Secret Sex Lives of the Bible Belt

Seven snapshots of sex therapy from a former therapist at a megachurch counseling center in the South.

1

An angry mother storms through my office door, dragging her son, a local high school football star.

We sit and stare at each other for an awkward short forever before I speak.

“Can you uh… tell me what brings you here today?”

“This,” she says, shoving her phone in front of my face. The video is grainy and blurred. One boy, her son. Then another boy.

“Whoa,” I tell her. “I don’t need to see that.”

“Yes, you do,” she spits, staring at her son. “He needs to see it, doesn’t he, Coby?”

“Okay,” I say, backing her phone away, “Tell you what. Why don’t you wait in the lobby and let us talk.”

“Raised you in church,” she says with disgust. “You know better.”

She leaves and the room is still. Coby sits forward, hands folded, hanging his head. “Pretty bad,” he says in a quiet voice, “When your mom is spying on you.”

“Pretty bad,” I agree.

“Can I just hang in here awhile?” he asks. “Even, like, ten minutes peace.”

“Sure,” I reply. “Long as you want.”

Coby slumps into the couch. “Man,” he says, staring at the ceiling. “I am so confused right now.”

2

Attractive couple comes in, the perfect-hair-and-teeth-with-two-pretty-kids kind whose picture we put on the church brochure. They sit lightly on my couch, far apart as possible, avoiding each other’s eyes.

“So,” I say, after a good long while.

He glances at her. She turns away. He clears his throat and shifts forward. “She’s just so controlling,” he says, in a low secretive tone. “Money, sex. Especially sex.” sadgirlinthecorner

She lets out a short snivel and drags a tear across her cheek.

“Crying,” he adds. “She manipulates me by crying too.”

“Oh, Mr. Perfect,” she sniffs. “You’re so good — aren’t you, Mr. Never-Do-Anything-Wrong?” Her words cut razor sharp. “Mr. Five-Miles-Up-The-Pastor’s-Behind….”

“Carla,” he says. “Come on.”

“No, no. You wanted to talk about it,” she says, facing him now. “Why don’t we talk about what I found in the bottom of your bathroom drawer? Huh? Tell him about your little secret, Mark. Let’s talk about that why don’t we?”

He sits back limp, dismissing her with the wave of his hand. “See?” says Mark. “I told you. She’s nuts.”

She flinches and makes a face like the last survivor in a slasher flick, seeing the killer’s face for the first time. “Okay, you,” Carla says, jabbing her finger towards my chest. “You’re the counselor here.” She squares her shoulders and leans in hard. “Why don’t you tell us what you think?”

This week’s schedule: There’s the sweet church secretary whose bondage forays are getting out of hand. A happy couple in their 30’s who haven’t had sex in over a year and a miserable pair in their mid-50’s who still get hot action every day. The preacher’s daughter got caught sneaking boys through the window. A respected elder who can’t stay off the nympho hotline and the straight deacon struggling with gay porn.

I don’t know why sex makes us all so crazy.

3

“Satan won sex on a bet from God.”

The client looks sort of like Elaine from Seinfeld if Elaine was a little more auburn and Texas tall. A clean-cut woman, smartly dressed. Little psychotic, perhaps.

“Do what now?” I reply, in my most professional tone.

“You know, God and Satan betting,” she adds, matter-of-fact. “Like in the book of Job? That’s why we struggle with the flesh so much.”

“How do you know that?” I ask.

“Jesus showed me in a dream,” she says. “That’s why I’ve been cutting myself.” She points to the pockets of her very sensible pants. “Down there.”

“Down there,” I repeat.

“Like in the Bible,” she says. “If your right hand offends you, cut it off?

“Uh…”

“Better to go maimed into Heaven,” she continues, “than whole into the flames.”

“Well, you see–” Trying to find a response here. “I, um, don’t think….”

“It does say that,” she asks. “Right?”

4

He’s a good old boy in a Bass Pro Shop cap, works at the chicken plant out south of town. She’s a teacher’s aide at Family Christian Academy, a few pounds heavier after three kids. I ask them to rate their marriage on a scale from one to ten.

“Ten,” he answers.

“Ten?” she says, elbowing him hard. “Ten? Dammit, John what planet you livin’ on?” She stops and turns to me. “Sir, I apologize. I didn’t mean to be using profanity up in here.”

“S’okay,” I assure her. “Just say it like you mean it. God likes it better when we come as we are.” fingerscrossed

She nods and he nods and the room settles back to that square one of silence. His cap is in his hands now. “Sharon, I don’t know,” he says, fingers working fringes nervously into the brim. “At least an eight, huh?”

She takes a deep breath and shuts her eyes, like when you’re counting backwards to keep from losing your cool. “Five on a good day,” Sharon says. “But most days lately? More like a three or four.”

“It’s that bad?” he asks. “Guess I didn’t realize.”

Silence again. Back to square one. “How’s the sex?” I ask, grasping.

Sharon rounds her shoulders and blows out a piffling little breath. “I’d rather have a cheeseburger,” she replies.

