Strangest Sex Fact Ever

I found it in 2009, but I’ve never really known what to do with it.

It’s the strangest sex fact ever…and I have quite a collection after twelve years of studying human sexuality. But none like this one. And it strangely supports my devotion to defend the intimacy of marriage as a picture of the relationship God desires to have with mankind. (Wasn’t that a safe and pretty sentence that I just wrote?) “Intimacy of marriage” is so much easier for us all to meditate on. It’s not terribly blunt and we can get by with not directly connecting sex and God. But the concept here really is that holy sex between a husband and wife somehow has potential to parallel the passion and intimacy we can have with God. (Yee-ouch! I never said it quite like that.)

Yada.” This is God’s word for sex. “Adam knew (yada) Eve and she became pregnant and gave birth.”

Yada is also his word for knowing Him. “Be still and know (yada) that I am God.” In my heart I know that the wedding ceremony, paying the bills together, and taking long walks as a married couple are a part of “yada,” and therefore a part of the picture of our relationship with God, but…it’s pretty clear what Adam and Eve were up to when this word was used. The act of shameless, naked one-ness is the place where God choses to plant this word. I admit, even after twelve years of studying the concept it is still hard to grasp. How can a simple physical act—and one that’s misused and distorted every day—contain a picture for us that helps us “get” God? How can it be like communing with Him?

I’m about to introduce you to the strangest connection between sex and worship. If this blog wasn’t already controversial, I’m about to bring up the topic of “speaking in tongues.” Thankfully, I have science to back me up on this one. (You might want to sit down right about now.)

There’s interesting new science about religion and the brain. Discover magazine reported on this in a 2009 article entitled “The God Experiment.”* Andrew Newberg, a nueroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied what is happening in the brain when someone experience a sense of closeness to God. Short layman’s version: when we experience a truly deep connection to God in meditation, prayer, or worship activity increases in the front of our brain (pre-frontal cortex) and an area in the top rear of the brain (posterior superior parietal lobe) shows a decrease. This is what connecting with God looks like to science!

Ok, here’s where it gets strange: In his studies of Pentecostal Christians, Newberg found an “even stronger connection between decreased activity in the orientation-association region and religious experience. He found that when Pentecostals begin speaking in tongues, two things happen in the brain: Posterior superior parietal lobe activity decreases, and the frontal lobes nearly shut down as well. The worshipers seem to lose their sense of self completely in religious rapture.” Ironically, the frontal lobe that shuts down is one of the significant parts that control speech but it does not function when someone speaks in tongues. At this point of discovery, I was intrigued by that fact alone but was about to have my own brain thrown into a tailspin of worship and wonder.

“Intriguingly, Newberg has found some similarities between the neural activity of self-transcendence and of sexual pleasure.” The authors words. Not mine. What he was saying is that when you’re looking at a brain functioning, it’s hard to tell the difference between speaking in tongues and orgasm. They look kinda similar. The writer went on to say, “that may be why mystics such as St. Teresa so often employed romantic and even sexual language to describe their raptures.” Or, in my words, it may be that God created romance to help us understand why and how we are drawn to Him.

The connection between speaking in tongues and orgasm has been made by a man who, as far as I can tell, is not religiously active in any way. He’s simply intellectually curious. And he admits that the overlap isn’t total. The hypothalamus seems to play a larger role in orgasm, and the brains frontal lobes seem to be more significant during spiritual practices. None-the-less, there’s something physical here that links the world of sex to how we relate to God.

I realize that speaking in tongues is highly controversial. (Gee, didn’t Paul say something about not arguing this one out?) If you believe in this gift, this post will be something of beauty to you. If you don’t, it could be something to offend you. Either way, I plead with you to simple look at this fact: there’s a physiological similarity between how we commune with God on an intimate level and how we commune with our spouse in the bedroom. As my friend Kim said when I mentioned this research: “Spirit speaks to spirit!” In our deepest times of prayer, our spirits take flight and commune deeply with God’s Spirit. In our deepest moments of physical intimacy, could it be that spirit is communing with spirit?

It sounds a little like “yada” to me.

What’s it sound like to you?

*John Horgan, “The God Experiment:Five brain scientists try to answer one of the oldest questions on earth-What do we know when we know God?” Discover presents The Brain, Fall 2009, page 12-17. I found that some of these scientists seem to be wanting to explain God away by their research. They want to equate our religious experiences with simple activity in the brain that “feels” like God. Instead, I look at it through the lense that God is allowing us to sense him through a stimulation to the brain. My question is always “What is causing those things to happen in the brain? What’s the stimuli?” I believe it is God. All quotes in this blog are from this article.

