REALLY Weird Christian Sex Article: Sex Won’t Save You (But It Points To The One Who Will)

The Gospel Coalition recently published an excerpt from the upcoming book entitled Beautiful Union: How God’s Vision for Sex Points Us to the Good, Unlocks the True, and (Sort of) Explains Everything... and it’s SUPER WEIRD.


Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Ace Couple podcast. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce. [laughing] And today, we’ve got another fun article for you all.

Courtney: You know, here’s the funny thing. We had family come to visit us for the very first time in, like, nearly five years. We tried to be as careful as possible. We still didn’t really go out and do much in public. We kind of just holed up in our house with our company and enjoyed family for a number of weeks, and it was wonderful. It was refreshing. It was fulfilling. And, of course, it was in February. So, it was right around all of these major times of discourse and romantic discussion and Valentine’s Day, and it was during Aromantic Awareness Week, also, so we scheduled a whole bunch of posts to feature some Aro creators from our MarketplACE.

Courtney: But, boy, I tell you. [laughing] When we came back – when we just barely dipped our toes back into the water of the internet for the first time after this brief hiatus, wow, were we tagged in just a million and two things. There were people sending us links to articles. There were people tagging us, saying “@The_Ace_Couple, have you seen this? @The_Ace_Couple, are you going to talk about this?”

Courtney: Because, oh my goodness, inevitably, around Valentine’s Day, there’s gonna be some nasty discourse about Aces and Aros, the entire Aspec community. But for some reason, this year – I don’t know if it’s just because I sort of got bombarded with it all at once a couple weeks after the fact, or if it really is what it seems. But it seems like this year was worse than average. It seems like there were more big, huge articles coming out that were either way overly worshiping sex and romance or outright condemning Aros and Aces, or some combination of the two.

Courtney: So, over the next few weeks, we’ll probably have a few different things to touch on that are sort of in the pipeline. But I wanted to start with this one today because it’s not just the article. This is a series of events that have transpired [laughing] around this article that still seem to be updating.

Courtney: But this is also the newest of all of these articles that we saw. It was originally posted on March 1st, 2023 by The Gospel Coalition, entitled “Sex Won’t Save You (But It Points to the One Who Will)” by Josh Butler, who is a lead pastor at a church in Arizona. He wrote a book called Beautiful Union [laughing] that this excerpt is from. And yeah, the union is… sexual. It’s marriage. It’s a marriage union. But I think we have covered to death how the average American Evangelical Christian views marriage as being inherently sexual. So this is just another fun example of that.

Courtney: But the reason why I say that this was a series of events. It’s a saga at this point. Every time I go back to this link or try to find it or try to reference it, it’s different. It’s changing every time. Because, let me tell you, nobody was happy about this article.

Courtney: And I’m wondering where all this outrage came from. Because yes, the article’s bad, and we’re going to get into it. We’re going to talk about how bad it was. But it is not that different from other things we have been covering in the past, other things we’ve been talking about – especially if you go back to August when we did our four-part series on religious political discrimination against Asexuality. This ideology in this article mirrors that perfectly, of all of these, what, 83 or so organizations that we covered at the time.

Courtney: So, none of this is new. This did not come out of left field. [laughs] But it wasn’t just the Aces that were upset. It was not just the Aros that were upset. I was seeing other Christians who were upset at this! I was seeing other Christians call on The Gospel Coalition to retract this article! And maybe that’s good? [laughing] Maybe that’s a sign of progress?

Royce: Depends on what their reasons were.

Courtney: Yeah. Well, there’s that. But you see, after enough backlash, they changed the title from “Sex Won’t Save You (But It Points to the One Who Will)” to “​​Beautiful Union Book,” with one single paragraph that just says, “We recognize that the adapted excerpt from Josh Butler’s forthcoming book Beautiful Union lacked sufficient context to be helpful in this format. The excerpt was taken from the first chapter of Beautiful Union, and you can download and read the entire introduction and first chapter here,” with a link to, presumably, a PDF.

Courtney: And that’s not where our story ends, but I think that’s a good jumping-off point to get into the actual article, which we are reading from the Wayback Machine. God bless the Wayback Machine!

Courtney: So Josh starts this article – or rather the chapter in this book – by saying, “I used to look to sex for salvation. I wanted it to liberate me from loneliness; I wanted to find freedom in the arms of another. But the search failed. My college sweetheart dumped me. I found a rebound to feel better about myself—and hurt her in the process. I then fell head over heels for the ‘girl of my dreams’ (at the time) and spent the next five years pining after this friend who didn’t feel the same.”

Courtney: First of all, don’t do that. Don’t pine after anyone for five years if they don’t feel the same. [laughs] Ill-advised.

Courtney: But the way this opens up and the way this continues almost feels like it could maybe be going in a good direction, because it says, “I wanted to feel wanted, yet I wound up alone.” So there are a number of ways you can turn this around that I would actually agree with. You could say, right, “Sex is not inherently a form of intimacy.” “Sex cannot cure emotional loneliness.” Or even, “There’s more to life than sex.” These are all ideas you could be heading toward that the average Aspec would agree with you.

Royce: But instead…

Courtney: Instead, the subheading that this is leading into is called “Union with Christ.” I think immediately, as soon as I saw that heading, before I even read it, I was going back to the conversation we had with Fara in a previous podcast episode where she, in Catholic School, heard the – what was it – “Theology of the Body” was what that curriculum was called, where she was told that God wanted to impregnate you with his love. I was like, “Oh no, we’re going down that road here, aren’t we?” And yeah, kind of.

Courtney: “Sex is an icon of Christ and the church.” That’s the whole first sentence of this subheading. [laughs] And he goes on then to quote from Ephesians 5:31 to 32. It’s actually a quote of the Apostle Paul, which – every time someone in the context of talking about “Sex: good, needed for marriage,” always hits me by surprise when someone brings out a quote by the Apostle Paul.

Courtney: Because I have Asexual Christian friends, and every single one of my Christian friends who are Asexual say, you know, “Apostle Paul, he is AroAce. He is an AroAce icon.” [laughs] Like, “Paul and Jesus: both AroAces. Totally cool with singledom…” Singlehood? Which one of those words is more correct? Singleness? That’s probably the better one. [laughs]

Royce: This randomly selected internet source says that “Singlehood is the state of being single. unattached, or unmarried, while singledom is the state or sphere of those who are single.”

