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Mark Driscoll and the Evangelical (Publishers ?

) Obsession with Sex By David Sessions On January 13, 2012 In Religion ....First of all, I have a story today at The Daily Beast on the fal lout over Mark Driscoll s controversial new book, Real Marriage. It s probably not new s to most Patrol readers, but check it out if you re interested. At least I had fu n describing Driscoll as a testosterone-oozing Calvinist bruiser. Something that came up in passing in the piece was the simultaneous release of T exas pastor Ed Young s Sexperiment, which he s promoting by livestreaming himself an d his wife talking in bed on the church roof. You ll remember him as the guy who o rdered the couples in his congregation to have sex every day for a week, and rec eived a massive amount of media attention and a book deal for doing so. Another thing that came up is how much of a re-run all of this is. There have be en explicit-ish evangelical sex books before, and others have preceded the Drisc olls in basically approving of deviant sex acts between married couples. But the m edia blitz for Real Marriage has been enormous, and its press materials were pac ked with salacious buzzwords about how it would send shockwaves through the Christ ian world. It s explicitness is being oversold all over the internet (not least in some prudish comments by Tim Challies in this post), as is the edginess of its argument. So what is the deal here? Why is this sex talk able to take up so much oxygen if it s not new or all that scandalous? Are evangelicals just obsessed with sex? I c ame up with a few very speculative reasons, and welcome input and correction. 1. Keeping up with the culture. As I noted elsewhere recently (and Darryl Hart a rgues similarly in his new book), evangelicals are intensely concerned about kee ping pace with the culture around them. It s a weird form of progressivism, a fear of being left behind by history, even if it is rather spotty and selective. So because sex is such a huge deal culturally and politically, it is on the brain, an d tends to push that sort of issue to the forefront of the discussion. I think a t one point there was a sense, even if it isn t as raw now, that talking about sex in a frank, explicit way could make up for the ways evangelical theology forces believers to remain culturally backward. It sort of combats the pervasive cultu ral stereotype (which I agree is both prejudicial and contradicted by most empir ical evidence) that married and religious people are repressed, sexless and frus trated. 2. Holding on to the kids. Evangelical ministers and parents realize that the co nflict between how their children are asked to behave in a modern secular cultur e and the norms of that culture is overwhelming, intense, and pervasive. The kid s (I use the term loosely) are going to hear and see stuff, very explicit stuff, about sex frequently if not constantly. (As Penn Jilette put it: They re going to hear Katy Perry. ) There is no longer any escaping it, so the only choice is to co mpete with it. And that means dealing frankly with a lot of things that used to be unimaginable in church/parent sex talks. I think parents also feel pressure t o model a Christian marriage/sex life if there s going to be any hope that their k ids follow them in it, so it makes it a live subject that people can t hear enough about. 3. It sells. In general, I don t really believe evangelicals are any more obsessed with sex than anyone else in America. (There s the abstract fixation on the sexua l other as enemy of society s moral order, but that s a different thing.) The prolif eration of books and media hype in the evangelical world is driven by the same t hing it is everywhere else: money. Pseudo-salacious, pseudo-controversial books like Driscoll s sell very well, particularly when they re written by an already-huge

Christian celebrity, and probably even have a bit of crossover appeal. Christia n publishers are in this to make money as much as regular ones, and I have no do ubt that the keeping the idea going that church is in dire need of serious conver sations about sex is great for business. (It may happen to be true, but a Mark Dr iscoll book isn t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of how that conv ersation might go.) ical-publishers-obsession-with-sex/