Moving beyond the deep-seated cultural feelings of shame that have long fueled the conflict between Christianity and sex—and the belief that there is only one right and valid way to practice one’s sexuality—this renowned University of Chicago pastor uses enlightening personal stories and examples from theology to show how sex is powerful and holy.
For years, Christians have been told to adhere to one singular path when it comes to sex: abstinence and purity. Yet this limited focus ignores the reality that people’s sexual and romantic lives differ widely, even among those who consider themselves devout believers. Church leaders have often refused to address the topic—or have preached in ways that are harmful to the emotional and spiritual growth of the faithful in the pews.
Pastor McCleneghan is determined to reshape the issue—and fundamentally transcend this disconnect between sexuality and spirituality that has left many Christians feeling guilty and sinful. Written in her measured, non-judgmental voice, Good Christian Sex combines humorous personal anecdotes with theological research to transform how Christians think and talk about this basic human need, offering a new understanding that reconciles human love and religious faith.
Breaking with outdated conventions, McCleneghan explains how the Bible and Christian tradition inform our beliefs about desire, pleasure, nudity, fidelity, premarital sex, and the variety of sexual practices, and encourages Christians to talk about their bodies, their sensuality, and their longings in a frank, positive, and realistic way. Warm, insightful, and honest, Good Christian Sex is a message of hope, that at last lifts the veil of shame felt by many religious people.
About the Author
BROMLEIGH McCLENEGHAN is associate pastor at Union Church of Hinsdale in suburban Chicago. She is coauthor with Lee Hull Moses of Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People and her essays and articles have been published in The Christian Century, Ministry Matters, Fidelia’s Sisters, Circuit Rider, and Criterion.
“McCleneghan argues against a rule-based look at biblical purity and opens up the scripture to a more holistic approach.” — The Washington Post "Acts of Faith" Blog
“McCleneghan explores topics of sexuality and nudity and looks at how the Bible and Christian traditions have informed beliefs bout desire, premarital sex and sexual practices.” — Chicago Tribune
“Where the church’s singular focus is often around maintaining purity, and where popular culture emphasizes the complex dance of sexual freedom and sexual consent, McCleneghan brings a multiplicity of lenses, joined together with humor and grace. Her refreshing voice is that of a fellow traveler with a wide theological vocabulary.” — Christian Century
“When we attempt to repress or sublimate our desires and human needs, accept the shame or condemnation of our humanity as embodied creatures, this does not connect us with God. In fact, this is when we begin to run into trouble, McCleneghan explains.” — Beliefnet
“McCleneghan offers ways to rethink biblical passages and find a compromise so that faith and embracing human sexuality don’t have to be mutually exclusive.” — Publishers Weekly
“McCleneghan offers a provocative alternative to the tired conversations about sex in Christian culture. Read Good Christian Sex if you desire a broader, practical conversation about sex, and a redemptive way of living out intimacy in all our relationships.” — Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, author of Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Ministry, and Family
“Good Christian Sex is an important corrective to the unhealthy ways we imagine bodies, pleasure, and sin. Our conceptions of sexuality are mostly tied up in the traditions of religion, and Bromleigh is a wonder at untying difficult knots. I will be passing this along to friends.” — Rev. Julian "J.Kwest" DeShazier, Senior Minister at University Church Chicago, Adjunct Professor at University of Chicago Divinity School and at McCormick Theological Seminary
“McCleneghan might surprise you. She’s like an uncommonly wise, witty, and faithful big sister, telling you just enough of her story to help you figure out the contours of your own. I can’t imagine a more liberating invitation for Christians to receive the good and gracious gift of sexuality.” — Katherine Willis Pershey, Associate Minister of First Congregational Church and author of Any Day a Beautiful Change and Very Married: Field Notes on Love & Fidelity
“In seminary, a professor asked where we’d learned about sex. Nobody in that group of churchy young adults mentioned church. McClenehgan has written the book we’ve needed all along; it’s funny, honest, vulnerable, intelligent and challenging, and loving. It’s for friends, lovers, partners, spouses, pastors, parents and very likely, you.” — Rev. Heidi Neumark, Trinity Lutheran Church, and author of Hidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Memory, and Faith
“Good Christian Sex shows what openminded, sex-positive encounters with the holy can and should look like. McCleneghan’s tour de force is a reckoning with Christian tradition and an absolute delight to read. A must-read for anyone who wants to engage their heart, soul, and bodies.” — Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism
“I’ve read books with “sex” and “Christian” in the title before and know the formula--dish out mortal shame, add fanciful gender stereotypes, and mix in some unrealistic puritanical expectations. But McCleneghan defied my worries with Good Christian Sex and left me with a faithful celebration of intimacy and pleasure.” — Carol Howard Merritt, Pastor and Columnist for the Christian Century
“What you thought was naughty may actually be holy. That’s the message of Good Christian Sex, Bromleigh McCleneghan’s attempt to free Christians from shame about having premarital or extramarital sex.” — Religion News Service, "Jonathan Merritt: On Faith & Culture."
“Theologically thoughtful, ethically coherent, narratively interesting, and accessible. I can’t wait to hand it to members of my church.” — Fidelia's Sisters Magazine
“Crucial to [McCleneghan’s] theology is this: always put first respect for the autonomy, humanity, and wishes of the partner…so much wiser than a great deal of traditional theological ethic-izing on the subject.” — Huffington Post "Novels of Sex and Spirituality" blog
“Bucking against conservative Christian tradition advising against extra-marital sex, the Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan says single Christians can have sex as long as it’s ‘mutually pleasurable and affirming.’…For McCleneghan, single Christians don’t need to abstain from sex to remain pure since being chaste is about moderation.” — The Christian Post
“Refreshing. In a very healthy and beautiful way, McCleneghan views sex as an extension of God’s grace, an expression of living the Christian life…Good Christian Sex is a good read - and an important one, too. McCleneghan’s voice is an important weight to balance out the noise.” — Patheos "Jerseygirl, JESUS" blog