Two Dark Sides Of The Sexual Revolution (UPDATED)

Regular readers of this space may remember that I have been arguing for a while that we are in the midst of arguably the third great sexual revolution since the late 19th century. Let me borrow from that earlier essay:  There have been, arguably, three sexual revolutions in the modern period. If we think of the early stages of feminism, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that was part of a sexual revolution that included a loosening of heterosexual mores. The roaring 20s included real sexual promiscuity. The early development of film including a booming business in graphic pornography. The second modern sexual revolution may be traced to the legalization of birth control (1962), the legalization of abortion on demand (1973), and no-fault divorce from 1975. Bridging the gap between the two was the post-WWII mainstreaming of Epicureanism in the form of Playboy Magazine. The second revolution was still mainly heterosexual but the 1969 Stonewall Riots foreshadowed the mainstreaming of homosexuality in the media and popular culture through the 1970s and 80s. There was pushback against even this phase of the revolution during the second Reagan Administration in the form of the Meese Report, named after the U.S. Attorney General.

We are in the third phase of that revolution or the third sexual revolution: Hugh Hefner is dead and so is the print and analog pornography business but online porn is ubiquitous and virtually unregulated. Where, in 2008, Barack Obama once said to Rick Warren that he opposed same-sex marriage on the basis of his Christian convictions, in 2012 he announced that he had changed his mind on same-sex marriage. Shortly thereafter the U.S. Supreme Court fell into line. In its infinite wisdom, the Court ruled in Obergefell (2015) that marriage has nothing to do with nature. Rather, the majority argued, marriage is grounded in affection and consent. Homosexuals have affection and they are able to consent therefore prohibitions against homosexual marriage are unconstitutional. The dissenting opinions rightly savaged the specious logic of the majority but here we are.

The sexual revolution is frequently presented as a happy development, one which liberated us from our old “hangups.” My argument here, however, is that the sexual revolution has come at a great, if unrecognized, cost. We should not celebrate the symptoms of that expense.

Abortion: An Obvious Symptom

A symptom is an indicator, a sign. A word is a sign. The word sandwich is not a sandwich. It is a sign of a sandwich. Abortion is a terrible reality but it is a symptom of some underlying sicknesses of the American soul. 

60 million is a reasonable estimate of the number of infant humans Americans have put to death in utero, often in ways so gruesome that if I detailed them I would be banned from public speech—but remember, the people who pray in front of clinics are the real bad people here.

The underlying question is why do people get abortions? Big Abortion likes to focus on tragic cases. This is what the lawyers for Norma McCorvey, the Roe of “Roe v. Wade” (1973) fame. As it turns out, the story was a lot more complicated. McCorvey was used but she used her users and that pattern seems to have continued with evangelicals in the years after. 

Most abortions in America are not tragic cases. Most are abortions of convince,not medical or financial necessity. Yesterday, The UK Guardian published an interview with Stevie Nicks, the lead singer with the band Fleetwood Mac. They are back in the news because of a Tik Tok video. In the interview she defended her decision to put to death her unborn child:

Women’s rights have been on Nicks’ mind since the death of her “hero”, the US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, last month. “Abortion rights, that was really my generation’s fight. If President Trump wins this election and puts the judge he wants in, she will absolutely outlaw it and push women back into back-alley abortions.”

Nicks terminated a pregnancy in 1979, when Fleetwood Mac were at their height and she was dating the Eagles singer Don Henley. What did it mean to be able to make that choice? “If I had not had that abortion, I’m pretty sure there would have been no Fleetwood Mac. There’s just no way that I could have had a child then, working as hard as we worked constantly. And there were a lot of drugs, I was doing a lot of drugs … I would have had to walk away.” She pauses. “And I knew that the music we were going to bring to the world was going to heal so many people’s hearts and make people so happy. And I thought: you know what? That’s really important. There’s not another band in the world that has two lead women singers, two lead women writers. That was my world’s mission.”

This is a useful passage because in it, without embarrassment, Nicks captures the Narcissism of the era. She also repeats the main canards of the pro-abortion position, e.g., Back Alley Abortions. As it turns out this was always a myth. Rickie Sollinger explained in 2013:

According to the Guttmacher Institute, at least 1 million illegal abortions were performed in the United States each year before Roe. Today, the number of abortions performed annually is still about 1 million. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended. About four in 10 of these are ended by abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and these are performed in clean, safe, medically appropriate settings.

The Guttmacher Institute is an unabashedly pro-abortion think-tank so, if anything, their bias might tend toward enlarging the number of back-alley abortions. Even they agree that most illegal abortions were performed by medical professionals, not with coat hangers, in back alleys. 

The notion that people might commit a crime (e.g., kill a legally innocent human) therefore we ought to legalize it is absurd on its face. No, what civilized people do is to try to ameliorate the situation that gives rise to the crisis and to provide alternatives to crime as a proposed solution. Prolifers have done that in spades in the USA. There are alternative pregnancy clinics everywhere and agencies clamoring to adopt babies to carefully screened families.

