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There are times in the lives of most Christians when a vital force inserts itself into our consciousness and demands to take over. We see someone, and we crave.

Sometimes we want and can have—with God's and everyone's blessing. Desire does take place between husbands and wives, sweetly, as in the wistful songs by the husband-and-wife duo Over the Rhine. After recovering from a near-divorce, Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler put to music this aching confession: "You're my water / You're my wine / You're my whisky / From time to time. / You're the hunger / On my bones / All the nights / I sleep alone."

But even married people who feel this marvelous hunger in their bones are occasionally broadsided by unwieldy yearning. Misguided cravings do not discriminate between the single and the married, the celibate and the promiscuous. They plop onto your lap unannounced. You see someone, and suddenly you want to do something—often, something that is not yours to do. Like it or not, think healthily about it or not, pray against it or not—desire happens.

What do you do when it pays its impromptu visits? Indulge in thought only? Deny it's there? Seek an exorcism? Curse yourself? Eat chocolate?

Nancy Trejos wrote in The Washington Post about another unreliable solution. She described how some Shiites, the majority who have regained power in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, have resurrected an odd custom from before Saddam. Mutaa, or "enjoyment marriage," is a contract that provides already married men with a religiously sanctioned opportunity to have sex with someone other than their wives. All a guy has to do is support the willing woman financially. The mutaa can last a few minutes or several years. If it sounds like ...

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Desire Happens
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In the Magazine

April 2007

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