November 28, 2014

Dear Ed Young,

Blame Bill Kinnon. And if talk about sex bothers you, then you probably need another religion. You’re out of luck in this one.

Dear Ed Young,

It was the grin that really got to me.

The arrogant, know-it-all, self-confident, re-inventing the wheel, just got me some grin.

The “I am a young pastor and I know everything in the world” grin.

You were sitting there on CNN, with your wife, talking about having sex 6 out of 7 nights this week.

Your wife said it was great. (That’s a relief. Bummer if she said she would rather not be forced into daily marital relations by pastoral demand.)

And the reporters are interested, because your church isn’t talking about God. It’s talking about sex so it can talk about God.

And you’re grinning from ear to ear. You’ve got the world on a string. Or by a thong.

You’re the master of the evangelical universe. You’ve got the Bible on your side. Song of Solomon. It’s about sex. So couples, take the seven day sex challenge. Or the 30 day. Or whatever doesn’t kill you.

Women, it is time to submit! God’s will has been announced! It’s the Seven Day Sex Challenge!

Git ‘er done there Christians.

We’re sexy now. We’re having sex, yes we are. Sex. Ask me to say it again. Sex.

Here’s the message for the world this week: We’re for having sex. Lots of sex. Sex in bed. Sex in sexy lingerie. (Maybe a show at the ladies ministry this month? Yes?) Sex with the pastor’s approval.

“Oh Gaaawd.”

“Amen, honey. Amen.”

The boys are coming to church now. What will grinning Ed say next? Men like this church. They can’t wait to be there…and to get home! “Go to your rooms, kids. Mom and Dad have some church stuff to do.”

“MOM AND DAD ARE DOING THE SEVEN DAY SEX CHALLENGE!!! EEEWWWW!

Will he take a cue from Pastor Mark and his hottie wife and answer texted questions about penis enlargement and various forms of non-traditional intercourse?

Song of Solomon! Whoo-hooo! We got a sexy Bible book, yes we do. We’re grinnin’!!

No wonder Ed is grinning. Everybody in Fellowship church is getting it on.

The singles can look forward to it. The disabled can pray about it. The troubled marriages can argue about it. The engaged can almost do it. The widows and widowers can remember it.

The married people can DO IT and get to talk about it. “How many days did you do it?” “Oh we did it eight.” “We only did four. Pray for us.”

The folks at church want you to know that it’s time to obey God and have seven days of AWESOME SEX! (And we also have some other stuff to talk about when we have time, but it’s not that important.)

And now, Ed, here’s something else you can grin about.

Try and preach regular sermons from the Bible now. See where the crowd is when the dog and pony show is over.

Talk about discipleship. Or stewardship. Or world hunger. Or some other sexy topic.

And grin.

Also, thanks on behalf of all the normal pastors, Ed, whose people are going to be asking why their pastor isn’t talking about his sex life? Why isn’t the pastor’s wife talking about how much she enjoys sex with the pastor? Why aren’t they up there together sitting on a bed talking about sex?

If they cared about church growth they would sit on the bed and talk about how much they love to have sex every day if possible.

Guess those pastors who have too much maturity and personal humility to drop their pants in the pulpit will just have to watch those young families go down to fellowship church where the grinning pastor and his satisfied wife talk SEX.

If my pastor was forced to talk this way, he’d weep. But he’s kindof an old guy. His members should be in a megachurch anyway.

How about a little video right from the bedroom, Ed. WIth you and the wife right afterward? Wow. The Lord could really use that couldn’t he? Prayer video while everyone is a little steamed up?

Ever thought of the video production possibilities, Ed? Couples might need a little video instruction. Could be verrry profitable. Look into that.

I used to think that John Crowder- with his faux marijuana routine- was as bad as it gets in evangelicalism.

But you’ve kicked that door down. You’ve made Crowder’s “Tokin’ the Ghost” look like a seminar on exegeting Hebrews.

Brilliant move, Ed. We’ve used sex to sell everything else. Now we can use it to get people into church. Sexy sermons. Sexy wives. Sexy grins. Sex. Sex. Sex. Can’t get enough of it.

