[Note: These are notes for a Logos School Assembly presentation from March 2022.]
Most people date what is called “the sexual revolution” in our country from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s. It describes a radical shift in public sexual morals. While there were plenty of signs of sexual morality collapsing privately much earlier, the key thing we are referencing is the shift in what was considered respectable or acceptable out in public. And we went from roughly the expectation that sex was reserved for one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage, ordinarily expecting to welcome children and deviations from that norm were generally considered unfortunate in public, to a world in which holding that norm as the best and ideal expression of sexual morality is now not generally accepted in public.
For example, just a few weeks ago a so-called conservative podcaster named Dave Rubin announced that he and his homosexual partner are “expecting” children. Quite apart from all the nonsense involved in making the claim, the really striking thing was how many people lined up to congratulate them. What was also striking was how careful the people were who said they could not approve or congratulate them. It revealed the sexual revolution quite plainly.
So the sexual revolution includes: the widespread acceptability of sexual immorality, fornication, adultery, divorce, homosexuality, sterilization and birth control (intentional childlessness), abortion, out of wedlock pregnancy, single parenting, gender confusion (including things like “stay at home dads”), crossdressing, transsexuality, “open marriages,” pornography, and the assumption that any combination of these things may be “right” for you and that marriage and family can be virtually whatever you want them to be. Pick your favorite flavor.
A Few Factors
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was one major player in the sexual revolution. He was an early psychoanalyst who was working with Darwinian assumptions about the nature of man. He thought of man as basically a highly evolved animal, and therefore instead of thinking of man as a physical and spiritual creature, he primarily thought of human beings as physical creatures with evolutionary chemical and emotional urges. He taught that repressing those urges led to lots of guilt and shame and that in turn caused people to act out in lots of horrible ways. So he began teaching that people should be allowed to do whatever they want sexually in order to prevent worse things from happening. But the Bible teaches that sin has corrupted human beings such that our desires and impulses are not good, and if we simply vent our desires, it will not prevent things from getting worse. It always leads to things getting worse.
Another factor is what we might call the “revolutionary spirit.” Perhaps the highwater mark of this sensibility was the French Revolution, where a bunch of humanists tried remake reality in France. The revolutionary spirit is heavily influenced by Darwinism as well, but it imagines that there is some kind of human spirit that is basically divine. The basic idea is that formal religion and political and cultural structures are always artifacts of the past that must be torn down in order to evolve to the next great phase of humanity. “Revolution” is the process of throwing down old morals and social structures in order to make room for the human spirit to progress into something greater. During the French Revolution, worship of the goddess of reason was established in one cathedral, many of the nobility were executed, sexual debauchery was encouraged, and there was even an attempt to switch over to a ten day week.
So combine these impulses with splashes of Marxism, identifying the Christian family and Christian marriage and Christian education as key elements of oppression, and there was a growing, concerted effort by the end of the 1960s to destroy the Christian family via sexual revolution.
Kate Millett & NOW
On September 1st, 2014, Mallory Millett wrote this in an article for Frontpagemag.com, “It was 1969. Kate [her sister] invited me to join her for a gathering at the home of her friend, Lila Karp. They called the assemblage a “consciousness-raising-group,” a typical communist exercise, something practiced in Maoist China. We gathered at a large table as the chairperson opened the meeting with a back-and-forth recitation, like a Litany, a type of prayer done in Catholic Church. But now it was Marxism, the Church of the Left, mimicking religious practice:
“Why are we here today?” she asked.
“To make revolution,” they answered.
“What kind of revolution?” she replied.
“The Cultural Revolution,” they chanted.
“And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” she demanded.
“By destroying the American family!” they answered.
“How do we destroy the family?” she came back.
“By destroying the American Patriarch,” they cried exuberantly.
“And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” she replied.
“By taking away his power!”
“How do we do that?”
“By destroying monogamy!” they shouted.
“How can we destroy monogamy?”
“By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!” they resounded.
