MELBOURNE, Fla. - One of the longest-running religious disputes has been why, if sex is shameful, did God make humans capable of orgasm? And if God wants only heterosexual sex within marriage, why did s/he make it possible for men and women to receive pleasure from pretty much any type of sex: Married, unmarried, masturbation, anal, gay, BDSM, etc., etc., etc.?
These sorts of questions are so compelling that it's no wonder that ministers of all stripes are beginning to take the sex questions seriously. For instance, Rev. Dan Smith of the Momentum Christian Church spent two Sundays in October, 2008 telling his congregants about "Bringin' Sexy Back," which according to a press release on the subject contained "a lot of relevant, heart-to-heart teaching that will help us better understand why God created such a powerful magic."
Going a step further, Rev. Ed Young, pastor of a Dallas, Texas mega-church, challenged his congregant couples to have "seven straight days of sex," the object of which was to force couples to explore each other's bodies and sexual attitudes within marriage, while Rev. Timmy Gibson of Olathe, Kansas upped the ante, asking his membership to have sex - he called it "hanky panky" - every day during the month of February, 2009, stating in an interview that sex is a topic that "should be talked about from a biblical perspective."
The latest adherent to this philosophy appears to be Pastor Bruce Cadle, whose New Hope Church in Melbourne has been meeting at the Sherwood Elementary School after the crowd of churchgoers became too large for the church's former location, an aging yellow building on Post Road across the street from the school.
But perhaps Pastor Cadle made a slight mistake in titling his new "worship series" "Great Sex For You," and stuffing fliers - 25,000 of them - headlined, "Is Your Sex Life A Bore?" into local mailboxes and newspapers. The screed invited local residents to "learn how to have the Great Sex that God created you to enjoy!"
And it probably didn't help that the flier had a picture of a pair of bare feet snuggling beneath a bedsheet.
According to a story on the Florida Today website, Pastor Cadle charged that the Christian church had been "shamefully silent" on the topic, adding, "Sex between married believers is a holy activity. It's not a dirty activity. It's not a shameful activity. It's a holy activity. And the Bible is so clear about this. But it's still hard for us to get it."
And sure enough, that was Cadle's topic for yesterday's sermon - but the topic for Brevard County school officials is whether they'll allow the New Hope Church to continue holding services at the elementary school, for which it pays $600 per month. The officials have received a number of complaints about the flier, many focusing on the barefoot image.
"A man and a woman with their feet sticking out from under the sheets, that's all there was," Cadle said. "Nothing above their feet and ankles. I'm just shocked in this day and age that anyone would be offended by that."
But this is Florida we're talking about.
"We believe the type of advertising used is not appropriate for students to read in any elementary school," said Mark Langdorf, the school district's director of risk management, who received six complaints about the impending service.
Cadle himself received five - but gained 23 new attendees at Sunday's service.
"Having grown up with a Christian mother and a Christian father and going to church every Sunday of my life as a kid, I grew up with the wrong perspective," Cadle preached. "I thought sex was dirty. I thought it was something you hid. I thought it was something you didn't talk about. If we could be really honest, I think each and every one of us would say, 'I want a rich and satisfying life. I want a great sex life.' But it doesn't come from following Cosmo magazine. It comes from following the word of God. God is not against sex. It doesn't have to be boring. It doesn't have to be a chore. It doesn't have to be a drag - if we do it God's way."
The New Hope Church is also offering a sex education series for middle school and high school students, titled, "Exposed! The Naked Truth About Sex." Those lectures, however, take place in the original church building, not on school property.
"We want our teenagers to be able to avoid making a lot of the same mistakes so many of us have made," Cadle explained on Sunday.
If Brevard County officials are looking for something to get upset about, they might consider chiming in on the fact that Broward County, in South Florida, has passed such strict residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders - a 2,500 foot setback from schools, parks, playgrounds and school bus stops that they're all being forced to sleep under a rat-infested roadway overpass , the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami-Dade, where nearly 60 sex offenders have set up camp. Of the fact that a couple of deeply religious state senators had managed to sneak a "specialty" license plate featuring a crucified Jesus onto a budget bill - although a similar bill in the House was voted down after the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU voiced objections.