This entry is part 1 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
Two movies illustrate the sexual revolution that has been taking place since the 1960s:-
The Magdalene Sisters tells the story of four women incarcerated, in the 1960s, in one of Ireland’s ‘laundry asylums’. For the ‘crime’ have having an illegitimate child, such a woman could be kept out of sight and out of mind for years on end, and her child quietly removed and put up for adoption.
By contrast, in recent years Ireland was, in more recent years, the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, and over one-third of births now take place outside marriage. Indeed, the conventions of marriage have collapsed so quickly that ‘one opinion columnist (protesting against tax breaks for married couples) would ask, “Why should I subsidise other people’s weird lifestyle choices?”‘
The Imitation Game told the story of code-breaker Frank Turing, convicted in 1952 of ‘gross indecency with a male’. Forced to choose between imprisonment and sex-suppressing drugs, Turing elected the latter. He died of cyanide poising two years later. On Christmas Eve, 2013, Turing was granted a royal pardon. At a similar time, a street preacher told a passer-by that he believed the homosexuality was against the word of God. ‘On this count he was bundled into the back of a police van by three uniformed officers and taken to a local police station. Police took fingerprints, a retinal scan and a DNA swab, and locked him up for several hours before charging him with a public order offence.’
These events portray something of the sexual revolution, in which ‘the Christian moral vision, which had buttressed the ancient institutions of marriage and family for centuries, effectively collapsed. And most people today would think good riddance.’
Those Christians who still cling to the old morality can feel overwhelmed. ‘Suddenly the home team feels like the away team.’ Ordinary Christians are afraid to voice their views, and their leaders have little to say that is either inspiring or compelling.
Christians who hold onto orthodox views don’t just feel weird. They feel guilty:- ‘Guilty for holding views held to be degrading to the human spirit. Guilty that they belong to a faith accused of heartlessly pushing the most vulnerable and marginalized out into the cold. Guilty for having apparently heaped abuse on those whose only crime was being different.’
What are these ‘orthodox’ views?:-
- God intended marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman.
- Marriage isn’t simply a human arrangement, but something sacred in God’s eyes.
- God himself joins a man and woman together as ‘one flesh’.
- This understanding prohibits all forms of sexual activity outside the marriage bond.
How should we, as orthodox Christians who hold these views, respond?
1. We need to engage in better thinking: ‘When intellectuals talk about something oddly termed ‘queer theory’, for example, we look away with mild amusement. When activists make the social case for equality and civil liberty, we seem bent only on defending our own. Over and over we have failed to get to grips with the arguments that have made the vision of the revolution so plausible to so many ordinary people.’
2. We need to understand that the sexual revolution has a moral vision of its own. ‘Christians expected to be able to portray their opponents as moral anarchists bent on depravity. Instead, their opponents cast them as the degenerates. Far from portraying a Dantean nightmare of unfettered debauchery, the apologists of the revolution cast an inspirational vision of compassion and equality.’
3. We need to appreciate the role of narrative in the sexual revolution, and therefore in any Christian response to it. If the sexual revolution tells its own story, what is our story, and how should be tell it?
4. We need to be honest and humble about our own shortcomings, including the tendency to adopt a ‘thou-shalt-not’ stance to sexuality. ‘Our churches often cradled a sexual shame culture, and we should own up. We were so busy building our moral vision around what we were against – impurity, fornication, pornography and the rest – that we forgot to ask what we were actually for.’ Then we will be in a better position to rediscover the good story that tells what we are actually for.
Based on (and quoting from) Harrison, Glynn. A Better Story: God, Sex And Human Flourishing. IVP. Kindle Edition. Kindle location 97-179.