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Sexualités américaines

Claudine Raynaud

Sexuality as Viewed by American Conservative Protestants

Mokhtar Ben Barka

Texte intégral

1The 1980 elections highlighted the resurgence of conservative Protestantism (comprising both Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism) into prominence in American public life. In the mid-1970s Fundamentalists and Evangelicals decided to abandon their long tradition of quietism and political passivity and to engage instead in politics. Their active entry into politics was signaled most notably by the emergence of the "New Religious Right" (also called "New Christian Right"), an informal alliance between a myriad of religious-political organisations, the best known of which was Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority”. Today, the most influential Christian Right organisation is Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition (1989). The New Religious Right is essentially committed to promoting a moral and nationalist agenda, and putting the “righteous in authority” so as to turn “America back to God, back to the Bible, back to morality” (Falwell, 1981, 233). Through increased participation in politics, conservative Protestants largely contributed to the dramatic alteration in the national political balance. No longer marginal, they constitute nowadays a key element in American public life and a serious political force to be reckoned with (Rozwell and Wilcox, 1995).

  • 1 Initially calling attention to this growth was Kelly, 1972. Kelly convincingly church membership i (...)

2The political rebirth of conservative Protestantism is one of the main facets of an overall revival the beginning of which most pundits date to the late 1940s, namely to the Billy Graham crusades. The other ingredients of this revival are the growth of conservative churches,1 the development of media religiosity (called "Televangelism" or “Electronic Church”), the proliferation of independent Christian schools and academies, and the spiritual conversion of a significant proportion of the American population. The dynamic and complex interplay between conservative Protestantism and political conservatism during the 1980s stands as a dominant theme in contemporary American history.

  • 2 In the words of John H. Garvey: “For them [fundamentalists] society is an aggregation of individua (...)

3Conservative Protestantism, defined by emphasis on the literal interpretation of the Bible, the personal experience of salvation through the acceptance of Christ as Lord and Saviour, and the necessity of proselytizing, is a markedly individualist form of religion. More than a theological conviction, it involves a commitment to personal virtue, considered as an expression of the individual's submission to God. This is why the political platform of the New Religious Right has emphasized personal moral reform.2

  • 3 Tim LaHaye, a Baptist pastor in San Diego, California, defined secular humanism as follows: “Human (...)

4On the other hand, conservative Protestantism may be identified as an antimodern sociocultural movement, whose main concern is to revitalize a cherished faith and to restore traditional moral values in a defensive reaction against the threat of modernity, which, together with secularization, erodes the plausibility of traditional morality. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals were mobilized in the 1970s into political action because they felt that their entire way of life, which they tended to identify as the American way of life, was threatened by such by-products of modernity as increase in divorce, rising crime, the rapid increase in the percentage of children born out of wedlock, the widespread use of drugs, and the virtually unrestricted availability of pornography. The symptoms of social decay, they contended, were caused by the dominance of a philosophy called “secular humanism”3 in major universities, the national media, the federal government, and the federal courts. Allegedly, secular humanism prompted a series of Supreme Court decisions, particularly the decision (Engel υ. Vitale) prohibiting organised prayer in 1962 and the decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion (Roe v. Wade) in 1973, which, conservative Protestants believed, struck at the heart of traditional values.

The importance of social and moral issues

  • 4 In this respect Thomas Robbins argues that the hope is to crystalllize close-knit networks of fami (...)

5To resist the ongoing modernising processes and reverse what they see as the nation's steep “moral decline,” conservative Protestants call for a return to America's God-inspired foundation of morality, free enterprise, and patriotism. But as clearly evidenced by the focus on “social and moral issues”, much of their moral crusade has been polarised around the protection of the traditional family, which, in the minds of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, constitutes “the basic unit of society” (Falwell, 1981, 104-118). While advocating prayer in public schools, greater community censorship of school textbooks, the teaching of creationism alongside evolutionism, they fervently oppose abortion, homosexuality, pornography, the Equal Rights Amendment, and sex education in public schools.4 These positions deserve particular consideration in so far as they reflect conservative Protestants’ conceptions of human sexuality and sex roles.

