From Darwinism to Hitler – Lecture by Historian Richard Weikart

19 Dec

Based on his book:

Christian churches and the Eugenics Movement in the early 20th century

18 Dec

From Peter Hawarth:

“American Religion, Eugenics and Social Policy, 1920-1939,” By Dennis L. Durst

NIP image- eugenics- 12-18-14

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, the Lord thy God as a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. –Exodus 20:5-6 KJV

This passage from the Mosaic Law served as the preaching text in a 1926 sermon submitted to the American Eugenics Society as part of its multi-year “Eugenic Sermons Contest” series. Now available online, select sermons from this series shock the modern reader with clergymen’s enthusiastic embrace of the eugenics movement in the USA. Such “strange bedfellows” as the Protestant, mostly mainline denominational clergy and the well-funded eugenics movement bespeak the complexities of the history of eugenics. In this essay I offer samples from three distinct religious traditions as they encountered the claims of eugenics enthusiasts. I argue that a religious thinker’s attitude toward the authority of science, relative to the authority of tradition, is a stronger indicator of support for eugenics than the individual’s political persuasion. If the thinker’s attitude toward science was deferential, even reverential, that individual was far more likely to support policies such as involuntary sterilization of the feebleminded. If, however, the person privileged an ancient source of authority, such as scripture (conservative Protestants), or natural rights tradition (Roman Catholics), that individual was far less likely to support the eugenics agenda. This is not to say that citation of the Bible was absent on the part of any of these thinkers, but that the relative weight or authority accorded the Bible differed depending on the weight accorded eugenics as science.

The anonymous author of the sermon mentioned above tied the biblical text into a scientific reading, indeed a distortion, of that text as follows. “God is warning most solemnly that the iniquity of the fathers will run in the blood of the coming generations,” the clergyman declared, “and is pointing out that terrible law of heredity, so clearly established now by scientists, that blood will tell.” The preacher went on to list what we now recognize as a standard bill of fare in eugenics literature, namely “criminality, insanity, idiocy, tuberculosis, alcoholism, and other vices.” These maladies and social problems, today explained by a wide range of causes both genetic and environmental, this religious orator tied to biology. He went on to warn of the “strong corruption” that “inhabits our germ-plasm,” with the tendency to “leap from parents to children, damning the offspring before it is even born.”[1]

This embrace of eugenics was not merely evident among clergy, but among their theological educators as well. Dean of the Chicago Divinity School, Shailer Mathews wrote regarding many of his former students preaching in pulpits and teaching in seminaries by the late 1930s: “It is probably correct to say that generally they represent a realistic view of religion and I like to think that our emphasis upon a scientific approach to contemporary individual and social needs has helped forward a morally vital rather than a merely doctrinal conception of Christianity.” [2] Mathews edited the 1924 volume entitled Contributions of Science to Religion, in which the chapter promoting eugenics was authored by Charles B. Davenport, President of the American Eugenics Society. Mathews himself wrote of the corruptions of human nature as “those passional elements which humanity shares with other animals.” Mathews suggested that such elements were what “Augustine had in mind when he spoke about original sin.” For Mathews, the great ancient moralists such as Plato, Paul and Augustine lacked science, and this led them “to very imperfect and sometimes grotesque explanations of the facts.” Elevating science to something akin to a theological truth, Mathews added: “But it is not hard to see how sympathetic Augustine might have been with our modern knowledge of evolution and eugenics.”[3]

Christine Rosen’s fine study of clergy support for eugenics notes that support for eugenics was drawn predominantly from the progressive side of the spectrum. Rosen points out that “no Protestant fundamentalist ever joined the eugenics movement, and by 1937, the two Catholics who had been members of the A[merican] E[ugenics] S[ociety] . . . had long since departed over eugenicists’ support of compulsory sterilization, birth control, and the liberalization of divorce laws.”[4]

Today’s political divide between conservative and liberal forces is unhelpful when we look back to eugenics in the Progressive era. Economic conservatives such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie were enthusiastic financial supporters of the eugenics movement—but so were left-leaning radicals such as Margaret Sanger.[5] Eugenics had multifaceted support across the political spectrum of its time, in large part because of its backers’ portrayal of it as good science. Opposition to eugenics, by contrast, was drawn from wellsprings more deeply rooted in traditions that often predated the American experiment. Biblical norms for procreation in marriage and notions of natural human rights provided the counterweight to eugenic social policies. Still, this counterweight was not sufficient to keep the majority of states from enacting involuntary sterilization laws by the late 1930s.

