If only sex were as simple as "the birds and the bees." And perhaps it is. Like the creatures of nature, sex is a part of God's good creation. Yet, just as birds drop and bees sting, human sexuality can create sudden messes and unanticipated pain in many lives.
Today's ministry leaders are not immune to the stains and stings of sexuality. In fact, we are called into the middle of them as we attempt to help people live faithfully and well within a sexually charged culture.
Leadership's Marshall Shelley and Chad Hall invited three Christian leaders to the campus of Duke Divinity School to discuss ministry in our decidedly post-Eden world.
Bruce Marcey is lead pastor of Warehouse 242, a church in the uptown area of Charlotte, North Carolina, and known for being culturally engaged while placing a high value on communicating theological truth.
James Emery White founded Mecklenburg Community Church in suburban Charlotte in 1992 and has written widely on the intersection of church and culture in works such as Rethinking Church and Serious Times. He also serves as adjunct professor of theology, culture, and apologetics at Gordon-Conwell Seminary's Charlotte campus.
Lauren Winner serves on the faculty at Duke and is the author of a memoir, Girl Meets God, and, more recently, a critically acclaimed book about chastity, Real Sex. She attends St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina.
What's an example you've seen in the last week that we live in a sexually charged culture?
James Emery White: I was stunned by the Kaiser Family Foundation study that came out this week that found that the number of sexual encounters on television programs doubled between 1995 and 2004. This sexualized culture is becoming mainstream.
Lauren Winner: I see it in the lack of clothing on college campuses. For both women and men.
Bruce Marcey: I see it in the skyrocketing occurrences of oral sex among high school kids. Even in many Christian circles, it's seen as being okay.
White: It's not even perceived as sex.
Is this sexual climate unprecedented, or is it similar to conditions in other times?
Winner: There's always been premarital sex. There have always been children conceived out of wedlock. But in earlier times, you were supposed to be ashamed about it. What's unique today is society's utter acceptance of premarital sex. The key change is not simply that premarital sex is common, but that it's goodit's not just normal but normative. Today something is considered wrong with you if you're not having sex.
Marcey: What's considered taboo has totally reversed. I mean, think of the movie, "The Forty-Year-Old Virgin." Being a virgin is now a stigma. The culture now assumes, How can you be a healthy person if you're not having sex?
White: We asked people at our church to submit questions for a Q&A session dealing with sex, and the questions we got were ones you would not have gotten five years ago: "We both had affairs, and we have no idea how to restore intimacy." ...