Joy Beth Smith is a managing editor at Christianity Today and the new author of Party of One: Truth, Longing and the Subtle Art of Singleness. Her current mission: help the church understand how to support singles--and that includes talking about sexuality.
Smith says the church often avoids or neglects the topic, especially as it relates to singles. In doing so, it runs the risk of encouraging believers to turn to secular voices to learn more their sexuality.
She told CBN News recently that when it comes to talking about sex "we just don't have that in the church and so it leaves a deficit of conversation that can only be filled by the secular."
For singles, talking about sexuality includes difficult issues like masturbation and pornography says Smith.
"So what are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to do with these bodies that have urges you know so that means that we're looking for other outlets," she explained.
Smith says singles should be grappling with these issues in the church. That includes studying the Word, letting the Spirit guide and seeking godly counsel.
#ChurchToo & #MeToo "freeing" says Smith
As a sexual assault survivor, Smith applauds the #metoo and #churchtoo movements. "Airing your story is so important," she told CBN News, "I think that it's a process of metabolizing your own trauma and grief and I think the church should be the safe place for you to do that."
Smith wrote about her experience in The Washington Post in 2015. She described a co-worker who groped her when she was 18 and a pastor who minimized the attack the day after telling her 'It was just a little touching on top of your clothes? I'm sure that's upsetting but you'll be ok."
Now at age 29, Smith told CBN News "it was definitely scarring then and I was just desperate for someone to acknowledge what had happened to me and I wish that had been the pastor in the church."
Smith says it's "freeing" to see so many abuse victims stepping forward to tell their stories as part of both the #metoo and #churchtoo movements. "Sin is being exposed and it's being punished and I think for women that feels so empowering," she said. "That not only has this thing happened to me and I'm able to share it and get comfort but also I'm being taken seriously and these allegations are being listened to and when they're proven true that that person is being removed from power so that he can't hurt anyone else."
Viewing Singleness as God's Best
Smith says she is learning to live with an ongoing desire for marriage alongside the knowledge that being single is God's best plan for her right now. "It is not easy--it's hard to live in something where you experience unfulfilled longing but you still have to believe that God is good," she said.
She's also rejecting a belief she grew up with that teaches that singleness is essentially a time to prepare for marriage. Now, instead of continually getting in position to attract a husband she's living her life in a way that she believes best stewards the gifts and talents that God has given her.
"I am leaning into the ministries that I want to be involved in--not just because I think that they would make me good wife material but because they're the best way to use my gifts and talents," she said. "I'm getting the jobs that I want even if it means that I travel alot so I'm not able to go on alot of dates. I'm joining Bible studies not because of a male to female ratio but because they're the ones that I want to join."