Our Religious War

Our Religious War June 27, 2016

Mary Eberstadt doesn’t believe we’re in a war of the religious v. the secular. In an adapted excerpt from her newly-released It’s Dangerous To Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies, she argues that the battle is between “competing faiths: one in the Good Book, and the other in the more newly written figurative book of secularist orthodoxy about the sexual revolution.”

The basic premise of the “secular catechism” is that “the sexual revolution—that is, the gradual de-stigmatization of all forms of consenting non-marital sex—has been a boon to all humanity.” Its “first commandment” is “that no sexual act between consenting adults is wrong. Two corollary imperatives are that whatever contributes to consenting sexual acts is an absolute good, and that anything interfering, or threatening to interfere, with consenting sexual acts is ipso facto wrong.”

The sexual orthodoxy mimics the shape of orthodoxy. It has absolute, inviolable dogmas. Anyone who advocates traditional or revealed limits on sexual expression is oppressive, and victims of sexual oppression “become the new secular saints.” It has its inquisition and its modes of discipline. It is intolerant of heresy. Eberstadt argues that the “new intolerance” would not exist but for the sexual revolution.

It has its sacraments, among them abortion: “Abortion within secularist progressivism has the status of religious ritual. It is sacrosanct. It is a communal rite—one through which, it seems safe to speculate, some people enter the secularist-progressive community in the first place.”

It has its “demonology”: “the Roman Catholic hierarchy; the major spokesmen for evangelical Protestantism; legal groups involved in religious-liberty cases; most political conservatives; all social conservatives; and the occasional apostate who deviates from the secularist code.”

In short, Christianity’s “single most deadly enemy now is not the stuff of the philosophy common room. It is instead the sexual revolution—and the current absolutist defense of that revolution by adherents and beneficiaries.

Eberstadt’s argument is hard-hitting and convincing. But I wonder if the more fundamental threat isn’t the church’s own accommodation to the sexual revolution. I wonder if the church’s most deadly enemy isn’t, as usual, herself.

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