The Sexual Pluralist Revolution: Reasons to be Skeptical
In the United States the last generation has seen a decisive move away from the Judeo-Christian sexual norms that have reigned in the West for centuries. This shift has involved a move toward sexual pluralism, the view that any sexual behavior is morally permissible so long as it takes place between mutually committed adults.
This is nothing short of revolutionary, as it constitutes a radical and abrupt change of practice and moral perspective. This should be troubling to anyone who prizes the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition, because it flouts both natural law and biblical teaching on sexuality. But it is also troubling for non-theological reasons. Here I will consider several reasons why we should be especially skeptical of the rise of sexual pluralism. I will give special attention to homosexual conduct both because this issue is so heavily emphasized by sexual pluralists and because it is now a point of controversy within some Christian communities.
One reason to be skeptical of sexual pluralism is that this movement has not been driven by rational argument, unlike other revolutionary developments such as the Protestant Reformation, the scientific revolution, and the abolitionist movement. Rather, the sexual pluralist revolution has been powered by postmodern relativism, pop culture influences, and a confused view of tolerance that is really a disguised form of dogmatism.
Many say the sexual pluralists do have an argument, specifically the argument from nature—science has proven that our sexual orientation is innate, not under one’s control. Yet here is another reason to be skeptical of sexual pluralism. The so-called argument from science is spurious. No credible studies have proven a biological basis for homosexual orientation. Some cite the LeVay or Bailey-Pillard studies of the early 1990s, but these are seriously flawed. Moreover, even if there were a genetic or congenital disposition toward homosexual attraction, this proves nothing regarding whether homosexual practice is ever morally appropriate. For even if homosexual orientation is biologically determined, this does not imply that such people must choose to behave accordingly or that they are not morally culpable for their sexual choices. To insist so is to embrace hard determinism, the view that since human choices are caused we are neither free nor morally responsible for our behavior. The fact that sexual pluralists must appeal to such deterministic thinking shows how thin their rational grounds are.
A third reason that Christians should be skeptical of sexual pluralism is the fact that significant disagreement about the issue within the Church is historically unprecedented. Never before the last generation was there ever serious debate among Christian theologians or ethicists regarding the moral legitimacy of homosexual behavior. In fact, there has been considerably more debate about such fundamental doctrines as the Trinity and the divinity of Christ than there has been about this. Other sexual issues (e.g., polygamy) have been debated, of course. But not until the late twentieth century have Christians seriously debated the moral permissibility of homosexual practice.
This leads to a final reason to be skeptical about sexual pluralism: debate in the Church has occurred almost exclusively in North America and parts of Europe. Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America almost uniformly affirm the traditional view. Because of this, it is extremely misleading, even ethnocentric, to glibly declare that “Christians are very divided on the homosexuality issue” as some are wont to do. Consult a typical Christian in Kenya or China or Brazil, and they will shake their heads in disbelief, perhaps even asking “What is wrong with American Christians that they could actually disagree about this issue?” Good question.
For these reasons Christians are well-advised to hold fast to the historic Judeo-Christian sexual ethic. In the coming years, doing so will be increasingly difficult, since this will demand a firm resolve to resist cultural currents. Those on the side of biblical orthopraxy will be dismissed or, worse, persecuted. And although sexual pluralism has no rational grounds—theologically, historically, or scientifically—it might be useless to resist with rational argument. For a view which rises to prominence by abandoning reason can hardly be defeated through the use of reason.