Historians of the eugenics movement make a distinction between positive eugenics, or the increased reproduction of those regarded by elites as “fit” or of “good stock;” and negative eugenics, the restriction of the procreation of those whom elites regard as “unfit” or of “inferior stock.” Eugenics of both varieties had social policy implications, but negative eugenics had the tendency to engender the stronger opposition in debates over, for example, involuntary sterilization in state-run institutions.[6]

I now turn to examine a brief sampling of the debate over eugenics as interpreted by a progressive Protestant, a conservative Protestant, and a Roman Catholic during the 1920s and 30s. I have tried to select individuals who engaged in sustained arguments over eugenics, rather than isolated editorials. I include some analysis of how the authority of science could be counterpoised to the authority of tradition in these arguments.


Progressive Protestant Support of Eugenics

John Lewis Gillin (1871-1958) received the A.M. at Columbia University in 1903, and the B.D. from Union Theological Seminary in 1904. Gillin was ordained a minister of the Church of the Brethren. After acquiring a Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1906, he taught at Ashland College (Ohio), and the University of Iowa. Appointed to the Sociology faculty at the University of Wisconsin, he served until his death in 1958.[7]

Gillin authored numerous books in the field of sociology between 1926 and 1933. His position on eugenical sterilization shifted during this period. Writing in 1926 Gillin seemed wary of the legalization of involuntary sterilization. He allowed for a limited application of sterilization policy in some rare cases.[8] In 1927, however, a significant national event occurred that influenced an important transition in Gillin’s thought. The United States Supreme Court issued its infamous Buck v. Bell decision, permitting involuntary sterilization across the land, accentuated by Justice Holmes’ oft-quoted “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”[9] Gillin’s writings on sterilization thereafter show a marked hardening of attitude toward the problem of the feeble-minded.

In Social Problems (1928), Gillin authored a chapter entitled “The Problems of Poverty.” In this chapter, his earlier reticence or nuance on the question of involuntary sterilization had vanished. Now Gillin was enthusiastic about the practice, as evident from the following passage:

The feeble-minded can be handled from the eugenic point of view only by some method that will prevent their reproduction. They can be segregated into institutions and colonies where the higher grades can make their living and some of them can be trained for certain vocations in which they can make their way on parole. Greater numbers could be let out into society after being properly trained if they were sterilized. A great deal of prejudice, however, exists against sterilization, and it is not making the headway it deserves. However, just recently the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that sterilization laws relating to the feeble-minded are constitutional. In this country we have attempted to take care of the insane by hospitals for those that may be curable and asylums for the chronic cases. No widespread effort has been made to sterilize the insane who have a history of hereditary insanity. This should be done or they should be kept in an institution where they cannot reproduce.[10]

For Gillin, the rights and prerogatives of society took precedence over the rights of the individual, at least insofar as the object was the feeble-minded person. This was a common view among social reformers in the heyday of eugenics, given the assumption that eugenics was good science and therefore good social policy.


Conservative Protestant Opposition to Eugenics

Walter A. Maier (1893-1950) was a highly popular radio preacher and theologian of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod in the 1930s and 40s. He was also editor of The Walther League Messenger, a magazine devoted primarily to issues affecting youth and young adults. As a Harvard-educated biblical scholar, Maier was keenly aware of social trends, including the eugenics movement. Maier was willing to allow marriage restriction for “epileptics, feeble-minded or insane persons” based not merely on science, but on the basis of biblical authority for the quarantine of lepers in Leviticus 13:46. When eugenics went beyond the ideals of public health, however, Maier voiced alarm. Maier opposed the suggestion of laws “to enact processes for the breeding of better human beings which have been patently borrowed from the stock farm.” He noted that “the study of genetics, the science of heredity” was still “in its formative stages.” Wary of using genetic determinism to evaluate individuals and families, Maier feared the rise of tyranny under the banner of eugenics. He also saw the emphasis on heredity as too one-sided. “Eugenics quite overlooks the fact that while heredity is a powerful factor it is not the only decisive element in matters of the health and happiness of children.” He cited the home environment, parental guidance, and divine blessing as vital elements in the raising of healthy children.[11]

