My Take: Searching for God, settling for sex
November 24th, 2012
08:00 PM ET

My Take: Searching for God, settling for sex

Editor's Note: Shannon Ethridge is an advocate for spiritual and sexual integrity. She is a counselor, speaker, author and certified life and relationship coach. Her 19 books include the million-selling Every Woman's Battle book series, "The Sexually Confident Wife" and her latest book, "The Fantasy Fallacy," a response to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon, a discussion of the roots and role of sexual fantasies.

By Shannon Ethridge, Special to CNN

(CNN) - When a friend alerted me to the "Fifty Shades" trilogy in April, none of us had any idea it would sell in excess of 40 million copies within months, or that sales of whips, chains and other BDSM paraphernalia would skyrocket as a result, or that a European hotel would replace its Gideon’s Bibles with "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Many legitimate possibilities have been offered for the seeming success of “mommy porn.” Women are more sexually liberated than ever before. Couples are longing for ways to spice up their sex lives. Many women have a deep inner longing to be dominated by a man who’s absolutely obsessed with them.

While there might be some truth to each of these theories, I think the real force behind this "Fifty Shades" phenomenon is that our society is clamoring for closeness. However, in the absence of genuine sexual intimacy (best defined as “in-to-me-see”), we settle for sexual intensity: erotica, pornography, an office romance, an extramarital affair or whatever strokes the ego and provides the sexual high we crave.

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I suggest that sexual intensity (such as that experienced between the lead characters of the "Fifty Shades" trilogy) is simply not the same as intimacy. If it were, then prostitutes and porn stars would be the most emotionally and relationally fulfilled people on the planet. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Does the entangling of arms and legs and the exchange of bodily fluids scratch the human itch for intimate connection? Or is sex just the closest thing we can imagine to what we’re really craving: a deeper spiritual and emotional connection, both with our Creator and with His creation?

When I explain through my writing, speaking and life coaching that I am an “advocate for healthy sexuality and spirituality,” some assume I’m insane. Why would someone even use the terms “sexuality” and “spirituality” in the same sentence? I do so because I believe they are basically the same thing, or at least two sides of the same coin.

Regardless of gender, age, race, political views, economic status, etc., all humans have two things in common: We are both spiritual and sexual beings. And behind every sexual longing, I believe there’s an even deeper spiritual longing.

So we have much to learn about God through understanding our sexuality, and there is much to learn about our sexuality through a deeper exploration of God.

Looking at sexuality through a spiritual lens, and vice versa, is not a new concept. In the Song of Solomon, a man's and woman’s desires for healthy sexual intimacy are celebrated. In the book of Hosea, God uses the analogy of a husband’s relentless pursuit of a sexually unfaithful bride to illustrate the depth of His own passion and commitment to His people. God obviously knew that “sexual metaphors” would teach us about ourselves and about Him.

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This brings me back around to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon. I don’t believe that fantasy is evil, even sexual fantasy. But when we divorce physical pleasure from emotional connection, such as when we selfishly strive for orgasm through pornography, masturbation or illicit sexual encounters rather than cultivating sexual ecstasy with our marriage partner, sexual ecstasy is only “half-baked.” Love and relational intimacy are the “yeast” that allows our sexual ecstasy to rise to its highest level.

My counseling experience shows me that we often seek healing for our deepest wounds via sexual encounters. Our minds and hearts believe we will “get it right” or “find the love I need” via an intensely satisfying sexual relationship.

If deep and spiritual intimacy is what humans seek, then relational or sexual intensity can never satisfy our deepest longings or heal our oldest wounds. Christian and Anastasia (for all the "Fifty Shades" fans) won’t discover heart-deep intimacy in whips, chains, pain and sexual intensity. Their deep wounds will be healed by sacrificial love (of which Christ is the incarnate example) and intimate relationship (both human and divine). Soul-deep intimacy is what we seek, and it’s ultimately found in the God who created human sexuality.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Shannon Ethridge.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Sex

soundoff (1,819 Responses)
  1. Akira

    I already scream out "Oh, God, oh God"...the fvck else does he want?

