Before I dive into the rest of the interview with Gary Thomas, I want to say a few things. I have already written about Married sex, Gary’s latest book written with Debra Fileta. Unfortunately, many of you have heard many negative comments and criticisms about it.
It’s so important that we refuse to take the words out of context. The scriptures say that if two or more agree, we will receive from God whatever we ask for (Matthew 18:19). Does this mean that if I pray to win the lottery with my husband and children, God must let us win? It takes a single scripture out of the context of the scripture as a whole. In 1 John 5:14-15 it says that if we ask according to His will. Failure to accept the full context renders an interpretation invalid.
As part of my first marriage, Gary’s book sacred marriage and his advice that marriage is to make us more holy than happy would keep me in an abusive situation and endure abuse that God never intended. It is the same for Married sex. In the context of my first marriage, the advice given could cause me to suffer additional abuse. yet, in the context of my current marriage, filled with mutual love and respect, both books can be of great help in making my marriage even better than it is.
We are in a cancel culture where we have deemed that being offensive to anybody is a reason to nullify, demonize, destroy. Unfortunately, the Word of God declares that the cross is offensive to those who do not believe. We walk on a slippery slope. We see attempts to to cancel the Word of God becoming more real every day because its way is contrary to that of this world. If we are not careful, we will one day see Scripture canceled in our society because it is offensive to those who disbelieve.
I encourage you to think long and hard about this truth. Ignore the demonization that has taken place around Gary Thomas and his new book. Listen to his heart. Consider his words in the context for which they are intended (that of a mutually loving and respectful marriage). Please remember that the “offensive snippets” that have been shared have been taken out of the larger context and twisted to fit an agenda. Remember that if we cancel anything that might be offensive, the Word of God is at the top of the list.
And here is the rest of the interview:
Before your blog post Enough is enoughI intentionally avoided your writings because of the way sacred marriage had been used as a weapon against me. What prompted your blog post? Enough is enough? What was the response? How did the answer change you? Would you like to change something in the message?
[Gary Thomas]: I mentioned in the post that a series of conversations at a women’s conference overwhelmed me. I saw the injury first hand. I looked at their faces. And it probably didn’t hurt that some of them were my daughters’ age. You begin to feel a paternal concern for young women at a certain age.
The response was viral in a way: well over 100,000 shares on social media, people were surprised that a nationally known marriage ministry pastor was saying that. A small group challenged me, saying Sacred Marriage had contributed to the problem, so I was being dishonest. My view is that sacred marriage has been misapplied, but I stand by the teachings as set forth in the book and subsequent books and blog posts (my second book on marriage, A Lifelong Love, has a appendix titled “God Hates Domestic Violence”.
Some national leaders, who don’t think violence is a cause for divorce, told me that I was ruining my reputation and that I had to destroy it. Of course, it’s still in place.
Who is the target audience Married sex? Is it possible for
[Gary Thomas]: For the first half, the book is aimed at married Christian couples who want theological, psychological, relationship, physical, and anecdotal guidance to increase their level of intimacy and pleasure in the bedroom. Some are held back by theological repression. Some have to overcome psychological wounds or trauma. Some couples have relationship issues to deal with. Some need physical guidance. And many just want advice and ideas from other couples on how to keep their sex life fresh and fun.
What would you say to reviewers who think the book is harmful to those who have been abused?
[Gary Thomas]: There have been many trained trauma counselors and survivors who have told us the exact opposite. A book about sex, specifically written for the Christian community, is bound to be somewhat controversial. In this case, I believe part of the pushback came from a campaign to support another book in which ours is unfortunately seen as a competition.
Have you had abuse experts review the manuscript/concepts prior to publication? What was their response?
[Gary Thomas]: Debra is herself a licensed counsellor. We had two editors, a man and a woman, which is unusual. One of these editors, by the way, is the exact same editor who oversaw and edited the book of an author who perhaps attacked us the most. There are over 70 references to “healthy” in the book (I searched and counted!) So we made it clear that we weren’t writing a manual for people in abusive marriages, and warned readers in cases where counsel would be unwise in a dangerous marriage.
Following the controversy, Zondervan asked another woman trained in trauma to examine her.
Will I own up to “a few problematic phrases” in a book of over 80,000 words? Absoutely. And I’m grateful that we can solve this problem with a slight gloss for the next printing.
[Dena’s note: I do not have permission from Zondervan to share the full outcome of the trauma trained reviewer. However, I hope that one day the words of the reviewer will be made public. Suffice it to say that the negative critiques have originated from one source, and not everyone trained in trauma sensitivity agrees. Not every abuse survivor agrees.
My biggest issue is that people are jumping on the cancel-culture train based upon snippets taken out of context. I have reviewed some other books that have been demonized, and looked for the specific quotes that have been listed. In almost every instance, important aspects have been left out of the critique.
If you have questions about the book, I encourage you to pick it up and read it. Do not simply listen to someone else’s opinion. We must learn to critically engage in these situations.]
What training do you have in abuse? Debra? How much time have you spent discussing these topics with survivors of abuse?
[Gary Thomas]: I’m not sure about Debra. I have no formal training in abuse. I spoke out against it as a pastor, but I avoided writing books giving advice to abused spouses. It’s one thing to oppose it, as I do in my books and blogs, to increase visibility and direct people to proper pastoral care. But I try to stay in my lane and reach out to couples who are in a place where it’s healthy to work on their marriage.
[Dena’s note: I am ending with these words again because they are so powerful.]
Do you have a final word for Christians who have been through an abusive marriage?
God hates what is happening to you (or has happened to you) and wants it to stop. It is not selfish to seek security; in fact, it is an act of worship.