home
RSS
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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. palintwit

    My work here is nearly done. I managed to get Obama reelected while at the same time relegating Sarah Palin to the dung heap of Faux News. And I have the Tea Party Patriots on the run. I have accomplished much.

    November 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • WASP

      @palintwit: and we all thank you for all your hard work..............................maybe we should write a book of your magical feats and pass them along as holy to the next generation. lmfao

      November 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • YoozYerBrain

      Yes, you did. And you deserve credit. Good job, great election, keep up the good work!

      November 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Which God?

      Kudos, palintwit.

      November 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  2. Huebert

    If ones search ends up with se.x, can it really be called settling?

    November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      only if you've never had good s.ex.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things . .

    November 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "John 3:16" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" is the degenerate

      This troll is not a christian.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.~

      November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "John 3:16" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" is the degenerate.

      This troll is not a christian .

      November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      actions cause change; prayer wastes valuable time.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.`

      November 27, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  5. Bootyfunk

    the bible abhors s.ex. guilt guilt guilt. masturbation is evil. s.exual thoughts are evil. blah blah blah.

    religion and s.ex don't mix - oil and water.

    god, just go away.

    November 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • and as always

      pottybunk is wrong

      November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      as usual, you need to get laid...

      November 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Bob

      "and as always" is still in the closet so I doubt they've actually had good sex, they are too afraid of their orientation. ;-)

      November 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      lol. nail on the head, Bob.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • snopes says

      and as always is false

      November 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  6. marksmanship

    INTIMACY VERSUS INTENSITY TRIANAGLE PREDICTIONS - Key players: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Perry and Deval Patrick. No doubt Obama will have growing reason to fear the embarassment of impeachment as Congress continues to gather information from a variety of under-oath and technical sources. Assuming all forms of media distractions fail, one Obama question that should prove to be of high interest: what would Hillary do? She has her sights on 2016, as does "special close friend" Deval. Hillary already took a slight bow before Obama's re-election but refusal to sing up in the Hill may impede her future political aspirations. Amity may convert to enmity between Patrick, Obama and herself. Kerry will head an investigative committee to the watchful eyes of Republican hawks. Congress is waiting with baited breath for Obama to nominate either Susan Rice, John Kerry and/or Deval Patrick for confirmation hearing. Obama might worry about Congress finding Big Bird's Berkshire Love Nest. Oh what a wicked web the Democrats can weave - as the world turns.

    November 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      ew a troll!

      November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • End Religion

      redfireball, is that you?!?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Blind Archer

      What is your target?

      November 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Akira

      I do believe it is REDBALLSOFFIRE, here to grace us with his intimate knowledge of all things Obama.
      Masterful segue, BTW. Not.

      November 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  7. jyoti

    This women seems to justify her lack of self control by shamelessly bringing god in the picture. What is God?? why does west find it so difficult to grasp. When do you find God? God means pure, god means sacrifice, god means unconditional love, god means living without anything but surviving that's is god.. transparent,empty but so rich in perception and how do you reach closer to god? by getting rid of your vices slowly first by self control and then by slow elimination once you get old...this is how Hindus perceive it, you go to an Hindu temple they don't preach dogmatic idiocy, they guide on self control , meditation and goodness but how can you teach a man so immersed in 'love for pleasure' ...happiness continues to elude such people as their love for pleasure never ceases to exist.

    November 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • End Religion

      god means only delusion, nothing else

      November 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Huebert

      Are you saying that se.x is a vice?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sounds like you can't get laid and hate that other people can.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Simran

      "by getting rid of your vices slowly first by self control and then by slow elimination once you get old...this is how Hindus perceive it, you go to an Hindu temple they don't preach dogmatic idiocy"

      And yet, the Hindus divide the society on the basis of caste, and worship the man who left his pregnant wife even after she passed the "agnee pareeksha", and of course, revere a scrpiture in which the wife of five men is molested right in front of her spineless husbands!

