The Intimacy Deception

For all its puffery regarding depth and intimate relationships, Dwell Community Church seems to deeply misunderstand the core of human intimacy and love. The church has displaced true intimacy with an obsessive fixation on sex, marriage, and submission, falling into the trap of a purity culture not uncommon in authoritarian religion.

Real love and intimacy are forged over time with trust, respect, and freedom.

I was recently reading through some troubling documents that Dwell Community Church uses to teach middle schoolers about sex and dating. However, this fixation on even the most minute sexual details is not restricted to a particular age or life status, as the church has a religious prescription for sex at every stage of spiritual, mental, and physical maturity. Dwell Community Church stringently patrols and discloses the sexual thoughts and experiences of members in the name of biblical accountability and openness, a policy which has led to allegations of religious abuse. Numerous stories of former members detail shunning or excommunication for followers engaged in pre-marital physical relationships up to and including sexual intercourse - excommunication being a punishment which appears disproportionately directed at women, rather than men, likely due to their spiritual culpability as the sexual temptress. Least of all is the married couple exempt from sexual micromanagement, with the church instructing mentors and spiritual leaders to inquire and advise regarding the frequency and satisfaction of intercourse within marriage. Dwell Community Church endorses a fundamentalist doctrinal interpretation of woman as helpmeet to her husband, including in the sexual arena, with women being encouraged to sleep naked so as to be immediately sexually available to her husband if he be so inclined at any moment during the night. This doctrinal attitude has led to an increasing number of allegations by women who were encouraged by the church to remain in emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive marriages in order to serve God by their submission to his earthly authority - the husband. It is no surprise that these same women are subjected to further emotional abuse, via excommunication from their spiritual family, upon seeking a divorce.


This obsessive purity culture is not only extremely destructive, but entirely misses the mark on love, trust, and intimacy - which is really part of a larger question of how we relate to one another and view ourselves at a fundamental level. Marriage and sex within the church are confused with intimacy, whereas they are merely possible manifestations of intimate relationships, not to be mistaken for the ideal itself. The system is entirely inverted - Dwell Community Church believes that they can give birth to intimacy by rigorously controlling ideals of sex and marriage, when the exact opposite is true. A fulsome understanding of intimacy in relationships - in all its sacred aspects - naturally gives rise to a respectful view of sexuality, a view which will conform to Christian doctrine for the believer without any need for such frantic dictation. For a church that preaches the replacement of an esoteric devotional law with the absolute freedom of grace, they appear to have forgotten to apply it in the most important aspect of all human life - our relationships with one another. Women in particular are subjected to horrendous abuse in the name of submission to spiritual authority, under which the sacred spaces of their hearts are violated - to say nothing of their physical bodies. To then face the shame and the isolation of excommunication for seeking a divorce is a flagrant ignorance of the combined religious revelation and human thought on love over the past three millennia.


Unfortunately, even more can be said on this issue, since sex is not the only way to build and then violate intimacy in a relationship to disastrous effect. There is a direct corollary here, applicable to any intimate relationship, be it sexual or otherwise, including even the relationship of the individual to the institution of the church itself as spiritual family and supportive community. The latter being a relationship that the church does not seem to emphasize as having the same value of continuity - as say maintaining the sanctity of an abusive marriage - but rather is all too eager to shun or drive away struggling or dissenting members of its flock. Indeed, Dwell Community Church upholds marital divorce as an abomination even in instances of abuse, while it has emotionally divorced ex-members by the hundreds or thousands over the past five decades that the church has been in business. Of course, the most commonly raised allegation against the church is the abandonment of an entire spiritual support network, including friends and mentors, relationships often forged over decades and thrown away in an instant. This is not love or friendship, and anyone who has once been indoctrinated by the church and then lived in the infamous "world" - as the church would have it - knows this well. This practice is the spiritual equivalent of sex-before-marriage: evangelize and abandon.


Consider these illuminating points taught to middle school girls within Dwell Community Church as they begin to encounter their own sexuality:

  1. You can be totally crushed out, and the boy couldn’t give a crap about you. (if this feeling is so “true”, why do bad?) Feelings ≠ Truth

  2. Or, you don’t even know anything meaningful about him…..what do you like about him so much??? What happens when you find out a bunch of bad things about him?

  3. Emotions tell you this boy is what you need. You spend a bunch of time with him and ditch your friends. The relationship ends, but your friendships are all messed up.

  4. In Jr. High and High School, people ditch their friends for someone that are dating…..BIG MISTAKE (Your boyfriends 2 week, or 3 months maybe. Friends—a lifetime.)

I don't think I could offer a more pertinent warning than to replace the gendered words above with Dwell Community Church. Moreover, I can certainly attest that neither my boyfriend nor friendships within the church lasted a lifetime. My friendships of a lifetime are people who were free to love me of their own choosing, from within or without a church, from within or without any particular system or ideology. This can be the only foundation of true intimacy, trust, and respect - a relationship built upon freedom to love, without contingency, without asinine and suffocating legislation. That is, after all, the nature of the love of God and the basis for all intimacy.

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