Courtney: Interesting. And what’s the internet’s opinion on singletude?

Royce: It’s probably fine.

Courtney: It’s probably fine! We’ll go with that one. So, Paul: all about the singletude. But the quote here is: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” I guess I didn’t necessarily realize that that one was from Paul, but I am tired of people talking about “one flesh.” I don’t like the way most people use that. I’d rather they didn’t.

Courtney: But the author makes clear here that the context of this quote is marriage. “‘Leave and cleave’ is marriage language.” I don’t know, maybe we need to get, like Sharky, on speed dial for when we cover articles like this, because when we did Sharky’s interview way back when, about, you know, Christian trauma, he was really big on understanding the context, and his eternal frustration was that people take things out of context and use them for nefarious purposes. So I’d be curious to see… Because this author’s doing that. He’s putting the context out there. But is it correct? Hmm.

Royce: I’m still stuck on the usage of the word “cleave,” because –

Courtney: “Leave and cleave!”

Royce: The primary definition that I’ve always had for “cleave” is to separate something, to cut something. Why does this word have two opposing definitions?

Courtney: Some words just be like that. Homonyms, am I right?

Courtney: So at least by this author’s interpretation, the context is marriage, and “the surrounding verses are all about husbands and wives,” so this is not to be mistaken for hookup culture. This is marriage. And he writes, “Yet that second part, about the two becoming one flesh, is consummation language that refers to the union of husband and wife.” I tell you what, consummation is, like, very quickly becoming my least favorite word on the face of this Earth.

Courtney: But if we are to put our own context on this article, this is an American Christian dude who is using “consummation.” So there is a religious connotation to “consummation,” which he’s going to go into. But the part that bothers me so much – and the part that should bother you, the listeners, so much – is that consummation language has been implemented into many areas of law in the US – and other countries; I am not nearly as familiar with other countries as I am the US. But we have stated before that there are still many states that require consummation as part of a legally binding marriage, and that when we decided to get married, we actually looked up the marriage laws for the states we were in and our surrounding areas for that very reason.

Courtney: And despite the fact that, for the time being, I unfortunately have to say, because it’s under attack again, same-sex marriage is legal, the law of the land, after Obergefell versus Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court case. We have critiqued that Supreme Court ruling in the past because of the fact that in order to get rights for gay marriage, they essentially had to take steps to prove, “Well, this gay marriage is going to be exactly like a straight marriage, which means it’s going to be romantic. It’s going to be monogamous. It’s going to be sexual, and it’s also going to kind of be for the purpose of having kids. Like, a gay couple can still have kids.”

Courtney: And for as much as that worked, it is not good enough. It did not give us marriage equality in the way that we truly need it. Marriage is too heavily ingrained into many aspects of law – even tax law. We just did our taxes recently, so I’m especially mad about taxes. We sat down to get all our paperwork filed, and now I’m on a tangent, but I’m just gonna go. We were playing the soundtrack from Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion and just, like, wishing we could be more like Turnip Boy. Why can’t we all commit tax evasion? [laughing] Our tax system is nonsense. But maybe we’ll have another episode in the future that’s just all about the messed up tax code and the marriage implication of it and the disability implication of it and the inequality of it all. But now is not the time.

Courtney: Says Josh, “Paul says both are about Christ and the church.” Being marriage and sex, I guess? And he even says, “This should be shocking!” [laughs] You should be shocked by this! Which is weird, because I assume his audience is Christian. I am not a Christian but I listen to the Christians often enough that I’m not shocked. Nothing about this is shocking me yet.

Courtney: “It’s not only the giving of your vows at the altar but what happens in the honeymoon suite afterward that speaks to the life you were made for with God. A husband and wife’s life of faithful love is designed to point to greater things, but so is their sexual union! This is a gospel bombshell –” Ooh, gospel bombshell alert! – “sex is an icon of salvation.” Which is pretty funny, because the title is “Sex Won’t Save You,” and then it says, “Sex is an icon of Salvation.” So, [sucks teeth] get your story straight, Pastor Josh.

Courtney: So here’s what I have said time and time again that I need people to understand. And most Aces who have grown up in and around and on the periphery of what we call purity culture know this already. But oddly enough, a lot of other people don’t know this. People think purity culture is anti-sex. Purity culture means “Sex: bad. Sex-negative.” And that is absolutely not the case. And we need people to fully understand and appreciate what purity culture is. Because at the end of the day, it is about cis-hetero-patriarchal control. It is not saying sex is bad. It is saying, “Sex is very, very good. Sex is, nay, important. Sex is vital. Sex is holy and godly, and you need to have it, but it needs to be done right. It needs to be done in the context that we are deeming it to be acceptable.” And it is very much steeped in compulsory sexuality. They are quite literally saying, “Sex is an icon of salvation.”

Courtney: And when we did our four-part series, we were seeing, time and time again, these Christian lobbyist organizations say that “The sexual union between a man and a woman as husband and wife for the purpose of bearing children is the very backbone of society. It is what keeps society in order. And therefore, if you are not living in that way, under that very narrow purview of what a relationship and a family can look like, you are indeed endangering society and the lives of others” – that you really have nothing to do with. You are not hurting anybody, but they’ll say, “You are, because this is the backbone of society. You are hurting Society if you do not participate in this system.”

Courtney: So that is something we’ve heard time and time again. But here is a particularly disgusting take on it. [laughing] And this section, entitled “Generosity and Hospitality,” was something that I think everybody had issue with. This was the section that even some Christians were like, “What are you doing?”

Royce: I was going to ask specifically what all the commentary was. But yeah.

Courtney: We can probably look up some of the top comments, some of the discourse. Since I wasn’t there the day of, I’m sort of getting the Cliff Notes from other people’s, you know, articles and write-ups and synopses, what have you. But it’s pretty gross. [laughs] It is pretty gross.

