Good Christian Sex
Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option – And Other Things the Bible Says About Sex
OK. As soon as some see “Why Chastity Isn’t the Only Option,” they will stop reading and dismiss this book. That will be their loss. This is an interesting, challenging, thought provoking book. At the same time, it is in many ways very traditional.
There is a lot of ground covered in these pages. We explore the connection between our bodies, soul and spirit. We look at romance novels, the “Disneyfication of our cultures ideas about love,” chemistry, desire, vulnerability, celibacy, knowing God, and social conformity. We discuss Harry Potter, Plato, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Jerome and Carol King.
Lest you think the author is promoting meaningless promiscuous hook-ups, or “cheating,” let me first mention Chapter 8: Be Faithful. This section is all about fidelity. We do look at some erroneous ideas concerning fidelity. Especially those shoved on us by religion. Ms. McCleneghan states, similar to what I said in my “Tribbles” article, that there is a difference between lust and “appreciating someone’s God-given hotness.” (That’s a great phrase!) We are sensual beings, and that is not in opposition to fidelity. We look at what fidelity is not, as well as what it is.
The 1st topic after the introduction is masturbation, or as Bromleigh likes to call it, “self-stimulation.” Despite the cultural baggage, our author states that it’s “normal to touch your sex organs for pleasure.” Here we’re told that such activity is a “premoral good,” and “a gift from God.” We have addressed the oft misused Biblical story of Onan, as found in the 38th chapter of Genesis. There’s also a good quote from Caitlin Moran about masturbation being a perfect hobby: “It doesn’t cost anything, I don’t have to leave the house, and it isn’t making me fat.”
Chapter 2 talks about desire, and how desire is “love trying to happen.”
The Bible’s “Song of Solomon” enters here. When we stop jumping through hoops trying to pass that writing off as a metaphor of God and The Church, we can see it is a very, very racy love story. Here’s where probably the most controversial premise of this book is stated as “Some Christians like to claim that all sexual intimacy outside of marriage will necessarily feel cheap and damaging, but many of us know that that’s simply not true.”
So there’s the main premise that’s stated on the cover. Chastity isn’t the only option outside of marriage.
Here I have to interject.
Many of us had grandparents who told our parents to wait to have sex until after they were married, even though they themselves hadn’t waited. Then many of us had parents who told us to wait, even though they didn’t. Then many of us told our children to wait, even though we didn’t. And many of our children will tell their kids to wait, even though they didn’t. It’s like some false standard we feel bound to keep passing on, even though we know it’s not usually the norm. What we need is good sex education where abstinence is an option, but not a hypocritical mandate.
Now back to the book.
“Jesus came that we might have life, even pleasure, and have it abundantly (John 10:10)”
[Buy the book. Click HERE.]
Chapter 3 gets into ethics, and why it’s not good to keep “banging everyone we possibly can from the moment puberty starts.”
That “sexual sin is less about particular acts…than the way partners treat each other; sexual sin is about a lack of mutuality, reciprocity, and love.” We also look at some of the differences between the teachings of mainline Protestantism, and the fundamentalist evangelical religious right that I was a part of. (There are many “Christianities.”) There’s some great discussion of the supposed “clear and knowable will of God,” and we look at the books of Exodus and Luke in regards to that.
The fourth chapter talks about, among other things, being single. “God is not a jerk” is a great quote from this section. We’re also told “If celibacy starts to stand in the way of abundant life for singles, they can rightly let it go. Straight, gay, bi, trans, intersex: we are beloved.”
“Naked” is the title of chapter 5, and tells us a lot about being real and vulnerable. As in chapter 1, there’s also some sexist fundamental assumptions we need to discard. On the heels of vulnerability, the sixth chapter speaks of Intimacy. “Through sex we can practice attention, invitation, hospitality, and the means of grace.”
In chapter 7 we look at how to deal with our sexual history, and that “there’s no such thing as a perfect life lived with no hard lessons.” (Chapter 8 we covered 1st.) The 9th chapter is about the theology of leaving and staying. Some relationships last. Some don’t. Sometimes you need to leave. And not just for “infidelity.”
McCleneghan closes the book with “The Nature of Love.” God is love. Love is God. “Sex marks us; love changes us. So does God.” A great quote here is “I do wish…that religious people, if they must speak of sex, would cease and desist in the propagation of terrible theology and bigotry.”
I’ve barely skimmed the surface of the material here. I do have one small complaint. It’s one I’ve had with other books. The title. I hate the title. And that’s not because I can’t say it without hearing it in the voice of Dr. Ruth. Maybe (as is some other cases) it was the publisher’s mandate. Of course, a small matter.
I fear that some who may need this the most will resist reading it. There are many others who will find great hope in these pages. I don’t know that I agree with everything here, but that’s no big deal. And any book that kindly speaks of the great Anne Lamott has already gained some degree of my approval.
[Buy the book. Click HERE.]
Note: I’ll add some more quotes later, but I’m barely meeting my deadline, so…