6Convinced as they are that abortion, homosexuality, pornography and feminism tear the family apart, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians further argue that the sex code advocated by abortionists, pornographers, feminists and homosexuals runs counter to God’s will. Clearly, it is a sin. Against sexual permissiveness and the so-called “deviant” lifestyles, which have their origins in the 60s and 70s, they uphold the virtues of a traditional sexual morality based on the Bible. For them, chastity is a virtue closely tied to faith, whereas non-marital (pre-marital, extra-marital, homosexual) sexual behavior is condemned as wrong and immoral. Moreover, they are concerned about the possibility of disorder, which they believe is “the inevitable result of unrestrained human lust” (Bendroth, 1993, 113). Sex should therefore be confined to marriage, defined as a life-long sacramental union. Within marriage, there are separate injunctions for husbands and wives: husbands should love their wives; wives should submit “[them]selves to [their] husbands” (Eph. 5: 22-25). A woman should be an ornament to the home, a helpmate to her husband, and a loving mother to the children. As John Garvey has commented, “This idea of sex-segregated roles... lead[s] fundamentalists to make common cause with feminists in their opposition to pornography and prostitution” (Garvey, 1993, 30).

7Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are adamant in the belief that the root sin of homosexuality is actually rebellion against God. Not only do they view homosexuality as “reprobate and an abomination — a sin against the human body” (Falwell, 1981, 158), they also urge that homosexuals should not have the same vocational and housing opportunities as others have. Similarly, pornography and prostitution, like homosexuality, are sins against oneself and God. If they oppose pornography, it is also because it “displays a distorted view of women” (Falwell, 1981, 173), and leads to an increase in the number of sex crimes. Adultery and abortion are said to cause breakdown in morals and undermine family life. Considering that life begins at conception, conservative Protestants (in conjunction with large numbers of Catholics, Mormons, and other religious conservatives) equate abortion with infanticide. As regards the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), it was rejected on the grounds that it defied the mandate that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Ep. 5: 23) and that taking mothers out of their homes would do harm to family life. Equally significant is the fact that conservatives of all persuasions hold the conviction that AIDS is God's way of punishing sinners.

8Not surprisingly, one of the main objectives of the New Religious Right has been to undo the effects of the sexual revolution: to forbid pornography, prohibit homosexuality, outlaw heterosexual promiscuity and, by overturning the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, put an end to abortion, even in cases of rape and even if the pregnancy endangers the health of the mother-to-be. For their moral reform, conservative Protestants heavily rely on the government which should, according to them, lead people away from sin and toward virtue.

9The moral reform championed by the New Religious Right is far from a novelty. Historical evidence suggests that “homes for unwed mothers and reclaimed prostitutes were a staple of rescue missions, and gloriously specific denunciations of sex sins a common feature of evangelistic oratory” (Bendroth, 1993, 114). In fact, sexual morality lies at the heart of the debate about the survival of conservative religious values within modern secular culture, and about maintaining a visibly distinctive tradition that is still socially relevant. More specifically, “by drawing cognitive and behavioral boundaries and adhering generally to a non-accommodating stance toward modernity, they [conservative Protestants] offered a clear alternative to secular and diffusely religious points of view” (Roof and McKinney, 1985, 30).

The “accommodation theory”

  • 5 James Davison Hunter further argues that “The spiritual dimensions of the Evangelical life are tra (...)

10This point of view has however been challenged by the sociological “accommodation theory” built on the assumption that in its interaction with the dominant forces of American culture, conservative Protestantism has inevitably been affected by secular changes. Operating in a secular environment, conservative Protestants cannot help but abide by at least some of the rules imposed by contemporary society. According to sociologist James Davison Hunter, “conservative Protestant’s effort to survive in hostile social structural conditions has entailed certain concessions at [the] cultural level” (Hunter, 1985, 239). Although it is to be found in those sections of society which are most distant from the forces of modernity, conservative Protestantism, Hunter claims, has accommodated to the pressures of modernity. This is expressed, first, by a tendency to codify the religious components of the Evangelical-Fundamentalist worldview. Though the content of conservative Protestantism has not been compromised its presentation has been standardized according to rational practice.5 That Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are expected to reach out actively to others is also an obligation that leaves them continuously exposed to challenges from secular segments of society. They have in fact learned how to market their message in a way which is appropriate to contemporary society.

