Review: ‘Where to Find Hope and Help amid the Sexual Revolution’


Recently, the Gospel Coalition posted an article by apologist Sam Allberry entitled ‘Where to Find Hope and Help amid the Sexual Revolution’. Allberry’s main observations are outlined below (he also provided helpful commentary later in the article). What are the implications of these observations for youth ministry? Some thoughts:

1.     Our moral intuitions have changed: Allberry refers to the shifting foundations of morality in a modern age – modern individuals ground their moral reasoning in what is fair, tolerant, and private, rather than an outside authority.

YOUTH MINISTRY: Emerging youth have great gifts for empathy. They are very sensitive to the sins that have been committed against those espousing alternate sexual behaviors, especially as those minority individuals increasingly are not hypothetically somewhere, but are their friends, family, and themselves. However, they struggle with differences between relational empathy and moral security. They increasingly ground their morality in this same empathy. Students need to see real examples of loving empathy that does not also dictate morality. In the same vein, churches must help students see moral standards expressed fairly and openly (do we mourn divorce in the same way we mourn alternate sexualities?).

2.     Our view of minorities has changed: As the history of oppression against sexual minorities has been brought to light, new voice is gained from membership in these minorities. Right sorrow over such oppression has nonetheless led to fear of any dissenting opinions being voiced in the public square.

YOUTH MINISTRY: Students should (and do) mourn the oppressions of the past. Additionally, we have much to learn from individuals with viewpoints that have been traditionally silenced, if for no other reason than they have not yet been heard (of course there are many more reasons to listen to such opinions and consider them, but this at the least). Students need to have help developing comfort with their viewpoints such that they are not threatened by alternate views, and can speak about them with kindness and nuance, especially in instances where individuals are reticent to hear from others. Students should see the ability to defuse conflict and find common ground as a healthy skill not to reinforce a ‘tolerant, politically correct’ culture, but as a way of loving others and engaging in meaningful conversation. 

3.     Our view of sex and marriage has changed: Shifts have occurred from a lifelong covenant, including binding sexual actions which may produce children, to a recreational action devoid of commitment which may or may not include a contractual economic and social arrangement. 

YOUTH MINISTRY: Youth ministries must walk a fine line, learning from the sinful silence of the church in many areas regarding sexual expression and fulfillment while centering such expression in the covenant of marriage. While youth ministries can affirm the wisdom in putting off having children in an age where education in one’s 20s is an oft-necessity, students should not fear children but be open one day to starting families, reinforcing the need for strong marriage covenants. Students should understand the harsh realities of divorce, and should see churches doing everything they can to strengthen young marriages. This gives students hope and conditions them to run to, and not from, the church, when relational struggles in their own life develop.

4.     Our anthropology has changed: Identity has shifted to an existential understanding of inner identity not required to be connected to the body.

YOUTH MINISTRY: The gospel teaches us anthropological humility – that we do not get to determine the ultimate meaning or purpose of our creation. Thus, our bodies matter. Ironically, in an age that seems to put immense pressure on students to care about their appearance, they also are pressured to disengage from the humanity of their bodies. Their bodies become tools, objects for excellence or pleasure, but not sites for glory and lament. It also sends them down unending existential quests for identity, forcing them to prove and redefine themselves again and again. Teaching students to embrace their finiteness, to mourn their brokenness and their inability to be perfect, allows them to embrace the joy of living in God’s world.

What are your thoughts about Allberry’s article? How do these observations play out in your own youth ministries?

ReviewsStephen Yates