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Christians and Sexuality: Q&A with Jonathan Storment on the Sexual Revolution

What is the relationship between Christians and sexuality in light of the sexual revolution? Are Christians doomed to be at war with sexual and gender minorities until they reframe biblical passages to come in line with modern views of sexuality and gender? Pastor Jonathan Storment discusses the landscape and offers clarity for a confused cultural moment.

Q. The sexual revolution has moved so fast that many young people assume that any sane person automatically agrees that “love is love” and “trans women are women.” What’s your advice to the person who assumes that if someone disagrees, they must be a heartless person?

The world has changed at lightning speed over the last few decades. I think it’s helpful to give some grace to each other when we talk about these things. For example, we ought to remember that in 1972, the Supreme Court legalized birth control for single women, which means that your grandmother probably couldn’t have gotten birth control before marriage. That’s one snapshot of how much the world has changed in a short time.

Talking about sexuality and gender brings out the greatest generation gap in American history. This is one reason the church needs to be talking about it. Not on Facebook, but as a church, I think we can do this. I tell young adults all the time: do not cut off the wisdom of the generation before you. Do not cut off the people in your family who love you and want the best for you and are committed to your future. Don’t silence their voices in order to just listen to opinions on the internet, because those people don’t know you. They don’t care about you. They care about a cause, maybe, but they don’t care about you.

In her great book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, the agnostic Louise Perry closes with a final chapter called “Listen to Your Mother.” Perry is trying to keep young women from cutting off the wisdom of the previous generations in a world of ever-changing sexual mores that tend to not have young women’s best interests at heart. That’s what I would say is also true of the church.


“Talking about sexuality and gender brings out the greatest generation gap in American history.”


Churches can and need to have this conversation because this cultural change has happened very quickly, and a lot of crucial relationships are getting devastated under the assumption that anyone who disagrees with you just doesn’t get it.

Q. Should we Christians resign ourselves to the reality that, as long as we hold to a biblical sexual ethic, we’re going to be at war with LGBTQ+ people?

Years ago, I was canvasing a neighborhood inviting people to church. At one point I knock on this door and somebody opens the door and I’m like, “Excuse me, sir. I want to tell you about something that’s happening down the road at this church this weekend.” And that person says, “I’m not a sir.” And I was like, Oh, man, this is not going well. And then she said, “And furthermore, I don’t go to your church because you all don’t accept people like my girlfriend and me.”

I’ve thought about that conversation a lot, even though that was 20-some years ago. Because here’s the thing about reading the Gospels: have you ever noticed how people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus? They knew Jesus liked them, and they were drawn to Jesus.


“Have you ever noticed how people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus?”


Some of the most broken, marginalized people were drawn to Jesus, especially the most sexually immoral people. So, what does that mean for us today?

Q. Should we see the sexual revolution as a crucial phase in fighting for justice?

I’ve noticed since the 2010s that mainline Protestant denominations have been framing sexual orientation and gender identity as justice issues. They interpreted these rights as the next step in the Civil Rights Movement. They framed it as being like what African Americans fought for in the 50s and 60s and what women have struggled to be able to do, such as vote and own property. The next chapter is this lens of justice applied to who can marry whom and whether somebody can have gender reassignment surgery. So, is this the next step for Christians in affirming civil rights? I used to be there. I actually used to think that. So I really do understand that perspective.

And yet, I don’t believe that people who hold to a biblical sexual ethic are wanting to treat people without dignity or with prejudice. And if you do, then repent! Rather, I believe that a biblical sexual ethic leads to wholeness—and we can’t at all say the same for the sexual revolution.


Christians and Sexuality: “I believe that a biblical sexual ethic leads to wholeness—and we can’t at all say the same for the sexual revolution.”


Q. For example?

The rate of suicide is higher than ever since the sexual revolution. Happiness has been declining in both men and women. Every decade since, deaths of despair have risen dramatically (suicides, deaths of overdoses and substance abuse, etc.).

When we try to link the Civil Rights Movement to the demands of the sexual revolution, we are actually letting progressive, mainline churches eclipse historic Black churches. I heard Rebecca McLaughlin (herself a same-sex attracted Christian) point out that unlike progressive churches, some 85% of historically Black churches see the Bible as the Word of God. Roughly 82% of Christians at historically Black churches believe in things like the reality of hell. Almost half of Black Americans don’t support gay marriage.

