“Good Christian Sex”?

I came across this article on The Christian Post website: 


Writing for the CP, Leonardo Blair offers a quick summary and overview of Rev. Bromleigh Mc Cleneghan’s new book Good Christian Sex. Check out the article– Blair links to Rev. Mc Cleneghan’s Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, as well as her Facebook page. 

I knew, as I read the article, I was going to find myself blogging about it. Here is a spiritual leader in the Christian church, advising Single Christians to go against 2,000 years of Orthodox Christian understanding of sex and marriage. She neglects to pull even a single passage from Scripture to support her case. Likely, because she couldn’t find a single one in support of her position.

So, I’m going to respond here in kind. It’s only fair! I can make a case in opposition to her’s without quoting Scripture. Just watch me!

First off, I did not read Mc Cleneghan’s book. This is merely a response to what she wrote for the  Washington Post

Secondly, I really don’t care what you, personally, do with your own set of reproductive organs. Y’all aren’t accountable to me, or even to Mc Cleneghan. We are all accountable to God.

So, if I don’t care, why bother? Because I think God cares. And I think we all– believer and unbeliever– fall short in understanding the sacredness inherent in sex. We can’t help it when we live in a culture that has relegated it to an adult human need. Not even a privilege– a need.

It’s mighty lofty to consider one’s own physical desire for another as a need to be fulfilled. Is this not the same mentality that leads to the justification of rape? If I think I am entitled to having my needs fulfilled– or, if like Mc Cleneghan I see my desires as being God-given, but the purpose for such desires as relegated to the realm of my own fulfillment– I’m going to hurt someone. I’m going to hurt someone because sex isn’t just about me.

To quote the Rev.: “single Christians can have sex as long as it is mutually pleasurable and affirming.” Ok… So, sex is about me– and someone else too–enjoying physical pleasure and feeling good about ourselves? How the hell do you find that view compatible with the life of Christ in the Gospels?!

If we as Christians believe Jesus Christ lived out a holy life– one we all should strive to attain–how can we believe that the greatest human good is a physical pleasure that leads to a heightened sense of self-esteem? I’m absolutely positive that a theology of the cross would have something to say here…

Besides, have we all conveniently forgotten that sex has a reproductive purpose?

 It’s not just about me and my sexual partner… Christian sex also has to take the potential for new life into account. However, Christians like Mc Cleneghan appear to believe that to “live into the creative life of God” involves a self-concerned, me-mentality, dressed up in the language of ‘mutuality’. It neglects to acknowledge the pitfalls of being finite: that what might be affirming to us may not be affirming for our partner, or experienced as a mutually pleasurable union for any child(ren) brought into being through our sexual encounters. 

Well then is God some sadistic jerk, burdening us with certain drives and desires while simultaneously insisting upon our restraint? 

No. He’s not sadistic. Or a jerk. Human beings can be both of these things, but not God. 

In order to understand how God defines good Christian sex, we have to view God as a Covenant God.

(I’ve written about that here)

When we read about God’s relationship to His covenant people through the eyes of the Old Testament Prophets, we see extensive use of the marital relationship as metaphor for our relationship with God. Why is that? Did the OT writers just lack creativity? Or, is it that the Ancient Jewish understanding of marriage as covenant tells us much about our God?

I’m not going to answer those questions here. Instead, I’m going to insist that we as Christians stop cherry picking passages about sexual immorality from Scripture and insist upon others blindly ‘obeying’. Perspectives like Mc Cleneghan’s are not created in a vacuum– they come about when the prevailing attitude towards Christian sex is one best described with a series of no’s.  The Church’s fear of sex, and discomfort surrounding conversations about it, results in a whole plethora of unsound ‘Christian’ advice coming from those on the fringes of Orthodoxy. They are the only ones brave enough to bring the issue into conversation. 

I admire Mc Cleneghan’s boldness. I disagree with her conclusions, but I think she’s on the right path in questioning the tradition of the elders. Her most grievous mistake is failing to seek God’s will in the matter. Jesus always followed God’s will. Always. Without a clear understanding of God’s will for our sexuality, we aren’t going to get it right. Not even close! 

The space where we seek God’s will for ourselves and ask to see who exactly who He created us to be, is sacred ground. No other human being can offer pat answers or clever advice here. This is where God can reveal to us who we are, and who He is.

In the same way, sex too is sacred ground. Sex can be a sharing of the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. It can be the gift of ourselves to another human being. And it can be our willing participation in the Divine act of Creation. When our sexuality is not confined to the safe space created by a loving marital covenant, sex cannot achieve this sacredness. Instead of being the sacrament that embodies the mystery of theosis, it becomes a mere physical act that drives us further and further away from the holiness of the God that calls us by our name. 

***I intentionally left out all allusions to homosexuality and its living out in a Christian context. Why is that? Am I just an arrogant heteronormative arse? I very well could be, but it is precisely because I myself am ensconced in a heterosexual marital covenant that I refuse to speak with any sense of authority on the subject. I just don’t know what God’s will is for you if you are a single, gay, Christian. I’d be wrong to pretend that I do! Seek out your Creator. He knows you better than you know your own self– He alone has the authority to guide you here. Know that you are loved. You are important to Him, and to me, just as you are. You aren’t being excluded… But we both know that traditional Christian wisdom still struggles to integrate your experience into its own understanding of sex and marriage. Maybe God can help us change that?****


10 thoughts on ““Good Christian Sex”?

    1. IKR? As I was writing this post, I started seeing parallels to social ills… How this perspective as sex being an entitlement likely destroys true intimacy in more Conservative Christian marriages than actual adultery does. Heck, sex as need and entitlement can lead spouses into adultery!

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      1. Yes! Sex isn’t just a physical act… It engages the essence of our true selves. Why would anyone want to join the most beautiful part of their true self with someone that clearly doesn’t value themselves at all– body or soul?

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      2. I agree! It makes me sad when the media portrays this as totally normal. Not to get into a vaccination debate, but I won’t get my girls the guardasil shot mostly because it’s not well researched and what I have heard about it scares me. But it’s assumed that my kids are just gonna have all this sex and get hpv. Obviously I’m not saying they won’t make that decision but I’m not encouraging that because I really want so much better for them. Doesn’t mean they’ll listen to me. I think our world tends to just encourage sex with multiple people like that’s so cool. Not from where I stand it isn’t!

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      3. Been there done that. That kind of sex is a shadow of what it is meant to be for the children of God. I, honestly, do not understand the allure of adultery. Married sex is the apex of human sexual experience. At least, it has the potential to be. I don’t know that a lot of Christian married couples question their individual views on sex until they encounter problems in that department… And then, there is need for healing and spiritual guidance. The absolute wrong way to married bliss is to buy into the cultural lies regarding our sexuality. They are lies. Plain and simple.

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