One of the best quotes from this chapter is towards the end of their chapter on "Lust & Avoidance: Dangerous Messages about Sexual Temptation." Colon and Field write, "This idea that sexuality is just sexual intercourse is a common misperception that often leaves singles wondering how they can be sexual without having sex."
This chapter is centered around three dangerous messages about sexual temptation running rampant among evangelicals:
1. Sexual temptation cannot be resisted, so Christians must avoid it altogether.
Colon and Field zero in on this message that I have faced over and over again in my conversations with evangelicals about life-giving, intimate cross-sex friendships: "sex is the one temptation that cannot be resisted in the long-term."
The typical evangelical counsel: run!
This is why a book (or a blog) advocating intimacy in opposite-sex friendships sounds utterly radical at best, or blind foolishness at worst.
They quote John and Stasi Eldredge: "Far too long we have lived in a culture of fear in the Church, fearing any relationship between men and women will end in an affair."
They point out how so much avoidance counsel is from males. So, we end up hearing like we shouldn't hug, don't go to the beach, don't go the gym, don't ride alone in cars, etc. Women are supposed to make sure they don't wear short-skirts, low-cut tops revealing cleavage, and be sure to avoid anything that accentuates curves. This kind of counsel sends messages that women are responsible for triggers in lust rather than men taking responsibility for their own thoughts.
They also correctly observe how so much avoidance counsel ends up turning into legalism and imposing restrictions on others. This kind of avoidance strategy fosters deep suspicion between the sexes and an underlying sexual ambivalence in many evangelical communities.
Colon and Field argue avoidance and legalistic strategies creates significant relational problems for contemporary singles: "Not only does it isolate single adults even more than they already are, but it causes suspicion and distrust between the sexes. It also propogates the belief that men are mere animals who cannot be trusted, encourages wives to be suspicious of their husbands, and paints single women as evil temptresses." With this cluster of attitudes, singles (especially opposite-sex) are sequestered from married couples, married individuals (like unchaperoned singles cannot ride alone in a car with a married individual) and families.
They believe lust is an objectification of another person. They quote Pope John Paul II, when he writes that lust reduces "the riches of the deep attractiveness of masculinity and femininity to mere satisfaction of the sexual need of the body."
They go further than sexual lust, though. "It is seeing someone else only through our own desires, and these desires can be emotional as well as physical. Seeing someone only in terms of our desire for intimacy or security can be just as objectifying as seeing them in terms of our desire for sex." Perhaps many divorces could have been averted if couples could have worked through that one.
Simplistic views of lust and avoidance strategies undermines the forging friendships with the opposite sex, deep friendships with the opposite sex, and ultimately the deep unity and embodied koinonia Christ calls us to as Christians.
I absolutely LOVE this quote from the poet John Milton. Colon and Field quote him to suggest a more mature deeper appreciation and delight are possible: "He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexcercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race."
While I strongly recommend we do not put ourselves in compromising or vulnerable situations, I also want to strongly recommend that there are authentic delights in that "deep attraction" between the sexes that foster true communion between sexes--including a robust nongenital sexual intimacy and friendship.