Those of you who have been reading here for a while know that I don’t often shill for products or projects on this site unless they are of my own creation. But once in a while, a book or film comes along that speaks to some core experience of fundyland so well that I can’t help sharing it with all of you.
Unsurprisingly, Fundy Sex Week remains one of the most popular set of posts on SFL for the simple reason that people love to read and write about sex — especially if they were never allowed to talk about it growing up. Given the morbid fascination that surrounds sexuality in fundamentalism, I was intrigued when a few weeks ago I became aware of a filmmaker named Matt Barber who has teamed up with producers Chris Pack and Brittany Machado to raise money for a documentary entitled “Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex.” It’s intended to be a conversation surrounding the attitudes and experiences of people in evangelical Christianity towards sexuality and all of the special awkwardness that goes with it.
As Matt explains:
I occasionally dated throughout college, often struggling with the clash between my desire for physical contact and my pledge to stay pure until marriage. Like many young adults, the one question I kept asking was, “How far is too far?” Growing up I was taught to preserve my virginity at all costs—for me, sexual purity equaled salvation; yet, I couldn’t bear the idea of going through life devoid of the experience of sexual pleasure. But the only path available to me was marriage and that seemed like an eternity away. It felt so distant that my evangelical soul was certain Jesus would whisk me away to heaven before I was able to even begin courting a female. And so, with this burning tension I would often turn my eyes and heart towards God and earnestly pray: “Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex!”
I escaped singlehood relatively unscathed having only stumbled my way to second base (I fled any opportunity to go further). Right before my 22ND birthday, when I thought my life as a celibate monk was surely sealed, I met a beautiful woman who rocked me to my core; I had met my soulmate. We dated for about 6 months, at which point I brought up marriage. She was hesitant to rush in—and she wanted nothing more than to spend her life with me. She made me promise that I would wait to propose until after our one-year anniversary. I complied by asking for her hand on the 366th day of our courtship. Once her surprise and amusement subsided, she said “Yes!” and we were engaged. And, unless the rapture happened within the coming year, I would soon be having sex. Real, live sex.
Imagine the surprise on my wedding night—after I had finally obtained the prize—when I realized I hadn’t changed.
“Where were the fireworks?”
“Why didn’t anything click inside me?”
“When does the ‘two become one flesh’ feeling happen?”
“Why, Jesus, didn’t I feel complete?”
Don’t get me wrong, many aspects of my wedding experience were great—but the reality of twenty-three years of false expectations hit me like a ton of bricks. Now, I’m still married to the same woman. We’ve struggled from time to time, built a wonderful home together, and the sex has gotten much better (for your information, it takes practice). But I couldn’t forget the feeling that I was misled in some way.
A few years ago, I told my story to some friends who had also grown up in the Evangelical Church. They, in turn, told me their stories. I was struck by how similar the sexual message from our churches were, how closely our expectations lined up and how we prayed the exact same prayer as teenagers.
Exactly. The. Same. Prayer.
Can you relate? I know I can. Although in fundyland the prayer didn’t actually contain the word “sex” but everybody knew that’s what was meant by prayers about “getting married” before the Rapture.
Now no matter what your beliefs are on sexuality, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find something about this film to disagree with — and that’s ok! But the larger conversation that this project will help start is one that I believe is long, long overdue both in fundyland and in the larger circles of evangelical Christianity where many of us have landed. I had the chance for a brief dialog with Matt Barber recently and I believe that he will treat this subject with both honesty and respect.
Given how difficult it can be to raise money for something like this I’d imagine that right now Matt is praying a new prayer: “Jesus don’t let my project die before I’ve had enough sex interviews.” The first phase of the “Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex” project is over 60% funded via Kickstarter but there are only a few days left to raise the money needed to get it off the ground. I’d ask you to contemplate investing, even if it’s only a dollar or two. Even if you can’t contribute, it’s worth checking out the interviews so far, reading some of the comments, and spreading the word to others who might want to take part in this conversation.