By Barbara Falconer Newhall
I can’t say that I go along with the idea that one must be 100 percent sexually chaste before marriage. But I do think that the evangelical Christian culture that holds to this principle has a lot to teach the rest of us.
My Spiritual Writing group at the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe last week included several evangelical Christians — young ones — for whom, I suspect, chastity before marriage is a hot topic.
A line from a book by our workshop leader, Lauren Winner — Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity — sums up just one of the helpful thoughts that I (as the “liberal-Christian-who-finds-truth-in-Buddhism-Islam-and-heaven-knows-what-else” in the room) gleaned from my close encounter with the evangelical point of view last week.
Lauren writes that chastity and singleness “tell us, for starters, of a radical dependence on God. In marriage, it is tempting to look to one’s spouse to meet all one’s needs. But those who live alone,without the companionship and rigor of marriage and sex, are offered an opportunity to realize that it is God who sustains them.”
Hmmmm. A refreshing thought in our happily-ever-after culture of “Sleepless in Seattle” meets “Notting Hill.” Thinking of marriage as marriage, rather than as the answer to all our troubles, takes a heck of a lot of pressure off the arrangement.
Lauren has written another book, Mudhouse Sabbath, which I’m looking forward to reading. I love Lauren’s precise mind, even when it goes places that my (foggier) mind does not readily take me. So I am going to put her Mudhouse book on my bedside table, alongside works by some authors that Lauren recommended to our group, namely Vivian Gornick and Patricia Hampl.
P.S. Another thing that I learned at the Glen about current trends in evangelical Christian sex is — it’s sexy. Note, for one thing, the voluptuously unfolding magnolia on the cover of Lauren’s Real Sex book.
Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity, by Lauren F. Winner, Brazos Press, 2005.
Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, by Lauren F. Winner, Paraclete, 2003.
Want to read more about Lauren? Here’s a post from the Glen conference. She gave some excellent writing advice to religion scholars at the American Academy of Religion conference in San Francisco in 2011. Or if you’d rather, check out writer Jane Ann Staw’s thoughts on “The Toxic Reader.”