Chuck Colson saw in advance the contradictions of a society guided purely by the sexual revolution.
In the late 1960s feminist sexual liberation was celebrated as a utopian moment; the elevating of an oppressed “class” through the seizing of power from both men and women, to achieve biological equality.
The great feminist cry against misogyny, through “equality with men” become a misandrist war against men. Its high point was the sexual revolution, and its war-cry ever since has been “choice.”
Respect for women was never the goal. The movement’s primary motivation was the impossible goal of irradicating natural inequalities, through the equality of biological choice.
Raising woman in the eyes of man, for him to see woman as being of equal value, was, at best, a bonus. Not necessarily desired, but welcomed as a consolation prize, should the great feminist war be lost.
Respect for women wasn’t a core virtue. Feminists tended/tend to disrespect other women, and show contempt towards them for not making pro-feminist choices.
Illustrated by author, political scientist, and early feminist, Jean Bethke Elshtain, who, after choosing to join a feminist group with a friend in the 70s, found that being married, and having children appeared to exclude them from being allowed to express an opinion.
Elshtain said, ‘my friend and I left, for we could not treat our children as abstractions, as nuisances to be overcome, or as evidence of our “sad capitulation” to the terms of patriarchy.’
The group’s facilitator had ‘abruptly and publicly’ cut off their discussion declaring, “We will have not diaper talk here. We’re here to talk about women’s liberation.”
Feminists won battles, not just with their ambivalence towards respect, or ignorance of their own hypocrisy, but with their dismissal of restraint, and revelation.
Restraint was considered repressive, and God’s revelation, which included the objective moral law, was demonised as archaic, oppressive, and patriarchal.
According to the thought leaders of the day, such as Simone de Beauvoir, restraint and revelation didn’t liberate women from being a ‘parasite’ on man. They protected, and were used to propagate the parasitical condition of woman, by equally oppressed man. [i]
The feminist bible peached that the human condition wasn’t oppressed by sin. It was oppressed by objective morality, and the shackles of Christendom’s institutionalisation of marriage. Marriage was no longer a vocation, or Godly union where man exists for woman, woman for man, both free before God, but as matrimony –marriage reduced to a woman becoming a mother. [ii]
While feminists got the latter partly right, they got the former spectacularly wrong.
The condition of the human heart is ‘deceitful above all things, desperately sick, outside understanding.’ (Jeremiah 17:9) Without God’s revelation empowering restraint there is no genuine liberation.
Which is why Colson’s brief analysis finds relevance with concerns about reactionary feminist protests today, and the over-reactions to them by Governments.
In observations he’d made about the ‘self-refuting nature of the post-modernism social model,’ Colson wrote: ‘the irony of removing all restraints of shame and modesty is that women led the charge. The feminists thought this was great: women could be “equal” to men, sexually speaking.’ [iii]
It was, he said, ‘the great liberation movement that would lead us to nirvana, freedom, equality.’
Colson added, ‘feminists [haven’t yet] realized [that] they’ve sold their constituency down the river, because the only people who profit from “no restrictions, no limits” philosophy are men’, who are encouraged by this way of thinking to look at women ‘as objects of gratification, and pleasure.’
The ejection of restraint and revelation has ‘reverted culture back to the ancient Greeks, who viewed women as property – as chattel.’
For Colson, the rejection of ‘radical Christian doctrine that considers all human beings to be created in the image of God, with innate dignity’, has created the ‘ultimate post-modern impasse.’
Society wants ‘total freedom [from objective morality] (nihilism), but then, all of a sudden, when it begins to hurt and be untenable, people scream.’
They then turn to big government to solve the problem.
In other words, feminists are running to government, after running away from God, to bring in moral restraints on sexuality, that they’re advocacy for nihilistic, no-restraints, free-sex pandemonium has birthed.
This is the great feminist contradiction, born from legitimate feminist criticisms, that were taken too far by people high on the myth of man created by De Beauvoir, Daly and Greer.
Feminism hasn’t delivered a utopia for women, it’s in fact bought them a ticket on the Titanic. A gargantuan enterprise in the pitfalls of good ideas, corrupted by human arrogance.
It is, as Karl Barth wrote, ‘the myth of man, built up without respect to man and woman’s relationship to the Divine command, which, ends in the negation of real man.’ (paraphrased)
Freedom cannot be maintained where virtue isn’t flourishing, asserted Colson; and he’s right: ‘Moral chaos will lead us to lose our freedoms. The inevitable consequence of the modern project of complete liberation from all restraints is slavery.’
Women’s liberation cannot be achieved through humiliating man, in order to exalt woman, humiliated by man.
The crux of liberation is God on the Cross, who, in, through and, with Jesus Christ becomes our only way to freedom from sin.
It’s the choice between a House of Freedom, and a House of slavery.
It’s the essence of the Easter message, reminding us that it’s not man’s humiliation of man that saves, and exalts, but the humiliation of God, and His exaltation of humanity. [iv]
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ – John 3:16, NIV
God is true to His Word. Restraint and revelation will never lose its relevance, because the liberating, living God, commands it, and still speaks through it.
[i] Beauvoir, Simone de. 1949. The Second Sex Vintage Books
[ii] I’ve merged Kierkegaard’s critique in ‘The Instant’ with Barth, K. Man and Woman, Church Dogmatics: Doctrine of Creation KD 3:4, (p.127)
[iii] Colson, C. 2015, My Final Word: Hook Up Culture, Zondervan (pp.89-90)
[iv] See Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 27), Dietrich Bonhoeffer DBW 12 (p.343) & Karl Barth, Respect for Life, KD 3:4 (p.397)
First published on Caldron Pool, 31st March 2021.
©Rod Lampard, 2021.