briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, May 24, 2019

It’s Friday, May 24, 2019. I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Has the Sexual Revolution Been Worth the Cost in Human Lives, Joy, and Happiness?

Recent research reports and headlines give us the opportunity to reflect upon the goodness of marriage and the gift of family.

One of the headlines came in The Federalist asking the question, “Is sexual autonomy worth the cost to human lives?” The author of the article is Noelle Mering, and she raises some urgently important issues. That question is so important. Is sexual autonomy worth the cost to human lives? You might ask the question differently. Has the moral revolution, the sexual revolution really been worth the cost to human lives, to human joy, and to human happiness?

The article is actually heartbreaking and I’m not going to go into the detail of the testimonies involved, but it’s important to say that Mering wrote her article because of the fact that there had been so many testimonies in the larger culture, especially coming from women whose hearts had been broken after they had tried to follow the new sexual rules, but found out that those rules came with tremendous pain.

Mering writes, “The promise of the sexual revolution was that sex can be meaningless. Indeed, it has to be meaningless to preserve our autonomy. If it has intrinsic meaning, independent of whatever we desire it to mean, then that might signify that we have duties that affect our autonomy.”

Already this week we have noted the basic Christian principle that ontology tramps autonomy, but what we are looking at is the fact that this society truly insists upon treating every single human being as morally autonomous, as if there is no one who can set down rules we have to follow, and as if our own quest for happiness and our own identifiable demands for authenticity are all that actually are required.

This was central to the sexual revolution, to the moral revolution that overthrew millennia of wisdom and moral principles when it comes to human sexuality. The claim is that when it comes to sex, there is no absolute right or wrong; it only comes down to a form of contract between two autonomous individuals, and as to whether or not they mean to engage that contract and to continue it. That’s all that it means.

It doesn’t mean anything when a pregnancy takes place because that can simply be solved by abortion. There is no absolute right or wrong, except of course it’s impossible to live that out, and so you have the invention of a new moral minimalism in which the secular world is trying to pin everything now morally on the very insubstantial fulcrum of sexual consent.

Noelle Mering is absolutely right when she points to the false promise of the sexual revolution that sex can be meaningless, but she also gets to the inherent logic of the sexual revolutionaries. Sex has to be considered meaningless because if it’s meaningful, that means that there must be some kind of objective meaning, which means there’s an objective right and wrong, and it also means that just may be sex comes with duties.

Mering goes on to describe the chaos of the sexual revolution by writing, “This revolution has thrown human relationships into chaos from the inside out. Most tragically, the relationship between parent and child. A baby,” she says, “is a glaring, obtrusive, manifestation of meaning interjected into our autonomy.”

Now, that might not be the most customary way you’ve seen a human baby identified. But she’s exactly right. It is a glaring, obtrusive manifestation of meaning interjected into our autonomy. She goes on to argue, “To maintain the illusion of sexual autonomy requires us to be at war with not only the science of basic human embryology, but also our very selves, our bodies, minds and emotions.”

She then asks the question, “This is casual, so why do I feel intimately bonded to him? This is casual, so why do I feel used? This is casual, so why is a baby coming?” She writes about the murderous world of abortion and also about the moral chaos of modern romantic life. And she writes this, “We might look at the modern dating world and ask ourselves if this life of illusion that we are fighting so hard to preserve is worth protecting at the price of innocent human lives. We cannot protect both.”

Noelle Mering article is brave, courageous, very insightful. But she asks the question that the modern world absolutely refuses to ask because if it ask it, it would have to answer it. And that is whether or not the sexual revolution has delivered on its promises. Of course it hasn’t.

It will not face the question as to whether or not sex is as meaningless as the sexual revolutionaries claimed that it is; just bodies in motion without any inherent moral meaning. She points to the broken heartedness of so many, especially so many women who have done their best to play according to the new sexual rules, but they discover that sex is not so meaningless as they have been promised, and the meaning turns out to be heartbreak.

Part II

How the Sexual Revolution Eliminated Essential Sanctions and Constraints on the Sexual Behavior of Men

But next, I turn to another headline that deserves mention precisely because in its own way it illustrates this point. It appeared recently in The Washington Post. The article has the headline, “Men who impregnate women don’t face any consequences in the new abortion laws.” It’s a pretty remarkable article.

