The Twin Revolutions

June 3, 2015

The 1950s and 1960s marked the beginning of sweeping societal upheaval in the United States. The most sensational headlines have always gone to sex (the sexual revolution), drugs (the pharmacological revolution), and rock and roll (the musical revolution), but alongside this well-known triumvirate the Baby Boomers also brought us fast food and frozen dinners (the culinary revolution). These revolutions are all related. They have cross-pollinated one another and they share common dependencies. They all endure, with any of the four of them likely to steal the headlines on any given day. They have not, however, progressed all at the same pace.

The musical and culinary revolutions rocketed ahead of the pack. The pharmacological revolution met a bifurcated destiny, with a few illegal drugs encountering enduring resistance, a burgeoning pharmacological industry charging forward in bewildering ways, and alcohol and marijuana caught somewhere in between these two poles. The sexual revolution has been both widely adopted and widely opposed, yet the pace of sexual change in our nation has accelerated, fueled by the wide availability of pornography on the Internet. As social conservatives wonder what awaits us in the future of the sexual revolution, we might do well to consider the parallels between it and the culinary revolution and to see where the American obsession with food has led us.

Both the sexual revolution and the culinary revolution depend upon technological advances in the early twentieth century. The invention of latex in the 1920s led to the widespread use of this form of birth control in the 1930s. The sexual revolution and the pharmacological revolution intersect in the laboratories of G. D. Searle & Company during the 1950s, where ongoing research in endocrinology yielded oral contraceptives.

Technology also enabled the cultural shift away from fresh, locally produced, home-cooked food to embrace fast food, restaurant food, frozen food, and engineered food. Pasteurization arrived in the 1860s. Chemical food preservatives emerged into widespread use in the mid-twentieth centuryanother example of the pharmacological revolutions broad cultural impact. Swansons TV Dinners arrived in 1953. Ray Kroc joined McDonalds in 1955. Julia Child published The French Chef in 1961.

Both the sexual revolution and the culinary revolution correspond closely with feminism. Women in the 1960s were dissatisfied with the experiences both of eating food and of preparing it. The latter was a prominent component of the domestic slavery that Betty Friedan was urging women to flee. Child harnessed the former to bring women back into the kitchen, but as cultural sophisticates able to embrace cooking as adventure and self-realization. Cooking need not be drudgery if food ceased to be boring.

On a parallel track, many women eschewed sex as a marital duty without abandoning sex altogether. Rather, men and women adopted a new rationale of sexuality wherebymuch like Childs French cuisinesex became worthwhile insofar as it was varied and fun. Titles like Sex Begins in the Kitchen may reveal more truth than they realize. In both the kitchen and the bedroom, American society began to discard a domestic vision of life in favor of a new youth-oriented, cosmopolitan life in which variety ranked high among the chief virtues.

A look at cultures beyond the reach of these revolutions provides us with a glimpse at what we once were ourselves. Much of the world is quite content to eat mostly the same thing every day. A Cuban pastor-friend whom I hosted in my home years ago asked my wife and me to stop taking them to nice restaurants. The rich food upset their digestive systems and they didnt understand why we would need so much seasoning and food choice in order to be satisfied. A Senegalese pastor-friend who translates for me when I am in that region explained to me about his dietary regimen: He eats rice and fish every day. Period. Hes perfectly happy with that. While we are with him, we bestow upon him Mountain House Red Beans and Rice and Chewy Mini SweetTarts. He obliges us, and he likes them (or so he says), but he seems not to be wooed at all away from his quotidian fare of fish and rice.

Your great-great-grandparents probably viewed food in much the same way, eating a local diet that consisted, if not of the same foods every day, limited rotation among a few dietary staples. Humans share the same digestive biology, and most people can appreciate or detest sweet, salty, sour, and bitter in their varying presentations. The difference between cultures and across times seems to lie less in discovering the broad continuum of available gustatory experience and more in locating within that continuum what is normal.

In the same way, although pre-revolutionary sexual tastes have long acknowledged that people often depart from monogamy and sometimes deviate from the physical intercourse that defines biological sexuality, across the world and across the centuries heterosexual marriage has defined sexual normalcy.

The culinary revolution has proven to be unhealthy for us. It is unhealthy physically. Americans are obese. Americans gorge themselves on french fries and spray cheese. We are a nation of hyperlipidemia and other metabolic disorders. Thankfully, the pharmacological revolution that partially brought us to this place is partially delivering us from it, urging us to chase down our bag of Ruffles with forty milligrams of Crestor so that we might live longer.

We are less effective at combatting the unhealthy psychology of our relationships with our food. We have this array of food choices because we were dissatisfied with our limited fare, but now that we have so many options, we are less satisfied than ever. The villages of the Casamance where everyone eats rice seem not to know the phenomenon of the picky eater. Where the food revolution has been the most successful, there you will find anorexia and bulimia. Beyond the domain of the culinary revolution, a toxic relationship with food generally involves actual toxic food, or perhaps a toxic lack of food.

The problem has become so prevalent that remediating it has become something of a cause clbre. Morgan Spurlocks film Supersize Me documented the deleterious health effects of a fast-food diet. Michael Moores Food, Inc. addressed supermarket fare as well. Michael Bloomberg declared war against the Big Gulp in New York City, and Michelle Obama has resolved to harry vending machines from the land, so to speak.

Although it may be difficult for social conservatives to look at Michael Moore and Michelle Obama and to discern in them a beacon of hope, perhaps we ought to try harder. Perhaps the fate of the culinary revolution can tell us something hopeful about where the sexual revolution is heading.

Like the advent of fast food, frozen food, processed food, and super-sized food, the sexual revolution has been and is a public health disaster. Consensual vaginal intercourse rarely sends anyone to the Emergency Room. In contrast, Naomi Wolf reported a dramatic rise in anal fissures among female college students caused by a pornography-fueled spike in the practice of anal sex. ER doctors face new challenges in removing a bewildering array of rectal foreign objects. STIs thrive in a hookup culture. A society that once labored and innovated in order to limit fertility now spends more than four billion dollars each year (as of 2009) to battle infertility, a problem that has increased in direct proportion to the use of birth control to delay childbearing beyond the timeframe when our bodies would have us to conceive.

In the realm of the sexual revolution, psychological dysfunction and physical dysfunction are difficult to differentiate. The scourge of Internet pornography has led to widespread inability to derive pleasure from sexual intercourse, or even to accomplish it. Some physical problems arise out of psychological problems. What once required only a man, a woman, and moonlight to bring pleasure now requires a ten-billion-dollar-a-year industry of pornographic films, sex toys, and pharmacological assistance. I submit to you that people arent shelling out ten billion dollars every year because they are already so satisfied with their sex lives. Although survey after survey reveals that sexual satisfaction is greatest among happily married couples, the sexual revolution has produced successive generations that delay or avoid marriage more and more. Research reveals that those who wait longer to have their first sexual encounter have happier sex lives as adults, but the average age of the first sexual encounter is going down, not up. The sexual revolution is creating, not curing, sexual dissatisfaction.

So, how much time will pass before culture and government acknowledge that casual sex has served us no better than fast food? At what point will a real sex movement arise in parallel to the real food movement that is awakening today? Will future filmmakers and First Ladies embrace the vision to break the sexual revolutions hegemony over populations that it has disserved for too long? I dont look for these things to happen in the near future, because doing so would require liberals to admit to social conservatives that we were right all along. The data make me a short-term realist and a long-term optimist. As we wait for that time to arrive, Christians ought to adopt the following strategy:

First, we ought to do all that we can to achieve a healthy biblical sexuality within the church so that it might serve as a winsome alternative to the growing sexual dissatisfaction around us. Healthy biblical sexuality may be no more commonplace inside the church than it is beyond its membership. Churches ought to work to replace pornography, infidelity, non-monogamy, cohabitation, and voyeurism with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as applied to marital sexuality or even to embraced celibacy.

Second, we must ground our public stance on sexuality in our concern for others rather than our concern for ourselves. Frankly, if we will practice the things mentioned in the previous paragraph, the sexual revolution will be powerless to harm our marriages and our families. We need not worry about ourselves. We ought, however, to treat a world dallying about with the sexual revolution not as threats about whom we are worried but as the threatened for whom we are worried.

Third, we need to worry less about what will make us seem popular today and more about what will make us seem prophetic on that coming day when the sexual revolution is seen for the disaster that it is. Advocates for the sexual revolution will often point to the failures of churches during the era of Jim Crow. What they fail to note is that those churches who failed during that era did so not because they were so stubborn in resisting the demands of the culture but because they were so cowardly in capitulating to them. Christianity did not create racism; too many Christians were simply too namby-pamby or given to rationalization to have the backbone to stand up against it. Culture will turn against the sexual revolution and the anguish it is creating. When it does, those who refused to capitulate to the totalitarian regime of pornographic sexuality will be vindicated.

Fourth, we ought to have enough faith in Gods sovereignty to recognize that the rapid acceleration of the sexual revolution may be less the defeat of His Kingdom than the mysterious work of His hand in history to bring more quickly the day when our friends around us will regard with distaste the fleeting season of sinful pleasures for their recognition of the stinging betrayal that always comes next. Perhaps the depravity of those around us means that our culture can only come out of the sexual revolution by going through it to the bitter end.

That the sexual revolution will not endure forever is no surprise. Previous sexual revolutions have suffered the same fate. The worship of Baal and Asherah gave way to the Pharisees. The Victorian Era came into being because people were fed up with the sexual profligacy that preceded it. Neither prudism nor pornography rises to fulfill Gods design for us as male and female. Christians preserve and proclaim the only lasting revolutionthe gospel revolution. Let us be careful not to adulterate it with manmade revolutions made of lesser stuff.

Bart Barber

Bart Barber is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and has served FBC Farmersville since 1999. He is married to Tracy (Brady) Barber. Together they have two children. Bart is a native of Lake City, Arkansas, where his parents had him in church before he was born. God saved him … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24