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Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!: Young Adults Speak…

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!: Young Adults Speak Out About Sexuality and…

by Heather Godsey

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At times when I feel especially honest, I will confess one of the reasons why I believe most teenagers and young adults are disaffected from Christian churches. I tick off three or four key issues that young people spend time and energy facing and then ask if the church ever directly speaks about those issues; usually, the answer is, "hardly ever."

At the top of the list of these key issues is sexuality and romantic relationships. While I'm not sure that young people spend as much time thinking about such things as conventional wisdom suggests -- 1 out of every 7 seconds -- I am confident that it is a key issue in their lives for many years. And despite the well-known Christian belief that God is love -- which is to say, God is the source, giver, example, and sustainer of love -- few churches ever explore love beyond fairly trite platitudes, at least as it relates to romantic love and sexuality.

In fits and starts, some people are trying to reintroduce the topic of romantic love and sexuality into religious conversation. One recent book on the subject, appropriately published in a series directed at teenagers and young adults, is "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!" Subtitled "Young Adults Speak Out About Sexuality & Christian Spirituality," the book offers ten essays that raise such issues as sexual education, casual sex, homosexuality, pornography, and infertility and consider what wisdom can be offered by Christian faith.

By far, the greatest strength of these essays is that they approach the delicate subject matter with directness, honesty, and appreciation of the discomfort that such issues cause many people. The ten contributors, most of whom are young ministers, offer reflections that are primarily personal testimonies, more interested in exploring personal approaches to these issues than in systematized assessments.

While I greatly admire the authenticity each writer brings, this approach leads to some unevenness between the essays, especially in how far they move beyond personal testimony. Given the sensitive subject matter for many readers, this disparity might lead some to be dismissive of the entire project, which would be unfortunate.

Consider how Christians teach the spiritual practice of giving, a sensitive subject that the church handles somewhat better than sexuality and romance. While some people offer powerful testimonies about how giving has positively impacted their lives, churches also share information about how giving affects those who receive the gifts, and churches offer countless opportunities to give. Testimony, by itself, is not enough.

Still, "Oh God…" is to be commended for its real effort to start conversations about faith and issues related to sexuality. Those who disregard the book because of its limitations will miss the opportunity to read some of the stronger essays here, including Lara Blackwood Pickrel's wonderful presentation of embodied faith and Sunny Buchanan Riding's touching account of the challenges of infertility and the grief and loneliness that few in the church know how to comfort or even how to approach.

The church desperately needs to reintegrate this issue into the midst of its teaching and life -- or we will continue to allow others to define what love looks like. We need more books like "Oh God…" which directly confront these sensitive issues, and we need people to read them and talk about them seriously.

This review is also published at http://alongthispilgrimsjourney.blogspot.com/2012/11/book-review-oh-god-oh-god-o... ( )
  ALincolnNut | Nov 21, 2012 |
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