11Another response to cultural pluralism is what Hunter calls “increased civility” where offensive aspects of the belief system (i.e., sin, hell, and damnation) are de-emphasized and positive aspects emphasized. In their work at winning over others, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have moved far from the traditional methods of sermons and biblical studies. But the most significant effects of modernity are seen in a new subjectivism that pervades the Evangelical Fundamentalist creed. To underscore the growing preoccupation with satisfying personal needs and with actualising individual potential, Hunter writes: “the self has become a boundaryless territory to be explored, analyzed, and mapped, an exercise that often requires the assistance of 'experts'” (Hunter, 1983, 94). The review of popular Evangelical literature confirms the centrality of this orientation in present-day conservative Protestantism. Evangelical bookstores are effectively full of shelves on how to discover oneself, to find happiness, to fulfill one's potential, to achieve emotional balance, to overcome depression. Self-examination seems a far more common theme than biblical examination.

  • 6 Here is a list of the thirteen books examined by Lewis and Brissett: Lou Beardsley and Toni Spry, (...)

12Among the substantial amount of Evangelical-Fundamentalist "how-to" material, many handbooks and guidelines written by clergy or others active in church affairs are concerned with human sexuality and sexual ethics. In analysing thirteen sex manuals written between 1970 and 1980 by conservative Protestants, sociologists Lionel S. Lewis and Dennis D. Brissett have come to the view that “the evangelical movement has accommodated to the larger society in regard to sexual matters” (Lewis and Brissett, 1986, 69).6 They have also noted a parallel between the prescriptions for improving sexual relations as depicted in the secular sex manuals of the 1960s and 1970s and the new Evangelical-Fundamentalist sexual attitudes. Despite fundamental differences, the revolution of sexual manners and morals in America has made inroads into the thinking of Evangelical Christians. In the Evangelical manuals, the meaning of sex is largely redefined and human sexuality is celebrated in all its forms as a positive force. Believers are advised to explore sexual conduct while remaining true to Christian orthodoxy. Such attitudes towards sexuality are thought to influence the views of those who provide counselling on sexual matters, shape the sexual expectations of their readers, and affect their behavior. Before judging the validity of this thesis, it would be useful to explore some aspects of the new Evangelical-Fundamentalist approach to sexuality.

Sexuality as a celebration of God's grace

13The authors of the “Christian” sex manuals, most of whom are counselling pastors, insist from the onset that their approach and principal message are quite different from the practices promoted by secular sex manuals. The information and advice they give are exclusively destined to Christian audiences and readers, and more particularly to married couples. Hence the premium they place on marriage.

14The first major idea common to all Evangelical manuals is that the physical pleasures of sex are God-given. A marvel of Divine creation and one of God's good gifts, the human body is said to be designed for pleasurable sex. Procreation is no longer the primary criterion by which the morality of sexual intercourse is to be assessed. In this sense, Tim and Beverly LaHaye affirm that "God is the creator of sex. He set human drives in motion, not to torture men and women, but to bring them enjoyment and fulfillment" (LaHaye, 1976, 14). This position is definitely a great step forward in the rehabilitation of the human body and the admission of the goodness of sexual pleasure.

15According to conservative Protestants, the sex act is only part of a larger whole; it enables the expression of love in a deep personal encounter. In and through intercourse, the man makes the woman feel most completely feminine and the woman makes the man feel most completely masculine. In the process of making love, the man and woman make available to each other the totality of their sexuality and their personhood.

