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Sexual healing

"Sexual healing" Continued...

Issue: "John Bolton: Take cover!," May 7, 2005

"But as I wrote, I realized there was a good reason that Christian conversations about sex always circled back to marriage. What sits at the center of Christian sexual ethics is not a negative view of sex; the Christian vision of marriage is not, at its most concise, merely 'no sex before marriage.' Rather, the heart of the Christian story about sex is a vigorously positive statement about sex: Sex was created for marriage. Without a robust account of the Christian vision of sex within marriage, the Christian insistence that unmarried folks refrain from sex just doesn't make any sense."

Real Sex tries to "set out the characteristics of good sex, and to explore who partakes of it, under what circumstances." In recovering the biblical dimensions of "real sex"-that is, sex within marriage-Ms. Winner is critical of marital advice that urges spouses to spice up their marriages by escapes from the routine, exotic experimentation, and a rekindling of romantic fantasy. Such fantasies, she says, are part of the problem: The goal should be for "real sex" within marriage to become a part of ordinary life, the everyday intimacy of being "one flesh" with another person.

She says, "Forty years into the sexual revolution, we have all been taught distorted lessons about what 'good sex' looks like. Pick up any women's magazine-there's always an article telling married couples how to spice up their sex life. What we're told to aspire to is conjugal sex that looks very much like wild, unstable, always-new unmarried sex. Even Christians, who proclaim that sex is made for marriage, have not taken the next step and asked, 'So, what does real, everyday, ordinary married sex look like?' It does not look like the sex unmarried folks have in the movies or on Friends. Rather, it is deeply embedded in the domestic warp and woof. It is part and parcel of the household."

Cop vs. storyteller

An interview with Lauren Winner:

WORLD: How do you define chastity?

WINNER: As the church has always defined it-all Christians are called to recognize that God created sex for marriage, which means, for married people, chastity = fidelity, only having sex with your spouse, and for unmarried people it means not having sex at all.

Chastity is not just about keeping your pants zipped. It is about renouncing bodily union with another person so that you can find a deeper union with the Body of Christ. This is why some of the recent books on modesty irk me. Many of these books suggest to women that they should be chaste because godly men don't want to date women who wear tubetops; because farmers won't buy the cow if they can get the milk for free; because chaste women will attract godly men. If that's your reason for dressing modestly-if your attention is still focused on attracting the right kind of guy-then I'm not sure you're really inhabiting chastity.

WORLD: How can churches do a better job of teaching about sex?

WINNER: One thing we need to do is give a richer, more theologically robust account of chastity. It's not enough to say "Paul says don't fornicate." . . . Rather, he is seeking to preserve, restore, and protect God's vision for humanity and sexuality, laid out at the opening of Genesis.

WORLD: How can the church become more of a community that can help Christians live chastely?

WINNER: One of the fundamental lies Christians have absorbed from our surrounding individualistic society is that "what I do with my body is none of your concern." Paul instructs the Galatians to hold one another accountable for sin: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. . . . Carry each other's burdens." That verse, if we construe it uncharitably, can lead us to envision a community that functions primarily as a police force [but] the more important task of the community is to make sense of the ethical codes that are being enforced. Here the community is not so much cop as storyteller, sustaining the stories that make sense of the community's norms. This storytelling is part of the working out of God's grace in the Church. We do this every time we read Scripture, and every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper, and (hopefully) each time we minister to one another.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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