I grew up in a Christian household. I remember being two or three years old, sitting in a Sunday School classroom and singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of my lungs, the way all children that age sing. Uninhibited. Joyful.
My Christian faith remains the cornerstone of my life. Yet here I am, writing erotic romance. How the heck does something like that happen?
My mother is how that happened.
When I was in second grade, I didn’t believe in dinosaurs. Sure, I went to the museums that had the giant, reconstructed dinosaur fossil skeletons. But I didn’t believe they existed, despite what I saw.
By the time I was in third grade, the cognitive dissonance got to me. I was no longer willing to disbelieve the evidence of my own eyes. I asked my mother how dinosaurs could have existed millions of years before humans, if God created humans on the sixth day of creation. And she said, “The Bible says the earth was created in six days, but it doesn’t say how long a day was.”
Suddenly, it all made sense. Maybe the Bible was told in parables, like the parables that Jesus told. Maybe we weren’t supposed to read those stories as literal truth. In that moment, my life changed. My concept of God changed. He was much, much bigger.
God was the Creator of dinosaurs, of millions of years of history, of a single point of light that in a fraction of a second grew into a universe. How much more impressive is that than snapping your fingers and saying “Giraffe,” and a giraffe appears? God’s act of creation took planning. Billions of years of it. Awesome.
When I was ten years old, I decided to read the King James Bible all the way through. I got as far as the end of Genesis, which I think is pretty impressive for a fifth grader. About halfway through Genesis, I came across something that astonished me, then made me sort of mad.
And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son. — Genesis 25: 5–6a
Abraham had concubines? The father of many nations, beloved of God?
Now, even at the tender age of ten, I knew a little about sex. I knew that tab A went into slot B (although no one had bothered to mention orgasms to me, so I spent three years wondering how the heck you knew it was over, until an article in Cosmo set me straight). I also knew that sex was only supposed to happen between a husband and a wife. One husband, one wife. Not a rich man and a bunch of concubines.
Yet there it was in the Bible. Abraham had concubines, and God didn’t seem to mind too much.
Now, I didn’t deduce from this Bible passage that whoring around would be a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice for me. I believed then, and believe now, that the appropriate context for a sexual relationship is a mutually committed monogamous relationship like marriage. Jesus Christ defended marriage and opposed divorce. But he stopped the stoning of an adulterous woman, telling her, “Go, and sin no more.”
Jesus didn’t decry sexual incontinence the way he did the hypocrisy of the Pharisees or the arrogance of the wealthy. The values that Jesus taught were love, tolerance, forgiveness, and humility. Those were the values that shaped my moral development during my tween and early teen years.
When I was fifteen, my mother jokingly said to my father about my younger sister and me, “Why don’t we put the girls on the Pill and let them have some fun?” Then she laughed and laughed. I looked at her in shock. I had no desire to go on the Pill and have some fun, because I still thought that waiting for marriage was the right thing to do (although I was seriously starting to doubt I’d make it that long).
Yet the fact that she was able to joke about her teenage daughters becoming sexually active eased my inhibitions about sexuality. I’m not saying those inhibitions were a bad thing. When I was fifteen, they were a very good thing. They kept me a virgin until I reached adulthood, and I’m glad about that. But my mother also said (seriously, this time) that she thought it was better to have sex before you got married than to get married for sex. And I have to say, I agree.
I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe that divorce is adultery, just as Jesus taught. All the more reason to choose the right person, and marry at the right time.
Celibacy is wonderful in theory, but humans aren’t wired that way. The anthropologist Desmond Morris calls humans the sexiest species on earth. When it comes to a conflict between science and someone else’s interpretation of the Bible, I choose science every time. The Church found it useful to associate sex with shame, but I don’t buy it. To paraphrase Deepak Chopra, “God invented spirituality, and Satan turned it into religion.”
I don’t believe sex exists solely for the purpose of procreation. On the contrary, it also exists to reinforce the bond of love between parents so they stay together long enough to raise their children to adulthood. Sex in the context of marriage or other committed relationships is a beautiful thing. And I feel no shame in writing novels about it.
A comedian once said that God wanted to make sex so enjoyable that people would call out His name. That sounds about right to me. I feel no cognitive dissonance about a Christian woman writing books that celebrate sexuality. Sex is a gift from God, and it’s time we gave God His due.