Liberation” is one of those words which carries with it a certain charm and fascination. Perhaps in western society where we are birthed in the concept of liberty and freedom, we equate liberty with “rights” and “entitlements.” Who could possibly be against liberty? Yet even a casual reflection reveals that there are many areas of life where “liberty” without corresponding “limits” is both self-destructive, and destructive to others. The liberty to drive a car without recognition of the limits imposed by responsibility is one obvious example. One of the most cherished liberties in N. America, that of free-speech, is constantly limited and narrowed by the need for respect for others as well as legislation against “hate” speech. But what of the liberties people have taken in the sphere of sexual relationships? Is that any less dangerous?
How do we arrive at the moral mess which marks 21st century western society (if not the entire globe)? Immorality is certainly not new. Adultery, premarital sexual relationships, homosexuality, prostitution, and every other aberrant form of intimacy is recorded in the first few pages of the Word of God, dating back millennia past (Gen 4, 18, 37-38). What is different now is not the existence of these sins, but the legitimization and prevalence of them. To even label these acts as sinful or wrong is to court the disfavor of legal authorities and the wrath of special interest groups. Where did it all begin, and how did moral standards decline so rapidly and seamlessly?
The Beginning of it All
We actually have to go back to the industrial revolution as a starting point. Some might go back further to the fall in the garden, when the works of the flesh, including lust, suddenly arose in the human heart (Gal 5:19-21). That is granted; but society, for the most part, held many of these things in check by legislation or public opprobrium. Everyone knew it was wrong to do certain things even if they did them. No one applauded out-of-wedlock births, abortions, or infidelity.
With the industrial revolution came many changes in the basic structure of the western family. Prior to that time, most men (and women) worked at home, either on a farm or in a home business. As recently as 150 years ago, 75% of Americans lived on a farm. After the industrial revolution, that number shrank to single digits. This meant that the male was often away at work, and the home was left to the woman to oversee. Since the working world was marked by demands for production, it soon led to a new set of values for those in business: aggression, and demanding and competitive natures. Men were released from any sense of moral virtue; it was during this time that a new word appeared in the American vocabulary – competition.
Sensitivity, morality, religion, had now become the sole province of the woman who was at home; a competitive, amoral approach to the dog-eat-dog world of business was the new norm for men. The old morality was no longer applicable for men. While this did not open the door to a sexual revolution, it established a two-tiered system of morality which paved the way for what was to come. If aggression, competitiveness, and self-promotion were the new virtues, then these would serve men well in the liberation about to occur. The only other element needing to be added was to grant women some sense of freedom and liberty as well.
The Buildup to it All
In 1948, Alfred Kinsey published his work entitled, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which was followed in 1953 by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. The Kinsey report claimed to be an objective reporting of facts, without moral overtones. Many critiques of his work have been written. Perhaps the single most important fact is that Kinsey was far from an objective scientist. He had an agenda, and he was very successful at pushing it. He required all his potential research associates to disclose their sexual histories, and if they were against illicit sexual relationships and believed in heterosexual relationships within marriage, they were not hired. Reports of the sexual behavior which marked his research group, (and indeed, him) made it clear that every and all types of deviant behavior were practiced and promoted in his group. He observed pedophiles who were allowed to “molest” children in his laboratory, and recorded the reaction of children. Today, that would result in prosecution; but he did it “in the interests of science.” As well, criticism has been leveled against those he surveyed in his research. His “sample” of adults was totally skewed. Many of the surveys were taken from prisoners, some incarcerated for sexual crimes, and from college students. This was hardly a true sampling of the general American population. When confronted with his error by Abraham Maslow, Kinsey refused to acknowledge the fact and ignored the findings.
When he published his results, he gave inflated numbers of the prevalence of homosexuality in the USA. He described pedophilia and adultery as occurring far more than it actually did. But his figures gave people the impression that all these types of behavior were common, and thus “normal” forms of sexual behavior. His statistics gave a sense of normalcy to the slowly emerging homosexual community. They trace their “liberation” from that point in time.
There is an almost imperceptible shift in the human mind from common to normal to right, and that is the shift that his bogus statistics promoted. Homosexual behavior was reported in 10% of people; adultery in over 50% of marriages. If all this was commonly occurring, then, the public reasoned, we need to recognize this as normal human behavior. Kinsey himself said that America’s moral revulsion to many of the sexual acts he described were the result of “ignorance and superstition,” and not in “scientific examinations of objectively gathered data.” It is strange that we have a man claiming to use scientific methods to evaluate moral issues, which we all recognize is an impossibility, since science does not say what should be, but simply what is. It is equally clear that he did have an agenda to push on the nation.
How tragic to think that one of the first impetuses which the rampant immorality of the second half of the 20th century received was from totally erroneous data which purported to be scientific and objective. How tragic that he successfully accomplished his agenda as an entire society bought into his idea that every form of human sexuality was normal!
