From the Editor
There is no doubt that in our culture, especially our media, sex sells. Whether the venue is advertising, television, music videos, video games, or movies, it is hard to avoid encountering some form of sexual imagery or sexual reference. Though only fifty years ago the word “pregnant” was banned from being uttered on “I Love Lucy,” and married couples on shows like “Leave It to Beaver” slept in separate beds, today the amount of pandering to sex to get people to watch or to buy seems limitless. Our culture has quickly moved from a state of repression vis a vis sex, to a frenzied obsession.
Ironically, the churches, which so often pride themselves on being counter-cultural, are finding themselves wrapped up in a situation that is not dissimilar. Questions about sexuality are plaguing and rending every Christian church at this moment. From the Catholic Church to the mainline Protestant churches to the Evangelical churches, none is immune from a litany of sexual controversies: pre-marital sex, divorce, contraception, abortion, pedophilia, sexual abuse, ordination of gay priests, same-sex relations, transexuality, intersexuality, and perhaps the most egregiously overlooked sexual issue: the treatment and exclusion of women.
For those who believe that gay and lesbian issues are the only issues of sexuality facing the churches, it is important to remember that these are but one petition on an increasingly long prayer list. The intensity of alarm over same-sex relations and their polarizing, if not schismatic, power may be evidence that the root cause of concern is deeper than homosexuality. The cause of this controversy may very well be rooted Christianity’s timeless and universal struggle with sexuality itself—a struggle that is born in the Genesis narrative of Adam and Eve, a depiction of whom appears on the cover of this issue of Reflections.
While many have interpreted the Adam and Eve story as a chronicle of the birth of life and death, a closer reading also reveals that it is an account of the genesis of our shame towards our sexuality. Before taking the fruit, the man and the woman are said to be naked and unashamed. After realizing their nakedness, they hide from God, convinced that God, too, will be embarrassed by their exposed genitalia. When God realizes that they are hiding because they are ashamed of their nakedness, God is angry and, with a heavy heart, makes them clothes and expels them from the garden. This is not how God wanted us to understand our nakedness, our sexuality.
The artist who depicts our cover image of Adam and Eve and all of the other images in this latest issue of Reflections is Tamara de Lempicka, a Polish-born Russian who fled to Paris when the Bolsheviks arrested her husband during the revolution. Though de Lempicka was one of the twentieth century’s most sought after portrait artists, she gained little notoriety during her lifetime because she was a woman. While few would argue that de Lempicka held any explicit religious beliefs or values, it would be hard to doubt the depth of her understanding of female strength, the holiness of sensuality, the fluidity of gender, and the joys and sufferings bound up in our bodily vulnerability.
It is precisely the church’s traditional perception of our nakedness, our sexuality, and our embodiment as stumbling blocks on the path to spiritual integration that is at the root of so much of this current consternation surrounding issues of sexuality. It is our hope that the words and images contained in this issue of Reflections will help religious communities undo the tragedy of Adam and Eve, by facing their our own sexuality, accepting it as a gift from God (and therefore very, very good), and re-integrating it into healthy and whole vision of themselves as body, mind, and spirit.
Jamie L. Manson