Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics
By Karen Peterson-Iyer (Georgetown University Press, 2022)
In Reenvisioning Sexual Ethics: A Feminist Christian Account, Karen Peterson-Iyer proposes that the complexity of today’s sexual societal issues requires a new ethical approach. The traditional view of “good” sex as unitive and procreative within heterosexual marriage “offer[s] little useful guidance to ordinary people struggling with ordinary problems.” Conversely, the modern ethic of mutual consent is a thin measuring stick that fails to account for the totality of human well-being.
The solution, Peterson-Iyer proposes, is a more robust ethic of human flourishing. This includes aspects of freedom, embodied health, emotional integrity, relational intimacy, and equal regard. After discussing what each of these means in regard to sex, she applies her more robust ethic to four current sexual issues: college hookup culture, teen sexting, commercial sex, and sex trafficking.
Peterson-Iyer asserts that “individual actions and choices cannot be correctly interpreted apart from the social context in which they take place.” For instance, in the chapter on hookup culture, she examines the societal backdrop of hookups, including inherited gender “scripts” many young people feel obligated to fulfill sexually. She examines how that backdrop influences true consent and other areas of human flourishing.
Missing is what individuals can do about each situation. The end of each chapter offers ideas for moving forward but at the macro level. For instance, for hookup culture the suggestions are what campuses can do to encourage a culture of sexual flourishing rather than what an individual student might do for themselves, which could have made the book truly useful for a college student. But it is refreshing to see Christian principles applied to a culture of empowerment rather than one of shame surrounding sex.
God Loves the Autistic Mind
By Father Matthew P. Schneider (Pauline Books & Media, 2022)
Written by an autistic Catholic for Catholics with autism, God Loves the Autistic Mind is what the Catholic neurodivergent community has needed. Father Matthew P. Schneider briefly chronicles his own journey with autism before diving into addressing “what makes autistic prayer different” and offering “52 meditations for autistics and those who love us.” He defines concepts that “neurotypicals” might not understand, such as identity-first language and stimming, while directly addressing those with autism who have dealt with these concepts for years.
Schneider deconstructs historical misconceptions of autism—that it can be “prayed away” or is caused by sin—then explains what it really is: just a different way of approaching the world. He writes, “In our own lives, [people with autism] often bring more things with us than other people do,” things like stimming or flapping or struggling to read social cues. Even though this approach to life is different than many people’s, he emphasizes this approach as positive.
Schneider invites people with autism into church spaces where they’ve been excluded. He cherishes the autistic identity, gives tips for navigating overstimulating Masses, and explains how to serve God in ways that work for individual brains.
Hearing an author shift blame for feelings of inadequacy from those with autism to the systems in the church itself is revolutionary. “Today Christians often . . . mandate a certain bodily conformity that exacerbates social disability,” Schneider writes. While offering gentle critiques of the church, he highlights the strengths that Catholics with autism bring to the table: “Jesus is happy with me being the best me I can be.” Let’s take a page from Schneider’s book: It’s time to celebrate diversity and regard uniqueness as strength.
The Alluring Voice of God: Forming Daily Encounters
By Carrell Jamilano (Liguori Publications, 2022)
Jamilano answers young adults’ questions by offering tips and exercises for clearer communication with God and navigation through crises of faith.
Aggressively Happy: A Realist’s Guide to Believing in the Goodness of Life
By Joy Marie Clarkson (Bethany House Publishers, 2022)
Clarkson tackles the horrible things in life and the idea of toxic positivity with an eye toward hope and the importance of faith in the face of darkness.
Learning Our Names: Asian American Christians on Identity, Relationships, and Vocation
By Sabrina S. Chan, Linson Daniel, E. David de Leon, and La Thao (InterVarsity Press, 2022)
Four theologians examine how Asian American Christians are reclaiming their names and living God’s call in a world full of discrimination.
This article also appears in the July 2022 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 87, No. 7, page 39). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.