Right in the Juicy Spot PDF Print E-mail
Culture and Politics - Sex and Culture
Written by Douglas Wilson   
Monday, 24 January 2011 08:01

IVP has released a new title, called The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are (HT: Baylyblog). Reading how they have described it themselves was like playing ping pong with your junior high friends, and one of them hits the ball about five feet above the table, exactly in the middle, right in the juicy spot. Time slows down, and what can you do? No choice involved in it, really.

"Concepts like 'gay' or 'straight' are relatively recent developments in human history. We let ourselves be defined by socially constructed notions of sexual identity and sexual orientation, even though these are not distinctly biblical or Christian ways of thinking about sex."

Now anyone who thinks that this is a prelude to urging us all to start adopting more biblical ways about speaking about sex, is someone who is perhaps a tad more naive than they ought to be.

"And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel" (1 Kings 14:24).

"Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Dt. 23:18).

Heh. So let us abandon all these recent social constructs that have done so much to clutter up our speechifying. Let us walk away from all talk of transgendered communities, let us abandon all notions of gay orientations, and let us not have any more of this funny business about dykes on bikes. Let us return to the biblical world in which harlotry is considered a problem. Everybody happy now? No? Maybe something else is going on then. Hmmm. Let's check on what that might be.

"Anthropologist Jenell Williams Paris offers a Christian framework for sexuality that accounts for complex postmodern realities..."


But why do we want to account for complex postmodern realities? That is called missing the point, for there are no longer any points to miss. Right? Actually, underneath all the pomo jargonizing, there are a couple of non-negotiable points that they insist on us not missing, while pretending they are insisting on nothing whatever. One is that everybody must be able to get laid whenever and however they want, and the other is that they must be allowed to rail against power games while playing the ultimate power game themselves. The first item is the bait, and the second is the trap. The people doing this are really evil or really stupid.  

But let us play the game for a couple more minutes. If we were still trapped in the older Aristotelian categories, then we would have to account for realities. Part of the whole point of complex postmodern cogitations was to stop accounting for realities. Reality is offputting. Reality involves a boy and a girl, who grow up into a man and a woman (more a divine construct than a social one), fully capable of having their fun time without any help from anthropologists who write for IVP, or leather merchants in San Francisco for that matter.  

"She unpacks how sexual identities are socially constructed in our cultural context, and assesses problems with common cultural and Christian understandings of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Ultimately, linking sexual feelings to human identity leads us to a dead end."

To wit, the dead end of not being able to follow your fellow academics to the party that promises to turn into an orgy, the one with a daisy chain involving half the faculty, a chain that actually is a social construct, come to think of it.

"Avoiding simplistic moral exhortation about sexual behavior, Paris argues that the Christian tradition holds a distinct vision for sexuality without sexual identity categories. The End of Sexual Identity moves beyond culture war impasses to open up new space and vocabulary for conversations with people in diverse communities both inside and outside the church."

Anybody who can read that without catching a whiff of the sulphurous pit it came from is probably on the tenure fast track, and those who keep wrinkling their nose like they are doing are never going to get tenure.

Incidentally, I don't think they really mean it when they resolve to abandon all simplistic moral exhortations. If any of them ever read this post, and afterwards have reason to speak to me, I would be willing to bet ready money that I would hear quite a few simplistic moral exhoratations.

So shall we avoid all "simplistic moral exhortations" when it comes to sexual identity? As Uncle Andrew said to Digory, "Ours is a high and lonely destiny . . ." It is a hard living trying to grow luxuriant flowers on that moonscape of theirs. "Orchids need atmosphere" is a simplistic truism, and we have abandoned all such. The problem is, nothing grows anymore.

So these people are reduced to the expedient of kidnapping what other people have grown. Some poor kid arrives at their InterVarsity group at college from his Bible church background, sent there because his parents were so influenced by Packer's Knowing God (IVP) when they were in college, little realizing that IVP is now putting out . . . initially I was going to make up some ridiculous title like Walking with Christ through Gender Change: How a Fundamentalist Man Became a Methodist Woman . . . but I think I'll just leave it at "IVP is now putting out."

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Last Updated on Monday, 24 January 2011 08:47
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Bert Perry  Monday, January 24, 2011 8:38 am
People at my former church were surprised when a "shim" walked in who had done just that. I don't know that IVP was involved, but some like-mindless were.
Carmon Friedrich  Monday, January 24, 2011 11:24 am
Oh, yuck! I just re-read _That Hideous Strength_ and that kind of talk sounds just like the incoherent babblings of the professors trying to impress one another...and getting bamboozled into inviting evil into their midst because of their foolish pride.
Matthew N. Petersen  Monday, January 24, 2011 12:53 pm
Wait a minute!