16A particular stress is laid on the physical, social and psychological implications of sex: here are cited the development of self-confidence; the release of energy; the promotion of security, happiness, and physical health; the creation of a proper family environment; and the cultivation of social as well as moral bonds in the community. Nevetheless, it is the spiritual dimension of marital sex that is particularly emphasized in the “Christian” manuals. The sexual encounter between husband and wife is an act of love in which the human love and the divine meet; it can be a sanctifying act, a mystical experience and a profound prayer. "While it is a physical act," write J. W. Bird and L. F. Bird, "it is transcended through mutual love and becomes a spiritual experience" (Bird and Bird, 1970, 25). In expressing sexual love, the husband and his wife discover the nature of God and share in the creative divine act of loving. The incarnation of God is not confined to Jesus, but is re-enacted to different degrees and in different ways in all human bodily life. Sexual love is therefore to be received with thanksgiving. When love is absent, when there is no loving relationship, when there is no celebration of creation, then, the conservatives argue, sex can be deeply destructive, hurtful, and abusive.

17Sexual pleasure was designed to be enjoyed within marriage which, because it is in essence a permanent, committed, faithful, and predictable relationship, provides the conditions for the full expression of the richness of sex. By contrast, when experienced in transient, unreliable and unpredictable circumstances, intercourse can by no means fulfil its potential. The “Christian” authors denounce the individualistic and hedonistic society that advocates free sex. Sex is never free nor is it ever totally personal. It is rather anchored in mutual tenderness and consideration which are the hallmarks of Christian marriage. Loving relationships between people are marked by mutuality and reciprocity. It is unkind and therefore immoral to force an unwilling partner to practise a form of erotic stimulation which provides him or her with no pleasure, and which may in fact be guilt-provoking and disgusting.

18A clear and consistent message in these manuals is that Christians are God's chosen people in matters of sexuality. Good Christians are said to engage in sex more frequently and with greater satisfaction than non-Christians: "Christian men and women experience a higher degree of orgasmic enjoyment than non-Christians" (LaHaye, 1976, 113). Evidence cited for the superiority of Christian sex includes survey data, the counselling experiences of the authors, and personal testimony from clients. According to LaHaye: "A Christian's relationship with God produces a greater capacity for expressing and receiving love than is possible for a non-Christian" (LaHaye, 1976, 209). The authors acknowledge, nonetheless, that Christians, due to their lack of experience, can have more problems in the area of sexual control than non-Christians. But these problems can be alleviated with the encounter with Jesus Christ. In addition to the Bible, the Evangelical sex manuals are said to be of great help.

19While insisting on the spiritual significance of sexuality, the “Christian” manuals invite their readers to rejoice in uninhibited lovemaking within marriage. "Erotic love-making”, John White remarks, “is not meant to be an austere, conscience-searching spiritual exercise. It can be spiritual. But it can also be fun" (White, 1992, 24). Play is essential to sex, especially between life-long partners who slide too easily into a settled routine. A distinction must be made, however, between play as a quality of a mutual, loving, sexual relationship, and play as a trivializing and demeaning general attitude to women as "playmates" for male consumers of sex. The authors consider love-making as an art to be learned and taught. Like all artistic productions, it should never be rushed. Rather, "it must be approached with patience, imagination, and the desire to create a sexual union that will reflect the awesome mystery of the vocation to which husband and wife are called. Only then can it become an art, and only then can it become fully loving" (Miles, 1976, 19). Accordingly, sexual pleasure is as much an achievement as it is a discovery.

20The conservative Protestants’ appreciation of the relationship of husband and wife in sexual matters finds a solid base in the traditional opposition between male leadership and female submission. A husband and wife, it is argued, have a right to each other's body, but this seems more valid for the former than the latter. Sex is rather a husband's right, because he has a stronger sex drive which is almost continual. Men and women differ in sexual responses and timing. Another basic difference is thought to be the emphasis each places on love and sex. There is a widespread conviction that "sex" is more dominant in the mind of a man and love is paramount in the mind of the woman. Most manuals concur that it is in the natural order of things: "God designed man to be the aggressor, provider and leader of his family" (LaHaye, 1976, 23). Readers are simply advised to play out the roles of their sexual natures. A wise woman cooperates with her husband's sexual needs. She should always be prepared and available. Wives are reminded that the way one treats a husband at night is reflected in how he might reciprocate during the day.