It’s one of those articles that appears in a major American newspaper, but it has the essential purpose of trying to poke fun, as it were, at a society that would be so regressive as to adopt laws restricting abortion. She’s claiming here that there is no gender equity when it comes to these laws because the men who get women pregnant are not being arrested. As the author of the article, Teri Carter, tells us, these men face no consequences.

So why are we talking about it on The Briefing? We’re talking about it because this isn’t new, this is as old as the human story. But the difference between the old and the new is that previous societies and this society in previous generations brought social pressure and social sanction upon men to take responsibility both for sex and for their offspring.

It’s the very sexual revolution that the left has championed for so long that had severed that responsibility and denied that kind of accountability that removed all of those moral sanctions, and basically eliminated all of the social constraints upon the sexual behavior of men.

Pitirim Sorokin, who was the founder of the Department of Sociology at Harvard University many decades ago, said that one of the first essential requirements of a human civilization was to structure society so that men must take responsibility for their offspring.

But Pitirim Sorokin, himself a refugee from Russian communism, understood that if society is going to sanction male sexual misbehavior, if it is going to structure itself to require men to take responsibility for their offspring, then, well here it is, you’re going to have to have rules about when sex is allowable and when it’s not, when it’s morally right and authorized and when it’s not. But there you are, back in that old sexual system of laws and principles and well, here’s the word marriage.

Part III

In Order to Get Rid of Capitalism You Must Abolish the Family? Marx and Engels Return in American Politics

But next, while we’re talking about communism and the family, we need to understand that one of the central demands of the communist revolutionaries, even when you’re talking about Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their famous or infamous communist manifesto, was the elimination of the natural family. The reason for this was quite straightforward.

Communism understood that the family is an inherently conservative institution. The family, beginning with the marriage of the husband and the wife, it defines morality. It defines on earth a primary accountability and responsibility. It implies a sacred bond and it also protects the relationship between the mother and the father and their children.

But when you have communism, which has at its center an idolatrous understanding of the government or the state, anything that is so resistant in claiming a higher loyalty has to be removed. That is to say that children should be raised to see the state as the ultimate authority and the arbiter of good and evil, not their parents.

Now, this might sound like a rather dated argument. After all, the communist manifesto from the 19th century, the Bolshevik Revolution is dated from the early 20th century. Why are we talking about this now? Well, we’re talking about it because of the recent article that appeared in The Nation, a very important and long influential periodical of the American Political Left, it rarely has run an article quite this clear.

The article by Rosemarie Ho and the title is, “Want to dismantle capitalism? Abolish the family.” This article wasn’t published in 1917, it was published in 2019. The argument, going back to Marx and Engels, is that if you want to dismantle capitalism, you’re going to have to eliminate the family.

The basic argument of the article in The Nation is that that is exactly what must be done, and one of the central means to doing that is more or less commodifying human reproduction and understanding that that needs to be decoupled from the union of a husband and a wife, because well, that will be followed by children and those primary allegiances, and the family is inherently conservative in its influence. By the way, that is profoundly true.

I’ve pointed out that if you go back to recent election cycles, the great distinction in voting patterns, especially among women, comes down to asking the question if they do or do not have young children in the house. The bottom line is, if they do have children in the house, they are overwhelmingly likely to vote conservative. Why? Because they want to conserve the moral values of a society and its essential structures because they care about and love their children.

In the article, Rosemarie Ho interviews Sophie Lewis, “A feminist theorist and geographer,” who’s the author of the recent book, Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against the Family. Well indeed, it makes very clear the ideological feminism is against the family. This is simply filling out the logic of the second wave feminism that came in the midpoint of the 20th century in which you had claims that for instance, the home, the nuclear family was, as Betty Friedan infamously said, a domestic concentration camp.

When asked about the historic communist aim of abolishing the family, Sophie Lewis said, “It sounds scary emotionally when some people hear the phrase family abolition, but when we say we want to abolish the family, we’re not talking about taking away the few relationships and infrastructures of love that we have in this world. Of course, the private household and the family are where so many of us get the vast majority of nourishment and solace. The question that family abolition is interested in is whether that’s good enough, whether that’s a good thing, that there is such a scarcity involved. We know that the private nuclear household is where the overwhelming majority of abuse can happen. And then there’s the whole question of what it is for: training us up to be workers, training us to be inhabitants of a binary-gendered and racially stratified system, training us not to be queer.”