Read the rest from Nomcracy

Belgic Confession 16 – Divine Election

15 Dec


We believe that, when the entire offspring of Adam plunged into perdition and ruin by the transgression of the first man,1 God manifested Himself to be as He is: merciful and just. Merciful, in rescuing and saving from this perdition those whom in His eternal and unchangeable counsel2 He has elected3 in Jesus Christ our Lord4 by His pure goodness, without any consideration of their works.5 Just, in leaving the others in the fall and perdition into which they have plunged themselves.6

1. Rom 3:12. 2. John 6:37, John 6:44; John 10:29; John 17:2, John 17:9, John 17:12; John 18:9. 3. 1 Sam 12:22; Psalm 65:4; Acts 13:48; Rom 9:16; Rom 11:5; Titus 1:1. 4. John 15:16, John 15:19; Rom 8:29; Eph 1:4-5. 5. Mal 1:2-3; Rom 9:11-13; 2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:4-5. 6. Rom 9:19-22; 1 Pet 2:8.

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The Apostle Paul told the women of Corinth to wear a head covering at church. Why? And how does this apply today?

12 Dec

This is a tough one.  While all reformed commentators distinguish between a biblical principle which endures, and a biblical practice/custom which does not (it is culturally relative) this verse doesn’t lend itself so easily to those categories.  Paul speaks about the practice/custom of head coverings in the 1st century but he also appeals to natural law and the creation order of things.  Here is Thomas Schreiner’s take (excerpted conclusion from ch. 5 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).  [Note: there are other scholars who argue that the head covering practice is more prescriptive than Schreiners thinks it is].

The significance of this text for the twentieth century must be examined briefly. Am I
suggesting that women return to wearing coverings or veils? No.30 We must distinguish
between the fundamental principle that underlies a text and the application of that
principle in a specific culture. The fundamental principle is that the sexes, although equal,
are also different. God has ordained that men have the responsibility to lead, while
women have a complementary and supportive role. More specifically, if women pray and
prophesy in church, they should do so under the authority of male headship. Now, in the
first century, failure to wear a covering sent a signal to the congregation that a woman
was rejecting the authority of male leadership. Paul was concerned about head coverings
only because of the message they sent to people in that culture.
Today, except in certain religious groups, if a woman fails to wear a head covering
while praying or prophesying, no one thinks she is in rebellion. Lack of head coverings
sends no message at all in our culture. Nevertheless, that does not mean that this text does
not apply to our culture. The principle still stands that women should pray and prophesy
in a manner that makes it clear that they submit to male leadership. Clearly the attitude
and the demeanor with which a woman prays and prophesies will be one indication of
whether she is humble and submissive. The principle enunciated here should be applied
in a variety of ways given the diversity of the human situation.
Moreover, both men and women today should dress so that they do not look like the
opposite sex. Confusion of the sexes is contrary to the God-given sense that the sexes are
distinct. For example, it would be wrong for a twentieth-century American male to wear a
dress in public. It would violate his masculinity. Everything within a man would cry out
against doing this because it would violate his appropriate sense of what it means to be a
man. The point is not that women should not wear jeans or pants, but that in every culture
there are certain kinds of adornment which become culturally acceptable norms of dress
for men and women.
Finally, we should note that there is a connection forged in this passage between
femininity and the proper submission of women to men. The women in Corinth, by
prophesying without a head covering, were sending a signal that they were no longer
submitting to male authority. Paul sees this problem as severe because the arrogation of
male leadership roles by women ultimately dissolves the distinction between men and
women. Thus, this text speaks volumes to our culture today, because one of the problems
with women taking full leadership is that it inevitably involves a collapsing of the
distinctions between the sexes. It is hardly surprising, as the example of the Evangelical
Woman’s Caucus demonstrates, that one of the next steps is to accept lesbianism.31 Paul
rightly saw, as he shows in this text, that there is a direct link between women
appropriating leadership and the loss of femininity. It is no accident that Paul addresses
the issues of feminine adornment and submission to male leadership in the same passage.
In conclusion, we should affirm the participation of women in prayer and prophecy in
the church. Their contribution should not be slighted or ignored. Nevertheless, women
should participate in these activities with hearts that are submissive to male leadership,
and they should dress so that they retain their femininity.