21Submissive wives need not, however, be passive in their lovemaking. Traditionally, men have been regarded as "active" in the sexual relationship, women as "passive". Current “Christian” literature on sex is fairly consistent in urging the wife to take a more active role, and even the initiative in loveplay and sexual intercourse. Her role is all the more important as sex is equated with a social performance of high order. In the words of Larry and Nordis Christenson: "The sexual encounter is a drama in which they fulfil their God-appointed destiny" (Christenson 1978, 62).

22Overriding all considerations of sexual technique, three major elements of sexual performance: privacy, cleanliness, and communication are highlighted in the “Christian” manuals. Most importantly, the setting of sexuality should be securely private, for "the wife, especially, cannot abandon herself to the sexual encounter if she fears being intruded upon (Christenson, 1978, 67). Not only must the sexual setting be private, but also what happens sexually between a married couple is not to be communicated to anyone else. Cleanliness is emphasized as imperative to the success of sexual love. Frequent baths, oral hygiene, fresh shaves, trimmed and smooth fingernails, feminine hygiene, and attractive costuming are particularly underscored. Another piece of advice concerns open, verbal communication between husband and wife about matters of sexuality. Readers are admonished that talking sexually is not talking dirty: To the wife with wholesome sexual attitudes... there is nothing offensive in the words he employs when he speaks to her of their sexual love; she doesn't find them 'crude' or 'dirty'" (Bird and Bird, 1970, 109). A difference between men and women must be kept in mind as women seem more sensitive to some kinds of sexual language than men.

23Sex may be slow, soft, gentle, sensuous; never should it be aggressive or violent. Only gentle caresses are likely to arouse the partner erotically. What displeases, frightens, or disgusts the partner must be banned. Intercourse must be exclusively with one's spouse. Adultery, group sex, bestiality, homosexual acts, and premarital sex are absolutely forbidden. The unmarried, when experiencing sexual tension, for example, are advised to seek non-sexual release in physical exercise to drain off some sexual energy. For the married, sexual play and experimentation are encouraged. One author suggests that a wife dress in nothing but a fur coat and high heels to whet her husband's desire. A husband, for his part, might dress up as a pirate for some variety. Evangelical couples need not be prudes. The usual panorama of methods found in secular sex manuals (including vibrators) are recommended for improving a couple's sex life. Even possibilities such as mutual masturbation and oral sex are not overlooked. The “Christian” manuals clearly do not promote oral-genital sex with the same enthusiasm as do the secular sex manuals, yet they admit that "oral-genital stimulation in the pre-coital love-making of husband and wife is not immoral. Nor is it unnatural or perverted" (Bird and Bird, 1970, 116). Partners are reminded that any act which does not violate their aesthetic senses or which is not a form of coercion is permissible.

24There are, in the end, very few limitations: it is important that lovemaking be kept from being "dull and boring". Variety and creativity are encouraged. While it is true that everyone must practise sexual self-restraint, no kind of sexual behavior within marriage is proscribed by Scripture, if it is mutually desirable and acceptable. Christians are being encouraged to "let themselves go", as long they only go in a divinely inspired direction. “It appears to be very difficult for a contemporary Christian couple”, Lionel S. Lewis and Dennis D. Brissett conclude, "to sin in the privacy of the bedroom" (Lewis and Brissett, 1986, 73).

25Orgasm should not be considered as paramount in people's lives, yet having "orgasmic regularity" is seen as the key to a satisfying sex life. The method of stimulation and arousal used is not so important, so long as it reaches the ultimate goal for both. According to J. W. Bird and L. F. Bird, orgasm, especially for the wife, is the total human sexual experience: "it is an orgasm which starts deep in her body and extends, as it increases in intensity, to every part of her body, seemingly to the tips of her fingernails. At its peak, her whole being seems to dissolve and she experiences an indescribable feeling of fulfillment and transcendence" (Bird and Bird, 1970, 144).

26The two principal types of sexual maladjustment cited in the manuals are frigidity on the part of the wife and premature ejaculation on the part of the husband. While pessimistic regarding the transformation of cold into passionate wives, the Evangelical authors depict premature ejaculation as being far more remediable. One antidote offered for these sexual malfunctions is prayer. A strong emphasis is also put on patience and love toward the partner.

