Friday, October 9, 2009

Jehanne Dubrow interviews Jill Alexander Essbaum

I'll discard, momentarily, the death bit and talk about sex and God. The trope of God as Lover did not begin with me; look to the medieval woman saints, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard, Christina the Astonishing—they have absolutely no reluctance speaking of their desire for God as if he were a physical, imminently present man. Or even the words used to describe the Christian story. We speak of the passion of the Lord. A saint is said to be in ecstasy. The church is called Christ's Bride. And the words of institution: this is my body, given for you. Far earlier than that, we have both the psalms of David and the Song of Solomon-- neither of which flinch at real depictions of human emotion, including sexual emotion. Why the pairing of sexual and religious expression seems wrong to our post-modern American ears, I think, is because we're all (no matter what we believe or don't) direct inheritors of a Puritan heritage that disdains human physicality (full disclosure: when I typed this, I accidentally typed "hymen" instead of human!) in lieu of pursuits of the spirit alone. But look—I'm hardly spiritual. I'm carnal. And, if you are a Christian, you believe that for a time in history, God was too. And we celebrate that. It's hard for me to explain this because it makes such natural sense to me. And yet, I realize that at times, I am both provocative and outre.

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