January 22, 2009

Can Sex And Religion Mix? A New Report Says They Should

A recent report from the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing deals with how sex and religion should interact and why.

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I think the answer is obviously yes. Humans are sexual beings. We are also, for the most part, religious beings as well. Most people believe in some form of higher power, belong to a house of worship (church, mosque, synagogue, etc), or practice their own forms of spirituality.

It makes sense then to educate those people who lead us in our spiritual lives about sexuality. There have been some interesting sexuality blog posts about this intersection, but they tended toward the shocking and political, rather than the informative and inclusive.

A great blog post from About.com Sexuality writer Cory Silverberg led me to to the a report titled “Sex and the Seminary.” The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing recently released the report on how seminary students are being taught about sexuality.

Cory did a nice job of talking about the highlights of report, so you should definitely check out his post. Here are a few points that I found interesting in the executive summary of the report:

Future clergy and other religious professionals can graduate without taking a sexuality course. 90% of schools don’t require a sexuality course. Only one seminary requires a course in sexuality issues for religious professionals, and only two require an LGBT/queer studies course.

Women and feminist studies courses are covered much more often than any other sexuality area. It’s hard to be upset by this fact because on one hand, I’m glad seminary students have access to gender studies classes. On the other, it seems strange that they offer almost three times as many majors, minors, and certificates in women and feminist studies as in sexuality or LGBT/queer studies when everyone has sex (except for some of the priests attending seminary, I suppose).

They are learning about sexual harassment. 80% of the institutions surveyed offer learning opportunities (such as classes or workshops) in sexual harassment prevention and over 90% have policies about student/staff relationships.

There are resources available to students. 25% of seminaries have free-standing centers or programs dedicated to a sexuality-related issue. 75% of schools report that members of faculty or senior administrative staff have published on or been featured in the media addressing a sexual justice issue.

Perhaps the finding which sounds the most promising to me:

“Sexuality issues are often addressed within a framework of intersecting social justice issues, such as economics, environmental issues, racial/ethnic diversity,and disability issues. The majority of faculty teaching sexuality issues for religious professionals or LGBT/queer studies courses and all of the sexuality-related centers address sexuality from racial, ethnic, and cross-cultural perspectives.”

Yes! This is exactly what needs to happen. I don’t think it’s so much that future pastors or priests need to learn about the latest sex toy, but I think it is important for them to recognize that their congregations will be coming to them with sexuality issues.

This is especially the case if the clergy are involved in any kind of pre-marital or marital counseling where sex absolutely should be discussed. I hope this study encourages seminary programs to include more sexuality education in their programs as well as inspiring seminary students to ask for sexuality education to better serve their congregations.

  • lilianhutan

    This proves that religion has to have a system just like any other institution and it's refreshing to see how open-minded it can get. I've always had an image of the clergy as being these tall, fat-bellied, thick bearded monks that cry for the Salvation of humanity, and it's nice to see that mentalities can change, even my own.