I’ve finished a book written by Rob Bell titled Sex God that is about “exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality.” I grabbed this off a bookshelf and started to read it, though I was a little embarrassed by the title.
It came out in 2007 and was a bestseller for a while so I am a little late on the uptake I suppose but it’s new to me. It was an awesome read and I definitely recommend the book to anyone.
I really enjoyed the writing style of the book as well. Bell writes very conversationally, as if he is standing behind the podium, speaking to an auditorium of listeners. Altogether, the pages number 175, not counting the endnotes, and the chapters are very brief making it a quick and easy read. The content is immediately and immensely thought provoking. I am itching to dialogue about it with someone.
On that note, there was one chapter in particular that interested me the most.
“Angels and Animals” is the third chapter in the book but I feel like each of the chapters could stand alone as a lesson of some kind, which is also another reason why I liked the book so much. Although there is a lot to glean from this section in particular, the conversation about the opposite ends of the sexuality spectrum intrigued me the most, especially because I grew up in the church with parents who were mainly conservative and traditional.
In this chapter, Bell presents two categories of people though I will be very blunt and paraphrase some of what he writes while still keeping the same idea. First, he paints a picture of the animal world that operates on “pure instinct,” without regard to a “higher plane” or “transcendent purpose.” He compares this to the party scene where consuming large amounts of alcohol and hooking up and having sex are the norm. He writes that
“These scenes aren’t just about partying and having a good time and hooking up with someone, they raise questions about what it means to be fully human. The temptation is to ignore your conscience or sense of higher purpose, sacrificing what it means to be human. Which leads a person to act much like… an animal. Are we just the sum of our urges?”
The life of hooking up and having sex with lots of people is comparable to that of being “an animal”, very primal and instinctual, feeding desires and urges but in the end leaving an individual unfulfilled and helpless. When I read this, I recognized with familiarity this common speech that was given to me by preachers and speakers alike as something to avoid in life. But I never really thought about the other end of the spectrum until now.
Bell then describes the opposite living this primal, “animal” life as being “an angel”. He gives an example of a boyfriend and a girlfriend he knows of who have no physical contact in their relationship although they have been dating for years, a son who was raised in a home “where sex was not talked about at all,” and a father who found out that his young daughter had been having sex with many men without his knowledge. He has some other stories that he uses as support for this main idea that “denying and stuffing and repressing never work because it’s a failure to acknowledge what is central to being a human being.” And what is central to being a human being is our sexuality: “Angels and animals. There are these two extremes, denying our sexuality or being driven by it, and then there’s the vast space in between.”
What was most interesting to me is the connection he makes between this and creation. In the book of Genesis, animals were created before humans and in the book of Job it says that angels were also created before humans. Now, before God created the world the earth was formless and void, in chaos and disorder. God brought order and harmony as he created more and more each day, creating more order in this way. Bell concludes the chapter with this:
“Angels were here before us. Animals were here before us. When we act like angels or animals, we’re acting like beings who were created before us. We’re going backward in creation…the wrong way…toward the chaos and disorder, not away from it… nothing involving sex exists independent of and disconnected from everything around it… which means we aren’t angels. And we aren’t animals.”
In my opinion, I think that what Bell talks about holds some truth, that behaving in a way that causes us to be driven by sex is not good and living a life that ignores it is also not good. And here I am speaking as a Christ follower that has grown up in the church. I think that the church, especially in my own life, has put a sort of taboo on the subject of sex and even any physical contact with the opposite sex.
And as I read the chapter, it dawned on me as to why I remember being so confused and distraught during my years in middle school and parts of high school. I think it was due to the mixed messages I was receiving from inside and outside my body. I felt as if I was being told not to feel as if I should hold her hand or hug her or like the smell of her hair or anything in fear, but I couldn’t help but feel that way sometimes and so I felt so ashamed sometimes. I’m not saying to accept sex and physical contact, but I mean, definitely not ignore it.
And I know it is a matter of personal choice and a little irrelevant to matters concerning salvation but still, I think it is quite an important matter, one that I feel the need to explain to those that come after me in hopes that I can calm some of the confusion. And I’m not saying that the church or my parents were wrong or bad for teaching me that—in fact, I am glad for it, because it definitely saved me from the hurt I saw many of my friends go through. I am saying though that maybe there should be some consideration in teaching about this dichotomy of “angels and animals” because I definitely think I will be teaching my kids something along these lines.
I admit to my little rant but we still have much to talk about. Please, I welcome discussion and conversation.