(You know, if I did this routine about my sex life in front of my high school classes, I’d get fired. What’s the deal?)

On behalf of the few thousand of us who now have no reason to remain evangelicals at all. thanks. I couldn’t be more humiliated. And whatever you’re doing, keep it in Texas.

And remember this: Joel Osteen’s is bigger than yours. Uh…his grin, that is.

Keep having sex and telling us all about it. Keep smiling. (I almost said keep it up. Boy, this is hard. Oh…sorry….)

Sincerely,

Michael Spencer

Comments

  1. And we’re wondering why so many Christians are being disillusioned by the church. It’s because of “stunts” like this, and not focusing on the grace and goodness of our Lord.

  2. I think the problem lies in the presentation of sex as being one of the most pressing spiritual needs Christians have.

    Every day we are bombarded by a culture that has made almost every aspect of life sexual in some way. Whether it’s a commercial for toothpaste, innuendo in TV programs, or a piece on CNN about the 7 day sex challenge, we are constantly being told that sex is what is important as a human being.

    Why do we need church to add to that.

    It’s as if the message is,”Yes..the world is right. Sex is numero uno. If you all do it the right way you will have a fulfilled and happy life. Let me tell you how.”

    It’s an obsession with our culture that has leaked into the church.

    The church needs to, and has to, address certain aspects of sexuality. But by no means do we need to hand out “How To” manuals in the Sunday morning service.

  3. OK — On topic(though I’m still most interested in the topic I wrote about above and most eager for your concluding post on disillusionment)

    Yes, I think the difference between teaching on sexuality and sitting on a bed with your wife and enacting a seven day sex challenge should be obvious.

    And yes, I think the latter is not only absurd but even dangerous, not because it claims to be normative but because of what it suggests as normative. As one commenter put it he’s putting his kids in a class to learn “how great and awesome sex is between a husband and wife.” The biggest problem I have with this 7 day sex thing, the idea of “great and awesome Christian sex”(though I’m not saying the commenter in question is taking it quite this far), and other recent Evangelical sex fests, is that it takes and image from contemporary American culture its chief end — the image of “great and awesome sex.” It is immediately analagous to the cover girl and problems girls have with ‘body image.’

    If “great and awesome” sex is what God ordained for you, then what if you’re not having great and awesome sex? How far should you go to fix it?

    It has nothing to do with what Paul was talking about, which was almost certainly the coercive denial of sex to one’s partner. The sexual politics of Corinth are the backdrop of the whole treatment and boy were they interesting. This is not about making “good sex” an end and creating a Christian version of Dr. Ruth. It’s about keeping husbands and wives (one flesh) in fundamental unity with each other and taking sexual power games out of play as a means to that end.

  4. I work with a girl who is pregnant with her third. She’s miserable all the time. I wonder what she would think if her pastor said I want all the couples to have seven days of sex?

    I wonder what the couple in the midst of terrible marriage problems would think? Particular if the problems involved sexual issues?

    I wonder what the man who demands sex no matter how he’s acted in the home thinks?

    I wonder what 18 year old boys think about marriage when they hear about the 7 day challenge?

    What do couples who have sex once a week and like it that way think?

    What do people with six kids and no time think?

    Or does it matter what they think…as long as the sensational promotion gets the attention of the crowd.

  5. Boethius, the reason this is a draw to Catholicism for many evangelicals is that, despite the flying houses and indulgences, Catholicism is a basically a serious religion. This sort of evangelicalism doesn’t even deserve to be called a religion. It’s nothing more than a schtick. You’ve got a lot of disillusioned evangelicalism clawing around for something that at least looks like a serious religion, and Catholicism puts on a pretty good face, especially the way the convert-apologists spin it.

  6. Hmmmm

    wasn’t the 7 day challenge in revelation somewhere. :)

  7. Michael, this thread is fun …. let it go. At least its making me smile. :)

  8. AT Chaffee says:

    I remember a Focus on the Family article that talked about how husbands needed to be noble and self-sacrificing towards their wives by taking them out to dinner and. . .er, being “romantic”. I was young and inexperienced but even I knew that getting dinner and sex wasn’t exactly a sacrifice. I suppose a corollary is football and beer-drinking as spiritual disciplines?