      November 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Simran

      Talking of Hinduism s.ex, how do you know se.x is a vice? Ever wondered at the intricate description of se.x life in the Hindu temples of Khajuraho and Ajanta-Ellora?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  8. derp

    Funny how atheists have lower divorce rates than christards.

    My wife and I never looked for god, only to find s e x.

    We looked for s e x.

    We found it.

    23 years later we are still practicing.

    November 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      awesome!

      i'm also an atheist, together for 5 years with my fiance, about to marry next month. we have love and lots of s.ex - no room for god in our bedroom. anyone think having god in bed would be fun? lol.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  9. nels12

    I think its hilarious that atheists are trolling the belief page and behaving like children- do you seriously have nothing better to do? If you don't believe in God, fine. But don't crap on those who do.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • .

      pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • End Religion

      We have a few thousand years to make up for you crapping on us. Enjoy!

      November 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Huebert

      How is asking you to support your beliefs crapping on you?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @nels12

      You Said: " I think its hilarious that atheists are trolling the belief page and behaving like children- do you seriously have nothing better to do? If you don't believe in God, fine. But don't crap on those who do. "

      This is a discussion blog, and as such... everyone is free to challenge and debate everyone elses opinions, beliefs, etc... "Free Speech."

      Just a suggestion... make solid arguments that give others that don't agree any reason to ridicule... or .... maybe the belief blogs are not for you.

      Peace...

      November 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Spacely

      Let's all wipe the monkey-feces off, and shake hands. We can get along :)

      November 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Greg

      Why do Christians always "crap" on our rational take on the would then? It works both ways, you know?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      not easy to do, Spacey, when christians follow a book that says atheists are deserving of eternal torture....

      November 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • and as always

      footybunk is wrong

      November 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • End Religion

      why is it always the dude that has been crapping on others for 2000 years who suggests "OK, we're done, can't we just get along?" You have 2000 years of crap coming. Better get a towel.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • sam stone

      nels: if those who believed kept it to themselves, this would not be an issue

      November 26, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  10. Badly-Bent

    ahhhhhhhhh, closet narcisist. I am so not into you.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Mark9988

      That whooshing sound was the point going over your head.

      November 26, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  11. therealpeace2all

    There a certainly a multi tude of factors about we, as humans, and our desire to be as close as possible.

    With the body having it's limitations, 'some' people are left unsatisfied... wanting more.

    O.K... *THOUGHT EXPERIMENT HERE* When we look at Quantum Mechanics, the concept of everything being *ONE* and Quantum Entanglement comes to mind. Possibly there is a deep seeded desire/drive to merge, which is our natural state of being.

    The Physical act of s e x can only take us so far. As I understand it, some people through ancient eastern practices, 'may' help some people get closer to that transcendant experience that many long for ?

    All is *ONE*

    Thoughts... opinions ??

    Regards,

    Peace....

    November 26, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  12. tony

    Life is so much more, without the artificial restrictions that religious folk continually push onto others. Pity they don't focus on getting themselves "perfect" instead.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  13. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Searching for god and settling for se x? Sounds like this was geared more toward catholic priests.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • WhatTruthLooksLike

      You are a bigot.

      November 26, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • End Religion

      @truth: I think I read somewhere that homey badger don't care. How can it be bigoted if it is a fact. Once again religious folks do know actual truth if it slithers up and bites them.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  14. myweightinwords

    Sexual fantasy, sexual play, including BDSM, can be healthy expressions of adult relationships. What transpires between two consenting adults is something sacrosanct, not to be interfered with by anyone else.

    I haven't read 50 Shades, mostly because I know it's origins, and having had a few friends I trust read it and give me the highlights, I know it would make me crazy. I'm all for feeding the fantasy life of those who have lost the spark, but I prefer to do it with something a little more true to life.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  15. jill

    I don't see how she can come down so hard on Presbyterians like that. Next maybe she'll duel with the pseudo-Calvinists. Sheesh...

    November 26, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • PaulB

      It's all part of the general attack upon traditional protestant churches by evangelicals. They call them "dead churches" and aim to lure their followers away with all the glitz and showmanship so common today within the mega-churches.

