Real Sex is a Winner

winner.jpgNow that I have your attention, I wish to put in a good word for a book that I’m currently reading (consuming might be the better verb), Real Sex:The Naked Truth About Chastity by Lauren Winner.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Mike, shouldn’t you know what “real sex” is by now?

Well, yes and no. Yes, I know some things about what sex is, should be, and can be, but no, it doesn’t mean I know everything I should. Nor does it mean that that I’m very effective at teaching my sons about sex and how to faithfully answer God’s call to chastity in a postmodern, sex-saturated society. In fact, I’m very keen to add some new material to go along with my usual opening line: “So…uh, hmmm, er, duh….any questions?”

Ms. Winner is a Jewish convert to Christianity (and by her own admission, a much slower convert to chastity) who brings a fresh voice and a twentysomething perspective to the discussion. I’m glad for that, because bottom line, we’re going to have to get beyond the worn and weary “True Love Waits” pledge cards and “Don’t do it because God said so!” scare tactics. Instead, Winner calls for a fully-orbed, practical sexual ethic that will resonate in a culture where sex has been severed from its intended context–the warp and woof of everyday domestic life–and has instead become the nation’s favorite spectator sport.

Here’s a sample:

It wasn’t just the liberal, supposedy liberating, books that left me cold. I didn’t find many of the more conservative bromides all that persuasive either–the easy proof-texting that purports to draw a coherent sexual ethic from a few verses of Paul. To be sure, scripture has plenty to teach us about how to rightly order our sexual lives, but, as the church, we need to ask whether the starting point for a scriptural witness on sex is the isolated quotation of “thou shalt not,” or whether a scriptural ethic of sex begins with the totality of the Bible, the narrative of God’s redeeming love and humanity’s attempt to reflect through its institutions and practices. If our aim is to construct a rule book, perhaps the cut-and-paste approach to scripture is adequate: as the bumper sticker goes, Jesus (or in this case, Paul) said it, I do it. But if we see scripture not merely as a code of behavior but as a map of God’s reality, and if we take seriously the pastoral task of helping unmarried Christians live chastely, the church needs not merely recite decontextualized Bible verses, but to ground our ethic in the faithful living of the fulness of the gospel.

On ordinary, “hum-drum” sex in marriage:

As theologian David McCarthy argues in his provocative book Sex and Love in the Home, a Christian ethics of sex, love, and marriage needs to reconceive sex and love as practices that exist ideally only within the basic prosaic rhythms of house and home: candlelight, long-stemmed roses, and lingerie can’t sustain love, but domestic economies can. This is not, at root, an argument based on realism or expediency. Rather, the point is that it is only through household practices that Christians come to embody the Christian virtues of mutual care, forgiveness, generosity, community, interdependence, and reconciliation. Our humanity cannot be separated from the moments of joy, anger, friendship, sadness, attention, confusion, tedium, and wonder that unfold over time and in specific places. Human intimacy is hammered out on an anvil made of nothing more, in McCarthy’s phrase, than the “day-to-day ebb and flow of common endeavors, joys, and struggles of love in the home.” Love, sex, and marriage, to be theological, must drink from the very same wells. Love, sex, and marriage, to partake in their transcendent mission of revelaing God’s grace, must embrace life’s decidedly untranscendent daily goings-on. In a Christian landscape, what’s important about sex is nurtured when we allow sex to be ordinary.

In other words, Winner believes that “macaroni and cheese” sex is the genuine article–not the button-popping, blouse-ripping, mind-blowing, room-wrecking counterfeit depicted on television and in the movies.

Winner does a masterful job of handling both scripture and historical witness as she sensibly and wittily makes the case for traditional Christian sexuality. The result is a rich and robust exposition of a Chrisitian sexual ethic that attends not only to the necessary theology, but also to the the postmodern, psychosocial context that must be grasped in order to navigate today’s treacherous sexual waters.

Indeed, Real Sex is a “winner” in more ways than one.

  1. GREG

    I have her book “Girl Meets God” (or is it God Meets Girl – either way…) although I have not yet read it. It’s still in my “to read” stack, but I’ve hear good things about both it and “Real Sex” as well. I think Winner is going to be a keynote speaker at the ZOE Conference in Nashville this fall.

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    I had heard that she would be in Nashville. I looked it up and it turns out that the Zoe Conference is the first weekend in October. I will hopefully be getting some tickets to the Bama v. Duke football game that same weekend.

    What a dilemma! Well, not really. 🙂

  3. GREG

    I didn’t realize Alabama was playing Duke. Sounds like an easy win for the Tide. (If only Spurrier had stayed at Duke, they could’ve ruled both sports…) I’d like to go to Zoe, but we have a lot going on that weekend, too. My wife’s birthday, a concert (Third Day/David Crowder Band), and our yearly outing for my company. We went up once when we were in Huntsville – my wife and I both sang on the worship team at Twickenham, and they started going every year in 2003 (although we only went once due to new child the following year, and moving last year). If you don’t go to the game, it would be worth a trip up to Nashville.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    Duke had some decent teams back in the Spurrier days. He could work miracles with those 1400 SAT kids.

    I’ll be wearing Crimson BTW. My allegiance to Duke only extends as far as the front door of Cameron.

    It’s a win/win with Winner or the game.

  5. Scott

    Greg, you sang at Twickenham? So when did you become a complete heathen apostate and forsake the One True Church and fall into one of them “fellowship” churches?

  6. greg

    Scott. Yeah, I sang at Twickenham. We were there from late 2001 until last year, July 2005. We moved back to LR in August of last year. I guess a became a “complete heathen apostate” officially in April, although we had been at FBC since January. (When living here before, we were at PV for 6 years, Levy for a year, and then Chenal for the last 2 years).

    Our worship leader at Twickenham told me earlier this year (tongue-in-cheek) that he was sad to see that we’d abandoned the “one true church apart from which there is no salvation.”

    I still consider myself a OTC guy, and expect that one day we’ll be at another OTC. But for now, this was the best place for us here in LR.

    Mike, yeah, I hear you. I put on my Razorback hat during football season. The Duke hat returns in November. Looks like Hogs-Tide is in Fayetteville this year. I see a Hog win coming 🙂

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    I have a new Duke hat with the tags still on. I’m saving it for Midnight Madness.

    Oh yeah, buy the book everybody!

  8. Scott

    Go Hogs.

    Chris, I used to go to Levy.

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    Greg said: “I still consider myself a OTC guy, and expect that one day we’ll be at another OTC.”

    Greg–I didn’t know you were Catholic! You’ve been holding out on me. 😉

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