Gay Pride and its Older, More Established Sibling

imageI recently posted an essay entitled “Homosexual Behavior and Fornication: Intimate Bedfellows” in which I argued that Christians have no chance of challenging homosexual behavior with integrity if they do not begin with the far more prevalent sin among heterosexuals (see link here https://christianthought.hbu.edu/2013/06/28/homosexual-behavior-and-fornication-intimate-bedfellows/). My good friend and former student James Mace, while generally agreeing with my argument, has raised what he sees as an important difference between the two. Here is what he wrote:

“While noting some similarities, nobody has taken into consideration the differences between the offensive pro-homosexual movement and the lack of such a movement of pro-adulterers. There is no Fornicators Pride movement actively undermining Christian theology to rewrite God’s word to say that fornication is the way God made us.

Thus, while the article has many true things re which I rejoice, I am disturbed by the seeming willingness to abandon the defense against attacks on theology and praxis from Sodomist ideologues, falsely equating them with garden-variety fornicators while ignoring determinative distinctions in their religio-socio-political agenda.”

I am dubious, however, whether the difference is as great as he suggests. Here is why. The heterosexual equivalent of the “Gay Pride” movement occurred a generation or two ago in the so called sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies. The “free love” movement, epitomized by such cultural icons as Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury was as fundamentally challenging and shocking (if not more so), to the moral sensibilities of the Church and larger American culture when it occurred, as the “Gay Pride” movement has been more recently. Certainly it was at least as much a frontal attack on traditional norms and values.

Consider how quickly and thoroughly this revolution occurred. In the space of a few decades, America was transformed from a country where Elvis shaking his hips on TV created a national scandal to a country where TV shows like “Friends” depicted serial fornication among “friends” as harmless fun, indeed, as a charming and even hilarious indoor sport. And now it has gone to another level with shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Mistresses.” What this shows I would suggest is that the “Fornication Pride” movement succeeded with extraordinary efficiency decades ago and is now so deeply woven into the fabric of our culture that we hardly ever notice it even occurred. Indeed, that is why the phrase “garden-variety fornicators” rings so true. Fornication is simply now the normal behavior.

If my earlier analysis is on track, it is only a matter of time before fornication is more widely and openly defended in Christian circles as an acceptable lifestyle. Moreover, within twenty years at most, there will be no reason for Gay Pride parades, for homosexual behavior will be as respectable as its older, more established sibling. It will seem as normal as fornication is now.

I reiterate my earlier point that the attempt to draw the line at “Gay Pride” without a serious recovery of the larger Christian moral vision is a futile project. It is unfair and misguided to scapegoat gays and lesbians for our moral woes when the fundamental problem is much deeper. This is not to defend homosexual behavior, but to but it is to say that addressing the root issues requires us to begin with where heterosexual practice has gone off the rails.

Any realistic effort to do this must recognize that the failure of the Church to communicate its vision effectively is at least partly responsible for the sexual revolution in the first place. The failure to celebrate sexuality, starting with its marital pleasures, is part of a larger failure to teach and preach a strong creation theology that affirms the goodness of the physical world as God’s gift to us. The sexual revolution is a distorted version of affirming the goodness of sexuality in isolation from the larger truths that ground its goodness and beauty. Invariably, of course, when a fragment of the Christian vision of reality is broken off from the larger whole of which it is a part, the fragment is not only twisted out of shape, but diminished and shriveled as well.

Only a full blown vision of the goodness of sexuality in its larger context of creation and redemption can correct this distortion that is at the heart of our moral confusion.

4 responses

  1. Great points, Jerry, and a great history lesson for those of us who came along after the sexual revolution and have never lived in a culture like America of the 50s and 60s. The only caveat I would want to make is that there have been many Christian voices who have spoken out in favor of abstinence and traditional sexual mores. Often those voices have been attacked not just by the popular culture, but by others within the church who think that in order to be “relevant” we simply can’t insist on outdated views of sex, and who say things like who are we to judge anyways?

    I question the notion that if we believers are doing what we’re supposed to be doing that we will be able to stem the cultural tide. That doesn’t seem to cohere with what Jesus and the early church said; instead it looks to me like if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing that the world will hate us, malign us, and say all kinds of evil against us falsely. In other words, it will look more or less like what it looks like at the present time. So the hostility of the culture against the church could be seen as an indication that we ARE doing our job. Not perfectly of course, but maybe not as poorly as we have sometimes been led to believe.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. I did underestimate the power of the earlier Fornicators’ Pride movement. I now recall in my mind’s eye from 5th grade (ca. 1970) a magazine photo of two naked people (a man and a woman) standing in the middle of a crowd in the street having sex with one another. I agree that such a movement had similarities with the current Gay Pride movement.

    But there still remains the distinction that only ideological Sodomists are actively subverting the biblical teaching in their favour. There has never been such a scholarly attempt to rewrite the Bible and teach that God has told us that fornication is the good way that He has created us to be. This active subversion of the Spirit of God is worse than what fornicators never did to twist biblical teachings like the Sodomists are now doing in support of their movement. (Or maybe you can enlighten me about other such aspects unknown to me from my early youth?)

  3. To the point of your students rebuttal. I think you would be hard pressed to find support for the notion that “fornication” was a good and right and acceptable act out of the so called “sexual revolution”. Those adherents to the “sexual revolution” weren’t arguing points of law or pushing for “open sexual acts” to be defended by the state. The were riding the coattails of the civil rights movement, and were absent of much moral push other than “love” which they wholly confused sexual acts with. The assault of the “sexual revolution” was on what it meant to love and love freely. And this is where they caught”the church” unprepared for a proper and universal polemic on “love”. So while your sweeping history of the moral decline of our country as witnessed in media over the years seems right(I’ve made the same sweeping general laments myself). The point is that fornication cannot be legally defended by anyone and no one is pushing to legalize it. Now properly defining what “fornication” is and is not might be in order. But along with this proper definition what we will be faced with is what the church is to do in response to rampant “fornicatiin” in the world?

  4. When I was a United Methodist pastor, I knew a couple who were both ordained clergy. He was older than her. She had been his intern at a church while she was in seminary. He left his wife for her. Not only did they both keep their jobs, but decades later they are celebrated in that Annual Conference as a great example of a godly married couple. They actually a tried to send her to serve as the senior pastor of the church where they committed adultery decades before when he was the senior pastor. Only a strenuous object by his ex-wife and her friends stopped the appointment. The Bishop and cabinet were shocked that the congregation didn’t want her as their pastor.

    Jerry is right. Christianity in America is full of sexual hypocrisy. We’ve lost our credibility. Worse, we’ve sullied the Body of Christ.

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