“Hey,” he protests, holding out his arms.

“What?” she says. “I like cheeseburgers. He said we should just tell the truth.”

5

“I love my wife son, so I prayed really hard for the anointing of Solomon.” He’s a pastor, late fifties, with kind blue eyes and a sweet, easy-going smile, thick around the waist with white hair thinning on top.

“King Solomon?” I ask.

“King Solomon,” the old pastor agrees, “He had seven hundred wives. So I figure God must have given him a supernatural sexual stamina to keep all those women satisfied.”

There’s at least a ten second pause before I nod and say, “Okay.”

“I asked God to give me that blessing for just one woman. That the Spirit would guide me in the right ways to please her and keep her satisfied.”

“So what happened?” I ask.

He leans in, looking me in the eye. “You really want to know?”

“Oh, yes sir,” I tell him. “I do.”

The pastor shifts sideways, talking with his hands. “First, I cooked her favorite meal, serving her in every way. Then I led her to the bedroom, worship music in the background, playing soft and low –.”

“ — worship music? Like praise and worship?” girlonbed

“Like praise and worship,” he says. “Yes.”

“What song?”

“I think it was ‘O for a Thousand Tongues.’”

“Wow, good choice,” I tell him. “Keep going.”

“I had a basin of warm water and slowly I began to undress her. Then I began to wash her feet, telling her all the ways I love and appreciate her. Telling her how beautiful and wonderful she is to me.”

His eyes are glassy now, lost in time. I give him the moment then bump his knee with mine. “And?”

“For ten hours…” the pastor says, with the wonder of a narrator in a Disney fairytale. “But that night seemed to last a hundred years. At one point she fainted and I was afraid. But she came to and said, ‘No, I’m all right. I’ve just never felt this happy before.’”

“Whoa,” I reply.

“Praise the Lord,” he says.

Then he laughs and I have to ask: “So . . . just that one night?”

“Oh no,” he says, with the smile of a man who knows secret things. “A thousand times since that night. And I’m believing for a thousand more.”

6

Tommy is a big broad deacon who wears pastel suit jackets and gets his hair cut at Fantastic Sam’s.

“Jamie,” he says, slapping my back as we pass in the hall, “When I turned fifty I thought I’d finally got hold of this Christian thing.”

“How’s that?”

“Not wanting to kill people in traffic. Keeping my thoughts clean. You know that part during song service where some girls lift their hands and sway side to side and you have to fight really hard not to stare at their behinds?”

“Um, yeah.”

He cuts the air with the side of his hand. “Not even tempted. Yes, sir, thought I’d finally overcome.”

“Man, that’s great.”

“Not so great,” says Tommy, shaking his head. “Went for my check-up last week. Doc ran some tests and said, ‘Tommy boy, you got the testosterone levels of a twelve-year old girl.’”

“Not so great,” I confirm. “So what’d you do?”

“Oh, Doc got me right,” he says. “Now I’m back to struggling with lust during praise and worship and wanting to fist fight old ladies at the post office again.” Tommy folds his hands in mock prayer. “Thank you, Jesus,” he says. “Thanks for the testosterone.”

7

The church thrift store across the street calls for assistance.

“There’s some crazy drunk girl over here making a mess,” the manager says. “Can y’all send someone to get her out?”

“Jamie,” the secretary says, “This one’s for you.”

I walk over and find her sitting cross-legged on the floor, tearing out pages from the Christian romance paperbacks. She’s got Medusa hair, lime-green genie pants and a purple sweatshirt that says: PARTY HARD. (On back: PPFB Youth Group Lock-In Party like it’s 1999)

I flop down beside her, listen to a bit of her rambling story and convince her to follow me back to the counseling center. She excuses herself to the bathroom and stays way too long. I send in our intern, Holly, to bring her out.

“Hey look, I ain’t gonna lie,” Medusa says upon emerging. “I just took a bunch of pills and shotgunned a beer.”

“Pills to overdose?” I ask as we hustle her into my office. “Or just get high?” selfharm

Medusa’s eyeballs spiral like the cherries on a slot machine. “Fuzzled the eff up,” she replies, raising one finger, then two. “S’cuse my French.”

I smirk back and she holds up her hand to high five. “You’re one of them churchies that’s heard it all,” she says. “That’s cool. But I can’t look at you too long ‘cause I think I might be a sex addict.” She turns to Holly and sadly shakes her head. “You neither, babycakes.”

“Sex addict?” Holly asks.

“Tried goin’ to that support group thing y’all have,” Medusa nods, “But everybody was hooking up so bad I had to quit.”

“Ohhhh,” says Holly.

“Oh,” I repeat. There are two pictures of Jesus pinned behind my bookcase, one laughing and the other rolling his eyes.

Little help here, Jesus.

“Let’s pray,” Holly says. Heads are bowed, we join hands and as Holly prays, Medusa begins to cry.

“. . . and God, just let her know that you are always with her, help her find her way and have peace in her heart and mind, amen.”

“Amen to that,” Medusa says, wiping away tears. “I knew somebody was sending me over here. You guys are like, saving my life today.”

