I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore: Discerning The Conflict Over Human Sexuality And Religious Liberty -- By: Andrew T. Walker

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 19:1 (Spring 2014)
Article: I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore: Discerning The Conflict Over Human Sexuality And Religious Liberty
Author: Andrew T. Walker


I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore:
Discerning The Conflict Over Human Sexuality And Religious Liberty

Andrew Walker

Director of Policy Studies
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Ph.D. Candidate in Christian Ethics
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, Kentucky

Introduction

This essay focuses on sexuality’s role as a social organizing principle. In particular, it focuses on how the diversity of viewpoints around contraception, abortion, adoption, and same-sex marriage serves as an illustration of contemporary debates about religious liberty and sexuality. What this article highlights are practical examples in American public life in which divergent and competing conceptions about human sexuality are driving current debates about religious liberty. The article will also make the argument that restoring a robust understanding of religious liberty, particularly on controversial sexual issues, requires a clear, biblical sexual ethic as it relates to human flourishing.

The Rights Of Sexual Liberty

The fault lines of contemporary American life run through divergent views of sex and religion. These factors alone are often an accurate predictor of how individuals will vote.1

Present disputes over religious liberty in America, however, stem almost exclusively from deeply divergent cultural views about the design and purpose of human sexuality. How did we arrive at this current milieu? Many would argue that an evolving understanding of “rights” language is at the center of current debates. If religious liberty is pitted against sexual liberty, and competing factions are both arguing on the grounds of “rights,” whose side will prevail?

Natural rights, which were once the guarantor of liberty and which issued from a broadly theistic worldview are now challenged by a conception of rights that are derived from self-determination and self-will. It is a view of liberty issuing from autonomy. It is also a view of liberty in search of a “rights” language sufficient enough to secure it. And over time, coupled with cultural shifts and judicial rulings confirming this conception as a dominant legal reality, liberty is now conceived of less as an exercise in duty and responsibility, and more of an understanding of permissibility.

Political scientist Anthony Giddens has advanced the thesis that the “transformation of intimacy” that marks late modernity and our discussion about liberty is a creature resulting from the democratization of sexuality. In Gidden’s view,

How do democratic norms bear upon sexual experience itself? This is the essence of t...

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