WASHINGTON — A scholar who contends that family breakdown has fueled the decline of the Christian faith in the West says that the Church is locked in "mortal combat" with the sexual revolution. But those victimized by the sexual revolution make for good Christian evangelists, she argued.
Author and scholar Mary Eberstadt, senior research fellow at the Faith & Reason Institute, noted Thursday in a speech before hundreds assembled at the Mayflower Hotel for a public discussion about rethinking the sexual revolution in light of the #MeToo movement, that society can no longer plead ignorance as to what has brought about the epidemic of heartache and relational turmoil.
"Once the facts of any event are admitted to the record, to pretend we do not see them is to sin by omission, figuratively speaking, against truth itself. And so it is with the sexual revolution," Eberstadt said.
"Until now, many adults have simply accepted it with childlike faith, as a non-negotiable fact of life. The Me Too movement gives us an opportunity to move beyond childlike faith about our sexual non-order, and into moral and intellectual maturity."
These things were not so obvious in 1968 when the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae was first issued, a document predicting the social pathologies that would come about because of birth control, she said. Pope Paul VI's views were considered controversial at the time and the encyclical was mocked around the world.
"Fifty years later, that document prophesied that there would be a diminution in respect by men for women across society if artificial contraception became the rule of the day," Eberstadt told CP in an interview following her remarks.
"I don't think there is anyone would argue our time is a more degraded time, even people who embrace that degradation," she said.
Yet Christians ought to be proud of small-o orthodox Christianity for standing on the right side of these things, she said, when asked how Christians might respond to the ongoing revelations about sexual misconduct.
And to answer the question of why so many educated women have come forward with stories of being victimized is due in part to one of the flawed assumptions of the sexual revolution, namely, that women are always sexually available since sex is not necessarily linked with procreation because of contraception, she added.
Conversely, she continued, many of the men who have been accused of sexual misconduct have said that they thought that their advances were wanted or consensual because they also operate from that faulty assumption, a notion fed by the seeming omnipresence of pornography.
"We can see these things more clearly now," she reiterated, "and I think that the people in the #MeToo movement itself would be very receptive to this message if we can just get it out to them, that there is a reason for their victimization. And the reason isn't that all men are bad, and the reason isn't that they should give up on marriage and family. It's quite the opposite. It's the lack of guardrails [in society] that has created this."
In January, Eberstadt penned an article in the Christian journal First Things unpacking how the sexual revolution has become a kind of religious dogma that secularists push relentlessly; it is in fact fueled by a pagan ethos that regards Christianity as a competitor to be destroyed, rather than just another set of beliefs to be tolerated in a pluralistic society, she argued.
But it is those victims of the sexual revolution that make for good Christian evangelists, she explained.
"People have always wanted to be hedonistic," she told CP.
"The whole world has been engaged in a great big party since the sexual revolution started and now we're at the point in time where it's like a teenage party that has gotten out of control, where everyone knows there is a problem, it's 2 o'clock in the morning, nobody is an authority, and nobody wants to be the first one to call the cops. But that's where we are.
"People who want to go down that hedonistic route, hate the churches for standing for that. They don't want to be reminded that there is any other way of living and they don't want the people they want to prey upon to be reminded either. And that's why I say the orthodox churches are locked in mortal combat with one thing, which is the sexual revolution. And the hope is that the people damaged by it are going to be the ones to rebuild the churches and be voice to the secular culture."
She reiterated that believers not apologize for holding to sexual ethics that today are often dismissed in contemporary society as being outdated or bigoted.
"Your churches have been on the right side of this," she asserted. "Take some credit, have some backbone. Don't wear a 'kick me' sign for being an orthodox Christian because the Church has got a very big thing in history right with these teachings."
The public discussion Thursday was presented by the Catholic Women's Forum of the Ethics & Public Policy Center and the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, and co-sponsored by the Catholic Information Center and the Archdiocese of Washington Department of Life Issues.
Eberstadt is the author of the 2013 book How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization, which argues that the breakdown of the family has fueled the decline of the Christian faith in the West.