Why Christian Sexual Morality is Rejected

Apr 7, 2018 by

by James Kalb, Crisis Magazine:

There are good arguments for traditional Christian sexual morality (CSM), but even so it’s fallen out of favor. Many in the Church have given up on it, saying it’s at most an ideal no one can be held to. What would be needed to bring it back and make it effective?

A complete answer seems out of reach, but to begin we should look at some of the arguments and see why they’re not enough.

First, there is the authority of perennial Church teaching. It seems unlikely we’ll do better inventing our own, so why not stick with it? Also, compared to current approaches CSM looks a lot like other traditional views, especially reflective of philosophical views like Plato’s. That tendency would be hard to understand if general human experience weren’t behind it.

A more analytical approach is based on social utility. How we deal with sex is basic to how we live. But if so then some ways of dealing with it will work out better for people generally. Sex has to do with fundamental human connections, so the choice can’t be simply an individual matter. A general system of standards is needed for people to rely on.

That system ought to promote human well-being as much as possible. Trends in family life—divorce, illegitimacy, and so on—indicate the current system doesn’t do that. The role of sex in pop culture and advertising, not to mention recent disclosures of bad conduct by prominent men, shows how it lends itself to manipulation and abuse when it’s accepted that you can do with it what you want. And without standards beyond consent it’s likely to wander off and become disordered and compulsive. That makes people miserable.

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