Collaborative Review of “Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot” by Mo Isom

This is my first ever collaborative review which I am so excited to share.  Just as I began this read, a friend, mentor, minister, and coworker (?) shared she was reading as well.  We have recently begun meeting together for lunch which make up some of my favorite days.  So we met together to discuss this read and coauthored our review.

But let me start with my manners and first, introduce my friend Erin to you.

erin

Erin Moniz, M.Div. serves as the Assistant Chaplain and Director of Student Ministries at her alma mater, Berry College.  I first met Erin as a student and have since had the privilege of leading many ministry events and experiences alongside of her working in college ministry.  She has commiserated with and encouraged me in the Master’s of Divinity process while also serving as a safe place when those classes are not always the most welcoming for women.  I recently overheard a student in my kitchen describe Erin stating, “Ya know, she is the most badass minister I know.”  And I’m convinced nothing could describe her better.

Discussing Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot with Erin was a great dialogue as we approached this book both as women raised in the Church, working in ministry, yet one of us married and one of us single, both with different stories and experiences we brought to the literal table we were dining at.  Not to mention, I am an Enneagram 2 and Erin an Enneagram 8, so the balance was extremely beneficial and occasionally ironic.


What we loved about Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot was its honesty and candidness, specifically bringing into the light that Christian women struggle with pornography, masturbation, and sexual desires in general.  So many “struggles” of sexuality have been gendered as men’s issues in the Church, yet as Isom shares her story she openly reveals these are not only issues guys face and they are temptations girls are facing at extremely young ages.

Furthermore, Isom elaborates on the emphasis of abstinence and purity culture in the Church.  She shares from her own story that she crossed every line imaginable, yet sought to keep her “purity” in tact by only avoiding vaginal penetration.  While some may drop their jaw we just used such words on a blog, this is a common misconception that we have both heard from girls, describing their physical boundaries in dating relationships.  Isom highlights sexual purity is so much more and begins so much sooner, reaching to so many different areas of our lives.

We were thankful that Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations The Church Forgot acknowledged singleness, upholding its value as Scripture describes.  Yet, (Emily Katherine here-) Isom seems to explain singleness from the point of view of chosen singleness, never addressing those of us in a season of singleness that is not chosen or preferred.  She describes a season of singleness when she felt closer to the Lord than ever before and free of so many complications and complexities- yet this is more a chosen fast from dating and her only time of singleness according to her story.  (My single sisters, here’s your trigger warning.)

“We don’t need a partner to assign us value when we feel worthless.  We need a soul reawakened to its worth in our Father’s eyes.”

I, (Erin here-) valued Isom’s explanation that sex in marriage is not a magic thing that comes together just because you followed the rules of purity culture.  While Isom lacks a full emphasis on how a theology of intimacy creates the way for success in marriage, she at least dispels this HUGE myth we are still trying to sell people.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations The Church Forgot is a valuable read I have already recommended to mothers, small group leaders, and student ministry workers, specifically those who work with girls.  Yet, Erin and I ended our conversation by summarizing while we are so thankful for this book and the great conversations it has begun, this book is only an appetizer for what we were looking for.

Isom leads openly and honestly with her story throughout the text.  I (Emily Katherine) so valued her rawness and authenticity, yet this story driven nature sometimes led to theological points which drew me to check for her seminary education on the back of the book.  The story driven nature of Isom’s book to me (Erin) somewhat limited the issues that could be addressed by leaving out the narratives of victims of sexual abuse and narrowing the focus to one persons’ story, limiting the Church’s ability to respond with better conversations pertaining to sexuality.  The author takes so much personal responsibility for her struggle with sexual sin that she overlooks affects of her environment and family, perpetuating the Western narrative of private salvation overlooking the fullness of the message of the gospel which openly points to the effects of environment and generational sin, along with the Church’s role in sanctification.  Erin and I also discussed many students we counsel’s stories of sexuality include same sex attraction or wrestling with gender identity which were not even acknowledged as this book focuses on Isom’s story rather than issues of sexuality and Christianity as a whole.

nathan-walker-39137

Erin and I were extremely thankful, Isom aims a few arrows toward purity culture and offers some great examples of how it is falling vastly short in the conversations the Church offers regarding sexuality, especially for girls.  Yet, as Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot is driven by Isom’s narrative, it lacks in undoing some of the conversations the Church has had regarding sexuality, and providing recommendations of conversations the Church should be having.  Isom explains feeling isolated and alone, trying to fish for her Mom to see how many questions she had, offering a charge to the Church to step up, but between the pages I (Emily Katherine) found Isom less often explaining how the Church can better communicate about sexuality and rather continuing to describe through vivid details of her own story why sex outside of marriage is wrong and damaging.  And if I’m honest, that’s a conversation the Church has overdone.

We need a theology of intimacy.  A healthy and honest theology of gender, sexuality, identity, and a lack of fear of what is appropriate because individuals beginning at early, early ages are being told from every avenue what to believe about these things.  We have to stop separating boys and girls and using clichés, hoping their parents explain more.  Church, we cannot be silent in a sexually saturated culture.