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16 Comments

  • I’d read that study when it first came out…it really intrigued me but then I’d forgotten about it, probably because I’d gotten some strange looks when I brought it up in conversation…thanks for the reminder Dannah! What a way to “know” God..to know our Heavenly Father who happens to be our Bridegroom, our Lover…something that tho it’s well known about men having an issue with, there are far more women than realized who have an issue with our “Yada” with our Bridegroom, our Lover. Not sure what is in store for me this next 8 months but this is a path I’ve been on since last October…getting to know my Bridegroom King, my Lover in a deeper way! Keep digging Dannah…keep up the research and sharing all the Bridegroom reveals! My prayers are with you!

  • Hi Dannah,
    Fabulous post! I’d read Newberg’s book “Why we believe what we believe” and recall being awed when I read his commentary on the overlap in brain chemistry of deeply spiritual experiences and sexual experiences. How incredible that God designed our physiology in such a way that there is a solid parallel of our experience of spiritual and sexual intimacy.

    This might make some people uncomfortable because they separate sexuality from spirituality, but I think it blends together beautifully how God intended for us to connect with each other and Him… when sex is in the context He originated it for.

  • Great post!
    Now it all makes sense. I spoke in tongues a few times before and when your in that true deep prayer and worship with God and the tongues start flowing you really do feel like its just you and God. INTIMACY!
    You could be in a room full of people but when that comes over you… It doesnt matter who is around you. Thats your time with God. {Jesus}. So much power in the name of Jesus.

    I am a married women and reading your post and putting two and two together makes sense!

    Thankyou for that!

    Robin

  • This is truly fascinating!

    I grew up in continuationist churches but in more recent years have found myself in charismatically conservative churches which has, sadly, made me more reticent when it comes to the outworking of spiritual gifts. I am more hesitant, more analytical about them than I used to be, and sometimes I get hung up on whether I am “doing it right” — looking at what I am doing, rather than what God is doing.

    I crave the kind of intimacy with God which deep experiences of worship can bring, but I find them lacking in my life. How can a very practical girl like me learn to lose sight of her own self-consciousness and her fear of getting it wrong in order to know Him in deeper and richer ways?

    • @Danielle: If no one else has given u an answer…. The one thing you will need to do is to STUDY Mark 16:16-18, Acts 2, 8, 9, 10& 19 and 1 Corinthians 14. If u can study for yourself what the Word of God says about speaking in tongues with an open heart, yielding to the Holy Spirit, you’ll see for yourself and you’ll be ready to receive all that God offers. If you want, you can make my acquaintance on facebook (Adewumi Jesutola) and we can share God’s Word together. I assume you’re born again?

    • Just let go and let God! Once you truly give it over to Him, then it won’t matter what others think anymore, because it will only matter between you and your relationship with God! And, that really is all that matters, anyway! He is the only one that will always be there for us, Who will never judge us, forsake us, nor turn away from us. Yet, those people that we worry about will. So, it isn’t worth worrying about what they think about how we are doing things, but only worrying about what God thinks about what we are doing and how we are doing things! Only God can set you/us free! You’re in my prayers!

  • Read this after reading your excellent post on Shades of Grey and have to encourage you to keep up the great, and MUCH needed, work. This post reminds of author Gordon Dalbey’s thoughts on the fact that sex reunites man and woman into the complete image of God. Meaning, quite literally, it is perhaps the most spiritual of acts. Blessings to you and yours Dannah.

    • I ma thankful for your comments that you made Steve Grossman, I often speak in tongues and have done so a couple of times during very intimate moments with my husband and I didn’t know why. Still trying to get an understanding on it, but your comments do help.

  • This article was so crazy for me to read… I was at a convention called Kidz Blazt several years ago when the speaker encouraged us to speak in tongues. The first word I ever said in the Spirit was the world “yada”. My goodness!!

  • I am so relieved to read this! It is something I’ve wondered about for some time. Then last night during prayer I had what I can only describe as a whole body experience, and had to lie down as God’s love washed over me in waves. I felt a burning sensation deep within myself and can only describe it as an erotic experience! It is reassuring to know this is normal! Cath x

  • “Intriguingly, Newberg has found some similarities between the neural activity of self-transcendence and of sexual pleasure.”

    I’m intrigued. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • personally i thought something was wrong with me. each time i worship and “touch” God the feeling i have is not less different from when i am sexually aroused

  • Wow. I am a pentecostal Christian and when ever my husband and I make love and I am climaxing. I speak in tongues. But the tongues are different from those that I speak in church. And the difference for me is that just flow without me trying. Its like I can’t stop or control the tongues during sex.

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