Almost 30 years ago, in 11th grade health class, we all had a very substantial discussion of homosexuality. (The health class included a sex-ed component, and it was in this context that the discussion took place.)
The teacher–RR, who was also my tennis coach–was quite liberal, but, to his credit, was fair in his presentation to the class. He was a secular Jew who, while not Christian, grudgingly appreciated the benefits that Christians brought to the table. Neither myself, nor any other Christians in the class, ever had a problem with him.
In fact, get this, folks: RR referred to anal sex as “sodomy” and, while conceding to conventional wisdom–which, at the time, dictated that one in ten people were gay–he seemed to think of that lifestyle as an aberration. (In fact, most of the teachers–even the most liberal, tolerant folks who were high up in the local teacher union–were of that mindset. While they harbored no hatred of gays, they did not look at the lifestyle as one to be embraced or promoted, either.)
The year was 1983, and the United States was a different country. Reagan was President; the Cold War was hot; the Moral Majority had its high water mark of relevance; and, while Americans were not on board with Jerry Falwell, the American people had no desire to ditch the Judeo-Christian consensus that made America–and Western Civilization–exceptional. Americans weren’t all Bible-believing Christians; they did, however–sometimes grudgingly–accept that the Christian consensus that informed our understanding of law and justice, even with its faults in execution, was a good thing.
Back then, gay “marriage” was on no one’s radar.
Sadly, the year was 1983, and the decline–while under the radar–was already in progress.
The same decline that has destroyed Europe had not quite come full-circle in the United States. But the wheels were turning.
Abortion had been legal for ten years; the process that led to its legalization had been in play for longer than that. The Kinsey reports of the 1940s were a culmination of the synthesis of Darwinian thought presented as science, Nihilist rejection of objective truth, academic hatred of all things Christian, and outright fraud.
But, over time, Kinsey’s key mantras were absorbed into the mainstream: the academy, the justice system, the news media, the entertainment sector, and–before long–most sectors of government.
Making matters worse, key sectors of the Church were already in the process of succumbing to European skepticism. This process began in Europe with the Enlightenment, then accelerated with the advent of Biblical liberalism, whose adherents promoted “Higher Criticism”. By the mid-1940s, the same Germany and France that gave us Luther and Calvin, and the same England that had given us Wilberforce, Spurgeon, Tyndale, and Edwards, was all but dead.
While the Europeanization of America had been going on since the late 1800s, this process accelerated after World War II. American seminaries welcomed European scholars, and sent their best students to study in European seminaries. Those great students would go on to become pastors, scholars, authors, and professors who would pass on that liberalism to their students.
This is why mainline Protestants in the 1960s, sadly, were making “care packages” for Communist soldiers in North Vietnam, all while our men were fighting valiantly–and dying–to liberate people from a brutality that was rooted in the godlessness of Communism.
This is why the Church was caught flat-footed by the onslaught of feminism and the ensuing Sexual Revolution.
This is why the response of the Church has been largely reactionary: opposition to agendas rather than a promotion of a better agenda rooted in Creation and Redemption. If the Church teaches a sexuality that consists of, “Don’t have sex until you get married; it’s better when you wait…” or “If you wait until marriage, you will be a better flower in the garden…” or “The men will appreciate you better if you wait until marriage…”, then that is proof-positive that they are being reactionary.
Otherwise well-intentioned efforts–such as the True Love Waits initiatives–reflect a Church that is in reactionary mode. As a result, the Church is failing in its role of salt and light. They first are caught flat-footed, and their response is proving to be years late and many dollars short.
Hugh Hefner started Playboy in 1953; he called himself Kinsey’s pamphleteer. This marked the advent of modern pornography, which added rocket fuel to the fire of the Sexual Revolution. A pornography industry that was once relegated to the seedy sectors of American society is now part of our mainstream. While I have never seen their movies, I know who Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy are. But they wouldn’t be mainstream without Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems. (That Bob Woodward would use the title of their signature movie as a code name for a Watergate informant speaks volumes to the impact that pornography was already having on our mainstream.)
