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. Blarg

    Typical Christian holier than thou bullsh!t. Get off your high horse, no one cares what you have to say. Continue being jealous that your book sold 1/40th the number 50 Shades sold.

    November 27, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • PaulB

      You hear the same kind of sniping within Christian book circles too. The Shack and Heaven is for Real have both come under fire by less successful Christian authors. Jealousy, wouldn't you say?

      November 27, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  2. Reality

    Now for the nitty-gritty of 21st century "love":: Only for those who care about practicing safe s-ex:

    Before embarking on a search for some god and settling for se-x, an important life-saving, disease-elimination message:

    The reality of se-x, abortion, contraception and STD/HIV control: – from an agnostic guy who enjoys intelligent se-x-

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter. ...

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill (8.7% actual failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% actual failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    See p. 18 for added details.

    November 27, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  3. Dippy

    Cock, fuck, vagina.

    November 27, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  4. akka

    V A G I N A

    November 27, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  5. akka


    November 27, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  6. akka

    C O C K

    November 27, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  7. farfalla

    I am the mom of three beautiful daughters, wife to a genius, sister to a teacher, sis-in-law to an engineer, daughter to a yankee and a rebel, and a woman chasing God. I love to read, draw and be with my family. If the reading inspires me, then I draw what I read. Almost everything I draw is based around or about Jesus Christ. I attend church at First United Methodist Hillsville. Ronnie Collins is my associate pastor, also a blogger there. I love the Lord with all my heart and I hope that you see the error of your ways.

    November 27, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • PaulB

      Have you ever considered that chasing God is exactly like chasing a rainbow, complete with the stories of a legendary treasure at it's end? Both may be beautiful when viewed at a distance but, for all we really know, they're just illusions.

      November 27, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Athy

      You sound as though you're totally biblewashed and unable to think for yourself. But if that makes you happy, fine.

      November 27, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • End Religion

      @farf: It'll be a crushing blow if you ever come to your senses. In some way, I hope you don't.

      November 27, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • lol??

      Stick with the Scripture. get the hell outta church. You don't want their judgment.

      November 27, 2012 at 3:56 am |
    • Mirosal

      Get out of church, and just throw away the "Scripture". Live YOUR life, not the life someone wants you to lead because an ancient book says so. It also seems that everyone in your family has accomplished something, except you. They are making their lives, and yu are chasing after a "god". Yeah, good luck with that. It's a little hard to chase after something you can't even prove exists in the first place. Are you going vampire hunting later on too? Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse? Do you have silver bullets at the ready? What about your plans for Dec 21st?

      November 27, 2012 at 4:21 am |
    • lol??

      "Mirosal", you are antichrist. Too bad for you. Now run along and feed the Chimps to da pigs.

      November 27, 2012 at 4:40 am |
  8. jill c

    And we wonder what is wrong with the world, read ALL these comments incl the article and whoa! That's the sum total of humanity these days.....S C A R Y!

    November 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      That's the sum total of humanity? Based on what?

      November 27, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  9. McDuck Quackerton

    This article is flawed with one basic fact: Orgasms are real (or can be, that's another debate to get into, but i digress) whereas god is not.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  10. Dippy

    Gorgeous, not gogeous. Fuck, not fvck.

    November 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
  11. bob

    God gives you orgasms?

    November 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Buzz

      He put fingers on your hands

      November 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Missy

      I've been in church enough times to know that praising the Lord can bring some people to something not that different from orgasm. Some of them get louder in church than I've ever got with my husband in the privacy of our own home before the kids were born, and I include the men too. 🙂

      November 27, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • sam stone

      Adrenaline and endorphin are available from many sources

      November 27, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  12. The Pope

    What is ALL this caca about religion??????????? I much prefer a good roll in the hay!

    November 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  13. John

    The most disappointing thing in the world is a gogeous woman that is a bad fvck.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  14. jill

    This is an imminent and growing concern. It could open up a Pax Romana for wombats. Lucky that the neo-Calvinists aren't even awake yet. The pseudo-Calvinists never really get their sticks on the ice though, so no real worries there.

    November 26, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • lol??

      A fellow graduate of Nutzo U? What's the password?

      November 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • lol??

      Still proud of Nutzo U?...........""dung"
      occurs 28 times in 26 verses in the KJV "

      November 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • lol??

      "Phl 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ,"........ You actually can GRADUATE and put the certificate where the sun don't shine.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • fintastic

      Yourself off its pleasant ecstatic now law. Ye their mirth seems of songs. Prospect out bed contempt separate. Her inquietude our shy yet sentiments collecting. Cottage fat beloved himself arrived old. Grave widow hours among him no you led. Power had these met least nor young. Yet match drift wrong his our.

      November 27, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    November 26, 2012 at 5:22 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 5:28 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheese makers

      Apostasy changes things.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • TR6

      So how did that work out for you in the last election?