Original link

Gender pay gap nearly explained in full, but the discrimination narrative lives on

10 Dec

From Mark Perry:


According to a TV election ad in 2012, “President Obama knows that women being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men isn’t just unfair, it hurts families.” Do the data support the president’s claim? Not at all.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases an annual report on the “Highlights of Women’s Earnings” (since the BLS report actually looks equally at data for both men’s and women’s earnings, one might ask why the report isn’t simply titled “Highlights of Earnings in America?”, but maybe that’s a politically incorrect question). Here’s the opening paragraph from the most recent BLS report “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2013” that was released this week:

 In 2013, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $706. On average in 2013, women made 82.1 percent of the median weekly earnings of male full-time wage and salary workers ($860). In 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data are available, women earned 62 percent of what men earned.

How do we explain the 23% gender pay gap claimed by Obama, or the fact that women working full-time earned only 82.1 cents for every dollar men earned in 2013 according to the BLS? Here’s how the National Committee on Pay Equity explains it:

The wage gap exists, in part, because many women and people of color are still segregated into a few low-paying occupations. Part of the wage gap results from differences in education, experience or time in the workforce. But a significant portion cannot be explained by any of those factors; it is attributable to discrimination. In other words, certain jobs pay less because they are held by women and people of color.

Let’s investigate the claim that the gender pay gap is a result of discrimination by looking at some of the wage data by gender in the BLS report for 2013:

1. Among full-time workers (those working 35 hours or more per week), men were more likely than women to work a greater number of hours (see Table 5). For example, 25.5% of men working full-time worked 41 or more hours per week in 2013, compared with only 14.3% of women who worked those hours, meaning that men working full-time last year were almost twice as likely as women to work 41 hours per work or more. Further, men working full-time were also more than twice as likely as women to work 60-hour weeks: 6.3% of men worked 60 hours per week in 2013 compared to only 2.7% of women working full-time who worked those hours.

Also, women were more than twice as likely as men to work shorter full-time workweeks of 35 to 39 hours per week: 12.2% of women worked those hours in 2013, compared to only 5% of men who did so.  Although not reported by the BLS, I estimate using their data that the average workweek for full-time workers last year was 41.4 hours for women and 43.4 hour for men;therefore, the average man working full-time worked 2 more hours per week in 2013 compared to the average woman.

Comment: Because men work more hours on average than women, some of the raw wage gap naturally disappears just by simply controlling for the number of hours worked per week, an important factor not even mentioned by groups like the National Committee on Pay Equity. For example, women earned 82.5% of median male earnings for all workers working 35 hours per week or more, for a raw, unadjusted pay gap of 17.5% for full-time workers (Table 5). But for those workers with a 40-hour workweek, women earned 89.6% of median male earnings, for a pay gap of only 10.4%. Therefore, once we control only for one variable – hours worked – and compare men and women both working 40-hours per week in 2013, almost half of the raw 17.5% pay gap reported by the BLS disappears.

2. The BLS reports that for full-time single workers who have never married, women earned 95.2% of men’s earnings in 2013, which is a wage gap of only 4.8% (see Table 1 and chart above), compared to an overall unadjusted pay gap of 17.9% for workers in that group. When controlling for marital status and comparing the earnings of unmarried men and unmarried women, almost 75% of the unadjusted 17.9% wage gap is explained by just one variable (among many): marital status.

