Sex is complicated. So is Christian reflection on it.
In a Century cover story, Katherine Willis Pershey mentions that she infuriated a friend with her beliefs about sex before marriage. That friend was me.
Human sexuality is fraught, particularly when mixed with the complexities of culture, religion, patriarchy, and adolescence.
Margaret Farley’s Just Love: A Framework for a Christian Sexual Ethics is at #16 on the current Amazon sales list. When is the last time a sane, scholarly, carefully argued and theologically rich book of sexual ethics ranked that high? I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it was recent. (Four out of the top five on the Amazon list are versions of Fifty Shades of Gray. If only those readers would open up Farley!) To make matters even stranger, the book is six years old and used mostly in seminaries and at religious institutions. The flurry of interest was provoked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Our August 23 cover story on monogamy and Dan Savage has gotten a lot of feedback, both positive and negative. Benjamin Dueholm offers a nuanced take on the ways the popular sex columnist is beating pastors at their own game--and the ways Savage's ethical worldview falls short. Some readers seem too stuck on the first point--"the Christian Century believes we should be instructed by an advice columnist," crows Joe Carter at First Things--to hear Dueholm out on the second.
While Dan Savage, an atheist, wouldn't put it this way, the popular sex columnist exegetes rules about relationships with the precision of a rabbi or canon lawyer. Pastors should pay attention.