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Denison Journal of Religion

Abstract

Sexuality has become ubiquitous in mainstream media and culture. Despite this, or maybe because of it, sexuality remains a topic on which religion passes judgment. Because of this, many people find a tension growing in their lives when they attempt to enjoy their sexuality and remain a part of their faith community. This tension is inspiring scholarship and reflection that is trying to establish a new sexual ethic. This article focuses, in part, on Lewis B. Smedes, who promotes sexuality as an intimate communion between two married people by claiming that they are physical beings as much as they are spiritual beings. The ethicist Marvin Ellison's focus narrows in on creating a sexual ethic that will promote social justice. His concern with sexuality is not tied to its growing prominence, but rather the negative consequences of a distorted view of sexuality caused by such things as Christian traditions, general sex-negativity, and patriarchal structures. These views frequently result in sexual violence or disrespect as can be seen in the porn industry, prostitution, and sexual assault and abuse. Rita Nakashima Brock and Susan Thistlewaite see religion (both Christianity and Buddhism) as a major constructer of this distorted view of sexuality and argue for a view of sexuality that cannot be separated from the "total self." This essay claims that to lessen the tension that exists between religion and sexuality, the focus of efforts must be on liberation of the marginalized. In order to do this, it is necessary to work within the traditional religious systems while "working beyond" the patriarchal pattern they have often inspired.

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