Trueman on the irony of our sexual age

The age which denies any real significance to sex also wants to argue that sexual desires are of paramount importance to personal identity and fulfillment.  Squaring that particular circle will no doubt generate a whole textbook full of neuroses in the coming years.

-Carl Trueman, ‘We’re All Sadists Now‘. [First Things. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2015]

Will the next edition of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ be illustrated?

The Eve Appeal, a London-based charity for women’s cancer, has drawn attention to a recent survey in which only half of UK women aged 26-35 could label the vagina accurately. This got me thinking:

1) Lord only knows how the US cohort would score in a similar survey. American test scores in all other areas haven’t been faring well lately.

2) These findings represent quite a paradox–if Europe is anything like the U.S., Gen X & Millennials are enjoying the enlightenment of sexual liberation yet they evince less knowledge than their sexually repressed Judeo-Christian forebears.

3) Contra #2, maybe the survey isn’t about paradox but parlance. That is, today’s sexual sophisticates aren’t accustomed to “clinical” language. They know what a vagina is and where it’s located but they’re not eggheads. Their most memorable discourses concerning human anatomy & sex has come through the wider pop culture which has its own vernacular when it comes to “lady parts.”

4) The UK is the home of E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey. No doubt women have learned much from James about what being a strong, independent woman is all about (i.e. submitting to a man’s fetishes). However, she might consider that her young readers, even when bound and abused, aren’t truly free so long as they’re ignorant. Maybe the next printing of her trilogy could be illustrated. Even an anatomical chart in an appendix is better than what they have now.

 

 

 

Sex as sabbath

The restorative effect of sexual delight on husband and wife may perhaps be considered by analogy with the blessing of the Sabbath. Just as rhythms of Sabbath rest are instituted by the Creator for the sake of man (cf. Mark 2:27) to refresh him so that his work may be a joy, so sexual delight within marriage may refresh and restore husband and wife for the work to which the Creator has called them….Just as God gives rest in order that man may joyfully work (and not work for the sake of rest), so he gives husband and wife joy in sex that they may more joyfully serve, and not the reverse. When reversed, sexual delight and relational intimacy become ends in themselves. The paradox and tragedy is that, having been made into idols, they inevitably disappoint, frustrate and fade. So often in a healthy marriage sexual delight creeps up on the couple at unexpected moments, in the midst of lives of active service and outward-looking work. –Christopher Ash, Marriage: Sex in the Service of God, 188.

When sex is mere pleasure

Two related news items caught my attention in the last week. The first is a Washington Post (WP) editorial  (ht: Wesley J. Smith) on the conviction of a Montana high school teacher who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-yr old female student. Much outrage was directed at the judge who sentenced the teacher to 30 days(!) in jail while pontificating that the then 14-yr old victim (who killed herself at 16 while the case was in the courts) was “older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation.” Pushing back on the “utter hysteria with which society responds to these situations” Betsy Karasik opined that “absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized.

The second item (ht: Jonah Goldberg) centers on the fall-out from the conviction of a Michigan teacher for child molestation (the victim was one of his middle school students). Seven teachers wrote letters to the judge requesting a lenient sentence for their convicted colleague. The reasons for leniency included such gems as “this was an isolated incident”, he “made a mistake”, and “he realized his mistake and ended it years before” someone notified the authorities.

A few thoughts come to mind:

1) In such cases conflict between church & culture is inevitable. There’s simply no way the church can  make peace with this kind of depravity and still call herself Christian in any meaningful sense (Eph 5:11-12).

2) Natural arguments are necessary but limited. We should explain why sexual abuse, rape, and pedophilia are “against nature” while remembering that what should be obvious to everyone doesn’t convince darkened minds (Rom 1:18ff).

3)  Sex is about more than mere pleasure. In some ways the church has made it’s job more difficult by trying to co-opt the cultural narrative concerning sex. Gathering the people to have a “real” conversation about the fulfillment, pleasure, & liberty of sex (with an obligatory nod to heterosexual monogamy) is a poor intervention for people who drink deeply from the well of pop culture on a daily basis. Sobriety isn’t a bad thing in this case. There is, after all, a kind of “joy that makes one serious.”