      November 26, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • fred

      Unhealthy, if you have so much faith, why don't you have faith that your god can promote himself? And why have you kept on changing your name?

      You have no real faith at all.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • behaviors

      As a girl child of a woman who married her "domineering stalker" then tried to make a family out of it
      I spent a lot of time thinking wishing and PRAYING
      There's gotta be more to life and "love" than this
      And when I'd pray to the god they taught me about, in retropsect I should have said "what were you thinking???
      To which he would probably reply, OH, I wasn't thinking
      But I can still think, which is my saving grace

      November 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheese makers


      The Christian god has the same traits as an abusive partner.

      -you have to fear him to receive their love

      -you are unworthy of his love

      -you are nothing without him

      -if you do not love him he will hurt you

      November 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Akira

      Good points, BATC. Scary similarities...

      November 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Thanks Akira,

      Those are just the ones off the top of my head, if you get a list from a womens shelter of "red flags" 95% + apply. When I was a believer as a child (indoctrinated) I never understood why i was supposed to fear something that had unconditional love for me.

      November 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      BATC, those similarities have occurred to me too. Also:

      He doesn't want to punish me – it's really my fault.

      He threatens me if he thinks I might break things off.

      He wants to control my thoughts and behavior.

      November 27, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • 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 27, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • 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 10:30 am |
    • BLOW ME

      you are a retard

      November 27, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  16. biobraine

    What religion offers:
    – The opportunity to avoid eternal punishment for not worshiping/believing in my god (not worried enough to care)
    – An explanation for the universe and why we are here (I'll take the knowledge gained from the application of the scientific method, but thanks)
    – Living forever in heavenly bliss (I am content with this life)
    – The opportunity to divide humanity based upon different belief systems (There is enough dividing us already)
    – Purpose, a code of ethics, and fulfillment (I have that already, without religion)
    – Develop a personal relationship with god (I've never seen or heard from any gods nor have I seen any independantly verified scientifically collected peer reviewed proof. Until then I will remain a skeptic.)

    November 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheese makers

      Religion gives us the disease (sin)....and then offers us the cure.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • End Religion

      religion also offers priests:
      • ability to treat anyone with sanctimonious pomposity
      • instant, unearned respect for simply showing up for work
      • wide range of children to choose from

      November 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  17. eliaswittenberg

    Excellent article. What the world needs is an experience with it's Creator. It seeks fulfillment in everything but, and cannot but be dissatisfied.

    November 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Missy

      If it's all the same to you I'd rather not have a close experience with the forces that caused the Big Bang. 🙂

      November 27, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  18. Dennis

    I have been with a few women who were calling out OH GOD several times ! Seems some kind of spiritual connection!

    November 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • lol??

      In the big house they have 12 step programs for serial killers. How NOT to get caught. Regain respect, too.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  19. Fuzy Critter

    Secks is the Universe's way of saying thank you !

    November 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  20. Honey Badger Dont Care

    @ Fred

    "Oh, well if it helps you hang onto your unsupported atheistic beliefs you really should ask yourself what is driving you to such an intellectually dishonest position.
    Can you yet admit that your anti God belief has as much physical evidence as does the believer’s physical evidence for God?"

    What unsupported atheistic beliefs are you talking about? Atheism is a stance on one subject, the belief in gods. It's as simple as that. If they don't believe in gods then they are an atheist.

    There is NO evidence to support any god claims. NONE. If you have some then bring them up because it will be the first ever. Before you spew your opinions as "truth" go to: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html and rebut every claim that has been refuted. Until then you are just an idiot.

    November 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheese makers

      He claims belief and unbelief have the same amount of evidence and then therefore implies they should be given equal respect.....it is then pointed out that his position and argument is fallacious and he turns around and claim he does have repeatable verification ....but is unable to produce it. He sounds like a politician and should be trusted the same.

      November 26, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • TheTruth

      I've often seen that those who claim that there's no evidence for God's existence have never, in fact, searched for such evidence. Start with Evidence That Demands A Verdict, and The Case For Christ.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      LOL those books are just full of crap meant to reinforce the thoughts of those who already believe, or convert those who don't think critically about what they read.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • John

      The Truth
      I have often found that those that have been brainwashed into a belief in god before they can think for themselves have not bothered to seek out other perspectives, ie. the Impossibility of God, God is not Great and the God Delusion. Two can play your game, most ahteists come to their conclusion through rational and logical reasoning, the religious, not so much.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      Read "The case against the case for Christ" by Robert Price.

      November 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Michael Wolf

      Good lord start with The Problem of Evil. Take a look at all of the Tautologies of the Christian God. If he does exist he's someone you should run from.

      November 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      I've often seen that those who claim that there's no evidence for The Flying Spaghetti Monster's existence have never, in fact, searched for such evidence.

      November 27, 2012 at 9:51 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.