Sex and the Single Evangelical

The church lady vs. the 'evangelical whore'

BY: Lauren F. Winner

 
This article was first published in 2000.

David and I were sitting in a friend's living room recently, drinking civilized wine, eating civilized crackers, and making civilized conversation, when the friend in question asked about our whereabouts the previous evening. Our whereabouts had been a hotel room. A hotel room with a lone king-size bed.

No big deal. Men and women go out of town and get a hotel room, and in this day and age no questions are asked, no eyebrows raised; the couple in question has no reason to check in pseudonymously, pretending to be church-sanctioned, state-approved Young Marrieds.

Unless, that is, the couple in question is a Christian couple, and the friend feeding them Stoned Wheat Thins is a Christian friend. If that's the scenario (and it was), the couple never should have been in that hotel room to begin with, and this is the conversation you can expect afterward:

Celibacy is a big deal. But it's a big deal that evangelicals aren't willing to talk about, except to remind us that True Love Waits.

"I can't believe you two," Sarah said. "Can't you keep your pants on for one damn minute?" (Sarah may not have had sex before she married, but she has learned to curse since.) "Perhaps you've noticed that the Bible forbids this sort of thing?" She gazed evenly at David: "Maybe I shouldn't expect any better of someone so new to the faith, but I did have hopes for your girlfriend. Silly of me." Sarah glanced my way. "I suppose that's what you get when you're dealing with the world's favorite evangelical whore."

Mark Noll, the evangelical historian, published a book a few years back called "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind." The scandal was that there

is

no evangelical mind, and Noll called for a rejuvenation of Christian thinking. I think there's another scandal, and, following Noll, we might call it The Scandal of the Evangelical Body. The scandal, thankfully, is not that there is no evangelical body. There are, in fact, many evangelical bodies. Lots of those bodies are married, and I can't say much about their sex lives.

But lots are unmarried, and for us sex--or, perhaps more accurately, celibacy--is a big deal. But it's a big deal that evangelicals aren't willing to talk about, except to remind us that True Love Waits. This slogan might work when you're 15. Ten years later, catch-phrases don't really do the trick. So here, in short, is what I propose is the scandal of the evangelical body: the church tells all of us to be celibate outside of marriage, and then turns a blind eye to those thousands of unmarried evangelicals who ignore this injunction. We Christians spill plenty of ink moralizing about sex, but we seem unwilling to talk about it in any honest or theologically engaged way.

Continued on page 2: »

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