Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Sex Question

I am currently reading A New Kind of Christianity - Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith by Brian D. McLaren. I must admit that it is a much better book than I suspected.

Starting from the back of the book and reading Chapter 22 first - Conclusion: A New Kind of Christianity, gave me the motivation to plow ahead reading from back to front each chapter in descending order. (This has been a useful practice that helps me determine whether or not to actually begin reading an entire book.)

Chapter 17 is entitled: Can We Find a Way to Address Human Sexuality Without Fighting About It?

The chapter begins with this admission from Brian:

"I don't want to be closed-minded or judgmental, but in good conscience I simply can't approve of the lifestyle. I believe it's a choice, although upbringing and genetics may have a role. Freedom has limits - one limit being where others are hurt by a chosen lifestyle. And this lifestyle, there can be no mistake, is hurting a lot of people. Families are being torn apart by it, and churches too. There is absolutely no question about God's opinion on this lifestyle if we begin with the Bible. This orientation and the behaviors associated with it are thoroughly condemned by Jesus. He was compassionate toward all kinds of people, but he had an absolute and uncompromising commitment to confront and expose one group: those who dishonor themselves and others by engaging in this lifestyle and its practices.

When people choose this lifestyle, they often cut themselves off from everyone who doesn't agree with them. They end up being assimilated and absorbed in closed communities where only their own voices and views are heard, and everyone who disagrees is mocked and condemned, often with very strong language. Some, after giving themselves over completely to the lifestyle, have a crisis of conscience. But when they want to leave, their leaders and peers depict their changing perspective as a betrayal, and pressure them to stay, often using fear tactics to intimidate them and keep them in their gated community. Special ministries have formed to help people exit the lifestyle, recover from the abuse and pain the community has been known to impose, and be reoriented to a healthier life and perspective. But even with professional therapy, many people feel they have been wounded for life by their years in this lifestyle.

Advocates of this lifestyle are eager to recruit others into their "love," as they call it. Through various organizations, they raise huge sums of money to recruit youth and children into their chosen way of life, and they have been extremely adept at using media - radio, TV, and now the Internet - to gain an aura of credibility and legitimacy. They organize huge and mass rallies to celebrate their growing clout and demonstrate that they are proud of who they are and what they stand for. Everyone knows how much influence they have in our political system, and how one political party in particular panders for their votes.

Yes, activists may use the word "love" to justify their behavior, but those who disagree with them are seldom treated with love."

As you may have guessed by now, Brian is speaking of what he terms fundasexuality. This neologism describes a very reactive, confrontative form of religious fundamentalism that is preoccupied with sex. It refers to that boisterous and righteously angry crowd which tends to dominate conservative branches of religion while declaring war on any who differ.

Fundasexuality is essentially an anxious orientation, less rooted in faith, and more in fear. A fear of new ideas, of new ways of processing life and of heterophobia - a fear of people who are different.

Sociology teaches us that groups often need a scapegoat to project their anxiety upon. They can manage without a god, but often need a devil or someone identified as an evil threat to rally the troops around. Groups in the majority are fond of projecting their fears and anxieties on smaller minority groups and gay people makeup between 3 and 10 percent of each society. Just the right size to be the brunt of many self-righteous blame throwers.

McLaren goes on to point out that our current cultural preoccupation with sexuality is a symptom of a much larger and growing dissatisfaction with inherited frameworks and stock answers to the basic questions he addresses in this book.

In Book One he highlights 1. The Narrative Question, 2. The Authority Question, 3. The God Question, 4. The Jesus Question, and 5. The Gospel Question. In Book Two he highlights 6. The Church Question, 7. The Sex Question, 8. The Future Question, 9. The Pluralism Question and finally, 10. The What-Do-We-Do-Now Question.

If this is not enough to make you interested in reading his new book, listen to how he starts the chapter titled The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?

"Many if not most of our churches are perfectly designed and well equipped to promote and support the five paradigms we have questioned so far: the Greco-Roman narrative, the constitutional approach to the Bible, a vision of a tribal and violent God, a rather flattened view of Jesus, and a domesticated understanding of the gospel. When we unlock the gates of those paradigms and begin to emerge into new territory, we find this question waiting for us: What do we do about the church?

I would recommend you get a copy of this thought provoking book by McLaren, but be prepared for angry rock throwing antagonists that might want to take off your head with a well placed stone.

What did Stephen say when he was dying?


  1. Thanks for the post, Steve. I've started the book, not finished — yet. I think this was the nudge I needed.

  2. Yes Ryan, I needed this when I was your age....shame! I guess that time is on our side and we get what we need...eventually.

  3. Can someone please translate the Korean comments for me? I'm not sure if they are throwing stones or merely making fun of the pictures that go with the posts. I do hope they are engaged in great dialogue about these topics. Anyway thanks for the comments! O'