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By Jenell Williams Paris
Sex Ed. For Adults
Exasperated during a class discussion about sexuality, a female undergraduate said, "I just want to explore my sexuality without being called a whore!" Don't we all, my dear, don't we all, I thought. Separated by a generation, my student and I were both raised in evangelical environments that shaped our thinking about sexuality with harsh binary oppositions. People are pure or impure, Christian or worldly, and for women especially, madonna (with a lower case m) or whore. In Sexuality and Holy Longing, Lisa Graham McMinn quotes an undergraduate who wrote, "sexuality is more about repression than expression, especially in the Christian subculture." Indeed, despite widespread calls for grace, evangelicals often use rule-based approaches that establish a purity treehouse club to which one comfortably belongs, doesn't belong, or is scrambling back up the ladder toward.
But critiques of such evangelical legalism are readily available, and McMinn wastes no time ranting. She creates a framework for sexuality that is both fresh and orthodox, and uses it to discuss adolescence, singleness, marriage, parenting, and the nature of sex and gender. Grounded in her sociology expertise, she describes sexuality as both "embedded in culture and embodied in physical, biological bodies." A person experiences sexuality in the body, as male or female, and makes sense of that experience through culture (or "cultural scripts," in McMinn's words), but the human yearning for beauty, intimacy, and satisfaction transcends all such differences. We are made for relationships, but we can never fully satisfy our longings in this life. Grace is the bridge between our longings and their incomplete satisfaction. In this way, sexuality illuminates our longing for heaven, where we will experience wholeness at last.
Theologically, McMinn mixes Reformed understandings of creation, fall, and redemption with a Pietist emphasis on lived experience and longing for heaven. She also writes from her tradition, using ...