Evangelicals and "hot sex": Lisa Miller talks religion

Nov 10, 2011

Are Evangelicals experiencing a sexual revolution?

Religion columnist Lisa Miller discussed this in an online chat Thursday, Nov. 10.

In her column Thursday, Nov. 10, religion columnist Lisa Miller took a look at Rick Warren and other prominent Christian leaders who are promoting the joys of married sex.

Writes Miller: "Evangelical Christians want to talk about sex. And not in the same old punitive way. They want to talk about hot sex -- as long as it's between a man and a woman who are husband and wife."

Hello - I have heard ministers, priests and rabbis speak with enthusiasm about the depth, joy, and intensity of married sex. It was a major topic in Engaged Encounter in the late 1980s. Rabbi Schmuley discusses this in his books. I enjoy your work and your piece was good - but this is not new. Those who drowned out faithful people with anti-Christian blather about uptight (or worse) believers have had the microphone for too long. Those haters have been wrong about this for a long time.

It's not new in religion -- you are right about Rabbi Schmuley -- but it's new in evangelical circles.  Do you remember the Every Man's Battle series? These were incredibly popular books and they were all about "fighting temptation."

doryo writes: "Rick Warren is a business man. His business is pop psychology and spiritual hokum. And he's all about building "the business" by keeping the pews filled and the coffers brimming with bucks. Of COURSE he's going to talk about sex. I'm surprised he hasn't installed a stripper pole in the fellowship hall or offered demonstration/training like John Cleese as the headmaster in 'Monty Python's Meaning of Life.'" Thoughts?

I have heard Warren on marriage and think he is  convincing. He has a "warts and all" approach to talking about marriage that is both warm and realistic. He once said to me, "Before marriage, opposites attract. After marriage, opposites attack." In other words, he doesn't sentimentalize marriage nor do he and Kay act as though they have any perfect arrangement.  I think his discourses on marriage are one of his great strengths.

Why did you have to criticize Warren and others at the end of their article for "falling short" by failing to endorse what their faith and religion teaches them is sinful conduct (sex between people of the same gender)? It always seems like the only way Bible-believing Christians can be seen as "tolerant" by mainstream religion writers and others would be to change what the Bible teaches to fit the current culture.

As a columnist, I believe it's my job to express my opinion, and it is my opinion that gay love ought not to fall outside the parameters of "legitimate" love. I have been repeatedly on the record on this.


How do Evangelicals square the call for 'hot married sex' with their constant attack on birth control? In my state, Planned Parenthood (where I get my pills, not abortions!) has their funding constantly under attack by elected evangelicals. I understand their argument about abortion, truly I do. But birth control? Really?

This has come up a lot in recent chats, and I want to correct the record. Protestants -- including evangelicals -- tend (and I'm speaking very broadly here) not to oppose birth control. Catholics oppose birth control (except for the rhythm method). Evangelicals don't like sex outside of marriage, and politically they have seen places like Planned Parenthood, which advocate for sex education in schools and making contraceptives easily available to  teenagers, as a threat to those beliefs. But they don't oppose birth control, per se. 

I've never head anyone say Christians don't like sex. I'd say the exploits of Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, et al shows otherwise.

All these men have wives whose sexual satisfaction was obviously not foremost in their husbands' minds.

Whoa! The every man's battle books & workshops are about porn & sex addiction, and adultery. It's a noble effort, perhaps imperfect. I know the material - it does not oppose married sex! In any way, just the opposite. Seeks to return healthy sexual function and impulse to one's spouse. It's no secret! Look it up. Pls. correct this misstatement.

Yes, these books are about porn addiction but their underlying message is "temptation is bad." Read Keller's book. You will see a very thoughtful and modern exegesis of temptation and men's desire that doesn't come across as punitive and prudish but still holds the traditional line by endorsing sex within marriage.

This makes monogamy over decades virtually impossible.

Keller and Warren would say that monogamy over decades is fruitful and desireable.


I can not for the life of me remember anyone every saying 'uptight beleivers' Christians don't like sex. Does the poster have a link or citation? If people didn't like sex, we wouldn't have any babies, lol!

Um... correcting the record here, too. women don't have to like sex to have babies.

Having a quickie now?

nope. a sandwich.

It's not that new. I've been attending an evangelical Christian church for more than a decade, and the topic of a happy sex life within the confines of marriage has come up quite a few times. I'm glad to see it also meets with the approval of people who also seem quite eager to say the Bible is wrong.

The important point here is that young people have been very unhappy with the way older generations of Christians have been talking about/teaching about sex (including homosexuality) and so they're defying their church and acting like everyone else.  This is a real problem for the church and to talk about sex in a frank and open way is perhaps to keep the church doors open to younger people. Remember that Keller's main audience is single people, not marrieds.

ok, folks. that's it for me this week. see you next week, same time, same place. you can follow me on twitter  @lisaxmiller or on Facebook.

a few new questions came in so i'm sticking around...

It's good Christians are recapturing some of what Song of Solomon lays in out in fairly explicit language...it's clearly more than just an interpretation of the union of Christ and the church there. For too long the book was skipped over in regular preaching at most churches.

You should check out a newish book by Boston University Bible scholar Jennifer Knust called "Unprotected Texts," in which she mines the Bible for verses that celebrate sex, that perhaps condone sex between same-sex couples, that praise women for sexual independence.  In that same book, she also points out how ruthless men were with regard to sex with women: including stories in which men give their daughters and sisters to other men for sex.  The Bible is a very confusing guide on matters of sex, for sure.

Er, so how is the everyman's battle lumped in here? They oppose porn & sex addiction. Not opposed to married sex, but helping men battle temptation for porn. Do you see otherwise?


He didnt' say they have to be husband and wife to each other, lol! Seriously, that is the sort of reading between the line that is always used to justify extreme beliefs, so why not condone affairs as well?

There are Bible scholars who would say that the verse he quotes -- 1 Corinthians 7 -- is (if you read the whole thing) actually the place where Paul talks about marriage as a necessary prophylactic to other kinds of illicit desires. What he's really saying (they would argue) is that people should really be celibate, as he is, but if they can't do that, they should get married so they're not doing bad stuff. It's not -- these same scholars would argue -- a celebration of sexy married love.

I was a Catholic in the 90s, an evangelical Christian church attendee since the turn of the century. In those 20 years, I've read a lot more from mainstream religion writers about the two organizations' teaching on homosexuality than I heard from the pulpit. I guess it makes for more interesting copy than things like salvation, tithing, good works, care for the poor, etc.

Rick Warren's the one talking about sex (not homosexuality) with half a million folks on his Twitter feed, not me.


ok, now I'm really signing off. see you next week.

In This Chat
Lisa Miller
Lisa Miller is a contributing editor at New York magazine and the author of "Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife." She was a senior editor at Newsweek, overseeing the magazine's religion coverage, writing the weekly "Belief Watch" column and editing Newsweek's prominent "Spirituality in America" double issue.

Before joining Newsweek, Miller covered religion for The Wall Street Journal. She has also worked with The New Yorker, Self magazine and Harvard Business Review.

An award-winning journalist, she is the recipient of the 2010 Wilbur Award for outstanding magazine column. She is a frequent guest on television and radio, including the Colbert Report, the O'Reilly Factor, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, NPR and others.
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