3. Also from Table 1 in the BLS report, we find that for married workers with a spouse present, women earned only 78.0% of what married men with a spouse present earned in 2013 (see chart). Therefore, BLS data show that marriage has a significant and negative effect on women’s earnings relative to men’s, but we can realistically assume that marriage is a voluntary lifestyle decision, and it’s that personal choice, not necessarily labor market discrimination, that contributes to much of the gender wage gap for married workers.

4. Also in Table 1, the BLS reports that for young workers ages 25-34 years, women earned 89.4% of the median earnings of male full-time workers for that age cohort in 2013. Once again, controlling for just a single important variable – age – we find that almost half of the overall unadjusted raw wage gap for all workers (17.9%) disappears for young workers.

5. In Table 7, the BLS reports that for full-time single workers with no children under 18 years old at home (single workers includes never married, divorced, separated and widowed), women’s median weekly earnings were 96.1% of their male counterparts (see chart).  For this group, once you control for marital status and children, you automatically explain almost 80% of the unadjusted gender earnings gap.

6. Also in Table 7, the BLS reports that married women (spouse present) working full-time with children under 18 years at home earned 78.9% of what married men (spouse present) earned working full-time with children under 18 years (see chart). Once again, we find that marriage and motherhood have a significantly negative effect on women’s earnings; but those lower earnings don’t necessarily result from labor market discrimination, they more likely result from personal family choices about careers, workplace flexibility, child care, and hours worked, etc.

7. If we look at median hourly earnings, instead of median weekly earnings, the BLS reports in Table 8 that women earned 86.6% of what men earned in 2013, which accounts for about 25% of the raw 17.9% gender earnings gap that exists for weekly earnings. And when we look at young workers, women ages 16 to 19 years earned 96.7% of the hourly wage of their male counterparts in 2013, and for the 20-24 year old group, women earned 94.0% of what men earned per hour. Also in Table 8, we see that for never married hourly workers of all ages, women earned 92.7% of the hourly earnings of their male counterparts in 2013, which explains almost half of the unadjusted 13.4% gender difference in hourly earnings.

Bottom Line: When the BLS reports that women working full-time in 2013 earned 82.1% of what men earned working full-time, that is very much different than saying that women earned 82.1% of what men earned for doing exactly the same work while working the exact same number of hours in the same occupation, with exactly the same educational background and exactly the same years of continuous, uninterrupted work experience. As shown above, once we start controlling individually for the many relevant factors that affect earnings, e.g. hours worked, age, marital status and having children, most of the raw earnings differential disappears. In a more comprehensive study that controlled for all of the relevant variables simultaneously, we would likely find that those variables would account for almost 100% of the unadjusted, raw earnings differential of 17.9% lower earnings for women reported by the BLS. Discrimination, to the extent that it does exist, would likely account for a very small portion of the raw gender pay gap.

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10 myths about Christian missions in history

9 Dec

I hear these all the time in the secular academy.

From Dr. Brian Stanley:

As followers of Christ and adherents of the Bible, Christians are called to be a people of the truth. Thus, it is crucial that we seek to understand our tradition as accurately as possible. So consider these top ten historical myths about world Christianity.

1. Christianity is a Western religion.

It neither began in Western Europe, nor has it ever been entirely confined to Western Europe. The period in which it appeared to be indissolubly linked to Western European identity was a relatively short one, lasting from the early 16th to the mid-20th centuries. The church in China, India, Ethiopia, and Iraq is older than the church in much of Northern Europe.

2. Christian missions operated hand-in-glove with the colonial powers.

Sometimes they did, but frequently they didn’t. Missions were usually critical of the way in which empires operated, mainly because they conceived of empire as a divinely bestowed trust. True, they didn’t oppose colonial rule on principle, but then who did before the late 20th century?

3. Christianity was imposed by force on non-Western people.

If this were true, it would reduce non-Western Christians—even today—to the status of passive recipients of Western ideological domination. In fact, Western missions never possessed the power necessary to achieve such capitulation, even if they wanted it, which they did not.

