Welcome back! Now for the chapter you've all been waiting for ... the obligatory time-out for evangelism! Some of you may have been assuming that since the entire thrust of The Act of Marriage narrative is that a) the readers of the book are overwhelmingly Christians and b) being Christian means you're gonna have awesome God-boosted sexytimes, that the text needs no explicit shout-out to repent and be saved. After all, you'd be preaching to the choir, and for anyone who doesn't already know the words to the hymn you've got the best sales pitch ever: BETTER ORGASMS.
Oh, but you would be so wrong. Because Christians can never be saved enough. This was a major theme of the fundamentalist evangelicalism I encountered during my thesis research: individuals who had repented and been "saved" face continual pressure to recommit to Christ out of fear that their born-again experience was somehow less-than (think Jesus Camp). Putting the fear of God into those already in the fold is part-and-parcel of any proselytizing among fundamentalist evangelicals. And given that Tim LaHaye is, first and foremost, a minister, means that this remains a key aspect of his modus operandi:
Unless [the] God-shaped vacuum [in every person] is filled by a personal relationship with God, man is condemned throughout his lifetime to an endless treadmill of activity in an attempt to fill it (219).This chapter is full of infographics arguing that people without Christ in their lives will be full of guilt, fear, purposelessness, emptiness, confusion, and misery.* In contrast:
When Christ controls one's life, that person seeks to do those things and think those thoughts that please the Lord, who in turn will grant that person an abundance of the joy, love, and peace which guarantees the happiness every human being desires ... When [Christ] directs a person's nature, that person's clean thought patterns will produce good feelings and in turn turn engender the physical responses that everyone wants (230).As Hanna points out, this makes Jesus sound like the worst micro-managing boss ever. It also makes Jesus sound like a drug you might find in the stash of your buddy who sells pot out of his back garden.
Which, I suppose, if praying is what does it for you -- why not?**
There's a couple of things going on here I want to comment on, before we move onto the final, Q & A chapter next week (the final chapter! can you believe we've made it through the whole book?!).
I think it's really intriguing -- and particularly evident in this chapter, since this is the chapter that's basically selling Christ as an awesome trip -- that the LaHayes feel the need to sell Christianity as the path to the good life and that the "good life" doesn't just mean the absence of hellfire and brimstone (the afterlife is, actually, noteably absent throughout The Act). The argument to being/becoming Christian isn't "if you don't accept God you will BURN IN HELL," though I'm sure most of their target audience received that message loud and clear in other places. No, the message in The Act is be/become Christian and you will have "good feelings" and "the physical responses that everyone wants" (read: ORGASM).
Jesus: A Really Good Fuck. Maybe the brides of Christ were onto something?
No only will Jesus/God give you a really good time in bed, but he'll also give you and your partner together a super-awesome roll in the hay, which makes Jesus/God sound like something between a sex therapist and a congenial fuck buddy:
When Sara accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior in my office that day, she cancelled their divorce proceedings and went home to become a loving, submissive, gracious wife ... within ten weeks [her husband] Sam also came to the saving knowledge of Christ, and they have enjoyed a compatible relationship for many years (232).This sells Christ not as "Lord and Savior" in the Biblical sense -- though obviously that is the ultimate end goal, saving souls -- but rather as a means to an end: a "compatible relationship" between husband and wife (and perhaps every-other-Thursday also the Son of God?). Such a pitch effectively twines together a prosperity gospel ethos with a reconfiguration of sexuality as something with positive spiritual possibility, even outside of the context of procreation. And both of these themes became absolutely central to late-twentieth-century American evangelical culture. Sexual conservatives, to this day, will argue (either in psuedo-scientific or blatantly theological terms) that Christians who remain chaste until marriage and lead a Christ-centered sexual life thereafter will experience the best most satisfying sex there is.
Maybe they do? Who am I to judge. But I've been disqualified from that particular club since age eleven, when I met my friend J's offer (made in the backyard tree house, if I remember aright) to help me "accept Christ into your heart" with a blank stare, so.
And then there's the whole premarital lesbian (albeit monogamous) slut thing. I'm pretty sure I get demerits for that.
IN SUM: Adequate Lady-Spouse Metric
-50 --> not accepting Christ into my heart at age eleven (or at any age thereafter)
-50 --> believing the spiritual vacuum can be filled with other-than-Christ shaped religion
-20 --> engaging in premarital
-20 --> lesbian sexytimes
-20 --> and not regretting it
-30 --> and not turning to drugs and/or alcohol as a result
Chapter 13: -190 points
Chapter 12: -29.5
Chapter 11: -35
Chapters 8-10: 0 (n/a)
Chapters 6-7: -62
Chapters 4-5: +30
Chapters 2-3: -33
Chapter 1: -50
Cumulative ALSM Score: -369.5
*Before you ask no, there is no data to back this up -- it's simply assumed to be self-evident FACT.
**Hanna also pointed out, because she's smart like that (I'm not really just marrying her for the lovely ass), that spiritual/religious/metaphysical life is an important part of meaning-making for most people -- even if it's important because you've consciously chosen not to prioritize it. I don't think the LaHayes are terribly mis-guided to encourage people to consider their spiritual centering ... I only think they're wrong to argue that only Jesus and/or the evangelical Christian god will suffice.