God, Sex, and Dazzling Sentences
“I’m fucking for God.”
I didn’t say it. Martin Luther King Jr did.
I read that line twenty-two years ago and never forgot it.
I was fifteen. I’d just seen MLK’s “I have a dream” speech. Water was in my eyes and fire was in my loins. I was moved by his passion. I wanted more of him. I wanted him.
Alas, he was dead.
And so the biography aisle at the local library would have to do. I was ready to be inspired by his larger-than-life excellence, righteousness and heroics: Time Magazine Man of the Year (1963). The Nobel Peace Prize (1964). The Civil Rights Movement. Loving husband. Devoted family man. Divinely-inspired poet/preacher. Martyr.
Oh yes, I wanted lots of that hot stuff.
Greedy, I started with the biggest, thickest book (that’s the way I like most things).
I was looking for the story behind those soul-stirring speeches and unflagging commitment to justice. I was looking for a manual of how I too could become that extraordinary and selfless. I was looking to worship a hero.
Instead, I read pageafterpageafterpageafterpageafterpage (you get the idea) detailing my beloved MLK’s affairs, orgies, and just plain lewd talk.
Now, that wouldn’t phase me. Some might even say I like that sort of thing. But then…
Then I was fifteen, idealistic, and a virgin. Then it was all very simple – and confusing.
And so I’m still mad at the writer of that biography. I was convinced he was lying. I suspected he was a sheet-wearing racist who wanted to discredit a great man – because you’re either a great man or a cheater. I hadn’t yet expanded my morality to include both/and. It was either/or. And so MLK had to be one or the other: how could he be a man of God and a man fucking for God?
I can’t remember the name of that writer or the title of that book but I still remember that sentence.
‘Course, the biographer can’t really take credit for it – that’s (allegedly) allllll MLK, baby – but it has stayed with me and formed the basis for two of my pet theories:
- that compelling, talented writers compose dazzling sentences (I’m not singing solo on this); and
- that passionate sexuality and passionate spirituality are not oppositional but part of the same longing.
For connection. For communion. For ecstasy. For transcendence. For rapture. For redemption.
And maybe for some holy words.
Like: I love you.
Or: Love each other.
Because in the beginning was The Word.
Sunday School for Sentences will be a sixteen-part series. Missed one? Here they are:
- Sunday School for Sentences #1: Explain the Expected in Unexpected Ways
- Sunday School for Sentences #2: The (Textual) Reverse Cowgirl
- Sunday School for Sentences #3: Object Lessons (from Kanye West and JD Salinger)
- Sunday School for Sentences #4: How to Give Good Quote
- Sunday School For Sentences #5: Why You Should Write Bad Poetry
- Sunday School for Sentences #6: Two Damn Fine Writing Tips
- Sunday School for Sentences #7: There Are No Magic Words
- Sunday School for Sentences #8: How To Execute a Climax or Series of Climaxes. I’m talking About Writing. Mostly.
- Sunday School for Sentences #9: Thread the Grommets, Lace the Corset, Feed the Rabbits
- Sunday School For Sentences #10 – Work It
- Sunday School for Sentences #11: The Pigs In Space Edition
- Sunday School for Sentences #12: Screw SEO. I Write (Wackadoo Titles) for PEOPLE, Not Search Engines. And So Should You.
- Sunday School for Sentences #13: How to Write an Intimate Cosmology of Cheesecake, Cheesecake Shots (or not) and Shoplifting
- Sunday School for Sentences #14: What Picasso And Dave Chappelle Know about Writing. For Realz.