  9. Memphis Aggie says:

    Maybe the thread should end – it certainly highlights how difficult it is to have a serious conversation about sex and the Church. There is doubtless an important Christian contribution to this topic but I think Ed has missed it. Sex is diminished in the absence of love. Within the sacrament of marriage, under the veil of love and open to life sex allows us to participate and cooperate with God in the creation of new life. It can be both beautiful and sacred.

    However today’s culture reduces sex to a simple meaningless pleasure without consequences (or at least consequences that can be easily removed for the sake of convenience, if you have no conscience). To a much lesser degree, let’s be fair, Ed’s light treatment also diminishes sex.

    Also, any pastor who reads the Bible has to see the many obvious major pitfalls around sexual desire (two commandments for example). To gleefully boast about his own sex life the Pastor practically invites covetousness.

    There’s a serious Christian treatment of sex that we really can use, like that described in Paul VIs Humane Vitae (Human life) or Benedict XVI s “Deus Caritas Est” (God is love) or writings from John Paul II “Theology of the Body”. These writers have been trying to elevate our understanding of sex, rather than the culture which seeks to reduce it to nothing. Dismissing Christians as prudes is a misunderstanding. Christians seeks to retain the beauty and meaning of sex. It is our culture that seeks to damage sex by enforcing a “if it feels good do it mentality” and literally killing those who make that view inconvenient (ie the unborn). Anyone who advocates any rational restraint is labelled a prude. Modesty and Chastity were once widely regarded Christian virtues. A really brave cutting edge Pastor might preach on those.

    Ed is clearly enjoying himself with this gimmick, and that too diminishes the subject.

    There Michael, hopefully that’s more on topic.

  10. I wonder what happens at the end of the 7 days when a couple who did the challenge, and maybe even enjoyed it, goes back to church and finds they aren’t gushing with rapture or displaying affection more publicly like some of the other couples.

  11. I don’t think my original post was about a serious discussion on sex. I was fired up at the humiliation this will put thousands of older pastoral couples through when some of their members start in on this as the way to attract a crowd.

    I resent the way megachurch pastors do whatever they want and are protected by their fan clubs. “Yes, we clubbed a seal in the sermon, but there was a good reason.”

    It’s not my job to tell anyone where to go to church. God bless all the people who got saved by the seven day sex challenge or donkey basketball or Christian poker or burning bloggers at the stake. Whatever.

    My job is to use my writing to make people think and to know they aren’t the only ones.

    BTW, the RCC has some good stuff on sex, but the celibacy issue and the perpetual non-sexual Mary makes that a little difficult to share with Protestants.

  12. All I know of Ed is that everytime I see him on TV, by BS detector goes off. The guy spends entirely way too much time dressing and talking as if he were a 15 year old. But on to the point. I am a man. I like sex. It makes me laugh when men talk about having great sex. Great sex as opposed to what? Bad Sex? It reminds me of a joke I once heard. Did I ever tell you about the worst sex I ever had? It was awsome!

  13. Memphis Aggie says:

    Fair enough Michael – maybe my take was off topic too

  14. Did anybody Else think about how this is going to go in a culture of breathless, FAKE Evangelical testimonials?

    Has anybody else thought about the fact that people lie to one another about how “great” their lovemaking skills are – are, taking this challenge, obligated to do so IN CHURCH?!?

    Some people are signing themselves up for 30 days of being badly kissed and oppressively humped, but they’re also going to have to say, at the end of it all, with a straight face how they “felt the Spirit move” inside them and how they’ve never had it better.

    Because that’s the culture we’ve created.

    This idea sucks.

  15. Memphis Aggie says:

    BTW I think you can ignore celibacy and Mary and still have a lot to talk about. They really don’t have to be part of the conversation.

