Evangelical pastor under fire from Christians over sexually-explicit guide to marriage

Evangelical pastor under fire from Christians over sexually-explicit guide to marriage

Pastor Mark: The Seattle-based author is known for his vocal commentary on the Church

Controversial: Seattle-based pastor Mark Driscoll has written a book about sex with his wife Grace

A new Christian book that gives a green light to a range of sexual taboos such as anal sex and using sex toys, has come under fire for pushing a misogynistic and overtly sexual agenda in marriage.

Pastor Mark Driscoll's new book,
co-written with wife Grace, has parted waters when it comes to morals –
and none are more enraged by its explicitly sexual content than devout
Christians.

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship And Life Together, tackles core relationship values – and casts an X-rated eye over some of the more blush-inducing taboos when it comes to sexual acts and their place in a Christian relationship.

The Seattle-based evangelical superchurch leader, 41, is in an unusual – and sellable – position in that he is a preacher writing about sex, and the book hit Amazon and Barnes & Noble top sellers' lists upon launching last week.

This not the first time the controversial 'man's man' pastor's words have divided.

Set in the highly sexualised American culture, the book often refers to figures that underline just how young some couples are when they indulge in their first sex acts, or how many teenagers are regularly giving oral sex, for example. That has not stopped many from finding the contents to be too sexually revealing and innocence-destroying.

The reason for the outcry is clear –
the book takes aim at some fundamentally held Christian views and is not
afraid to hold back.

Chapter
10, 'Can We _____' is so racy – contextually speaking – that it even
comes a with a disclaimer of sorts, suggesting those who 'are older,
from a highly conservative religious background, live far away from a
major city, do not spend much time on the internet or do not have cable
television' may 'want to read this chapter while sitting down.'

When
'dogmatically pushed', no birth control – as so publicly practiced by TV
stars of 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggars – is seen as 'foolish
legalism,' leading to 'self-righteousness.'

They
run through a set of sexual acts and ask whether, firstly, the Bible
decrees them as lawful and then whether the acts are helpful. The couple
go on to ask whether the acts are 'enslaving.'

Love and marriage: The Driscolls have been criticised for their frank book on sex within marriage

Love and marriage: The Driscolls, pictured during an interview, have been criticised for their frank opinions on sex

Masturbation,
oral sex, anal sex, role playing, menstrual sex, sex toys, birth
control, cosmetic surgery, cyber sex, sexual medication and marital
sexual assault are looked at systematically.

There
is no doubt about its adult content: 'Many
Christian couples have decided that while anal sex is permissible, it is
not beneficial, as they deem the risks too great. Some, however, have
chosen to to at least try it, for variety,' the couple write.

The Driscolls' advice is straightforward: 'The Bible does not forbid masturbation. Some Christians wish it did.'

They say that couples are able to use photos of each when apart – or see one another over the internet – for masturbation.

Oral
sex is seen as 'a gift being stewarded well,' while abortion is termed
as 'murder' and an IUD is found to be an 'abortifacient.'

'If your spouse wants you to look like
another person because he or she is lusting after that person, then that
motivation is sinful

Plastic
surgery is not problem-free: 'If your spouse wants you to look like
another person because he or she is lusting after that person, then that
motivation is sinful.'

The couple believe that bodies do not belong to spouses and experimentation is praised.

The chapter even gives advice on where to buy sex toys so as to avoid the nude photography usually associated with sex shops.

Clear
consciences are advised when it comes to anal sex and the biggest
warning flag throughout the contentious chapter appears to come from the
risk of addiction.

The lesson seems to be: keep practices in check without ever letting them take over from normal intercourse.

Critics have made their disapproval loud and clear.

Denny Burk, writing at dennyburk.com,
says that he 'can only imagine how chapter 10 might land on someone
whose experience has actually been one of sexual innocence' and holds
the chapter to be 'a recipe for marital disaster.'

Work and play together: Mark and Grace Driscoll are a united front when it comes to their book, but critics say the book exposes their marital problems in the bedroom

Work and play together: Mark and Grace Driscoll are a united front when it comes to their book, but critics say it exposes their marital problems in the bedroom

Indeed, he says that while he is far from innocent, 'there are perversions that even I have never heard of before reading
about them in chapter 10 of Pastor Driscoll’s book. It seems to me that
there is something wrong with that.'

Others find the book to be misogynistic
and overly focused on male satisfaction. 'This book is an astoundingly
unbelievable work of disrespect for women,' blogs David Moore at theburnerblog.com.

Tim Challies, at challies.com writes
that there is a lack of internal cohesion to the book – is it a sex
guide or a book about marriage, but takes greater offense from the
content.

The Song of
Songs – used to defend many sexual acts in chapter ten – is 'abused'
according to Mr Challies, as well as many internet forum commentators.
Most importantly, he says the book in 'unhinged from the gospel.'

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll is published by Thomas Nelson

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll is published by Thomas Nelson

Others
have variously called the book 'disgusting', high on 'shock value' and
'worrying' while Rachel Held Evans writes on rachelheldevans.com that she finds Pastor Mark's
'preoccupation with sex and masculinity' to be 'alarming.'

She
finds the book to be a reflection of a 'troubled sexual relationship'
with Grace 'often cast as the damaged and sinful wife' while 'Mark the
hero… is justified in leaving his wife but instead comes along to
rescue her.'

But it is fundamentally flawed: 'Mark Driscoll is simply not qualified to serve as a sex therapist—most pastors aren’t!' she writes.

Eyebrow-raising as it may be, the book, some believe, has a place.

Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told the Christian Post that he believes Real
Marriage is both 'timely' and 'very, very applicable because it dealt
with subject matter that sometimes is not being dealt with, especially
for 20-somethings.'

The book is paraded as winning praise
on pastormark.tv, with frothing comments from other pastors, doctors,
and Publishers' Weekly.

Responding to the torrent of negative reactions, Pastor Mark told CNN that 'sometimes reviewers will reveal more of their own struggles than actual problems with the book.'

'I am not backing down from it. I am going to stick to my guns on it,' he told the network.

The pastor has clearly steeled himself.

'You try and write a book on sex with your wife,' he told CNN.

'This is not just stuff that I have pulled out of my mind… These are issues I have dealt with for 15 years and it is battle tested,' he said to the network.

He added that he 'will endure as much criticism as necessary to help as many people as [he] can.'