Relationships rather than sex

Kara Martin
June , 2011

A review of Sex and the iWorld by Dale S. Kuehne

When the openly homosexual Rev. Gene Robinson was made a Bishop in 2003, people and the press turned to Dale Kuehne for a comment. As a Professor in Politics as well as a practising pastor, Kuehne was seen as someone who should have something to say. His response was to research and write this book, because he wanted to meditate not only on what was occurring, but why it occurred, and what an alternative future might be.

He begins with a description of the tWorld, the traditional world, perhaps best encapsulated in movies and TV shows from the 1950s. Although the traditional world was based partly on Christian values, it was also influenced by Graeco-Roman values, and historical events. Many conservative Christian commentators seem to advocate going back to the tWorld, with its cherishing of marriage and family, but Kuehne argues that it is impossible to go back, and perhaps not even advisable.

Although the traditional world was generally good for men, it was often a place of limited choice for women; and many issues of abuse, especially of children, were covered up or ignored.

With the sexual revolution of the 1960s, as well as the increasing availability of safe and dependable contraception, we have seen an explosion of experimentation with sexuality and challenges to gender stereotypes. Coupled with an increasing focus on the individual, from personal stereos to living arrangements, this has led to the iWorld. Kuehne suggests that anything goes in the iWorld except for behaviour that contravenes three taboos:

1. One may not criticise someone’s life choices or behaviour
2. One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others
3. One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent

These taboos clarify why existing Christian responses to issues of sexual morality issues garner either criticism or mockery. Christians do not have the right to criticise the choices of others, we are seen as coercive, and we want to apply a limit on sexual freedom beyond consent.

The problem with these taboos as rules guiding morality is that they can be easily manipulated to embrace an ever-widening set of behaviours. Is paedophilia okay if there is consent? Kuehne suggests a range of changes we will see coming in the next 15 years:

• Government support for the widest variety of sexual lifestyles
• Decriminalising all forms of consensual sexual relationship, including lowering the age of consent
• Transforming marriage into a contractual relationship of consent
• Redefining family; including an increasing role of the state in caring for unwanted children
• Expanding child creation capacity
• Facilitating change of sex and genetic traits
• Neutering humanity, as boundaries between genders become increasingly blurred

While this might seem a horrifying scenario for Christians, it is entirely plausible. In recent weeks there have been increasing news reports about the pressures on the government in terms of the number of children on the watchlist of the Department of Community Services; and the desperate need for foster families to care for unwanted children. These are natural outcomes of a society that promotes individual and sexual freedom, along with a lack of responsibility for the consequences.

The alternative presented by Kuehne is not a return to the tWorld, but a move to the rWorld: a society based on the relationship principles of the Bible.

Through a systematic analysis of biblical texts Kuehne established that we were created NOT as individuals, but as man or woman, created for relationship with God and others. He asserts that fulfilment is not to be found in sex, but in the love and intimacy of holistic relationship:

The rWorld maintains that humans find our greatest fulfilment and satisfaction in cultivating our soul and our ability to love God and neighbour intimately… Sexuality is not an important part of this equation, not because sex is a bad thing but simply because sex is not an essential aspect of the deepest and most fulfilling relational life that is found in a spiritual connection with God and others.

Kuehne then suggests some steps we can take to move toward the rWorld:

1. Making relationships and not ‘I’ the priority of our lives
2. Joining with others to help support one another in the new way of life; including advocating for public policy that supports relationships including:
• Relational freedom to develop healthy and mature relationships, and have the skills to do so. This includes a movement in schools away from a focus on individual choice to moral and relational responsibility.
• Gender distinctiveness, which doesn’t mean returning women to the restrictive roles of the past; but to celebrate our differences and the way that men and women complement each other
• Boundaries on sexual relations, to teach self control of our sexual drive, to restrict the rate of abortion as well as children born to those not in a secure relationship
• Promotion of marriage as a lifetime union between a man and a woman, that exists to serve the family and society
• Time and money in their perspective, to serve relationships rather than stifle them. Kuehne points out that to have healthy relationships we need to spend time on them, which usually means working less.

This is an important book, with some useful tools for understanding what is happening in the world around us. One thing lacking from the book is a focus on Jesus living a fulfilled life as a single. It surprises me that when Christians argue for the importance of marriage or sex for a fulfilling life, they seem to ignore Jesus’ example. However, Kuehne’s focus on love, intimacy and relationship is a welcome recasting of the Christian challenge to the disturbing developments of the iWorld.

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