Shagging and Snogging Can Be Divine
(But it's up to us to make it that way!)
In an interview with The Believer, scholar Elaine Pagels (recently in the news constantly due to The Da Vinci Code craze) discusses the etymology of the word authority. She mentions authority because of a turn in conversation about how so many people today are “disenchanted” with religious authority, since the sets of rules we continue to be given do not seem to add up with our lived experiences. (For example—and this is my example, not Dr. Pagels’s: we experience that sex can be good, as in virtuously good, even when we are not married.) Pagels explains that the word authority comes from the Greek word, autors, which means “self.” Regarding the claims of religious authority, she argues that, “Basically one has to go back and verify for oneself what authority one is going to accept.” The way in which we experience authority and allow authority to direct our beliefs and actions ultimately rests within us: it is within us to decide whose authority is valid and where the moral rules that govern our lives and sense of self come from (v. promising idea).
Elaine Pagels’s reminder to us of the origine of authority as a concept, and the fact that it is historically rooted within the self is helpful as we try to reconcile spirituality and shagging, Singleton style. Seeking Inner Poise with regard to sex should involve remembering the following: that regardless of the choices we make about sexuality, none of these choices need alienate us from the spiritual life. We don’t have to keep our sexuality and our spirituality separate; it’s just that we are made to think unmarried sex and religion are incompatible. Ultimately, it rests within us to understand our sexual experiences as either valuable to our spiritual journeys or as hopelessly selfish and vacant of love, as Christopher West suggests. We have the authority (if we choose to take it) to read The Song of Songs as metaphorical or as a sacred poem that helps us to see the spiritual side of our sexual experiences, if indeed we experience sex as meaningful, poetic, romantic, and loving in the same way that this beautiful poem portrays it.