Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Christians against the sexual revolution: sexual sin versus positive focus on marriage and family


With few exceptions, Christians have not been successful in combating the sexual revolution: indeed there is little evidence that some of the major Christian denominations make any difference at all to the sexual behaviour of their self-identified adherents - if statistics of pre-marital sex, abortion, divorce etc. are any guide.

It is easy to understand why - at a psychological level.


The sexual revolution offers (so says the mass media) intense short-term, here and now, selfish pleasure - or, if not pleasure, then at least intense distraction and a pseudo-purpose in life in a nihilistic and hope-less secular world.

But what does mainstream Christianity offer against this?

1. There is the sinfulness of the sexual revolution - which at a psychological level is negative since it means here and now feeling limited, guilty, under attack, negative, bored, left-out, and without a life project.

2. The eventual positive hope of greater long-term and altruistic happiness from a successful marriage and family (but they might not be successful...) and an overall-better society based on sex in a context of marriage and family.


In sum, mainstream Christianity offers the hope/ possibility of a better long-term personal and societal happiness; in return for the certainty of less short-term and selfish happiness and more misery for persons and societies...

but this truthful equation is in fact denied and opposed by a vast and unrelenting mass media which dishonestly claims (explicitly, but more importantly as an inbuilt assumption) that 'you can have it all' and on easy terms - you can indulge your short-term and selfish wishes AND get a better (kinder) society in which both you and more other people are happier...

(...the evil ones being the negative Christians who want to thwart your legitimate and indeed virtuous desires and reduce people to abject misery so that they can may better be controlled.)


The mainstream Christian offer is too weak - what is necessary is an honest conceptualization of the benefits of marriage and family which is so strong that it leads to here-and-now happiness, hope and a direction in life.

An honest vision of marriage and family which can fill the present mind with joy, meaning, purpose and anticipation. 


A positive and powerful advocacy is, in my opinion, the number one priority (but not of course the only priority...) for mainstream Christian churches in the secular West.

This is where they should be putting their best efforts - not least in drawing-out the scriptural and traditional and doctrinal links between marriage and family and the Christian life - there is works for everyone in this endeavor:

Marriage and family are the basic units or building-blocks of the Christian life.



Gottlieb said...

I think that Christianity imposes inconsistent dogmas with logic and we live in a society where the rationalization became extreme. What also happened with Christianity is that it has been modernized, for example, seeking dialogue with society about atheism, existence of God, etc. ...
I do not see it only in religion but also in the political spectrum, conservatives were definitely hands are tied because they start from the assumption that their respective sets of beliefs are right, in other words, from the moment they think they are right and others always wrong, they never try to do something to change things around.
Most conservatives think like the Catholic Pope Joseph, prior to this now. It is preferable to have faithful few, but good quality.
Lack creative people in the churches and most of them are atheists or agnostics, transhumanists, libertarians or liberals or across the ideological extreme. (identitarians, anti-globalism, right wing extremists)
We live in an era where dialogue theistic and atheistic being replaced by dialogue biological between self destruction (extreme liberalism) or survival and continuation (religion).
The churches became a contract of beliefs and not something real.
For example, it is not possible to prove the existence of God, then it is transplanted into a dialectic more earthly, as to say that everything is God or speak the exceptionality of life on Earth. Afterlife as string theory.

Arakawa said...

I've found that, for some of the younger people I've talked to, the hypocrisy of the sexual revolution was not difficult to point out. Only a small number of people explicitly decide not to have children; the others delude themselves with talk of 'unsuitable economic/career conditions' or needing a 'guarantee of happiness', which is easy to expose as childish thinking; the genuine reasons behind the rationalization are always either genuine unwillingness to have children, or emotional/spiritual immaturity.

And raising children properly requires matrimonial commitment, which precludes unrestrained sexual behaviour, so you end up with the Christian model of matrimony....

So, I can very easily produce secular arguments against the sexual revolution, that presume only a basic honesty on the part of the listener (as opposed to willingness to entertain arguments about there being a Creator who ordains a telos for human sexuality, and the terms of matrimony being dictated by the Second Great Commandment, etc....)

But of course, then there's the motivational aspect of things -- why get married, instead of relapsing into the default pattern of sterile distraction? Particularly if there is no guarantee of happiness -- a person making 'happiness' a priority will never take the immense risk of a genuine matrimonial commitment.

