My Top 5 Books on The Body

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The September print issue of Christianity Today has my recommendations for the ‘top 5′ books on the body. It was really hard to pick only five, but here they are. They’re diverse: some are about sex, some are about food, some are explicitly focused on Christian belief and behavior, some are totally secular.

All come highly recommended by yours truly.

(Click for the full list at Christianity Today.)

Off the Map of Christian Sex–Why We Need More Than Rules

I’ve written about Amy Frykholm’s lovely new book before (here) and my latest post at the Christianity Today women’s blog explores it in more detail:

“Christian mythology,” writes Frykholm, “teaches that Christian sex protects us from heartache”—that if a believer keeps good boundaries and abstains from bad behavior, he or she will never get hurt.

While she, acknowledges that rules “can guide people onto solid ground,” Frykholm worries that rules have become almost “the only way that American Christians know how to talk about religion and sex,” despite the fact that, rules or no rules, True Love Waits participants delayed sexual intercourse by only 18 months compared with their secular counterparts; that more than half of the men at a Promise Keepers stadium event said they had used pornography within one week; a recent study showed that 80 percent of young evangelicals had premarital sex, choosing abortion in one-third of their unplanned pregnancies. “Many people are hungry to understand why they cannot place themselves on [the] map” of Christian sex.

Read the rest of the post here. Buy Amy’s book here.

Is Food Sensual?

Don’t read that wrong–sensual, not necessarily sexual.

(Although it might be that, too.)

sen*su*al |ˈsen sh oōəl|
of or arousing gratification of the senses and physical

Last week I read (and really enjoyed Amy Frykholm’s) newest book, See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity.

One of the things that surprised me most about the book was how much Frykholm talked about food in a book about sexuality. (Perhaps I could’ve anticipated this, being as she’s one of the contributors to The Spirit of Food, which I wrote about not too long ago here.) But food and sex share the dubious honor of being sites that are (or are thought to be) in conflict with what is spiritual. Frykholm’s reflections on her stories and those of others are stories of incarnation–of journeying toward and sometimes arriving at a place where faith is not disembodied and flesh with its needs and desires, is not seen as a threat to the spirit.

In the book, Frykholm presents a pretty compelling picture of how American Christians of various stripes have viewed the sensory world with suspicion, a suspicion that cripples people by putting that which is embodied and that which is spiritual in conflict. Do you see American culture in this:

Instead of learning from the sensory world, we aim to control it. We put ourselves on diets to control rampant eating, but we are pitiful at tasting. We make budgets to control rampant consumerism, but we know very little about actual pleasure.”

At one time in my life, I felt pretty sure that if I could just love Jesus more, I would not need to eat much more than the bare minimum needed to live. Those were the days of diet Coke, butterless toast, and  “just vinegar on the salad, please.” Those were the days when I though enjoying food was dangerous if not sinful. I am glad those days are gone.

Because despite what a current popular Christian diet book says, food is God’s love made delectable. Sure, the fact that food sustains us points to God’s sustaining love. But the fact that food is delicious, beautiful, and pleasurable is not an accident, a trap, a temptation, or something unfortunate. Food is delicious, beautiful, and pleasurable because God is.

{Read Rachel Kramer Bussel’s post at HuffPo Food on the sensuality of food here.}