For the span of fifteen years, I had both a fear and obsession with soul ties. It began my junior year of high school when I first learned about them. For those unfamiliar, a soul tie forms during sex; this bond is strong and can sometimes be unbreakable. This is why it is important to have sex only in marriage because, when you engage in sexual activity, you receive the spirit (or soul) of your partner. Not only that, you also carry the spirits of your partner’s previous partners and their previous partners. You literally could be walking around with the innumerable souls if you have said outside of marriage. Sure, I knew pre-marital sex and having babies “out of wedlock” were the worst sins you could ever commit, but nobody said anything about carrying around souls. I went to college and continued to guard myself against developing soul ties. I read books (I own a good bit of the books on this list. A good bit.) I attended conferences and learned even more. These soul ties were at the root of depression, negative thinking and a true inability to let go of the past. If you saw your ex and still felt some kind of emotion, you had a soul tie. Suffice it to say, when I made the decision to engage in premarital sex, I knew better. Not only was I engaging in sin, I was opening myself up to a cadre of soul ties. I loved him- apparently enough to pollute myself with the souls of people I would never know.

Soon, I wanted to be free. Everything I was told would happen to me as a result of this soul tie actually happened. I began to think that I wasn’t pretty enough. I would see him and feel that same tingle. He would say something and I would blush. I was just wrong- all kinds of wrong- and I needed to get free. So I did the work: repented, laid on the altar, had mothers pray over me, fasted beyond the point of starvation, read only the bible, stopped watching TV, stopped listening to rap and R&B, blocked his calls and texts, threw away every gift and prayed that I was set free. I was told the only way I would know if the soul tie was broken was to test it. If I saw him again and felt nothing or if I went into a new relationship and it was smooth sailing, I was free. When I ran into him, I gave him my new number and let’s just say my next relationship after that didn’t end with wedding bells. I had failed. I would endure years of accepting soul tie theology before I began to question its validity. After attending a service where a woman confessed to freeing herself from the soul tie she formed with her rapist, I could no longer accept this doctrine at face value. The church applauded this woman for cutting the soul tie she formed with a man who had sex with her against her will. I was horrified and asked two pastors, both strong advocates of soul ties, about this. One told me God protects victims of sexual violence from forming soul ties with their attacker because it would be too much to handle a soul tie and a rape. The other told me soul ties form regardless and victims must understand that healing from the sexual violence and breaking the soul tie are different processes. Neither explanation made sense to me. On one hand, God says, “Because you didn’t ask for this, I’ll stop the soul tie but not the violence itself.” On the other hand, God says, “Well, it is still sex after all.” Who is this God and why would anybody serve a God like that?

Where does Scripture say, when we engage in sex, we will receive the souls of countless others? The answer is simple. It doesn’t. Moreover, all these steps to possibly free oneself from a soul tie aren’t biblical either. I’ve attended workshops where the steps to soul tie freedom were exhaustive. I’ve also attended workshops where we were told some sexual soul ties can’t be broken. Says who? Show me where someone encounters Jesus and is not completely healed. I decided I could no longer bear witness to the existence of sexual soul ties, no matter how much an Old Testament scripture was presented with no cultural or contextual understanding. How many heroes of our faith actually had one wife? If soul ties bring about so many demonic forces and destruction, why do we not read, preach or teach about theirs? Why are we not talking about the soul ties of Abraham or Moses? If the effects of soul ties are real, with all those wives and concubines, how could Solomon have possibly been wise?

More importantly, why is soul tie rhetoric always directed at women? The above picture, of which I could find no male counterpart, made rounds on social media and is indicative of how soul ties are often preached. Women are shamed and scared into obedience. Like the picture, we are reduced to sexual beings that have no worth or identity outside of what happens in the bedroom. This picture and soul tie theology suggests that, after having sex outside of marriage, you are no longer human. Sex has tainted everything and there is no longer life in you. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Also, we’re taught to shame natural emotions. Why is it a soul tie if I see an ex and emotion still rises in me? Where do soul ties give the space to be human? Maybe I’m still in love. Maybe I’m still dealing with our breakup. Maybe he’s trifling and every time I see him, my skin crawls. Either way, these are not demonic emotions. They are life’s emotions. I don’t believe sexual soul ties are real. I believe the effects of being in relationship with people are. Those effects can heal or hurt us. That is life. And, though I do believe demons exist, I do not believe that we become possessed by them simply because we didn’t wait until our wedding night. We need to have healthy conversations about sex, as much of current dialogue is rooted in intentional misinformation. I am not against abstinence and celibacy; as a matter of fact, I wholeheartedly support it. I believe people have the right to govern their bodies. I am, however, against people being theologically manipulated into the decision to wait.

Lastly, while I do not believe sexual soul ties exist, I believe the bond between parent and child is the only true soul tie that exists. That relationship charts the course of life for each person- especially the child. We are quick to label a person with “mama drama” or “daddy issues”. Yet we never take the time to assess how parent-child relationships impact every aspect of our lives. Our relationships with our biological parents are often at the root of many of our identity issues and problems in our romantic interactions. This doesn’t take away from those in the village who raised and poured into us. Yet, there is something about fragmented aspects of relationships with our biological parents that eat away at us and leave us broken. Healthy tangible engagements and interactions with our biological parents may not exist for some of us but, when we look in the mirror, we see them staring back at us. This summer, I’ve been reading the powerful memoir, Prison Baby, by Deborah Jiang Stein. It details how her life took unexpected and painful spirals once learning that she was born and lived in a prison with her incarcerated birth mother. Reading her story, I began to reflect on my own and the stories people have shared with me down through the years. Whenever we get to the deep root of insecurities, failed relationships or unhealed wounds, the cause is not a soul tie created during the act of sex. The cause has almost always been brokenness experienced as a result of their relationships with our parents.

I just wish the church saw this as the cause, too.