4. Protestant missions began with William Carey in 1792.

John Eliot’s mission work among the Native Americans of New England began as early as 1646. The first Lutheran missionaries arrived at Tranquebar in South India in 1706. In his famousAn Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (1792) Carey insisted that he had many predecessors.

5. Missionaries destroyed indigenous cultures.

Indigenous cultures were not static entities: to suggest that they were is characteristic of Western modernity. Missionaries often displayed what we would term cultural blindness, but their message, once translated into the vernacular, acquired indigenous cultural overtones. Missionary contributions to the inscription and study of indigenous languages have helped to preserve or enrich such cultures.

6. The 19th century was the great century of Christian missions.

It was the great age of Western missionary expansion, but not the great age of indigenous conversion and agency: that was the 20th century. K. S. Latourette’s “great century” is a misleading phrase.

7. ‘Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization’ was an imperial creed.

It was essentially an anti-slavery humanitarian creed, associated especially with David Livingstone (though he didn’t invent it). For those reasons it often led to advocacy of imperial solutions. Fighting slavery actually led imperial expansion as humanitarians called for deeper commitment from Britain to root out the slave trade at its sources in the African interior.

8. We live in a post-missionary era.

No, we don’t. There are approximately 426,000 foreign missionaries in the world today. In 1900 there were about 62,000. The United States still sends something like 127,000 missionaries overseas.

9. We live in a post-colonial age.

We certainly don’t live in a post-imperial age. Formal colonial rule is usually a last resort adopted by powerful nations who run out of cheaper options of control. Decolonization can be seen as a return to informal means of control. Definitions of what constitutes colonialism are contested: what about the subject status of first nations people in Canada, aborigines in Australia, Tibetans, West Papuans . . . and even the Scots?!

10. To proclaim the unique saving value of the Christian gospel is to be intolerant of other religions.

This is to confuse a theological position with an attitudinal stance. Because of their understanding of the nature of truth, Christians can (should?) believe that others are fundamentally mistaken in their beliefs and still defend to the hilt their right to hold and practise such beliefs.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity.

Brian Stanley read history at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and stayed on in Cambridge for his PhD on the place of missionary enthusiasm in Victorian religion. He has taught in theological colleges and universities in London, Bristol, and Cambridge, and from 1996 to 2001 was director of the Currents in World Christianity Project in the University of Cambridge. He was a fellow of St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, from 1996 to 2008, and joined the University of Edinburgh in January 2009.

Why Christians care about sex so much

8 Dec

From Andrew Walker:

new study out this week shows widening gaps in how different demographics in America approach sexuality and family. The Relationships in America study, produced by the Austin Institute, looks at “how social forces, demography, and religion continue to shape attitudes about family and intimate relationships.” The findings are notable, boosted by a survey that draws from 15,738 respondents ages eighteen to sixty, a very large and representative sample of the general population of the United States.

What is clear from the study are the increasingly entrenched perspectives of two Americas: A growing secular America champions an unburdened sexual libertinism whose version of sexuality is freed from the constraints of traditional sexual morality, a morality that often issued from religious-based truth claims. Meanwhile, religious conservatives in America remain quite skeptical about the general population’s enthusiasm for throwing off supposedly outmoded notions of sexuality.

But another narrative of America’s religious landscape is also clear from the survey—one that Russell Moore and I wrote about at National Review discussing preliminary statistics that sociologist Mark Regnerus described at a spring conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. What we said then remains important: Evangelical Christians aren’t liberalizing on the issues of sexual morality.

To begin, the just-released report reveals that it is evangelical Christians who report much higher rates (74 percent) of weekly church attendance than their Mainline Protestant counterparts or secular counterparts. Evangelical Christians report moderately lower rates of pornography usage (though still troublingly high, but not as high as the general population). Weekly church attenders are the least likely to view pornography. The same is true for engaging in premarital sex. Evangelicals rank amongst the lowest of those who insist that marriage is an outdated institution, while the same can be said for promoting casual sex and cohabitation. Evangelicals are also amongst the least likely to believe that same-sex marriage should be legal. This study is important because it makes the necessary distinction about rates of church attendance, not just self-identification. In Appendix B, the study reveals that those who attend church services at least three times a month are much more likely to have traditional or conservative beliefs about sexuality.

