by Len Lear
An ordained minister from Mt Airy has teamed up with a practicing psychotherapist specializing in sexuality to co-author a book for psychotherapists and pastoral counselors to help their clients reconcile their Christian faith with a desire for sexual fulfillment. The book, “Advancing Sexual Health for the Christian Client: Data and Dogma,” published by Routledge, deconstructs potentially harmful Christian beliefs around sexuality to support clients stuck in sexual guilt, shame and fear. The book’s publication date is March 20.
Dale and Keller offer practical clinical applications and interventions to enable clients to re-examine their sexual beliefs in a way that encourages sexual healing. “It is possible to have a sex-positive, body-positive Christianity,” said Rev. Dale, “that can heal the damage of erotophobia. It just isn’t widely taught or reported by the media.”
Dale and Keller acknowledge that putting the words “sex” and “God” in the same sentence can be difficult for both clients and therapists, so they have taken special care to respect beliefs and attitudes about sex and faith. Early reviewers seem to agree. About this book, Dr. Virginia R. Mollenkott, author of “Sensuous Spirituality” and “Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?,” says: “The Bible and Christian faith are honored, and healthy sexual pleasure is equally honored.”
Rev. Dale, 60-ish, who has lived in Mt. Airy for 20 years, left the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, where she had been an ecumenical campus minister for 21 years, and began writing and started a non-profit, the Incarnation Institute for Sex & Faith. She also teaches the sexuality class at Lancaster Theological Seminary.
When her book comes out next week, does Rev. Dale expect a backlash from conservative Christians? “I do not expect the conservative pushback on this book,” she replied, “but I will on the next one for sure. That one will be for people in the pew. This book is more for the professionals — pastoral counselors and therapists who are on the front line with the toxic part of Christian beliefs.
“We started holding workshops on the book’s material about three years ago. That is when we realized the need for it, so we began in earnest then. We had academically trained counselors and educators who recognized they have no academic preparation for dealing with problematic Christian beliefs, were very hesitant to address this ‘elephant in the room’ lest people lose their faith as they become sexually healthy, and found these professionals were triggered themselves by their own personal history with destructive religion — bible bashing, etc.
“For what it is worth, in preparation for the onslaught from the right wing that will come my way when they get wind of the radical revisioning I am doing in Christianity as a clergy woman, I have asked my friends to call me Dale. It is a stronger name and reminds me to be protective of myself with strong boundaries to keep the haters out.
“Sigh! Yes, we live in that type of world now where strong women who don’t know their (submissive) place in the patriarchy are slandered and regularly crucified. Prime example now: the two new Muslim women now in Congress and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who are feeling the brunt of hatred and vitriol.”
Rev. Dale met Rachel Keller when the latter was studying sexuality and social work at Widener University. She became one of Dale’s students and is now a practicing psychotherapist specializing in sexuality and trauma. Having come of age during the height of the evangelical purity movements, Rachel has spent many years exploring the intersection of sex and faith. She maintains that ethical sexual empowerment is the key to overcoming many of the sexual problems that plague our culture.
Rev. Dale, the grandmother of three boys, two in college and one in pre-school, is a playwright, director and performer of a onewoman show, usually for secular audiences, called “An Irreverent Journey from Eggbeaters to Vibrators.” A published author of both articles and poetry on sexuality and faith, she has received grants to write several songs that address these topics as well.
“I was sexually abused by an uncle when I was a child,” Rev. Dale told us in a previous interview, “and that stimulated my interest in this subject. He [the abuser] was a deacon in the church, but he would not apologize. I don’t fault him as much as I do the church and society. I had to ask myself if God justifies the abuse of little girls. And is sex something to be ashamed of? That’s what a great many people think.
“There is still a great deal of sexual repression, and I can tell you from my days at Penn that the sexual double standard is alive and well on college campuses, as is the objectification of women. The ‘hookup’ culture gets around the issue.”
What is the best advice Rev. Dale ever received? “Follow your bliss. That is why you were created.”
What is her greatest regret, if any? “I regret I started my family at a too-young age. I was still growing up myself and was raising two babies along the way! Bad idea.”
For more information about “Advancing Sexual Health for the Christian Client: Data and Dogma,” visit beverlydale.org