A History of Broadway Church of Christ

A Historic Debate on Free Love and Morality

Originally posted by Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
Anson Mount, Bill Banowsky, and Hugh Hefner in 1967

Anson Mount, Bill Banowsky, and Hugh Hefner

What’s this, you say? Former Pepperdine University President Bill Banowsky standing—all smiles—with Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner? What occasion could have produced such strange bedfellows? The answer lies in our new digital collection of Historic Sound Recordings. On October 8, 1967, Dr. Banowsky, then minister of the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, engaged in a much-publicized debate with Anson Mount, the religion editor for Playboy, on the topic of sex and morality. The photo above—with Mr. Mount on the left—was used to publicize the event.

Billed as a “clash of philosophies” between “Christianity and hedonism,” the debate was held in Lubbock before an audience of 3000 college students. As the moderator suggests, the event showcased “two perspectives on how 1967 should be,” as Mr. Mount argued for a humanist approach to sex based on situation ethics and Dr. Banowsky countered with a Christian perspective. As he put it during the debate: “I am affirming the moral principles of Christ, which honor the power, and majesty, and beauty of sex as the sacred, limited, exclusive gift of married love.”

For Dr. Banowsky, who had already expressed an interest in returning to Pepperdine to oversee the move to Malibu, the debate was a catalytic moment in his meteoric career. Within four years he became President of Pepperdine University at the age of 34.

The recording of the debate is at once historic and timeless—it captures the public discourse on morality typical of the late 1960s, while maintaining relevance for today’s listener. It is a frank, well-articulated, and thought provoking discussion on both sides of the issue. You can listen to this debate in its entirety in Pepperdine University’s digital collection of Historic Sound Recordings. Enjoy.