It is common for secular progressives to celebrate people like Fannie Lou Harper, Hart Hamer, and Dr. Martin Luther King. And yet, these people’s message was unapologetically Christian. Like the Old Testament prophets, they were calling people out for not doing what God said. Whichever way you read it, the fact that almost the majority of black Americans don’t support gay marriage is a real problem for just saying this is the next step in civil rights. It certainly discredits the idea that if you don’t support it, you’re like a 1960s segregationist. In fact, it might be that the reverse is true.


“Every decade since [the sexual revolution], deaths of despair have risen dramatically.”


Q. Is Christianity as a whole falling in line with the beliefs of the sexual revolution?

Actually, the majority of Christians worldwide, when you consider Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic along with Evangelical, haven’t taken their cues on sexuality and gender from the sexual revolution. Yes, there are mainline Protestant denominations that are framing this as a justice issue and are forming their interpretations of Scripture accordingly. But this progressive reframing of the biblical texts is primarily a Western thing, often American, and it’s often causing splits in the global South with the rest of their denomination.

When it comes to the majority of Evangelicals, Orthodox, and Catholic, they have understood these issues not through a lens of justice but of morality. As in, is it morally permissible for people of the same sex to be married? Is it morally permissible for someone, if they have gender dysphoria, which is a real thing, to have a reassignment surgery? Instead of framing it as a justice issue, they see it as a commitment to the question of, are you are going to be orthodox in your beliefs—or are you going to try to work around historic Christian ethics?


Christians and Sexuality: “When it comes to the majority of Evangelicals, Orthodox, and Catholic, they understood these issues not through a lens of justice but of morality.”


Q. Transgender identity and same-sex sexuality—if the church gets these two questions right, does everything else fall into place?

As important as it is to have a Christian perspective when it comes to transgenderism or same-sex relationships, we need to see that within a broader context of what Christians have actually believed historically.

I want to suggest that the rise of hookup culture has been incredibly problematic. So has the ubiquitousness of pornography. The normalization of adultery and divorce, the increasing numbers of couples that live together without getting married, the wide acceptance of violence as a way of solving problems, the growing addiction to violent video games—all of these are really foundational.

I have a friend, who is a gay man who grew up in the Christian faith and we talk about this often. He is open and affirming and in a different place than me theologically, but he points out that the traditional Christian take on this reeks of hypocrisy because of the way American Christians have responded to the No-Fault Divorce Crisis of the past few decades. It does seem that Christians like me have been willing to look the other way when it comes to this issue—that has by the way been proven to be devastatingly bad for young children, society at large, poverty, mental health, etc. So, there is an inconsistency there that I don’t think we can ignore with integrity.


Christians and Sexuality: “As important as it is to have a Christian perspective when it comes to transgenderism or same-sex relationships, we need to see that within a broader context of what Christians have actually believed historically.”


The Church has faced significant pushback from the wider culture, because, when we don’t address all of these issues, it looks like we’re just against stuff and that we don’t have any vision of what we’re for. The result is that most people on the outside of the Church and even inside don’t really know what we’re for or why we’re for it. We get fuzzy as to what the Christian vision of the body is.

Q. Where do we start in articulating what we’re for?

Well, the good news is that nothing is wrong with our churches that cannot be fixed by Jesus’ prescription for discipleship. I’ve been doing this for the past four years with our church leaders, and I can tell you that there is a remarkable difference between the pastor I used to be, the goals and visions I had for myself and for our church, and the people who have been able to be in a discipling relationship. I think churches have accommodated way too much culturally for decades with issues across the board—from money to violence to sex—and now as we start taking the commands and the mission of Jesus more seriously, we must stop our selective morality in Jesus’ name. We have to respond to a serial adulterer or a couple divorcing for a less-than-biblical reason as seriously as we respond to the issues that are magnified by culture wars.

And we must not lose the heart of Jesus in what we say, or in how we say it.

The Christian vision of the body means we first embrace people, all people, as image bearers of God. And only after that can we address issues that distance someone from the will of God. They need to know we love them. Again, Jesus people don’t hate anybody. And if you do, you need to work on being a Jesus person.


Christians and Sexuality: “The Christian vision of the body means we first embrace people, all people, as image bearers of God. And only after that can we address issues that distance someone from the will of God.”


I’m not about getting angry at people. I get angry at ideas that I think are lies. I think that this generation is being targeted with ideas that are led by adults to justify their own behavior. And those ideas don’t lead to human flourishing. They lead to pain and heartbreak and abuse.

I suggest that we start articulating what we’re for by emphasizing the purposefulness, value, and sacredness of our bodies—not just of our souls.

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