Amy DeRogatis, “‘Born Again is a Sexual Term’: Demons, STDs, and God’s Healing Sperm,” JAAR 77.2 (June 2009): 275-302.

DeRogatis’s essay offers some of the most stimulating work on evangelicalism I’ve read in ages. The essay examines one text: Holy Sex: God’s Purpose and Plan for Our Sexuality, a sex manual slash guidebook for “deliverance” ministries. Departing with earlier evangelical sex manuals (which explained how married couples could pleasure each other), the creators of this book claim that human sexuality serves as ground zero for spiritual warfare. During immoral sexual acts, bodily fluids like blood and semen can transmit literal demons from one “infected” human body to another. Once in, they inhabit a person’s genes and can pass to her/his progeny. The demons also adhere to sexually charged objects, particularly pornography—touching these objects opens your body to the demons. Sores, warts, and other bodily marks reveal their presence. The only cure comes by repentance and conversion, accepting the Holy Spirit as God’s holy sperm: “The Holy Spirit is sexualized and masculinized to impregnate the believer who is in turn feminized. The salvific male seminal fluid acts to form a prophylactic shield by creating a state of holy pregnancy” (292). In Holy Sex, “born again” is a sexual term—once pregnant with God’s Holy Spirit (spread through the Word), the demons flee a person’s body. In short, DeRogatis traces two major themes in evangelicalism via Holy Sex: 1) the role of the sexual body in mediating evangelical spiritual warfare and 2) the adoption of scientific discourse by spiritual warfare literature.

The latter relates nicely to other conservative evangelical science issues, particularly creationism. In both instances, the use of scientific discourse argues for the place of an evangelical position in mainstream public policymaking. Holy Sex presents itself as a public health document, cutting edge material on disease transmission and safer sexual practices. Though they’d almost certainly regard Holy Sex as heretical, creationists adopt similar strategies to present their case as one relevant to mainstream educators and scientists. Both suggest that modern science confirms what’s in the Bible: one with regard to disease and genetics, the other with regard to astronomy, human origins–and usually genetics too (Tower of Babel). The more advanced the science (genetics, particle physics–not just “biology” or “physics”), the better.