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Opinion | Sexuality

When Sex Becomes an Idol

Jenell Williams Paris's 'The End of Sexual Identity' seeks to overturn the power that sexual identity labels—homosexual and heterosexual—have in and outside the church.

In the past few months, I couldn't help noticing the flurry of articles about the PCUSA's decision to ordain people in same-sex relationships, the repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, the passage of same-sex marriage laws in New York, and the decision of Chaz Bono, daughter of Sonny and Cher, to become a man.

Yet conversations about sex and sexual identity emerge as often around our dinner tables as on the front page of the paper. Recently, a pastor told me about a married member of his congregation who routinely cheats on his wife with other men. A friend described helping a female friend pick out an engagement ring so she could propose to her girlfriend. Another friend sat at our dinner table and talked about leaving the church after years of celibacy because he couldn't deny his gay identity. Jenell Williams Paris, an anthropology and sociology professor at Messiah College, seeks to enter this cultural conversation in her new book, The End of Sexuality: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are (InterVarsity Press). Moreover, Paris seeks to change the conversation within the church. Her analysis of contemporary culture offers a helpful aid to Christians trying to wade through the complex issues surrounding gender and sexuality in the modern age.

Paris does not want to overturn centuries of traditional Christian doctrine about sexuality, singleness, and marriage. Rather, she wants Christians to understand the manner in which we have capitulated to our culture, ...

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