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Faith and feminism: Excerpt from ‘Talking Taboo’ examines sexual temptation
"Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith" is a collection of personal essays from Christian women under 40, including Carol Howard Merritt, a Presbyterian minister, and Amy Julia Becker, a writer and blogger. The women write about "taboo" topics such as domestic violence, religious doubt, homosexuality, menstruation and sexism in the church. Publishers Weekly said the book "offers a glimpse of the diverse lived realities of Christian women and encourages the church to accept the full humanity of women." Enuma Okoro, one of the editors of "Talking Taboo" and an awarding-winning writer, speaker and communications consultant, wrote this excerpt, from a chapter on the subject of temptation. Naughty by Nature, Hopeful by Grace
By Enuma Okoro
I liked Chris from the start. And he liked me. We had so much to talk about and he was disarmingly attractive in an "I rode my bike five miles to your house 'cause earlier on the phone you said you'd kill for this book" kind of way. We met at the wedding of a mutual friend. We both came alone.
"So, how do you know the couple?" It was an innocent enough question to ask the guy seated next to me at the reception.
Realizing we were both writers, we relaxed into conversation with instant ease and before we left the reception we had exchanged emails and phone numbers. It would be good to stay connected about one another's writing projects, support each other vocationally.
And that's what we did over the following months. I adore connecting with like-minded folks, especially about writing and publishing.
I would text him Joan Didion and Gail Godwin quotes about the writing life. Sometimes he would text me from conferences I couldn't attend. "Just got done speaking. Wish you were here to meet all these great writing folks!"
We shared simple email pleas for professional affirmation and healthy reminders about sticking with the challenges of work. But it wasn't simply our shared vocation that drew us together. We really enjoyed each other as people and soon became friends.
Eventually it was normal for our conversations to take tangents into other aspects of our lives: the upcoming medical exam that had me worried, his growing involvement at his church. Our slowly growing friendship felt beautiful, fitting, and life giving at this season of our lives.
Then it happened. I didn't mean it to. But at some point I started getting flutters at the "dink" of my iPhone. A text or phone message from him could easily redeem the halfheartedness of an otherwise mediocre day. At some point I started crushing on him.
Maybe things would have been different if his wife hadn't gone to her twenty-year high school reunion the same weekend as that wedding. Maybe if she had been there he and I never would have met.
I am beginning to realize how little the churches of which I have been a part have taught me about the beauty of boundaries and the reality of fine lines. No one really wants to talk about the normalcy of temptation and how, if unacknowledged, it can lead to behavior that goes against what is life giving, what is of God.
I get it now in a way I haven't before; how temptation can slip slowly from shiny surfaces into the sin of unfaithfulness and undisciplined desire, from things that look good and usually are good, in the beginning. But no one talks about how to keep your balance on the slippery slope. No one wants to talk about it till everyone has slid right off. Then every pastor, priest, and prophet begins to preach about Eve and Delilah, biblical women culturally synonymous with the evils of temptation and the fall of men. In my friendship with Chris I felt the flutters growing and I wanted to start talking about it. I wanted to steady my stance on the slippery slope.
"So, I really like talking to Chris. Should I be worried about that?" I was at my girlfriend Jules' house working on a project.
Jules looked up at me from her computer screen. "What do you mean? Like you find him super interesting intellectually or you think he's hot?"
"Um … both? He's just really great. But I'm starting to get butterflies when we talk and that's not good 'cause he's married. Crushing is normal, right? Never mind. Forget I said anything."
Jules closed her computer screen and sat up straighter in her armchair. "How often do you talk?"