I have a confession to make. I watch the Bachelor. With much of life being lived very full and more serious than it probably needs to be, the Bachelor is a silly way to relax and analyze the social dynamics of unrealistic dating. The reality show known by us as “the best of the worst tv” is trash tv at its finest. For those of you not participating in this subculture of polygamous dating to find “the one” via rose offerings in a near game show series, let me give you a quick update. This season of the Bachelor features Colton, a twenty-seven-year-old male who is desperate to find a wife after failing in his appearance on a previous season of the show. The most notable thing about Colton besides his previous football career is that he is a virgin. Colton’s virginity looms large as he whittles down the number of ladies from nearly thirty to three, all of which he is falling for.
The big question one has to ask when watching this season is, “Why does it matter that Colton is a virgin?” Well, first of all it makes good television. In a show that is all about hooking up, being the lead star with a harem of beautiful women means that the topic will drive more viewers and more drama for all. Second, and more interestingly, there is an obsession with sex and sexuality that is a big sociological change in American culture over the last thirty years. More specifically, there is an expectation that one will have had sex at least once before marriage. This makes those who have not had sex outliers and conversation pieces. (The irony here is that those who have not had sex don’t know what they are missing and don’t have anything to compare, nor do they have to worry about potential complications of previous intimate relationships. Yet, the reversal still stands.)
This week’s book topic of discussion, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age by Jonathon Grant approaches the reversal from chastity to sexually experienced when considering both the church and broader culture. Grant is interested in exploring the complexities of the relationship between the church and modern culture to begin to propose an alternative perspective of personal identity and how it integrates the sexual aspects of oneself. As Grant states at the end of his first chapter, “The basic conviction of this book is that Christian faith and secular culture exist in complex interrelationship. This creates both challenges and opportunities for discipleship.”
Divine Sex utilizes Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age to treat much of what’s happening in society with regard to sexual themes in modern Western culture. In particular, “The age of authenticity is a description of the uniquely modern phenomenon in which individual self-expression (authenticity) with regard to sexual behavior is taken as an ultimate value, such that any suggestion of moral guidance that might curtail sexual expression is not well received or is disregarded.” Being authentic to one’s own sexual expression today is valued over and above moral discernment, as clearly seen in cultural time pieces such as the Bachelor.
As much as Grant connects with Taylor’s work in the first half of the book, there seems to be a missing depth when it comes to application in part two. While being very pragmatic, one reviewer noted Grant does “not engage in substantial ways with rigorous theoretical or empirical research on sexuality.”
Of the growing complexities of our secular era, particularly the perspective on sexuality, there is need of a more well thought through response to the issues Grant presents. In his final section he begins with practices, including centering embodied worship and making the church a hub for growing mature relationships. However, he ends rather weakly, not addressing a myriad of issues and how to begin to approach them. In contrast to last week’s text, which gave well researched yet simplified responses helping to unravel complexity, Grant’s text was disappointing in its conclusion.
One specific area Grant only briefly touches on in chapter eight is that of purity culture and its major implications over nearly thirty years. Purity culture may be one of the primary reasons for the swing of evangelicals into the age of sexual authenticity. In particular, there is a major effect on gender and the way women have responded to evangelical teaching from groups such as Focus on the Family and True Love Waits campaigns.
One author, Linda Kay Klein spent the last twelve years writing on the effects of purity culture on America. From an article recently published about her book, Pure:
“In purity culture both men and women are taught that sex before marriage is wrong. But it’s teenage girls who end up most affected, Klein finds, because while boys are taught that their minds are a gateway to sin, women are taught that their bodies are. After years of being told that they’re responsible for not only their own purity, but the purity of the men and boys around them; and of associating sexual desire with depravity and shame, Klein writes, those feelings often haunt women’s relationships with their bodies for a lifetime.”
It is obvious from Divine Sex, Pure, and even the Bachelor that we need a map and guides along the way, to not be completely lost in our journey. I would argue the map is rooted in Scripture and the guides are mindful mentors who walk alongside with wisdom and a listening presence. My intention is to continue to raise up these mentors as female ministers of the gospel through my research and artifact. These women from a diverse set of backgrounds will have processed any shame with regard to sexuality. They will be able to converse and listen as they guide the next generations of disciples, navigating the terrain of culture with a well-crafted theological compass.
 Regnerus, Mark and Jeremy Uecker, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1.
 Grant, Jonathan. Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age. Baker Publishing Group. 2015, 28.
 Resch, 408.