A critique

27How valid is the assumption about the modernity of conservative Protestantism in regard to sexual matters? Serious reservations need to be made. One major problem lies in the restrictive view offered by most of the studies devoted to the conservative Protestants' new model of sexuality. Because it is narrow in scope, this approach reveals only part of the picture, and accordingly impairs the understanding of this complex question. Thus, key issues such as the readership of the “Christian” sex guidebooks and the number of copies sold have generally been overlooked. The truth of the matter is that conservative Protestants are divided in their views about sexuality and sex roles. This is confirmed by Margaret L. Bendroth: “gender issues remain a central battlefield in the ‘culture war’ waged by conservatives, not only against secular culture, but among themselves” (Bendroth, 1993, 2). Actually, there are deep conflicts within religious conservative ranks over a host of other issues as well.

28Secondly, married love is depicted by Evangelicals as being beyond the prevailing cultural and moral fervor evident in their crusade to reassert family values. One may wonder how conservative Protestants dare promote such views about sexuality at a time when polls show that many Americans have a renewed appreciation for traditional values.

29Thirdly, it is doubtful that conservative Protestantism, which is inherently antimodern and dedicated to stemming the spread of liberal and secularising trends, will come into line with secular mainstream opinions. It is hardly conceivable that while striving to have the government enforce rules of personal virtue, conservative Protestants should share the ideals of modernity. In fact, a “thoughtless capitulation to the secular standards of American culture” has invariably been perceived as an unforgivable sin (Bendroth, 1993, 2). This idea permeates the Evangelical-Fundamentalist rhetoric.

  • 7 Chief Justice Warren Burger declared: “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protec (...)

30Finally, the “accommodation theory” has been challenged by the current cultural conservatism, as illustrated by the Supreme Court's “privacy” rulings, and the 1986 report of the Meese Commission on Pornography, all of which aimed to regulate private sexual conduct. Considering that the freedom guaranteed by the Due Process Clause does not protect homosexual sodomy, the Supreme Court allowed states, in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) to outlaw sodomy among homosexuals. 7 Although the Court did not forbid homosexuality, this decision was a victory for conservative Christians; it was in tune with the times.

31The issue of abortion has followed a similar pattern. In the last few years the Supreme Court has moved toward regulating abortions. In Harris v. McRae (1980) and Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), it allowed the government to restrict public funding of abortions. As a result, “Iowa, Minnesota, and New York have restricted the use of public funds for abortion assistance” (Garvey, 1993, 42). In 1990 (Hodgson v. Minnesota, Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health), the Court permitted states to require that adolescents notify their parents before having abortions. So far, thirty-three states have passed parental-consent laws.

32Under the pressure of Fundamentalist groups, the Supreme Court upheld in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and Bowen υ. Kendrick (1988) the federal Adolescent Family Life Act which was designed to reduce sexual relations and pregnancy by funding the services of public and nonprofit private organisations.

33In 1986, the Meese Commission on Pornography issued a report calling for the enactment of federal laws to ban pornography. Besides, more than 10,000 stores across the country, including such chains as Seven-eleven and Rite Aid, have removed Playboy and Penthouse from their shelves. These stores acted in response to a letter from the Meese Commission suggesting that they might be cited for distributing pornography (DeMott, 1986, 26).

34There is ample evidence that the sexual model formulated in the “Christian” sex manuals has had no significant effect on the orthodoxy defended by conservative Protestantism; Evangelicals and Fundamentalists still hold to a traditional sexual ethic. Also, the relationship between modernity and conservative Protestantism is far more complex than these manuals suggest.



Bendroth, Margaret Lamberts, 1993. Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present. New Haven and London: Yale University.

Bird, Joseph W. and Lois F. Bird, 1970. The Freedom of Sexual Love. Garden City, New York: Image Books.

Christenson, Larry and Nordis, 1978. The Christian Couple. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications.

DeMott, John S., 1986. “Sex Busters”, Time, July 21, 26-33.

Falwell, Jerry, 1981. Listen America,.New York: Bantam.

Garvey, John H., 1993. “Fundamentalism and American Law” in Marty and Appleby, eds, 1993.

