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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 • My Take • Sex

soundoff (1,819 Responses)
  1. peterfrohwein

    It is always interesting to see the reaction of men and women, when the Truth is spoken.
    Two things happen. Acknowledgement or Denial. Acknowledgement is supported by Love.
    Denial is followed by hate, anger, fear and shallow attacks. Thank you Ms. Ethridge for speaking
    Truth.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      So then by your logic the god of the bible is false since we are told we must "fear" him....

      November 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      peterfrohwein,

      Your proverbial dichotomy or breaking in two seems to be flavored in emotionalisms not to be tenured but made as a s s u m e d traits of characterized sensual anomolies.

      November 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Sam Stone

      Beware of those who capitalize "truth"

      November 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Polycarp

      Blessed are the Cheesemakers
      So then by your logic the god of the bible is false since we are told we must "fear" him....--------------------------------------------------------------------

      Is their anyone that you, yourself is afraid of offending and hurting???? That is what is meant by Fearing God.

      February 26, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  2. REDFIREBALL

    Non-examined czars, fast and furious, benghazi, iranian missiles, fiscal cliff -- what has congress done to protect American from corrupt Executive Branch over the yeras? Should our current state of affairs be any big surprise?

    November 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • runner305

      Are you ignorant to the fact that this article has NOTHING to do with what you're talking about, or.........are you just an arrogant buffoon??

      November 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    End Religion, a lot of people have your reaction to Dr. Johnson. Not sure why? I always thought he was funny, but that is just me. The problem is, most people did not see that it was a parody and attacked Dr. J for his poor or bogus research, even though I put a zinger in everyone just in case.

    "...the fullness of our Lord cannot be contained by His tunic." That one still cracks me up.

    Akira, what is your take? (Dr. J. is retired, but I posted them one last time for you.)

    November 25, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  4. REDFIREBALL

    What has Congress done to protect us from a corrupt Executive Branch?

    November 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Virgin Mary

      Congress gives itself willingly to the POTUS every night to protect us from the filthy things it might want from us as we hide under our beds just down the hall and listen to the horrible sounds of it.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Roger that

      Maybe rehab can help? You have to take that first step.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • runner305

      Hint: Take Reading Comprehension 101. It may help you.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  5. REDFIREBALL

    Two wrongs do not make a right - an effective American leader would have learned from a predecessors mistakes, not blame his current situation for them. Much was learned from 09/11/2001. Congress was complacent when allowing current executive branch corruption to thrive. Now all this time and energy needs to be spent cleaning it up? Meanwhile, the foreign leaders, like those of the Eastern Hemisphere, will be busy moving further forward and doing their own thing. American did it to herself.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  6. Paris Miller

    A true connection someone requires you to give love. I think that most people now don't know what that is :-( Love is a verb. It's something you do ! To he.. with all You !

    November 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  7. Carrie

    this is the biggest load of crap available on CNN today. I was into bdsm way before it became trendy. 50 shades is the lightest intro. I have a great job, a house, a car, a fulfilling relationship with a person, not the imaginary guy in the sky- why the need to shed your opinion on something you don't understand? I wasn't looking for god when i read this book, although i likely said "oh god, oh god" over and over as I enjoyed myself :)
    amen

    November 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • ))))))000000000*********%%%%@@@@@@@-?

      I totally agree!

      November 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  8. KidIndigo

    I started reading this expecting to "dis" it. Instead, I found a well-thought, well-written article. I'm sure the "God" stuff will automatically turn off a number of people. Too bad for them. To me, se x (and isn't it stupid I have to hyphenate to get past the censors?) is WAAAY better when it's intimate, loving, and shared. And yes, to me, God is there. I'm no Adonis, and my mate isn't a fashion model, but you know what? IT'S OK. Actually, it's better than that! :) She's my partner in everything, and I'm lucky to have what I do. Thanks.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      KidIndigo,

      It is a goodly thing you and your mate does share with each other. May your life together br fruitfilled and ungarnished with mindless trivialities unsettling natures! :-)

      November 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  9. REDFIREBALL

    What Obama and Clinton did for Israel and the Hamas was mere crisis management - No doubt Iran and Egypt have given the situation lsome onger-term thought.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • REDFIREFILTHYHINDISM

      Beware! I am the lovechild of REDFIRBALL and Filthy Hinduism!

      How will lubricants for elves stagger past twelve inches of quivering glory? Will apple trees from hell recover with from Thor's oozing hammer? A unobtainable oxygen boils. Mormon twerps adopt the permissible injustice. The unhealthy bugger clashs with overseas development.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  10. Bootyfunk

    more like Searching For S.ex, Settling For God

    November 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  11. REDFIREBALL

    An America that wants and needs righteous proactivity deserves a media that exposes and helps eradicate our reactive and corrupt government - corrupt officials will defend their own corruption. The media had ample proof of a Democrat corrupt government and chose to enable it. If the media proves corrupt, then it should fall off the cliff with the corrupt politicians for the long-term benefit of a suffering American citizenry.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • runner305

      I guess I'll be more blunt then: STAY ON TOPIC!!!

