We have written the story of the Great Sex Rescue many ways. It is, of course, the book which releases tomorrow. Our survey of 20,000 women, on which that book was based, will also be the basis for our submission to academic journals.
And it is, of course, the basis for this blog and the accompanying Bare Marriage podcast.
This strange job that we have, though, is not just about teaching. It’s about caring. It honestly sears at our souls when we look at so many evangelical best-sellers and the great potential for harm for many couples reading them. We know that many people can read these books and escape unscathed. But all too many are in marriages that aren’t healthy, and the messages in these books make it worse. Or, the books can give such toxic views that even healthy couples are no longer able to trust each other or express true intimacy.
When we read these books and see harmful teachings, we don’t just get angry. It physically hurts us, because we can see so many faces of those who are harmed. And while they may not be the vast majority of readers, they matter.
We want The Great Sex Rescue to set them free–and to ensure that no one else is ever hurt by these teachings again.
We cannot express adequately how emotional this journey has been for us. We feel as if we have been in such darkness, reading some of the terrible things that have been said in evangelical books, and hearing literally hundreds of stories of women harmed by them (and reading literally thousands).
But we also feel such hope. We believe this book will set so many free.
We’re looking forward to when tomorrow comes!
And so today, on this eve of the book’s release, Joanna wanted to write this exhortation and reflection on what The Great Sex Rescue means to us–and our dreams for freedom.
Moses was at once a great success and a great failure.
At his best, he was such a true image bearer of God that it became difficult to see where the edges between them were. It was a blur of glory. But, of course, other times, Moses “bit it.” And when he slipped up, it was usually because he decided to take the reins and define good and evil his way, instead of submitting to God’s way.
Let me set the stage for Moses’ last sermon.
Because of his successes, Moses has brought the Israelites out of Egypt. They’ve wandered in the desert and are now standing across the Jordan from the promised land. Moses stands, old and withered, to tell the children of those with whom he crossed the Red Sea how to live in the land of the promise.
See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command you this day to love YHWH your God, to walk in his ways and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, that you may live and multiply, and that YHWH your God may bless you in the land into which you are going to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not hear, but shall be drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish. … Life and death have I set before you, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life, that you may live…
But of course, the Israelites didn’t choose to follow YHWH. Instead, they chose to worship other gods. We all know those Bible stories: Elijah on Mount Carmel, Josiah smashing the Asherah poles, and on and on. But we don’t think about what that worship actually entailed.
Scholars agree that the Israelites frequently sacrificed their children to the Canaanite gods of the area, especially Molech.
However, many scholars believe that at least some Israelites sacrificed their children to Yahweh, too.
Today we readily assert that while these Israelites did what was “right in their own eyes,” they were not, in fact, doing what was right in God’s eyes.
It’s easy enough to apply the idea of Israelites worshipping other gods by sacrificing children and to think of many ways in which abortion or the residential schools or covering up for sexual abuse in churches have done the same.
But, my dear friends, we must also consider whether we have been in the habit of sacrificing the vulnerable among us, and claiming that violence as worship of the One God.
God has set before us life and death. Have we chosen death?
Beloved, we should quake in our boots.
And let us not forget that here, as in much else, complacency makes us complicit.
When we sacrifice the vulnerable in order to prop up our view of who God is, we prove that we do not know Jesus.
It’s easy to see how marital rape and abuse victims are being “sacrificed” on the altar of evangelical marriage teachings.
But it is not only the most vulnerable who are being affected.
While the vulnerable pay the highest price, the rest of us do not go by unscathed. There is a cost to everyone to live in a culture where some people are disposable and others are propped up.
A culture where some people’s needs are less important than other people’s needs creates a culture of entitlement that influences our marriages, churches, even our children.
We create a culture where some people are valued, and others are overlooked. We create a culture of death–of curses.
It is time that we as a church, who have created a culture of death, begin to ask ourselves some hard questions.
Does true worship of the One God tell men that the Spirit is powerless against the forces of testosterone and damns all men to an unending struggle with lust?
