Advertisement

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

From Marital Sex Guru to Chastened Ex-Wife: Why I Prefer the New Lauren Winner

While she doesn’t need or want my sympathy, I feel sorry for popular evangelical writer Lauren Winner. Only several years back we were reading her ambitious project to “change how Christians have sex.”  Now we are reading about her divorce.

Winner’s latest book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, are reflections on God’s presence in the pain and disillusionment when “til’ death do us part” comes undone in six years.  “Still” in this context describes the act of giving pause to reconsider where God is and to be attentive to God’s presence, or seeming lack thereof; it is also a way of proclaiming that somehow in life’s messiness, God is still there.

Advertisement

And I must admit that I like this “stiller” version of Winner better.  That is because, while it may not be Winner’s intention in her latest book to uncover and chip away at a pervasive myth in evangelical circles, she nonetheless does this very thing: her crisis of faith arises within and to a certain degree from an evangelical fairy tale about what it means to become a Christian and what it means to be married.  What I am talking about here is the way that we evangelicals have historically equated both marriage and a born again conversion with “The Promised Land.”  If you’re not married, then, in essence, you haven’t “arrived;” and, if you’re not a “born-again” Christian, then you haven’t truly “arrived,” either.  There is little appreciation for the nature of conversion as an ongoing process made up of many steps forward and backward along the way; or, for marriage as only one option among a couple, or even a few, equally viable, equally “holy” alternatives for living out one’s God-given vocation.

Advertisement

I don’t have to dig too deep into my own experience to recognize the hang-ups that this glorification of marriage and a one-time conversion experience can foster.  Having been married twelve years now, I am struck (sometimes painfully, sometimes serendipitously) by how marriage, much like conversion, involves an ongoing process of falling in and out of love, losing and then finding oneself, and being, in essence, “converted” and transformed over and over again.  The notion that marriage itself, much like being born again, is somehow the telos– the end of our restless striving and longing- is not only flawed but destructive.

And, yet it has taken a long while to welcome this discovery as the falling away of unhealthy illusions about my relationship with God and with my spouse.  I certainly had no clue what I was getting into when, at the tender age of 5 and at the cue of missionary parents- they had been sent to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by their Evangelical Free church- I accepted Jesus into my heart.  I had only a little more clue about what I was getting into when nineteen years later I strode down the aisle of a little Episcopal church in New Haven, Connecticut to say the words, “I do.”  Because in both cases the message relayed to me within evangelical circles was that “this” was the euphoric “it;” that I had not only made the most important decision of my life, but would now be a full, fulfilled and self-realized human being.   Pain, confusion, discouragement, and loss of self? These things were not even acknowledged as possibilities in the “promised lands” of marriage and being “born again.”

Advertisement

So I guess I am grateful to Winner for sharing her story.  She has poked in a more personal way at the underside of the evangelical fairy tale that we so rarely see, or see largely in statistics- how, for example, the divorce rate among Christians is as high as it is among the general population (approximately one in two marriages); or how the still largely Christian South where I live boasts some of the worst divorce rates in the country; or how a girl who has met God,  “seen the light” and “arrived” can then find that same God a stranger shrouded in darkness.

Somehow this gentler, more chastened Winner seems a bit more likeable than the one leading the crusade to change how my husband and I have sex.

Previous Posts

A Beloved Lion, The Dentist Who Trophy-Hunted Him, and the Power of Shame
[caption id="attachment_5637" align="alignleft" width="300"] 13-year-old Cecil was the beloved resident of Hwange National Park, where earlier this July he was baited and killed for fun by Walter Palmer, DDS. The GPS collar Cecil was wearing ...

posted 2:54:27pm Jul. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Naked Feet ... and the Gift of Reverence
When he slipped his feet into the tub of warm, herb-infused water, he did so almost apologetically. "Thank you," ...

posted 2:19:02pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Help End Loan Shark Lending and One Cause of Poverty with This Short Survey
When this video [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsDUQpUfRzg[/youtube] recently went viral, I was rooting for the shark. Not so when it comes to loan sharks, who are one contributor to systemic poverty and sharply growing income ...

posted 10:39:17am Jul. 09, 2015 | read full post »

The Recovery-Minded Church Available for Pre-Order—and a Peek at the Cover!
It's been too long! Vacation, a family lice infestation, sickness, and preparation for a home renovation—much of it occurring at the same time—fun, huh?—have kept me away from this intersection. But I couldn't not share my delight at the ...

posted 6:07:11pm Jul. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Poverty vs. Privilege
Lately, I've been learning about poverty ...

posted 8:02:30pm Jun. 10, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.