authority is weakened. The insincerity of the sexual moral code may well be a cause of the widespread contempt of the younger generation for society’s rules and prohibitions.
It is not possible to be certain how the present situation compares with the situation as it was a few generations ago, but these appear to be the developments we are faced with today:
(a) A great increase in adolescent sexual intimacy.
(b) An increase in transient pre-marital sexual intimacies generally. It is fairly common in both young men and women with high standards of general conduct and integrity to have one or two love affairs, involving intercourse, before they find the person they will ultimately marry.
(c) It is even more common for those who intend to marry to have sexual intercourse before the ceremony. This is true, probably, of the majority of young people in all classes of society, including those who often have a deep sense of responsibility.
(d) The incidence of extra-marital intercourse is great, but it is not possible to estimate whether there is an increase. There must be very many instances which do not lead to divorce or obvious harm and which are kept secret.
The central concept of sexual morality in Christian countries is the integrity of the family. Most people—religious or otherwise—in our own and other countries would agree that the family as a social unit should be safeguarded and sexual practices that threaten its stability vigorously discouraged. The Christian family is a monogamous one held together by understanding love and responsibility and by an acceptance of a faith and purpose in life.
This concept of the family is esteemed both by religious and secular interest. The secular interest sees in marriage and the family an institution that preserves the structure of society, that maintains responsibility for children and provides them with security. The religious interest sees the institution as one ordained by God, and thus dignifies what is socially necessary. This might seem an ideal and permanent conjunction of interests, but it is not. This very fact that we think of marriage as an “institution” or a pattern will explain why many people have been led into a distorted idea of what is Christian. Over long periods of history, illegitimate children in Christian countries have been shockingly treated compared with their counterparts in a polygamous African community; a Christian pattern has thus involved cruelty to those born outside that pattern. But not only to those outside the pattern. Parents urgently seeking to establish what they think to be a Christian pattern of family life have in the past subjected their own children to barbarous punishments; or they have created conditions that are defensive, restricted, inhibited—and not in any way a source of the “abundant life”. It is evident that we must sort out a confusion if we are to understand the components of what we call morality.
A distinction can be made between a social code and an ethical or religious code. A social code will express a norm that seems to be necessary to maintain the existing structure of society and community life. It cannot be fixed for ever, for the pattern of society has