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Theologian speaks on link between sexuality, religion

Carolyn Hutyra | Thursday, November 8, 2012

In a talk on sexuality and Catholicism, sponsored by the Gender Relations Center, theologian Terry Nelson Johnson actively engaged with audience members Wednesday night in the Joyce Center in hopes of going beyond “just another sex talk.”

Johnson said his words were not aimed at providing information but rather at encouraging healing and transformation.

“Sexuality is a gift, a threat, a force to be reckoned with,” Johnson said. “Sexuality is a mystery and that’s my contention.”

Mysteries, such as sexuality, are bigger than people are, he said. Human beings are called to enjoy and enter into these mysteries but should not underestimate them.

“The point of mysteries is to acquaint people with them and engage with them, not domesticate them,” he said.

Johnson said words such as energy, passion and creativity are closely associated with the idea of sexuality. He said the physical aspect is not the point, and people need to understand sexuality as something beyond sex.

Johnson quoted Catholic priest and theologian Fr. Ronald Rolheiser to make this point, saying “‘Sexuality is an all-encompassing energy inside each of us. It is the drive for love, communion, community. … It is not good to be alone.'”

To explain this point, Johnson played a clip of the Yankees celebrating their win in the 1996 World Series. Audience members said the video expressed the team’s happiness, excitement and pride. Although the players could have expressed these emotions without physical contact, they still chose to hug each other and huddle together.

“It’s just not as good from 10 feet away,” he said.

When sexuality is embraced well, Johnson said it makes love and life present. It also functions as a sacrament for God’s sake in mediating God’s presence in the world.

“Sexuality is a God-given resource to enhance our lives,” he said. “It is the source of life and love.”

In tying sexuality to Catholicism, Johnson went on to explain Jesus’s sexuality. Jesus produced much love and life, he said. His sexuality was integrated, powerful and healing.

The hallmarks of sacred sexuality are gratitude, privilege, wonder and awe, he said. Johnson’s goal was to help students understand these aspects as positives in constituting the good of sexuality.

Sophomore Frannie Kelsey said the lecture caused her to think about sexuality in a new way.

“I thought he had some really good points about sexuality that I hadn’t thought about before,” she said.