I can’t help but think that if we really believed our misplaced sexual longings were an indication of a desperate search for God and the original experiences of the Garden, many more of us would find redemption instead of condemnation.

This is one of the last lines in Randy Elrod’s new book Sex, Lies, and Religion (it releases today). I think it’s probably the most important thing he says. Longing, all longing, ultimately points to God and rightly ends in redemptive love.

I wish every person downloading a pornographic movie, every woman talking to a man on the internet, and every man meeting a stranger in a hotel room understood this.

Elrod’s book is interesting and thought-provoking although in some spots it’s ill-supported and downright illogical. I’m not planning on making a case for it.

I would like to point out two places where Elrod really seems to get it right:

First, I liked his discussion of the difference between art and pornography. He looks at Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and says: “It seems they both somehow innately understood that by portraying spirituality and sensuality, they were simply rendering mankind as God had originally intended.”

He later asks the question, “Does the subject’s nudity make him or her seem more or less human?” I love this. Pornography depicts almost supernatural bodies doing unnatural things.  It hides flaws. It doesn’t remind us of ourselves. In fact, it belittles our less-than-perfect selves.

Art, though, glories in real-ness.

Second, I liked the idea of seeing God in sex. I agree with Elrod that the church has, perhaps out of embarrassment, shoved sex into a corner, refusing to talk about it beyond the occassional commandment against its aberrations. And I agree that it being a beautiful, intensely enjoyable, God-given act makes it ripe for spiritual symbolism, thanksgiving, and discussion.

By only talking about the misuses of sex, we do a great disservice to one of God’s very first gifts to mankind, a behavior He commanded of Adam and Eve in the garden. When we ignore its beauty, we communicate to our children, and to the world, that their sexual desires are bad and unfulfillable.

That’s not at all what God intended.