Back to Selections from Issue #2 / HA! Home Page / The Lilith Collective / Selections from Issue #1 / Issue #3: The Work Issue / Essential Links
    Sex Kills, Become Catholic and Live Forever
    by Chris Chapman

    "When I spank my monkey, God slaps his rod"
    —God Masturbates, by Steve Alexander

    "And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. And He said, Who told thee that thou was naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?"
    —Genesis 3: 9-11

    I think of my Catholic upbringing like this: You're seven years old and you walk into a church. You see the crucifix, nails pounded through Jesus' hands and feet anchoring him to the cross so he can slowly die, naked and exposed on a hill in the desert. He's dying in prolonged agony, nothing quick and probably barely felt, like lethal injection or even the electric chair. If this was on TV, you'd have to slap a warning about "mature audiences only" at the beginning. Then someone walks up, points to the crucifix, and says, "Oh, by the way, that's your fault." Despite being a child 2000 years and 5000 miles away, you're an unindicted co-conspirator in the plot between the Pharisees and Romans to execute (in their eyes) a troublemaker who thinks he's God. And the reason it's your fault is because one of your forebears succumbed to temptation and ate one lousy apple from the tree of knowledge, earning instant eviction from the Garden of Eden and getting lovely parting gifts such as shame and guilt. As a kid, you understand and empathize with Adam. Every time your mom makes chocolate chip cookies, you sneak into the fridge and eat the raw dough, just because you've been told not to. You just get gently reproached, not kicked out of your house.

    Lest you wonder where I derive my authority to speak of the Church, my parents are to this day practicing Catholics, as are my grandparents. I spent four years in Catholic elementary school and four more years at an all male Catholic high school. I attended Mass almost every Sunday from the time I was born until I left for college. I was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church. In my experience, the Church puts you at war with yourself. You learn to fear what is natural and human, whether it's lust for other people or cookie dough, rather than seeking to understand it and place it in context. And why? Because of some obscure, contradictory scroll fragments found in the desert, flavored with a dash of "That's the way it's always been." At least in the case of the Catholic Church, add the non-trivial issue of a Church whose priests are celibate and male acting as authorities on sexuality.

    There's a lot I respect about the Church, but the God I see in most churches (not just Catholic) in America comes in one of two flavors. The first is zealous prosecutor, willing to indict for a wide range of crimes, but offering eternal immunity if we'll just turn state's evidence and testify to his omnipotence. Or, he's a super genie, granting wishes to the faithful, although it's not possible to discern on what basis the wishes are granted even after years of studying the aforementioned scrolls.

    I remember the day I encountered Catholic teachings on sex, when I first ate from the tree of knowledge. It was a summer day in 1975, I was eight. My friend Steven and I were playing in the basement, and we happened upon a stash of Playboy magazines. The naked female form, even in what some would argue was a narrow variety and exploitative presentation, was a revelation.

    I certainly wasn't aware I was doing anything horrible, until an hour or so later when my mom came home and called down from the top of the basement stairs to ask what Steven and I were doing. When Steven innocently piped up "Looking at Playboys," that was it. I don't remember if or even how I was punished, but like Adam in the garden, I had learned that nakedness, sex and curiosity were wrong. I remember two decades later telling my mom that I thought the crucifix was much more damaging to young psyches than a Playboy centerfold.

    We live in a world where we haven't just eaten from the tree of knowledge, we've taken samples, put them under the microscope, and are soon going to be able to clone the original and bio-engineer a new one that will be pest-resistant, fat free, and grow in both tundra and rainforest. Any religion has to address this exploding knowledge about creation, and can't ignore it, deny it, or condemn those who seek it as arrogant.

    I'm not asking for unfettered license, I'm just saying this: Give me a god that puts the body in the proper place as a miracle, doesn't deny or at most begrudge it. Give me a god that wants good animals, one that condemns not just gluttony but starvation, ,one who wants us to understand and rejoice in our flesh, that likes to move, to dance, to sing, and to play. Give me a god that can have an orgasm.