This entry is part 6 of 18 in the series: A Better Story (Harrison)
- ‘A better story’ – intro
- ‘A better story’ – 1
- ‘A better story’ – 2
- ‘A better story’ – 3
- ‘A better story’ – 4
- ‘A better story’ – 5
- ‘A better story’ – 6
- ‘A better story’ – 7
- ‘A better story’ – 8
- ‘A better story’ – 9
- ‘A better story’ – 10
- ‘A better story’ – 11
- ‘A better story’ – 12
- ‘A better story’ – 13
- ‘A better story’ – 14
- ‘A better story’ – 15
- ‘A better story’ – 16
- ‘A better story’ – 17
The narrative of the sexual revolution, writes Glyn Harrison, goes something like this:-
For centuries, traditional morality had us – all of us – in its suffocating grip. Year after year the same old rules, chained to the past, heaped shame on ordinary men and women (and boys and girls) whose only crime was being different. Enemies of the human spirit, these bankrupt ideologies befriended bigots and encouraged the spiteful. They nurtured a seedbed of hypocrisy and offered safe havens to perpetrators of abuse. No more. Change is here. We are breaking free from the shackles of bigotry and removing ourselves from under the dead hand of tradition. Our time has come. A time to be ourselves. A time to be truly who we are. A time to celebrate love wherever we find it. A time for the human spirit to flourish once again. And if you people won’t move out of our way, we are going to push you out of our way.
It’s a pretty persuasive message, for it:-
- is clear and simple
- conveys ideas about what it means to be truly human (‘just be who you are’)
- claims to know how humans flourish (‘celebrate love wherever you find it’)
- moves from problem to solution
- communicates confidence and vision for the future
- connects with real people and their stories
- makes possible a range of sound bites (‘what’s wrong with two people just loving each other?’)
- feeds into Hollywood scripts that great actors can bring to life.
This narrative contains three key messages:-
- The hero is you. It’s about finding strength within yourself. (This contrasts with, say, the narrative of biblical heroes such as David, where the hero is God, 1 Sam 17:47).
- There is a redemptive trajectory. There is a call to join the struggle against religious oppressors and power elites.
- There is a claim to the moral high ground. The narrative taps into individualising moral instincts over against the suffocating grip of tradition.
The video Homecoming (100 seconds long and shot on a low budget) reflects the narrative very well. It pictures British soldiers returning home on leave from Afghanistan. As other soldiers meet and embrace girlfriends and wives, one young soldier is met by another young man, who falls to his knees and proposes marriage. There is no dialogue in the video. The only words appear on the screen at the end: ‘All men can be heroes. All men can be husbands. End marriage discrimination.’
Many Christians find this narrative persuasive, for:-
Even where Christians maintain an intellectual allegiance to orthodox teaching, years of watching TV and movies have captured hearts and emptied minds.
‘The odds,’ remarks Harrison, ‘seem overwhelming’:-
What chance does an awkwardly structured thirty-minute sermon delivered once a week by an averagely gifted preacher have against such cultural power?
What chance a fumbling talk about sex given by a red-faced father to a squirming eleven-year-old, set against the images and stories that have been tumbling across his screens for years.
What chance a stilted ‘relationships talk’ for teenagers being herded off to some Christian camp?
What chance that a young woman will unearth the courage to stand against the flow when she can already smell her pastor’s silent fear?
Our secular culture seems to be, for the moment, winning the battle for the heart. And, as Thomas Cranmer recognised: ‘What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.’
This being so, then we must realise that ‘if you want to change people, you need to change what they want, what they are prepared to worship.’
Harrison, Glynn. A Better Story: God, Sex And Human Flourishing. Chapter 5