blessings we have. It always amazes me how great and vast the Father’s love is. Well, enjoy your treats, because we are enjoying ours! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Basically, in Debi’s view, a woman is supposed to act as a stripper or porn star dedicated to meeting the needs of one specific man—her husband.

His Help Meet,

Melanie

Again with the conflation of God and husband in these letter endings. It’s traditional for evangelicals and fundamentalists to end with “In Him” or “In His Love” or some such statement referring, of course, to Jesus. Melanie uses the word “His,” but she’s actually referring to her husband, not, as would traditionally be assumed, to Jesus, and that’s just weird.

I feel like I’ve been all over the map in this one. In sum, Debi appears to view sex as an act in which the wife worships, adores, and reverences her husband, rather than as a simple act of mutual pleasure and intimacy. Next week we get to the exceptions—sexual perversions.

Read everything by Libby Anne!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism

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