By: Dr. Brent Aucoin
In the torrent of comments that flooded the country in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, there was a discernible stream of opinion that considered the Court’s same-sex marriage ruling in light of its infamous 1973 decision to legalize abortion. The range of opinion on this matter spanned from Russell Moore, President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), calling Obergefell “the Roe v. Wade of marriage,” to those explicitly rejecting such a linking of the two decisions. For Moore and others, Obergefell is similar to Roe because just as the latter failed to end the debate over abortion, the former, they assert, will likewise fail to usher in a clear consensus in favor of same-sex marriage. For those like Cokie Roberts who completely disagree with Moore, Obergefell will take a different trajectory than Roe because it involves something positive (marriage), as opposed to death (abortion), and because same-sex marriage allegedly enjoys popular support, whereas the same was not true of abortion in 1973. While I personally found this debate intriguing, my interest in the association between legalized abortion and the federal government’s recent recognition of so-called same-sex marriage is based not so much on what may happen in the future, but what their connection indicates about the past.
In seeking to trace the history of the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage one could look as far back as the Fall, as both originate in man’s sinful nature and rebellion against God. However, what accounts for and connects the two together most immediately is the fact that both are products of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Few, if any, Americans living before that tumultuous decade could scarcely imagine either abortion or homosexuality being viewed respectfully. Today, both practices are not only widely celebrated but considered to be rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, despite the absence of any mention of them in the document. This dramatic shift occurred because the sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s successfully started the process of convincing Americans that recreational and aberrant forms of sexuality are both moral and harmless (even if the lives of other human beings must be ended in utero in order to facilitate such activity). In short, the cultural dominance of a semi-Biblically informed worldview in matters of sexual morality began to be shattered in the 1960s.
Understanding this turn of events should help Christians more clearly see the task ahead of us. It is not so much a matter of winning elections (though elections do have consequences), or of getting the Court to reverse itself (as helpful as that may be, and has been in the past in matters such as slavery and segregation), but rather convincing an entire culture that God’s instructions for marriage, family, and sexuality are superior to what is today considered to be the most progressive and enlightened approaches to such matters. The task before us is enormous. We are faced with nothing less than changing the way an entire culture thinks about some of the most important questions facing humanity. We may never “win back the culture” but we must continue to live out and proclaim a Biblical sexual ethic not only in loving obedience to our Savior and Creator, but out of Christian love for our neighbors. As the sexual revolution has progressed from the Sixties forward it has left millions of victims in its wake. The unbelieving world ignores or excuses the carnage of the revolution, and instead revels in their perceived liberation. By God’s grace, we who are His children have been delivered from this deception and are more attuned to the pain and suffering that results from sin – in this particular case, sexual sin. Out of a genuine desire to help our fellow man, we should continue to draw attention to the error of their ways, praying they will heed our advice and ultimately repent of their sins.
Christians now constitute the counter-culture in America. Spiritually, intellectually and culturally, we are in the minority. From such a vantage point, and from an earthly perspective, things look grim. However, human history has demonstrated time and again that a cultural minority can come to eventually dominate a society. The sexual revolution of the 60s is but one example. Other examples include Christianity making the transition from fringe group to majoritarian status in human societies. Such transitions are not designated revolutions, but rather revivals. We may or may not see a revival in America in our time on Earth, but as with every generation of Christians living and laboring in the days before Christ’s return, we must continue to pray and prepare for revival. If some are willing to dedicate all they have to bringing about cultural revolutions, how much more should we as Christians be willing to give our all in hopes of a spiritual revival.
Dr. Brent Aucoin is a Professor of History and Associate Dean of The College at Southeastern.