I first noticed it ten years ago at an academic conference. A young graduate student introduced a paper on Heidegger by stating that she thought the German philosopher was “sexy”.
Before that I had heard Heidegger, a famously obscure pro-Nazi philosopher, referred to in many ways. But until that day, “sexy” was not one of them.
Since then I have heard the adjective applied to all manner of phenomena including book titles, conference topics, and perhaps the most off-putting of all, sermons. On more than one occasion I have heard pastors state that they want to find a “sexy” sermon title to grab the attention of their restless congregations.
It used to be that “sexy” referred to sex. But these days it increasingly refers to that which is “
Personally, I find this trend nauseating. Famously obscure, pro-Nazi philosophers are not, by any stretch of the imagination, “sexy”. Nor, for that matter, are sermons.
To be sure, the church has a long history of squeamishness about sex and concupiscence, especially when taken to the heightened extremes that, for example, exalted sexual abstinence over marital fidelity and which advised married couples not keen on having children to engage in practices like amplexus reservatus (a form of pre-orgasmic coital interruption).
But if the church in the past has oft been uncomfortable about being “sexy” even in the marital bed for fear of concupiscence (aka lust), what are we to think of the current trend to label everything — even sermon titles and topics — as sexy? Methinks the pendulum continues to swing from one extreme to the other.
I have nothing against seeking ways to catch the attention of an increasingly distracted world, just so long as you have something worthwhile to say after you’ve gathered an audience. But as you aim for that noble goal, make an effort to find alternative adjectives to describe your efforts. Allow me to suggest some possibilities (some of which hopefully describe this very unsexy blog post): provocative, exciting, intriguing, disturbing, inspirational, eye-catching, engaging, memorable.