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Unprotected Texts: The Bible's Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire
Jennifer Wright Knust
352 pp., $25.99
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies)
James K.A. Smith
Baker Academic, 2009
240 pp., $22.99
Every few months—if not weeks—it happens: another Christian article on sex is published, usually lamenting some trend or event or book that is out of step with the biblical sexual ethic. One example: a cover story in Relevant magazine, "The Secret Sexual Revolution," about a study finding that the majority of "young unmarried Christians have had sex," despite a widespread belief that unmarried sex is wrong. Articles like this are not lacking in sincerity or urgency, even wisdom, but underneath is an all-too-familiar futility. After all, the typical recommendations either boil down to marrying early, trying harder to find someone (be less picky; ask your pastor to arrange singles events), trying harder at contentment (maybe you were meant for celibacy after all), or finding a way to accommodate the trend of delayed marriage ("be more realistic" was a common theme in the Relevant piece).
Hand-wringing isn't the only thing such pieces have in common; they are usually also united in a focus on what that ethic says about the boundaries for sex. Thus, a preoccupation with the single, the gay, and the unfaithful: "the root problem is the willingness to have sex before marriage," says the Relevant author (emphasis his), after noting the out-of-wedlock pregnancies and abortions that stem from unmarried Christians' sex.
What seems of less concern than these boundary transgressions is the reputation and character of the God who apparently forgot that he built his children with libidos that kick in early in life, even as marriages happen later and later and women continue to outstrip men in church attendance, if not conversion. I recently heard a claim that, in the American church anyway, single women outnumber single men by 30 percent. Frankly, I doubt we even have it the worst. I still remember the young Christian woman I met in India years ago, who asked her visiting American sisters to pray that God would provide a husband for her, because it was so difficult to find ...