Courtney: And honestly, here’s the weirdest thing to me: the fact that there are other Christian people reading this and saying, “This is vile. This is terrible. How can you write this?” I want to know where all those people have been. What – how is this a surprise to you? Because I’m not a Christian, and this is not a surprise to me. It is certainly not a surprise to all of my friends who are Aces and Christian, who actively use their Ace perspective to push back on these and give their own perspective, informed by their faith and their experience as an Asexual Queer person. So where are all these allo Christians coming from? They – have they been under a rock? Because this is not new.

Royce: Well, that’s what I was wondering, is, like, are the allo Christians upset about what was said or the way that it was said?

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: Was it the message or the presentation? Like, was there just a word or two, a way that the description leans – which I’m sure you’re going to get to in a moment, unless I’m going to have to read this, but –

Courtney: Oh, I’ll read it, but I will be cringing and attempting not to projectile vomit all over our very nice microphone [laughing] as I do it. But that’s a very good Chri – [mocking self] That’s a very good Christian, Royce. That’s a very good question, which, let’s put a pin in that and bring that back up when we do look at some of the commentary here in a bit, because I would like to explore that further.

Courtney: So, “Generosity and hospitality are both embodied in the sexual act. Think about it. [laughs] Generosity involves giving extravagantly to someone.” Eh, I’d personally argue it doesn’t have to be extravagant. But “You give the best you’ve got to give, lavishly pouring out your time, energy, or money. At a deeper level, generosity is giving not just your resources but your very self. And what deeper form of self-giving is there than sexual union where the husband pours out his very presence not only upon but within his wife?”

Royce: See, this is what I was wondering.

Courtney: [laughs] It’s disgusting!

Royce: Were the conservative Christians just – well, I guess you didn’t say if the Christians that were upset were conservative or not. But I could see a certain group of Christians agreeing with the message but going, “Eew, you mentioned bodily fluids.”

Courtney: Yeah, he really, really did, um, go there, huh? [laughs] The “pours out his very presence.” First of all, I am not someone who can produce semen, thank God. [laughs] But I have to imagine that if you think about this for more than a second and a half, not only is it very patriarchal, is it very, very, you know… I think this article is very anti-woman, even if it claims that it’s not. Isn’t that just, like, very dehumanizing for… what this article would refer to as “men,” too? Like, is this – “his very presence”? [laughs]

Royce: I –

Courtney: Being semen? Pouring it out, your presence? I hate it!

Royce: I can’t remember where this comes from, but I know that there are beliefs that by ejaculating, you are, like, removing some of your life force. You’re, like, losing part of yourself.

Courtney: Mmm. Okay.

Royce: Like, there is a precedence for that. I don’t know if it’s a… I don’t know if that comes from old Christianity or if it comes from other parts of the world or other religions or spiritualities, but I have heard that before.

Courtney: I’ve heard several different spins on it and, like, different takes for sure. But, like, ughhh.

Royce: Yeah, if you think about all of the possible combinations that a language can structure words, that was one that you just shouldn’t do.

Courtney: I refuse to believe that any human is their bodily fluids. Like, regardless of what fluid it is. Like saliva. Like, I am not my saliva. [laughs] So, no, absolutely not. No.

Courtney: Here’s where we start to get deeply anti-woman. “​​Hospitality, on the other hand, involves receiving the life of the other. You prepare a space for the guest to enter your home, welcoming him warmly into your circle of intimacy, to share your dwelling place with you. Here again, what deeper form of hospitality is there than sexual union where the wife welcomes her husband into the sanctuary of her very self?”

Courtney: So dude is really like, “Hey husbands, you should be generous and pour your presence within your wife. That’s a generous thing of you to do. And women, it’s your wifely duty to be hospitable and receive it.” How… ugh. It’s terrible. [laughing] It’s so misogynistic.

Courtney: And he even says, “Giving and receiving are at the heart of sex.” Which, [sighs] I don’t even know how to feel about that one line. Because if you just took that line completely out of context of this article and just posted it somewhere without additional context, I don’t think I’d necessarily disagree with that. I don’t know. But to me, when I hear, you know, very sexually active, very sex-positive people – like, sex educator types – it’s more of a, like, mutual, like giving and receiving, not one gives, the other receives, right? Like, that’s normally how it is. Unless you’re taking it to a very, like, place of kink, where you’re actually having, like, a dom-sub type of relationship, in which case, there’s, you know, many more parameters and discussions involved to make that able to be done correctly and respectfully, right?

Courtney: And dude here, like, almost agrees with me. [laughs] He says, “Obviously, a man and woman both give to each other and receive from each other in the sexual act. Sex is mutual self-giving. Yet, on closer inspection, there’s a distinction between the male and female sides of the equation.” Oh, is there now? Now, I… [laughs] I just have to ask, ’cause I’m feeling a little feisty. I just have to ask. Since there is an element of mutual self-giving here – a light concession that the author of this article has made – let’s just say, for the sake of argument, theoretically, a Christian wife wants to peg her husband. [laughs]

Royce: A Christian wife wants to be generous?

Courtney: She wants to be generous!

Royce: And then it’s her husband’s duty to be hospitable, clearly.

Courtney: That’s what I’m reading.

Royce: I had the same thought and decided not to bring it up.

Courtney: Why not? That’s great content. [laughs] Fun fact, I did not know the word “peg” until I met Royce. [laughs] Well, look at me now. I’m saying it for the internet on a podcast. [laughs]

Royce: I’m actually surprised that you wouldn’t have heard language like that from other friends of yours, but I guess maybe sex was never a topic.

Courtney: Well, correct me if I’m wrong, because I could be. [laughs] Is pegging specifically referring to a sex toy in the butt kind of a situation?

Royce: I had to double-check. I think it is explicitly gendered, yes.

Courtney: So if that’s the case, that kind of makes sense. Because the only people I knew at the time that we met who had had open enough conversations with me about their own sexual escapades or desires, et cetera, it was usually, you know, lesbians with strap-ons, or a trans woman who was a top, things of that nature. So the very – like, just the phrase “pegging” – I’m not going to say I didn’t know anyone who didn’t do that occasionally or hadn’t at all in the past, but I had never heard that specific verbiage before.

Royce: That’s – okay. I guess that makes sense. Because, I mean, commonly enough, people refer to the… the toy.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: But… Yeah. I was thinking, you know, you have friends who are Bi.

Courtney: Yeah! Of course!

Royce: So it could have come up.

