About Alaina’s Book, “The Conjugial Culture”
“The Conjugial Culture: A Derived Doctrine of Sex in the New Church” is a new book that was inspired by my experiences growing up in the New Church, a Christian denomination with congregations worldwide (also sometimes referred to as the Swedenborgian Church).
In case you’re not familiar with this religion, but are interested in this book I’ve written, here’s a charming article from Huffington Post which lays out some basics on Emanuel Swedenborg, a late 18th-Century Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian, who is a central figure in this faith. New Church faith holds that Swedenborg received a revelation from God on the true nature of religion, the Bible, and the afterlife. His theological works, referred to in the New Church as The Writings, explain the nature of God and the principles of a moral life. New Church members believe a moral life includes not just a profession of faith but an active life grounded in charity and useful deeds. Another core element of the belief is an afterlife in which souls choose their own fate in heaven or hell, based on what they loved and did in the world. New Church members also believe that you do not need to be a member of the New Church to be “saved” – all people who make a habit of kindness and respect for others, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof) have the chance to go to heaven. The New Church is also unique in its teachings on marriage, which hold that loving married partners have the potential to spend a heavenly afterlife together in a state the New Church refers to as “conjugial love”. Visit the New Church’s website for more info on their beliefs if you’re interested.
Now you can see the origin of my book’s title. There’s a lot to appreciate about the New Church, but despite my upbringing, I’ve never taken the important step of officially joining the organization. As with any religion, beliefs are subject to the human lens of the culture in which they exist, and the culture of the New Church has been plagued with problems which beg someone to speak up.
For decades, students of the New Church have been subject to ideas and dictates on relationships, sex and marriage which have a lot in common with other conservative religious movements. New Church classrooms often lack quality sex education, and New Church youth are often discouraged from cultivating exclusive relationships with the opposite sex prior to engagement and marriage. When it comes to important sexual and relationship issues, New Church clergy, educators and writers often focus exclusively on the importance of achieving marriage (and the imperative of abstinence until marriage), to the detriment of needed discussion on many essential practical topics like real-life decision-making, dating and contraceptives.
Many prominent New Church leaders, teachers and writers have promoted ideas which, while designed to help New Church youth, have actually resulted in years of pain, shame, confusion and alienation. Some of the most extreme ideas found in New Church curricula include the judgment that those who have premarital sex, or engage in any kind of lesser sexual contact, are irredeemably lustful individuals who will go on to sabotage their future marriages. Other lessons focus on virginity (particularly for women) being of paramount importance for a marriage’s success, over all other commitments and virtues.
New Church members – and members of any similarly repressed community – need a real conversation about sex, relationships and marriage. “The Conjugial Culture” has been years in the making, grounded in extensive research which compares the popular concepts of New Church culture to the underlying doctrines of Swedenborg’s work, as well as the wisdom of real-life experience. Its publication will be controversial among its small target audience of readers raised in the New Church (though any reader familiar with a conservative, paternalistic religious upbringing is likely to appreciate these topics). It’s rare for a lay person, particularly a young woman (as the New Church ordains only men) to speak out on these topics in such a comprehensive way, contesting the published lessons of the New Church organization’s respected leaders. But fresh, realistic ideas on these topics, ideas which connect solidly to the practical, forgiving spirit of the New Church’s original doctrine, are badly needed.
You can order your copy of “The Conjugial Culture” online through the publisher’s website.
Order by phone at 877-736-8598.