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See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianityby Amy Frykholm
Synopses & Reviews
“A fascinating, troubling, and finally heartening book that subtly shows ways that Christians might reconcile their bodies with their devotion to God. Highly recommended for individual Christians but also for pastors and church groups.”—Library Journal, starred review
Stories of sexual scandals in churches throughout the nation have been downright routine in recent years, suggesting to many Americans that a deeply rooted problem plagues American Christianity—and prompting some to abandon their congregations altogether. In See Me Naked, Amy Frykholm takes us beyond simple indictments of, or blind allegiance to, Christian cultures to explore the complex, intimate intersection of sexuality and spirituality as it affects the lives of ordinary Christians.
Recounting with care and nuance the life histories of nine American Protestants, Frykholm shows us the harm done by the rules-based sexual ethic now dominant, which alternately denies and romanticizes sexuality. But she also points to how American Christians might otherwise access their spiritual tradition to heal the divide between religion and sexuality. One story examines the intricate relationship between a man’s religious faith and his sexual addiction. In another, a man defines religion as a wall that kept him from the discovery that he was gay. One young woman uses sex to defy her devout parents, while another seeks to transcend her body by going without food. Nearly everyone interviewed in See Me Naked remains a Christian, with some further on their journey than others. Yet each of them is working to understand the connection between their desires and their faith. Ultimately, their stories—stories of pain and violence, perseverance and courage—attest to the healing power of struggling through the wild and uncertain experiences of life.
See Me Naked explores the many ways that people work to recover from harmful beliefs and restores the notion that one of the key insights of Christianity is that the body, with all its struggles, pains, and difficulties, is a vehicle of the holy and can lead us into a more full relationship with God.
"Frykholm (Rapture Culture), a special correspondent for the Christian Century, presents briefly the stories of nine individuals who have experienced deep disconnection in their attempts to reconcile their sexual and Christian selves. The stories deal with homosexuality, abuse, exploitation, repressive rules and shame. Each describes a process of reconciliation and the discovery of a new sexual ethic. Despite dealing with harrowing experiences, all end hopefully, with most individuals maintaining a Christian identity. Frykholm avoids editorializing and readily admits the stories do not present easy answers nor are they applicable to every believer. The stories also show that roots of sexual trauma are complicated, sometimes hazy and difficult to unravel, with blame both on and outside of Christianity. While the stories are too brief to satisfy all questions, they are complete enough to provide a sense of the individual and their struggles. Some may find, however, the brevity gives a sense of rushing; some may wish more of the subjects were men. In the final chapter, Frykholm hints at a new sexual ethic, one grounded in wonder and pleasure, but she only sketches this. Doing more would undermine the value of this work, which challenges all Christians to do the work of reconsidering their default opinion on sexuality and open themselves up to a deeper, truer connection between body and spirit." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
How the strict purity ethic and rules-based culture of American Protestantism has adversely affected the sexual development of many believers, and the intimate and varied personal stories of the roads nine of them traveled to begin to heal.
See Me Naked takes us deep into the complex, intimate intersection of sexuality and spirituality. Telling the stories of nine ordinary people and the religious worlds they were raised in, Amy Frykholm takes us beyond the shockingly regular headlines of sexual scandal in the church to ask how Christian cultures in America affect our sexuality. A man named Matthew shows the intricate relation between his religious faith and his sexual addiction; another man defines religion as a wall that kept him from the discovery that he was gay, while a young woman uses sex to defy her devout parents. Many of these stories diagnose a troubled culture of religion and sex, but Frykholm's point is not to indict Christianity. Instead the book points toward how American Christians might make better use of their tradition to heal the divide between religion and sexuality. Nearly everyone interviewed for the book remains a Christian, yet each has undergone significant transformation to reach reconciliation.
About the Author
Amy Frykholm is author of Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America and Julian of Norwich: A Contemplative Biography. She works as a correspondent for the Christian Century and lives in Colorado.
Table of Contents
Part One: Wilderness
Part Two: Incarnation
Part Three: Resurrection
Conclusion: An Alternative Ethic
What Our Readers Are Saying
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