Knowing that sex is, in the words of Frederick Buechner, "like nitroglycerin, it can be used either to blow up bridges or heal hearts," McCleneghan advocates for faithfulness and and mutuality in the context of any kind of relationship. I have bathed my feet—why should I get them dirty? Most of the instruction about sex comes from Christian leaders who started spreading the religion after Jesus' death. A good part of my day job in ministry is to interpret the Bible alongside the stories of what God is doing in our lives and in our world now. I think our sexuality is a part of who we are as created by God.
I do, though, think it could be a particular resource for college students and young adults trying to think about what healthy sexuality looks like and what the components of faithful sexual relationships might be. She makes a convincing case that human sexuality should not be thought of as something apart from our spiritual life. In medieval times, the church became deeply involved with controlling people's sex lives. But that's a good thing. It wasn't until that the Church formally put a claim on marriage and hashed out rules about what made children legitimate. Virginity and monogamy were still prized, while homosexuality could be punished by death. Don't get too frisky, guys. I appreciate her care with language, definitions, and applications as she lays out her theology, particularly the chapters on desire and singleness. Sexual desire itself was seen as the problem. Notice all the sex they're NOT having. To be a truly devoted Christian during the earliest days of the church, you needed to stop having sex altogether. In the Middle Ages and now, many Christians have admired and strived towards these standards and ended up looking the other way. But as a pastor, and as a Christian, I think the Bible is a book we have to take seriously, if not literally, as a means of learning about God and what is true and good and life-giving. I think our sexuality is a part of who we are as created by God. And then, you could have at it all you wanted. And that's when doubt can come rushing in. I think God is far less concerned with the physical details of particular acts than the way we treat those with whom we engage in those acts. Most tellingly, only about 11 percent of today's millennial Americans depend on religious leaders for information about sex. She does not prescribe an "anything goes" ethic, however. The church got involved in regulating marriage much later on, as its influence began to increase in Western Europe. The second coming didn't happen, but the emphasis on celibacy stayed. Early Christians' belief that Jesus' second coming was imminent created an environment that exalted celibacy over marriage. My guess is that he was too busy hanging out with the poor and healing the sick to care. Christians, in not knowing or interpreting the Bible themselves, cede that interpretive responsibility to others, relying on others to tell them what it says. And it wasn't long before things got really, really weird.
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