Almighty God, in your infinite wisdom you have outfitted us with the necessary physical accouterments for reproduction, the stimulation and appreciation of which not only brings us great pleasure, but allows the codes of our DNA to mingle with our lovers’ and produce offspring. We acknowledge our bodies as temples, as sanctuaries that are inhabitable by your Spirit, and though some of these bodies might appear to our human eyes as more inhabitable than others, we acknowledge too that we should not presume to know what physical forms you may or may not be inhabiting, or if you are, as Author of life, inhabiting, to some extent, each and every one, though at any rate it must follow that if bodies are temples then they are, as such, sacred spaces, and that two bodies coupling could therefore be seen to be two fleshy temples coming together to become one even greater sanctuary of flesh. This intercourse, we know, is a holy thing, and should, we have been told, be entered into only by a husband and wife. But many of us have frequently if not unabashedly merged our temples with others’ outside the bonds of marriage, and we have called it good, and sometimes very good, and we thought that perhaps you understood, that our situation, being what it was, might count as an exception, and others of us thought, like Eve considering the apple, that one time couldn’t hurt, and others of us experienced great shame, and still others experienced no shame at all. We acknowledge that this is a sensitive issue, LORD, that what may seem right for some may not seem right to others, and so it’s difficult, if not impossible, for us all to come to agreement about what, exactly, it’s okay to do with one’s body and a consenting other’s. We remember King David standing upon a Jerusalem rooftop and watching a woman on another rooftop as she disrobed and slid into a tub to bathe herself, and we also remember that King David ordered this woman’s poor husband to be killed in battle so he could take her as his own, and we also remember the hundreds of wives and concubines of King Solomon, whose insatiable appetite for women we would certainly not endorse today, regardless of how many wisdom-nuggets or life-lessons he happened to produce. We like to think of ourselves, LORD, as people who do more or less the right things. We like to believe we are, for the most part, civilized. For the most part, we do not take our clothes off in public, LORD. Nor do we film ourselves engaging in intercourse with our partners, except maybe for that one time, but then we quickly erased it afterwards, for fear it would fall into the hands of someone not us, and we definitely did not post it to the internet for whoever in the world might be interested to download, and so we must admit, LORD, that we find it hard to understand why actors in pornographic films do what they do, these sculpted and augmented folk who give the appearance of delighting in all manner of sexual deviances, who are fearless to the point of making us afraid—or, barring that, fearfully aroused. We who are not You and thus know not the hearts of these actors have, we admit, looked down upon them, have called them sick and perverted and sleazy, or hot, or skanky, or skanky-hot, and have, in an attempt to figure out their motives, assumed that perhaps they were simply power-hungry exhibitionists, or that they were downright too stupid to do anything else but mindlessly copulate under the hot, hot lights of a frigid studio space designed to resemble a generic apartment in Southern California, but we have also, in our more tender moments, sympathized with them, thinking “poor things” and assuming that their willingness to be tied up and tied down and spanked and sprayed with bodily fluids was a manifestation of some heretofore undiagnosed psychological trauma, inflicted upon them at some tender and therefore impressionable age, and that they do what they do because their fathers and mothers didn’t love them, or loved them in all the wrong ways. We acknowledge that these assumptions are most likely irresponsible, if not ultimately patronizing, and that we are in no place to judge anyone but ourselves, and that before we attempt to remove the speck of sawdust in the eyes of our brothers and sisters, we should remove the planks in our own. Remind us, when we find ourselves tempted to think of ourselves as superior, or when we are confronted with representations of actors in pornographic films, that whatever they may be and that whatever they may do is, ultimately, none of our business. May we remember Christ, who supped with prostitutes, who shared bread with the dregs of society—not that these actors should be thought of as “dregs,” only that we recognize that, historically, they have been interpreted by mainstream culture as “unorthodox” at best, and “depraved” at worst—and should we have occasion to find ourselves in their company, let us not look upon them with pity or disdain, and if we must enter into private speculations, let us wonder what they—who, though they are not us, are certainly no less human than we—may have to teach us about ourselves.
Matthew Vollmer is the author of Future Missionaries of America and the forthcoming Gateway to Paradise (both story collections), as well as inscriptions for headstones (a collection of essays). With David Shields, he is the co-editor of Fakes. He is assembling a multi-authored manuscript titled A Book of Uncommon Prayer.