The Sexual Revolution
Growing up in a conservative Christian home, sex was a taboo subject. Yet I found myself in a world full of sex. Friends, movies, and popular music all eagerly proclaimed its glories. My young mind became fascinated as I was swept up in a revolution I couldn’t have possibly understood. Ideas planted in the 20th century bore fruit in the 21st, and forever changed the Western world.
Revolution means “a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it.”1 This fitting term describes what has taken place around us the past sixty years. The term “sexual revolution” was coined by Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian psychoanalyst.2 Reich believed that the moral constraints imposed by religion needed to be overthrown for society to advance. His ideas were bizarre, to say the least, yet he is praised by many as a pioneer in sexual liberty.3
Reich, along with Indiana University Professor Alfred Kinsey, laid the foundation for the ideas that have gripped our world. Kinsey grew up in a conservative Christian home and also wanted to overthrow previously held moral norms in society. He did this by interviewing thousands of Americans and documenting their sexual activity. By publishing these results, he helped normalize many sexual behaviors that were previously condemned.4 These revolutionaries believed that biblical morality had to be undermined for society to experience true liberty. They believed sexual repression was one of society’s greatest ills. Meanwhile, other forces were developing, ready to propel Reich and Kinsey’s ideas into the mainstream.
In his book We Cannot Be Silent, Albert Mohler points to four forces which helped stir the wave of sexual revolution into a tsunami: modern contraceptives, advanced reproductive technologies, divorce, and cohabitation.
The sexual revolution couldn’t have gained traction without the advent of modern birth control and the ensuing separation of sex and procreation. A secular author, Nancy L. Cohen, recognizes this when she says, “The Pill made possible the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”5
The Christian response to the introduction of the Pill was weak. In fact, only the Catholic church responded clearly to this innovation when Pope Paul VI released the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. I don’t agree entirely with the Catholic position but I do admire the Pope’s perception and willingness to speak boldly to the dangers brought about by modern contraceptives. Christians need to continue having honest, humble conversations about the far-reaching impact of the birth control revolution (I highly recommend Ian Miller’s excellent article).
Advanced reproductive technology followed on the heels of modern contraceptives. These technologies granted radical autonomy over human reproduction. Mohler points this out when he says, “so the Pill allowed sex without babies, and the modern reproductive technologies allow babies without sex.”2 Furthermore, they opened a Pandora’s box of ethical questions which Christians are still attempting to wade through. Many in society argue these technologies have no real moral consequences. We dare not be so naïve. It is vital for Christians to think through and respond clearly to the ethical questions being raised by these technologies.
Moreover, the sexual revolution gained further traction with the spread of no-fault divorce. Prior to the 70’s, divorce in the United States was a difficult process.2 The increasing openness to divorce led to a contractual, rather than covenantal, view of marriage. This undermined the biblical understanding of the permanence of marriage. The erosion of covenantal marriage had devastating consequences on families throughout the United States. Children have paid the price for these “advances.”
In the vacuum created by the erosion of marriage, cohabitation became commonplace – even the term “premarital sex” sounds like Greek. Our society has removed the expectation that sex should only take place within the confines of a loving covenant. This loss of covenantal love has paved the way for many of the sad abuses of sex we see today.
The sexual revolution seems to be an unstoppable avalanche. Behaviors previous generations couldn’t have imagined are making shocking advances. So how should Christians respond?
By the grace of God, I didn’t follow the same path as Alfred Kinsey. I experienced “sexual liberty” and it left me broken and disillusioned. Sue Ellin Browder exposes the lie of the sexual revolution when she says, “treasuring others solely for their sexuality strips them of their humanity. When Kinsey tore the mystery of love from human sexuality, he abandoned us all to a sexually broken world.”7
Thankfully, my failures led me to another Man who had ideas about society’s greatest problem. This Man also preached a message of revolution. However, His revolution didn’t strip me of my humanity, but brought wholeness and liberty to a broken sexual captive. Jesus alone can bring healing to our sexually confused society. May we counter the claims of the sexual revolutionaries with a Gospel that isn’t just revolutionary – but redemptive.
|Timothy Miller currently lives near Sarasota, Florida with his wife Sarah and son Malachi. He enjoys spending time with his family, hunting, woodworking, reading, sports, and traveling. Timothy is passionate about the Bible, truth, and understanding history. His greatest desire is to more intimately know Christ.|
7Browder, Sue Ellin. “Kinsey’s Secret: The Phony Science of the Sexual Revolution.” Crisis Magazine, 24 May 2012, http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/kinseys-secret-the-phony-science-of-the-sexual-revolution.
4Brown, Theodore M., and Elizabeth Fee. Alfred C. Kinsey: A Pioneer Of Sex Research. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Oct. 2002, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447862/.
5Cohen, Nancy L. “How the Sexual Revolution Changed America Forever.” Alternet, 5 Feb. 2012, 8:00pm, http://www.alternet.org/story/153969/how_the_sexual_revolution_changed_america_forever.
2Mohler, R. Albert. We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong. Thomas Nelson, 2016.
1“Revolution.” New Oxford American Dictionary.
3Turner, Christopher. “Wilhelm Reich: the Man Who Invented Free Love.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 July 2011, http://www.theguardian.com.
6VI, Pope Paul. Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) | Paul VI. w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html.