Robert H. Schuller is best known as the founder of both the Hour of Power television program and the Crystal Cathedral. He’s easily ranked among the kings of televangelism.
That’s why it’s a something of a shock that his granddaughter, Angie Schuller Wyatt, has just written a book exploring the intersection of faith and sexuality. It’s called (no joke) God and Boobs:
Christian publishers refused to put out this book (despite her famous name and the fact that her family members are bestselling authors in their own right) so she did it herself. When news of her book hit Christian circles, even the one closest to her, she was embraced with whatever you call the opposite of open arms:
… Schuller Wyatt was scheduled to appear on the Hour of Power broadcast where her brother Robert “Bobby” Schuller III preaches. But when word got out that Schuller Wyatt had written God and Boobs, she was unceremoniously dumped via email from a church executive who gave no explanation.
That happened despite both sides agreeing that the cover of the book wouldn’t be shown on air and the word “boobs” would never be uttered. Still, Angie stands by what she wrote:
“I’m tired of religious bullies dictating to women how we should live our lives. In my work as a pastor, I counseled too many women who felt ashamed of their sexuality and were silenced into submission. I am trying to empower them to feel good about themselves.“
More power to her if she can help bring about that change.
Angie was kind enough to let me reprint an exclusive excerpt from her book from the chapter entitled “Sexuality and Art”:
Spiritual leaders have been guilty of teaching women to hide their figures in dumpy clothes, to avoid thinking about sex and to ignore their sexual desires. Whether Protestant or Catholic, most religious rules about sex result in women feeling their sexuality is shameful. Women in my religious circle won’t typically admit to their friends or pastors that they’ve felt this way, but they will tell their counselors. In the privacy of a safe setting, they talk of things like having to endure looks from their pastor that made them feel dirty. Making matters worse is the rampant hypocrisy in religion. The same leaders who set strict boundaries on sexuality are often exposed for exploiting sex in their private lives. When their sins come to light, they’re revealed as consumers of pornography, prostitution and illegal sex-enhancing drugs. Certainly, not all spiritual leaders are guilty of this kind of hypocrisy, but it is prevalent enough to cast a shadow on the world’s prominent religions.
The devout Christian women I know tend to heed their leaders’ advice. Every piece of clothing is viewed through the lens of lust. Will this shirt show too much cleavage? Is my hemline too short? Am I going to cause a man to sin? They end up thinking about their cleavage as much as the men around them do.
I once heard a pastor chide women in his church for wearing tops that were cut too low. If the congregation wasn’t thinking about breasts walking into the building, they were certainly thinking about them as they walked out. I heard nothing else the pastor said that day. I kept thinking to myself: How low it too low? Who is the appointed Cleavage Monitor? Who draws the line between sinner and saint?
Years ago, my brother told me that if a man is going to lust, he’s going to lust. You could put a girl in a potato sack and he’d still become aroused. It’s our own conscience that must resolve the questions of sexual expression and attire.
Enhanced by breasts, hips and figures that curve, a woman’s body is shaped by God. It’s a beautiful piece of art, meant to be alluring and sensual in all the right places. But religious women feel insecure about their curves to the point of layering on their clothes until they’ve covered every inch of their femininity.
This point was driven home by a friend, who told me about a film crew from a local news organization that was reporting on a major Christian women’s conference in her city. She knew about the situation because she worked at the conference behind the scenes. The crew was trying to wrap the shoot, but they couldn’t seem to get the footage they wanted. The hold-up? They needed an interview and couldn’t find a single woman, she was told, who looked like a cute, normal girl and not “a bag lady.”
Are women meant to live this way? Is this what God requires of us? Does God want us to feel shame about our sexuality? Women deserve a shame-free existence. They should explore, adore and adorn their shapes. There’s nothing shameful about a womanly figure that evokes sexual feelings, because women, like men, were designed to have sex. It’s natural. There are ways to embrace our figures, without putting them on display, to celebrate them and keep them sacred.
I should reiterate: Angie is still a Christian pastor and the book doesn’t shy away from promoting religion. But I love that she’s tackling these issues from her vantage point. If change is going to happen in the church, it has to come from within.
I’m sure you have a lot of questions for her, and Angie told me she is open to answering them. Leave your questions in the comments below and I’ll select a handful to send her way.
In the meantime, God and Boobs is now available for purchase.