Having grown up in the Dallas.Fort Worth area, I’m quite familiar with the Grapevine, Texas megachurch known as Fellowship Church. In fact, while my wife, Amy, was in seminary at TCU’s Brite Divinity School, we went to Grapevine to participate in one of their worship services.
Suffice it to say it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.
For starters, the place is HUGE. It demands very little of those taking part in worship. In fact, it all feels more like “theo-tainment” than worship. From the plasma screens in every corner to the snack bar in the narthex, stadium seating and a warm-up music act that included Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” and Nora Jones’ “Don’t Know Why,” I felt lulled into passive “receive mode” before the message, delivered by senior pastor Ed Young, finally came.
I should mention I’m not opposed to screens, a casual worship environment or even “secular” music in worship. But for me, the underlying question that always lingers is why are you doing it? Is it to deepen or broaden a worship experience, challenging participants to actively explore new ways of understanding or expressing their faith? Or is it more about making people happy, helping them feel good so they’ll drop a few bucks in the plate and come back next week?
But all of this is not really what I wanted to write about. it does, however, help establish some necessary context for it.
Ed Young and his wife, Lisa, have penned a new book called “Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse,” which is a sort of how-to guide for couples to rekindle intimacy in their marriage while remaining within the boundaries of Biblical virtues, as interpreted by the authors.
First off, I’m glad evangelicals are joining the sexuality discussion. Having helped create a series of books whose first title was focused on faith and sex/sexuality, I believe it’s of great importance that faith leaders speak in open, healthy ways about sexuality, sexual expression, attraction, and so on.
One of the most hyped points made in the book is that it encourages married couples to engage in their own “Sexperiment,” where they commit to having sex each day for a week. The theory is that this will renew physical and emotional intimacy, and also help reduce the urge for things like pornography.
Hey, sex for Jesus sounds like a no-brainer to me. Sign me up!
The biggest concern I have about the book is that it has such a narrow focus, dealing only with sex and sexuality as confined within opposite-sex marriages. Yes, as a married guy, I agree this is important. But to limit our discussion of sex in the faith arena to only this ignores many obvious issues that simply must be addressed as well, including:
*Sexual addiction (let’s be honest: having sex for a week doesn’t cure a sex addict any more than going on a bender helps an alcoholic ‘get it out of their system.’)
*Sexuality outside of marriage (even if you don’t agree with extramarital sex in any case, neglecting to address it head-on as a cultural reality, if not the norm, is an act of willful ignorance)
*Sexual abuse (again, pretending it’s not there or doing nothing about it is, as Walter Wink suggests, adding to the problem)
I could go on, but you get the idea. By focusing on the most easily digestible area of hetero-marital sex only, the authors ensure strong book sales without alienating those who don’t really want to talk about the “other stuff.” which brings me to the final issue…
Look, I’m an author, so I understand how important it is for authors to promote their own work. I do it all the time. But the Youngs’ plan to host a webcast of their 24-hour “Bed In” from the roof of their church flirts with sensational implications for the advantage of publicity, while not actually dealing with the hard issues.
Of course, we know that this ministry couple has no intentions of getting it on under the covers while the world watches, but I’ll bet you, when you saw the link to the video in the paragraph above about the event, you were tempted to take a peek, weren’t you? It’s okay, I was too. That’s why I’m writing this (and probably helping them with their sales in the process. Sheesh).
Anyway, the point is that Christians can’t have it both ways. We can’t use quasi-sexual sensationalism to promote our products, while also condemning the culture around us that does exactly the same thing. That, my friends, is hypocrisy in a nutshell.
Call it jealousy that I didn’t think of it first. Fine. But it’s a brazen stunt, playing on scintillating undertones, primarily with the goal of selling you books. I wonder if Jesus will show up during the bed-in to drive them out of the temple- er, I mean, church?
Guess we’ll all have to watch to find out.
Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in April 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.