THE REED: What inspired you to write the book?
David Jensen: What inspired me to write the book was an increasing sense of frustration about how many of the Christian churches discussed issues of sexuality. Many of them just zero in on the question of homosexuality and how that relates to discussions of marriage and ordination and those kinds of things. What I try to do is take a small step back from some of the hot-button topics that divide churches and basically frame the question of what is human sexuality for in God’s world?
So what I’m up to in the book is seeking a better understanding of the nature, purpose, and meaning of human sexuality that helps us address some of the hot-button issues. I look at scripture and some of the basic Christian doctrines—God, creation, Jesus Christ, the Sacraments—and reflect on the significance of those beliefs for our understanding of the human sexual person.
TR: So Fifty Shades of Grey wasn’t an inspiration.
DJ: Not direct inspiration. (Laughs.) But the enormous popularity of that book points to a hunger in culture about the meaning and purpose of human sexuality. That phenomenon didn’t directly inspire the book but it points to something in the culture that we have to pay attention to.
TR: There seems to be a stigma attached to sexuality within the United States.
DJ: Particularly within the Christian churches.
TR: Why do you think there’s a taboo?
DJ: Sometimes I jokingly say that it all goes back to those people who wore funny hats and migrated to New England. (Laughs.) The Puritan influence in American culture, I think, is still quite tangible. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, and the way in which that community wrestled with human sexuality and labeled those who fell outside the parameters of what was acceptable, still has a lasting impact on our culture.
It’s a really good question that has complicated answers. There’s not one main reason why Americans are so reticent to speak about sex in certain contexts. We’re quiet about it in church and we’re quiet about it in the workplace, but then it erupts in different ways. Pop culture, talk TV, Fifty Shades of Grey, pay-per-view television, and all sort of things. So being quiet about it in certain venues leads to a tidal wave of stuff in other venues and much of it not particularly healthy. The American pornography industry is a prominent example of that. So we spend, as a nation, an enormous amount of dollars on that, and yet we don’t talk about sex in the churches. I think the churches might be a more productive place, a more reflective and healthy place, a more thoughtful place to have those kinds of discussions and reflections. So maybe what I’m trying to do is to channel some of that in a direction that I think might be helpful for our life as a nation.
God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality is available for purchase online now.