I point to Holly. Holly points to me. Both of us point to Jesus.

“You think Jesus really laughs and rolls his eyes?” Medusa asks, in a hopeful sort of way.

The clock ticks as she waits for my reply and what I really want to say is that I hope he does, that Jesus laughs with us because he knows we are blood and dirt made spirit by the work of his hands and laughter is the living essence of mercy and hope.

I don’t know why we are all such a mess behind closed doors, why religion and sex and relationships can drive us completely insane. The Bible is full of Jezebels and perverts and peeping toms and people who just can’t seem to get it right no matter how hard they try. I hope those parts are there to remind us that God is good, grace trumps sin and mercy stretches from sea to endless sky. That if Jesus laughs it’s to help us not feel so messed-up and alone and to give us hope that somehow, someway, everything’s gonna be all right.

But I can’t quite figure out how to put that into words. So I just shrug and give her a goofy smile.

“Hope so,” I tell her. “I really do.”

Jamie Blaine
Written by

  • http://davidsonofjack.blogspot.com/ David Baldner

    Just precious; thank you Jamie!
    I guess I don’t feel so bad, reading about what some other folk struggle with…

  • J.m. Blaine

    We’re all pretty clueless & confused & struggling through this crazy thing called life, feeling like we’re doing about the best we can. It helps us not feel so bad when we see that others are struggling too. ‘Cause if not for Grace, we’re all screwed. Thanks, David.

  • ronlyndomingue

    I’ve read J.M.’s work on other sites. Somehow, he manages to write about pain and grief and struggle in such a way that a calm comes straight through it. His words press on a little re-set button within, offering a respite from day-to-day chaos. Good work, J.M.

  • Irene Zion

    James Michael Blaine always gets right to the heart of things. His words bring tears to your eyes and make you happy at the same time. Keep it up, jmb!

  • Rational Conclusions

    Does this blog have a secret word/fragment filter?

    • Doug Wilkening

      Don’t think so, but the posting software is a bit buggy. My posts got lost too until I opened a Disqus account, which seems to work reliably.

  • J.m. Blaine

    What is a secret word filter? I like secrets.

    • Rational Conclusions

      Comments with words like constitutional get “waiting for moderation” because it contains the word “tit”. Other problems, homosexuality, oral, cum.

      • Rational Conclusions

        It appears that “Waiting for moderation” also appears when you have a web page address/reference in your comments. Strange !!!

        • Doug Wilkening

          This one actually does make sense, because bad guys can inject malware into your computer by posting renegade links on a blog. I mean it makes sense that they might disallow links just to minimize certain kinds of cyberattacks.

          • Rational Conclusions

            That makes sense.

  • Rational Conclusions

    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. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    “Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars.”

    And from:
    “Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about (even though is becoming a major cause of throat cancer),” said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. “They view it as a way to have intimacy without having ‘s-ex.'” (Maybe it should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the “stupid part of the USA” and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by “Perfect use”:

    – (Abstinence, 0% failure rate)
    – (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

    Followed by:

    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

  • Guest

    DELETED SCENE:

    8

    Couple in their forties, grew up in church.

    “Is it wrong to think
    about other women during sex if you’re a woman?” the lady asks. “Because I try
    really hard to stay focused on my husband but I just can’t get into it that
    way.”

    Her spouse is sitting
    beside her, eyes down, hands in his lap.

    “That bother you?” I ask
    him.

    “It did at first,” he
    says softly. “But I’m okay with it now.” He reaches over and takes her hand. “I
    love her. That’s the main thing. Everything else we can work through.”

    Couple in their forties, grew up in church.

    “Is it wrong to think
    about other women during sex if you’re a woman?” the lady asks. “Because I try
    really hard to stay focused on my husband but I just can’t get into it that
    way.”

    Her spouse is sitting
    beside her, eyes down, hands in his lap.

    “That bother you?” I ask
    him.

    “It did at first,” he
    says softly. “But I’m okay with it now.” He reaches over and takes her hand. “I
    love her. That’s the main thing. Everything else we can work through.”

  • J.m. Blaine

    DELETED SCENE
    8
    Couple in their forties, grew up in church.

    “Is it wrong to think about other women during sex if you’re a woman?” the lady asks. “Because I try really hard to stay focused on my husband but I just can’t get into it that way.”

    Her spouse is sitting beside her, eyes down, hands in his lap.

    “That bother you?” I ask him.

    “It did at first,” he says softly. “But I’m okay with it now.” He reaches over and takes her hand. “I love her. That’s the main thing. Everything else we can work through.”

  • Neely Baugh

    I’ve also been fortunate enough to read some of J.M.’s other work. He has such a knack for talking about gospel–no kitschy cliches or easy answers. Just thoughtful questions that lead you towards hope and point towards Truth. So glad to see his work appearing in more forums like this one.

  • Tina Tingle LoTufo

    Can’t wait to read more great pieces like this one from J. M. Blaine, one of my favorite contemporary Christian commentators. What a real and refreshing voice in spirituality today!