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Innocent Ecstasy : How Christianity Gave America an Ethic of Sexual Pleasure - Peter Gardella

Innocent Ecstasy

How Christianity Gave America an Ethic of Sexual Pleasure

Hardcover Published: 30th May 1985
ISBN: 9780195036121
Number Of Pages: 202

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Though they disagree on virtually everything else, evangelicals and gays, Catholics and agnostics all agree that sex should be innocent and ecstatic. For most of Western history people have not had such expectations. Innocent Ecstasy shows how Christianity led Americans to hope for so much from sex. It is the first book to explain how the sexual revolution could have occurred in a nation so deeply imbued with Christian ethical values.
Tracing our strange journey from the hands of Jonathan Edward's angry Puritan God to the loving embrace of Marabel Morgan's Total Woman, Gardella draws his surprising evidence from widely disparate sources, ranging from Catholic confessionals to methodist revival meetings, from evangelical romances to The Song of Bernadette. He reveals the sexual messages of mainstream Protestant theology and the religious aspirations of medical texts found at the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research. He sheds new light on such well-known figures as Henry Adams, Margaret Sanger, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and introduces us to such fascinating, lesser-known characters as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Sylvester Graham, inventors of corn flakes and Graham crackers, who devised their products as anti-aphrodisiacs. While detailing the development of moral obligations to pursue sexual pleasure and to follow certain patterns of sexual practice, Gardella incidentally provides one of the few books to bring together the liberal Protestant, Roman Catholic, and evangelical perspectives on any aspect of American culture.
Gardella attributes the American ethic of sexual pleasure to the eagerness of Americans to overcome original sin. This led to a quest for perfection, or complete freedom from guilt, combined with a quest for ecstatic experience. The result, he maintains, is an attitude that looks to sex for what was once expected from religion.

"Gardella's writing is refreshingly straightforward, and the historical narrative expressed is compelling Without question, the scholar and teacher will find this book to be an excellent resource for a historical understanding of how American Christians navigated their way from the depravity of sex to the innocent ecstasy of sexual pleasure."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion "A perceptive, insightful, and intelligently written account of American Christianity's attitudes toward sex. For anyone interested in innovative religious history that departs from traditional denominational or theological narratives, Gardella's study would be an important model."--Church History "Arresting...intellectually satisfying....[The book] reveals a curious and previously hidden history of sex in America, in which scientific theories offered seemingly rational foundations for sexual abstinence, while religion, for once, gave us the nod of cosmic approval."--Psychology Today "A wonderfully entertaining and seriously motivated piece of historical writing....[Gardella] most emphatically shows that the dialectic between the Christian moral tradition and sexual health is a very complicated, nonlinear and subtle one."--National Catholic Reporter "A perceptive, insightful, and intelligently written account of American Christianity's attitudes toward sex. For anyone interested in innovative religious history that departs from traditional denominational or theological narratives, Gardella's study would be an important model."--Church History "Arresting...intellectually satisfying....[The book] reveals a curious and previously hidden history of sex in America, in which scientific theories offered seemingly rational foundations for sexual abstinence, while religion, for once, gave us the nod of cosmic approval."--Psychology Today "A wonderfully entertaining and seriously motivated piece of historical writing....[Gardella] most emphatically shows that the dialectic between the Christian moral tradition and sexual health is a very complicated, nonlinear and subtle one."--National Catholic Reporter

Introductionp. 3
Catholic Sensualityp. 9
Basic Doctrinep. 9
Passion, Pleasure, and Sinp. 12
Psychological Standardsp. 21
Protestant Reactionsp. 25
Anti-Catholic Pornographyp. 25
Background and Resultsp. 32
Medical Christianityp. 39
Sex and Sin in the Coloniesp. 39
The Reduction of Sin to Sexp. 44
The Religion of Health in Protestant Theologyp. 49
The Fear of Passion and Sexual Practicep. 56
Constituencies of the Victorian Consensusp. 62
Medical Prophetsp. 68
Presbyterian Yogap. 68
Other Voices in the Wildernessp. 74
Evangelical Ecstasyp. 80
The Rapture of Rebirthp. 80
Methodism and Sanctificationp. 85
The Song of Bernadettep. 95
Messages of the Beautiful Ladyp. 95
Mary in Americap. 102
The Ideal Womanp. 118
Redemption through Sexp. 130
Margaret Sangerp. 130
G. Stanley Hallp. 140
Conclusionp. 150
Notesp. 163
Bibliographyp. 187
Primary Sourcesp. 187
Secondary Sourcesp. 192
Indexp. 195
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195036121
ISBN-10: 0195036123
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 202
Published: 30th May 1985
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 24.21 x 16.23  x 2.26
Weight (kg): 0.5