Courtney: Yeah, it just… it didn’t, at least not the word. Perhaps the act did, but. Yeah, that’s a little fun fact.

Courtney: And for as much as we’re just in general making light of this article, I do want everyone to just sort of be aware in the back of your minds that this article is not in a bottle. There are other articles, there are other organizations that are echoing these sentiments. And for as much as we need to push back on the sexual language being framed as something that is inherently pure and good and necessary and all of these things, we also need to simultaneously be examining all of the gendered language that they use in this.

Courtney: Because – well, earlier I said – I think it’s Iowa that is currently trying to pass a law banning same-sex marriage, so that’s fun. You can’t do that yet because Obergefell versus Hodges is still in place. But hey, what are Supreme Court rulings anymore after Roe v. Wade, am I right? I told you all that they were coming for same-sex marriage next and that they were coming for Obergefell versus Hodges. You can pull up the receipts from past episodes. I told you, because these organizations tell us this. They are saying, “We need to ban same-sex marriage. We need to ban gender-affirming care.” The word “transgenderism” is coming up as some sort of boogeyman that needs to be stopped time and time again on these conservative and/or religious news sites these days.

Courtney: And so much of their internal logic revolves around sex. Sex and gender are two very complicated things. Because we know very well in the Aspec community that they don’t go hand in hand with each other. Sexuality and gender can be two very distinct identities. But in the eyes of organizations like this, there is a right and a wrong way to do things. And the right way is to have a sexual relationship between a man and a woman, and they mean that in the antiquated sense of sex and genitalia.

Courtney: And so anytime they put a new spin on what this gender role is in sex, we need to be mindful of it. We absolutely have to. Because they are going to use it to remove rights from trans folks, and they’re going to use it to double down to reinforce compulsory sexuality. And that is something that has, does, and will continue to show up in actual legislation as well. So, even though this is kind of just a silly haha, like, “Oh look, they’re saying ‘Men must be generous and women must be hospitable,’” it is all too serious. And we do need to take it seriously too.

Courtney: So he goes on to argue that “The Bible makes this distinction explicit” – the distinction being between male and female. And he tries to pull this whole, like, “Let’s take the Hebrew phrase of this thing,” which – I don’t know this guy, I don’t know his life, but I’d venture to guess he’s not fluent in Hebrew. So, probably not the best comparison to be making.

Courtney: But he states that the Hebrew phrase is “literally, ‘he went into her.’” But it’s only for modern ears and modern sensibilities that it will be changed to things like “made love” or “slept together.” He states, “But the Bible is less prudish than we are, using more graphic language to describe what happens in the honeymoon tent.” Here he’s giving us a whole Hebrew language lesson and still uses the phrase “honeymoon,” [laughs] which actually, now that I’m saying it, I don’t know how old that phrase is or where it hails from. [laughs]

Courtney: Okay, so this is, like, lightning fast Google search, so, take this with a grain of salt. I might need to actually research this later. But the super-quick etymology of “honeymoon,” as per Wikipedia makes sense to me. It says, “Originally denoting the period of time following the wedding, the original reference was related to the waning like a moon,” like, the first month or the first moon after a marriage, so that makes more sense. It’s not just a vacation or when the married couple has sex to consummate their marriage. But anyway, that’s kind of fascinating. Maybe we’ll need to do more research on that and circle back when we talk more about language. I like to research language.

Courtney: So the author continues, however, that means – “The Hebrew language is onto something, however: there’s a distinction between the male and female roles in sexual union.” Silly modern sensibilities, we say we “make love” when really, the man went into the woman! [laughs] Which, again, heavy, heavy grain of salt. I have not consulted any of my friends who actually know Hebrew before going into this, because honestly, I don’t think it matters. I think we can just assume that this guy is quite ignorant, and if there’s any truth to this it’s probably an incredibly surface level or Google armchair research version of the truth – at best. So throw a few more grains of salt on there.

Courtney: He continues, “Each brings something unique to the fusing of two bodies as one, and this distinction is iconic.” Yes! [claps twice] Iconic, honey! [laughs] Why does it seem so weird for, like, a Christian white pastor from Arizona to say “the distinction is iconic”? [laughs] Absolutely not. I want to gatekeep the word “iconic” from straight white people. [laughs] Can we do that? Is that allowed?

Courtney: But boy, is he fixated with the modern interpretation of “honeymoon,” because “On that honeymoon in Cabo, the groom goes into his bride.” Yes, thank you, we have established this already. [laughs]

Courtney: Here’s a really fun fact about that, though. For as much as it feels like he’s beating us over the head with that, I was never actually taught in sex education that penetration was a part of sex. I learned that because I specifically asked the school nurse who came in during our, like, fifth grade, “Separate the boys in one classroom, the girls in another classroom, we’re going to talk about your changing bodies,” kind of a thing.

Courtney: And so in the girls’ classroom, the “changing bodies” is, “You’re going to have your period soon, and it’s going to be scary, but this is what it’s going to be. But it shouldn’t be scary, because that just means your body is getting ready to make a baby, and you you get pregnant through having sex.” And it occurred to me in that moment that I did not actually understand how intercourse led to pregnancy. I knew that there was a step somewhere along the line that had not been properly explained to me. So, I asked.

Courtney: Because I genuinely, at the time, thought that, like, sex was just, like, naked bodies rubbing against each other. To me, I was like, “That is what I assume sex is.” And I was like, “How does that make someone pregnant?” It’s sort of like, if you think of really, really, really young kids who occasionally think, like, kissing can make you pregnant. And they’re like, “Oh no, I can’t kiss a boy because that’ll make me pregnant.” But I was like – I knew at that age, I was like, “There’s got to be something else to it, because I don’t see how that actually works.”

Courtney: So I asked the school nurse in that moment. I raised my hand, and I was mortified. And the kids absolutely made fun of me on the playground later for asking this question, but I had to know, I asked, “What happens during sex to actually make someone pregnant?”

Courtney: And the nurse seemed really uncomfortable and, like, unprepared to answer that question. But she said, “The penis is inserted into the vagina.” Very simple answer. Did not talk about semen or sperm at that time – although I kind of already knew about semen and sperm because I saw, like, some kind of weird pseudo cartoon documentary 3D experience about it, like, at Disney World many years earlier. [laughs] This is bringing up all kinds of weird memories. So I knew that there was sperm that raced to the egg, and the sperm meeting the egg led to pregnancy, and that sex had to happen for that. But I was like, “What is sex? How does that? How?” I was like, “How do you get from point A to point B? I don’t understand.”

