On the Demonization and Fetishization of Choice in Christian Sexual Ethics

Christopher Craig Brittain

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This article analyses treatments of the freedom of choice in theological reflections on sexuality. It explores common contradictions that often emerge in such accounts, including: the reaffirmation of disavowed simplicity, the affirmation of biological determinism at the expense of interpersonal values, and a distrust of choice, which effectively amounts to a choice not to choose. The article shows that while conservative Christian sexual ethicists often demonise individual freedom of choice, liberal theology often fetishises such freedom. These tensions are contrasted with Rowan Williams’s concept of the ‘body’s grace’, and Kathleen Roberts Skerrett’s notion of ‘incarnating the other’. The discussion shows that the contributions of each of these theologians require greater analysis of the contemporary social and cultural forces shaping contemporary sexual practices. The article explores this entwinement between sexuality and the ideal of freedom in contemporary culture by engaging with Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-166
Number of pages23
JournalStudies in Christian Ethics
Issue number2
Early online date15 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • choice
  • sexual ethics
  • freedom
  • Jonathan Franzen
  • Stanley Hauerwas
  • Gilbert Meilaender
  • Rowan Williams
  • Kathleen Skerrett


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