Hunter, James Davison, 1983. American Evangelicalism: Conservative Religion and the Quandary of Modernity. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

— 1985. “Conservative Protestantism on the American Scene”. Social Compass, 32/2-3, 233-243.

Dean M. Kelly, Dean M., 1972. Why Conservative Churches are Growing, New York: Harper & Row.

LaHaye, Tim and Beverly, 1976. The Act of Marriage. The Beauty of Sexual Love. Grand Rapid, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

LaHaye, Tim, 1980. The Battle for the Mind. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell.

Lewis, Lionel S., and Dennis D. Brissett, 1986. “Sex as God's Work”. Society, 23/3,67-75.

Marty, Martin E., and R. Scott Appleby, eds, 1993. Fundamentalism and the State. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Miles, Herbert J., 1976. Sexual Happiness in Marriage. Grand Rapid, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Robbins, Thomas, 1989. “From Private Identity to Public Power”. Society, 26/2, 27-28.

Roof, Wade Clark and William McKinney, 1985. “Denominational America and the New Religious Pluralism”. Annals of American Academy for Political and Social Science, 480, 24-38.

Rozell, Mark J. and Clyde Wilcox, eds., 1995. God at the Grass Roots: The Christian Right in the 1994 Elections. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

White, John, 1992. Eros Defiled. The Christian and Sexual Guilt. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.


1 Initially calling attention to this growth was Kelly, 1972. Kelly convincingly church membership increase in the conservative denominations while church membership in liberal or mainline Protestant church bodies declined.

2 In the words of John H. Garvey: “For them [fundamentalists] society is an aggregation of individuals and its problems are identical with the sum of their problems. It is individual sin that causes disorder” (Garvey, 1993, 31).

3 Tim LaHaye, a Baptist pastor in San Diego, California, defined secular humanism as follows: “Humanism is a man-centered philosophy that attempts to solve the problems of man and the world independently of God (LaHaye, 1980, 27).

4 In this respect Thomas Robbins argues that the hope is to crystalllize close-knit networks of family, church, and scholl that can mediate the transmission of traditional values and sustain autonomy from the broader culture, which is seen as increasingly corrupted by false values (Robbins, 1989, 28

5 James Davison Hunter further argues that “The spiritual dimensions of the Evangelical life are translated into standardized ‘laws’, ‘steps’, ‘principles’, ‘guidelines’, and ‘procedures’” (Hunter, 1985, 239).

6 Here is a list of the thirteen books examined by Lewis and Brissett: Lou Beardsley and Toni Spry, The Fulfilled. Woman, Harvest House Publishers, 1975; Joseph W. Bird and Lois F. Bird, The Freedom of Sexual Love, Image Books, 1970; Larry and Nordis Christenson, The Christian Couple, Kingsway Publications, 1978; Tim and Beverly LaHaye, The Act of Marriage. The Beauty of Sexual Love, Zondervan Books, 1976; Gordon MacDonald, Magnificient Marriage, Living Books, 1980; Josh McDowell with Paul Lewis, Givers, Takers and Other Kinds of Lovers, Living Books, 1981; Herbert J. Miles, Sexual Happiness in Marriage, Zondervan Books, 1976; Herbert J. Miles, Sexual Understanding before Marriage, Zondervan Books, 1971; Charlie Shedd and Martha Shedd, Celebration in the Bedroom, Word Inc., 1979; Lewis B. Smedes, Sex for Christians, Eerdmans, 1976; R. C. Sproul, Discovering the Intimate Marriage, Bethany Fellowship, 1981; Μ. O. Vincent, God, Sex and You, Trumpet Books, 1976; Bernard W. Wiese and Urban G. Steinmetz, Everything You Need to Know to Stay Married and Like It, Zondervan Books, 1972.

7 Chief Justice Warren Burger declared: “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”


Associate Professor of American Civilization at the Université de Valenciennes. His research interests include Fundamentalism, Televangelism and Conservatism in the United States. He recently published a book on the American New Right : La Nouvelle Droite américaine (des origines à nos jours). Préface by Claude-Jean Bertrand. (Valenciennes : Presses Universitaires de Valenciennes, 1996, 192 p.).

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1997

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