Smells Like Spirit
By Christian Piatt

(Originally published in PULP)

I’ve been co-editing a new book series for Chalice Press, a Christian Publisher connected to my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Yes, that’s really the denomination’s name, including the parentheses. Don’t ask why.

Anyway, I recently traveled to Indianapolis and Kansas City to speak to a few hundred folks about the new series titled WTF? (Where’s the Faith?)

We Disciples seem to have a thing for parentheses.

Obviously, the title is provocative, which is purposeful. The series, created by young adults, primarily for young adults, is intended to speak to them where they are. This includes addressing a lot of things in a lot of ways that most folks in church have never been comfortable doing. So the relatively cheeky title does serve a purpose beyond unadulterated obnoxiousness; it’s supposed to break down barriers.

True to form the first book, due out early next year, is about faith and sexuality, and is called Oh God, Oh God, OH GOD! Trust me, you’re not the only one who’s a little bit amazed we even got that one past the editorial board, but kudos to them for having the barnacles to print it.

So you’d think that anyone aware of the connotations of both the series title and the first book would have at least a basic idea of what they were in for coming to one of our workshops. But my partner in crime and co-editor, Brandon Gilvin, took even me off guard when he said the word “blowjob” in the middle of our church event.

The room got pretty quiet for a minute. Then, thank goodness, we really started talking, which was the whole point to begin with. It should be noted that he didn’t just blurt out “blowjob” for no reason. He actually was making a point about some college girls who came to his counselor girlfriend some time back to ask her which was worse: kissing a boy or giving him a blowjob. This, they said, was a conundrum because “kissing a boy is so intimate.”

The point was made that there is more brushed under the rug in faith communities than is talked about with care, thoughtfulness and candor. A few people never lost the look of shock from their faces, but no one left. Maybe they just wanted to see what we would say next, but to their credit, they hung in there.

Afterward, I had several people come to me and thank me both for the books and the discussion. People confessed everything from personal struggles with pornography addiction, to eating disorders, and the level of honesty became nearly overwhelming.

It was clear that people have been dying to talk about these kinds of things with people they can trust, who won’t judge them, but who will listen and respond with compassion and love. Though this was only a small step, it’s amazing to think that saying a word like “blowjob” in a faith-based workshop could be such a cathartic and healing experience.

As they say, God works in mysterious ways – I guess even through a couple of heretics like us.

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