The Sexual Revolution: A Great Story?

| October 12, 2017

Last night, I attended an event in Dublin, Ireland hosted by the Iona Institute. The speaker was Glynn Harrison who discussed the success of the Sexual Revolution throughout the 1960s to today. Harrison discussed the approach of both the traditionalist Christians and the sexual revolution leaders. He shared his understanding of the sexual revolution and why it succeeded.

Starvation or fast food?

That was the choice Glynn Harrison felt as a young boy in the 1960s, when his upbringing in a Christian home came head to head with the sexual revolution. As a young boy, Harrison was raised in a home of rules and silence concerning sexuality. The topic was never discussed and Harrison recalled his grandmother blushing with embarrassment when he asked her to explain pregnancy. This culture of silence was then confronted by the culture of ‘fast food’ or sexual ‘freedom.’ When one culture said ‘don’t ask’, another said ‘ask and have it all’.

Harrison proposed that the rise of sexual revolution cannot be understood through facts and statistics, but must be understood as a narrative. The sexual revolution advanced because it formulated a great story everyone could embrace. The power of the revolution was based upon three elements: an attractive ideology, a compelling moral vision, and an inspiring story.

First, the attractive ideology: the revolution offered an answer to one of life’s most fundamental questions: Who am I? This new ideology did not point to outward sources or individuals but rather claimed that identity could be found through oneself. Expressive individualism allowed one to answer the question based on inner feelings and desires.

Second, the compelling moral vision: Sexual revolutionaries presented their message in the form of a new morality, based on being who you are. Harrison explored the idea that Christian traditionalists, so were used to holding the moral high ground, now found their moral arguments powerless in the face of this new revolution. It seems in only a few years, Christian virtue was presented no longer as the moral path but as the bigoted, oppressive, and judgmental ideas of religion. Christian morality seemed powerless to combat this new path.

Third, the inspiring story of freedom: The sexual revolution embraced a story that stirs human emotion and feeling. Their story became one of the underdog, the little guy, and the downtrodden rising up and throwing off oppressive forces of the past.

These three components built a story that would propel the sexual revolution to its current and seeming domination of today’s culture.

But what is our story? The human person cannot be stirred and transformed by templates, rules, and doctrine without a great story behind it. And, the Christian story is the greatest story of all. As Christians, we must all return to the narrative of our true faith and offer it to others not as an obligation or as a rulebook but as a call for human flourishing based on the ultimate source of Love. Our desires for freedom and acceptance are the same desires of those caught in the effects of the sexual revolution, but we have the true source of identity and belonging.

The sexual revolution used the human heart’s longing for freedom and flourishing to dominate minds and bodies. But it is the Christian story, which loves our heart’s desires and seeks not to dominate but to free us to be who we truly are-sons and daughters of Our Father.

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