So this morning I was getting my oil changed. I brought a long a couple of books to read, because you never know how long something like this might take. Turns out, it wasn't much of a wait, but it finally gave me a chance to finish the last chapter of Rob Bell's "Sex God: Exploring the endless connections between sexuality & spirituality."
Being the type of person that I am, I can't resist leaving a book like that on the table for the other customers to see while I am up at the counter talking to the staff. When I came back, the man & woman who had been sitting there both kind of had this confused look on their faces as they averted their eyes from my gaze. (Which reminds me; I must think of my annual joke to play on the rest of my family for April Fools Day. It's only a few days away.)
Anyway, I figured that even though the book came out in 2007, I would do my own review for my friends who read my nonsense on this blog. But for starters, I want to do a recap of the other Bell books that I've read, so as to put a little context on this.
Velvet Elvis: I would only recommend this book under certain conditions. (This is the book that caused such a stink years ago.) #1. If you are a "Calvinist," especially a hard-core Calvinist, DO NOT read this book. It will only cause you to have seizures. #2. If you are very new to the faith, and/or are sort of the "Weaker Brother," (No insult intended.) I would stay away from this book. It can honestly be confusing, especially if you don't understand the context from Bell's biblical world view. However, if you feel secure in your faith and can handle some honest disagreements, then go for it.
Jesus wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile: This one is only controversial if you are big into the whole "Religious Right" thing. If you believe that America, or any other kingdom of man, can be confused with actually being a "Christian Country," then you won't like this book.
And now for Sex God: I recommend it! But not for the reasons you might think.
First off, if you are looking for something racy or semi-naughty, due to the title, sorry but this ain't it. In fact, in some ways, I was a little disappointed because I thought that he would be more specific in some areas. Seriously, with chapter titles such as "God wears lipstick" and "Whoopee Forever," I thought that Bell might actually touch on some examples. However, the book is pretty much a "Big Picture" view of sexuality and humanity.
And for the record, I can't find the slightest thing controversial about this book. Even John Piper would like it. So I'd recommend it to everyone.
Actually, I think that before I comment on anything specific, I'll just let these videos tell their own story. I think that they are excellent explanations.
Bell begins the book with the premise that first attracted me to his style of ministry to begin with. In the first chapter "God Wears Lipstick," Bell begins with an eyewitness account of a freshly liberated concentration camp in WW2. He points out that "A concentration camp is designed to strip people of their humanity. It's anti-human. And in the Scriptures, anything that is anti-human is anti-God." Bell then goes on to point out what I have heard from him many, many times about all humanity being created in the image of God. "Everybody, everywhere. Bearers of the divine image."
Think about the ramifications of that idea? Grasp it, and you pretty much have the entire book summed up.
The way you treat others...that living, breathing divine image...is how you show or DON'T show contempt or respect towards God. How much more so does a person's sexuality play into this?
Towards the end of that chapter, Bell points out that "A church exists to be a display of the new humanity," i.e. Seeing people as God sees them.
"When I respect the image of God in others, I protect the image of God in me. When Jesus speaks of loving our neighbor, it isn't just for our neighbor's sake. If we don't love our neighbor, something happens to us."
There is plenty to comment on about the book, but I want to stop here and give you a couple of true stories. I would also like to state that I am not trying to convict or "Guilt" anyone. I just want to offer some food for thought.
True Story #1. Many years ago at work, we were taking a lunch break. One of the guys was telling everyone about the strip club he had gone to the night before. He had received a "Lap Dance," and had enjoyed it thoroughly. I hadn't said a word or made a face during that entire story, yet he felt compelled to tell me to "Lighten up."
So I kept my voice completely calm and asked him some questions. (I also told him that I wasn't judging him in anyway...just asking questions.) I asked, "So when she was doing her thing on your lap, what were you thinking? Were you thinking, "Wow, what an intelligent & capable gal. I'll bet she is really worth getting to know?" OR, were you thinking "Boy would I like to **** ** *** *** right now?"
