The Problem of Desire

Theologian Sarah Coakley interrogates our relationship to sex, food, money, the body, and God.

“I see desire as a central human phenomenon … We see desire in the newborn baby, for physical and psychological needs. We see desire in the dying person, even if they’ve lost the capacity for speech. We see desire in people who are very severely brain damaged or physically damaged. Desire is always there, from the moment of birth to the last gasp of our breath.”

Where do our desires come from? How do we adjudicate between competing desires? And what are our lives really about, what do we most long for?

Professor Sarah Coakley brings a keen and compassionate eye to our difficulties as a culture with sex, eating and drinking, wealth, and more. Her short but profound book The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender, and the Quest for God invites us into a lifelong sorting of desire that might allow us to prioritise what truly matters.

“If you join a religious community within Christianity, there is one question that’s asked of you as you join and it’s Quid petis, what are you seeking? What are you seeking? What is your life for? And I’m trying to get this question back into the heart of our spiritual and theological reflection, whether or not you believe in God.”


The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender, and the Quest for God