Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: Dale Kuehne, 'Sex and the iWorld'

How in the world did we get here? Where are we going? And "who gets to define the future?" are three questions central to "Sex and the iWorld." It is obvious to all we are in the midst of great social change. Some gladly embrace this change and all it brings, including unfettered freedom and individualism. Others are more reactionary, and seek to use law and persuasion to clamp down on change, often-times quoting sacred texts and scary statistics to prove their point. In this book, Dale Kuehne seeks to step above the mudslinging, calling all readers to engage in a discussion about the nature of the world, and how best to support "the good life." In his toolkit, Kuehne brings along history, theology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and even a lot of pop culture. Using these tools, the author paints a picture of our current culture, explaining how we left behind our old understandings of human nature and morality, and the road we traveled to get here.

However, Kuehne is rightly concerned that our present world, with its tendency to eschew boundaries and all but a few taboos, is moving down a road toward self-destruction. While offering us freedom and independence like never before, the 'iWorld' leaves much to be wanting. From the breakdown of the family structure to the willingness to ignore basic biology, we have created a world of great loneliness and isolation; our children are being raised deficient in the most basic of essentials such as hope, love, and a solid foundation upon which to build their lives.

Kuehne's answer is to push toward a new world, in which relationship is primary (hence his name for it - the 'rWorld') - a relationship defined as beginning with the 3 generation family, then on to neighbors, community, city, and out to the world. It is a world in which people are encouraged to seek fulfillment and meaning through a matrix of healthy relationships.

It is in the area of sexuality that Kuehne is at his most challenging, as he makes the case that our current infatuation with sex is, in fact, doing great harm to us as a people, because sex short-changes relationships, redefining true intimacy with a momentary act of pleasure. Thus, Kuehne would call us to learn that, while certainly enjoyable, sex just isn't necessary for true happiness, for the good life. And, he would go on, all this emphasis on "sex as inalienable right" is truly a lie, and a damaging lie. Thus, all the legal work that has been done to open the doors to unfettered sexual freedom has led us down a dark path leading to a dead end. People are getting a lot of sex in a lot of different fashions, but, as a society, we're none the happier for it.

One can guess where this leads. In the rWorld, sex is seen again as necessary to procreation, and helpful to bonding the husband and wife (who are responsible for creating the healthy family in which kids learn a healthy self-identity), but ultimately NOT a road to relational health anywhere else. This does, naturally, sound downright anathema to the iWorld. . .but the reader ultimately must ask whether or not the current situation is any better than the healthy promise of the rWorld.

Family is the one other arena much in debate today, and one addressed by Kuehne. The current culture is pushing in a direction of familial self-definition. With the growing numbers of single-parent homes, with gay marriage on the agenda and a swelling number of gay families, it is obvious that we've left the world of Leave it to Beaver behind. Again, Kuehne would argue that just because something is, or that just because people want something, that doesn't necessarily make it the best course of action. True relational health is found when children are raised by the parents who gave them birth. And the healthiest way to raise those children is with a parent of either gender, because gender matters - men and women each bring something unique to the table, and when one is missing, the child raised in that family, while fully loved and cherished, still misses out on something essential and important.

For some, these are challenging words. But, in the end, I believe Kuehne would have us cease the flame wars brought about by personal desire, and ask again, What must be done to build a healthy world that will best support The Good Life? Whether one agrees with Kuehne or not, the discussion is certainly important, and the future is valuable enough that giving consideration to today's decisions is worth the time and effort. Wherever one stands on any of these issues, Kuehne's challenge in his afterword needs to be heeded:

"Rather than look at the world with our eyes shut tight, we need to open them and take responsibility to be proactive in directing the future and live in the real world as opposed to being passive observers and potential victims of change."

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