Adrian Thatcher’s very thorough work, God, Sex and Gender: An Introduction dives into the 21st century world to offer a look at the sexual ethics we have and tries to bring a theological and historical understanding to the world of sexuality. The author tackles this difficult subject with three main ideas:
– To introduce students and general readers to the exhilaration of thinking theologically about sex, sexuality, sexual relationships, and gender roles.
– To introduce students and general readers to a comprehensive and consistent theological understanding of sexuality and gender, which is broad, contemporary, undogmatic, questioning, inclusive, and relevant to reader’s interests, needs, and experience.
– To offer to university and college lecturers a comprehensive core text that will provide them with an indispensable basis for undergraduate and postgraduate courses and modules in and around topics of Theology, Sexuality, and Gender (Thatcher, ix).
Thatcher does indeed achieve his goals within his text. Thatcher’s material is very approachable for any reader. While the material can be somewhat scandalous at times, his writing style allows readers to access the material in order to engage mentally and theologically.
I find it fitting to have read this book on my trek from Israel to Greece. I am writing this under the Acropolis, a place for pagan worship in ancient times. The city I am in, Athens, is a city steeped in sexuality and sensuality. Within a block from my hotel room, I can go to any souvenir shop and buy a keychain with a giant wooden penis on it (try explaining that to US customs). Within two blocks, there is a local sex shop with girls parading in the front window, and within three blocks, I could solicit a prostitute. This city worships and idolizes sexuality. Yet, it is not much different than in the ancient times.
Ancient Greece and Rome celebrated sex. They built idols and shrines to gods and goddesses of sex and sensuality. Thatcher does point out ancient sexual ideas within his text that prove this point. Sexual worship did not just go back two millennia. In museums in Israel, Asherahs and Baal statues were on display. Asherah was represented as a large breasted unclothed woman while Baal was a bull which represented fertility and virility. The reason I point this out is that often times we think the ancient world was lily white. Yet, some of the ancient’s practices would make many blush.
It was within these cultures that God called a people out to live separately. They were to not mimic the lifestyles and practices of the pagans and this included their sexual practices. Jesus echoed the teachings of Moses but took it a step further by saying the mere thought of lustful ideas could condemn us. Paul echoed Jesus sentiments and challenged the pagan practices of his day as well. In a sexual culture, the Lord gave us doctrine and dogma.
We tend to forget these cultures and forget how utterly pagan they were. Yet, God did not call his people to adopt their practices but to be different. As I ponder these things and think about Thatcher’s book, I have to ask if we are truly being separate even in our sexual practices. Or are we trying to adopt modern culture’s ideas of sex and make them fit within our theology? Are we becoming synchronist in sexual ethics? If we are, what do we need to do to stop this slide?