Thoughts On The Sexual And Social Media Revolution

Feb 17th, 2024 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

One of my favorite Christian authors is Gene Edward Veith, Provost and Professor of literature at Patrick Henry College.  Cleverly, Veith has put together a Catechism written by advocates of our secular culture.  He follows the typical catechism questions found in many Reformation documents.  Here are a few highlights:

  • What is the chief end of man?  “People’s chief end is to glorify themselves, and to enjoy themselves until they die.”
  • Who made You?  “I made myself through my own choices.”
  • Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?  “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the slogan, ‘pro-choice.’  Whatever I choose is right for me.”
  • What is your only comfort in life and death?  “That I am my own.  That because of my autonomy I do not need anyone else.  That there are no absolutes for me to offend against.  And that death is oblivion, so that I need not fear any judgment.”

He concludes with these penetrating comments:  “The secular culture is catechizing us every time we access social media, watch television, go to a public school or university, or surf the internet.  The average adult spends seven hours a day looking at a screen.  The average teenager spends eight hours.  They are being drilled in the secularist culture’s catechism.”

A powerful illustration of the success of this so-called secular catechism is the sexual revolution.  The sexual revolution was a techno-political revolution “from above.”  Michael Toscano of the institute for Family Studies argues that “Those who came of age in the 1960s received a mechanized sexuality orally, under a doctor’s care, and responded with a false liberation: ‘free love.’”  This techno-political revolution was the work of Gregory Goodwin Pincus, who followed the advice of Margaret Sanger to engineer the hormonal birth control pill.   It was also the work of George P. Larrick, who oversaw the FDA, and approved the Pill as a contraceptive in 1960.  In 1965 Chief Justice Earl Warren led the Supreme Court in sanctioning contraceptives in the form of the Pill and based it on the right to privacy.

But as “The Public Square” in the journal First Things demonstrates “Freedom from fertility, symbolized by the Pill, was always more fundamental than freedom from censure.  Freedom from fertility detaches sexual intercourse from the responsibility for new life.  This severing allows progressives to reframe sexual morality in terms of personal choice and fulfillment.  If there are no consequences, who can object to what people do with their bodies, as long as partners provide consent? . . . Abortion was and remains a necessity for the sexual revolution.  It functions as the backstop for the revolution’s promise that sex can be consequence-free.  (In recent years, abortion rights have been rebranded as reproductive freedom.) . . . As we hear over and over again, sex is an expression of love and source of pleasure.  In the revolutionized world, children are a choice.”  The argument goes on to contend that “homosexuality plays a central role in the sexual revolution.  Homosexual relations are to be celebrated, because their intrinsic sterility realizes the most fundamental form of sexual freedom: freedom from our embodiment.”

There is, however, a deeper implication to the sexual revolution.  “Our bodies are fertile.  We have within us the potential for new life.  The sexual revolution frees us from this natural fact . . . The sexual revolution has erected the Rainbow Reich.  Its ambition is to restructure culture and morality so that our lives may be conducted in nearly complete freedom from our bodies.  Sexual freedom, gay rights, abortion, transgenderism, eugenics, and euthanasia are major elements of the Rainbow Reich, the regime that is ascendant in the West.  Other aspects include reproductive technologies that make all the bodily elements of fertility—egg, sperm, and womb—matters of choice, as well as nontherapeutic cosmetic surgery and techniques of bodily enhancement.”

Evidence of the consequences of this sexual revolution is glaringly clear in the defining characteristics of Gen Z, the generation born between 1995-2012.  Michael Toscano summarizes these findings from Jean Twenge’s important book, Generations: 

  • “Smartphones and widespread social media use have meant Gen Z conducts more of their social interactions online and less in the ‘meatword’ of in-person interaction.”
  • “Among young adults born in the 2000s, identifying as transgender jumped 48% between late 2021 and late 2022, and identifying as nonbinary leapt 62%–in one year.”  This is part of a larger sexual ecosystem in which an astounding 23% of Gen Z are bisexual.  This is mostly a female phenomenon, with about one in five high school girls, as of 2021, claiming to be bisexual.  Not unrelatedly, most adolescents today encounter pornography through their smart devices by age twelve and in many cases at even younger ages.”
  • “Their lives are inseparable from a digital superstructure that is designed to lure individuals into becoming brands. Social media is one giant marketplace, where the products for sale are one’s visage (as well as one’s information).”
  • “Dysphoria is a booming business . . . Gen Z is not a happy generation.    Twenge assesses their precipitously declining mental health scores: ‘The [negative] trends are stunning in their consistency, breadth, and size.’  Eating disorders, loneliness, feeling left out (even when in the presence of friends), general negativity, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide attempts, and self-poisoning all have skyrocketed in Gen Z—especially since 2012, when Twenge notes, smartphones became standard equipment for basic lifestyle, even for kids.”
  • This crisis also affects the body: “By late 2020, Twenge says, “43.4 % of 12- to 15-year-olds were overweight or obese.’  They spend more time at home and less time in-person with friends . . . . College-bound high school students reported spending an hour a day less socializing and partying with friends than Gen X’ers in the 1980s.”
  • “Social media has encouraged them to believe that identity is self-constructed.  They have at their fingertips applications that can reconstitute digital images—say, to remove blemishes, change lighting, turn the subject into a boy, a cat, or any other form.  Their projected self is, in turn, reinformed by other users, who ‘like,’ share, repost, or retweet the altered image, which, in being positively circulated, becomes the grounds of the subject’s social membership.”

The tragedy of these observations about the sexual revolution and the dysphoria of Gen Z should drive us to the solution.  The solution is found in Jesus Christ.  There are two aspects of our identity in Christ:

  • As humans, we are created in the image of God, which establishes our infinite worth and value as humans.  It is the baseline for the value of humanity at every stage in development.  That weighty truth establishes one aspect of our identity:  We both resemble God (in His communicable attributes—intellect, emotion and will) and we represent Him as dominion stewards of His world.
  • The Bible also makes clear that when we place our faith in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s cross, we are a “new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Our new identity is that we are “in Christ,” a powerful and profound phrase used 242 times in the New Testament.   The power of sin and the power of death have been broken (see Romans 6).  When we place our faith in Christ, we are declared righteous by Almighty God (justification):  Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to our account.  Further, we are adopted into God’s family, with all the rights and privileges of being a joint heir with Christ (see Galatians 4 and Romans 8).  God is now our heavenly Father and we are His children.  We await the wondrous family gathering of all the brothers and sisters of God’s family in His coming kingdom.  Finally, we are being transformed into the image of Christ (Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:29).  We now belong to Jesus, who bought us with the price of His shed blood and we are indwelt by His Spirit (1 Corinthian 6:19).  Galatians 2:20 perhaps best summarizes our new identity in Christ:  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  The struggles, tensions and confusion about personal identity are resolved by being “in Christ,” the vital center of the new identity offered by God.  As with all things in this broken world, the Gospel is the answer.

See Veith’s article in Tabeltalk (December 2023), pp. 72-75; “The Public Square” in First Things (December 2023), pp. 67-68; Michael Toscano’s review of Generations in First Things (December 2023), pp. 47-50.

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