Nick’s reason for aborting her child was her career. She put her child to death so that she could be a rock star. Laughably, she salves her conscience by appealing to the good outcomes, all the joy her music has brought. 

We may suppose that her child would have taken that trade. Tragically, she did not have a say in the matter. A “physician” hunted her down in utero and took away her voice, her choice, and her life. But hey, look at the great Tik Tok video we got for it.

The sexual revolution promised liberation but their definition of liberation was the same as that of the those who bought and sold slaves on the coast of Africa. Freedom for Stevie Nicks and millions like her but not for their slaves or their infant children. 

Sexual Violence

According to the Centers for Disease Control sexual violence is widespread globally and in the USA. They report:

  • Sexual violence is common. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 38 men have experienced completed or attempted rape and 1 in 14 men was made to penetrate someone (completed or attempted) during his lifetime.
  • Sexual violence starts early. 1 in 3 female rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11-17 years old and 1 in 8 reported that it occurred before age 10. Nearly 1 in 4 male rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11-17 years old and about 1 in 4 reported that it occurred before age 10.

This is one aspect of pastoral ministry that we did not discuss in seminary in the early 1980s. Sexual violence was a reality but it was not discussed as openly as it is now. I suspect that it is an under-reported category and that the reports we have are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Beneath the surface of the statistics lies a mountain of un-reported or under-reported sexual violence and abuse of minors of both sexes. 

Why do I think that? Look at the number of people who are confused about their sexual identity. They do not know if they are male or female, homosexual, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans, or “queer,” (i.e., rejecting all categories). Studies consistently report that about 4% of Americans (14 million) are LGBTQ and most of those are male homosexuals. Yet, Lesbianism seems increasingly visible in the culture. The other day I watched a video where a female conservative commentator spoke with three fifteen-year old girls, who were responding to a  pro-Trump rally. All three of the girls self-identified as Lesbian. Statistically, that is highly unlikely. If 10 percent of Americans were LGBTQ, there would be about 35 million of them in the USA but the statistics are less than one-half that figure. That is less than one-half of a needle in a hay stack and yet there were three self-identified, fifteen-year old Lesbians. No, there were three injured, needy young women who, in different ways were crying out for attention and help.

The truth is that the LGBTQ movement is, in its own increasingly powerful, angry, and confrontational way, a cry for help from hurting people. These are people who were neglected or sexually abused as children, the children of alcoholics or addicts. Increasingly, these are children raised with the omnipresent reality of porn, which, in some houses, plays on the screens in the background. If we listen carefully to the stories of those who “come out” as LGBTQ, there are often stories of abuse and neglect in the background. They say that they cannot remember a time when they did felt comfort with the other sex or in their own skin—and perhaps that is sometimes true—but most often, if we listen long enough, there will be a story of sexual assault or parental neglect or substance abuse or pornography. 

This is another dark side of the sexual revolution. In this way it is an indictment of apparently “good” homes. It is an indictment of therapeutic, moralistic, and deistic religion, which passes for Christianity in too many places in the USA, where sin is never really confronted, where the law is never really preached, where the gospel is never preached, and where hearts are never really changed—but where people go home from church feeling uplifted once again. That religion is powerless to address the dark secrets of American hearts and closets. 

These two dark sides of the sexual revolution are related. Some women who seek abortions are the victims of sexual violence. They are made to get abortions by their abusers and Big Abortion is all too happy to take they money and “make the problem go away”—as if the problem will not haunt the victim for the rest of her life, as she she will not have nightmares about her baby and as if the abusive boyfriend will not try to medicate his conscience with booze, weed, and more.

Conclusion

America is in a crisis that the neither the government nor CDC can address. It is in a crisis that only God the Spirit can address. Only he can change hearts. Only he uses the law to convict sinners and the gospel to grant new life, repentance, and faith. There is an institution that can speak to the core issues: Christ’s church, which Jesus has instituted and to which he has given the law, the gospel, and church discipline, the keys of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is for sinners whom King Jesus is pleased to forgive and to welcome with open arms.

Those who will not repent and believe, who will not recognize their sins and misery and turn to Jesus in faith, shall also see the King but that is an appointment they shall regret for eternity. It is not too late. Jesus forgives sinners of all sorts. You pushed your girlfriend to have an abortion? Jesus will forgive you right now. You had an abortion? Jesus understands your guilt. He knew what you would do when he died on the cross. You are an abortion provider? You tell yourself and anyone who will listen that you are helping but you know better. Stop searing your conscience. It is not too late but do not delay. There is no place in the Kingdom of God for the impenitent.

POSCRIPT

The prevalence of abortion and sexual violence in our culture means, of course, that there are those in our churches are the victims and perpetrators of both. Pastors and elders need to be alert to indicators of abuse and prepared, at least, to assist members in finding the help that they need. It means that those who have been convicted of sexual violence, who are converted will need special attention and supervision (by law, in some states) while in worship. It means that those who have participated in abortion may continue to struggle with guilt and other consequences. They need to hear the gospel of free forgiveness for sinners in Christ. We all need to hear simul iustus et peccator (at the same time sinner and justified) weekly. Here is where the liturgical act of reading the law (or a summary thereof) and clearly announcing the declaration of forgiveness (absolution) is vital to Reformed worship. There are almost certainly those who struggle with memories and guilt, whose past the leadership may never know, who need to hear the this message.

