Here’s a confession. When I picked up a copy of Jamie Lee Finch’s book on deconstruction, You Are Your Own: A Reckoning With the Religious Trauma of Evangelical Christianity, as usual the first thing I did was read the back cover of the book. Finch’s bio includes naming her as a “sexuality and embodiment coach, intuitive healer, self-conversation facilitator, sex witch and poet.”
Now my confession: I know what all those things are, but I didn’t know exactly what a “sex witch” might be.
Okay, I set that aside for a bit (I didn’t Google it) and I read the book. The book is much more a memoir,. Jamie Lee Finch telling her own story, connecting it to what we now know about the way religious trauma and PTSD, it’s bodily impact, and how to recover and rebuild from it. I highly recommend the book because it’s not long, it tells a story that many currently recovering from religious trauma will resonate with, and it offers practical insights into the bodily impact of religious trauma and how to heal.
So now back to the sex. Why is it important, why does it matter, that Jamie Lee Finch is a sex witch?
Well please allow me to embarrass myself a bit. As a white middle-aged man, I’m more than 100% convinced that I was raised to think a lot of very specific things about sex, women, witchcraft, and Christianity’s relationship to all of those. Basically, that sex is private and secret and you don’t talk about it, women are who I’m to have sex with (but only in marriage), and witchcraft isn’t real even though our forefathers in Christianity used to kill (mostly) women for practicing it.
Do I have that about right?
Add to this our current culture war moment, about which I know at least a little bit more than most white dudes, and that is that in order to recover from harmful forms of Christianity, we need to queer it. It’s long past time for Christianity to despise, ignore or tolerate queer sexuality. It’s no longer even sufficient to “include” it.
It’s time to queer Christianity. It’s long past time to recognize that queer sexual and gender experience can teach Christianity more about itself, it can make it more faithful and human and divine.
And if that’s the case, then we need to learn some new things about all the things I was taught wrongly about. Basically, that sex is also public and you can talk about it and it’s good, that sex is for more than just me with some someone of the opposite sex in the bonds of holy matrimony, but is instead a deep part of my identity and life and expression of connection to the world, not to mention my own connection to my own body.
And evangelical Christianity gets all of this so terribly wrong because of course it has a messed up relationship to the body and women and anyone who believes things outside the scope of their narrowly defined understanding of the Christian faith.
And what about witchcraft? Well, that’s the part I still know a lot less about, to be honest. So I’m giving it a shot. I invite you to do the same. Start with this podcast, an interview with Jamie Lee Finch and another sex witch about, well, you guessed it, what it means to be sex witches.
Did you listen to the whole thing? If not, I understand. It might be a bit of a stretch for some listeners. I know that it stretched me in multiple ways, some topics felt transgressive.
But then, as I listened more, almost everything I heard that was transgressive actually resonates with Christian understandings of the function of prayer, and the way of faith. And the terms we sometimes stigmatize–like “orgasm”–are understood within these women’s practices differently than we might imagine.
For example, that orgasms are more about resonating with the vibrations of creation than something more traditionally construed. And that witchcraft is about intentions and outcomes, but those intentions are much more about changing ourselves and our energy than doing something to others.
Sex witches see witchcraft as inherently anti-authoritarian, and understand it as something that helps us regain power for healing in our own bodies, and so work for justice.
Much of this understanding of witchcraft is actually what we might think of as the radical side of Christianity itself. I’m thinking here of the prophetic traditions, or even just the radicality of Jesus himself. I could make a long list of the ways the prophets inhabited their bodies differently, even in sexual ways. It’s pretty wild.
So now let’s return to deconstruction. We can see why deconstruction is such a threat to establishment Christianity, because it’s perceived as transgressive and a threat to their own authority.
But because those critical of deconstruction simply can’t think outside of their own framework, instead they have to keep themselves as talking heads on stage and assert noetic approaches to faith. They’re so out of touch with their bodies, and the bodies of others, that they simply can’t comprehend what recovery from religious trauma feels like “in the body” of the people they have harmed.
Surprise surprise, abusers don’t understand what those who they have harmed need for healing. And they simply want to keep their victims in their orbit so they can continue the harm.
And such abusive religious contexts have made sexuality the central battleground in their systems of control because in the end they know it’s the control or release of the body that is the most powerful of all.
The sex witches know this also. Which is why when they speak out, they don’t beat around the bush. It won’t be enough to simply tell everyone its okay to masturbate. Part of healing will be masturbation itself.
It’s not enough to share on the book that you’re talking about deconstruction, and then save the “sex witch” stuff for your web site. “Sex witch” needs to be in the biography, because really “sex witch” is the preacher those who have experienced the trauma induced by authoritarian evangelical Christianity need.
I’ll leave all of that right there for the time-being. I would like to learn more. And I would say one more thing: my interest as a pastor is in rapprochement between Christianity and sex witch. I think authentic historical Christianity shares much in common with the spiritual of sex witches. After I spend a lot more time unlearning and learning anew, maybe we can talk about that.