"What's wrong with married couples having hot and holy sex?" is the question more and more pastors and Christian counselors are posing to believers.
Once regarded as a hush-hush topic in church, sex is increasingly being openly discussed and even promoted by an unlikely ally – Christian pastors. But this effort comes with strings attached – it's only meant for married couples.
"People carry a lot of guilt from parents who said sex is bad," said the Rev. Kerry Shook, senior pastor of the 15,600-member Woodlands Church outside Houston, according to ABC news. "We help them (couples) to have a healthy sex life. One of the things we cover in scripture is how to meet each other's needs in bed."
Shook and his wife Chris recently delivered a popular sermon titled "How to Make Your Marriage Sizzle" where they combined culinary tips with sex talk that touched on intimacy, marriage, and problems that come between couples.
Meanwhile in Kansas, the Rev. Adam Hamilton of the 14,000-member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection says, "Sex is a gift, a good thing."
"God allows you to have pleasure," Hamilton said. "That's how he designed your body. Once you learn it's a gift from God, you embrace it and lay aside the shame."
Hamilton noted that while many churches still consider sex a topic not to be discussed, he contends that more open discussions will actually strengthen marriages.
Earlier this year, popular emerging church leader Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle opened the floor up to questions about sex from the mainly young adult congregation. The open talks were part of his sermon series "Religion Saves and 9 Other Misconceptions."
During his sermon on sex, birth control and abortion, Driscoll said God didn't create sex only for procreation, but also for pleasure, comfort and protection within marriage.
"There are books … even from Christians who love Jesus that talk about all the pleasures and joys and the anatomical structure of the body and the ways to please your spouse and to have the most joy," Driscoll said in response to an attendant's question about pleasing one's spouse. "And you know what? I would whole-heartedly encourage it."
"Looking for ways to please your spouse is wonderful. It's biblical," he added. "It builds intimacy, love, joy, trust and pleasure. Furthermore, it helps to safeguard and protect a marriage from temptation," he said.
"I think Christian marriage gets a really bad rap. I don't think it needs to," Driscoll said. "I think it was Garrison Keillor who said 'It's good old fashioned monogamy that's really sexy.'"
Christian books about sex are increasingly popular. Conservative Christian leaders Tim LaHaye, co-author of the popular Left Behind series, and his wife Beverly LaHaye wrote the book The Act of Marriage, a sex manual for evangelicals. The book was the first to argue that sex can complement, rather than undermine, a marriage.
"Sex is such an important part of what we believe," said Judy Episcopo, director of women's ministry at Wisconsin-based Appleton Alliance Church, who recently organized a church conference on sex.
"There's a lot of guilt and pain and complacency about sexual relationships and a lot of ignorance about exactly what the Bible says about sex."
In her conference, she seeks to teach congregants that the Bible says many good things about sex. Although the conference allows single women to participate, it teaches young women to remain pure until marriage.
Another popular conference is Intimate Issues, which helps women age 17-77 understand God's view of sex. The event describes itself as a spiritual life conference that is a time of redemption, worship, looking in God's word, and a time to laugh about "the body" and other things that only women can identify with.
Intimateissues.com is one of the most popular Christian Web sites that encourages couples to have a holy and passionate marriage.