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Simple, Difficult Truth About Sex
Profoundly timely for the Christian community, the book, Real Sex, looks at the communal dimension of sex and addresses a variety of related concerns and questions.


Sam Berg was right. Once I asked how a single person could stay pure and he responded that we need a stronger vision of marriage. Easy for him to say: he's married. I was not convinced.

Yet now, many months later, I am persuaded by Lauren Winner, who writes, "The bottom line is this: God created sex for marriage and within a Christian moral vocabulary, it is impossible to defend sex outside of marriage … it is the simple, if sometimes difficult, truth."

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastityis profoundly timely for evangelical culture. In some ways it feels like an introductory course on sex and community, yet not the kind of introduction where one might say, "Yeah, yeah, I've heard this before." In laying a foundation, Winner's voice is prophetic. Not many people are able to say what she's saying. In fact, many, steeped in individualism don't seem to make the connections she's making, especially in regard to the communal dimension of sex.

Even so, Winner does not come across as reactionary. A Ph.D. student in American history, she claims not to be a theologian, yet her theological reflection is solid. She carefully clarifies that putting ethics and experience together "is not to imply that one's ethics should be derived primarily from experience," but rather "Christians ground their ethics—their behaviour—foremost in Scripture and tradition." And she does this skilfully.

Real Sex speaks exactly to the concerns and questions I have heard many people express—both single and married. Here is a tool for establishing a level of comfort with, and common vocabulary for, this subject. It also encourages "personal" reflection—as in people in dialogue, rather than isolated individuals.

Winner takes a holistic approach, seeing sex as intertwined with, not isolated from, the rest of life. Sexual maturity is linked to spiritual and emotional growth, which takes time: "conversion makes one a new Christian, not a mature one," she writes.

Church ties

She explores what it means to have a body, examines lies culture and even the Church tell, suggests that a working household is more solid than a sentimental home, addresses how to set boundaries, explains how pornography and masturbation undermine relationship, exposes the idolatry of sex and recommends chastity as a spiritual discipline alongside Bible reading, prayer and fasting.

Winner critiques, without slamming, average Christian books, programs and campaigns on singleness and sex, which present unhelpfully vague slogans and thin arguments. "'True love waits' is not that compelling when you're 29 and have been waiting, and wonder what, really, you're waiting for," she writes.

For theological and practical reasons, locating sex squarely in marriage should be the most compelling reason for abstinence before marriage and active faithfulness in marriage. Yet sex is not merely licensed entertainment for married couples, and marriage is not only for the people in it—marriage is for the wider community and society. Even more: marriage is to be a witness, a mysterious sign of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

Real Sex is not just for singles, though initially written for them by a woman who was single when she embarked on the project. It is also for married people who want to be faithful and hospitable, for parents who are training and guiding, for pastors who need a "a compassionate and wise response" and for educators who lament moral decay. It is for everyone who cares about being the kind of people God wants them to be," pure, whole and holy.

Colleen Taylor is a freelance writer and musician living in Spiritwood, SK. She has also been involved in college education for more than ten years (particularly at Briercrest College and Seminary) and is passionate about careful thinking and living in community.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity. Lauren Winner. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005. ISBN: 158743069X.

Originally published in Christian Week. December 1, 2006.

 

 
 
 
 

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