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 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.
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.