Does true worship of the One God make women into sexual receptacles, calling her the methadone she needs to keep him from watching porn?
Does true worship of the One God lead to women being told that we, who have been bought with a price, must never meaningfully correct our husbands?
The gospel is good news. Euengelion. It isn’t good news only to women who are married to good-hearted men who selflessly seek their good. It is good news to all.
It is good news to the battered woman. It is good news to the marital rape victim.
And the promise of the gospel isn’t good news to the most vulnerable among us because they can sit tight and wait for their heavenly reward.
No! The audacious claim of Christ is that even now the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.
If Jesus had only been coming to offer us assistance in the hereafter, then the work of Christian heroes of the faith from William Wilberforce to Ruby Bridges to Rosa Parks to Florence Nightingale have been in vain.
But more than that, we have Christ as our example. We know that Jesus came not just to fix our need for eternal union with God; instead, he came to bring healing to us here and now. He provided for his mother’s care after his death. He healed the sick–he didn’t just tell them that heaven would be nice.
My friends, we must offer something better to the vulnerable, to the “least of these,” than to tell them that by persisting in their suffering they will reap heavenly reward. Christ offers us abundant life. He offers meaning and goodness and wholeness. He offers us the chance to be alive, really alive.
I believe that the story of the Bible is the best story to live in.
Christ is so compelling, his love so profound. The mysteries and paradoxes are deep and we can never get to the end of them. The life of faith is a life of constant wonderment. The world is, in fact, more fabulous than we could ever have wished.
I hope that the audacity of the hope of Easter morning, the healing look in the eyes of the Nazarene, draws you nearer to the heart of the savior.
But my dearest hope is that the peace of Christ, the joy to be found in following him, and the freeing power of his love seep deep into my girls’ bones.
My daughters are resplendent. They are light and laughter and, as is their due, they can drive me up a wall. Each is utterly herself. I want Mariana and Talitha each to continue to become the person God has made her to be – his unique image bearer, a daughter of Eve, full of life and love and the light of Christ.
My daughters are named for women whose lives were utterly changed by encounters with Jesus. They are named for women who knew the tenderness in the eyes of the Nazarene. I am desperate that they know how much they are loved, simply for being. And I want each one to lean into her identity – as an heir of God who will reign with Christ when all our wildest hopes come to pass.
I am desperate for them to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd who offers them life and life abundant. I will do everything in my power, God helping me, to help them to identify his voice and to drown out the voice of the thief who comes to kill and destroy.
I want my girls to understand that “love is as strong as death” (Song of Songs 8:6) not just intellectually. I want them to be fully and completely alive.
Brennan Manning was a man who knew the love of God. He believed that the words of Christ to us, and the words of the Father to his Son dying on the cross, come from the Song of Songs. I cannot vouch for whether these are, in fact, the words God the Father spoke over the word made flesh as the final sacrifice once for all was made.
But my friends, don’t you see how, if these words weren’t spoken then, they speak to us now?
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of the singing of birds has come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens her green figs,
And the vines are in blossom;
And they give forth their fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
This is why we must rescue sex from all who would make women into methadone (and their ilk).
Erotic love gives us the best glimpse into the wild passion of the God who holds us in his hands.
The paradoxical God of the trinity, who exists ever in the circle dance of divine communion in relationship with himself. May we, in our relationships with one another, follow the steps of that divine dance and reflect its light, as the light of the moon reflects the light of the sun.
I’ll end this exhortation with the final words of Les Miserables. It’s a story about grace and the audacity of hope. Our prayer is that you will join in our crusade, and that you will be strong and stand with us…
When tomorrow comes.
Take my hand
I’ll lead you to salvation
Take my love
For love is everlasting
The truth that once was spoken
To love another person
Is to see the face of God.
Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the ploughshare;
We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!
The Great Sex Rescue
Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the things that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these messages?
Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.
We’re looking forward to when tomorrow comes!
Blog Contributor & Co-Author on the upcoming The Great Sex Rescue!
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