    Of course your basic post was really about mega-church excess and publicity. In my opinion it’s at the expense of the Gospel. What’s this reference to a dog or tongue-in-cheek to a seal? Another circus sideshow act pretending to be Christian? I think any high profile attention grabbing stunt has to be looked on with suspicion. If that’s what it takes to fill a mega-church then soon enough the entertainment will degrade even further or the churches will shrink to a more natural size.

  16. Jeremiah Lawson says:

    what causes cognitive dissonance for me is how evangelicals can be so focused and steadfast in talking about sex from the pulpit on the stage while seeming to be critical of OTHER people bringing the subject of sex or sexuality on to the stage. The dissonance for me has something to do with the culture war/countercultural claims evangelicals can get into. Doug Wilson once wrote that the word “obscene” derievs from the Latin stage instruction “off stage” and that obscenity is when something that should be off stage is dragged on stage. The tension/contradiction people may be sensing as a matter of conscience (or sense) is it seems strange for evangelical preachers to talk about sex for months from the pulpit when 1) it is not necessarily the good news of Christ and 2) the same evangelical pastors would likely say that for conscience reasons they don’t watch R-rated movies that have sexual content.

  17. Ah this is sad. I’m reading all sorts of double-entendres into everything now, including phrases like “churches will shrink to a more natural size.”

    Might this be a definite harm that needs to be considered right along with any possible benefits that might be had in being really, super, in-yo-face, look-at-me discussion of sex?

    Is there really no ground for a reasonable discussion of sex – one that doesn’t automatically engender jokes and mockery? Jesus was mocked, but not because he was so corny and ridiculous. He was mocked because no one could counter what he said, and so they just had to dismiss him.

    Does anyone really think that this mockery of Young’s message/method is just because he is so incredibly profound? Does anyone really think that this sort of treatment of sex will make people sit up and pay attention to the wisdom of God’s Word?

    Or, is it ever so much more likely that the world will laugh and jeer at the ridiculous Christians? Does not the obvious reaction (read the beginning comments on the CBS story) of just about everyone who hears about this not give people a clue?

    But, hey what does that Ed poser know? If he wants I can give him tips on my 30-days-90-different-positions plan. That’s, like, uber cool! That’ll pack in the auditorium!

  18. Josh S:

    It does take the convert-apologists to put a spin on it because anyone who grew up in it, was educated in it, knows the truth; and that is that the supposed true church is not true. I will not bore you with the ridiculous advice I and my betrothed received while we were going through our pre-Cana counseling. That ridiculous advice came from our parishener sponsors and the priest who married us. After 28 years of marriage, I can assure you the advice they gave us was not accurate.

    I will stick with my former comment. I would rather be an evangelical and apologize with regards to the Ed Youngs out there than deal with the silliness I experienced through the years as a RC. Those who wish to convert only need look at the famous cradle to grave RCs to know what is in store for the children they will raise as RCs.

  19. Black Angus says:

    iMonk,
    It’s impossible to include everything in a single message or series. But I hope Pastor Young follows this up with a series on the high calling of singleness and wrestles with Jesus’ words about eunuchs born that way and those renouncing marriage for the sake of the kingdom (Matt 19:12).

    Or Paul’s desire that ‘I wish that all men were as I am’ (1 Cor 7:7) which I assume to mean single. Or in the next verse ‘It is good for the [unmarried] to stay unmarried.’

    Or a word to the married that it isn’t necessarily always fun and games: ‘those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.’ (1 Cor 7:28).

    I agree with you that for those who are not married, or who cannot take up the challenge it must have been excruciating to sit through those messages.

    Here in Australia churches pander to young families while singles and the elderly are either unconsciously or deliberately pushed to the side.

    A gimmick like this one doesn’t show pastoral sensitivity, even to the married.

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I wonder what 18 year old boys think about marriage when they hear about the 7 day challenge?

    What do couples who have sex once a week and like it that way think?

    What do people with six kids and no time think? — IMonk

    What does a 53-year-old virgin (who no woman ever found attractive) think?

    I’m glad last Sunday my church didn’t do a “Seven Day Sex Challenge”. Instead we had the Mass of Christ the King, ending the liturgical year with full bells-and-smells. (Somehow, Grinning Ed’s bed/ambo would have looked out-of-place against the black marble and white altarcloths of St Boniface’s main altar.)

