One of the major changes of the past half-century is encapsulated in the term: Sexual Revolution. Before this series of events, the Christian view of the place of sex in life dominated our social mores and even our legal system. Simply put, sex was created by God to be used exclusively in Marriage to procreate children and to provide a unity so that the family could survive the vicissitudes of this changing world. The teaching of the Church still consistently holds this view, but no longer by society.
The natural forces that God has given this sexual process are very powerful, like the forces keeping the atom together. When one splits the atom and releases that energy, overwhelming power is unleashed that is difficult to control.
Once the ‘sexual revolution’ split the atom of sexual energy, which God gave it for its own preservation, we have the present destructive fall-out of that energy. Convenient ways of controlling fecundity (Birth Control) has created a sexual mores where there is no consequence of new life and, hence, a virtual playground of sexual pleasure opened up in the place of a sexually responsible attitude. What began as married couples responsibly limiting the size of their family was taken up by society as permission to engage in sex for pleasure alone. The idea of taking the awesome beauty and power of sexually responsible love, involving life-long commitment, and making it a ‘recreation’ that can be used by anyone at any time is a bedrock of the false freedom that our culture thinks essential for meaningful living. And if Birth Control does not provide safety in the use of this pastime (sex), then one should be free to terminate a life soon to be born (Abortion). The only rule to be strictly enforced is that sex be between two consenting adults or two consenting minors. Even if a pregnancy occurs to a minor, they should be free to terminate it without a parent’s knowledge or consent. (You even need a parent’s consent to give a child an aspirin, but they can procure an abortion without a parent’s knowledge—legally!) Sex is a right and no one should be able to abridge or contradict that right, not even society or Church or God.
For a Christian, nay even for a thinking person, this is absurd.
The purpose of sexuality is the procreation of children and the strengthening of the marital union. Once it breaks through those God-given boundaries and becomes a recreational pastime with no moral or psychological repercussions, we have the breakdown of the family and the undermining of the nation. This is expressed through a host of domestic and national ills that have become all too common: Abortions, high incidence of divorce, Adultery, child sexual abuse, spread of pornography etc.
This does not even begin to interpret the destruction of the moral fabric that effects other non-sexual areas of human interaction: lying, gross indulgence in the material at the expense of the spiritual, falling attendance at religious services, and a general adoption of the importance of the flesh and its demands. When linked with the philosophy of individualism and the relativity of truth, we have every person for themselves. This leads to a lack of community and a general feeling of futility and loneliness. The whole moral edifice is off tilter.
God has created reality as a coherent whole. When something as basic and powerful as sexuality is loosed from the confines and limitations that God imposes on it, then are we surprised that the whole does not cohere and we are left with pockets of unrelated realities feeding the atheism and the nihilism of our age?
Just as an earthly ecosystem hangs together or fall apart when one important element is taken away, so the moral system that God has given to us begins to fall apart when such an important element as sexuality is misused.
The relative place that sex has in the divine ecosystem is seen when we opt for celibacy as a morally justified and spiritually beneficial state. The world stands aghast at this choice because it puts sexuality in its place. People who often confuse sex and love say “But how can one live without love?” You can’t, but love is not sex. It is greater. Many Saints have lived very nicely without access to sexual relations, but not without love of God and neighbor. Jesus Himself was a fully functioning, even an ideal, human person without any hint of a sexual or marital dimension.
Sex is a beautiful gift from God and invites us to be part of the creative dimension of God’s action in the world; but it has its place. And when that place is enlarged and its borders compromised, the whole human enterprise is at risk.