During this time, the sexual revolution was in full swing, and homosexuals were gaining an unprecedented level of acceptance. The Church’s response: the liberals began the process of blessing homosexuality; the conservative response was mostly reactionary, providing Biblical exposition as to why homosexuality is a sin.
On abortion, the Church was sleeping at the wheel. While the Catholics were fighting it–even as they were decimated by the Griswold v. Connecticut decision–the Protestant world was all over the map, and didn’t have a clue what they were up against. When Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton came down in 1973, even the Southern Baptist Convention was ambivalent if not supportive of it. In fact, it would not be until after 1993 that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary would bring in an ethics professor who opposed abortion.
During that time, conservatives embarked on campaigns against gay rights. In spite of these efforts, court decisions and corporate-political-academic tides have not only ramrodded homosexuality down our throats, they have managed to capture public opinion by pointing to social and economic inequities–that our liberal establishment has spent decades creating–in order to promote the cause of gay “marriage”.
On pornography, the reaction was similar: the Church mounted spirited campaigns against pornography. The Supreme Court punted on the issue of obscenity and established a “community standard”. That led to a plethora of anti-porn efforts in local circles. All of that was rendered moot with the advent of the World Wide Web.
When public schools began promoting promiscuity-based sex education, the reaction of conservatives was to bring in abstinence-based sex education. (Again, reactionary.)
While I have no qualms with the conservative viewpoints regarding pornography, homosexuality, and abortion–I oppose abortion, sodomy, and pornography–the problem is not the viewpoints, but rather the reactionary presentation of sexuality as a whole. (On sex education, I oppose all government involvement in this. That is the responsibility of parents.)
What Christians have failed to grasp is that the Sexual Revolution is not simply about sex. If it were just that, the “revolution” would have been over as soon as AIDS came to fruition in the 1980s. Roe v. Wade would have fallen during the Reagan years.
No, the Sexual Revolution was–and still is–merely one front in the larger attack against God’s created order. It is rooted in a denial of a God who Created everything; it is rooted in the denial of the primacy of Man over other created things; it is rooted in the denial of Man’s fallenness; it is rooted in the denial of Man’s need for a Messiah.
While Jerry Falwell was absolutely correct about the sinfulness of homosexuality, I think he missed it when he categorized it as one of our great “National Sins”. Ditto for pornography.
While we must rightly call homosexuality for what it is–just as we must call adultery for what it is, just as we must call lustful intent for what it is, just as we must rightly call covetousness for what it is–the societal recognition of these things is not the problem; it is a symptom.
Rejection of God’s Natural Law–and the implications of that–has led us to where we are today.
From here, it will get worse before it gets better. The Christian consensus that made America exceptional is eroding, and that erosion has accelerated from a slow, arduous process to a very rapid process.
Will we go the way of Europe, or will we experience a reclamation? Will we face the hard truths about our failings and act diligently on that truth, or will we continue to live in denial, providing–at best–reactionary answers to problems that require addressing the ugly roots?
I am not hopeful for the short-term. I believe we will probably see at least one post-Christian generation, during which we will witness an era of barbarism that would make the worst of our atrocities against the Indians pale in comparison. Legalized abortion is the tip of the iceberg, and that is fomenting a culture of death that has yet to come to full fruition. But it will, and the results will be ugly.
In the long-term, I am hopeful. Jesus said that not even the gates of Hell would prevail against the Church. Not even all the blunders of the Vatican of old could extinguish the Gospel; God raised up reformers like Luther, Calvin, and their contemporaries. Fallen men they were, but they were instruments of deliverance nonetheless.
Every dog has its day, and that is true of the godless. They will revel in their short-term victories, just as their predecessors–from Nero to Stalin–did.
And yet the Church–bloodied as She may be–is still in the fight. And while Her enemy will make that path ugly and nasty and dark, Her light will overcome that darkness.
But just as Jesus–when confronted by the Pharisees on various matters–responded by pointing to the roots (in some cases Natural Law), the Church must be forceful in doing this.
Whether you are a young earth Creationist or someone who accepts that the earth and universe could be much older, Creation is a big deal. Connecting sexuality with marriage, rooted in Creation–as Scripture does–is a big deal.
That’s because it never was “all about sex,” but rather about a God who makes and keeps His promises.