The True Sexual Revolution
I know that may be a little hard to hear for many Christians, and especially for those who view the sexual revolution of the 1960s onwards as an entirely bad thing. But as I point out here, in the first of the messages that I’m currently preaching on Sex and Sexuality at Everyday Church, Jesus doesn’t tell his followers to try to wind the clock back to the 1950s. He tells us in Matthew 19:4 to wind the clock back to the beginning.
The sexual revolution can be viewed, at least in its early stages, as a healthy reaction against three sins that were prevalent in post-War Europe and America. It called out the sexist way in which Western nations had used female labour to defeat the Nazis, but then had tried to push women back into their boxes once the war was won. It resisted the domestic abuse that many of those disenfranchised women were experiencing behind the doors of their oh-so-perfect homes. It also called time on the West’s hypocrisy, pointing out how much of society’s talk about sexual purity was a smokescreen. Many of those who promoted so-called Christian values were revealed to be committed to those values in public, but not once they believed that nobody was watching.
Somewhere along the way, this sexual revolution became hijacked by a group of reactionaries. It stopped calling out the sins of its generation in order to promote something better. It started focusing, instead, on how to bring sexual taboos into the open. That’s how we have come to a place today where virtually no form of sexual practice is taboo, while crossing any of those last taboos is a sin that can never be forgiven.
As Christians, we need to push the sexual revolution to its godly conclusion. While it’s important that we speak up against sexual sin in all its forms, it’s even more important that we proclaim God’s sexual revolution in all its glory. We live in a world where an MP is forced to resign his position for touching a reporter’s knee, despite having apologised. We live in a world where an actor’s career ends in a puff of smoke as the result of an as-yet-unproven accusation of sexual impropriety. We live in a world where the appointment of a Supreme Court judge can be derailed by a claim that, thirty-six years earlier, at the age of seventeen, he groped a fellow college student. We live in a world where, in short, much of what was once taboo has become mainstream but what remains taboo is more taboo than ever. Sexual sin is viewed as something unforgiveable and sexual sinners as people irredeemable.
The world was no different when the Apostle Paul proclaimed his sexual revolution in 55AD. Timarchos had been on the brink of power in Athens when a political rival revealed that he had once worked as a prostitute in his city’s seedy dockyards and his career sank from view like a block of lead dropped into water. For the women of Athens and Corinth – as today – the bitter repercussions for sexual sin were even harsher. The historian Mary Lefkowitz explains that shame befell “not only a woman who practises prostitution, but also one who has formerly done so, even though she has ceased to act in this manner; for the disgrace is not removed even if the practice is subsequently discontinued.” As far as the Ancient Greeks were concerned, once a prostitute, always a prostitute.
Into this judgemental world strode the Apostle Paul, declaring that Jesus Christ was good news for sexual sinners. He announced to the men and women of Athens and Corinth that they were not beyond the pale. They were not damaged goods. They were not unfit for society. They were sinners, just like anybody else, who could receive forgiveness and cleansing for their sins through the blood of Jesus, and freedom from their sins through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. As the news of his sexual revolution spread across Corinth, thousands were converted:
“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Now that’s sexual revolution. That’s good news for sexual sinners, and it’s where we ought to be directing the discussion. We can’t allow the sexual revolution of the 1960s to be hijacked today by people whose ideas are as old, as vicious and as ineffectual as those of Ancient Athens and Corinth. Instead, let’s preach the Gospel with the Apostle Paul in all its glory. Vive la Révolution!
Phil Moore is posting a series of a dozen blogs on the Everyday Church website as part of his “Sex and Sexuality” series which explore how to embrace the Bible’s true sexual revolution of forgiveness and redemption. You can access them all via the first blog here.
-  The speech in which his rival, Aeschines, denounced him has still survived. See his Against Timarchos (346BC).
-  Mary Lefkowitz and Maureen Fant in their book Women’s Life in Greece and Rome (1982).