This is part two in a blog series on sexuality. I’m addressing this topic in a blog format because addressing it from the pulpit can be… well, a little jarring. Too, sexual morals in our age are often controversial, and when there’s controversy there’s a need for conversation. Blogs allow two-way conversation. Your comments on this blog are welcome.
Why am I blogging about sexuality? As I said in the first blog of this series (see June 13), sexuality is an important topic for us humans. We are love-seeking creatures and that’s good; the strength of our romantic and sexual feelings can create beauty, loyalty, and love. But the strength of those feelings can also create pain and chaos. So, especially in an age of changing sexual morals, we need to discuss God’s design for our sexuality.
Today I want to trace a very condensed history of what many may call The Sexual Revolution. This is not a scholarly account and it omits important influence, but it will give us some perspective on where we are today. I’ll also share how my own moral development was affected by The Sexual Revolution, because it helps to see how individuals – even those who are Christians – can be influneced by these social trends.
A 2022 Gallup poll gives us a window to how sexual morals have changed. Gallup surveyed people to see what percentage of each generation identify themselves as “LGBTQ” (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer).
If these statistics are true, they reflect a remarkable (and alarming) change. While 21% for Gen Z seems greatly inflated, based on the counseling I do, I can believe that more people are experimenting with these identities than in past generations. The question becomes “What brought about such remarkable social change?”
While it may be simplistic to do so, we can date the start of the Sexual Revolution to 1948 when biologist Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, followed by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953. Also in 1953, Hugh Hefner began publishing the magazine Playboy; thereafter public nudity, sex outside of marriage, pornography, and other hallmarks of sexual permissiveness became increasingly accepted. To give you an idea of American sensibilities of that era, in the early 70’s the sitcom All in the Family featured the first sound of a flushing toilet on TV. It became known as “the flush heard around the world” because it broke taboos on bathroom humor. The same thing was happening in sexual morals.
Despite this change- or perhaps because of it- in the early 60’s many parents were awkward about discussing sexuality with their children. Perhaps that’s the norm for parents in most generations; I don’t know. My own parents said almost nothing on the subject. Regardless, entertainment media clearly became more sexualized in its content. In 1969 the outdoor concert Woodstock, often cited as a flash point for anti-traditionalist feeling, exhibited a new sexual freedom for heterosexuals. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sang: If you can’t be with he one you love, love he one you’re with. Much of the pop music in the 70’s featured songs with thinly veiled reference to sexual intercourse.
1969 also saw a milestone in gay rights with a riot at a New York City bar called the Stonewall Inn. Homosexual acts were illegal in most states at that time, and police raids og gay bars were common. But a raid of the Stonewall Inn led to large protests for the first time. For the next generation gay rights became the most divisive issue for mainline Protestants. In the 80’s he AIDS epidemic generated enormous sympathy for gay men, and in my church circle forward-thinking Christians began to champion “inclusion” for gay people. I remember it felt edgy and cool, like the righteous feelings engendered by the civil rights struggle. Soon lesbians vied for equal footing, and so when I was in college in the 80’s the accepted term became “gay-lesbian”.
The sexual liberation movement accelerated, and in the 90’s “bi-sexual” became an option. By the new millennium the term “transgendered” was known, and after another time of shock and rejection, it too gained greater acceptance. Now we had an acronym: LGBT. More recently, new terms like “queer”, “questioning”, “ally”, “intersex”, and “two spirit” were added. Often these are now lumped together as “plus.” So the initialism as it stands today has become “LGBTQ+”.
Today cultural liberals see these changes as a liberation from ignorant social controls on sexual morals. Cultural conservatives, on the other hand, see these changes as a sign of social decay and confusion. As for me, I found myself moving in the opposite direction as the culture: as culture has become more permissive, I have seen the revolution in sexual morals as “looking for love in all the wrong places”. I’ve found biblical boundaries on sexual expression to be healthy and joyful, and I’ve also found it increasingly urgent to teach about them.
This wasn’t always true. As a young man I was caught up in the enthusiasm for new sexual morals. This was in the 1980’s, and although I was traditional in my own moral choices, I advocated for homosexuality as the next liberation movement. I recall a moment when I was a student pastor and an older church member furtively asked me if I thought homosexuality was “ok”. “Oh, yes, of course it is”, I replied. But I hadn’t even looked at what the Bible said. I regret that smug response now. But I was blithely channeling the zeitgeist then, and many cool young Christians were doing the same. Eventually I joined a church led by lesbian pastors and actually became the youth pastor there for a few years. I wanted to be “open”.
But the spiritual and moral emptiness I saw in that church began to reshape my thinking. I also began to read what the Bible actually says about homosexuality. I felt convicted and ashamed. I had so clearly trusted my own opinion instead of scripture. At age 30 I renounced my advocacy of homosexuality.
I still want to be open to people’s struggles with their sexuality, but I have a different frame around these issues now. I’ve seen the chaos the new morality has brought to our culture. I’ve also seen, both in my younger self and in other Christian leaders, a people-pleasing weakness that leads us to preach what people wish to hear. And having raised four children, I see more clearly how parents’ weak moral leadership results in children who are confused and anxious about their sexuality.
The reason I’m sharing my personal history here is because it’s important to see how opinions on sexual morals are formed. You can perhaps point to the influences in your own life. It’s important to weigh how legitimate those influences are. For example, I’m convinced that most Americans’ views on sexuality are formed primarily by what is produced in Hollywood and Madison Avenue. These giants of the entertainment and advertising industries know well the adage that “sex sells.” And they unapologetically manipulate our sexuality for profit.
So where does this leave us?
It leaves us continually adding more initials to the acronym of the new sexual morality. Because once you start validating unbiblical forms of sexual expression, you lose your rationale for evaluating almost any form of sexuality. An example of the absurdity that has resulted comes from World magazine last month.
Norwegian feminist Christina Ellingsen is facing a prison sentence of up to three years for declaring that men cannot be lesbians- or mothers. Ellingsen’s tweets were directed at Christine Marie Jentoft, a representative of the transgender activist group Foreningen FRI. Jentoft is a man who identifies as a lesbian woman. Ellingsen’s point makes perfect sense, of course: “You can’t defend women if you can’t define what a woman is.”
We are now in a situation where you can go to jail for questioning the new sexuality. And if you don’t call someone by their preferred pronouns, you can be fired from your job. The new sexuality has brought us to a point where people don’t even know if they’re men or women. This is beyond anxiety, it actually meets the definition of insanity. Ignoring basic chromosomal science and basic reality is a sign- I’ll say it again- of insanity. This is the “freedom” that the new morality has brought us.
Does this mean I’m unsympathetic to trans teens? Not a bit. But I won’t join them in their self-rejection and self-hatred. And does this mean I’m not sympathetic to gay or lesbian people? Again, no. I’ve known gay couples that seem to experience a true and deep companionship. But I see no reason to sexualize that companionship. Indeed, I see many reasons not to.
But that belongs to the next blog. There I’ll discuss a biblical critique of the new sexuality- and how dangerous this new sexuality is especially to women and children.