New Book on Changing Values Stirs Conversation, Controversy

Post a Comment » Written on October 23rd, 2009     
Filed under: News
NASHUA, NH (October 23, 2009) – Dale Kuehne was caught off-guard when Chuck Colson published a review on his popular commentary site of the Evangelical Covenant Church pastor’s new book, Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship Beyond an Age of Individualism.

Colson gave the book a glowing review. Kuehne, who is professor of politics at St. Anselm College, said, “I received so many emails today in response to this that the school had to shut down my account and reconfigure it so that I didn’t run out of capacity. Up until this point, things have been rather slow out of the gate in regard to the book, and I was waiting to see what happened when the reviews began to be published.”

The correspondence has ranged from strong support to hate mail. That hasn’t surprised Kuehne, who knew the subject matter would be controversial.

The book explores how a shift to what Kuehne calls the iWorld, where the individual becomes the highest arbiter of all things right and wrong, confuses individual human sexuality with interpersonal intimacy. Kuehne also believes sexual relations are appropriate only within the context of heterosexual marital relationships.

In an interview, Kuehne said he was reluctant, but felt almost compelled to write the book because students and others kept asking him about his views on homosexuality, given his political and theological vantage point. The book has been several years in the making.

“Society, including much of the church, doesn’t realize how it is influenced by iWorld philosophy,” Kuehne says. He adds, only half-joking, “It’s a good thing I have tenure.”

Kuehne suggests the iWorld is one of “unfettered freedom and individualism” that supersedes all other values, and it has replaced the world of traditional morality and family connections (tWorld) with disastrous consequences.

The iWorld presents a false orthodoxy that declares sex is necessary for intimacy and happiness and that self-fulfillment is the “only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct.”

But Kuehne is not longing for a mythological “good old days.” Instead, he emphasizes that society must transform itself to become a place where relationships (the rWorld) are paramount. Only in that kind of world, he maintains, can people find the fulfillment God desires for them to experience.

“Ultimately it’s what I’m for – it’s not about what I’m against,” Kuehne says.

Kuehne’s book walks the reader through the philosophical underpinnings of the historical changes until he arrives at today’s current culture, where change is come at a dizzying pace. “Why are we getting ready to do something that in the entire history of the West – the entire history of our faith – was unconscionable until the last 10 years?” he said.

Society, including much of the church, doesn’t realize how it is influenced by iWorld philosophy. He thinks there is plenty in the book to make everyone uncomfortable at various points, even as he has had to examine his own underlying beliefs.

Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, endorsed the book, saying “This is a very important book – clarifying complex issues, jolting us out of complacency and demanding action.”

Kuehne hopes the book will contribute to discussion that must be more gracious, intellectual, and compassionate than past discourse often has been. “Any time I go out to speak, afterwards I spend quite a lot of time talking with people. This is really tough stuff. There are people in the audience dealing with some very painful issues.”

Disparaging people with different points of view needs to be avoided, he added. “There are very fine people who will address and see the issues differently than I do.”

Kuehne said additional discussion is needed in the Covenant. “We need to have the conversation in the Ministerium real fast. Each conference needs to pull together its pastors and have an honest, behind-closed-door session.”

Kuehne added, “There are a lot of us in the East Coast and in Iowa where the rules have suddenly changed.”

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