Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reading: Sex God by Rob Bell

Going into this read was a bit of a daunting task.  The title of this book alone is something controversial yet also humorous to some.  I'd heard a lot of bad things about Rob Bell previous to reading this book.  I watched a trailer for his new book on YouTube and there were tons of comments from people who were casting hate at Bell for being a heretic.  This made me nervous and feeling a bit mislead.  I bought quite a few of Bell's books online and was afraid I had wasted my money.  Of course I had already read his short book Drops Like Stars but that was a bit of a let down and didn't help Bell's case.  Thankfully, I was proved wrong.
Rob Bell's Sex God, according to Publisher's Weekly, isn't "a sex manual, an exploration of the differences between men and women, or a marriage how-to, though all of that is here.  Instead, it's the story of God becoming human, of humans mirroring God and love made manifest in the chaos of our humanity.  This book joyfully ties, and then tightens, the knot between God and humankind."  Another review from Christianity Today states, "While most books about sex for dating Christians begin and end with 'don't,' Bell outlines the bigger picture of human relationships and what they can teach us about God's character."  These two reviews seem to sum it up beautifully.  Bell takes all your preconceptions about God, sex, and what the bible says about sex, and he talks about it in an authentic language that is scarcely seen in theological texts today.  Sex has become something to be ashamed of in the church.  In society, it has become a form of recreation.  Kids learn about it mostly through the media and are told that sex equals your self worth - the more you get, the happier you will be.  If parents talk to their kids about it, they only tell them to not do it and when asked why, they are provided with broad answers that don't really get to the heart of the actual answer.  I could go on and on but I think it is needless to say, sex is a confusing topic in general.

“When a human being is mistreated, objectified, or neglected, when they are treated as less than human, these actions are actions against God.  Because how you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.”
Bell doesn't just talk about the physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of love making though.  On the contrary, he talks about sexuality as a whole by bringing in passages from the bible and comparing them to our modern day reality.  He tackles many important questions that are often never mentioned when discussed in secular culture nor when discussed (if it is even discussed at all) in the church.  Bell talks about how sex is an important aspect of love and is essential to a couple that has committed their lives to one another.  Another thing I loved about this book was how Bell made it
clear that God is not just a dude sitting on a cloud waiting for you to visit him on Sunday's and do lots of good deeds for self righteousness.  God, in fact, is everywhere.  He exists in the most mundane of places and in the most holy of places.  God can not be defined or put into a box yet throughout human history, that is all we have tried to do.  God is many things but the one thing he is not is clearly definable.  Bell channels this idea in his book and makes it clear that faith is more than religion.
Although sometimes Bell seems to go off topic, he always brings his area of discussion back in full circle by the end of each chapter, leaving the reader to feel satisfied and enlightened, for Bell makes connections that I have never imagined before and he brings up points that I never knew existed in the topic of sex.

“What is so striking is how unsexual that whole section of the city (where prostitution is legal in Amsterdam known as the Red Light District) is.  There are lots of people 'having sex' night and day, but that’s all it is.  There’s no connection.  That’s, actually, the only way it works.  They agree to a certain fee for certain acts performed, she performs them, he pays her, and then they part ways.  The only way they would ever see each other again is on the slim probability that he would return and they would repeat this transaction.  There’s no connection whatsoever.  If she for a moment connected with him in any other way than the strictly physical, it would put her job, and therefore her financial security, in jeopardy.  And so in the Red Light District there’s a lot of physical interaction and no connection.  There are lots of people having lots of physical sex – for some it’s their job – and yet it’s not a very sexual place at all.  There’s even a phrase that people use with a straight face – 'casual sex.'  The rationale is often, 'It’s just sex.'  Exactly.  When it’s just sex, then that’s all it is.  It leaves the person deeply unconnected.  You can be having sex with many, and yet you’re alone.  And the more sex you have, the more alone you are.”
The book is set up in an assortment of many small paragraphs following one after the other, making it is a fast read.  It is fairly obvious that Bell is trying too hard when it comes to chapter titles and making points.  While his points are always valid ones, he always tries to end a paragraph with a closing statement, a clever turn of phrase, that is intended to leave the reader in awe but these ending sentences usually made me laugh not because of their content but because of how the content was executed.  The same can be said about the chapter titles.  Bell tries to shake things up with chapter titles such as "she ran into the girls bathroom" and "whoopee forever" and the titles make sense once Bell makes the connection but by the next day, I had a hard time remembering how the titles were relevant and therefore sometimes would forget what points Bell had made in the first place.
Overall, this book was an excellent read though.  It clears up a lot of misconceptions about God and sex that needs to be discussed not only by the church but by the general public.  It is a must read!  I will give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

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