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)

    Susan Rice deserves to appear before congress under oath.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  2. heliocracy

    I think these comments are appearing on the wrong story...this is a piece about God and 50 Shades of Gray.

    November 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Trina

      He's been doing this all day. He isn't confused, just boring.

      November 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  3. .A.priori

    Another difficulty is the blurring of intimacy with familiarity. They are also far from the same. It sounds like a question as to the locus of process. Is the experience "Show me me' :"Show me we," or really a multileveled discovery where these concepts are simply the starting point room temperature of who we are as we molecularly phase and bond.You have found a wonderful crux to from the ultimate Crux. Thank you!.

    November 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  4. t3chn0ph0b3

    God is no replacement for s ex. Just ask any young Catholic boy.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  5. t3chn0ph0b3

    Posting is getting difficult. I have no idea what trips the bot anymore.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

      Treason does.

      November 25, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  6. intimacy begins with communication

    I agree that people need intimacy whether people realize it or not. It certainly doesn't have to come from "God" or any other religious experience, however. People these days rarely come to really know their romantic partner(s) and even their own kids. Instead of talking to their partner and really communicating, people don't talk at all or watch movies, use the internet or use other distractions. A lot of men have been conditioned to dislike talking about things and that's really too bad. Your pe-nis won't shrivel and fall off if you have conversations and your partner might feel so intimately connected after a good conversation, s/he might just want some physical intimacy too.

    Nobody has family dinners anymore that includes a good bit of dialogue either. When the kids are in the car, what do you do? You shove one of those videos into the player so they shut up. Those are missed opportunities to talk to your kids too and get to know them, let them get to know you. How many readers out there even know who your kid's friends are? What do your kids think of the election? What do they think of you?

    November 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Ouch

      Whew. You're lack of faith in society is depressing. Do you have kids? Have you had these experiences? I can tell you that family life is crazy, but I really don't know anyone in a situation like what describe.

      I've met all of my kids friends, know most of their parents, and they all know me. In fact, our whole community is like that. I rarely make a trip to the grocery store without seeing someone I know (teacher, soccer coach, neighbors, someone), and we live just outside a major city. Sure, some days I throw on a movie so I can clean the house, but it doesn't replace dinner conversation or our love for puzzles. I don't believe your sweeping statements apply to as many people as you think.

      November 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  7. Jim Jacobson

    Shannon, thanks for sharing your great insights. I think you are completely correct.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

    Perjury under oath to Congress = prison time. Watch Obama throw all his people under the bus and be handcuffed away until Obama is the only one left - then he go bye-bye also - game over

    November 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think somebody forgot to take their meds.

      November 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • End Religion

      I'm curious, red, as each of your wild delusions expires or is proven false, how do you deal with the constant assault of reality? When Obama isn't carted away in handcuffs, if he were to testify to congress, when his term ends and he goes on to other things, how do you deal with your lunacy each time? It seems you make about 20-30 easily dismissed wild claims a day. I can't imagine how you deal with being wrong that often. Do you just forget every assertion as soon as you make it? Do you never revaluate things you've said in the past? I would imagine you're the type of guy who would like to brag about his prophetic ability, so you must keep track of all your claims. How do you deal with all the errant ones?

      November 25, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      same with bush

      November 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm |

    Bring it on Obama - send your people to Congress under oath - go ahead, arrogant fool

    November 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm |

    Nixon was a psychopath like Obama. The media and Congress will squeeze Obama until he feels enough pressure to crack. The media is playing games with Obama and his people. John Kerry was against every war. Obama may not last long enough to worry about naming anyone for anything. Obama's arrogance will expose everyone - thousands of people -he got defensive and now can push all his people to be placed under oath. Let them be placed UNDER OATH before Congress and then watch them lie - that means PRISON TIME

    November 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm |

      But Obama will most likely dissolve Congress and declare martial law in order to retain power. The Republican Party let things go too far. There is no clear way forward. Perhaps factions in the military, but there was no preparation. Romney was expected to win.

      November 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • End Religion

      Romney was not expected to win. The clear way forward is for you to accept defeat.

      November 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  11. George Stevens

    If Susan Rice lies to Congress under oath then she will go to jail. Does she like women?

    November 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  12. alice da goon

    perjury is obstruction of justice... liars liars go to jail

    November 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  13. alice da goon

    koo koo ka-choo... how many went to prison after watergate for perjury... hundreds

    November 25, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  14. lionlylamb

    Seek ye not that which is sought nor dare one imbibe in lengths of inpardonabilities but rather find a busied soul of high spirits to lunge forthright onto and into without missing right nor left but in a straight forward momentum do ride high! Giddy up go daddy, giddy up go!

    November 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  15. Marshall DILLON

    Perjury is a serious charge with testifying under oath before Congress, prison time

    November 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    Susan Rice already got caught telling two lies

    November 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

    Congress is being very methodical - lessons learned from Watergate. Get the small fish and work your way up to the bigger fish. People in Congress are very intelligent. They can catch people in lies easily and will tell them they lied without blinking. Once hearings are open then everyone will watch Obama people squirm and sweat. Deals may be made with lower people in exchange for help with getting the higher level people. No one knows for sure what Congress is doing to people behind closed doors so far. What they tell media may not be like what is really going on.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

      The House needs every man of courage to stand up for it so that it may do what only it can do now. This does not have to be day 19 of the Thousand Years of Darkness. But it could be if the good people of this nation aren't AT LONG LAST vigilant about the last of our freedoms.

      November 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

    I gots a small wee-wee.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

      Sounds like something Michelle tells Barack in front of Deval Patrick before watching them

      November 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm |

    Al Qaeda killed them - Susan Rice reported what she was given by the Intelligence Community - Clapper committed perjury under oath to Congress, so he's already on the chopping block. Probably more so far. Congress will add more this week. Once they get enough, then the hammer will be used to get the ones Congress really wants. The one at the top is the last to get.

    November 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm |

      And i gots a small wee-wee.

      November 25, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • messenger

      It's sad to see the Republican Party go downhill this way. They need a Night of the Long Knives to clear out the Tea Party buffoons. Now its not to save their hides. It's just the right thing for them to do to save the nation from further embarrassment.

      November 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

    santa killed the americans in bangazi

    November 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
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About this blog

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.