How the Church Must Confront the Sexual Revolution

The Christian church must confront the Sexual Revolution squarely and in its full force. An earlier article in Crisis described how the churches have been cowed by diffidence and fear. If the Western church is to survive in a meaningful way, now is the time to summon its courage and grasp the nettle it has avoided for half a century and launch its counter-revolution.

I do not have to make the case that the church is in crisis over sexuality. There is no dispute that the church’s loss of authority and membership can be traced directly to its abdication of leadership concerning sexual morality. The best of today’s churchmen have repeatedly sounded the alarm. But even the most forthright have not fully understood the problem, and therefore offer only lamentations and not solutions.

I shall highlight one of the most eloquent and one of the few with the courage to confront the matter squarely: In a series of articles, Dr. Albert Mohler demonstrates very effectively how the church is threatened existentially by sexual radicalism and the Sexual Revolution.

Mohler seems blindsided: He quotes another theologian on “the sheer speed of the homosexual cause’s success”: “Something that was assumed for centuries to be unspeakably immoral … has basically ousted traditionalist sexual morality from the moral high ground.” He writes as if same-sex “marriage” and the larger homosexualist political agenda came out of nowhere to threaten religious freedom. Mohler and others are nonplussed; they do not know what to do. “The church has seen the Sexual Revolution taking place turn by turn for the better part of the last century,” Mohler later acknowledges. “What now becomes clear is that most Christians vastly underestimated the challenge this Sexual Revolution would present.” This insight is worth taking a step further.

The first step is to dispense with the excuse that this is some nebulous deterioration in the “culture” that we can simply bemoan and confront at our leisure and without disturbing anyone’s rest. What we face are specific, very concrete abuses of government power that are well within the appropriate purview of the church and its proper sphere of influence and action. Confronting them will not be easy, but it can be done effectively.

Yes, the churches (or more precisely, Christian lobbying groups, which are not quite the same thing) do already contest some evils:  abortion, same-sex “marriage.” But not only do they lose; it is the ones that Christians refuse to confront—and some of what they actively abet—that are causing the trouble. No one suggests that we must “change the culture” before we can prohibit the taking of unborn life. The same resolve that we use on abortion must be applied elsewhere.

The church must understand that it is threatened by a radical ideology: not simply a series of spontaneous moves to further liberalize sexual prohibitions; these are components of a larger ideological system that grew directly out of Marxism and that aims (as its literature of “empowerment” declares very forthrightly) to acquire political power. The radicals aim not simply to abolish the Christian code of sexual morality; they must then substitute their own secular code, enforced by the state gendarmerie. They want to redefine sin to the point of replacing it with crime.

The virtue of recognizing this is to cast the problem as a concrete one of church-state relations, where the state has overstepped its bounds and abused its authority. Re-claiming its turf by limiting the power of the state is a role with which the church is or should be familiar. Viewed thus, the church’s tasks become clear and concrete. They require confronting obvious abuses of state power and demanding that they be ended:

“No-Fault” Divorce
The church must directly and vociferously challenge the indefensible abomination of “no-fault” divorce. No legislative enactment has done more to spread turmoil throughout society, the judiciary, or the churches themselves. It constituted nothing less than what Maggie Gallagher called “the abolition of marriage” and has already inflicted far more suffering on infinitely more people than same-sex “marriage” ever will. “No-fault” justice is a contradiction in terms and a prescription for systemic injustice, corruption, and (in the true sense) oppression. To pretend to defend marriage and the family while turning a blind eye to the travesty of state officials inflicting unilateral and involuntary divorce on people innocent of any legal grounds (and reaping huge profits from it) is not only hypocrisy and cowardice; it arrogantly displays our hypocrisy and cowardice to the world. Mohler himself calls divorce “the scandal of the evangelical conscience” (and then prudently ignores it). The enormity of this undertaking and the fierce resistance it will encounter is the evidence that it will strike the sexual revolutionaries where it hurts. Resistance to “no-fault” divorce will neutralize not only same-sex “marriage” but many evils that are far greater.

False Charges of Rape and Child Abuse
The church must take a firm and decisive stand on other aggressive and destructive legal abuses of the Sexual Revolution, principally fabricated accusations of new gender crimes like “rape” and “domestic violence,” and “child abuse.” The feminists claim that these are epidemic. Either they are right, in which case the church is silent in face of a great evil. Or they are false and the feminists are using them for political purposes, in which case the church is likewise silent in the face of a systemic injustice. But either way, they involve the rampant breakdown of our society’s sexual morality, which is the church’s turf and on which it should have something to say. Universities in particular (most of which are Christian in origin) have become centers of sexual debauchery, leading to an epidemic of trumped-up accusations against men. One might well argue that young men who indulge in widespread sex outside marriage, however consensual, while certainly not guilty of rape, are leaving themselves vulnerable to false accusations by women whose feelings they have hurt and then for political exploitation by feminists into whose hands they have played.  Theologically speaking, though unjustly punished by man (whose injustice is not excused), they are getting what they deserve from God.

