A Review of Sex & Society: God’s Design, Tradition & the Pursuit of Happiness, by J. Michael Kuiper
You don’t have to be a practicing therapist to see that our culture’s ever-increasing investment in “free” sex has had the ironic effect of delivering ever-diminishing returns in terms of what we want sex to give us—love, belonging, emotional bonding, even ecstasy. In Sex & Society: God’s Design, Tradition & the Pursuit of Happiness, Michael Kuiper, a clinical psychologist in private practice, makes sense of this apparent paradox and offers wisdom to help us better understand created sexuality and make the most of its dynamics for the good of all.
Created on Purpose, Male & Female
Like Maria von Trapp, he starts at the very beginning—the Genesis creation account, where God, out of the overflow of his own love, created Adam and Eve in his likeness, with the capacity to themselves overflow with creative love. He gave them a world to enjoy, fill, and cultivate, but when they violated the sole limit on their freedom, their love for each other took a back seat to self-concern.
They did not lose his likeness or their joint commission to fill and subdue the earth, but the revolt would henceforth affect every aspect of carrying it out. Self-conscious in a new and frightfully discomforting way—aware of wrong within, of inadequacy, of missing the mark—they became subject to shame. Psychic energy that was meant to fuel creative love would now be spent managing conflict, as they alternately accused one another and attempted to justify their own thoughts and actions.
While they—and we their descendants—are clearly individuals, we were never designed to live for self-driven or self-contained ends. The two sexes have been supplied with different capacities, and are susceptible to different vulnerabilities, such that only together can creative love and mutual fulfillment be accomplished.
The Mystery of Co-humanity
Adam called Eve the “Mother of All the Living.” Women are literally life-bearers, and in the early stages of life are, like God, critical life-givers and life-shapers. A woman’s life-giving work flows from self-giving love, which includes giving of her own body. “What seems to go largely unrecognized in a culture saturated with equity indignation,” writes Kuiper, “is that the maternal bond to children represents power. This is the massive power to shape the core of a person for an entire life.”
A man, too, Kuiper says, will find himself as he loses himself in loving and serving others, but how he has been equipped for carrying this out is not as structurally obvious. Adam’s first project was to name all the animals. Like God, he was to move and speak into the void, exercising authority over the domain with which he’d been entrusted. A man possesses greater brute strength, a different kind of power, but one of his vulnerabilities is that, on a deep level, he needs woman to affirm him.
A woman’s affirmation awakens his masculinity. His masculinity, in turn, frees her to love more fully, because with him she is safe. The complementarity can become a symbiotic feedback loop of creative love fueling mutual maturation and fulfillment.
Sexual Being & Wellness
These are just a few of the insights Kuiper draws out. Sex & Society is not about gender roles, but about sexual ontology—or sexual “being-ness”—as a created reality that we ignore, not just to our own detriment, but also to the peril of whole civilizations. Tampering with long-held traditions has exacted a devastating toll on the modern West. Kuiper’s analysis gets to the root of why and closes on a hopeful note with suggestions for engaging our sexually wounded and wayward culture with divine wisdom.Terrell Clemmons
is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #63, Winter 2022 Copyright © 2023 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo63/recovering-sexual-goods