This summer, I was lucky enough to go to my cousin’s wedding and be surrounded by a group of really wonderful guests. In addition to having a great time celebrating their marriage, I was also struck by how awesome it was to get such unequivocally positive responses when I told people that I work with Planned Parenthood. I wasn’t expecting to get any grief about it, necessarily, but since my cousin and her wife met while in seminary, and therefore have a lot of friends who are all ministers, I had unconsciously had a little hesitation about that part of the ‘who are you and why are you here’ part of wedding small talk.
While talking with their friend who performed their marriage ceremony, though, I was reminded of the fact that people who are committed to their religion generally have a deep investment in making the world a better place. We talked about how he as a minister often provides support around sexual health issues, from teenagers who are starting to explore their sexuality to gender diversity to ways to counter rape culture.
This is the side of faith that doesn’t get covered on the news, and that can get eclipsed by the louder, more sensational stories about Fred Phelps and the like. Talking with a bunch of different ministers that day reminded me of people like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an interfaith group who have worked for over 45 years to support reproductive justice, and who were deeply committed to ensuring that birth control was covered under the Affordable Care Act.
It reminded me of the thousands of youth groups in churches and synagogues around the country that use progressive sex ed curricula on the weekends, who help to counteract the misinformation that a lot of their participants get from abstinence-only programs in their schools. It reminded me of the courageous Roman Catholic nun I met over a decade ago, who was committed to providing religious counseling for pregnant women about all of their options, including abortion, despite the fact that this could put her in danger of excommunication.
Working to support sexual health may not be something that’s going to grab headlines away from the more dramatic groups, but I hope that more and more of our discussions about religion and sex keep promoting these progressive voices. I know I’m going to keep listening.