Morals: The Second Sexual Revolution

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Such notions mean burdening sex with too much deadly importance, suggesting an absurd vision of all those college kids making out, the clerks trying to learn the art of seduction from Dr. Albert Ellis, the young married couples in their hopeful conjugal beds—all only serving the great cause of some sociosexual revolution.

The Supreme Act. Contemplating the situation from the vantage point of his 79 years, Historian Will Durant recently decided it was time to speak out, not only on sexual morality but on morals generally. Said he: "Most of our literature and social philosophy after 1850 was the voice of freedom against authority, of the child against the parent, of the pupil against the teacher. Through many years I shared in that individualistic revolt. I do not regret it; it is the function of youth to defend liberty and innovation, of the old to defend order and tradition, and of middle age to find a middle way. But now that I too am old, I wonder whether the battle I fought was not too completely won. Let us say humbly but publicly that we resent corruption in politics, dishonesty in business, faithlessness in marriage, pornography in literature, coarseness in language, chaos in music, meaninglessness in art."

Many Americans will share Durant's broad indignation, many will dissent from it. But one of the remarkable facts is that there is much less indignation in the churches today—at least as far as sexual morality goes. The watchword is to be positive, to stress the New Testament's values of faith, hope and charity rather than the prohibitions of the Commandments.

Many sermons, if they deal with sexual transgressions at all, prefer to treat them simply as one kind of difficulty among many others. The meaning of sin in the U.S. today is no longer predominantly sexual.

Few will regret that. But many do feel the need for a reaffirmation of the spiritual meaning of sex. For the act of sex is above all the supreme act of communion between two people, as sanctified by God and celebrated by poets. "Love's mysteries in souls do grow, but yet the body is his book," wrote John Donne. And out of this connection and commitment come children, who should be a responsibility—and a joy.

When sex is pursued only for pleasure, or only for gain, or even only to fill a void in society or in the soul, it becomes elusive, impersonal, ultimately disappointing. That is what Protestant Theologian Helmut Thielicke has in mind when he warns that "a dethroned god seems to be staging his comeback in a secularized world." Eros is accorded high rank today, "a rank that comes close to the deity it once had." The spiritual danger is that Eros may leave "no room for agape, which lives not by making claims but by giving."

The Victorians, who talked a great deal about love, knew little about sex. Perhaps it is time that modern Americans, who know a great deal about sex, once again start talking about love.

* Copyright 1963 by Ervin Drake. Reprinted by permission of Harms, Inc.

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