    Oh, and Boethius, enlighten us a a bit on “famous cradle-to-grave RCs”. What curse do you claim is “in store for the children they will raise”?

  21. The problem with all of this is the use of God to get what you really want – in this case a great sex life.

    Consumerism is so much in the water that a lot of the time we don’t even notice it’s there any more. There’s nothing wrong with having a great sex life with your wife, but when God becomes the means of getting it then we start to commit the sin of idolatry. It’s a case of ‘Christ and ..’ or ‘turning a good thing into an ultimate thing’.

    This is my criticism of Mark Driscoll’s current series. I think Mark gives out a lot of good advice. He was careful to state up front “Many people think that marriage is primarily about making you happy, but God sees it primarily as a way of making you holy”. Still, I suspect that a fair few people couldn’t hold that disclaimer in their mind through the hour long presentation that follows.

  22. “Or does it matter what they think…as long as the sensational promotion gets the attention of the crowd.”

    Should we not preach that sinners go to hell because some people in the church have had unsaved loved ones die?

    Should we not teach that stealing is wrong because one guy makes his living stealing car radios?

    I think a number of the examples you gave are matters for personal counseling. They obviously have troubles. However, if we can’t teach on sensitive subjects because someone might be offended…why preach?

    I do need to ask one question about the media sensation raised over this 7 Day Challenge:

    If the Church is not prudish and disfunctional about sex, why does one pastor’s challenge to his own church strike the outside world as worthy of national news coverage?

    For what it’s worth, the unsaved I have heard talking about this are not mocking the church or Christianity. The overwhelming sentiment seems to be shock that a Christian would promote having sex.

    Feel free to moderate. It is, after all, not a public forum but your blog. One I appreciate having around to read.

    DD

  23. Your examples don’t seem to be matters of prudent pastoral sensitivity. They seem to be examples of extreme over sensitivity that go beyond reasonable consideration.

    The point I’ve tried to make all day is that we all teach on sex a lot. I certainly do. But a Seven Day Sex Challenge? If anything, that’s distracting from teaching. It creates another focus entirely.

  24. What's it like? says:

    Would it have escaped your hypercritical gaze, guv’nah, if Pastor Ed had called it the Seven-Day “Photography” Challenge?

    You know, candid. *wink* *wink*

    Know what I mean? Eh? Eh? *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* Say no MORE!

  25. Michael,

    1. Did Young say his motive was to attract more people or is this something your thinking is a safe assumption?

    2. Where was it that Young told his congregation that it was the will of God that everyone actually take up his challenge—regardless of age, medical condition, etc. etc.? I honestly thought he was just giving a “challenge,” similar to, say, a pastor challenging his people to spend extra time with their family each day of a certain week (like a Seven-Day Family Time Challenge). As I understand the language of “challenge,” it’s way different than telling your people that God has commanded everyone to do it, irrespective of their context, age, etc.

    3. If Ed Young’s point was that Paul commands for wives not to withhold themselves form their husbands and vice versa, a seven day challenge might be a little cheesy, but is it really “off topic”? What would be the level of topic-correspondence if he had done the “Seven Day Fasting Challenge” after preaching on, say, fasting in the Old Testament?

    In the one case, the Bible commands sex: “Do not withhold yourselves from one another…” (I Cor 7:5). In the other, the Bible doesn’t even command fasting (although one can make the argument that it’s implied that Jesus expected it based on Mark 2:20). I’m just not sure I understand how Ed is off topic in your perspective? Or are you just saying that it’s inappropriate?

    Hope you will see this as an opportunity to clarify your perspective so we aren’t so uncertain as to what it is your saying is wrong about Young’s “Challenge.”

  26. I want to have sex. When do I get to have sex?

    I’m single. I may never get married. It’s up to God. Maybe He wants me to stay single forever.

    So that means I’ll never have sex.

    Thanks for throwing it in my face, pastor. I’d rather read more about my (celibate) Jesus.

