06 May 2013

Scripture, Sex and a Dance Hall in Texas

I tend to be quiet about my faith, but as a wordsmith I know better than to try to improve when someone else has already put something perfectly so I refer you to the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 7, verse 1:
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
It's a tenet of my world view and always has been. Even if you're the staunchest atheist, it's difficult to attack that line. Don't be so anti-faith that you won't even agree with Scripture that makes sense and is fair. Even a broken clock is right twice a day (another tenet of my world view), so I'm counting on you, Dear Reader, to set aside any But-I-Can't-Participate-In-A-Conversation-When-It-Originates-With-Religion objections.

Naturally, it's something that I haven't always lived up to but I've worked on it quite a lot over the years. Having Internet access has benefited me tremendously in that regard, as I now regularly interact with people literally across the world from myself and from one another. I share values with all of them, but which values and to what extent varies wildly. I've got a vegan friend on this side, and a dude who knows all the best barbecue joints in the country on the other. Friends of mine are all across the socio-political spectrum, from ardent conservatives who genuinely feel anxious about things like marriage equality to the very activists working to see that it is established throughout the land. I contribute to a movie website's blog and one of the friends I interact with the most doesn't even watch movies! I learn things from all of them; sometimes about them, sometimes about others by extension and sometimes about myself.

I was told earlier by one of my dearest friends earlier about an unpleasant experience she and her boyfriend had with her boyfriend's coworker and his girlfriend. My friend holds her Christian values in the highest and she's one of the most pious people I know. She's also one of the most accepting of others, which I wish to note because too often piety is equated with self-righteousness. My friend's faith is strong, but she takes from it lessons of humility and peace. We've not spoken about it, but I would imagine that some of her favorite Scripture would be in the Book of James.

Anyway, back to the incident. The coworker and his girlfriend apparently made a point to not only boast about their recent sexual escapades, but to then make derogatory remarks about my friend's chastity. We're accustomed to slut-shaming being an issue and it's one that I actively fight whenever and wherever I encounter it. Here, rather than turn to the Holy Bible, I defer to the prophet* Waylon Jennings:
Yet here my friend was, encountering the situation in reverse. She was made a target by others who did not respect her values. My friend is conspicuous about her faith, in that she prays before every meal regardless of where she is or who she's with, and that kind of thing but she's not evangelical. For whatever reason, though, this coworker of her boyfriend's and his girlfriend fixated on her and took some very unkind shots at her both directly and indirectly through her boyfriend.

As I said, I know people across a wide spectrum, from this chaste young woman to some people in an open relationship and even a few swingers. There are plenty of people who will or will not perform specific sex acts for or with their partners because it's outside their personal comfort zone - yes, even swingers have limits, believe it or not. That's fair, and it's right to respect those limits. I don't see why those limits being established by someone's faith should invite criticism. As a feminist, I think about these things often. Sometimes, we get so caught up fighting the slut-shaming that I think we forget that there's still a battle to be fought on behalf of women who aren't sexually active by choice.

There was a great anecdote that Steve Earle once recounted about a Willie Nelson concert in the 70s down in Texas. There were some cowboys wanting to dance and some hippies sitting on the dance floor, just listening. Naturally, this led to some hostility that caused Willie to stop performing.

"There's room for some to dance and some to sit," Willie ruled. His words were simple, but wise - and practical. The dancers danced and the sitters sat, and the show continued. We should do more to accommodate others on the dance floor. We should make comfortable those who wish to be on our side of the dance floor, and respect the others' right to either sit or dance. There's room enough for us to do both.

Now, having said all that...anyone want a dance partner?

*I don't use the term "prophet" here on my own. Waylon himself once shared a story where someone sent him a tape of a preacher delivering a sermon about the complexity of modern life and the role of faith in helping his congregation to navigate those issues. "You know what the prophet Waylon Jennings said," the preacher remarked, and then cited the song "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)". Waylon had a laugh about the idea of him being called a prophet by anyone, and suspected that that preacher had a good talking-to by some of the church members after he gave that sermon. That story always makes me smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment