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."