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The Gathering Storm: Religious Liberty in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution – AlbertMohler.com 


These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image.

In the first volume of his history of World War II, Winston Churchill looked back at the storm clouds that gathered in the 1930s portending war and the loss of human freedom. Churchill wisely and presciently warned Britain of the tragedy that would ensue if Hitler were not stopped. His actions were courageous and the world was shaped by his convictional leadership. We are not facing the same gathering storm, but we are now facing a battle that will determine the destiny of priceless freedoms and the very foundation of human rights and human dignity.

Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”

Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.

Religious liberty is under direct threat. During oral arguments in the Obergefell case, the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.

These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image. Religious liberty is being redefined as mere freedom of worship, but it will not long survive if it is reduced to a private sphere with no public voice. The very freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the Creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one.

Religious Liberty and the Challenge of Same-Sex Marriage

Even though same-sex marriage is new to the American scene, the religious liberty challenges became fully apparent even before it became a reality. Soon after the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state of Massachusetts, several seminars and symposia were held in order to consider the religious liberty dimensions of this legal revolution. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty sponsored one of the most important of these events, which produced a major volume with essays by prominent legal experts on both sides of this revolution. The consensus of every single participant in the conference was that the normalization of homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage would produce a head-on collision in the courts. As Marc D. Stern, of the American Jewish Congress stated, “Same-sex marriage would work a sea change in American law.”

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Bad News, Indeed — Playboy Opened the Floodgates and Now the Culture is Drowning

by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Wednesday • October 14, 2015

porn

A venerable parable from Confucian China told of an elderly man who had seen emperors and events come and go, and observed from his Confucian worldview that good news and bad news were often difficult to tell apart. “Good news? Bad news? Who’s to say?,” he would reply to any news from his neighbors.

I thought of that parable when I read the headlines that announced the news that Playboy would cease the publication of nude photographs of women in its magazine. From any moral perspective, that should appear as good news. The headlines might suggest that Playboy has had a change of heart. A closer look at the story, however, reveals a very different moral reality. Playboy acknowledged that its decision had nothing to do with any admission that pornography is morally wrong. Instead, the publishers of the magazine were acknowledging that their product was no longer commercially viable as explicit pornography because pornography is so pervasive in the Internet age hat no one need buy their product.

Scott Flanders, Playboy CEO, told the media that his product had been overtaken by the larger culture. “You’re just one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And it’s just passé at this juncture.”

That is one of the most morally revealing statements of recent times. Playboy has outlived its ability to transgress and to push the moral boundaries. As a matter of fact, it was a victim of its own sad success. Pornography is such a pervasive part of modern society that Playboy is now a commercial victim of the very moral revolution it symbolized and promoted for decades.

Reporting on the story, Ravi Somaiya of The New York Times commented: “Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.”

That is a stunning and sadly accurate assessment on all three fronts. The iconic magazines of the sexual revolution, the very magazines that promoted the sexual revolution and opened the floodgates to even more explicit and graphic pornography, have lost their ability to shock, their ability to sell themselves to the public, and their cultural relevance — and it is precisely because the culture has become Playboy and what was once shocking is now a feature of mainstream American culture.

Playboy once had a paid circulation of near 8 million. According to the Times, it has only 800,000 subscribers now. The market is much larger than ever, but the marketplace is now the polymorphous perversity of the digital age.

“That Battle has Been Fought and Won”

Another very revealing comment from Flanders was more ambitious. “That battle has been fought and won,” he said. “That battle,” we should note, was the declared battle to overthrow an entire system of sexual morality that had once defined pornography as sin and affirmed the responsibility of a civilized society to uphold the dignity of sex and the sanctity of marriage.

As Elizabeth Fraterrigo, author of Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America, noted: “Playboy magazine played a significant role in defining an alternative, often controversial, and highly resonant version of the good life.”

That was the goal of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. Hefner saw himself as a moral revolutionary, even bragging that Playboy “certainly made it possible to open up the floodgates” to the deluge of sexual libertinism that it encouraged, commercialized, and symbolized.

Flanders told the Times that the world has now adopted the Hefner worldview to the extent that his libertarian views on an entire range of moral and social issues are now so widely shared that the magazine’s ability to package pornography is outdated.

By almost any measure, that statement rings true.  Pornography is now mainstream entertainment and available 24/7 just a click away. The vision of sexuality glorified by Playboy is no longer on the cutting edge of moral change. Playboy won the battle and can now leave the battlefield commercially wounded but culturally victorious.

The Playboy Philosophy and its Underlying Theology

Hugh Hefner was never less than ambitious and he was never covert in his goals. He wanted to transform American sexual morality and break down the Judeo-Christian sexual morality that was once dominant in the culture. He presented what he identified as the Playboy philosophy of life, and he packaged his product as a way of selling men on the sexual objectification of women — while claiming to present a portrait of sophisticated male sexuality that was both glamorous and free from the shackles of traditional morality.