Such a principled moral intervention by churches might well go a long way toward sorting out the problem—or at least elevating the quality of debate, as well as using the crisis to demonstrate the wisdom of its own teachings on chastity and biblical morality. In short, the churches have nothing to lose and everything to gain by exercising leadership on this matter (as some secular scholars and journalists have done).  But we do not hear even this from the churches. On campus sexual indulgence, as with rape accusations (as with divorce), aside from occasional weasel words, the churches and Christian universities are conspicuously silent.

Fabricated Charges of Domestic Violence 
Even more serious are fabricated accusations of domestic violence, a well-known weapon in divorce courts and a tool of the feminist lobby for creating single-parent homes and depriving children of fathers. They constitute another clear and direct attack on justice. Some Christians have indeed weighed in—unhelpfully.  In Freeing the Oppressed: A Call to Christians concerning Domestic Abuse, Ron Clark parrots standard, patently preposterous feminist claims (“every 15 seconds a spouse kills his wife”). His personalized definition of “domestic violence” bears no relation to plain English, with “manipulation,” “self-pity,” and even “apologies” classed as “violence.” His books are a litany of government falsehoods that are used to exacerbate the family crisis and augment government power. But even if Clark is right, then why are the other churches so silent? Here too, the church should have something to say, one way or the other.  But here too, as with divorce generally, as with rape accusations, they are silent.

Now the dishonest domestic violence agenda is pushing the envelope further.  The Istanbul Convention is an international treaty that rationalizes the criminalization of not only men who have committed no physical violence or threat of it but also parents who discipline their children physically or who seek therapy for children who are confused about their sexuality. It also would codify fluid definitions of male and female and legalize the “transgender” agenda. It strips defendants of due process protections such as the right to face one’s accuser and the right to be present at one’s hearing. (There are no trials for those accused of domestic violence.) It demonstrates why doing nothing is no longer an option in the face of an aggressive and expanding agenda.

Welfare State
Less immediate but equally critical, the church must bite the bullet and start to challenge the Welfare State. From the beginning, the churches and Christian Democratic parties acquiesced in this experiment as an alternative to socialism and communism in responding to the social problems brought by industrialization. While understandable at the time, it is now clear that the experiment has not worked as intended. First, it has become a serious competitor of the church and eclipsed the church’s mission of charity, replacing voluntary charity with state-coerced and state-managed redistribution. But more seriously, it has not only failed to eradicate poverty; it has become the major creator of it through the destruction of families. Welfare encourages extramarital sex and out-of-wedlock births in ways that are not only immoral but socially destructive (demonstrating the close connection between sexual immorality and social anomie). This in turn created the pressure that led to the Divorce Revolution.

The welfare apparat has also spawned the feminist gendarmerie known as Child Protective Services that generated another hysterical gender crime: false accusations of child abuse against innocent parents and thus the destruction of more families. (It also furnished another weapon in divorce proceedings.) The welfare machinery is bankrupting not only government budgets but entire societies, including the intact families whose income the state must milk in a futile effort to slake its insatiable thirst for revenue. Welfare communities breed the most violent crime, and welfare is a magnet for the most dysfunctional and divisive forms of immigration, attracting single parents or creating them after they arrive and proliferating the ghettoes that breed terrorism. This further strains the church’s mission to extend charity while pressuring authorities to “do something” by prohibiting healthy immigration of skilled workers and productive two-parent families.

Throughout all this run the same clear choices for the churches: justice versus injustice, honesty versus weasel words; credibility versus contempt. All these matters fall on the churches’ turf, and on all them the churches are “AWOL.”

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All this presents an opportunity that is being squandered: the election of conservative, pro-life governments in Poland and Hungary, Russia’s claim to leadership on traditional values, the dissent from the orthodoxy of the European Union represented by Brexit and the rise of new parties, and the election of Donald Trump—all this demonstrates how ordinary citizens are willing to defy liberal orthodoxy and demanding leadership that the churches and Christian groups are not showing. The street agitation against all these developments has come from sexual radicals.

There is no doubt that proactively turning the tables on the Sexual Revolution will require courage. The radicals will fight back savagely, which will confirm that we have touched a nerve. Jesus overturned the tables, whereas we are trying to hide under them. And of course he accepted the consequences.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from a painting of St Lawrence of Brindisi (Naples) in battle against the Turks.

Stephen Baskerville

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Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and past president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. He holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and attends an Anglican parish in Virginia. His most recent book, The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution and Civil Liberty, will be published by Angelico this summer.

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