Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A review of the book by Dale S. Kuehne, SEX and the iWORLD:

In a world where the Ten Commandments are banned from court houses and social Mores are consistently ignored or overthrown what rules are there to guide us in our social interactions? Dale S. Kuehne observes that there are three taboos which govern the “iWorld,” his descriptive title of the dominant culture of the West in the Twenty-first Century:
1. One may not criticize someone else’s life choices or behavior.
2. One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others.
3. One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent. (p. 71)
Brave or not, this is the new world in which we live.
In Sex and the iWorld Kuehne contrasts three paradigms for finding meaning in life—the tWorld, traditional, the past; the iWorld, individualistic, the present; and the rWorld relational, proposed. While a discussion of sexual matters is very much a part of the book, the presentation of the three worlds is much broader than that. Sex, being an important part of who we are and our relationships, serves in the text as a window into relationships in general.
The first four chapters provide a description of, and contrasts between, the tWorld and the iWorld. The fourth chapter is devoted to an examination of “humans, human relationships, and sexuality” in the iWorld (p. 44). The rest of the book is devoted to describing the rWorld. While Kuehne is not heavy handed in his treatment, he does make it clear that a world in which relationships, with our God and others, dominate is superior not only to the individualistic way of life that dominates the West at the beginning of this millennium, but to the traditional patterns that gave meaning to life from the Greeks through the Cleavers (Ward, June, Wally, and The Beaver).
The difference between the three worlds can be seen by asking a denizen of each realm a basic question: How does one achieve happiness? The tWorlder would reply that one achieves meaning in life by accepting the role into which she or he is born, respecting the boundaries that define how one lives in that realm and then living life fully in that capacity. The citizen of iWorld is all about removing all impediments to freedom and self-expression as the means to achieving the good life. While the rWorld advocate would say that we were made to relate; we are at our best when we respect and develop relationships—with our Maker, with family, and others. While the tWorld and rWorld have some key similarities, Kuehne makes plain:
I do not want to return to the tWorld, and this book does not recommend that we try. The tWorld contained much that was good and that is consistent with my faith, but unfortunately it also contained many evils. . . . Instead I am arguing that in rediscovering the relational essence of Christianity and in seeking to live accordingly, society would actually be doing something that has never been done well. In short, I am asking you to be open to the possibility that what I am about to describe is something that has been often misunderstood and never fully lived. (p. 97-98)

Anyone who is aware of the radical changes that took place in our world around the 60s will be familiar with most of what Kuehne has to say about the contrast between the t and the i Worlds. Anyone familiar with the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, relationships, and meaning in life will likewise be disappointed if he is looking for something new in the author’s proposal for a new paradigm. But, then, didn’t Solomon say that the quest for the novel is a fruitless search? In spite of the book dealing with mostly familiar material the organizational matrix Kuehne provides is worth the read. Actually, if a reader figures that he already mostly knows about the information referenced above, what he might want to do is read the introduction, then read chapter 10, and then decide whether to read the rest of the book.
The author labors the point that this is not a Christian book per se. Kuehne identifies himself as a pastor and professor of politics. He claims to be writing primarily as the latter. A non-Christian will likely find the disclaimers disingenuous. As a conservative Christian I found them unnecessary. As one who preaches from and seeks to live by the Bible, I found little if anything with which to disagree. The author is in favor of traditional marriage, does not accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, and rejects the idea that for a person to not fulfill his sexual desires—whatever flavor they be--is the sure road to unfulfillment, if not downright neurosis.
From my perspective in the pastoral trenches it was a worthwhile 220 page read.

No comments: