The true Christian college is always in tension with the world. This strained relation is not actively sought or artificially manufactured. It is inherent in the basic purpose of the Christian college. As an uncompromising academic institution with a sharp-edged Christian witness, the Christian college is ever at odds with intellectual ignorance and humanistic arrogance. Therefore, whenever the thought-life of the nation and the values of its people run counter to truth and righteousness, the Christian college as well as the Christian Church must speak.

We are in the throes of a “Morals Revolution,” defined by Robert Fitch as a “Sexplosion.” We are reaping the results of an “affluent, permissive and sex-suffused society.” The center of this revolutionary storm is the college campus, and its object is the college student.

The Morals Revolution has been heralded in the popular press by an avalanche of material dealing with the morals and morality of Americans in general and of college students in particular. In January, 1964, Time magazine led the way with an article on “Sex and the New Morality.” The Ladies’ Home Journal picked up the problem with an article entitled, “Too Much Sex on the College Campus.” Gael Greene’s book Sex and the College Girl was rushed into print. Then, in April, Atlantic came out with the feature “Must Colleges Police Sex?” and Newsweek created a national conversation with its sensational and alarming “The Morals Revolution on the College Campus.”

If these writings accurately reflect the size of the problem we face in the Morals Revolution and the extent to which it is altering the values and attitudes of college youth, then morality is one of the most timely and insidious problems facing the Christian college today. This is said with the awareness that the Morals Revolution has not yet, according to one of the recent articles, reached “the academic hinterland.” While many writers include the Christian college in this backwoods category, the implication is that the revolution is coming there, too. It is just a matter of time. Also, if the Yale senior meant it when he said, “Premarital sex doesn’t mean the downfall of society, at least not the kind of society that we’re going to build,” then this is our problem as well as Yale’s, Harvard’s, Chicago’s, and Vassar’s. If the Christian college is in the “academic hinterland,” it must now be a voice in the wilderness. While students in many colleges are using the Morals Revolution as a declaration of their freedom, students in the Christian college can use it as a declaration of their distinction. This is the time for us to respond!

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The Creed Of Revolution

The response of the Christian college to the revolution will depend upon an understanding of the creedal statements of the new attitude toward sex. The recent magazine articles make it evident that the new morality does not simply reject traditional beliefs. It substitutes a doctrine of its own and gives its adherents slogans that have the ring of rightness.

First, Sex is Freedom. This slogan declares that sex has been changed from a closed to an open topic for study and conversation. From the long-standing taboo on sex as a subject for discussion in mixed company, the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme. Courses in the subject begin at the junior high school level, conversation among teen-agers and young adults is uninhibited, and the mass media use sex for advertising, headline stories, and dramatic plots. “Sexplosion” describes the burst of “sex” into the market, but “sexploitation” describes the distorted frankness.

Second, Sex is Security. This slogan is a reminder that sex has been transferred from the religious to the psychological sphere in the new morality. With marriage as a sacred institution of the Church, sex is holy, and a violation of the marriage vows is a sin. Out of the mechanistic and naturalistic backgrounds of psychoanalytical investigators, however, sex was morally neutralized. Its release became psychological expression and its problems became maladjustments. Consequently, sex is now the concern, not of religious morality, but of mental health.

Third, Sex is Fun. This creedal statement expresses the attitude that sexual health is gained by expression rather than repression. As noted in one recent article, every college student today is thoroughly indoctrinated with the Freudian manifesto that “repressed sex is bad; expressed sex is good.” But expressionism has not yet reached its peak. An intermediate step is sublimation, by which a person talks out or acts out the sex drive in such activities as music, art, and drama. Sublimation, however, now seems to stimulate as well as control sex because the line of expression is moving closer and closer to the actual act. Drama has reached the point where bedroom scenes are standard, and Broadway is just a step away from symbols, sets, and scenes that will portray the sex act itself. Repressionism may have had its evils, but the “fun” and “health” of expressionism seem to have no end but animalism and amorality.

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Fourth, Sex is Love. This is the most insidious slogan of the new morality because it indicates that the criterion for sexual morality has been changed from a moral code to personal consequences. Time reported that the question about premarital sex is no longer “Is it wrong?” but “Is it meaningful?” The assumption is that sex is no longer a moral problem unless it makes you unhappy. This attitude comes out in teen-age morals. To some teen-agers sex is dirty if birth control methods are used. But if the relationship is the natural and uninhibited result of romance, then it proves the couple’s love for each other. As contradictory to common sense as this belief might be, it represents the new morality based on a blind personal happiness and an ambiguous belief that “Sex is Love.”

Fifth, Sex is Nothing. This slogan empties sex of its social implications and declares that the problem is one of individual responsibility. It is the follow-up of the role of the anonymous man in modern society, the man who is responsible only to himself and whose private life is his own business. This “live and let live” attitude has carried over into the new morality as belief in the privacy of action and responsibility that makes every man a law unto himself. It is not that men and women are insensitive to their social responsibilities; they simply assume that since “everybody is doing it,” it is “nobody’s business.”

Sixth, Sex is Status. This shibboleth indicates that the expectations for sex have been shifted from a double to a single standard. A significant facet of the Morals Revolution today is that women have been “emancipated” from the guilt and stigma of sexual involvement before marriage. Not only is a woman freed from the double standard; she is even given status by the evidence of her successful experiences. Some reports state that there are college women who are put under pressure by friends until they prove their freedom.

Action On The Campus

While the Morals Revolution may be described in the press, it is being acted out on the college campus. Although actions of many students have not yet caught up with the new morality, the minority is increasing in size and is setting the pace for others.

“Sex is Freedom” finds its expression in the obsession that college students have for the “realistic” discussion of sex. College dormitories have always been the center for supplementing the false ideas of the gang, clarifying the embarrassed talks at home, and warming up the cold facts of the classroom. In the Morals Revolution, however, the talk has reached the point of a pseudosophistication based upon experience. At one university a course in “Effective Living” was renamed “Affectionate Living” by the students and laughed out of the curriculum because the content was so far behind their experience.

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“Sex is Security” is being tragically acted out on the college campus. For those who need to belong, sex seems to be the gateway to security. Newsweek reported the feeling of two students who found the answer to their “existential loneliness” in a physical relationship. To them, sexual relief seemed to be a panacea for emotional problems.

“Sex is Fun” is a malicious creedal statement that supports expressionism in its sublimated or actual form. Among some college students, the line of sublimation began at necking, moved to petting, and now includes any love-making short of intercourse. All sorts of wild parties in which much damage to property is done are included in the “fun” classification. When the young people are arrested, the general attitude is that “the young must have fun.” They are in trouble because of damage to personal property, not to personal morality.

“Sex is Love” is a catch-all for rationalizing premarital sex among college students. If a couple’s intentions are honest in love (whatever that word means now), then why deny the full expression of love? On the surface, this thinking sounds unselfish and almost reasonable. The fallacy is that the “right” person can change from time to time. Therefore, as strange as it may seem, a college man or woman today could enter marriage having had affairs with several “right” persons and still be untainted according to the new standard.

“Sex is Nothing” is a shoulder-shrugging attempt to make the act and the actors in premarital sex innocent. A few months ago in Indianapolis a fraternity convention in a hotel turned out to be an orgy. A father who was told by police that his daughter had been arrested on a charge of drinking and indecency said, “Thank God! I thought she might have been in an accident.”

“Sex is Status” has become the vicious underlying attitude for social climbing on the campus. There is a driving pressure to conformity. In colleges that have “parietal” hours, the girls who do not visit men’s rooms or have men visitors have not yet “arrived.” The ultimate in status-seeking is the off-campus apartment for a trial marriage and an assurance of upward mobility by sex.

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Each of these slogans has had a part in establishing firm beachheads of the new morality on college campuses. Students are exhibiting a raw frankness about sex and calling it a sophisticated realism. They are reacting violently against the attempts of the college to control the opportunities for sex, even in college housing. Students are brazenly flaunting their new freedom on the beaches at Fort Lauderdale and Newport. They are expressing attitudes that back up what one has called “an antinomian orgy of open-mindedness.” The revolution is upon us!

The Morals Revolution is a threat to the Christian college because the personal morality of its students is at stake. Students in the Christian college are not exempt from the influences, the pressures, the sights and sounds of a “sex-suffused” society. They probably have as complete a knowledge of sex as any other modern youth and are certainly motivated by the same drives. Put with this the fact that regulations in the Christian college are frequently geared to prohibiting immorality among the students, protecting the immature against themselves, and saving the reputation of the college. The irresistible force and the immovable object can create an explosion at any time.

The Code Of Silence

To this picture, add also the non-academic and non-regulated portion of student life in the Christian college. Obviously, the name “Christian” does not make a college immune to moral problems. The real question, however, concerns the social expectations and the sense of responsibility that exist in the college group. The philosophy of privacy has infected the Christian college, and the code of silence has even been applied to moral problems. When immorality becomes “someone else’s business” in the student mind, the basic foundation for Christian social responsibility has been shattered.

This brings up the final concern for the threat of the new morality in the Christian college. What are the actual attitudes of the students toward sex problems and moral values? A survey would probably show a gratifying conformity on the side of traditional morality. But what about the informal attitudes that guide behavior when the “ceiling authority” is removed? A recent survey, published in the National Review, entitled “God and Man” showed that although students at a church college formally expressed conformity to the campus mode of orthodoxy, informally they had the same doubts as students in secular colleges. To what extent would this formal commitment to traditional morality be present while at the same time the students were entertaining the informal attitudes toward sex that are characteristic of the new moraliy?

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The threat is this: If the students in the Christian college are as knowing about sex and as bombarded with it as other students; if they live in an atmosphere of restriction for the presently immature and the potentially immoral; if they are pressured by a student climate to act in ways contrary to the basic purpose of the Christian college; and if they have informal attitudes toward sex that differ from their formal professions, then the tension of today will be the trouble of tomorrow.

A Plan For Striking Back

The new morality also gives the Christian college an unusual opportunity to take a distinctive stand and present a needed witness. This will require a program of resolution and action that strikes at the very points where the Morals Revolution is taking hold on the college campus.

First, the Christian college must put sex education within a through-going Christian perspective. Whether we like it or not, we cannot turn back the tide of frankness. We can, however, condition that tide for our students with the healthy, holy, and helpful perspective of sex from the Christian view. As suggested by Bertocci in the Christian Century, (1) the openness of sex must be shored up with religious, ethical, and scientific facts; (2) the integrity of the whole man must be acknowledged along the natural penalties for contradictory behavior; and (3) the idea of sex must be recognized as irretrievably social.

Second, the Christian college needs to rethink its regulation of student life from the standpoint of maturity and morality rather than control and punishment. This is a dangerous statement; it may seem to advocate parietal hours for visits from the opposite sex or a complete freedom of coming and going. To the contrary, the thought is that we need to look again at the problem in order to build a rational base for our regulation and then choose a line of distinction that supports our Christian witness. This new look would require three ingredients for success that are missing in many colleges: (1) faculty understanding of the maturity level and trust in the morality level of the Christian college student; (2) student commitment to the larger social responsibility of the college and to what Trueblood called “voluntary self-discipline”; and (3) open communication between the two groups.

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Third, the Christian college must have a student leadership that reflects both the formal and the informal climate of the campus. Many colleges have a double-pronged “press” on almost all issues, including sexual morality. Others have a formal stratum of action moving in one direction while an informal stratum moves in another. Yet, social pressures have played such an important role in forcing the college student into the camp of the new moralists that it is reasonable to assume that social pressures on the Christian campus could also carry the student moral level to a new high.

Fourth, the Christian college must recapture the attitude of being a transforming community in order to provide force against the new morality. Reactionism against the changing moral code is an easy way out for the Christian college. Restrictions might be tightened, lectures increased, and books burned without changing the attitude of one student. If the response to sexual freedom and promiscuity is simply Victorian prudery or Puritan rigidity, then we shall win the battle and lose the war. Our hope in the moral struggle is to fight “freedom with Freedom.” In the Christian context, this is not a repressive struggle or a binding burden; it is the freedom of knowledge, thought, and action that comes to a man who has been overwhelmed with the inner conviction of God. To witness to the anxious, lonely, guilty, and bored generation that is falling victim to the Morals Revolution, our best weapon is the freedom of a man who really knows what it is to be redeemed. James Stewart testified to the freedom of redemption with the words,

To be awakened by a thousand trumpets

And feel it bliss to be alive in such

A dawn as this.

The Emancipative Revolution still has something to say to the Morals Revolution, and the Christian colleges today have a chance to say it.

David L. McKenna is president of Spring Arbor College, Spring Arbor, Michigan. He holds the A.B. degree from Western Michigan University, the B.D. from Asbnry Seminary, and the M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Before becoming president of Spring Arbor College, Dr. McKenna was director of The Center for Higher Education at Ohio State University.

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