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Salvation Army Against Sexual Pleasure

I guess I should not have been surprised but the ignorance of sexual repression always astonishes me. Here is what happened:

I went to a women’s shelter staffed by the Salvation Army with the intention of offering free admission for any of the woman who wanted to attend my fall programming on “Meditations on the Gift of Sexuality.” I asked the program staff person,

“Would you have anyone here who could benefit from a program focused on positive body images and self-care? My program on 10/15 is specifically about the body and I would be glad to give waivers for them.” I handed her the postcard that showed the titles of all three programs.

At first it appeared she would allow me to post a flyer and let the women sign up. Then, she noticed that the name of the second program was, “Meditations on the Gift of Sexual Pleasure.” Then she became skittish and told me she would have to have permission. I replied, “Fine. Tell them that I am Reverend Dr Dale.” She responded, “We only teach what is in the Bible,” to which I quickly responded, “So do I.” She was not a happy camper.

She said, “We teach that sex can only happen in marriage and we’re are against premarital sex.” I was a bit confused. How did marriage suddenly get on the table for discussion? I responded,

“My program is not about marriage. It is about sexual pleasure.”

“Exactly” she said. “We can’t support that.”

I was thunderstruck! What just happened here? She is telling me the kind of programs I have to teach? They don't allow any discussion about sexual pleasure unless it includes a lecture that attempts to control enjoyment so it would only occur in the confines of marriage???Never mind that I came to talk about body image and a  different program altogether!

Evidently, according to the Salvation Army we are not allowed to experience any sexual thrills while salivating over our favorite gorgeous actor in a movie or on tv. And we most certainly can’t have any sexual pleasure in the privacy of our own bedrooms even by ourselves. And I am fairly certain that they believe we aren’t allowed to have any sexual fantasies either within or without marriage!

Given that sexual fantasies and desires spring spontaneously to the human mind unbidden, for  some of us multiple times a day, doesn’t it make more sense to think about our attitudes toward pleasure rather than try (in vain!) to shut down these feelings? Because, if we are created to have these unbidden and unexpected thoughts and feelings then why, in heaven’s name, would they be worthy of some divine judgment and condemnation? I suppose their answer is simplistically, “Because they are wrong/sinful.” But feelings are not wrong and sinful. To say they are is to say that God made us wrong. Feelings are what make us human. And how we act on them is what determines moral or immoral actions. But the chances of immoral actions are much greater if we expend all our energy trying to deny and repress natural feelings. And since pleasure is about joy why in heaven’s name (again!) would God require us to repress joy?

But, if their premise is correct then we had best rip out the Song of Songs from the Bible and let’s make sure that we never consider the sensuality found in Jesus’ parables, and, oh my, let’s not even go there with the woman washing his feet with her hair. God forbid there might have been sexual pleasure under the surface of that story!

So here is my question: Why would anyone want to be a part of any religious organization that is against pleasure, especially sexual pleasure?

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