They proceeded with a long discussion on how to advance these goals by establishing The National Organization of Women. It was clear they desired nothing less than the utter deconstruction of Western society. The upshot was that the only way to do this was “to invade every American institution. Every one must be permeated with ‘The Revolution’”: The media, the educational system, universities, high schools, K-12, school boards, etc.; then, the judiciary, the legislatures, the executive branches and even the library system.
It fell on my ears as a ludicrous scheme, as if they were a band of highly imaginative children planning a Brinks robbery… To me, this sounded silly.”
And here we are. We live in a world full of mass sexual confusion and rebellion.
Christ or Nothing, Christ or Chaos
Perhaps the most important thing to point out about the sexual revolution is it is attempting to do the impossible. And the central impossibility is to have order come out of chaos: fruitfulness come out of impotence. God has created the world such that it takes a man and a woman to have a baby. But fruitfulness is not accomplished merely in conception and procreation. Someone can father many children by many different women, but that isn’t real fruitfulness if those children aren’t blessings to their parents or the world. Real fruitfulness is not only the gift of children but the blessing of joyful, productive children and grandchildren, and that means children and grandchildren growing up in faithful covenant families that love Jesus and live for Him. Children who end up angry, bitter, or in prison or addicted to drugs are not fruitfulness.
So the sexual revolution’s central lie is that you can be fruitful simply by making up your own sexuality and therefore your own version of “family” as you go along. It all started as denying that you needed to be married and now we’re at the point in the story where two guys are pretending they can be a family by buying babies and raising them intentionally in a demented “family” with two dads and no mothers. But fruitfulness is only possible under God’s blessing when one man and one woman join in covenant marriage and then welcome children and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And when that norm is providentially hindered (e.g. a husband/father dies, barrenness), trusting the Lord to bless our best efforts at pointing to that norm and honoring it.
While there is real insanity on the one hand: pretending that you can be fruitful by making up marriage and sexuality and family as you go along. We should not miss the real target: Christian men, Christian marriage, and Christian fruitfulness. And there are at least two reasons for this.
The first reason is that it’s potent and powerful. When Christian men lead and love sacrificially in obedience to Christ it creates families, churches, businesses, cities, and nations that are strong and fruitful. When men embrace their calling to be strong to lead and protect and when Christian women embrace their calling to cultivate life and beauty, that is a potent combination that creates real fruitfulness. And when those men and women marry one another and keep covenant and raise children who embrace those callings in Christ, this is a counter-revolution (Reformation) that will scatter and silence the impotence of the alphabet jihad over generations.
But the fundamental reason the sexual revolution hates Christian marriage is because it is a potent picture of Jesus and the Church. Guilty consciences hate every reminder that Christ is a faithful bridegroom, that He laid His life down for His unfaithful bride in order to make her clean and holy. But even though they hate it, we also know that deep down, there is something in them that longs for it. They love to talk about love. All you need is love. “Love is love” – whatever that means. But we know that true love has been displayed in Christ who took responsibility for our sins, sins that He did not commit, and He suffered in our place to set us free and make us clean. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son as the propitiation for our sins.
Some historians have actually referred to the first three centuries as the first sexual revolution; what they are talking about is the fact that over the course of about 300 years Christian sexuality overtook and replaced the old pagan sexuality which was every bit as debauched as our modern culture. And so here we are again, but the gospel is for this moment. It is for sinners like us. It’s for the sinners in our land. And since Christ is the faithful bridegroom, we know that His love will win. His love lived out in our families is a bright and glorious light to the world. I remember this point being impressed upon me vividly when we lived for a couple of years in an apartment complex in South Carolina: our unit was on the ground floor overlooking a playground area. And every evening when we gathered in our dining room for dinner, many of the neighborhood kids would show up peering over our porch railing into our apartment, staring. And for many of them, I’m not sure they had ever seen anything like it: a husband and wife and their children gathered around a table for a meal with joy and fellowship.
When we imitate His faithful love in our homes, we are part of the great Reformation of the world.