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Event Reviews & Reflections

The Thrill of the Chaste study guide

Addressing Sexuality in Worship - Written by Paul Ryan, Coordinator of Christian formation and resource development specialist for worship teams at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity, A book review done by former Calvin Student, Audrey Kelly.

Porn University - From the Thursday, October 1 presentation by Michael Leahy

A secret.  An affair.  A divorce.  A great emptiness.  This is the story of Michael Leahy, a slave to pornography for thirty years.  Now porn-free, Mr. Leahy came to Calvin to share his personal battle with sexual temptation.  He opened his talk by explaining with brutal honesty and humility how pornography became not merely a pastime, but a relationship with material which destroyed his life and the lives of those around him.  Through reaching rock bottom, seeing his hypocrisy, and giving himself over to Jesus he was eventually able to begin a process of accountability that helped him overcome his cravings.

There is hope, because with Christ’s help, no sin is too strong for us to overcome.  This was the highlight of Michael’s message for me.  What a tremendous blessing to be reminded that no matter how oppressing a temptation may be our Lord can conquer it.  As so many Christians tend to harshly judge and reject those struggling with sexual sin, I believe it’s crucial for us to hear the message that those fighting this issue are not alone.

The Effects of Casual Sex on the Brain - From the Tuesday, October 20 presentation by Dr. Freda Bush

Dr. Freda Bush, an OBGYN, discussed STD’s and the use of contraceptives, and explained that many sexual diseases don’t have any symptoms for a long time.  I liked the fact that throughout the whole session she focused on the benefit of waiting for sex till marriage.  She said that the best way to prevent diseases and emotional pain was to practice abstinence.  Dr. Bush showed scientific studies of the effects of sexual activity in the human brain and discussed how hormones released in both men and women attach a person to their sexual partner.  Brain chemistry shows that even hugging a person for 20 seconds is enough to begin bonding through the release of these hormones.  A couple of facts that interested me were that people who are intimate with more than one partner are far more likely to suffer depression than those who reserve intimacy for marriage.  Another fact was that the human brain is not fully developed till the middle twenties.  This made me think about the kinds of decisions I should hold off until then.  I think that overall this was a very productive session to attend. 

Theology of the Body  - From the Thursday, October 8 presentation by Christopher Kaczor

In his lecture on love, happiness, and sex, Chris Kaczor talked about the four different levels of happiness in Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” Level one is bodily pleasures, which have immediate pay back, and are relatively effortless.  Examples of this level would be drugs and sex. The downside of this level is that it can be boring, meaningless, addicting, and easy-come-easy-go.  The second level, that of triumphing over other people, has to do with wanting to be a winner, to be popular, and to have power.  Level three is the happiness that results from loving other people, doing good beyond one’s own self.  It ends the anxiety of the comparison game and also fosters better relationships.  The final level is transcendent happiness through loving God.  This level assumes and includes right aspects of the three previous levels.  It entails participation in a community of faith, and is only perfectly realized in the next life with God.  Dr. Kaczor spoke of marriage as a way of living out our calling to love and obey God, though those who are not called to marry can serve him equally well.  Finally, Dr. Kaczor explained that different levels of speech and of physical interaction are appropriate to different levels of relationship – from meeting a stranger, to relating to a family member or friend, to a fiancé/e, or to your spouse.  When physical intimacy proceeds too quickly with a mere friend or acquaintance, there is nothing left that is uniquely appropriate to marriage.  He described it as “lying with our bodies,” since the physical behavior is saying one thing, but the relationship is not at that level of complete, covenanted self-giving that belongs to marriage.

Sexual Purity: Be Real!  - From the November 12 presentation by Joy Bonnema and Aaron Winkle

Recently, the Sexuality Series sponsored a discussion entitled "Sexual Purity: Be Real!" hosted  by pastors Aaron Winkle and Joy Bonnema.  Aaron and Joy tackled those tough questions that are on every student's mind regarding sexual purity. They discussed sexual purity in marriage, questions about masturbation, and how to talk to friends about concerns of sexual purity, just to name a few. Students actively participated in the discussion and asked many follow-up questions.  It was beneficial to hear from experienced voices in matters of purity and of Christian perspectives.  Joy and Aaron were able to answer questions and induce further thought on these not so black-and-white issues.  As a student here at Calvin, it is great to be challenged in my faith and I enjoy the opportunity to think through what each of these issues means to me in terms of my faith, morals, and my own personal struggles. One take-away point that I still think about weeks after this event is that sometimes we hear all these Christian perspectives in regards to these issues and we look for the opinion that validates our own opinion. To make the best decision we need to not look for simply validation but to search for the best and true answer. Though I thought the event was very well done and the discussion was engaging, I would have enjoyed hearing from someone who is single and their thoughts, advice, and experience on sexual purity.

