Christians Promote Holy, Hot Sex in Marriage

"The Act of Marriage" -- a sex manual for evangelicals written by Tim and Beverly LaHaye in 1976 -- was the first to promote the idea that sex can complement, not undermine, a marriage.

Ed Wheat's 1977 "Intended for Pleasure" urged women to give to their husbands with a smile and included tips on achieving maximum pleasure.

Baker Books, the Christian publisher that still carries Wheat's classic, also lists some new titles, including "The Spark: Igniting the Passion, Mystery and Romance in Your Marriage," which has sold more than 6,500 copies since January.

"What I see and read in both my job and out is an increased maturity in looking at sex," said Adam Ferguson, a Christian and publicist for Baker Books. "It is discussed with more realism and candor."

'Sex Is a Gift'

This new genre puts less emphasis on grin-and-bear-it submission and more on mutual pleasure. Evangelical ministers say the church should play a role in spreading the good word.

"Sex is a gift, a good thing," said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 14,000-member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan.

"God allows you to have pleasure," Hamilton told ABCNEWS.com. "That's how he designed your body. Once you learn it's a gift from God, you embrace it and lay aside the shame."

After conducting an anonymous survey of 2,400 of his parishioners, Hamilton wrote "Making Love Last a Lifetime," concluding that marriage suffers when couples lack sexual intimacy.

"We are such an overly sexualized society with everything you watch on TV," said Hamilton. "Somebody's got to talk about it."

The pastor announces these talks in advance so parents who are squeamish can send their kids to Sunday school. Still, Hamilton says even the children can benefit from a good sex talk.

Love, Christian-Style

"Do you want all of their learning to come from the playground or shaped by what the scripture says in the context of the church where we talk about love and fidelity and mutuality and justice?" he asked.

The scripture is exactly where more Christians are turning to spark discussion about the subject. Old Testament stories involving Adam and Eve and Sarah and Abraham are bringing life to sexual discussions. Hamilton said a new translation of the Hebrew word "paradise" suggests more earthly than heavenly overtones.

Though many churches still consider sex "prurient and fleshly and not to be discussed," Hamilton said a more open discussion is actually strengthening marriages.

"Folks who are married and people of faith tend to have more sex, more often than people who are swingers."

That message seems to be catching on, largely with women. About 800 of the 2,000 Sunday-going regulars signed up for an October conference at Wisconsin's Appleton Alliance Church.

"Sex is something we should be talking about in the Christian community," said Judy Episcopo, director of the Appleton women's ministry. "Except for the negatives -- don't do this and don't do that -- the Bible has a lot of good things to say about sex and God wants us to have a passionate, successful sex life. This conference can help inspire it."

The program is based on the books of Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus -- "Intimate Issues" and "Intimacy Ignited" -- who celebrate the Bible's "Song of Solomon," which reinforces the message that sex is not just for procreation.

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