Underlying every moral philosophy there lies a theology. In Hefner’s case, that theology was also in public view. He told journalist Cathleen Falsani that he was a “spiritual person, but I don’t mean that I believe in the supernatural.” He said that he believes in a creator, but not in the God of the Bible.

As he explained: “I do not believe in the biblical God, not in the sense that he doesn’t exist, just in the sense that I know rationally that man created the Bible and that we invented our perception of what we do not know.”

Further: “I urge one and all to live this life as if there is no reward in the afterlife and to do it in a moral way that makes it better for you and those around you., and that leaves this world a little better place than when you found it.”

As Falsani understood, there was a “Playboy Theology” that explained the Playboy Philosophy:

“Hef doesn’t believe in a ‘biblical God,’ but he is fairly adamant about the existence of a ‘Creator.’ He hasn’t been to a church service that wasn’t a wedding, funeral, or baptism since he as a student at the University of Illinois in the late 1940s, but says he worships on a regular basis while walking on the grounds of his own backyard. And he follows a system of morals, but not those gleaned from the Methodism of his childhood–or at least not the ones that pertain to sexuality.”

A theology that rejects the “biblical God” and any notion of divine judgment or the afterlife is integral to the Playboy Philosophy, and the overthrow of Christianity as a belief system precedes the rejection of Christian sexual morality. And all this came as Hugh Hefner made millions exploiting women and mainstreaming pornography.

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By Russell Moore

This past weekend I met a couple who were married on the Fourth of July and baptized on the fifth. They had been cohabiting for many years and had several children together. They had never known anyone who was part of a church. But when their lives didn’t turn out the way that they hoped, they were willing to try anything, including a local church. There they ran into an old gospel, and new life. As I watched them plunged into the waters of baptism—and as I heard their three year-old son yell from his pew “Wow!”—I thought about how their story may well be the story of the coming generations.

The Sexual Revolution certainly seems triumphant. After a generation of no-fault divorce, cohabitation, ubiquitous pornography, and the cultural unhinging of sex from marriage and marriage from childbearing, we now see the courts and the culture decoupling marriage from even its most basic reality: gender. And there are hints on the horizon that the next step is to culturally, and perhaps legally, decouple marriage from, well, couples. If sexuality is about personal expression and individual autonomy, after all, then by what right can society deem that sexuality should be limited by such an arbitrary number as two?

The danger for Christians is that we buy into the Sexual Revolution’s narrative. I don’t just mean that we accommodate ourselves to the sins and heresies of the movement, although that’s always a danger too. I mean the danger is that we assume that the Sexual Revolution will always be triumphant, progressing upward and onward. To assume such is to assume that the Sexual Revolution will be able to keep its promises. It can’t.

We live, after all, in a cosmos ordered around the Logos of God, a Logos we have come to know personally as Jesus of Nazareth (Jn. 1:1-14). Part of the wisdom of the universe is the resilience of the marital one-flesh union. Marriage, and the limits of sexuality, not only pictures the gospel (Eph. 5:32), it is also the way that human beings thrive and flourish. We think we want autonomy and novelty and transgression. What really satisfies though is fidelity and complementarity and incarnational love.

That’s why I say the church should prepare for the Sexual Revolution’s refugees. We should understand why the culture around us is exuberant. They believe this will make them happy, that their alienation has been a result of cultural marginalization or Puritan repression. But the primary problem we all have is internal. There’s a conscience that speaks to us of a word we want to hide from—“Where are you, and where are you going?”

There are two sorts of churches that won’t be able to reach the refugees of the future.

The first is the church that is so scared of people that we scream at them in anger and condemnation. If we see ourselves as people who are “losing” a culture rather than people who have been sent on a mission to a culture, this is how we will be. That will be exacerbated if we take our cues from those who play outraged Christian caricatures for a living rather than from those who have come to seek and to save that which was lost. If we do not love our mission field, we will have nothing to say to it.

The second sort of church that will fail these refugees is the church that gives up, or silences, its convictions because they’re not popular. This too is fear. We assume that we can reach people if we dance around the sexual questions, thinking that we can get to that part of discipleship after they’re part of the family. That’s just not the way Jesus does it. Jesus gets right at the point of guilt, the part the person is protecting, and calls the person not only to repentance but also to forgiveness and freedom (Jn. 4:16).

If we are silent about what the gospel says about sexual immorality, we will not only lose our mission, but we will also lose the respect of those we are seeking to reach. They can read texts. All the gymnastics of the revisionists does nothing to silence what honest people read in our Scriptures. When they hear us clearing our throats in embarrassment or explaining away things unfashionable at the moment, they hear from us that we are more afraid of them than we are confident in our gospel. How then can they trust us with words of life that can overpower the grave, when they see that we are not even willing to go against the spirit of the age?

The Sexual Revolution cannot keep its promises. Many people are going to be disappointed, and even before they can admit it to others or to themselves, they are going to ask, “Is this all there is?” We need churches that can keep the light lit to the old paths, that can keep the waters of baptism ready.

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