The Boon to it All
The publication of Kinsey’s works slowly gave permission for people to express every form of sexual behavior as “normal” and therefore no longer guilt-producing. To live by any other standard of morality brought you the label of being “repressed.” The new “norm” was liberty without limits.
In 1957 the FDA approved a new medication for certain medical uses. It was the birth control pill. It was not until 1960 that it was approved for use as an oral contraceptive. This is not a condemnation of the BC pill when used for the right purposes. But it did become a major piece in the mix which gave women the opportunity to choose actions and divorce them from consequences. With the advent of the pill, the sexual revolution was in full swing. Teenagers, college students, and any who chose could join the revolution without fear of consequences. It appeared that nothing could halt the change or even slow it down. Sadly, for those so misled, they would learn of unforeseen consequences in a very short time.
In the 1960s, Masters and Johnson added their research, which was the detailing of the physiologic responses of the body to the sexual act. While their research has stood the test of time, unlike Kinsey’s, it had the effect of reducing the most intimate and personal acts to something which could be analyzed and open for discussion on any talk show forum. The “sacredness” of physical intimacy was stripped away in the eyes of the public.
The Blessing upon it All
The final piece of the puzzle came in the landmark decision in 1973, known infamously as Roe vs. Wade, in which a major western government (the USA) gave women the legal right to abortion. This underscored the prevailing philosophy which began several hundred years earlier concerning the rights of an “individual” in contrast to societal responsibility. While this legislation did not per se grant blessing to the sexual revolution, it gave individuals another means of “birth control” should their behavior result in an unwanted pregnancy. Once again, and crucial to the understanding of this sexual liberation movement, actions were divorced from consequences. You could do as you pleased, and control the consequences.
Government took the position that these were personal matters, and that they could not and should not legislate morality. In essence, however, they legislated immorality and condoned, or at least made laws conducive to, immoral behavior.
The “freedom,” then, to do at will what was desired and not face consequences, gave a new impetus to the liberation philosophy, which quickly spread from college campuses down to high schools in western countries. If a teenager could have an abortion without parental consent, why not take chances and worry about consequences later? She may not be able to get an immunization or a prescription for a cold without parental consent, but an abortion was available on demand!
The Bane of it All
What are the consequences of the sexual liberation we have witnessed? Are men and women actually freer? The unforeseen consequences mentioned earlier included an explosion in sexually transmitted diseases. The HIV/AIDS epidemic was perhaps the most terrifying and cost many lives before the billions of dollars of research invested in seeking a cure was successful in developing drugs to halt the progression of the disease. But along with the life-threatening, there was the increase in a number of other sexually transmitted diseases, ranging from the merely uncomfortable to the potentially infertility-causing for young women.
On a par with the medical and physical damage which the revolution caused was the emotional havoc. “Sex without strings” meant experiencing the most intimate of relationships without any relationship at all. Many were able to survive this; but for others, the emotional toll was devastating. Serial “hookups” may have bolstered the male ego, but it destroyed the female. This also led to delay in marriage and a total opting out of the marriage bond with its commitment; choosing instead to retain “autonomy” but enjoy what would normally be reserved for marriage. The end result has been the dissolution of the family unit with all that it portends for society.
The broken homes, hearts, and hopes left as debris in the trail by the liberation movement serve as eloquent testimony to the fruit of sin and rejection of divine standards.
The Boundary Around it all – God has Established
Liberty, in whatever sphere it may be enjoyed, must always be bounded on all sides by love, light, and loyalty. Adam and Eve were given tremendous liberty in the garden. But that liberty was circumscribed by loyalty to the Owner, the light He had provided by His Word, and the test of their loyalty to Him.
The same is true of the liberty which God has given for physical intimacy between a man and a woman. The light of His Word makes it abundantly clear that this liberty is limited by His wise requirement that it be enjoyed between a man and woman within the confines of a marriage relationship. This will in turn test my loyalty to the Designer of marriages, and my love for His truth and His rights.
The thinking expressed by some in Corinth and exposed in 1 Corinthians 6 is all about satisfying my body and what I can get. It turns the entire concept of intimacy on its head. The intent in the marriage union is all about what I can give to another (1Cor 7), not what I get. In chapter 6, by using my body in a manner that God did not intend, I am defrauding the Lord of what is His. In chapter 7, by not using my body as God intended, I am defrauding my spouse.
The writer of Hebrews expresses a similar truth. “Marriage is honorable (“precious,” is one translation) in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb 13:4). Marriage affords liberty for physical intimacy which the Word of God sanctions and encourages. That liberty is bounded by the dignity of the human body and thus, does not give liberty for some of the sexual perversions which abound in our society, even within the bonds of marriage.
The physical union which occurs in marriage is meant to symbolize the union which has taken place at every other level (emotional, psychological, legal), and then to continue to strengthen the oneness of a couple as they move forward in life. Marriage must never be viewed as merely a “safe haven for sex;” it is far more. The sexual liberty within marriage has been designed by God to reinforce the unity which married couples need as they face the many challenges of life together. Liberty must be within limits – bounded by light, love, and loyalty to God.
References used in this article available on request.