      November 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  12. whutevr

    All I know is that every woman I know that loves this book, can't keep a relationship for more than a few months.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  13. REDFIREBALL

    Corrupt government - including use of non-approved czars - is crisis oriented. The corrupt are always putting out fires at the expense of american and foreign peace and security. The media has helped extinguish these fires until a new fire flares up somewhere. Think about it.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  14. Pete

    Ah, the spiritual awakening of mankind to make it behave in a more domesticated manner concept of counseling... Where do I begin. Spiritual awareness is something one must seek in order to attain even momantary, elementary levels. Some who seek spiritual awareness will also find an omnipresent God. Some who attain enough spiritual awareness to let their spirit, not their ego, run their life are often called master as Jesus was or Guru or enlightened. Those few are still human in every way they just aren't as bound by their body and ego.
    People do things for a variety of reasons: seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, fear, attraction, insecurity, dominance, boredom, worry and the list goes on and on. To boil it down to a bible belt, right winged, Christian, quoting form the good book explanation is at best simplistic. At worst it will feed the guilt so prevalent in "Christianity" and cause more distance between man and God. Notice I said distance between man and God? See God is here... Most of us are just so distracted by a physical body and ego (AKA life) that we don't notice.
    If you read the red letters where Jesus talks to Nic about being born again you get a better concept of The Master trying to teach the clergy about spiritual awakening.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      If Jesus was god why was he wrong so often and why was he not able to share an original thought or information that was previously unknown?

      November 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      P l a t i t u d e s of longevities surrounds each and every angles of s e x u a l c i r c u m v e n t i o n made by us mammals thru which we do so tend to placate the 'underlings' of aged youthfulness. The dires of elder aged phenoms are tenuously as hardened busy bodies ever getting into the buttresses of yet aged youthfilled euphemisms. At 57 nearing 8, I find the alluringness modalities of tranfigurations in sensual tendernesses to be pardonably palatable in many cases.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Pete

      Cheese... Those are questions your going to have to ask him yourself.

      November 26, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  15. REDFIREBALL

    The media protects POTUS crisis management style which is eroding America and Foreign Policy. No long-term plans - the media failed to show a strategic Obama yet supported him –irregardless of color - Congress will expose his corruption.

    November 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Congress will find the truth...I doubt it ...they are lost themselves....John McCain seems to have forgotten Condoleezza Rice lied much more to the American People after 9/11/2001...and nobody really explained why NORAD had drills just like the 9/11/2001 attacks....and why Condoleezza Rice turned down Richard Clarke's request for SAM, Surface to Air Missile Sites around New York and Washington DC months before the real attacks....McCain should be investigating the other Rice...

      November 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • runner305

      Have you ever heard of the phrase "stay on topic" ???

      November 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  16. Cat

    Do you dance?

    November 25, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  17. Brainiac

    This should be obvious. If you were EVIL and you wanted to dominate people, then destroying their morals would be the first step. This constant bombardment of filth from all angles is corrupting our souls and deadening our nerves. People can't even distinguish between RIGHT and WRONG anymore. Any other questions?

    November 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Cat

      Again, do you dance?

      November 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Travelling Jeebus

      Filth I tell you. Filth. S'ex is ebil and disgusting. Filth. Yuk. Icky. pewey. Sticky se'x. Filth. Dirty. Disgusting. Filth.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Right is lightly potent while wrong is thinking with one's dong, tallywhacker as some people do propose! I just love it when a good thought comes to be! May one's longing donging doings be ever found in the wholeness of placed spaces crevices.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Alex

      clearly you have picked the wrong screen ID for yourself...

      November 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      S.e.x and morality have nothing to do with each other.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Alex,

      Kindly make a strenuous attempt at placing the poster's name of who your post is meant for. Okee Dokee Alexee?

      November 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Blessed are the Cheesemakers,

      We have moral s e x u a l i s m and acts of immoral s e x u a l i s m s and even actions of amoral s e x i s m s. Oh the choices we mammalians do have! Care to take a dare and polute the senses?

      November 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  18. drk

    Does this woman have ANY credentials?

    November 25, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • whutevr

      Credentials don't mean a thing without experiences to go with them. Did you read her little bio right next to her picture? Besides, anyone who is a professional at anything has opinions based on her/his experiences. So, just take her opinions for what they're worth and move on.

      November 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  19. CNNReader

    People interpret god in their own way, for their own agenda. What's new?

    November 25, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  20. REDFIREBALL

    The budget deficit continues to grow - it was $120 billion for october this year - incompetent democrat fault. Higher income taxes should not be used to pay for this fiscal incompetence. why punish the money wise?

    November 25, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • dreamer96

      Clueless.....during World War II we had a 90% tax rate as the highest level...and we used it to pay off our war debt..it was there until John F Kennedy lower it to 70% in the 1960's....we should go back to the WWII tax rates.....

      Walmart pay most of their employees minimum wage, and those workers get less than 20 hours a week, earn on average $16,000 a year, and need to apply for food stamps to raise a family ...and those Walmart employees on government help cost each US taxpayer $17.00 a year...

      Walmart is owned by the Walton family, that has more money then 1/2 of people combined in America.......and the Walmart trade to China is atleast 10% of our trade deficit with China..some say it is much higher then that...

      November 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • dreamer96

      Ops correction the owners of Walmart..the Walton family combined have more wealth then the bottom 40% of all americans...

      November 25, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.