Just sex: Is it ever just sex?
IVP; 224 pages; £9.99; ISBN: 978-1-84474-371-1
This book opens with four pages of glowing commendations by a dozen evangelical worthies. Is it really that good? Yes, it is good!
The author is a researcher at the Jubilee Centre in Cambridge, famous for its past campaigns, including Keep Sunday Special, handling debt and relational order. Although the book is primarily about sex, it is the latter of these three topics that is the book’s encompassing theme. Relational order is both the mirror and antidote to our culture’s current enthusiasm for destructive sex.
All of us can (and do) bemoan society’s sexual chaos – free condoms for children, widespread cohabitation and adultery, devaluation of marriage and excessive media coverage. Guy Brandon rightly diagnoses these as just symptoms, while confirming the ‘me-culture’ as the real disease. Such an analysis should constrain us to seek the genuine cure.
The cure, according to Brandon, is found in relational order. He begins: ‘Christianity is, strikingly, a relational religion’. This grand theme is then filled out throughout the book. The studies examine the ‘golden rule’ of Matthew 22 and the nature of real ‘shalom’ [peace/wholeness]. These principles are seen to embrace all of our relationships, be they with God, family, neighbour; or in business, justice, health, education or finance. Sex must be included within this big relational framework.
In terms of sex, Brandon is clear. Sex is a gift from God, but it is neither consequence-free nor responsibility-free. Furthermore, consent alone between two adults is never a sufficient basis for justifying sexual intercourse. Such sub-standard behaviour, wherever it occurs, has a rippling effect that is corrosive to a whole pool of current and future relationships.
By contrast, relational order fosters wholesome personal development and social stability. This is the Christian response to our sad, sex-obsessed world. Brandon is in no doubt that this biblical concept could and should be incorporated into public policy.
There are some quibbles. The writing is not always clear; it is sometimes repetitive, and the book needs an index. In addition, some readers will baulk at the seemingly soft approach to homosexual relationships, cohabiting relationships, sex before marriage, the idea that family is more significant than marriage, and the disapproval of children who seek employment away from the parental home.
This book will jolt some of your prejudices and challenge you to reconsider how you relate to people in our fallen world in both sexual and non-sexual contexts.
John R. Ling