Courtney: But when she said, “The penis is inserted into the vagina,” I was like, “Sigh of relief!” I was like, “Well, that’s really easy to avoid!” [laughs]

Royce: Your public school sex ed is baffling. Like, what –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: What grade was this?

Courtney: Fifth grade.

Royce: And that’s the only sex ed you had?

Courtney: In, like, seventh grade, we had basically the anatomy lesson – like, learn how to label the internal organs on a worksheet, and here’s a slideshow of the worst possible photos of all the, like, STDs and STIs known to man. And that was about it. [laughs]

Royce: Okay. We’ve talked with a couple people on the podcast about this, and it’s – I find it interesting. It’s never particularly surprising. But what I had and what I thought was the standard was a freshman year of high school sex ed class. And when we were talking to Fara, Fara mentioned the same thing, where it was like, it’s a lesson plan in your combination health/PE class.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: And it was just like, you know, a few-week segment or whatever. But our teachers kind of got a slap on the hand for giving us a worksheet that had anal intercourse on it.

Courtney: Mmm.

Royce: Because some person’s mom didn’t like that.

Courtney: Of course.

Royce: And so after that, they were, like, noticeably disgruntled and were like, “I guess we don’t get to teach you things.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: But they – at least they at least did have some open, like, Q&A with the class.

Courtney: We are going to have just an episode dedicated to the differences between our sex education history. And we’re going to start at the very beginning, at what ages we got what information, during what period of schooling. Because I think it’s fascinating. And I don’t think either one of us had, like, the world’s most comprehensive sex education, but, like, you definitely had more than I did. But I also had the experience of a parent complaining about something and getting certain things cut. But it sounds like mine happened ahead of time, as opposed to yours that was a reaction, maybe. And in my school, there wasn’t a combination health and gym. Like, we had both health and gym in middle school, and then in high school, it’s like, you need a credit of either health or PE. [laughs] So naturally, I did online PE, which they let me do, because I was also a competitive dancer in really extreme dance training for several hours every day. So they were like, “Okay, you’re getting enough physical exercise. That’s fine.”

Courtney: So here’s where he starts writing in circles a bit, kind of saying the same thing over and over again, but just getting more and more, like, [laughing] creepy and fixated on it. Which is really funny, because that’s kind of an old trope. Like, I want to do an episode on Harold and Maude, but I’m going to briefly mention, during Harold and Maude, there is, like, an old pastor who is just so creepy who is just, like, fixated on the concept of this young man having sex with a much older woman. [mimics the pastor’s creepy voice] And the way he talks is just “When I envision your flesh intertwining.” [regular voice] And he just looks like he’s… I don’t know, like, on the verge of some kind of fit. He is, like, sweating, he is… It’s very weird. It’s so wrong. But I love that movie. But that movie is from the 70s. And even back then, there were people making jokes [laughing] about religious people being, like, way too fixated on the act of sex. [laughing] So this is very much not new.

Courtney: But the article goes on to say, “He is not only with his beloved but within his beloved. He enters the sanctuary of his spouse, where he pours out his deepest presence and bestows an offering, a gift, a sign of his pilgrimage, that has the potential to grow within her into new life.” That’s a lot. That is a lot to unpack. “Bestows an offering”? I… I reject it. I’m sure some people are into fluids like that. [laughs]

Royce: The –

Courtney: But I’m way too sex-repulsed to accept that. [laughs]

Royce: You’re also skipping over the fact that this was “a sign of a pilgrimage.”

Courtney: [dramatically] “A pilgrimage”! [laughs]

Royce: Which makes it sound as if –

Courtney: A hero’s journey! [laughs]

Royce: Exactly. It was the end of a long, arduous journey, and just –

Courtney: It’s just an activity, bro!

Royce: The heavily gendered explanation of men having to sort of chase down and coerce women into relationships.

Courtney: Ughhh.

Royce: Like, that was the – you said “hero’s journey.”

Courtney: [laughs] I did! That’s what it sounds like. [laughs] “I’m planting your flag at the top of the mountain.”

Courtney: This, he says, “is a picture of the gospel.” Sex. That is the gospel truth. [laughs] “Christ arrives in salvation to be not only with his church but within his church. Christ gives himself to his beloved with extravagant generosity, showering his love upon us and imparting his very presence within us. Christ penetrates his church with the generative seed of his Word and the life-giving presence of his Spirit, which takes root within her and grows to bring new life into the world.”

Royce: So, Courtney –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: – earlier in this episode, you mentioned something, and I said, “Oh, I had the same thought, but I didn’t say it out loud.” I’m pretty sure we are not on the same page here, but when you read that line, did you get a flash of a, like, Kaiju Christ standing around a church?

Courtney: Oh, no! Oh, no! [laughs] Kaiju Christ? Royce. [laughs] You heathen! [laughs] Although Kaiju Crush is a Kaiju dating simulator that I believe was made by an Aspec member of the community. That’s on our to play list. I hope it’s nothing like this article. [laughs]

Courtney: So, here’s what I wonder. I wonder if this is what had most Christians upset. So, I’ve heard time and time again, from people with this ideology, that the man is to be the spiritual leader of the home, and to sort of lead his wife in faith. And that’s, I mean, let’s be real. That’s because people who think like this also think that women are the source of all sin because Eve ate an apple or something, probably a pomegranate, or some other such devilish fruit coerced by a snake. But this is literally putting all cis straight married men in the role of Christ. And that does seem a little… a little sus, right? [laughs] Normally that’s frowned upon in the church. [laughs]

Courtney: But regardless, regardless, regardless of whether or not that’s frowned upon, what kind of man is like, [laughing] “When I am ejaculating into my wife, this is basically, like, Jesus showering us with his love in church.” Oh no. [laughs] It’s, it’s, it’s… Oh, I don’t have words for it. I’m sure most of you listening are cringing as hard as I am. So I don’t think I even need the words. Let’s just – let’s just lament this moment together. [laughs]

Courtney: “Inversely, back in the wedding suite, the bride embraces her most intimate guest on the threshold of her dwelling place and welcomes him into the sanctuary of her very self.” He really likes that phrase, “sanctuary of herself.” “She gladly receives the warmth of his presence and accepts the sacrificial offering he bestows upon the altar within her Most Holy Place.” Those last three words are all capitalized: capital Most Holy Place. Absolutely not. I hate it. [laughs]

Courtney: “Similarly, the church embraces Christ in salvation.” So he’s saying women are churches and men having sex with them is Christ bringing their salvation? Right? Like, that’s not even an exaggeration. That’s the metaphor he’s going for here?

