“Hey Christian, don’t be on the wrong side of history.” It’s a common warning nowadays, especially around topics like same-sex marriage and transgender issues. Don’t get stuck in the past! Stop holding on to your archaic views on marriage and gender. Get with the times, history is progressing, and you don’t want to get left behind!
We can sometimes find ourselves at a loss as to how we should respond.
What if they’re right? What if we really are on the wrong side of history, holding on to ideas and values that are past their used-by-date?
Which Side of History is Right?
The problem with the “wrong side of history” line is that it assumes all historical trends are good. It assumes that the train of history is always heading in a good direction. But in reality, history itself shows us that sometimes historical trends head in a bad direction.
In the early 20th century, communism was widely seen as the way of the future (even in Western countries like the UK), and its opponents were under great pressure to “get with the times” and jump on board the progress train or get left behind.
But with tens of millions of people dead under the communist regimes of the 20th century (and the economic failure of many present-day communist states), it turns out that historical train was actually heading off a cliff. Those who opposed communism weren’t on the wrong side of history after all.
Or think about Germany in the 1920’s and 30’s. If you lived in that country in that time, there was enormous social pressure to get with the National Socialist agenda. That was overwhelmingly seen as progress. And yet we all know how that turned out.
Closer to home, consider the strong rise in recent years of neo-nationalism (think Trump, Brexit, violent Hindu nationalism, etc.). This a significant and growing trend, but is it a good one?
What these examples warn us against is the assumption that every new historical trend is ‘progress’. Some new ideas can seem like a great idea at the time, but end up with disastrous consequences.
The Sexual Revolution and the Narrative of Progress
It’s important to understand that same-sex marriage and transgender issues – two areas in which Christians are accused of being ‘on the wrong side of history’ – are not isolated ideas, but rather symptoms of a much deeper ideology.
In the last half century the sexual revolution has had a profound influence on the way we think and operate as a society. It seeks to do away with what it sees as archaic views on sex, marriage, and gender, and promote personal freedom, choice, and self-expression as the highest good.
According to this way of thinking, the last 50 years have been progressing nicely.
- No-fault divorce has freed people from the shackles of lifelong marriage.
- Increased access to abortion has released us from the inconvenience of unplanned children.
- The proliferation and de-stigmatization of pornography has allowed people to explore, experiment, and express themselves.
- Same-sex marriage is seen as the most recent (and long overdue) step of progress, and the eradication of binary gender categories is next on the list.
Our society is slowly freeing itself from the toxic influence of Christianity with its outdated views of sexuality. This is the narrative of progress that pervades Western society at the moment.
And it’s precisely this narrative that is in people’s minds every time they warn a Christian about being “on the wrong side of history” – their conviction is that the sexual revolution is taking us in a good direction.
But I’m convinced that by refusing to jump on board the sexual revolution, Christians are decidedly on the right side of history. Let me give you two reasons why.
1. Where We’ve Come Already
When we look at where the sexual revolution has brought us in the past half century, there is a mounting body of evidence that it has done more harm than good.
We could look at the increasing number of studies showing the harmful effects of pornography, the far-reaching societal woes caused by no-fault divorce and the breakdown of the family, or the countless millions of babies who have been killed in the name of ‘reproductive rights’ in recent decades.
This has to make us question: is the sexual-revolution-train really taking us in the direction of progress, or is it one of those historical trends that is taking us off a cliff?
If it’s the latter, then Christians are on the right side of history when we refuse to jump on board.
2. Where We’re Headed
Another reason I’m convinced Christians aren’t on the wrong side of history when it comes to the sexual revolution is because we know where history is headed.
Jesus is the Lord of history. He claims that “all authority in heaven and earth” has been given to him (Matthew 28:18), and that one day he is going to come back to judge the world (Matthew 25:31) and bring in a new world order of justice and peace and righteousness.
So if the sexual revolution is taking us in a direction that’s opposed to Jesus, then those who throw themselves behind it are the ones who will find themselves on the wrong side of history when He returns.
And make no mistake, the sexual revolution is very much opposed to the way of Jesus.
- Our society sees no-fault divorce as progress, but Jesus calls us to lifelong marital faithfulness (Matthew 19:1-9).
- Our society sees abortion rights as progress, but Jesus calls us to lay down our lives for the sake of others (rather than sacrificing the lives of others for our own benefit)
- Our society sees pornography as progress, but Jesus says when we look at another lustfully, we’ve already committed adultery in our heart (Matthew 5:27ff.)
- Our society sees same-sex marriage as progress, but Jesus taught that marriage is between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:1-6).
- Our society sees the eradication of binary gender categories as progress, but Jesus points us back to God’s creation of humanity as male and female as foundational for how we understand human relationships (Matthew 19:4, quoting Genesis 1-2).
So Christian, don’t be discouraged. On all these issues, if you follow Jesus, you will be accused of being on the wrong side of history. His views on sexuality are extremely unpopular in today’s society.
But one day, every knee is going to bow before Jesus.
Whether we like it or not, that is where history is ultimately headed. And that means the only way to be on the right side of history is to align ourselves with Jesus.
So Christian, don’t be on the wrong side of history.