The Christian, for whom 'free love' is not an option, understands the situation, however, implicitly or explicitly, as a choice between two monastic obediences. (The easier one, marriage, has a large chance of leading to joy, but certainly no guarantee of it; the more difficult one, chastity (with an implied outwardly-monastic style of life) is the more spiritually dangerous one, but has historically produced the greatest extremes of spiritual joy and sanctity.)

(The supposedly 'onerous' terms of earthly life, for me are most constructively understood as a monastic obedience imposed on the Children of Adam as an instruction against the consequences of the original transgression. Thus the monk does not consider his obedience 'onerous' but understands it as an aid to spiritual growth and a protection against even worse suffering of the spirit.

People go into monasteries to explicitly intensify the already-monastic aspect of earthly life, then.)

What about non-Christians?

The ancient pagan, so long as he holds filial piety as a way of life, will uphold marriage and family for the simple reason that it is a value handed down him from his parents (and if his parents did not uphold marriage and family as a value, they would not be the parents of a family...).

What does the secular modern person have? For them a commitment to family could be grounded in a vehement and otherwise-aimless denial of modernism -- but the decision to spite modernity by upholding a value (family) it abhors, is an arbitrary decision; the same basis could motivate (and far more frequently does) 'pickup artist' style cynical hedonism.

Jeff C said...

I agree, but I suspect that the moral case against sexual sin has been heavily debilitated, even within nominal Christian families, by materialism/lifestylism. By this I mean that nominally Christian families of my era (came of age in the 70s) from the middle to upper middle classes were sufficiently obsessed with 'getting ahead' that they advised against, even opposed, early marriages pushing instead for college, graduate school and in some cases career establishment prior to marriage which was subtly if not explicitly represented as a barrier to career advancement and material success (at least in the US). The numbers of never married 50 year old grad school grads I know is very, very high. And, I believe most, if not all, came from nominally Christian families who pushed such an approach. And, most of these people are miserable in their lives. Extended singleness will inevitably lead to the normalization of sex outside of marriage. All the while the mainstream churches gave lip service, at best, to denouncing greed which is presented as solely a function of super rich types not middle class parents wanting a 'better' life for their children.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

The mainstream Christian offer is too weak
The statement certainly applies to a naturalistic vision of life: seeking personal happiness here and now in successful family life. All naturalistic, or turned naturalistic, religions, including Judaism, forget that, in order to make that happen, the love and correct worship of God is foremost and the rest is conditional. Happiness in earthly life may be a blessing, certainly, but it may be the only reward that some will get, if they are not virtuous.

I would not say the Catholic offer is weak. Chesterton pointed out that when most believers do not obey the commandments it means the Church maintained the ideal and that the believers still need it. The most striking example we have is how Humanae Vitae was rejected at once by more than 80% of Catholics. Paradoxically, this is a reason for hope.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JeffC - Hence the reason for writing this post - mainstream Christianity has failed very badly in this respect. If it does not do better, a lot better, it will continue to fail.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming from the exact opposite direction in that i used to be ultra-liberal on all this but now reading up on genetics and hbd i think stds and other consequences of promiscuity used to be vastly more destructive before anti-biotics arrived and traditional sexual morality evolved as the cultural defence against those dangers.

I think the arms race between promiscuity and medicine may be lost in which case those groups which maintain traditional sexual morality will survive the superbugs that eventually ensue.

That's not a very positve message but one i increasingly think is correct.

Bruce Charlton said...

@anon - A neglected factor is that pre-1800 in the West, almost all children born would die without reproducing - how to get children to live through to maturity was a big problem in the past.

Probably only married couples of the 'middle class' would have had above-replacement average fertility through the centuries of the middle ages.

Single mothers had virtually no chance - and suffered considerable pathology and risk of mortality.

Therefore, women have evolved to be - on average - reluctant and selective about having sex. It takes 24/7 mass media propaganda and a lot of alcohol and drugs to overcome these natural inhibitions of the average woman.

chris said...

I've had a thought recently.

Evolution has resulted in men having a predisposition to seeking sexual novelty/variety. The sexual revolution seeks to indulge this.

Women, in times past, needed men's commitment to raise offspring, so evolution created women that were more and more neotenic to activate the paternal instincts in men and create a desire in men to commit to that woman that overrides men's desire for sexual novelty.

So how much does the sexual revolution rely on encouraging/socialising women to exhibit as little neotenic (in other words feminine) traits (both physical and behavioural) as possible in order to destroy the desire for men to commit/paternally invest and hence only follow their desire for sexual novelty? My guess is that it is significant.

(A similar argument would apply to men and the traits that women find attractive in long-term mates, i.e. strength, responsibility, masculinity)