Speedos or Shorts? Bikinis or Bathing Suits?

Two things in the last week have brought to my attention that those who wish to maintain anything approaching traditional Christian standards are facing a brave new world.

Religious and social conservatives, and even traditional liberals, may well have disagreed over the years about what constitutes modesty (Speedos or shorts? Bikinis or bathing suits?) but they have typically accepted that the concept itself is legitimate and appropriate. In a world where Reichian quackery rules, we do not debate the limits of modesty for the simple reason that the very concept of modesty itself is illegitimate, a fundamentally oppressive notion.

 

Two things in the last week have brought to my attention that those who wish to maintain anything approaching traditional Christian standards are facing a brave new world. The first was a conversation with a young couple who were reflecting on the problem of finding modest, non-sexualizing clothes for their very young daughters, a point which led them to express concern about the educationally sanctioned sexualization of even elementary school children.

The second was the reading I have been doing in preparation for the Day Higginbotham Lectures at Southwestern Baptist Seminary that I will deliver later this week. My theme is ‘Christianity and Its Discontents,’ and in the first lecture I will address the way in which the psychologization of the politics of the Left has transformed, and continues to transform, public life. I had previously always thought Herbert Marcuse was the key figure in this narrative. It is now obvious to me that it was that delusional master of psychobabble, Wilhelm Reich, who was the key post-Freud figure.

Reich was a thoroughgoing quack but quackery has never been a bar to influence. In fact, his book,The Sexual Revolution (1936), has proved to be a remarkably prescient and influential work. It is a beautiful example of how two entirely bogus philosophies—Freudianism and Marxism—can be made to look impressive and authoritative through the liberal use of scientific jargon and an air of authorial detachment. Little argument is offered, alternative positions are rarely mentioned and never analyzed nor refuted, no real evidence for his positive proposals is provided, there is page after page of blunt assertion, and after the first chapter I simply lost count of the leaps of logic which larded every section. But it is dressed up in the confident objective tone of one who knows he is on the winning side of history.

Reich’s core argument is that human beings are fundamentally sexual beings—one might perhaps say ‘nothing more than sexual beings’—and that all social ills can be traced back to the repression of their sexual instincts.

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