Miss HIV - From the December 3 film presentation

This film sets out to portray the collision of ideologies around HIV/AIDS, showing both western and African responses to the epidemic and its treatment.  Arguments from both sides are presented sympathetically and convincingly, so that the real dilemmas of prevention and treatment come into sharper focus.  Both the women involved in the Botswanan Miss HIV beauty pageant and the Ugandan young people who are choosing abstinence are presented in a very human light, both stigmatized because of their situation, and seeking to live courageously in a hostile cultural environment.  The documentary challenges easy answers, but finally leans toward a faith-based approach which is indigenous, which costs less since it’s focused on prevention, and in which faith provides the power for personal and societal change.

Single: A Documentary Film - From the February film presentation

I, like many future college graduates will be graduating single.  There is a world of possibilities out there and I will most likely marry later on in life.

The documentary Single discusses the American psyche and why more and more people are staying single and delaying marriage until later in life.  The film applied more to those who have been graduated from college for a few years and were middle class financially and had no discussion of spirituality and singleness.  Despite these limitations, a fair portion of what the film discussed or talked about was still applicable to my current view of singleness, and was used in an excellent discussion following the viewing of the film.  The documentary brought up a few points that many people view singleness as a “waiting” or transition period between marriages or relationships.  Being single is a place where we are looking for our “significant other” and more pressure is placed on finding that person to love and who is perfect in all sets of our criteria.  According to the film, it is not a choice to be single and Americans today are not living in communities or families, but are off on their own.

For me, watching the documentary, made me look at how mainstream or secular America views being single. Some issues dealt with in this culture are: the hot pursuit for the “one” and  a family while working out issues with cohabitation; raising children without the conventional family; and how internet dating sometimes makes it harder to find someone.  I took away from the film, that as a Christian, I have intentionally chosen to be single for the time being.  And in my community, my church, I may become not-single, but in time.  Right now, while I am in my chosen state, it is not just a transition period or a constant search for someone who “completes me”; it is a time for me to develop deeper relationships with God and with those in my community.  

Living Single for the Lord: A Biblical Alternative - From the March 18 presentation

This presentation was a fascinating look at what the Bible says about singleness as a calling from God, and how people might come to discern that call.  Theologian Dan Keating opened with an overview of scriptural passages about the single life, explaining sayings of Jesus and Paul in their context and linking them to themes in the book of Isaiah. 
The personal stories that followed were extremely varied, and highlighted different aspects of singleness:  Sherry told of embracing and valuing the opportunities for Christian service that singleness affords; Nico, spoke about the rich friendships formed in community living with other single men, and with families; and John, a young man soon to be married, talked about God’s dealings with him as he wrestled with whether or not celibacy was God’s call to him.  What came through all the stories was a love for God and desire to do his will and give all of one’s life over to him, including our sexuality.  In a culture where many people see nothing good in celibacy, these presenters gave a refreshing counterpoint in their lively faith and engagement with the world.

Sex and the Soul - From the April 14 presentation

Donna Freitas offered an intriguing look into her study of the “hook up culture” on college campuses. In Freitas’ comparison of Catholic, nonreligious private, public, and evangelical schools she found a distinct difference in beliefs about sexuality between the first three kinds of schools and evangelical schools. Evangelical schools were the minority in that there was not a culture of casual sexual activity, something Freitas says stems from religious traditions that value chastity. However, there was an anxiety present in conversations with Evangelical students that was absent on other campuses. Stricter moral boundaries left students worried about being judged for their actions and there was a great pressure to date and find a spouse amongst college peers.

Freitas’ findings were great catalysts for conversation about sexuality at Calvin. I think many students here feel the same anxiety as the students Freitas talked to. Hearing an outsider to the Calvin community define evangelical sexuality helps to recognize those anxieties and reflect on how Calvin can create a culture that encourages honesty and support rather than shame and worry.