Royce: Yeah, that’s literally what he said.

Courtney: Ugh! [laughs] And “celebrating his arrival with joy and delight,” no less. “She has prepared and made herself ready, anticipating his advent in eager anticipation. She welcomes him into the most vulnerable place of her being, lavishing herself upon him with extravagant hospitality. She receives his generous gift within her—the seed of his Word and presence of his Spirit—partnering with him to bring children of God into the world. Their union brings forth new creation.”

Courtney: Whew! And the thing is, enough people were so upset about this that they took it down. And they said, “Why don’t you read the first chapter of this book instead? This article is just out of context. Out of context.”

Courtney: But here’s the funniest part: that wasn’t the end of the saga. Now, as of the time of this recording, if you go to this same link, it now says, “Dear Readers, Thank you for your feedback on the Keller Center’s book excerpt from Joshua Butler posted on March 1st, 2023. And thank you for your patience while we took the time to listen to our critics and the serious objections from concerned fellows, as well as discuss this matter with our Board of Directors and care for our friend Josh. Earlier this week, we accepted Josh’s resignation as a Keller Center fellow. He will no longer lead an online cohort with the center nor speak at TGC23,” which I assume has to be a conference for The Gospel Coalition.

Courtney: And they go on to say, like, “Even though he’s not working with us, we still care about him. He’s still a good guy.” So, it’s so funny. They even say near the end, “We want to provide a venue for healthy dialogue and robust debate on important matters that affect us all.” That’s the thing: “affect us all.” They think the literal sexual relationship between a single cishet married couple affects the entire world. It doesn’t! [laughs] It doesn’t affect anyone past your own bedroom.

Courtney: But I just think it’s so funny that people were still so upset about them pulling the article but just posting the first chapter of the book that that wasn’t good enough. They had to make a second correction and retraction.

Courtney: So here is the interesting thing, right? So, like you asked before, why are the allo Christians who have chimed in on this conversation mad about this? And there are a couple different viewpoints, and I think they’re good, valid viewpoints. Obviously, I disagree with this article for a number of reasons, as an Ace heathen myself. But I do want to know: where is this passion when exactly the same things are being said in the name of lobbying for hateful legislation?

Courtney: Because when 83 religious right-wing organizations talked about how the Respect For Marriage Act was going to open the doorways for things like bestiality and incest and, God forbid, platonic marriages – lumping those all into exactly the same basket – the only people I saw riled up about it were the two of us and a handful of other Aces. I mean, Tyger Songbird wrote perhaps a couple of articles about it over the course of a month, there, for – I believe one was on LGBTQ Nation. We sort of got the Ace Twitter in a buzz about it. But I was not seeing Christian people outside of our Aspec bubble noticing it, paying attention to it, caring about it, trying to fight back about it at all. But it’s exactly the same thing.

Courtney: So, the thing is here – and here’s kind of where the pitfalls of, like ,white feminism are. Obviously, not all Christian women are white. That is not what I am saying. But a lot of the people chiming in on the conversation that I’m able to see readily available are very white Christian people, for the most part. Very cis and straight. And there are a couple of women calling it out for misogyny, saying that this article is disrespectful to women.

Courtney: But I’m only seeing this anger when people perceive this as being disrespectful to women. I am not seeing this anger when people are saying this is disrespectful to trans people, to gay people, to Asexual people or Aromantic people. No, no, no, it’s bad for women, period.

Royce: And in the little bit of searching that I’ve been doing, I did find conservatives who were either disagreeing with the translation of some of those passages –

Courtney: Sure.

Royce: – particularly the ones that were in Hebrew. I absolutely saw people who just thought that the overtly sexual comparison from scripture to actual intercourse was disgusting. So there were conservatives who did not like the language being used.

Courtney: Sure. Well, there are always going to be translation issues. And that’s why even – that’s why I said, “I’m sure this fellow writing the article is not fluent in Hebrew.” Even if he was competent in that language – which I don’t think he is, I think there’s almost no chance of that – translation itself is a very delicate act, and it is an art, and it takes a lot of care and attention. Someone who is fluent in two languages is not even inherently able to translate between the two, like, perfectly or one-to-one, because not everything has a one-to-one translation. So, so much of what goes into translation is understanding the culture of the two languages. Because so much of language does rely on having a shared understanding – coming from a similar place of understanding on a variety of topics. And not only are we translating two very different languages, but you’re also translating two very different periods of time. So now, not only do you need someone who is a competent translator, fluent in both languages, but you’re probably going to need a very skilled linguist historian who’s able to actually sort of give us the proper context. And nothing about the author of this article tells me that he had any of those skill sets, so.

Courtney: But there were a couple of people chiming in who did say that this was an example of egregious heresy in a sexually fetishized gospel message, which I thought was interesting. Because I don’t think sexually fetishized gospel messages is exactly new. I’ve seen examples of this all over the place. So that’s where it’s like, I don’t disagree with you, but I would love if you come for Christian organizations with this amount of passion when they are using the same logic to try to enact hate legislation.

Courtney: And I don’t know these individual commenters. I don’t know what their personal politics are. I don’t know if they are an ally to the Queer community or not, or whether they think they are, because sometimes whether you think you are or your actions are two different things.

Courtney: But regardless, that is kind of what we need. We kind of need actual Christian people to hold their own freaking organizations accountable and say, “This is not okay.” Because it’s not. It’s not okay. And we can’t just let them have a pass because they’re, you know, trying to strip away gay rights, trying to take away rights for Aces, trying to make life harder for Aros and unpartnered, you know, single people, trying to demonize queerplatonic marriages or queerplatonic relationships in general. These are all things we’ve seen this very same thought process put toward.

