by Rod Groom
Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism’s Compromise with the Sexual Revolution, by Rev. Karen Booth
A cautionary note: I bought this book in Kindle format, which makes it very convenient to access. However, Karen’s researches and discussion are still best handled by most of us by having a physical book in your hands. The book’s seven chapters and Afterword comprise sixty percent of the book. The rest can be found in 5 very helpful appendices and in very extensive notes.
Booth discusses the history and development of the sexual revolution as it has impacted the church. For example, did you know that both Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner – the first the principal author of the infamous reports which helped spur on sweeping changes in our sexual morals, while the second founded Playboy Magazine – were both disgruntled Methodists? Things moved so quickly in the 1950s and 60s that ministry teams and study committees in the denominations that led to the United Methodist Church were already proposing “value-neutral” sexual ethics to be taught in church youth groups.
Desensitizing bombardment of pornographic images as a form of therapy led to the accumulation of the world’s largest library of pornography by a United Methodist minister! This library was, for a time, actually owned by one of our annual conferences. Over a period of decades, political and theological interests combined to transform our understanding of sexual ethics and morals. Today we have many outside interests, and much outside money dedicated to changing the church’s stand on sexual sin.
More importantly, in my opinion, Booth looks at the disastrous consequences of our abandonment of sexual purity, and our failure to reach out to and minister to millions of confused sexual sinners, both heterosexual and homosexual, over the last fifty years. She taught me much about my identity, not as an orientation, but as a sinner saved in Christ. This is a book which will be important for all of us for years to come.
As our previous Bishop Timothy Whitaker has commented:
Karen Booth’s “Forgetting How to Blush” tells the story of the advancement of the sexual revolution in both the culture and the church from the perspective of one who adheres to the historic and transcultural Christian tradition regarding human sexuality. Anyone who wishes to understand all sides of the debate about sexuality in the church should read the story told in this book. This well-researched book is an invitation to critically reflect upon the theological presuppositions that have guided the effort to change the church’s moral teaching and pastoral direction about sexuality.
I met Karen Booth at General Conference in Tampa this year, and heard her speak once at a Good News breakfast. I was
impressed enough to buy her new book. I bought it from Amazon, but you can also order it from Bristol House, Ltd., at
http://bristolhouseltd.com. It is not available from Cokesbury or Barnes and Noble. As one advertising blurb puts it, this
book traces “the historical, scientific, political, religious and cultural trends in relation to the sexual revolution, …
[exposing] many assumptions, alliances and errors that are rarely considered in the public dialogues and debates over
the church’s stance on homosexuality.”
Rev. Karen Booth has done us all a wonderful service by her eight years of research in writing this book. While most of us
just wish the controversy about sanctioned homosexual inclusion in the church would just go away, it will not. Karen
gives us the understandings we need to think about and respond in a discerning, compassionate and holy manner to all
of the issues raised in this controversy.