Church might be the last place congregants would expect to talk about sex, but a brash new crop of preachers are starting to aggressively tackle the taboos of intimacy from the pulpit, or in some cases, from the roof of their church.
Evangelical Pastor Ed Young and his wife Lisa of Grapevine, Texas, said Christians have been unenthusiastic and unimaginative about sex for far too long. To demonstrate their point, the couple had an elaborate "bed-in" event, in which they had a crane lift a bed onto the top of their Grapevine congregation's church and settled in for the next 24 hours to talk about their favorite topic: Sex.
"I think in the Christian world, there are so many people who are uneasy about sex and sexuality," Ed Young said. "Most married couples want to have sex, but they're not having enough sex."
"For far too long, the church has been completely silent about something God has not been silent about at all," said Lisa Young.
In their radical new book, "The Sexperiment," the Youngs challenge heterosexual Christian married couples -- LGBT and unwed singles need not apply -- to have sex every day for a week.
"Our message is to shout it from the rooftop that God is pro-sex," Ed Young said.
"The first place to have that talk is in the home," added his wife. "The second place to have that talk is in the church."
Their "bed-in" was modeled after an event first put on in 1969 by gleeful blasphemers John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The Youngs said they are trying to take sex back from a popular culture that has perverted it.
"The sad thing is that our culture is throwing all these cues, all words, all these pictures of what sex is to our children, to couples to spouses, to husbands and wives, and it's not working out well for marriages," Lisa Young said.
The Youngs point out that the topic of sex is discussed throughout the Bible. For example, in the rather risqué Song of Solomon 4:3, two lovers rhapsodize about each other's lips and mouth: "Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy talk is comely: thy temples are within thy locks as a piece of a pomegranate."
And there's even a passage in Song of Solomon 4:16 that includes coming into the garden and eating the pleasant fruit, which has been interpreted by some Biblical scholars as a reference to oral sex: "Arise, O north, and come O south, and blow on my garden that the spices thereof may flow out: let my well beloved come to his garden, and eat his pleasant fruit."
"Sex is primarily for recreation," Ed Young said. "It's for pleasure. It's for fun -- secondarily for procreation."
While the Youngs insist their "Sexperiment" is about improving marriages, not a sex how-to guide, another book written by a different pastor and his wife from Seattle comes very close to just that.
Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace just published "Real Marriage," a book that includes entire chapter devoted to their interpretations of the Bible's teachings on oral sex.
"The Bible seems to speak of [oral sex] on a few occasions in the context of marriage in the 'Song of Solomon' in a way that is poetic and recognizes it as an acceptable aspect of marriage, not mandatory, but acceptable," Mark Driscoll said.
The Driscolls also offer a chapters about masturbation and anal sex, which they admit are not discussed in the Bible.
"[Anal sex] is not a sin," Mark Driscoll said. "It might not be healthy and good, so we wouldn't generally recommend it, but you can't say that it's a sin because it's not in the Bible."
However, the Driscolls said not everything related to sex is approved -- for one, pornography is off limits.
"It's about lust," Mark Driscoll said. "The Bible talks a lot about list, and lust is a hard issue, and the Bible says not to covet anyone else, sexually speaking, in the Ten Commandments, and so, yeah, the whole point of pornography is to get you to lust after somebody else. If a husband and wife have a deep interest in each other, that's a good thing. If somebody else is involved, then it's a bad thing."
Driscoll has been considered one of the most controversial pastors in the country, with a history of being criticized as a chauvinist and a sexist, but "Real Marriage" is being called the most provocative sex book ever written by an Evangelical. He even includes a passage in the book where he complains that he was not having as much sex as he wanted to have.
"As a Christian and a pastor, it was like, I'm not going to go look at pornography, I'm not going to commit adultery, I'm not going to have secret things on the side that I'm doing that she's doesn't know about or anything like that," Driscoll said. "So it was, you know, one option: be with your spouse. So when she was closed down, I didn't know how to interpret that. Did she not like me? Is she rejecting me?"
"Yeah, I think you took it as rejection a lot," Grace Driscoll added.
"Real Marriage" begins the first chapter with the couple sharing a searing account of their bitterly unhappy and largely sexless early marriage. The problems started when Mark Driscoll said he had a vivid dream of his wife committing sexual sins, which she later confessed to. Grace also writes that she was sexually assaulted.
Critics of the book have claimed that Grace has been cast as the damaged and sinful wife who withholds sex from her deserving husband, but she said that's not how she felt about the situation.
"I had brought baggage from my sexual assault into the marriage and so I perceived things a certain way, and Mark has talked about how, in different ways, how he was harsh and how he would speak to me, but he has repented that," Grace said. "That trust was rebuilt, and I've never felt like he was lording over me."
The book also includes a chapter written by Grace Driscoll called "The Respectful Wife," which refers to Ephesians 5:22-23 in the Bible, a passage that tells wives to respect their husbands: "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior."
Driscoll said her argument was to try to explain to reader her interpretation of what respecting your husband looks like.
"I'm arguing that a wife and a husband need to talk through what they do sexually," she said. "There needs to be a mutual respect for each other, not a lording over or an enabling – either way those are wrong."
Pastor Ed Young and his wife Lisa also insist the husband-wife relationship is not about women being forced to be sexually available to their husbands. They said it's about Christian couples, who too long have been squeamish about sex, strengthening their relationships and their families by figuring out how to be together intimately on a more regular basis.
"We're trying to begin a sexual revolution," Ed Young said. "Now the sexual revolution, of course, started in the '60s. I would argue that most of it is an illusion that led to pollution."