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As a young Christian, I was led to believe that sex held a magical power that would transform me into a man and heal all of my insecurities—even more so if I remained pure before marriage. Imagine my surprise after my wedding night when I realized, “I feel like the same person.”
Jesus, Don't Let Me Die Before I've Had Sex is a documentary examining the idealism and silence embedded in the sexual teachings of evangelical churches. Through the stories of gay, straight, celibate & sexually active churchgoers we explore the hopes, fears, and prayers of real people as they learn to reconcile their faith and sexualities.
When I was a senior in High School, I attended a popular Christian youth rally with my church. It contained all the staples of such events: live band, motivational speaker, Bible verse memorization contests, pyrotechnics, and a purity commitment. It was here I made a decision to only “date” Jesus for my final year of High School. I felt I was making a huge sacrifice akin to the persecution of the early Christians. I was going to buck the trend of popular culture and suffer for the Lord—this was the toughest decision I would ever make. In reality, it was one of the easiest decisions, as I had never even gone steady with a girl. I was a bit nerdy and shy, and the president of our campus Christian club—not exactly the recipe for a Lothario.
My commitment to live a pure senior year only lasted six months as I ended up kissing a girl in a parking lot…of the very same church in which I had made the purity pledge. (Please, savor the fantastic irony!) I felt terrible. It was as if I had cheated on my spouse. My fleshly urges had overwhelmed my spiritual resolve. If I was going to be a spiritual leader to my campus I would have to do better. I renewed my commitment and finished the year strong.
I occasionally dated throughout college, often struggling with the clash between my desire for physical contact and my pledge to stay pure until marriage. Like many young adults, the one question I kept asking was, “How far is too far?” Growing up I was taught to preserve my virginity at all costs—for me, sexual purity equaled salvation; yet, I couldn’t bear the idea of going through life devoid of the experience of sexual pleasure. But the only path available to me was marriage and that seemed like an eternity away. It felt so distant that my evangelical soul was certain Jesus would whisk me away to heaven before I was able to even begin courting a female. And so, with this burning tension I would often turn my eyes and heart towards God and earnestly pray: “Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex!”
I escaped singlehood relatively unscathed having only stumbled my way to second base (I fled any opportunity to go further). Right before my 22ND birthday, when I thought my life as a celibate monk was surely sealed, I met a beautiful woman who rocked me to my core; I had met my soulmate. We dated for about 6 months, at which point I brought up marriage. She was hesitant to rush in—and she wanted nothing more than to spend her life with me. She made me promise that I would wait to propose until after our one-year anniversary. I complied by asking for her hand on the 366th day of our courtship. Once her surprise and amusement subsided, she said “Yes!” and we were engaged. And, unless the rapture happened within the coming year, I would soon be having sex. Real, live sex.
Imagine the surprise on my wedding night—after I had finally obtained the prize—when I realized I hadn’t changed.
“Where were the fireworks?”
“Why didn’t anything click inside me?”
“When does the ‘two become one flesh’ feeling happen?”
“Why, Jesus, didn’t I feel complete?”
Don’t get me wrong, many aspects of my wedding experience were great—but the reality of twenty-three years of false expectations hit me like a ton of bricks. Now, I’m still married to the same woman. We’ve struggled from time to time, built a wonderful home together, and the sex has gotten much better (for your information, it takes practice). But I couldn’t forget the feeling that I was misled in some way.
A few years ago, I told my story to some friends who had also grown up in the Evangelical Church. They, in turn, told me their stories. I was struck by how similar the sexual message from our churches were, how closely our expectations lined up and how we prayed the exact same prayer as teenagers.
Exactly. The. Same. Prayer.
I thought I had been the only one. So, I started talking to more of my fellow Christians and many had similar experiences and prayed some form of that prayer. I listened to person after person tell me stories I had never heard in church. These experiences weren’t being shared because others often didn’t feel safe talking about it in that setting. I realized that I too had been afraid to tell my story at Church—not the sanitized, everything-is-all-right-with-me-except-the-occasional-masturbation-struggle, but the real story of my fear of missing out on sex, the shame I felt towards my body, and the doubts I had about many of the “rules” I had placed on myself while growing up. I realized something wasn’t right.
Adding to all this is the never ceasing, vitriolic sexual debate that our society is trapped in: the hows, whys and whens people are allowed to have sex, use birth control, and get married. And the church is always at the center. I felt I needed to enter the fray, to add my voice to the debate, and to say “things have got to change.” But I’m not a politician. I’m not a pastor. I’m a filmmaker. I’ve worked in television for years as an editor and a director. My greatest talent is telling stories.
And so, I’ve embarked on a documentary project to examine what is going on; to analyze the disconnect between what is taught and what is practiced in the church. The title of my film is, you guessed it, Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex. Along with my producing partners Chris Pack and Brittany Machado, we are entering this delicate conversation in the best way we know how, with an ear to all sides: single, married, gay, straight, divorced, chaste, and promiscuous. We want to hear the pains, the joys, the frustrations, the hopes, and the fears. And we want to provide a safe forum in which to do so.
We believe it’s of the utmost importance to talk about these things, not in a black-and-white, dogmatic way—but honestly and lovingly. It’s not our goal to judge, but to reflect back on what is really happening in the lives of the laity. Hopefully we’ll be able to inspire a dialogue in our churches, our politics, and our daily lives.
Check out our Kickstarter campaign and please consider partnering with us to help tell this story.