“Jesus Christ in the conversation embarrassed her the way sex did her mother.” So said Flannery O’Connor of one of her characters in the short story “The Displaced Person.” Sex, though, today is out in the open. But religion, to be socially and politically acceptable, must be closeted.
The great sociologist Peter Berger (a Lutheran) surveys the array of lawsuits in the United States and Europe against open displays of Christianity. Here is what he concludes:
In all these cases the authorities accused of violating the plaintiffs’ rights operate with a definition of religion as a private matter to be kept out of public space. . . .There is a very ideological view of the place of religion in society. In other words, religion is to be an activity engaged in by consenting adults in private.
And if religion is what sex used to be, sex also accounts for the hostility to religion. So suggests Professor Berger:
Let me venture a sociological hypothesis here: The new American secularism is in defense of the sexual revolution. Since the 1960s there has indeed been a sexual revolution in America. It has been very successful in changing the mores and the law. It should not be surprising that many people, especially younger ones, enjoy the new libidinous benefits of this revolution. Whether one approves or deplores the new sexual culture, it seems unlikely to be reversed. Yet Christian churches (notably the Catholic and Evangelical ones) are in the forefront of those who do want to reverse the libertine victory. Its beneficiaries are haunted by the nightmare of being forced into chastity belts by an all too holy alliance of clerics and conservative politicians. No wonder they are hostile!