There is technical jargon in that statement, and perhaps the book isn't very good. But:

Though sodomy has existed time out of mind, the gay identity is a distinctly modern phenomena. There were sodomites before Oscar Wilde, but no one was gay. The equation of the two is a distinctly modern phenomena. Men slept with other men, but that was not part of their identity, it was something they did. Achilles was a sodomite, he was not gay.

It sounds like this book is attempting to point out that the categories we typically use to think about homosexuality are wrong, and unbiblical. (I do not mean whether it is sinful or not, I mean both sides of the debate over whether it is sinful together hold a modern assumption about homosexuality.)

And I'm not sure why we would even want to disagree with that. It would strengthen our critique of our culture, and make our critique of homosexuality more coherent.

Now, this author probably does not do a good job explicating that topic, but the problem is with delivery, not thesis itself.
Matthew N. Petersen  Monday, January 24, 2011 12:57 pm
Take this review: If this review is accurate, rather than rejecting the book, we should welcome it. If this review is accurate, she isn't arguing for homosexuality, or any such, quite the contrary, she is critiquing our whole modern approach to sexuality. A project which definitely needs undertaken.

"Jenell Paris does us a great favor by reminding us that God didn't create heterosexuals or homosexuals. People did, and fairly recently, in fact. Paris reveals the church's cultural captivity to Western ideas of sexual identity and orientation--that what we want, sexually speaking, is who we are. Humbug. Paris challenges the church with the words of Paul: don't be captive to the patterns of this world. Both heterosexuality and homosexuality--and the panoply of other possible identities and acronyms--are social constructions that pose problems for a people whose identity is to be found in Christ. Instead, Paris reminds us that God has redeemed us, called us by name and claimed us as his own. That is an identity worth affirming. Paris challenges us to live beyond sexual identity, even as we pursue sexual holiness, and provides us with a vision for what a post-sexual-identity church might look like. This is a rich book, one that is long overdue. It is theologically sound, has deep ramifications for the church and will rattle some quarters. Good."
Matthew N. Petersen  Monday, January 24, 2011 1:00 pm
Another reviewer says she considers herself a "sex only within marriage between a man and a woman" kind of person.

She isn't arguing homosexuality is good. She's arguing it's bad, but that when we debate it, we debate it using unbiblical assumptions which weaken our case, and give it a unbiblical tint.
Matthew N. Petersen  Monday, January 24, 2011 1:09 pm
Ok, one last from me. Here's an article of hers for Christianity Today. She seems more like an ally, than an enemy.
jon Erik Ween  Monday, January 24, 2011 8:09 pm
Hmm, after DW's rant, I might actually try to read this book, and see if there really are sulphur stains in the margins. I'm wondering how much of a critique, what kind of musings SHOULD be allowed within a dynamic, Christian context, or do do we, apriori, declare certain kinds of discourse off limits? I would think history would encourage us to tread carefully. Anyhow, not having actually had a chance to read this thing, I like Matthew's comments and would add: In Christ, we need fear no idea. Whiffs of sulphur not withstanding.


Douglas Wilson  Tuesday, January 25, 2011 8:42 am
And Jon, thinking certain ideas are a hoot is not the same thing as fearing them.
Nate Wilson  Tuesday, January 25, 2011 12:12 am
Achilles was gay. Very.
Rick Davis  Tuesday, January 25, 2011 5:13 pm
Achilles was so straight he makes Chuck Norris look like Elton John. The poofy 5th century Athenians later tried to make him gay.

Now Plato...yeah, he was a flamer.
Gerv  Monday, January 31, 2011 11:09 am
"Concepts like 'gay' or 'straight' are relatively recent developments in human history. We let ourselves be defined by socially constructed notions of sexual identity and sexual orientation, even though these are not distinctly biblical or Christian ways of thinking about sex."

So where they went with that idea is bogus, but it's a fine start. Lots of sound Christians involved in ministry with people who self-identify as 'gay' have been saying it for a long time. E.g. Peter Ould:

The Bible doesn't talk about "being gay" or "being straight". It says homosexual practice is a sin. Peter wants people to "journey away from a false identity constructed around one’s emotions [or 'sexuality' - Gerv] and a true one constructed in following Jesus." He continues:

"For some of us that journey involves changes in our sexual orientation, perhaps marriage and kids. For others they see no change in their sexual attractions, but they have left behind the place of false-identity, of seeing themselves as “gay” and that as a defining a unchangeable aspect of their being.

Some aspects of that journey have been clearly marked for us. A dispassionate reading of the Scriptures shows very clearly that God didn’t intend for us to have sex outside of the marriage of male and female. So I could see very clearly that that life option (same-sex activity) and those things that celebrated it (“gay”) were not the direction God wanted me to take. ..."