is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?
He makes a strong case for answering this in the affirmative, and ties the abandonment of biblical marriage by modern Christians to the surge in public opinion in favor of gay marriage:
Conservative Christians have lost the fight over gay marriage and, as we have seen, did so decades before anyone even thought same-sex marriage was a possibility.
Dreher’s argument here is certainly not unique, but it is well made and the entire article is very much worth reading. However, there is one area where I have at least partial disagreement with him:
By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion.
Our post-Christian culture, then, is an “anti-culture.” We are compelled by the logic of modernity and the myth of individual freedom to continue tearing away the last vestiges of the old order, convinced that true happiness and harmony will be ours once all limits have been nullified.
While there is much truth to this, it isn’t entirely correct. There is a new sexual morality which modern Christians and non Christians alike have embraced in the place of biblical marriage, and it isn’t centered around overt hedonism. The new sexual morality is centered around romantic love.
This transformational shift has been so complete and so insidious that unless you have actively considered the idea you almost certainly have at least partially adopted the new mindframe yourself. Consider for example Roissy’s claim that he loves many of the women he has sex with. Does this offend you? Do you interpret this as Roissy pretending that his sexual exploits have a purity, a morality which you are certain they lack?
If so, why do you feel this way? Roissy certainly doesn’t suffer under a delusion that love makes sex moral. Roissy understands a simple truth; sex is more enjoyable when he experiences it both physically and emotionally. He has sex with romantic love for the same reason one might have sprinkles on their ice cream; he likes it better that way.
So where does this outrage come from? It isn’t biblical. From a biblical perspective Roissy is misusing both sex and romantic love. But how many modern Christians can even understand that?
What nearly all modern Christians have done is place romantic love above marriage. Instead of seeing marriage as the moral context to pursue romantic love and sex, romantic love is now seen as the moral place to experience sex and marriage. This inversion is subtle enough that no one seems to have noticed, but if you look for it you will see it everywhere.
Lifetime marriage, with separate defined roles for husband and wife and true commitment is what makes sex and romantic love moral in the biblical view. In our new view, romantic love makes sex moral, and the purpose of marriage is to publicly declare that you are experiencing the highest form of romantic love. Thus people now commonly refer to a wedding as “making our love official”.
The gradations we now apply to romantic love are symptomatic of the problem. We take great care to distinguish between “pure love” or “true love” and mere “infatuation” or “puppy love”. But there is no biblical basis for this kind of thinking, and scientifically there is no reason to believe the hormones/chemistry is any different. The reality is (physical) sex naturally tends to create feelings of romantic love. When channeled correctly this is both moral and incredibly enjoyable.
Only in a world of sex outside of marriage is there a need to distinguish between gradients of romantic love, where some forms are more pure and authentic than others. Take away the mind frame of serial monogamy, and these ideas become absurd. When the Apostle Paul advises us on marriage, he tells us to only marry if we “burn with passion”. There is no worry about “true love” vs “puppy love”, etc, because such thoughts are meaningless in this context. If the couple has a strong sexual/romantic attraction and are prepared to commit for life and fulfill the roles of husband and wife, then they should marry.
But Paul’s advice runs counter to what we now consider a woman’s sacred path to marriage. The modern view is that women especially need to experience falling in and out of love a sufficient number of times to identify “the real thing”. If she finds “true love” the new paradigm asserts, she will remain bonded to him for life. By definition of course if she later finds herself “trapped” and not wanting to keep her commitment, this is prima facie proof that what they had wasn’t true love after all. Marriage in this context is just a public assertion of true love, and there is no concept of commitment outside of romantic love.
Because it is love and not marriage which now confers morality upon sex, sex outside of marriage is now considered moral so long as you are in love. Thus we have the modern harlot’s defense/anthem “but we were in love!”. It is also entirely logical for gays to demand the equal right to “declare their love” via marriage under this new twisted paradigm.