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Redeeming Sex

Tantalizing title, since it can be read as sex-leading-to-redemption or the-restoring-of-value-to-sex. As it turns out Redeeming Sex, released in the last month, is mainly about how Christian churches need to value sexual diversity.

This seems to me so thunderously obvious, simple, right, and long over-due that it was other bits and pieces of this hot-selling new book that I focused on, the elements that dwell on the ever-mysterious intertwinement of sex and spiritual experience.

The subtitle is Naked Conversations about Sexuality and Spirituality and author Debra Hirsch does present herself here in what seems to be an entirely straight-forward manner. Decades ago, as a young drug user, she and a “ragtag” bunch of friends found themselves in a conservative Christian church one morning, she still wearing her pajama top. That church embraced this unruly bunch. Later when she was accepted in a seminary, she asked to room with a male friend. Turned out: “It was offensive even to ask.”


Hirsch has since led churches in Australia and in Los Angeles. She is one of the founders of Forge Mission Training Network and part of the leadership team of Christian Associates, a church planting movement in Europe, North & South America. She and her husband live “in community,” in sync with her belief in welcoming a wider world than one’s family.

Here is where she and I deeply agree:

I believe that within both the desire and the pleasure of sex are found deeper human longings for eternal connection and ecstasy.

There is, in other words, something deeply spiritual about sex.?I’m not just talking about the orgasm here, but every aspect of our sexuality: our capacity for relationships, our longing for love, our identity as male and female, all point to something beyond oneself, to the “Eternal Other.” I have come to believe that our sexuality is so interlaced with longing for and experience of spirituality that we cannot access one without somehow tapping into the other.

And here are a few of the thoughts in Redeeming Sex that made me think:

The first and fundamental thing we need to come to grips with is in fact that Jesus (as a real man) had to have been a sexual being or else he was not a human being.

My hunch is that most of us find it hard to view God as permissive—the Creator of all who permits his creation to be what he has made it to be … Even the term permissive (in the way most Christians use it) has more negative connotations than positive, especially as it relates to sexuality.

…(Also) sex can invoke some of the worst aspects of our nature including will to power, submission, cruelty, jealousy and possessiveness, among others. Few other things can awaken the dark elements residing in every human heart as well as lust.

…No person has direct access to another person. All access is in and through Jesus, our chaperone, so to speak….Christian tradition talks about God being the third party in all of our relationships—without him we are prone to both losing ourselves in the other and keeping them captive to broken expectations and faulty perceptions. I believe this principle lived out with intentionality and integrity will revolutionize our relationships.

Hirsch also discusses the matter of disgust and fear of contamination in the context of loving anyone whom we view as a sinner. She points out that churches have typically done more hating the sin, than loving the sinner.

I recommend the book. My husband and I are liberal-minded, but the two of us are prone, in our leisure time, to stay home together and read. No bringing in diverse or troubled house-mates. And being a non-cook, I don’t even much like pot-lucks. This book made me (momentarily) re-think that, and you never can tell when a moment of re-thinking might later do some good.

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  • Jane Albright
    June 6, 2015 at 12:51 am Reply

    Then you’re overdue for a potluck. One with a sensual theme.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 6, 2015 at 6:24 pm Reply

      Funny that so far the potluck comment has gotten the most reaction, kenju and Jane. I never heard of a sensuous potluck; I just don’t feel that way about quinoa.

  • June 6, 2015 at 2:47 am Reply

    No pot-lucks? I find that shocking….LOL

    God gave us free will, and so he is permissive with us.

  • Rachael Wooten
    June 6, 2015 at 4:37 am Reply

    Very interesting. I take issue with “All access is in and through Jesus….” Don’t get me wrong. Jesus is my main man, so to speak, even though I no longer think of myself as a denominational human being. So I’m not a Christian. But then again neither was he.

    I like pondering the idea that our only real access to another person is through the Holy. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s true. We also, as she pointed out, can sometimes access people through darkness, both our own and theirs. I love the possibility that we could commit to thinking of our access to others as through the Holy. Isn’t this the idea behind “Namaste?” The god in me bows to the god in you. If we set our intention in that direction, the idea of relationship would be revolutionized.

    Not a new thought, however. Martin Buber and his explication of the I-thou way of relating must come close. Now I’m ranging too far afield.

    Quite interesting, Peggy.

    • Peggy Payne
      June 6, 2015 at 6:28 pm Reply

      Not far afield at all, Rachael. I always love to see the commonalities of different religions, being a devout syncretist. I certainly agree with you about Namaste, which is used so much now that it’s about equivalent to ciao.

      I appreciate your contributing this here, Rachael. You always have an interesting point of view on these matters.

  • Bob Braxton
    June 8, 2015 at 6:03 pm Reply

    You wrote: “prone to both losing ourselves in the other and keeping them captive to broken expectations and faulty perceptions – ” – back in 1970;s I heard this (learned it) – that it is in the “deep” (the depths) that we meet. Metaphorically, you have / are a Well, I have / am a Well – and the protocol is: stay the hell out of my well (and reciprocally). Thus, the mediation and mediator (Jesus / Comforter / God).

    • Peggy Payne
      June 9, 2015 at 2:16 pm Reply

      I was quoting from the book, Bob. I do like the well/mediator idea. And I believe Jesus and the force-by-other-names do make for a welcoming shared space. Keeping that in mind can keep folks from fearing intrusion.

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