      November 26, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • jill

      Well, you know what they say about elephants and wind instruments...

      November 26, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Bobby

      Reeled that one in nicely, Jilly. Hook line and stinker. Clever grrrl. How's that vessel stewing?

      November 26, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Bobby

      "pseudo-calvinists" ha. guffaw guffaw. Luv it. Rollin in it.

      November 26, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • jill

      Pass the pancakes, Bobby, but no mega-gadflies in the soup today please.

      November 26, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • End Religion

      "It's all part of the general attack upon traditional protestant churches by evangelicals"

      Religious cannibalism? Sounds like transubstantiation to me.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  16. Brother Maynard

    It is religion that places the se.xual chackles on women ( and men ) in the first place.

    maybe if religion didn't lecture that se.x is evil in the first place then women ( and men ) would need se.xual intencity and could have se.xual intimacy.

    I really feel sorry for religious pious individuals, they will never experience the beauty of se.x. They alway have Jesus in the bedroom looking over them.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • WASP

      @maynard: yeah jesus/god does seem like a bit of a perv if you truly think about it. lmfao

      November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Huebert

      I like it when Jesus watches me and my wife. Some times he brings his wife Maria over and we have a real party. :)

      November 26, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      .. woops should have said
      "wouldn't need se.xual intensity .."
      really should proof my statements before hitting 'Post'

      November 26, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • ArchieDeBunker

      Heubert – if brains were propane you wouldn't have enough to prime an ant's motor bike and drive it twice around a cheerio . .

      November 26, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Huebert

      ADB

      lame.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  17. Amazed

    Boy, I'm glad all you bitter, angry trolls don't need any help with relationships.

    Here's a hint. If you don't like someone's opinion on a spiritual matter, then why are you spending your time on a Belief blog?

    November 26, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Bob

      Because people like you are trying to force your religious beliefs on others that don't believe as you do. You belong to a cult and we are trying to show you the way out.

      November 26, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Jt

      We both have a "Belief" point of view. The only difference is that ours is based upon things that have evidence to support it. You know, things we like to call REALITY. :-)

      November 26, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Beliefs are important and have consequences....If you believe you are Jesus Christ should your belief be respected?

      November 26, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • janemutiny

      I ended up reading this article because of the ridiculously misleading headline on the front page of CNN, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with religion (or as it is more aptly called, "delusion").

      November 26, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • derp

      "If you don't like someone's opinion on a spiritual matter, then why are you spending your time on a Belief blog?"

      Because making light of christards is easy and fun.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Power is in humility, not ideology

    Thinking takes practice. Thinking correctly takes patience. Prayer is sometimes used by stupid people, but it is also used by very intelligent people, as is meditation. Prayer as a recitation, in my opinion, is not valuable, but verbally expressing your thanks, problems and desires is, at least, a powerful practice in visualizing your life from an outside lens. To get where you're going, its best to know where you are. Self-visualization is a step in knowing where you are, whether this is done through formal prayer and just quiet reflection. So, "Prayer wastes time", what do you value? Is thinking about your life and situation a waste of time? Do you always act on impulse? is there a better way than just bashing someone else's belief that you believe is juvenile?

    November 26, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Bob

      When someone believes in a cult and are wasting their time wouldn't you try to show them the way out and stop the brainwashing.

      November 26, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Jt

      Power
      What you're describing is self-talk, so why call it "prayer" and have it confused with the supposed communication with deities that people usually associate with that term?

      November 26, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • DC

      Power-
      Very well said indeed.
      Thanks.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  19. bcarpe

    So beautiful, intimacy centered on Christ. Thanks for speaking the truth, Shannon.

    November 26, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Really

      So you are thinking about jesus on a stick instead of your REAL partner when doing the deed?

      November 26, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  20. You know

    ...50-Shades was a really vadly written book and nothing at all about the BDSM lifestly.

    This article just proves how truly lost and bored everyone is.

    November 26, 2012 at 9:01 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
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.