BustedHalo: Dawn, you and I have known each other for a long time. I knew you mainly as a rock and roll journalist, who did liner notes for lots of cd reissues and wrote for a bunch of magazines…
Dawn Eden: (laughs) See, I love this because you having known me for a while can attest to the fact that I’m not just a poser. You know there are plenty of Christian writers who say, “Oh yeah, I was hip once, I was in the rock world once.”
BH: I can vouch for the fact that you were once in the rock world. In fact you and I once worked together when you wrote press releases for my old band and on my solo cds. So this is a big turn for you. Talk to me a little bit about how your book came about, Thrill of the Chaste. And what got you away from rock journalism and into writing a book on chastity.
DE: Well the book came about because of my own transformation. I grew up Reform Jewish and by the time I hit my 20’s, I was an agnostic rock journalist and I had a spiritual longing but because I didn’t have faith, I was looking to fill this spiritual longing. Like it’s one thing to love music, it’s another thing to say well, I don’t believe, so I’m going get my religious experiences from concerts. That’s how I was from concerts, from my favorite records, that’s how I tried to achieve transcendence. But that didn’t give my life meaning but I thought love would.
And so I tried to find the love of my life. I didn’t find the love of my life, and so I thought based on just all the morals of the world that I was in, everything that the mainstream media and music magazines is that, well, if I didn’t find the love of my life, then I had every right to just get pleasure from sex, so I had a premarital sex in relationships, out of relationships, and what happened when I was 31, was I had this religious experience that convinced me of the truth of Christianity.
I eventually became a Catholic. I entered the church last year, but this time when I was 31, back in 99. I just knew that God was real, that Jesus was the Messiah, that the Bible was true, and that I had to change my life accordingly. So, I had to take a moral inventory, and what I realized was that not only was my lifestyle not in keeping with the lifestyle God wanted for me, but that all the sex that I had ever had in my life, even within committed loving relationships, far from bringing me closer to the marriage that I wanted had actually made me less capable to sustain a life-time marriage.
BH: Now you talk about having this religious experience when you were 31, can you to talk a bit more about what that was.
DE: It was the result of my mind having been opened in stages to the truth of Christianity. And one thing that was a major door opener for me was when I was 27, back in December ’95, and I was doing a phone interview with a man named Ben Eshbach, who was the lead singer for a Los Angeles band named “The Sugarplastic” not a religious rock band. And I thought I would ask him something unrelated to his music, so I asked, what was he reading lately, and he said, “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G.K. Chesterton, and I had never heard the name before and thought it was one of those quant English names like P.G. Wodehouse, or something, so I went to the bookstore and picked it up thinking was going to be reading about Jeeves and Wooster or something. And then, to my surprise, I realized that this novel had a Christian message, but more than that, it presented the faith in a way I had never seen it before.
Because I had assumed that Christians were just this white bread, Moral Majority, faceless, conformist, mass, they all ruled the world, and that for me to be this rock and roll hipster rebel, I had to be different from them. And what Chesterton put forth, is that there is false rebellion and true rebellion, and the false rebellion is essentially to be a rebel without a cause. The rebelling for the sake of rebelling. True rebelling was the rebelling against the evil that has its grip on the world, so that the Christian is the true rebel. Chesterton also said this in Orthodoxy, when he said words to the effect that Christianity is the only religion where God, in order to be a King, must also be a rebel. And so reading that just opened up my mind, and at first I just thought, well Chesterton must have been the only salty Christian.
BH: Was Chesterton a convert?
DE: Yes. He was a convert from Anglicanism. Although he grew up pretty much without faith. He spent some time as an atheist I think. And so I just kept reading all the Chesterton that I could get my hands on.
BH: I remember that back around that time that you lent me The Man Who was Thursday and I lent you one of my favorite books The Moviegoer by Walker Percy but you didn’t like it.
DE: Yes, but it’s one of my favorite song of yours ever [a song I wrote called “The Moviegoer,” which has nothing to do with the book]. And it’s the one that you most underrate.
BH: You always remind me of that song. What do you like about it?
DE: I just loved the opening lyrics, “I found the floor, it’s nice to know, there’s only so low that I can go.”
BH: Yeah, that’s sort of a depressing line. You talk about how you’ve dealt with depression in your life. You say a lot of people out there who have depression might need more than just coming to their faith to deal with depression.
DE: At the movement that I received faith back in October ’99, I was healed completely of the cyclical suicidal depression that I suffered from. My diagnosis has changed since then, from major depression to—in the wonderful pragmatic parlance of psychology—to major depression in remission. But since then I have gone through stressful times, times that I’ve gone through crying jags, it hasn’t all been happy and joyful.
