From the July/August 2019 issue of Discern Magazine

What You Need to Know About the Sexual Revolution

One of the big trends that has shaped our modern world is the sexual revolution. How is it impacting you, and what does God say about it? What did God intend, and how will He solve the problems this revolution has brought about?

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Sex is an integral part of God’s plan for marriage. God created sexual intimacy for human reproduction, as well as a medium for giving and receiving physical pleasure that bonds husbands and wives more closely together.

Divine purposes give way to personal desires

Unfortunately, as a society, we’ve steered away from these divinely ordained purposes for sex. No longer is there any shame attached to premarital or extramarital sexual relations.

“Casual” sex, which is engaged in without any emotional connection or long-term commitment, has become increasingly accepted. Many people regard sexual intercourse simply as a way to have fun or to gratify their personal desires. If there’s an unexpected pregnancy, abortion has become the standard way out of a difficult situation.

For people in Western countries who are in their 40s or younger, these things might not sound like anything out of the ordinary. They may even seem normal.

But anyone a little older will probably remember a time when there was a stigma attached to being sexually active before marriage, having multiple sex partners or getting pregnant out of wedlock. There may have still been acts of fornication and adultery, but they weren’t celebrated or condoned as they are today.

When did the sexual revolution begin?

Sociologists generally point to the 1960s and 1970s as the decades when these changes in attitudes and conduct regarding sex—collectively known as the sexual revolution or sexual liberation—started taking root. Suddenly, the standards relating to sexual morality, which had helped keep Western civilization together for the past several centuries, were being challenged and dismantled. It was the era of “free sex” and “if it feels good, do it.”

Numerous factors were at play to foster this movement. The first birth control pill came on the market in 1960, followed by the legalization of abortion in the United States in 1973. Both of these made sex outside of marriage seem less risky. Also in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that nudity alone does not make printed publications legally obscene, boosting the pornography industry.

During the same time frame, several major psychological studies gained popular attention, including the Kinsey reports and the research of Masters and Johnson. These seemed to support the ideas of Sigmund Freud, who promulgated the belief that sexual repression was mentally and emotionally damaging.

Additionally, swinger clubs were popping up, providing venues for partner swapping and group sex. Filmmakers were producing adult erotic films, along with introducing new levels of sexual explicitness into mainstream movies. Sex shops (or adult bookstores) were also making their debut, distributing all the pornographic publications that were now being produced. By the late 1970s, sexual promiscuity was everywhere.

The second phase of the sexual revolution

Today, the sexual revolution is still going strong.Today, the sexual revolution is still going strong. Every day we are bombarded by sexually immoral messages via the Internet, TV, movies, videos, advertisements, books, magazines and music. Many of these messages ridicule any element of purity. Clothing styles and standard dress these days is revealing and seductive. Researchers tell us that recreational sex, infidelity, cohabitation and pornography are now more widely practiced and accepted than ever before.

But that’s not the end of it. The sexual revolution is branching out into new areas. We’re seeing a push for the public support of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, approval of transgender lifestyles, expansion of abortion rights and even sanctioning of pedophilia.

Developments in these areas are often viewed as comprising the second phase of the sexual revolution.

Sexual liberation: one piece of the humanist puzzle

The sexual revolution hasn’t occurred in a vacuum. The movement is really an outgrowth of a broader ideology known as secular humanism, which was covered in the last issue of Discern.

In a nutshell, secular humanism is a worldview that makes mankind, science and human reasoning the basis for all truth and ethics. The physical world is all that exists, humanists contend. They believe there is no God or spirit realm, hence no afterlife, no moral absolutes and no accountability to a higher power. The only real purpose they have for their lives is to live for the here and now and to gratify the self as much as possible.

The objectives of the sexual revolution are some of the primary goals of secular humanism: to eradicate the biblical codes of conduct for sexuality and marriage; to fight for so-called “reproductive freedoms”; and to bring the extramarital, nonheterosexual uses of sex and alternative lifestyles into the mainstream.

Both secular humanism and the sexual revolution offer people the “freedom” to engage in sex without any restrictions. This, they promise, will create harmony, happiness and a utopian world.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Effects of the sexual revolution

Close to 60 million unborn babies have been aborted in the U.S. since abortion was legalized in 1973—roughly 25 percent of all pregnancies.The sexual revolution has brought about untold harm and pain. Many of the serious problems we face as a society are the direct result of people making their own rules for sex and reproduction, rather than obeying God.

