I expected to be thoroughly horrified and disgusted and...I'm not either. I must be coming from a totally different planet than the reviewers who were offended by it and I hope it isn't an evil, depraved planet.
Here are the topics covered in Part Two: Sex of the Driscolls' book:
"Sex: God, Gross or Gift": Mark and Grace delve into helping us to evaluate our view of sex. Do we think it's a blessing or a curse? The best part of this chapter is where they discuss how our spouse should be our "standard of beauty".
God does not give us a standard of beauty - God gives us spouses. Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall, you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. (p.109-110)(Ever since Dave did this section of the "Real Marriage" study with some other guys, I like to refer to myself as his SOB.)
"Disgrace and Grace": Grace writes about her experience with sexual abuse, the ways in which it affected her marriage and intimacy with Mark, and how both she and Mark healed from its effects.
"The Porn Path": This chapter addresses how porn affects the brain, the effects it has on individuals and marriages, and how it harms everyone involved in it, from the viewer to the performer.
"Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers": Here, they discuss the ways we are selfish in relation to sex and intimacy, and how we can instead serve each other through intimacy and changing unhealthy mindsets toward sex. There is much discussion of the sexuality expressed within Song of Songs. I've also read reviews by people disgusted by how sexually explicit Mark supposedly presents this book of Scripture. Having studied Song of Songs with my small group last year...yep, it is poetically explicit, you can't get around that, and I personally don't want to. I love that God wants us to have fun with married sex. This section is brief, mostly contains quotations from commentaries and isn't anything more explicit than what I read in Intimate Issues by Linda Dillows and Lorraine Pintus.
And then...THE chapter. Get ready.
"Can We ______?": This is how the Driscoll's introduce this chapter:
If you are older, from a highly conservative religious background, live far away from a major city, do not spend much time on the Internet, or do not have cable television, the odds are that you will want to read this chapter while sitting down, with the medics ready on speed dial.
If you are one of those people who do not know that the world has changed sexually, read this chapter not to argue or fight, but rather to learn about how to be a good missionary in this sexualized culture, able to answer people's questions without blushing. For parents, grandparents, and those in caring professions such as teachers, pastors, ministry leaders, and counselors, this task is all the more urgent. (p.177)Although some of the sexual practices they discuss are nothing new to the human experience- oral sex, masturbation, etc - there are some practices that are relatively new due to advances in science and technology - cybersex, sex toys, birth control - and some that have come into vogue due to pornography.
Many people feel that some of these acts - anal sex, in particular - are so dark and deviant that they shouldn't be discussed at all. Tim Challies, in part one of his review, writes, "Even if everyone else in the world is discussing them, we may need to avoid them or speak of them discreetly rather than blatantly. Some things are so dark and so obviously sinful that it is actually destructive to discuss them." I disagree, and here's why. We now live in a society where Fifty Shades of Grey is an international bestseller sold in grocery stores and a replacement for hotel Bibles. People are throwing FSoG parties complete with a complimentary photo in which each attendee is photographed in a bondage pose. There is going to be a mainstream movie of FSoG. We live in a society where sex experts go on Oprah and declare that couples should watch pornography together. We live in a society where there are popular reality shows about a polygamous family. Anything goes. Where some acts used to be considered inappropriate or harmful, now that so much is in front of our eyes on a daily basis, I think there are many people who are questioning whether or not they've been missing out.
I've said before that I think the discussions regarding sex within the church are often woefully inadequate. The Driscolls say in their introduction, "For such a big issue, most teaching on sex inside the church is inadequate, and most teaching on it outside the church is perverted (p.xiv)" Many Christian women either don't talk about it, discuss it in terms of "don't do it until you're married", or talk about it in euphemisms. And as the Driscolls write, "if people don't get answers from pastors and parents, they will find them in dark, depraved places." Do I think that we should preach on oral sex from the pulpit? Probably not. But we should be ok talking about it when it comes up as a question or if a spouse wants to try it. I think a book is a totally appropriate place to be discussing these questions, especially when it isn't even the main point of the book.
The Driscolls don't so much openly state what they find to be appropriate (although I think you can certainly figure it out; some of their statements are a little leading). Instead, they present a grid through which to evaluate the activities that a married couple might want to try. The grid comes from 1 Corinthians 6:12 and consists of three questions: Is it lawful? (Is it legal or explicitly forbidden by Scripture) Is it helpful? (allowing for pleasure, children, oneness, knowledge, protection, and comfort) Is it enslaving? (Is the act addicting or a regular replacement for true intimacy?) Many of the answers for those questions will be completely different for each couple.
So, I wasn't that shocked. Or horrified. Or disgusted. Is that because I'm a product of this over-sexualized generation? I don't know. I know that I didn't think anything in this book was more explicit than The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire or Intended For Pleasure by Ed Wheat, which describes itself as a "sex technique" book. And that one has illustrations. I remember finding The Act of Marriage on someone's bookshelf when I was a teenager and noticing that it was pretty darn explicit. How can we be offended by this one?
Well, I'm done with my review. I don't know that I'm going to be totally excited about everything Mark Driscoll says or writes. No one can say he hasn't said and done some strange and immature things. But I liked this book. Anyone want to chime in? Nicely?
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