Courtney: So this book… I will say, I did actually open up the first chapter of it, and I did a little reading. And I’m not going to go over the whole chapter, because we’re just covering the article, the change, the second change, and some of the commentary. But I’m halfway tempted to actually read the book. I’m not going to buy it. I would not give this guy money. But I’d maybe check it out from our very robust library system.

Courtney: Because reading the entire introduction and first chapter was, first of all, weird. It’s called, as we said before, Beautiful Union, but the subtitle is How God’s Vision for Sex Points Us to the Good, Unlocks the True, and Sort Of Explains Everything. So the entire book is about God’s vision for sex, which is very much in line with things we’ve talked about before. But the very first page – before we get into the introduction – tell me why this fellow thought this was a good idea: “To my grandparents, [laughs] for being an icon of Christ and the church.”

Royce: I mean, at least there’s a layer of indirection. I feel like it would have been worse if he was just like, “To my parents.”

Courtney: He called sex an icon of the church.

Royce: Uh-huh.

Courtney: And this book is called Beautiful Union and about sex. And he’s like, [laughing] “Dedicated to my grandparents for being an icon of the church.” [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, I know. I… Somehow my brain thought direct parents was even weirder. Like –

Courtney: I don’t know, because I don’t understand this guy’s frame of reference at all.

Royce: “Thanks, Mom and Dad, for creating me so I could write this book.”

Courtney: I wouldn’t put it past someone like this, though, because that also sounds kind of like anti-abortion, right? Like, “Thank you for birthing me.” Ehhh.

Courtney: So, I said I won’t, and I won’t. I won’t go through the entire chapter. But I got to see the Table of Contents, which is labeled “The Order of Ceremony.” Needlessly formal, [laughs] personally. It’s broken into three sections. Section One is literally just called, “The Beauty of Sex,” with Chapter One being “Sex as Salvation,” which is where said excerpt came from.

Courtney: Section Two is called “When God Says ‘No.’” And, um, I’m going to read all of these chapters because I’m kind of left in antici…pation. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to hate-read a book before, but this might be the one.

Royce: Yeah, you hate-watch shows from time to time, but not books, usually.

Courtney: Not very often.

Royce: So, I’m skeptical of… humanity at large.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: What do you want to bet the reason this guy got fired is because he said things that were too explicit for the ultra-conservatives, because the church has a deep long history of misogyny?

Courtney: I don’t know, they’re like, “You’re saying the right things, but you’re saying it in a way that people are now going to be onto us, and we can’t have that.” [laughs]

Royce: No, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s that, “You are using language that is too sexually explicit and it’s making people uncomfortable.” I think that’s what it is.

Courtney: Which is weird, because, like, we have seen someone running for office in Texas who has a trans child and their entire platform is basically anti-trans. And when asked, like, “Why is this an issue?” They’re like, “Well, my child is never going to be able to have a normal sexual relationship with a spouse.” It’s like –

Royce: That’s –

Courtney: [dismissive of the Texas candidate] Okay.

Royce: That’s different than saying “Jesus is fucking the church.”

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: It’s different.

Courtney: [claps once] You’re right, Royce, those are two different sentences. [laughs] Wow. So Section Two, “When God Says ‘No.’” These are the five chapters, in order: “Civil War Amputees.”

Royce: What?

Courtney: [laughs] “Civil War Amputees.”

Royce: Did you flip to a different book?

Courtney: No, that’s the first chapter under Section Two, “When God Says ‘No’”: “Civil War Amputees.”

Royce: [sighs] Okay.

Courtney: Which, that’s why I’m like, “This might need to be my first hate-read.” Maybe we’ll cover it on the podcast. Let me know. Tweet at us at @The_Ace_Couple if you want a full review of this book. Because a friend of mine is actually a medical historian. Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris has written two fabulous books that I highly recommend, the first of which is The Butchering Art, which is talking about, you know, the birth of modern surgery, the story of Joseph Lister. And then the second book is called The Facemaker, and it’s about the birth of plastic surgery during World War I, trying to reconstruct these soldiers’ faces. And they’re both fabulous books. But I’d say – I’d venture to say, I know more than the average person about amputations during the Civil War. Although surgery isn’t my primary focus, I am a historian of the Victorian era. And I just want to know, how does Civil War amputees factor into this particular book? [laughs]

Courtney: So anyway, Chapter Two: “The Great Exchange.” Followed by, “Sex Isn’t Cheap.” Followed by, “Cheating On God.”

[Royce laughs]

Courtney: And the final chapter under this section is “Welcome the Children.” Which, normally, I agree, welcome the children. Children are great! I love children. I’ve got a feeling that if anyone was to write a chapter in a book about welcoming children in a way that I don’t like, it’s probably this guy. [laughs]

Courtney: But then Section Three is called “A Greater Vision.” And it begins with “Splitting the Atom” and ends with “The End of the World,” so. But right before “The End of the World” is “The Royal Wedding.” I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I haven’t read those chapters. [laughs]

Courtney: But in the brief skim that I did of the intro and the first chapter, there were a couple of weird additions that weren’t in the article that I would say don’t help his case. [laughs] The original retraction of this article said, “Oh, it’s lacking sufficient context.” No, the context doesn’t make it better. Because it says, “The architecture of sex helps explain some tragic inversions.” “The architecture of sex” being, you know, the things we read about – you know, the man, the woman, the one flesh union, the generosity and the hospitality. And it literally goes on to say, “Take rape, for example.”

Royce: That’s normally not how you want to start a sentence.

Courtney: No. Never. Never start a sentence like that. “The most extreme inversion of generosity.” Yep. That’s the – that’s – that’s the worst thing about, you know, rape. [laughs]

Royce: It’s the opposite of the word “generosity.”

Courtney: Yep. “Rape turns giving of the self into taking for the self. It converts generosity into a form of theft, breaking down the door uninvited and barging into the home and ransacking whatever it wants. The intruder leaves the object of their lust ravaged in their wake.” Oh my God. Don’t.

Royce: Can we ban someone from metaphors? Can we gatekeep expressing yourself through metaphor?

Courtney: I am gatekeeping metaphors from Pastor Josh Butler. [laughs] That’s what we’re doing. You’re having your metaphor privileges taken away.