All of this thwarts the narrative of progressive Christianity’s professional dissidents who chant the hymns of the sexual revolution while overlooking the paucity of their own aging, dying denominations. The adherents of a choose-your-own-Christianity seem to correspond with the adherents of a choose-your-own-sexuality, too. While this has been a recurrent phenomenon long discussed, the study seems to reaffirm that it is orthodox Christianity (i.e., not liberal) that breeds higher levels of personal and moral commitment in its adherents than liberal Christianity. This makes sense, too, at least from a sociological perspective. Liberal Christianity offers its adherents a picture of Christianity that looks little different from the values of the world—especially on issues of sexuality. If liberal or Mainline Christianity looks no different than the surrounding culture, it isn’t all that surprising that its members hold beliefs about sexuality and family more in line with the editorial board of the New York Times than historic, biblical Christianity. This suggests that the jig is up for liberal Christianity, since its revisionist teachingsend up rejecting the rest of Christianity’s teaching on marriage and family.

There’s a lot to comment on from the study. Here are a few other findings worth noting:

  • 18 percent of Americans report being in church weekly.
  • 35 percent of Americans attend a religious service on any given week.
  • 66 percent of Americans still identify with some sort of Christianity.
  • Irreligious Americans account for a larger share of the population than the total of all non-Christian religions combined in America. Around 20 percent of the population is “Spiritual but not religious” or “Atheist/Agnostic/No Religious Affiliation.”
  • Around 60 percent of Americans age 25–34 identify as Christian.
  • According to the study, “the groups with the highest church attendance are the two extremes of the education distribution—those with less than a high school degree and those with a bachelor’s degree or more . . . while the most educated Americans are the most likely to be (religiously) unaffiliated, they are also the most likely to attend church if they have a religious affiliation.”
  • Religious commitments accompany higher rates of overall happiness.

But the study’s overarching implication is one that the commentariat will be asking: Why does sex play such a central role in the dominant and competing narratives of America today? Is it religious practice that shapes belief and practice about sexuality? Or is it sexual practice that becomes a driving force in people selecting religions that accommodate to their sexual preference? What the study reveals is that people either intentionally or unintentionally self-select themselves into religious or non-religious groups based on either a) the person’s attitudes about sexuality; or b) the religious group’s attitudes about sexuality.

The Bible calls for a sanctified sexuality, a sexual system brought under the authority of God. While there’s some level of disconnect between beliefs about sexuality and the actual practice of sexuality that’s seen in the study, the trend lines in America paint a picture of very divergent beliefs about the purpose of one’s sexuality and how it should be ordered. The implications from this are legion, one of which is the impact on religious liberty. What’s happening in America’s disputes over religious liberty are often at root basic disagreements about sex.

The Relationships in America study reaffirms a central truth in the Christian narrative: Marriage, the dignity of the body, and sexual telos are meant to drive us to the Gospel, one pictured in the marital imagery of the Christ-Church union. Christianity has always taught that our sexual desires are primal and wild; and something to be used according to the Creator’s purposes. When humanity mistreats the good purposes of sexuality according to both reason and revelation, we neglect the purpose and complementarity of sexual design and all the corresponding realities that issue from it.

So it isn’t that evangelical Christians are obsessed with sex out of some fetishizing concern that culture is having more enjoyable sex than Christians. When we express grave concern about the decline of America’s sexual standards, it’s not that we’re rigid, sexless Puritans, but that loosened sexual ethics are evidence of a whole other gospel altogether, the gospel of the Sexual Revolution, a prosperity gospel promising sexual freedom but offering results in the form of human carnage, broken relationships, and social misery.

Original Link

Andrew Walker is Director of Policy Studies at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a PhD student in Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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