In today’s New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer has a story about an evangelical couple who, in their early 20s, wrote a book advocating natural family planning (that’s a euphemism for abstaining from intercourse, or pulling out early, when the woman is ovulating — or simply having a bunch of kids).
Now, a few years later, the couple is divorced with shared custody. They’ve left evangelicalism — they each attend prog-liberal churches — and they have publicly repudiated their book. They’ve asked Eerdmans to take it out of print (oddly, the article notes that it will never be available as a Kindle book, but it already is).
It’s a short article, so there’s not much nuance. But the moral of the story seems to be: Christians in their 20s shouldn’t write books. (At least not books that advocate theological or moral positions — if you wanna write a book about, say, how to get better gas mileage, I guess that’d be okay.)
For a while now, I’ve had a semi-rule-of-thumb that I will not endorse books by authors under the age of 30. I realize that means I may miss the opportunity to endorse the next Lauren Winner, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take. That’s because I think the world needs another I-went-to-Moody-Bible-Institute-but-now-I’m-progressive memoir like I need another hole in my head.
Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Jane Smiley (author of the haunting, Shakespearian, Pulitzer Prize-winner, A Thousand Acres) gives Frank Schaeffer’s new book, Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway a great review. Frank, whom I recently met at Wild Goose, did some stuff as an evangelical in his 20s that he now regrets. He wrote about that powerfully and humorously in Crazy for God, and now he’s taken a different tack on the same story:
Frank seems to have been born irreverent, but his memoirs have a serious purpose, and that is to expose the insanity and the corruption of what has become a powerful and frightening force in American politics. He considers himself an eyewitness to the insanity during his childhood, and an eyewitness to the corruption during his early adulthood. The root of both, according to this book, is the perverse and destructive view that the “God-of-the-Bible” takes of women and sexuality — that women are inherently corrupt and that their sexuality must be controlled by men. Frank’s point in “Sex, Mom, and God” is that female sexuality is at the heart of the abortion debate that energized the religious right, and he asserts, from his experience of both his very troubled father and himself, that profound anxiety about women and hypocrisy about the sex drive shape the evangelical bid for power in the United States. [READ THE REST]
Courtney is currently reading Frank’s book, and repeatedly laughing out loud. I get it next.