How Our Culture Justifies Its Sexual Freedom (the 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #9)

People want to hear that they have all the sexual freedom they desire and, at the same time, that they are good people who are just about “love.”

As we turn to the ninth commandment, the progressive emphasis returns with vigor: “We should care more about love and less about sex.” Of all the postmodern cliches that abound, this one may be the most common.  And it’s quite effective, rhetorically speaking. After all, it tells people what they already want to hear. 

 

I continue to (slowly) work my way through my series on “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity.”  It’s an examination of 10 core tenets of progressive (or liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, but really based on the book by Philip Gulley.

Those keeping up with the numbers will notice that I skipped #7 and #8.  Well, that is because those chapters in Gulley’s book were decidedly not progressive.  Indeed, I agreed with many things in those chapters and found them helpful.

But, as we turn to the ninth commandment, the progressive emphasis returns with vigor: “We should care more about love and less about sex.”

Of all the postmodern cliches that abound, this one may be the most common.  And it’s quite effective, rhetorically speaking. After all, it tells people what they already want to hear.  They want to hear that they have all the sexual freedom they desire and, at the same time, that they are good people who are just about “love.”

It allows a person to keep their questionable behavior and congratulate themselves on their own moral superiority–at the same time.

Gulley’s book expands this cliche into a full-blown argument for sexual freedom.  And he does so by adopting an all-too-common strategy.  I will let out his strategy step by step.

Step #1: Tout the moral virtues of those in sexual sin

The first step in the playbook is to show that those people engaging in the disputed sexual behavior are genuinely nice, wonderful and all-around virtuous folks.  This is a move designed to make people second-guess whether the sexual sin is all that bad.  After all, if it’s so bad, then how could such wonderful people be doing it?

Our put another way, if wonderful people engage in a behavior I think is wrong, then maybe I ought to rethink whether it is wrong.

Gulley brilliantly executes this move.  His first example is of an elderly couple in their eighties who are sleeping together outside of marriage (157-159).  We are told that they were “kind,” they “warmly welcome” people into their “modest home,” and pictures of “grandchildren lined the walls” (158)

Thus, Gulley’s entire strategy is built on the premise that something is wrong only if they people doing it are mean-spirited jerks. In fact, Gully draws this conclusion directly: “The home they created was one of deep love and mutual respect. . . nothing about any of that felt like sin to me” (160).

But, this is not the way Christians think about morality.  Christians don’t claim something is wrong only if “really awful” people do it.  We argue something is bad if it conflicts with God’s character, which is reflected in his moral commandments.

Thus, Christians would argue it is very possible (and very common!) for very nice people with many other virtues to be engaged in behavior that is very wrong.

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