Leviticus 18 and 20 specify sexual practices that God prohibits, including premarital sex, homosexuality, public nakedness and voyeurism. Exodus 20:14 commands us to not commit adultery. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:18, charges us to “flee sexual immorality,” or put another way, to abstain from sexual activity outside of a husband-and-wife union. Abortion is covered by the command not to kill in Exodus 20:13 and the teaching in Exodus 21:22-25 that unborn babies are worthy of protection.

If we break any of these laws, we are, in effect, turning our backs on God. Nothing good can come from doing that.

Casualties and consequences

We can see the fallout of the sexual revolution all around us:

  • Since the 1960s, the divorce rate for marriages in the U.S. soared to around 50 percent. This increase has been largely attributed to marital partners engaging in extramarital sexual encounters, undermining their relationships.
  • At least 40 percent of American teens are sexually active, and nearly half a million 15- to 19-year-old girls become pregnant each year. Some of them will give birth and try to raise their children on their own, but many will undergo an abortion.
  • Close to 60 million unborn babies have been aborted in the U.S. since abortion was legalized in 1973—roughly 25 percent of all pregnancies.
  • The number of divorces, along with the rise in out-of-wedlock births, has led to an increase in single-parent households (usually headed by mothers), which have doubled since the 1960s. Children raised in fatherless homes are at a higher risk for developing behavioral and mental disorders and are likely to live in poverty.
  • Homosexual behavior and promiscuity in general have fueled the explosion of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year 20 million Americans become infected with STDs. Left untreated, STDs can cause serious long-term health problems.
  • Studies report that two-thirds of American men view pornography at least once monthly. This practice is not only degrading to the people being viewed, it is also harmful to the consumers. Habitual pornography usage can lead to emotional withdrawal, anxiety, depression and divorce.

The bottom line is that when human beings misuse sex, they’re almost always focusing on fulfilling their own selfish desires. In doing so, they devalue or hurt other people. Furthermore, the sexual act has now been reduced to nothing more than a biological urge—when it should be a means of expressing the deep love and commitment between a husband and wife.

More than just a personal penalty

Not only has the sexual revolution harmed individuals and marriages, it also impacts the future of civilization. The sexual permissiveness we’re seeing now is causing the breakdown of the family—the basic building block of a strong and healthy society.

Not only has the sexual revolution harmed individuals and marriages, it also impacts the future of civilization.In The Global Sexual Revolution Gabriele Kuby explains how the cultural revolution is dismantling families: “The concrete weapons in this war include deconstruction of male-female sexuality, alteration of the population’s social norms and attitudes (especially among youth), complete legal equivalency of homosexual partnership with marriage, and even social ostracism and legal criminalization of any opposition to these new ‘norms.’”

Kuby says this process is astonishing, because it gets priority treatment in the activities of the UN, the EU and many individual countries, even though it “makes no contribution to solving the great problems of our time. On the contrary! The epochal demographic shift will do more than just derail the social structure. … It destroys the conditions that brought forth European high culture—a model of success for the entire world” (2015, p. 8).

A nation that doesn’t safeguard the sanctity of human sexuality won’t survive. Sexual sins weaken and destroy individuals, families and nations as a whole. History is replete with examples of crumbled empires that dismissed God’s teachings on sex, marriage and family. When we involve ourselves in illicit sexual practices, there are dire consequences.

If people are promiscuous, they might suffer with STDs, failed relationships, etc. Not only that, God certainly won’t bless a nation that makes a mockery of His design for sex, gender and marriage.

But while it doesn’t make sense to disobey God, the truth is, immorality will only worsen in the years ahead. Revelation 9:21 and 2 Timothy 3:2-4 tell us that hedonism and sexual promiscuity will be prevalent right up until Christ’s return.

In the meantime, we must strive to come out of the world and live pure lives. We can enjoy the benefits of living God’s way now.

Certainly, it is sobering to see the damage that sexual “liberation” is doing. However, we can maintain a positive outlook, knowing that Christ will return to establish His wonderful Kingdom. Only then will this world experience true happiness and harmony.

About the Author

Becky Sweat

Becky Sweat is a freelance author and a member of the Church of God.

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