But I have to say, being in the church has been enormously helpful. For one thing, if you’re in an area where you can find a priest that isn’t too overburdened, you can get spiritual direction, which is more than just confession. And that is free therapy, and it’s wonderful. It’s not a replacement for a professional if you have some serious problems, but if you have an existential problem the kind of help that’s available in the church can really help.
But more than that a great help for depression is to just stop doing the behavior that helps to depresses you. And I realized that this kind of self medication that I had, where I thought I can go out and meet a guy, and if the prospects look good, then I can be open to sleeping with him and maybe we’ll fall in love. That was something where I thought that would bring happiness. And it didn’t.
BH: So your mom converted, but you were raised a secular Jew. Both your parents were Jewish, right?
DE: That’s right, both my parents divorced when I was a kid. My mother had converted to Catholicism when I was a teenager, but she had converted initially to charismatic Catholicism which is related to Pentecostalism in the sense it incorporates spiritual gifts that are not normally included in Catholic worship, like speaking in tongues. I could not get into it at all. And then by the time I became interested in Christianity my mother had lapsed into Messianic Judaism, which is a form of Protestantism, it’s like the Jews for Jesus. Although she didn’t call herself Jews for Jesus. But she had stopped going to Mass, and she had started with the Messianic Jewish church. And so, rather than exploring the Catholic Church, I read Chesterton for a few years, and started reading the Bible more.
And it was after that that I started to have this experience which was the actual faith experience, I don’t like to talk about it that much because its unique, and the thing is that God comes to each of us in different ways, so sort of the way that I was touched isn’t the same way other people might be. The shortest way to describe it is that I heard a voice in the night, which was a woman’s voice, which really surprised me because even as an agnostic I thought that God was a man. And the voice said, “Some things are not meant to be known, some things are meant to be understood.” And when I woke up I was very freaked out by that. And I was trying to figure out what it meant, and something told me that it was in the Bible. And I was wondering where it would be in the Bible. And then in my mind I was directed to read Romans 5:1. So I read it, and it said, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have Peace with our lord Jesus Christ.”
And for me, being justified by faith, I connected that faith with understanding, with some things that are meant to be understood. And so, the message that some things are not meant to be known, I took as meaning that I was trying to get to know God through external knowledge, where I was thinking that if I have enough prove that God exists, then I would believe. But the message was that some things are meant to be understood, that I had to have the understanding that comes with faith, and then the knowledge would be added to me. So I got down on my knees that night and I said the Sinner’s Prayer which is the prayer saying to Jesus that I’m a sinner, please come into my heart, and after that, I was transformed.
BH: I remember talking about this with you about eight years ago and you were going to a Seventh Day Adventist Church for a while. BustedHalo is for spiritual seekers in a lot of ways it sounds like you and your mom, are charter member of that club. You both seem to have taken the journey very seriously.
DE: Yeah, I did, I wasn’t an actual Adventist, but the Adventist church was a community church, and it was the first church which I found. I saw a flier that they left at a bank, and I just went there and said, “How can I get Baptized?” When I found out that they were Adventist I said “I don’t want an Adventist Baptism, can you just give me a generic Christian baptism. You know, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.” And that’s what they did. But I didn’t stay with them because I realized that I wanted something more orthodox, but I was very influenced by my mother at that time, who had a laundry list of reasons why she left the Catholic Church. So I thought I wanted something orthodox, but anything but Catholicism.
BH: In the book you talk a lot about "Sex and the City" and how you think its been a defining moment, culturally as far as women’s idea’s of sexuality. Can you talk a little about that and how a lot of your book is certainly taking to task some of the ideas that you believe “Sex and the City” propagated.
DE: Sure, well as you say “Sex and the City” is a defining movement. The interesting thing is that it really simply recycled ideas that were 25 years old, or older. The Germaine Greer and Helen Gurly Brown idea that true liberation is being able to “have sex like a man.” I’ve come to believe more and more, since I wrote the book and have been speaking to men about chastity, that it’s not possible for even a man to have sex like a man.
BH: What does it mean “To have sex like a man?”
DE: It’s the idea that you can just go in and out, in and out, and nobody has a face, nobody has a soul, and that you can just cut yourself off emotionally, so that like Benjamin Braddock says in The Graduate when he’s confronted by Mr. Robinson, and he says, “What I did with your wife. Wasn’t even like sex, it was like shaking hands.” You know, that’s the “Sex and the City” ideal of just having sex like you’re shaking hands.
BH: So you think women have been sold a bill of goods?
DE: Oh, completely, and it’s ironic because the same people who are saying that we should be able to have sex like a man, are people who rally against objectifying women, whereas if you try to have to have sex with someone without having emotional attachment with them, you are objectifying yourself, and the other person by treating both parties like a commodity.