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The best book I’ve read on sex from a (liberal) Christian perspective is Good Christian Sex by UCC pastor Bromleigh McCleneghan.  I met and befriended Bromleigh earlier this year and really enjoyed reading her book.  This is a good book. A helpful book. Even a fun book.

McCleneghan states that her goal is to “lay out some of the theological and ethical questions that arise in your average, everyday experience of adult sexuality, and to walk readers through those discussions in a clear and engaging way.” I think she achieves her goal. Her authorial voice is funny and relatable, as she uses her own stories and experiences to explore pleasure, intimacy, being single, dealing with exes, being married, etc.

The best children’s resource I’ve used is Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg.  As the book advertises itself, “Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy.”

If you aren’t acquainted with Esther Perel, you should be.  In her books, podcasts, TEDTalks, and more she’s become one of the leading voices on sexuality and relationships.  Maybe a good place to start is her On Being interview with Krista Tippett.  Her podcast Where Should We Begin? , in which she modeled her therapeutic approach with various couples dealing with a wide range of issues, was revelatory, and her book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence ought to be required reading for anyone in or seeking a long-term relationship.

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Abuse: Reading the Bible with Survivors by Elaine Heath is a good, helpful book for survivors.  Each chapter is rooted in a Biblical story, and Heath explores the messages of liberation and healing to be gained from them.  Each chapter also ends with opportunities for reflection and recommendations for activities, including movies to watch, books to read, and things to create.

My favorite poet, Wendell Berry, is also famous for his essays, usually critical of much in contemporary American life.  One of his classic essays, published in a book by the same name, is “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community.”  Berry criticizes an approach to sexuality that is “neither erotic nor social nor sacramental.”  Instead he seeks to elevate the gift-giving nature of sexual love, which defies much in the current social and economic models of the nation.  As he writes, “it involves and requires a giving away of the self that if not honored and reciprocated, inevitably reduces dignity and self-respect.”

If you want to explore theological and philosophical discussions of sexuality, there are many (some of them insightful while also dense like Michel Foucault’s three volume History of Sexuality).  Here are a few I’d recommend:

Christine E. Gudorf’s Body, Sex, and Pleasure: Reconstructing Christian Sexual Ethics I read almost a quarter century ago, and it remains foundational in my own approaches to the topic.

Sex and intimacy are only part of this book, but Simon May’s Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion is excellent.  Love is “the joy inspired by whomever or whatever we experience as rooting, or as promising to root, our life.”  He reviews the traditional accounts of love in Western culture and finds them to be incoherent or inadequate to our time. He also shows how the modern development of romantic love tried to turn that love into a secularized version of divine love in a way that is impossible for humans and could only lead to disappointment.

From a queer theology perspective, I like the books of Patrick Cheng.  A deeply intellectual approach can be found in Yale professor Dale B. Martin’s Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation, which is a book about how we read and interpret the Bible that takes sex and gender as the topic by which to explore that, and advocates a queer reading (only one possible queer reading, as our late friend, the queer scholar Ted Jennings didn’t care for Martin’s approach at all).

Back in the early Aughts when I was doing a lot of research and study into the theology of sex, two of the most helpful books were more general theology books that included discussions of sex.  But both discussed the ways that sex is spiritual and connects us to God.  Jürgen Moltmann’s In the End–The Beginning: The Life of Hope rejoiced that sex was one of the ways we experience eternal life.  And James McClendon’s three volume Systemic Theology surprised in many ways, turning centuries of academic traditions upside down, and one of those was that he explores as the first topics of theology bodily ethics and sexual love.  He also concludes his third volume with a celebration that the goal of creation is “ecstatic fellowship” revealed in the Trinity and most easily experienced in sexual union.  He writes, “God is love, and to the extent that we love (who would narrow the sense of the term here?), to that extent we abide in God, and he in us.”


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