Royce: They have been revoked.

Courtney: Let’s also take away –

Royce: You have to stick to idioms and similes.

Courtney: No, do we trust him with similes? [laughs]

Royce: It’s a slippery slope.

Courtney: [laughs] And it even says, like – this is the next paragraph off of that, which – at least he uses the word “violence,” right? Because in that paragraph, I was like, “You’re comparing this to a theft, and, you know, ‘You’re spitting in the face of generosity,’ but you’re not calling this, like, a deep act of violence.” So at least credit where credit is due, right? He says the word “violence” here.

Courtney: He says, “Sexual violence and abuse shatter the icon of sex in the most despicable way, replacing an image of Christ with the idol of Self in its place.” So if a woman is hospitable and gladly receives your generous gift of sex, you are Christ, but if you rape her, you’re a false idol? Aww, [laughs] absolutely not! It is so wrong.

Courtney: And here’s – here’s – here’s the worst part of it, too. Because we have found articles from Christian blogs and Christian news sites that sort of condemn Asexuality and will even pull articles – [mocking self] articles. Articles from the Bible. They’ll pull verses from the Bible that seem to be in favor of being single and/or celibate, possibly the two interchangeably, the way some of them are written, as being, like, a good thing, right? And they’ll find a way to twist it and put their own reading on it, to be like, “Oh, there’s such a thing as a gift of celibacy. But Asexuality isn’t the gift of celibacy. Asexuality is not an excuse to not have sex and not get married.” And so we’ve covered those articles, right?

Courtney: This is what’s so complicated about this guy. Because there’s a section called “Single Like Jesus.” And despite the fact he’s like, “This is so holy, you are practically Christ and the church themselves if you are having sex when you’re married.” [laughs] it sounds ridiculous when you put it that way. It sounds ridiculous regardless, if you ask me.

Courtney: But under this section, he says, “At this point, oh thoughtful reader, you’re likely asking, ‘Wait a sec. What about singleness?’” And he uses the word “singleness,” which I guess answers my question from earlier, which, um, is why I will no longer use that word. I like singletude. [laughs] I refuse to use the same verbiage as Josh Butler.

Courtney: So, he says, “This is such an important point. I want to pause and address it directly. Does all this emphasis on sex and marriage throw shade on singles as living a less-than life? By no means. In fact, quite the opposite. Jesus was single. Paul was single. So if you’re single, you’re in good company.” So, he… [sighs] That sounds pretty similar to things that most of my Ace Christian friends say. They’re like, “You know Jesus is single and celibate. Paul is single and celibate. AroAce icons the lot of them.”

Royce: I don’t know how much he actually believes that, though. Because apparently Jesus is a Kaiju just, like, running across – just going church to church.

Courtney: [laughing] Royce, you’ve gotta stop calling Jesus a Kaiju.

[both laugh]

[laughing] Royce, the number – the number of Christians who have attacked us online over the last year just for being married Asexuals! And you’re just like, “Jesus is a Kaiju!”

[both laugh]

Courtney: I love you. Continue.

Royce: There wasn’t any more to that. [laughing] I just had to bring it up one more time.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: Just to make sure everyone remembered.

Courtney: [laughs] Is that our big takeaway for the episode?

Royce: I mean, Josh Butler is the one who described the phenomenon. I just put it to work.

Courtney: [laughs] You’re but the humble interpreter. So, yeah, I guess, [laughing] here’s my last thought on the matter. Boy, I wasn’t prepared for Christ as a Kaiju discourse today. [laughs]

Courtney: But the thing is, for all this, [dramatically] “Oh, a man is not only with his wife, but within his wife,” there’s actually a section in here called “The Heart of Salvation,” where he says, “The phrase ‘Christ in you’ shows up all over the place.” Like, “Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? If Christ is in you although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. Christ in you, the hope of glory.” And it’s like, I don’t like that because that’s way too close to what Fara described with “impregnating you with his love.” I don’t like it, but this…

Courtney: Okay. What did you just read? Listeners, [laughing] Royce just doubled over stifling laughter to the point where it looks painful. Okay, what did… Oh, Jesus Christ. [laughs] Jesus Kaiju Christ, Royce! [laughs] What have you done? Okay, who did that? Let’s… do we have an artist credit? [laughs] Narrate for the good listeners what you just showed me. [laughs]

Royce: So, I had the thought: depicting religious entities as Kaiju is not a new thing. It can’t be a new thing. I’m sure I’ve seen this before. Surely, if I search “Jesus Christ Kaiju,” something will come up. And so I did that. But the first thing I got was – I was not using Google as a search engine. I was using an inferior search engine that also doesn’t steal and store all my data. So, I deal with it most of the time.

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: But it came up with people on threads, just saying, “Jesus Christ! The word ‘Kaiju’ didn’t come from an American movie that came out, like, five years ago. It has, you know, deeper meanings as a Japanese word.” And so I went over to Google, and as soon as I typed in “Jesus Christ Kaiju,” I got images of Godzilla –

[Courtney laughs]

Royce: – in priestly, like, attire –

[both laugh]

Royce: – shooting his breath weapon off into the sunset.

Courtney: Is that a breath weapon or is he just pouring his love onto you? [Courtney laughs] Damn it.

Royce: That, that was his true self? I can’t find the author to credit because it’s behind a Facebook wall.

Courtney: Ah.

Royce: Somehow.

Courtney: Well, if anyone out there of our listeners still has a Facebook account, we will try to put a link in the show notes, as well as links to the article we’re discussing – I guess the few different iterations via the Wayback Machine, since that’s where we’re at.

Royce: I would imagine we just link directly to the article in the Wayback Machine, since they’re changing the article on their website every couple days.

Courtney: Every couple days. Maybe they’re done by now. Who’s to say?

Courtney: So if you want me to read and review this entire book, I’m already halfway tempted. So perhaps I can be persuaded if a handful of you are particularly interested. So do tweet at us or email us, if you don’t do Twitter; I can’t blame you. I’m about half a second away from deleting ours anyway. Or if you’re listening to us on YouTube, you can, of course, leave us a comment. But I do think we are going to end here for today. So remember, as always, Christ is a Kaiju. [laughs] Goodbye!