Erin and I are thankful for Mo Isom’s courage to open up this issue and direct our attention to how the Church is or is not addressing sexuality and honored by her rawness in Sex, Jesus, and Conversations the Church Forgot.


FullSizeRenderThanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

A letter to my 16 year old daughter on sexuality

I’ve been hesitant to post this and really hesitant to post anything lately.  The Lord has been walking me on a sweet journey of seeing my inadequacies and being blessed by His grace.  Recently, I sat with a few 16 year olds to talk about sex.  What was weird to me was that in a world where they are so inundated with sexualized messages, they were uncomfortable having a conversation about how their bodies were created or what healthy sexuality looks like.  I think one of the worst responses the Church can have to the sexual revolution is silence.

As a project for one of my classes I had to write a letter to my daughter in various stages of life.  I really resonated with the sweet stage of adolescence, both as I work with teenagers and am so freshly emerging from it.

I don’t write this to share all of the wisdom I have or to claim to be an expert, especially in raising a daughter. These were my very honest thoughts that I’ve been encouraged to share.


 

My little girl,

Happy 16th birthday! It’s so hard to believe you’ve grown up so much. I can’t put words to how much I love you and how proud of you I am. You are so smart and so brave and so beautiful and I am so blessed that you are mine. I know this has been a hard year, but there’s a lot to learn from it that I want to share with you. New things have been happening with your body for the past few years, like I’m sure I sound like a broken record to be saying. I know sometimes you hate this. You hate when you really don’t feel like running in PE, but you feel like you can’t say anything to your teacher. You hate those breakouts that come once a month. You hate when your brother asks you if you’re on your period just because you’re frustrated with him. You hate the way that men look at you in restaurants or at the grocery store, because you’re just a little girl, my little girl! It’s also new that you really do desire to be with boys and many of your friends have started having sex. I am so proud of the commitment you have made to saving yourself for marriage. Thanks for being really open with me when that’s hard. I know where you are coming from probably so much more than you believe on all of these things. Yes, sometimes it feels like ALL of your friends are having sex. Sometimes it sucks to be a woman. And sometimes it’s confusing to know what to do with all of those feelings in this phase of life. Don’t forget just how many times we’ve talked about what a bad choice it is to be having sex right now. There is no magic eraser for STDs or the heartache that follows. Your choice is such a wise one that I am so grateful I made too. Also, don’t forget that I am always here when you want to talk about any of this. I know that you’ve been taught many messages between school and church about saving yourself for marriage, but remember there are some things they teach that are really sad and really not true. I know they’ve taught that boys are so full of testosterone and girls have to keep them in line. They told me the same things. The truth is I know you have sexual desires too. All girls do. You’re not weird. It’s completely biological and natural. And boys’ brains are not the pile of meat they are sometimes painted to be. Boys can be really deep and think really beautifully, so give them a chance to be. Also, Christians a lot of times like to teach you that purity is worth it for your husband. Let me get on my soap box here. Purity is important for you. Protect YOUR body and YOUR heart. They’ll go on and on with this idea about how your life begins when the right man pursues you, but your life began 16 years ago. You are not complete when this dream guy comes along, because the truth is he might not. You are just as significant and fulfilled in The Lord without any man.

I know it’s really hard right now that a lot of your friends are having sex. It’s especially hard when those girls are the ones getting guys attention and you’re not- despite how much I know you love hanging out with your dad and I on a Saturday night ;). When I was your age, I really struggled with believing that those guys weren’t giving me attention because I wasn’t pretty enough. I know we’ve talked your whole life about the standard our media sends us that is fake and unattainable and just plain mean, really. I love how comfortable you are in your body. I love watching you dance so freely at weddings, play so fiercely in your games, and just be so comfortable with your friends. But please please remember that when boys aren’t giving you attention because you won’t have sex with them or any of those risky steps along the way we’ve talked about, first, those aren’t guys whose attention you want. But second, your beauty is not defined by their attention or their attraction. The wounds sink deep when you see all of your friends around you with guys when you really want a guys’ attention, but never for a second believe that they would give you attention if ___________________. You never have to change anything about you for the right guy. It’s tempting to meet this need for attention with other things that we’ve talked about too like sexting or looking at porn. I know right now you’re rolling your eyes a little like “oh my gosh, mom, shut up. You literally talk about this all the time.” and I love that you can hear my voice in your head when you start to think about those things. Remember that any image you send never goes away and while it feels like no big deal in the moment, it is. We’ve talked about how porn is so disgusting and can do a lot of really bad things. Baby, it’s a nasty industry full of nasty people and we just can’t support it. Yes, you desire sex. You were created that way. And one day, if you are going to get married, you’ll have an outlet for that passion, but don’t let porn be your outlet, by either becoming it or watching it. You heart is worth so much more than that.

Yes, there has been some conflict with your friends. Girls can be so sweet but also so mean. Let me first remind you to always be a good friend like I’ve seen you be your whole life. So just like we’ve talked about above, girls are making many bad choices at your age and in your social circles. This is not a time to abandon them or to talk about them. Girls are really bad about being emotional bullies. Be a friend.

I hate that we live in a world where we have to talk about these things, but unfortunately they are a part of life. Know you can always talk to me about anything!! I feel like I was just in your shoes.