January 25, 2007

The Virtues of Evangelical Sex

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:26 am

Alexandra Pelosi (whose mother was sitting behind our President last night) has made a documentary on evangelicals. Her tour guide throughout was Ted Haggard, former pastor of the New Life (mega)Church and former President of the NAE. She completed the documentary a week before the revelations of Haggard’s drug-enhanced sexual liaisons with a male prostitute. This interview in Newsweek focuses mostly on her reactions to Haggard’s fall and its impact on her documentary, but there is also this:

Early on in the film, Haggard tells you, “Surveys say that evangelicals have the best sex life of any other group.” He then asks a pair of married, young male parishioners standing nearby how often they have sex with their wives. One of them responds, “Every day. Twice a day.” Then Haggard asks the man how frequently she climaxes. “Every time,” the man says. Leaving all the subtext aside for a moment, I’m wondering if this exchange was in the very first cut of the film, even before the revelations about Haggard came to light?
Yes, it was just a pure, weird coincidence.

What did you think of that conversation when you first witnessed it? And what do you think watching it now?

Well, look, evangelicals have issues with sex. The two biggest issues for them are gay marriage and abortion, both of which are about sex on some level. And he’s standing in the parking lot of a church talking all about sex.

But when I saw that exchange, I wasn’t thinking about either issue. I was thinking about Ted Haggard’s dishonesty. And it also made me wonder about how truthful the other two men were being.
I just think that they’re the only three men in America who have sex with their wives every single day. And hey, good for them.

So sure, the subsequent revelations about Haggard cast all of this in a different light, but let’s just ignore Haggard’s repressed sexual orientation for now. This whole conversation, apparently initiated by Haggard, is totally bizarre!

Let’s start with the claim itself, that evangelicals have better sex lives. What is this supposed to mean? That people with good sex lives are more apt to be evangelical? It’s more likely he meant that being an evangelical Christian improves one’s sex life. When Jesus says we shall have life and have it more abundantly, was he talking about sex every day, twice a day? I’m kinda thinking that wasn’t what Jesus meant. So what is Haggard getting at?

Maybe he’s thinking it’s good evangelism: “if you aren’t satisfied with your sex life, come to church!” After all, sex is used to sell everything else, maybe he figured he could use it to sell Jesus. Now that would be an interesting way to reach the unchurched.

Here’s another thing I can’t help but wonder about — the reaction of the two men of whom Haggard asked a rather personal question. What would you do if your pastor asked you how often you have sex, and how often your wife had an orgasm? I’d be convinced I had stepped into an alternate universe. Now I’m certainly not hung up about sex, and if he asked me these questions in a private conversation because they related to, say, a personal or spiritual crisis I was having, then sure, I’d be happy to talk about it. But in a parking lot? With cameras rolling?

So I suppose the two men clued in to the fact that this was evangelism going on here. But what’s the right answer? “We only have sex for the purposes of procreation, and we are careful not to enjoy it!”? Clearly not — the correct answer is “every day, twice a day” and she climaxes “every time”. That, of course, is nothing but juvenile swagger of the sort most of us grew out of when we started shaving. As far as I’m concerned, anyone that talks about how much sex they’re getting has gotta be a virgin.

Which perhaps is the truth underlying this whole exchange. I’m just speculating, but perhaps this conversation was an attempt by some men with some issues about sex to prove to the outside world that they are just as much “swingers” as all those people having all that sex out there in the secular world, except that their sex is within the bounds of Christian marriage (whoops). Perhaps they imagine that the non-churched are having all this sex, so they have to demonstrate that they are too, and in fact having even more than the non-churched. “Hey, we’re Christians, but that doesn’t mean we’re not ‘wild and craaaaazy guys!'”

I don’t know, I guess that’s being pretty uncharitable, and I don’t mean to be. It’s just this little anecdote prompts so much head-scratching that I can’t help but wonder at the inner life it reveals about the participants. And all this without even considering Haggard’s closeted homosexuality! It boggles the mind.

Update: It looks like Pelosi’s documentary is on HBO tonight, Thursday Jan. 25th, at 9 PM.

4 Comments

  1. That’s ridiculous. Those guys have got to be “bending the truth”, with their wives in on it. Otherwise, that type of bragging would mean the next time they were asked they’d have to say, “We used to do it twice a day, then I bragged about it on camera, and now I have my own bedroom.” At least, that’s what my wife would do.

    And what kind of a guy disrespect his wife like that? Sure, we should be able to talk (relatively) openly about sex as a topic, in the abstract, but I hope you never catch me divulging specifics about my wife and I’s sex life. If you do, slap me in the face. Hard.

    Comment by Elmo — January 25, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  2. I think what really gets me is how Haggard seems to define the quality of one’s sex life in such superficial terms as how often one has sex and whether or not one’s partner achieves climax. It’s the kind of perspective you’d expect from a secularist who sees sex as nothing more than a “physically gratifying activity” rather than someone who sees sex as a more deep spiritual matter. Where’s the talk of intimacy, of forging and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds with one’s partner? Where’s the talk of how beuatiful it is to share something special with one you love deeply?

    Comment by Jarred — January 25, 2007 @ 11:57 am

  3. Jarred –

    Yes! Well said. As someone who will be celebrating my 50th birthday and 23rd wedding anniversary this year, it ain’t about the quantity anymore, if it ever was, but the quality. And the relationship itself.

    Comment by Bob — January 25, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

  4. On the issue of Evangelical sex, I have a thought. If a river flows along its course unbounded, it moves at a decent speed, sometimes churning up at shallow places, and at other times running slow and placid.

    If, OTOH, you take a river, dam it up for several years until a lake builds up behind it and then destroy the dam, it now has enough force to wipe out entire cities.

    (As in the original post, I’m not going to touch the issue of Haggard’s secret gay sex life.)

    Comment by Andrew R. — January 25, 2007 @ 8:57 pm

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