Sex. Psychology Today reported that statistically speaking, the average college student thinks about sex dozens of times a day. Covenant College students are no exception. This year, the Chapel Department has hosted a series of faculty lectures on sexuality and gender, ranging from Dr. Nelson’s lecture on the biology of sexuality in October to Dr. Weichbrodt’s lecture on how human sexuality and gender are portrayed in art in January.
For many in the evangelical church, sexual education has purely been a subject of abstinence until marriage, where sex is portrayed as a gift of God, but also something secret and almost shameful. So why are we having this chapel series?
Dr. Green said in his September chapel talk, “It’s uncomfortable, generates conflict, and raises issues that many find shocking and even taboo... but Covenant College has never been the sort of place to run away from challenging topics simply because they’re challenging.”
In the last year, hundreds of women have come forward in the #MeToo movement as accounts of sexual harassment and assault rocked the nation’s biggest stages, from Hollywood to politics to the evangelical church. For many, it has become clear that there is confusion and pain around the question of what biblical manhood and womanhood is. This question of a biblical understanding of sexuality and gender is critical to many, even and especially on Covenant College’s campus.
Chaplain Lowe said, “With some of the issues we’re facing in the student body in the last couple of years, specifically around issues of sexuality, a lot of students were struggling with, dealing with, and feeling there was not a lot of public discourse about it on campus. We thought it would be a good idea to have faculty members approach topics of sexuality from their areas of expertise.”
For many students, this could be the first time this conversation is opened to them. Claire Piquette (’20), a student ministry coordinator, said, “I don’t have a memory of a discussion about sex or even purity, which is kind of weird, in the church I grew up in. It wasn’t like I was afraid of talking about it, but it seemed like it wasn’t even a thought that crossed people’s mind.”
There are many issues that this can cause, from cultivating a place of abuse (see the Washington Post’s sobering article,“The Sin of Silence: The epidemic of denial about sexual abuse in the evangelical church”) to extreme guilt about sex even after marriage.
Chaplain Lowe said, “The way that the evangelical church has treated sexuality... has been particularly damaging to young women, who are taught that sex is bad until you’re married and then there’s this wildly unrealistic expectation that then it’s supposed to be amazing. When you’re told over and over your whole life that it’s something you’re not supposed to talk about, you don’t do, you don’t watch, it really is this negative thing. It’s a very confusing message to say it’s this gift from God.”
By opening these conversations on the biggest stage on campus, the Chapel Department is actively working to change the status quo. In the past, there has been a week-long chapel series on sexuality, a call to mourning for victims of sexual assault, and a few classes on human sexuality. There has not, however, been a discussion of this magnitude.
Dr. Weichbrodt, who gave her chapel lecture “A Thousand Artifices” on the first chapel of this semester, continues to hope that these talks will provide a shared experience that will be a springboard for future conversations and show the fruitfulness of a liberal arts education as the discussions and topics vary between faculty disciplines.
Conversations will continue on campus as the series progresses into the semester, with Dr. Alicia Jackson lecturing on February 20th. There is much hope that the series will be a healthy and welcoming place for students to ask complex questions and face difficult topics alongside the faculty and Chapel Department.