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Mar 21, 2023

This week, we finish our third and final installment in our series reading Joshua Butler’s “Beautiful Union.” This book was initially endorsed, then quickly recalled, by the Gospel Coalition. In the final part of Chapter One, we get to read how Butler compares the vulva to a “bus depot, how Jesus was supposedly a 33-year-old virgin, and how Butler uses citations incorrectly.

In all seriousness, this messaging by Butler is not new, just repackaged for 2023. You could have realistically picked up a book like this in 2013, 2003, and 1993 and the same message would be clear: Don’t. Have. Sex. (Unless you are married, then it’s okay!) He stays true to Evangelical beliefs by making it clear that Queer people do not exist and reinforcing the binary that you can only be single or married. We hope you enjoy this episode where we read yet another book repacking the same purity culture values again! 

Sex Workers and Therapists (9:00)  “Therapy is the selling of a relationship. And a sexual experience regardless of the length of time, regardless of when the relationship stops or ends, is the selling of a relationship. Now the relationship involves the bodies. Rather than an emotional and psychological connection, but still the selling of a relationship,” Julia says in response to how Butler describes sex work. She draws the comparison between Therapists and Sex Workers in an interesting fashion, and says how the two are not so different!

Repacking Rape Culture (16:00) “He's creating this double bind in which he is simultaneously describing rape as a sin while setting up a context in which that is an unavoidable sin due to the nature of genitalia, excusing the violence and then wrapping it in the language in which that's an inversion of giving. Nothing about that is giving, and the language of inversion does not excuse that.” The central idea in rape culture, that men are just too horny to control themselves. Both misogyny and misandry are at play here because rape is violent and without excuse, yet he is giving an excuse. 

Sex is a Relational Experience (22:00) “Nowhere in this book so far has Joshua Butler suggested anything about sex being a relational experience. A relational experience being two people communicating about what they want regarding a particular experience.” Jeremiah notes how Butler has not mentioned at any point how sex is a communicative experience involving actual people and feelings. Evangelicals have a unique ability to sterilize sex whilst also not using the words penis, vagina, vulva, clitoris and so on. They put sex on a pedestal without taking into consideration that actual people having that sex. 

Relentless Pursuer (32:00) “He's making the assumption that God is the relentless pursuer. That whether you want God or not, he's gonna keep pursuing you, even violating boundary norms. Which if that's your theology, that's fine, but if you want to make a parallel process between that and the way that men should pursue women, again, one more representation of rape culture.” Jesus as the relentless pursuer has the same ring to it as the guy who won’t stop harassing the girl who doesn’t want to go on a date with him.

Queer Erasure (35:00) “How did he erase the queer community so much? That this isn't even mentioned as a sin, which is of course so disturbing.” Julia responds. This idea of don’t ask, don’t tell is reinforced here because Butler doesn’t even mention being gay as a sin, he just ignores the existence of queerness! 

Single Like Jesus (51:00) “They use singleness as a euphemism for celibacy. And this is another classic move. We are absolutely effing obsessed with sex. And then the afterthought is, don't worry if you aren't having sexual experiences, you are equal in your humanity. This is an idea that happens outside of Christian circles as well,” Julia talks about the Christian idea that you can only be single and celibate or married and have sex. Christians leave no room for those of us who are single AND having sex or those of us who are in a non-marital relationship AND having sex. 

Concluding thoughts (1:05) “I’m angry. I'm angry that men and women continue to be encouraged to hold onto these insanely rigid positions as Butler has described” Jeremiah finishes off this episode with a sentiment I think we can all hold on to, anger. It is ridiculous that this messaging is still prevalent in 2023, but it is. There is always hope, as Julia points out because the Gospel Coalition got well-deserved backlash on this. Even though this book is still set to be published, we hope that the Gospel Coalition getting flack for this is not a one-time occurrence.