  27. And that “pastor” was directed to the grinning idiot, not you, Internet Monk :)

  28. Bradley:

    I have interacted way too much in this thread. We’re not playing the game of adding in a dozen or so extra pieces of information and subtleties so that no criticism is really all that appropriate.

    I didn’t say this was a criminal act. I, the author and officially representative of no one but myself, said that I found it embarassing, humiliating and a grab for publicity. I conclude that primarily from the CNN interview with Young and his wife.

    This business of acting like I’m not aware of the twenty ways this can look better if we just remember a few verses, etc is legalistic hairsplitting.

    So what if the Bible commands sex. Does Paul saying don’t deprive one another have anything to do with Young going on CNN with his wife and discussing how much intercourse they had?

    If this is just my 52 year old prudishness, then fine. Young’s POINT was whatever Young and his apologists say it is. As if there’s no spin on this intentionally provocative deal. This “Sex sermon from the bed” bit is going on all over the place: TBN had a guy doing it two months ago, the Relevant Church in Tampa, Driscoll answering questions about anal and oral. If you want context, look around at what’s going on in evangelicalism. They have been talking about sex non stop in these churches for the last 5 years. It’s guaranteed to put butts in the seats. ANd then you can tell them about Jesus. Right?

    Do I deny that? Do I say Young isn’t a Christian? Doesn’t plan to save all these people?

    I’m just saying it’s a humiliating and embarrassing tactic by a guy who shapes the aspirations and ideals of thousands and thousands of people.

    He’s not above criticism for the Sex Challenge.

    If Young was a traditional church pastor I could criticize him all day and the Young apologists would amen my every post. Let me say their guy screwed up…..uh…laid an….uh……made a mistake IN MY SOLO OPINION and it’s a big deal.

    If someone has something new and interesting to say, it better appear soon or I’m closing the discussion. We’ve all said out bit. So be it.

  29. It’s interesting, I put a few puns together in the fourth comment on this thread because Michael mentioned replacing ‘saved’ with ‘laid’ in his sermons and that set me off with a bit of a chuckle. I come back and we’re over a hundred comments and still going, and I’ve somehow become an example of post-evangelical group therapy. I was just being silly. As Ed Young appears to have been with this idea. It’s silly to put up a bed on stage and talk about your sex life. My father is a pastor, and if he had done something like that when I was growing up I would never have come to church again. And he wouldn’t have done it, because he respects his wife and the integrity of his church.

  30. 1. Anyone who doesn’t know Christians are in favor of sex in marriage is a complete imbecile.

    2. Josh S is entirely right: This shows why evangelicalism isn’t a serious religion of any kind. It’s now selling its product by way of orgasms.

    3. Would John Piper sit on a bed in his church and talk sex with his wife in front of the congregation?

    Or would he open the scriptures and deliver the Word of the Lord?

    I’m not a Piper-clone, but he does have a bead on the dignity and respect that goes with being a preacher.

    4. This entire stunt is a matter of subtly enforcing the idea that men can insist on sex from their wives any time and it is sinful to be refused. That’s the subtext and that’s the draw. Men get all the sex they want, no questions asked, in a Christian marriage.

    5. Someone ask a Muslim what they think of this. Missionaries: How would this go over in your sitting?

  31. Johan Huizinga wrote this in “Erasmus and the Age of Reformation” concerning Erasmus’ “The Praise of Folly”:

    “When are we beside ourselves? When the spirit breaks its fetters and tries to escape from its prison and aspires to liberty. That is madness, but it is also other-worldliness and the highest wisdom. True happiness is in selfishness, in the furore of lovers, whom Plato calls happiest of all. The more absolute love is, the greater and more rapturous the frenzy. Heavenly bliss itself is the greatest insanity; truly pious people enjoy its shallow on earth already in their meditations.”

    Personally, I find nothing of this in Ed Jones’ rule of “Thou shalt have sex everyday”. There is no spirit of love, freedom or spontaneity, but pure law, bondage to self, and morbidity. The last thing the world needs is more clockwork determinism.

    “When you’re lovers in a dangerous time,
    Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime,
    But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight,
    Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”
    – Bruce Cockburn