What if the Evangelical Obsession With Sex Keeps us From Admitting Our Sins?

In an election year, like every year, you will here a lot of Evangelicals talking about sex. Recently prominent Evangelicals threw their support behind Rick Santorum. This is probably because of Santorum’s strong opposition to gay marriage, abortion and his integrity in sexual relationships (unlike Newt Gingrich who is on his third marriage). But of course Evangelical obsession with sex goes far beyond the realm of politics. Practically everything Mark Driscoll says about sex goes on the internet and goes viral and books, software and conferences directed at helping Christians have sexual integrity is a huge industry. I bet you are reading this because I’m talking about sex. We like sex, we love to talk about it, we want to have more satisfying sex and we want to be free from sexual sin. And yes, some of this is quite appropriate, though not all.

The Temptation of St. Hilarion
But what if our obsession with sex keeps us from examining other areas of our heart and life where sin has been crouching at the door?

My thoughts on this come to me as I am preparing a Bible Study on Galatians for my church small group. I have been reading through No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons From Galatians Why Justification By Faith Alone is the Only Gospel by Josh Moody. Josh Moody is the pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Whenever I prep something I check more technical commentaries (for Galatians I always look at Richard Longnecker’s Word Commentary and
Jimmy Dunn’s Black’s New Testament Commentary) but I also want to know how it preaches. This is what Josh Moody provides. For the most part he has solid exegesis (with a Reformed Evangelical bias) which attends to the text, but as a preacher he proclaims and draws out the implications for life. In his exposition of Galatians 1:11-12 (verses that are not about sex) he says this:

The gospel of sexual liberation is a gospel of man that hasn’t worked. Why are our inner cities facing great difficulties? Why do our men cave in to the addiction of lust? Why is there rising risk of abuse? The gospel of sexual liberation is running its course. We are told that the Victorians were too strict and prim with their sexual repression, but now we have the fire of sexuality let out of the fireplace and running rampant through the house and setting ablaze and burning out and destroying people in our society.

This is a fairly typical conservative Evangelical interpretation of where society has run amiss. Sexual freedom leads to the breakdown of marriage which in turn causes all hell to break loose. But really? Sexual liberation is why the inner city faces such difficulties?
Or is it that we as a church have failed to take care of the most vulnerable members of our society?

    Could it be that we talk about sex so that we don’t have to take an honest look at where we as individuals and as a church have been complicit in injustice?

    Have we done our part to care for widows and orphans (James 1:27)?

    Have we cared for the resident aliens (Exodus 22:21) in our land or have we ghettoized them?

    Are we guilty of racism? Are there those in our suburban congregations (like, lets say in Wheaton, Illinois) who engaged in ‘white flight’ leaving the inner-city when minorities moved in? Did we as a church combat housing policies which discriminated against African-Americans and other minorities (essentially creating the ghettos we have today)?

    Are we doing all we can to combat injustice in our neighborhoods and society or are we turning a blind eye?

Does society’s libertine attitudes towards sex contribute to problems in society? Yes. But my problem with naming this as the sole cause of problems in the inner-city is that it doesn’t name our sin. It talks about the sins of those sex-crazed poor folk and not about the sins of an educated, mostly white evangelicalism which has failed to care for the poor.If our obsession with sex causes us to look in judgement on others, maybe we need to also look inward at the ways where our actions (and inaction) have contributed to societies ills.

I am absolutely in favor of sexual purity and fidelity to one’s spouse. Let’s just not end our discussion of sin there.

7 thoughts on “What if the Evangelical Obsession With Sex Keeps us From Admitting Our Sins?

  1. Question: Did you mean ‘evangelicals threw their support behind Rick Santorum?’ or did I misread the sentence?
    Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Indeed, great post. It’s particularly bothersome when “morality” is taken to refer to sexual morality, and “immorality” the opposite – as if there were no other moral choices to make in any other sphere of life.

    • Maybe the problem is a minimalist ethic. I mean if someone is good because they would ‘never cheat’ on their spouse than they don’t have to think through the implications of living ethically and justly in society.

      On the other hand, I do think it is important to talk about sexual sin to Evangelicals. I remember Michelle Miller from REED, a non profit that works with sex workers say, “The men who are picking up prostitutes downtown have Jesus fish on their cars.” Clearly there is more to be said about sex, but as you say, this is not the only area of life where moral choices are to be made.

      • just found out recently that the US is far behind in fair prosecution of prostitution, i.e., the victims (the women) usually get the harshest punishments when the men get off (literally) with just a slap on the wrist. Our system punishes the victim and releases the true perp. Stay tuned… more insights from the Grand Central of human trafficking in America…

  3. Been thinking about this a lot lately. Living here in the Bible Belt of the South there are plenty of churches and prominent seminaries, yet I get the sense by the proliferation of advertisements of gentleman’s clubs that something hasn’t sunk in… there’s a lot of morality talk about sex, but perhaps the lack of social / justice dimensions have somehow kept it taboo and not really solved the heart of the problem. Which is…

    • …JACKED UP!!!

      I think it is a really crime that the Johns get off (no pun intended) while women (and men) who are basically sexual slaves suffering constant abuse are punished. This is horrible and what are gentleman’s clubs but a soft form of prostitution?

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