Callum Brown’s book, “The death of Christian Britain” challenged the conventional belief that secularisation was a process that started with the Industrial Revolution. It noted the importance of the 1960s sexual revolution in the secularisation of Britain. He states, ‘As historical changes go, this has been no lingering and drawn-out affair. It took several centuries (in what historians used to call the Dark Ages) to convert Britain to Christianity, but it has taken less than forty years for the country to forsake it.’
Doctors must discover the illness of their patients before they provide a cure. Likewise, Christians must discover what has led to the rapid de-Christianization of our nation before we can propose a successful evangelisation plan and implement it. A. N. Wilson recently wrote an article deploring the terrible effects of the sexual revolution for his generation: acknowledging fully how much misery had been spread and how the damage done had appalled him (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2257379/Ive-lived-greatest-revolution-sexual-mores-history-damage-appals-me.html). Others have suggested other landmark moments for the transition in cultural and religious practices for our nation. The abortion legislation of 1967 was a decision of colossal consequences. Philip Larkin had said that sex began in 1963. Lady Chatterley’s lover controversy marked a major watershed in standards for our nation.
The effects of the sexual revolution are all around us to see today. We have nearly 200,000 abortions every single year in this country. Nearly 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce. We have 800,000 children living without a father figure in their life. Contraception is widely used, even among practising Catholics. Sexually Transmitted Diseases have reached epidemic levels as young people have contracted chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis. Around 40% of men have visited a pornographic website in the last year on at least one occasion. The traditional understanding of marriage is readily being redefined in legislatures around the world.
Rachel Weiss, an aging sex star, has lamented the free sex ethos that has wreaked havoc on marriage and family life. She once said, “Serious folds, if an aging sex symbol like me starts waving the red flag of caution over how low moral standards have plummeted, you know it’s gotta be pretty bad. In facts, it’s precisely because of the sexy image I’ve had that it’s important for me to speak up and say: Come on girls! Time to pull up our socks! We’re capable of so much better.” (Lifesitenews.com, Aging Sex Icon Raquel Welch: Contraceptives Shattered Marriage, the ‘cornerstone of civilization.’ May 12, 2010-11-15).
In short, we have a total crisis of the meaning and the purpose of love, marriage and sexuality in our nation. The new Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, has stated that Christians have failed in their attempt to present a beautiful vision of marriage and family life. He states, “It could be argued that the Church herself is in part responsible for this in that we have failed, since the social and sexual revolutions of the 1960s, to explain attractively and imaginatively the alternative vision of life and love that Jesus has taught and which he promises is the true way to human happiness and eternal life.” (http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=21893).
The fallout from the sexual revolution might be considered analogous to the fallout from Henry VIII’s divorce crisis for our nation. The rapid de-Christianisation of our nation has happened more quickly than any other period in our history. Britain is now considered as post-Christian, and the sexual revolution has helped to facilitate the change more than any other reason. For young people today, if they have an ‘issue’ with the Catholic Church, in an overwhelming number of cases, the issue will be about sexuality and marriage. In short, misunderstandings about Church teaching on sex and marriage are the number one reason keeping young people from their faith.
The sexual abuse crisis in the Church is another crucial reason why a large amount of time and attention needs to go towards providing an alternative world view to the relativism, utilitarianism and commercialism associated with the sexual revolution. I have heard complaints from today’s Priests that they were not adequately formed in order to deal pastorally with some of the common issues and problems that constitute the present crisis in sexuality. If Christians cannot adequately understand and teach with confidence what we believe, why we believe it and how our faith can transform lives then we need to consider if we are fit for mission. Marriage, young people and evangelisation are the three areas that constitute the future of the Church. With this in mind, if 50% of Church resources were geared towards dynamic programmes in these areas for future growth I believe the congregations would be overflowing rather than dwindling.
The challenge of the Gospel in twenty-first century Britain is to present the vision of love and life that leads to fulfilment. Emeritus Pope Benedict has called us to be a creative minority to change the world. Paul VI said that the world listens more to witnesses than to teachers, and if they listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. There are a vast array of effective pastoral programmes that can provide a exciting and suitable responses problems associated with the sexual revolution. Below, I hope to present some of the most successful pastoral programmes that are providing a beautiful vision of the Church’s teaching on love, marriage and sexuality.
Rachel’s Vineyard is a proven effective post abortion retreat ministry, helping women find hope and healing around the world. The healing weekends offer a supportive, confidential and non-judgmental environment where God’s love and compassion can be experienced on a profound level. It creates a place where men and women can share, often for the first time, their deepest feelings about abortion. Overall, it is a place of reconciliation. Participants, who have often experienced deep anger towards themselves or others, experience forgiveness. Peace is found and lives are restored.
Jason Evert has been giving talks on chastity for over a decade in the United States. His humorous and thought provoking presentations have helped young people to see sexuality as a gift, as sex as something worth saving for marriage. He has written over 10 books on love, sex and marriage and provided excellent quality catechesis for teenagers on theology of the body. This powerful ministry has helped many young people decide to value and make strong decisions about their sexuality, inspired to live for greatness living romance without regret.
40 days for life is a locally organised community initiative encouraging Christians to pray for an end to abortion. Prayer vigils are organised outside abortion facilities and community outreach is conducted: taking a positive and upbeat pro-life message to all parts of the community. As a result of the initiative, over 7,000 lives have been spared from abortion, 30 abortuaries have closed, leaders have grown, new people have got involved in pro-life activities and crisis pregnancy centres have flourished. Churches have become active on the pro-life cause.
Birthchoice is a franchise of medical crisis pregnancy centre based in California. They exist to give others the encouragement, comfort, information, options and hope young women who are pregnant. They provide and ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a warm body to hug and a place free from judgement where you can share your concerns with caring medical professionals who have helped thousands get through difficult circumstances. A leading abortionist in the USA has stated that if their model of crisis pregnancy centres went national across the USA, it would provide one of the biggest challenges for the abortion industry.
Courage is the Catholic Church’s only pontifically approved ministry which is specifically committed to providing spiritual support for persons with same-sex attraction who are striving to live chastely, offering help to grow in understanding with others toward living more fully the Church’s teachings. The group aims to foster a spirit of fellowship in which we may share with others thoughts and experiences to ensure that nobody faces the problems of homosexuality alone. This helps individuals to live lives that may serve as good examples to others with homosexual difficulties. and to be mindful of the truth that chaste friendships are not only possible but necessary in celibate Christian life – to encourage one another in forming and sustaining them.
These pastoral programmes are but just one way to present the good news that God presents to us about life and love. Sex is for life. But when it is turned from this primary purpose it often leads to death. Thus the very thing that causes life has now become the source of death for millions simply because the refuse to follow God’s plan. Let us find simple and dynamic ways to present God’s plan for love and life in a way that is credible and appealing to our contemporaries.