I finished reading Rob Bell’s book Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality And Spirituality yesterday. I continue to be amazed at how much Rob continues to rock my world. But before I get into that, I want to first off all calm everyones fear and help them understand the purpose behind his book. This section is from the introduction of his book.
It’s always about something else.
Something deeper. Something behind it all. You can’t talk about sexuality without talking about how we were made. And that will inevitably lead you to who made us. At some point you have to talk about God.
Sex. God. They’re connected. And they can’t be separated. Where the one is, you will always find the other. This is a book about how sexuality is the “this” and spirituality is the “that.” To make sense of the one, we have to explore the other.
And that is what this book is about.
You may remember that I had gone to the Q+A Session with Rob Bell, which was a part of the book tour for this book. And because I had gone to that, I was able to acquire this book before it’s official release. This book is just as easy a read as his first book Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith was. Rob has a way to word things that just draws you in and you learn so much in the process. And I love how Rob connects things back with the Old Testament and how things were done back in the ancient times. And that shows you just how everything is connected, much like how sexuality and spirituality are connected.
When I first heard about the name of this book, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical, but I wanted to give it a chance anyway and see what he had to say. As I scanned through the table of contents a couple of chapter titles caught my attention: God Wears Lipstick; Leather, Whips, and Fruit; and Under The Chuppah. And those happen to be the three chapters that I did find the most intriguing. The other chapter that ended up really intrigued me was, Worth Dying For.
In God Wears Lipstick Rob talks about how in 1945 at one of the German concentration camps that were liberated there was people who were dying everywhere from the after effects of being so mistreated. The things that went on in those camps were anti-human and that as bearers of God’s divine image we should not be treated that way and we should especially not treat one another that way. But the sad reality is that humans have done some of the most vile and despicable things to one another. When the reality is that we are really all equal, there is essentially not much difference from worst of sinners to the best Christian, we are all equal, we are all human. But instead we have reduced the human-ness in others by the way that we treat one another and one of the biggest examples of this is the holocaust. As Rob goes on in this chapter he continues this story and it mentions that for some reason the British Red Cross has sent over large quantities of red lipstick. What use does red lipstick have for people who are dying? Well, for many of the women it meant a whole bunch, because it meant that they were no longer just a number that was tattooed on their arm, but they were now individuals.
In Leather, Whips, and Fruit Rob talks about lust and original sin and how they are really connected and in essence the same thing. The Bible says that Eve “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Genesis 3:6 – TNIV), which when you really break it down is the essence of lust. When we lust we are finding something that pleases us and we take it. But somehow we are misguided and we feel that this gives us control and power, when the reality is that it enslaves us. And Rob talks about that in this chapter. The problem that started in the garden with Adam and Eve isn’t just what lust did to us, but where it led us. God created us to appreciate things like taste, touch, smells, etc., but we have taken these things and twisted them. Those things are good, but when you couple it with lust then they become damaging to yourself and to others. Instead we need to discover how it is that God wants us to use those things for His benefit and the benefit of others.
In Worth Dying For, Rob talks about marriage and how the picture of marriage is really a picture of heaven. And I could not agree more. I am so glad that Rob devoted a chapter of his book talking about on of my favorite subjects. People close to me know that I love marriage and I love talking with people about it and helping them out in theirs. In this chapter he brings up one of the most famous verses regarding marriage and talks about how it has been abused. Men love to bring up how the Bible says that wives are supposed to submit to their husbands. But men love to avoid the passage where it talks about how husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, whom He died for. Rob pointed out an interesting thing about that part. The word love in that passage is the word “agape“, which in short means “to give”. And that is the kind of love that a man should have for his wife, a love that gives. Which is the opposite of lust, which just gets. The ultimate question that I ask grooms when I do weddings is if they are ready to die for their wife. She should be worth dying for.
In Under The Chuppah (HOO-pah) Rob talks about the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, which takes place under a chuppah. Which is essentially a canopy of sheet held up by four poles. This is symbolic of how God covered Israel in the wilderness for 40 years with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. But what it really cool about all of this is how in the beginning of the Exodus story, Moses makes four promises to the slaves.
“I will take you out.”
“I will rescue you.”
“I will redeem you.”
“I will take you with me.”
And those are the exact four promises that a Jewish groom makes to his Jewish bride under the chuppah. Rob points out how this is wedding language. Marriage and wedding language is seen throughout the Bible as God relates with His people. That is why I believe that marriage is so important and fundamental to the health of the Church. But that is not to the exclusion of people that God calls to be single, because their relationship with Christ and connection with Him is just as important.
But there is something significant to marriage and weddings that God wants us to get here. What I also found interesting is that after the wedding ceremony a couple was not considered married until after they had sex, so the bride and groom would be ushered by the wedding party to the bridal chamber and the chuppah would be attached above their bed. Then the party would leave them, so the couple could consummate their marriage. While everyone waited outside. Now I know my wife would not be cool with this idea if I had suggested it to her, but there is something unique and special about that union that God wants us to get.
And that goes back to Rob’s original statement about how sexuality and spirituality are connected. The Bible is rich with this kind of imagery and I never got it until Rob pointed it out in his book. I recommend this book very highly like I do Rob’s other book. But as Rob says, “Test it. Probe it. Do that to this book. Don’t swallow it uncritically. Think about it. Wrestle with it. Just because I’m a Christian and I’m trying to articulate a Christian worldview doesn’t mean I’ve got it nailed.” And I encourage you to do that. Don’t dismiss it because it is Rob Bell and he is “emergent”, but check it out for yourself and see if maybe God will speak to you. Even if you only get a few things out of it and nothing from the rest.