In America in the middle of the last century, what was called the sexual revolution took root like a kudzu vine. It has grown so quickly and so invasively that hardly any part of the cultural landscape has escaped.
Appallingly, this encouragement to sexual hedonism has made its way down to school-aged children. The new “National Sex Education Standards” document being pushed in numerous public schools in America is an example of this. The NSES applies to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
For example, according to the NSES, by the time students are in the eighth grade, they must be able to define and describe various sex acts, including sodomy. The standards describe this to 11- to 13-year-old children as “sexual behavior involving penetration of the anus by a penis or sex toy.” As one might expect, pro-homosexual and transgender ideologies appear throughout the standards.
The NSES quotes figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that more than 41% of public school districts in the U.S. have adopted the new sexual standards.
Happily, many parents seem to be finally snapping awake to what is going on in classrooms across the country. However, it’s not enough for parents – especially Christian parents – to be uncomfortable with the perversions being taught to children. Such parental reaction will only be temporary and ultimately avail little unless the root of the sex revolution vine is severed.
The power of eros
In the pre-Christian world, the pagan view of what we might refer to as “romantic love” was called eros. This word represented love as a power that simply seized people and irresistibly drew them together like a force of nature, leading to sexual coupling. In fact, the word “erotic” comes from eros.
Pope Benedict XVI described eros as “[t]hat love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings.”
Moreover, he stated, the ancient Greeks viewed eros “principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a ‘divine madness.’” Like any other kind of intoxicant, eros was enjoyed as a way to escape the monotony of one’s mundane existence.
Today, such an ancient view of eros continues to control many people’s views of love and sex. Everywhere one looks and listens, whether it’s movies, television, streaming platforms, music, or the various levels of the educational establishment, love and sexual desire are portrayed as a fire that cannot be resisted. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants. End of story.
Of course, Christianity puts forth a rightful place for erotic feelings. In the Bible, the Song of Solomon is a tribute to the beauty of erotic love, but it is the power of eros confined to the bond of marriage. In fact, biblically speaking, the act of sex not only expresses the love of husband and wife, but it also deepens it, as it welds together the souls of those who physically join themselves together.
As it says in Genesis 2:24, a man leaves his parents and is “joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” The word “joined” means to cleave or stick to the spouse. It is the sex act that joins them and makes them one. This is why the apostle Paul warned the church at Corinth against fornication with prostitutes because the act of sex joined the man to the prostitute in a way God intended only for a man and a wife (1 Corinthians 6:16).
However, as it is defined, eros – the overpowering force of nature that controls a person – is not a Christian idea. As Bible commentators have often noted, of the three Greek cultural words for love – eros, philia, and agape – the New Testament never uses eros in its discussions of Christian love.
Instead, Christianity revolutionized the concept of eros altogether. In the Judeo-Christian worldview, man is not simply a passive agent acted upon by eros. The expectation was that husbands and wives, within the institution of marriage, would be the masters, not the servants, of such romantic and erotic feelings.
Redemption of sexuality
Like every other aspect of human nature, however, the fall of mankind led to the perversion of sexuality. The word “perversion” means something that has been twisted or turned around until it is different from what it was originally intended to be. To pervert something means to corrupt it.
God’s answer to the corruption of this powerful gift – indeed, His answer to every human problem – was to call people to Himself. When He formed the nation of Israel, God gave to them His laws. Starting at that point in human history, His people were called to model for the pagan world, among other things, what human sexuality was intended to be and how it was to be experienced.
Because biblical sexuality represented a wholesale change from pagan practices – i.e., people controlled by eros – it was the Judeo-Christian view of sexuality that was truly revolutionary.
This is not to suggest that pagan cultures had no cultural restrictions on sexuality. All of them did, although there were some distinctions as to what the regulations were. As C.S Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.”
However, it is true that most pagan cultures reserved the strictest regulations for the women among them. This probably wasn’t the result of hypocrisy or even sexism so much as it was pragmatism. For virtually every society that has ever existed, it has been critical that a man’s posterity be readily identifiable; for that, women had to remain faithful to their husbands. After all, most of human history was lived prior to the invention of the birth control pill. The only way for a woman to be sure she would not get pregnant by someone who was not her husband was, well, to only have sex with her husband. The consequences of breaking this rule could be catastrophic for the tribe or the nation.
When Christianity began influencing ancient culture within the Roman Empire, the biblical sexual ethic challenged the prevailing pagan view by insisting that not only must women honor the marriage bed, but so must the men.
Therefore, what has been transpiring in the West regarding sexuality is not truly a revolution, regardless of what sociologists call it. What we are seeing is a fairly straightforward reversal of the Christian ethic.
However, the current rejection of all sexual restraint is actually worse than a simple return to pagan sexuality. Now, not only are men encouraged to misbehave sexually but so are women. And not only are women told to be as debauched as they want, but now the purveyors of perversion even encourage the children to sin sexually.
This wickedness exceeds the sexual laxity of most non-Christian cultures throughout history and is nothing less than an embrace of the sexual ethic that was usually found in decaying pagan cultures.
It is time for the church to once again press the case for a true sexual revolution – one that calls all human beings to channel the fire of sexuality in a manner that honors God’s purpose for it.
Next month: Sex as idolatry