Last October we hosted the second annual Symposia: An Intersection of Conversation & Innovation, a forum in which alumni of The Seattle School presented the ongoing work they are pursuing at the intersection of text, soul, and culture. Integrative education does not end at graduation, and our alumni are proof of that. Symposia highlights the ways that Seattle School alumni are continuing to wrestle with big questions and big dreams in theology, psychology, and culture.
This week, we’re featuring a presentation by Randall Ajimine (Master of Divinity ‘13), “The Surprisingly Intimate Relationship Between Marriage Equality and Purity Culture.” Randall has been thinking and writing about how the church thinks and talks about sexuality for over a decade and enrolled at The Seattle School in 2008 to continue that work. He is currently working on a book that will propose a more sex-positive Christian sexual ethic.
In this video, Randall tracks the rapid evolution from the utilitarian, procreative view of sex and marriage that was predominant in much of history to the belief that sex can be a meaningful, positive source of pleasure in and of itself. Randall argues that the “purity culture” that exists in parts of the church and the marriage equality movement, despite their vast differences, share surprising similarities as responses to that broader cultural shift. “On the spectrum of Christian thought and theology, these two positions in the church are at opposite poles and seem completely unrelated,” says Randall. “But I want to argue that both movements are rooted in and in response to a redefinition of sex.”
The church’s efforts to grapple with these shifts have taken two main forms: a hardline stance that adheres to its old rules and boundaries, often communicating them in a manner that is marked by shame, and a stance that is “indistinct, inconsistent, and ultimately ineffectual” more often than not. (The former stance, Randall notes, at least has the merit of clarity and consistency.)
“Couples are left to grope in the dark when it comes to navigating and negotiating intimacy in sex. Without clear counsel from the church, this journey can be rife with guilt-ridden dead ends and missed opportunities. […] I believe that defining sex as any act of physical intimacy that is unitive and elicits mutual pleasure has the potential to make the church a resource for people seeking guidance regarding their sexuality in a post-contraception world. Taking on such a stance will take time and will not come about without fierce resistance, but I believe it is a fruitful way forward and worth the struggle.”
You can watch the full presentation in the video below. Note that, at a few moments, Randall uses explicit descriptions of the act(s) of sex.