There may be those in our congregations who are tempted to turn to abortion to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. They need to hear the law in its pedagogical use or aspect so that they are convicted and, as believers, they are guided by it as the norm of the Christian life. They also need to know that the church is a welcoming community, a hospital for sinners, as they struggle to follow Christ even through a very difficult and period of life.

© R. Scott Clark 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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6 comments

  1. Although unbelievers are responsible to God for all their sins, “you pushed your girlfriend to have an abortion,” and “you had an abortion,” and “you are an abortion provider,” … “stop searing your conscience” is advice that is for those who have to have gotten to hear that Christ died for their sins, and thus have an alternative to searing their conscience because of their sins. (This searing, by the way, is it not a one-way process? Once the conscience is seared, can an unbeliever expect it to return. Is it not instead, a Kadesh-Barnea event, Numbers 32:8-13?

    There is a squelching of conscience because of their sins that is also true of those who are redeemed. Squelching of the conscience is not the sole property of unbelievers, and the death of Christ for our sins is no less urgent in needing our re-acquaintance: the more so, when we realize that we are responsible for more light than an unbeliever is. For our culture to turn from sins, Christians need to turn from saying “I am not like that abortion provider over there, I fast twice a week, and give tithe of all that I get.” Are we sure that our unbelievers are the sole reason for our unbelieving culture? Isn’t our self-justifying behavior also a cause?

  2. Myriad AMENS — and one huge thank you, Dr. Clark! While I endured a physically and psychologically abusive father during my (de)formative years, praise God the abuse was never of a sexual nature. But then, I’ve a friend whose older sister was impregnated by their father; it’s no surprise that this woman’s health was undermined from the git-go, resulting in a relatively early demise.

    A startling, brick-and-mortar embodiment of our fine, “liberating” sexual revolution is that of a new “feminist” hotel in Washington, DC. Hotel Zena features “over 60 bold and provocative artworks dedicated to female empowerment and those who have fought for women’s rights.” Proudly displayed is a larger-than-life mural of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg…created out of tampons. Talk about a period piece!
    (https://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/zena)

    I will share your splendid article with my PCA pastor; several friends/acquaintances in and outside my church; and hope to post a its link at a conservative website to which I and my husband contribute; its worldwide readership is continually growing in these prolonged, dark, Isaiah 5:20 Days.

    God bless you and yours!

  3. Dr. Clark,
    This is a very hard look, sobering and deeply painful. The reality drives me to pray to the only Blessed God, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for Mercy in His Will in His Kingdom on earth, especially in America.

    I am deeply grateful for your concluding statements.
    +“America is in a crisis that can only God In Spirit can address.”
    I see that He is Active among Christians who are reaching into the lives of the l0st.
    +“Only he can change hearts.”
    I see His Spirit opening eyes of Christians who come alongside, those He is calling, displaying His Love through hands and feet service to listen, to hear, to console, to make distinctions, to make His Steadfast Love real.
    +“Only He uses the Law to convict sinners and the Gospel to grant New Life, Repentance, and Faith.”
    I love the Law of the Spirit, our Sanctification, as lay Christians, not only Faithful Chrisitan Pastors and Elders and Deacons, ministering through hands and feet friendships in Christ. These relationships make Him personal to His called people, broken and wasted by this morally decayed culture.

    It is True, Christ’s Church is an institution, us, who live the core issues that are spoken:
    +“Christ’s Church, which Jesus has instituted and to which He has given the ‘moral’ Law, the Gospel, and blessed Church Discipline, The Keys of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is for sinners whom King Jesus is pleased to forgive and to welcome,” with the open arms of His people who love the lost.

    Driven to prayer and thanksgiving to our Father because He sees His own and calls us by name to Himself.
    Catherine

  4. Dr. Clark, I think you have a typo where you reference the 10% figure for LGBT, given an approximate US population of 350 million, 10% would be 35 million, not 3.5 million. I was always curious about the approximately 2.3% figure that researchers have come up with. I studied genetics in college and if homosexuality was genetic, it would probably have a number about the same as hemophiliacs (about 20,000 males) since the majority of homosexuals do not have offspring and therefore do not pass on their genes. Even at 2.3%, the LGBT are actively recruiting in order to have that many, a clear sign of the current sexual revolution.

  5. First of all, I wanted to post this earlier but on all of my mobile devices and computers the ‘post’ button is lodged behind the notify me check marks. Thankfully, the latter still have the ability to hit the post button.
    Anyway, Being a student a large high school ten years ago, I recall only one or two students who identified as gay openly in my graduating class of nearly 600. There were a couple of women who might have identified as ‘bi.’ Skinny jeans were becoming prominent among some groups of guys, like ’emos/scene’ and skaters, and that was basically considered cross dressing.
    Today, in my experience as a substitute, there are at least a couple of students in each classroom who identify as gay, and then one or two more, typically females, who dress ambiguously and have adopted unisex names.

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