The world has its own catechism for us whether we realize it or not.
I love the Olympics. I got up early and stayed up late to watch whatever I could in real time. As a family, we figured out the various NBC platforms and turned on something from the Olympics almost all the time for two weeks. I’d put our knowledge of Olympic swimming and (especially) track and field up against almost anyone. I’m a big fan of the Olympics.
But something was different this time around. And judging from conversations with many others, I’m not the only one who noticed.
You couldn’t watch two weeks of the Olympics—or at times, even two minutes—without being catechized in the inviolable truths of the sexual revolution. Earlier in the summer, I watched parts of the Euro, and you would have thought the whole event was a commercial for rainbow flags. And yet, the packaging of the Olympics was even more deliberate. Every day we were taught to celebrate men weightlifting as women or to smile as a male diver talked about his husband. Every commercial break was sure to feature a same-sex couple, a man putting on makeup, or a generic ode to expressive individualism. And of course, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird were nearly ubiquitous. If America used to be about motherhood and apple pie, it’s now about birthing persons and lesbian soccer stars hawking Subway sandwiches.
Some will object at this point that the last paragraph is filled with a toxic mix of homophobia, heteronormativity, cisgender privilege and a host of other terms that were virtually unknown until five minutes ago. But those labels are not arguments against biblical sexual morality so much as they represent powerful assumptions that no decent person could possibly believe that homosexuality is sinful behavior, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that switching genders is a sign of confusion more than courage. What NBC presented as heroic and wonderful was considered wrong and troublesome by almost everyone in the Christian West for 2,000 years. Is it possible that instead of deconstructing the beliefs that have marked Christianity for two millennia, we might want to deconstruct the academic jargon our culture has only come to affirm within my lifetime? Remember, it was only in 2008—hardly the dark days of the Middle Ages—that Barack Obama said he did not support marriage for same-sex couples.
I know there are many issues confronting the church today. In some contexts, there may be a lack of love toward outsiders, or a fascination with conspiracy theories, or a temptation toward idolatrous forms of Christian nationalism. You may think that the drumbeat of the advancing sexual revolution is still far off in the distance, a problem in someone else’s village but not in yours.
But no one lives in an isolated village anymore, and the wider world is not tempting young people with the blessings of chastity and church attendance. People older than me may have enough Christian maturity and cultural memory to roll their eyes at the sexual revolution’s round-the-clock bombardment. But if you are a Millennial or Gen Z (or whatever comes next) your first instinct is likely to be more upset with Christians offering criticism of Megan and Sue kissing than with the fact that their kissing is demonstrably not Christian.