    November 24, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      November 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Damocles


      November 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      You are naughty Akira, and I like it.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Akira, don't know if you saw this yesterday, thanks for the tip on the wicked books.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Darrell

      Become a Wiccan–screaming out in passionate reverence for the pleasure you are receiving through your nature-gifted body is actually a totally acceptable form of worship! 🙂

      November 25, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Zargoth

      Perfect reply.........

      Nice job!

      November 25, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • janemutiny

      Point Akira

      November 26, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • it was divine

      Realizing Mary had gotten impregnated while he was away on business, demanded that she reveal everything, but Mary only said: "Oh! It was divine!"

      November 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  2. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    I was kicked by a donkey, goon, while searching for Allah, denier of Theen Allah, ignorant ass

    November 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Quag

      I was bitten by a moose once....no really I was sharpening the end of an innerspace toothbrush...

      November 25, 2012 at 6:19 am |
  3. Dr. D. Johnson

    If you read both Timothy and Phillip, there are passages which describe in detail that Jesus was cremated.

    We know this because his friends were asked to take his ashes to the Sea of Galilee and deposit them over, "...the lapping waves of His Father's own sink basin".

    Furthermore we read in a passage from Timothy that, “…the ashes were as grains of sand. I have tasted his body.” This passage is thought to have been incorrectly translated into the last supper myth.

    November 24, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Seek in humblances traces the shoddy and lame for there I am also. Find at ones edges the meek and on other corners the very so proud. Nothing is of more importance then to by hustled along with the tramps and the ladies in evening wares. God is my judge and no other do condemn as God so will come one ending or the other. Those who are knowing of sweetness the dreams longing to be dreamt by one or another dreamer of deeds to be so done is truly where hearts to so beat!

      November 24, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Dr. D. Johnson

      In the Jesus Gospel he discusses long journeys east of the desert where, "....there I encountered great wisdom and peace among the monks. They removed the sand from my sandals and blew upon my feet with flowered breath"

      He goes on to say that, "...we meditated together for many days, fasting but joyful in the divine and always mindful of odor."

      He brought these teachings to his 12 plus Mary and his parents saying, "...know me and know the many lives of the snake, the lizard, and the beasts of all previous lives. Mine is the journey of a God. Perfection can be found through self-sacrifice."

      This is well documented but sadly, few too people understand that Jesus was no more a rabbi than me.

      He was a monk, and according to Timothy, an enthusiastic nudist. "...without concern nor bashfulness, the fullness of our Lord cannot be contained by his tunic."

      November 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Akira

      Once again, Dr. Johnson, I find your posits to be thought-provoking.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      The abundancies measure not yet always be secure in one's knowing where the lights do ever burn true to shallowed seasons ambering waves. The shells of disparagements do clamour of loudness while the willowed brooks do lay upon its banks the grief riddled fomentations truths to ever be as unlabelled victims foreshadowed in the wastedness of peace to the wary minded. Let oone go and keep as many are to be so had. Lay upon the emotion's lame their just treats. Keep harmonies in stepped progressives while taking the bitterness of revolt to gainly be just what? Sigh therefore heavily and breathe ever in abundant measure the signatures well meantioned. Die one as naturally as is so needed and never take such for undue clemencies as being an unworthy sanctumn. Leave straight and don't weave upon the narrowness minds!

      November 24, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Dr. D. Johnson

      This theme and others lend themselves to some staggering conclusions. Based on the evidence we have, it is clear now that the disciples of Jesus were in fact in business with him and equal partners.

      How do we know this?

      In the Timothy Gospel we read, "...and at our table will Phillip score our keep. Speak in turn and in fairness. Ours is the mutual trust."

      I think it is clear that these thirteen men sought profit and most likely in textiles.

      November 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Dave

      Why do you trust these non-canonical sources? On what basis do you accept them?

      November 25, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • csbrownjr

      Over 30 years ago, my English teacher, Mr. Anderson, would fail any paper that contained any of the following:
      1. Passive voice (any form of the verb to be)
      2. Using the first person to state an opinion (You wrote it)
      3. Excessively pompous language (It looks like you want to hide something or intimidate your reader.)
      Therefore, my teacher would have given a failing grade to the initial post and all of the replies and would not have even considered the content. Thank you Mr. Anderson for the valuable lesson in how to separate brilliance from babble.

