I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the Sexual Reformation conference at Stellenbosch University this week. Initially I didn’t really know what to talk about. In general I shy away to talk about sex and sexuality, and I must admit that I get bored talking about the gay-debate. Not because it isn’t relevant or of crucial importance. These are the grindstones on which we grind our theological knives regarding Scripture interpretation and human dignity. It’s just that throughout the years, I got tired trying to justify myself. striving to live a meaningful life with a certain integrity in this body of mine, to intolerant and hateful people. For a while now, I don’t need their permission in the effort to stay true to myself.
The other reason is that there is a very short and dark alley between sex and sexuality, moralising about what people should do with their genitals and oppression. We need to take a longer view, a broader scope – and that for is the journey of developing a deeper and richer understanding of the body and the textures of life.
And then on 11 April 2019, BBC news published an article, Ex-Pope Benedict XVI blames 1960s revolution for sex abuse. He published a 5500 –word letter in the German Catholic magazine, Klerusblatt, lamenteng the 1960s as a time when previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely. He blames sexual films, images of nudity and “the clothing of that time” leading to “mental collapse” and “violence”. At the time of the sexual revolution, “Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenceless against these changes in society”, he said. The sexual revolution led to paedophilia being “diagnosed as allowed and appropriate”. The promotion of a new, modern” Catholicism and the sexual revolution led to “homosexual cliques” in seminaries.
It had such a strong resonance with the social and political climate of the time when I was growing up and struggling (the Afrikaans word “wroeg” is more suitable) with church, politics, identity and sexuality. A blast from the past – and for me it is unimaginable that someone can still hold such a position, which off course is also an indication of my own naivety.
This then was the trigger for my presentation – “On bodies and theologies – the aftermath of the sexual revolution”. In the blogs following I shall unpack it in more detail.
It seems that we still need to talk about a revolution….