At the root of American culture’s “sexual revolution” are lies that need desperately to be reversed by the truth. Among those many, many lies, here are the top five I’d identify:

Lie #1: Sex is human beings’ greatest need.

The truth: Not even close. Intimacy may be among the greatest of human “needs,” but sex and intimacy are not the same thing. And mistaking biological coitus for human love is what’s screwing with the entire culture’s head.

Not to mention: intimacy with the Creator is actually the need that the whole sexualized culture races away from.  It’s like a person dying of thirst drinking salt water to quench it. 

Lie #2: Sex is an irrepressible, irresistible biological need.

The truth: Sexual urges come in the form of desire. They can be resisted; and human beings have resisted them for millennia. Believe it or not — and unlike food or drink, say — you can actually live your whole life without it if you had to.  Let’s get a grip; and put this into perspective.

Truth is, that this lie has been bought into so pervasively is a sign of the culture’s adolescent immaturity. Mature adults recognize that everything we may crave at the moment may not be good for us. You don’t have to pig out on French fries or eat the whole package of Oreos. You don’t have to guzzle down an entire bottle of wine.  This is true even if you have the opportunity, and even if you’re really hungry or thirsty.  Similarly, sexual urges and cravings can be resisted — and the majority of the time should be.

There was a time when this point would have been made and commonly accepted and instructed by the culture along with things like why it’s best to wear antiperspirant before you go out. 

Lie #3: Sex is naughty and is enjoyed the further away from God the better.

The truth: Sex was God’s idea. He made it. These are the kinds of gifts He enjoys giving to the human beings He made and that He loves and made in His image. And if sexual pleasure is any indication of the kind of gifts He enjoys and makes for His loved ones, maybe we should trust Him more to be looking out for our best, huh? He even designed the body parts so that human beings (unlike some other creatures in the wild) will make love gazing into one another’s faces — with the enjoyment of one another bringing greater enjoyment.  Pretty smart, huh?

But like most really expensive gifts, this one comes with an instruction manual. And if you discard those instructions, you can ruin this expensive gift and cause a LOT of damage — in this case, to the human psyche, to relational well-being, to self-esteem, and even to physical health. 

Lie #4: “Romantic love” is the highest form of love and the greatest virtue.

The truth: Romantic love is only worthwhile at all if it’s a reflection of greater, deeper love(s) and intimacy. Intimate friendship (of the non-biological, “Platonic” variety) is actually a deeper, richer form of “affection” (the real point of 2 Samuel 1:26, by the way). This is why a couple whose marriage knows this grows richer and deeper with the years, even as their bodies start to sag and wear out; but why even a young, vibrant couple whose relationship is devoted mostly to keeping romantic (biological) fire aflame is doomed to fizzle.

Most insidious, therefore, is the fact that most of the entertainment industry builds its plotlines on the false notion that culmination of a loving relationship reaches its zenith with romantic interface, displayed in physical sexuality. Movies, TV, music all seem to tout this plotline with its false baseline assumption, and it’s not just wrong; it’s destructive.

If we recognized 50 years ago that putting sugar on everything wasn’t healthy, and that it should be illegal to coat cereals with sugar and then sell it to children in Saturday morning cartoons, why can’t we realize that selling sex as a coating over love, acceptance, and fulfillment amounts to the same thing, at a far more corrosive level? 

Lie #5: Sexual attraction is the one non-negotiable foundation for a proper marital union.

The truth: Marriage is covenantal commitment to fostering a couple’s deep(er) love over a lifetime. I regret that intimate friendships between fellows now seems by our culture to need to be sexualized to be granted full recognition of their power. But there may be a blessing in disguise provided us in this whole discussion and controversy. Could it be that our culture may come to recognize that some deep relationships and loves are distinctly valuable and rich outside of traditional heterosexual biological attractions?  (Renewed recognition of that truth could make this whole morass worth it in the end, if so.)

Here’s my point, though: sexual intimacy is a great wonder and wonderful pleasure for a couple who are not just “in love” but have learned to truly love one another in the 1 Corinthians 13 sense. And, OK, it’s probably not a good idea for a couple to get married if they have no physical attraction to one another at all; but physical attraction is no FOUNDATION for a committed, lifelong, covenantal relationship. Beauty and virility fade; but love — true love — can and does grow ever stronger.

It is intriguing to me that love for God and relationship with God is commonly portrayed in Scripture as like unto love between a husband and wife, a bride and groom. There is some way in which the love between a married couple is analogous to the love between God and His people. There is some way in which sexually expressed love is analogous to the rich enjoyment of eternal walk with God. . . . A mystery worth pondering a lot longer. . . .

Anyway, those are just my top five and I could have easily gone on to five more or written five more pages under each of these!  You’re glad I didn’t, I’m guessing.  But what do you think?  Are my top five getting at all near the root, near the core?  How’s your “top five list of lies” compare to mine?

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and co-author (with Dr. Paul Pettit of the Howard Hendricks Leadership Center in Dallas, TX) of the just-released book, Blessed are the Balanced: Following Jesus into the Academy (Kregel), and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also Todd's faculty bio.


0 # Daniel McCurdy 2013-10-15 11:30
Todd, I was just thinking about this the other day and I came up with pretty much the same thoughts as you listed here. In thinking of this from a counseling perspective, I would find it interesting to point out how well people are able to manage their food and water intake to achieve a desired end. These are the most basic physical needs, and people can have intense self-control, why would sex be so different?
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0 # R. Todd Mangum 2013-10-15 15:34
Good perspective, Daniel. I'm afraid American culture has become as sexualized as it has become gluttonized, with both obesity and hypersexualization being at unprecedented levels. Getting "to normal" from here is going to be a challenge . . . will require a supernatural work, in fact, I think. . . .
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