He expressed his desire to do the later, and not so much the former.
So then I asked him, "So if that were your sister, mom or daughter, would you like some other guy thinking those thoughts about her?"
He got a little upset and said "My daughter would never..."
I cut him off and said, "Yeah, but she IS someone's daughter, sister or maybe even a mother.!!!"
It's just a thought, but if you wouldn't appreciate someone else viewing your family member in that way, perhaps you should try to resist doing it to others. Like I said, it's just a thought.
Again, this is not meant to "Guilt" anyone. If Jesus is correct about poking out your own eye, and lopping off your own hand to avoid the sin of lust, then I'm a blind man typing with my toes.
True Story #2. I have a friend that I care a lot about. However, he tends to be rather hedonistic with his body. He likes to tell me that "Sex is as natural to me as breathing." (Which of course implies that he is dependent upon sex as much as he is on breathing to sustain life.) He tells me that he follows Jesus. However, I have to question that. I think he may want a Savior, but not a Lord. I often get the feeling that the god he worships the most is his penis.
I should say that one area where this book really disappointed me was the lack of going into detail about honoring God with our bodies, because I truly think it applies to this exact situation. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul goes on a long time about how Christ is now a part of our very bodies. Therefore, what we do with our bodies, we are also doing to Jesus. Paul compares the act of sexual union with becoming "One Flesh." ("Marriage," if you will.) So in essence, the sexual act is your becoming one person with another human being. That really doesn't work so well if you are Becoming One with numerous people.
At any rate, to my friend I would like to ask this question: "How comfortable do you feel telling this person that you have just had intercourse with about this Jesus who was voluntarily murdered on a cross for YOUR sins and THEIRS? Does it feel like a great time to bring that up while you are putting your underwear back on? Does telling this person about how much Jesus loves them and wants to make them a new creation feel a little awkward after you de-couple?"
If it does feel a little out of place at that point, I just feel that some re-thinking & re-ordering might be a good idea.
Back to the book.
In the final chapter, "Whoopee Forever," Bell brings up a very interesting point. He is talking about the new heaven & earth. There will be no need for a sun, because the light of God will shine on everything.
Bell writes; "Light exposes things. Light shows how things really are. There is no hiding in light. Light is freedom. There is nothing to fear because everything is shown to be exactly what it is. In the light, everybody is known fully. Which is what people crave in sex isn't it? To be known fully and still loved, still embraced, still accepted."
Bell goes on to point out that God is making all things new. He says that "For many people, sex is brief moments when everything is OK with the world, even if it isn't." But what happens when God finally does make everything new, and the world is as it should be? If sex is so amazing, can you even try to imagine what life will feel like in the new heaven & earth? WOW!
Like I said, there is plenty to comment on about the book. I can't cover it all. But I will say that there is plenty in there even for single people like myself. I'm not married. I've grown used to that state...grudgingly. At this point, I don't know if it will ever happen, or if I really want it to. (That's why I have a dog now...who likes to go fishing.)
So what about people like me? The Bible does make it plain that I should be celibate. Is this a restriction? Or is it actually a freedom? On page 162, Bell states that "According to Jesus, some people are so devoted to God that they don't need to be married. They have transcended the married state, moving past it to a place of union with God in which having a spouse is simply unnecessary...As if it's the most normal thing imaginable."
I need to hear things like that. I honestly would like to be so close & tight with God that he is the only thing on my mind every waking hour of the day. I doubt that this will happen in THIS life, but I want it to be a growing desire in me.
Oddly enough, my final thought on that doesn't come from this particular book. Instead it comes from Shane Claiborne's book, "The Irresistible Revolution." Shane had been talking to a monk who had taken a vow of poverty & celibacy. The monk told Shane, "We can live without sex, but we cannot live without love, and God IS love."
P.S. For more on Shane Claiborne, go to this link http://www.thesimpleway.org/shane/
P.S.S. And now, since we're on the subject of sex, something completely filthy...
Dis-GUSTING! (I need a stern talking-to.)