      November 25, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  4. lionlylamb

    Reblogged this on lionlylamb.

    November 24, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  5. Sam Yaza

    2 Lilith 13: 22-23
    "sure you can go to heaven through Jesus But; between the sheets is faster♥"

    November 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      2 Lilith 13: 24
      Just then the congregation broke out in song

      @ Lilith 14


      November 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      sorry that 2 Lilith 14

      November 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  6. We are just

    "angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
    connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night"

    Thank you thank you thank you Alan

    November 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      "who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall"??

      November 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      "to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,

      the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,"

      November 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • fintastic

      Time, rejected yet conform to say in his naked and shame, rejected yet putting with to confore you speechlessing with to come after deate thought beform to say intelligent angel beat might in head, the rhythm of the syntax and endless head,
      the soul to the syntax and stand in time, rejected and and shame, rejected angel beform to say in Time, unknown head,
      the rhythm of poor human bum and measure what in time, rejected yet putting with to say in head, the rhythm of the rhythm of poor human prose.

      November 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  7. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Dr. D. Johnson, Sir, help me, I see a man on top of woman, everywhere, illegality of media, my mother told me she dropped me on my head, is it normal to search Allah, while doing unmanly things Dr dumb?

    November 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  8. mama k

    Spiritual and s e x u a l integrity?? Please.

    Just get yourself a hot bath, a glass of wine, while you read about black hole cosmology, and
    then unplug the husband from the TV and – well you know the rest.

    November 24, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      yes yes

      Quickest way to heaven


      November 24, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  9. Brampt

    Now concerning the things about which ​YOU​ wrote, it is well for a man not to touch a woman;2yet, because of prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband. 1 Cor 7:1,2

    Flee from fornication. Every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but he that practices fornication is sinning against his own body. 1 Cor 6:18

    November 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Dr. D. Johnson

      If we read in the Gnostic "Gospel of Jesus" we find this, "...I have the key and the charge. Care not of wine or pity but for me."

      Scholars agree that this passage was clearly the ancestor of John's gospel and was poorly interpreted. In fact what is being said is the following;

      Jesus and his friends ('disciples") were involved in one of their many endeavors, in this case the ancient equivalent of a "door man" and a "bartender".

      November 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Travelling Jeebus

      What "scholars" ? Name two.

      November 24, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  10. Dr. D. Johnson

    In the Gospel of Mary we read, "...and so he came out from the shadow, heavy in hand and much more so than when he entered. It was our Lord."

    To further quantify this concept, Phillip states, "...the 12 were but fugitives but beholden to Him."

    Scholars feel certain that, among the many exploits of Jesus and the apostles, he was the original "Robin Hood” and the 12 the “Merry Men” if you will.

    November 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  11. Sam Yaza

    "I suggest that s3x4@l intensity (such as that experienced between the lead characters of the "Fifty Shades" trilogy) is simply not the same as intimacy."

    you and i read two different books

    it stated out that way; yes. it ended vary intimately. you can have high tensity s3x and have it be intimate

    who are you to say what is going on in lovers hearts


    who sent that coming

    November 24, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  12. Bootyfunk

    the bible says men should kill their new wife if they find out she's not a virgin. yep, women not keeping their virginity till marriage is a death sentence according to god. hmmm... let's do the math... how many women would be left alive in this country? how many women didn't have s.ex before marriage? 3%? the bible is unbelievably s.exually repressive. guess the author missed those parts...

    November 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      yup if this was a christian nation 97% of this county would be put to death for f0n!c@t!0n

      November 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Guest

      That was an Old Testament thing. Show me where Jesus advocated killing the woman. Christians are supposed to live by Christ's teachings & abide by the 10 Commandments.

      November 25, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  13. Bootyfunk

    s.e.x > god

    November 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      all ready said that

      November 24, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      and i just said it again.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  14. Sam Yaza

    Fetish call

    list your fetishes

    here is mine


    November 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      ass play
      light bdsm
      role playing
      name calling

      November 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Holy Bowler

      Water Sports
      Puffy Nips

      November 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Damocles

      The CNN belief blog

      November 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      dirty talk with a good backstory, subplots, and motivation

      spa n king, no whips or chains, but paddles, subtle, steady escalation

      ....did I share too much? I feel embarrassed.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      no embarrassments,... say it load say it proud

      November 24, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Holy Bowler

      Volley ball shorts. OMG

      November 24, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      How awesome is it that bootyfunk likes azz play!?

