Published by HarperOne on July 5, 2016
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours for review consideration.
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Moving beyond the deep-seated cultural feelings of shame that have long fueled the conflict between Christianity and sex—and the belief that there is only one right and valid way to practice one’s sexuality—this renowned University of Chicago pastor uses enlightening personal stories and examples from theology to show how sex is powerful and holy.
For years, Christians have been told to adhere to one singular path when it comes to sex: abstinence and purity. Yet this limited focus ignores the reality that people’s sexual and romantic lives differ widely, even among those who consider themselves devout believers. Church leaders have often refused to address the topic—or have preached in ways that are harmful to the emotional and spiritual growth of the faithful in the pews.
Pastor McCleneghan is determined to reshape the issue—and fundamentally transcend this disconnect between sexuality and spirituality that has left many Christians feeling guilty and sinful. Written in her measured, non-judgmental voice, Good Christian Sex combines humorous personal anecdotes with theological research to transform how Christians think and talk about this basic human need, offering a new understanding that reconciles human love and religious faith.
Breaking with outdated conventions, McCleneghan explains how the Bible and Christian tradition inform our beliefs about desire, pleasure, nudity, fidelity, premarital sex, and the variety of sexual practices, and encourages Christians to talk about their bodies, their sensuality, and their longings in a frank, positive, and realistic way. Warm, insightful, and honest, Good Christian Sex is a message of hope, that at last lifts the veil of shame felt by many religious people.
When Goodreads reviewers use words like “heresy” and “repent” and include cherry-picked Bible verses to support negative 1-star reviews, it’s going to be pretty hard for me to resist the book! I can see why Good Christian Sex got them all riled up. Reverend Bromleigh McCleneghan (who serves a United Church of Christ congregation) picks apart all the religion-induced hangups Christians have about sex.
I will say, McCleneghan’s writing style—really, her phrasing—didn’t click with me. It helped if I imagined the words being read aloud, but overall there were too many times when my reading flow was stuttered. I think I would’ve enjoyed this far more as an audiobook.
McCleneghan brings up how focusing on premarital abstinence can be harmful—at times even abusive—when the teaching of affirmative consent is neglected. She points out that marriage isn’t a guarantee of a safe, healthy relationship, as well as how this mentality marginalizes others (like the many, many people who are not cisgender, heterosexual, and/or married).
Most of all, I loved McCleneghan’s bold words—she is unabashedly critical of American evangelical views on this topic, but plays fair. I also appreciated her holistic approach: We are more than mere body parts! Healthy sexual relationships are about body, mind, and soul. Christians have missed the point in our attempt to follow the “rules,” resulting in a lot of unnecessary shame. Through frank explorations and anecdotes on desire, love, dignity, and respect, Good Christian Sex proves that our natural human needs don’t have to be at odds with our spiritual lives.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Check out what other readers have to say about Good Christian Sex by visiting other stops on the tour.