      November 24, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      volley ball shorts, okay, but "boy shorts" panties?!!? YES!!!

      November 24, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Damocles


      Hells yes! With you all the way on that one.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      dudes name is booty funk
      that was kind of a giving

      hmmm i also like the whole Jewish girl thing

      mmm Jewish girls

      November 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • mama k

      Hmm.. you've given me some ideas, Moby – next time they go to revive that husband of mine – im gonna see if they let me bring some of those paddles home.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Holy Bowler

      Two gorgeous asian 18 year old twins kissing and peeing on each other.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I don't get the Asian thing.... peeing,....it depends on the context...sometimes hot, sometimes not.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      2 Lilith 4: 11-12
      what ever keeps the boat from sinking; its all s3xy

      November 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Damocles

      Oh I definitely get the asian thing, peeing not so much. I think if a woman pees on me she better run really, really fast.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Holy Bowler

      Firm, large perky boobs with puffy nips in a sweater, no bra.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      oh i think i forgot the rules. i do that allot

      their no putting people or the fetishes down; this is about being up lifting; about airing out that locked box under your bed.

      regards of your fetish; its all a form of love.

      November 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      nothing like companion donkey in desert, my Taliban father told me, goons

      November 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Akira

      Pool boy bulge equality.

      November 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      whip cream
      midget tossing
      candle wax
      altered states
      ...oh wait, i see now you asked about fetishes. I thought we were just describing fun parties.

      as for fetishes, geez i'm boring...
      not exactly exhibitionism but chance of getting caught: semi-public sex

      November 25, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Darrell


      November 25, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • fintastic

      Religion............... checkmate!

      November 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  15. Dr. D. Johnson

    While we know very little of Christ as a child, what little documentation we have paints the picture of a normal, if solitary young man.

    For example, in the Gospel of Truth we read, "...this boy, though recognized and cared for in kind, found comfort in solitude and great noises and raucous cacophony would pursue him."

    Scholars agree that as a young man, Jesus did seek relief and perhaps had special gifts.

    November 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      jesus failed at pretty much everything.

      November 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "Scholars agree that as a young man, Jesus did seek relief and perhaps had special gifts."

      Is that a fancy way of saying Jesus enjoyed mas.ter.ba.tion?

      November 24, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Dr. D. Johnson

      Most certainly, and most likely he did not suffer from Bulge Inequality.

      November 24, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      Jesus is that quite kid in class


      so next time you pick on that guy who eats bugs in the back of class he just might be Jesus

      November 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Sounds like he was good at it too.....

      November 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  16. Sam Yaza

    i'm an Otaku 50 shades was nothing new to me, i even rote a story like it.

    although that man was the slave♥

    it was an amazing peace of literature; good romance and well written

    but yes i do think you humans are entirely to repressed, so anything that helps you take of that dress I'm happy

    S3x > god

    and no i'm not just saying that

    i thoroughly believe it

    i mean just read 1 Enoch

    November 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Ceilo

      "Good point well made" x100. Yes very well written.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  17. mama k

    Sometimes just a little spirits with sex or just before is OK. It is good to have integrity about the spirits and not overdo it, otherwise you can't be all that you can be. But for the sex part, forget integrity – just be comfortable and do it whenever and where ever possible and try to get a good work-out while you're at it.

    November 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  18. Moby Schtick

    S3x as a form of spirituality or connection to the divine is pretty obvious, isn't it. I mean, s3x is synecdoche/metaphor for the cycle of life and death and all it's grandeur and banality. I thought everyone already knew that.

    November 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  19. 200 TON HAMMER

    WOW YOU ARE A FAKE AZZ PROVERBS 31:10~31 WANNA BE you a lame azz chick you just another scammer pan handling selling lame books too brainwashed lames busy bodies.house goons

    November 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  20. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    I don't always want se.x with my intimacy......and vice versa. She is a loon.

    November 24, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Guest

      Grow up.

      November 25, 2012 at 11:21 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.