Well, that’s a rather candid and honest Marxist or feminist assessment of the family. Indeed, the impact of the family is, as we have said, deeply conservative. Karl Marx understood that. That’s why he and Engels called for the abolition of the family as the only way to bring about a communist revolution.

But it’s also interesting that Sophie Lewis goes on to say that for instance, even as many good things might happen in a household, the household, which she calls the nuclear private household, is where the overwhelming majority of abuse can happen.

Now, whether or not that’s true or not, let’s just look at the fact that logic would say it would be likely because that is where the vast majority of human beings are, which is to say that in that sense the overwhelming majority of anything in terms of human relationships is likely to happen within the context of a family.

But then she goes right to the heart of the Marxist analysis, saying that the nuclear family is about training children to be workers for the machine, and then she gets right to the issue of gender and sexuality. Making very clear the fact that in her analysis, the nuclear family is, “Training us to be inhabitants of a binary-gendered and racially stratified system, training us not to be queer.”

Now that’s a lot to unpack, but let’s just say that yes, children growing up with a mommy and a daddy figure out that a mommy is different than a daddy. The child find security in having both a mommy and a daddy. And the children, let’s just call them by the traditional words, boys and girls, come to understand in the family that there is indeed a gendered identity. There is indeed a difference between boys and girls. They also, let’s just state the obvious, come to understand very quickly that it is biological, it is physical, it is anatomical, it isn’t just a social construct.

She also goes on, you’ll recall, to say that the nuclear family is about, “Training us not to be queer.” Now that’s also true when you think about the natural family of a mother and a father and their offspring. Once again, you have the context of a mother and a father. You have the reality of reproduction. You have everything that is implied there. It takes a mommy and a daddy to make a baby.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this article is not just the candor that is reflected, but the fact that it was published just in the last few days in the pages of one of the most influential periodicals of American liberalism, The Nation, and now it’s not at all uncommon to have demands for socialism and the abolition of capitalism, and Sophie Lewis is here quick to tell us that the abolition of capitalism is going to require the abolition of the natural family.

What’s so alarming in all of this candidly is the fact that this is now appearing in a mainstream periodical of American politics, and it does remind us that we need to go back to the year 1848, the very year the Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx issued the Communist Manifesto.

In chapter two of that manifesto, they call openly for the aufhebung, which is the abolition of the family. They then declared that the bourgeois family, they mean by that, what we might say is the middle-class family, that’s the rather traditional family. They say that the bourgeois family, “Will vanish as a matter of course when it’s complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.”

Now remember that the communist revolution was a total revolution as well as a totalitarian revolution, and the communist understood that in their total revolution they were going to have to destroy all of the basic existing institutions of society. They also claimed for absolute allegiance.

Based in dialectical materialism, communism was explicitly atheistic. It had to dethrone God because it is claiming ultimate allegiance for the communist state, and replace the Christian eschatology with the promise of the emergence after the revolutionary age of true communism, the emergence of true communist man to replace the Gospel with a methodology of revolution.

In the communist manifesto about the family and its abolition, Marx and Engels wrote, “Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime, we plead guilty.” By the way, that came down to something as simple as parents giving children chores.

Marx and Engels went on to demand the abolition of parental control over education. Children must be educated by the state. Their worldview must be shaped by the state. They must be separated from their parents in order to get over the superstitions or the conservative values of their parents, and the bond between the state and the child must be primary, more important than the bond between parent and child.

Marx and Engels wrote in the communist manifesto, “The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labor.”

In the name of liberation, the communist called for children to be liberated from their parents and handed over to the state, women to be liberated from marriage and ultimately the family to be destroyed as a meaningful unit.

But one would think that it would be safe to assume that the horrors of the 20th century in the communist revolutions and in the various attempts at state sponsored socialism, that those disasters would have led to the point where human beings would now recoil in horror at the suggestion that we would turn in these directions.

But just look to Venezuela and you will understand just how mistaken that judgment would be. Just look at the island nation of Cuba, still under the repressive regime of communism. Look at the manifestation of communism in China, with a state that is ever more repressive in a surveillance age. And then look at the suggestions coming now in mainstream American conversation in which you have people openly calling for the abolition of capitalism. And then finally and honestly saying, that will, we must understand, require the abolition of the family.

But that brings us full circle to understand that there were many prominent feminists in the 1960s who were saying the same thing. Even someone is mainstream now in American liberalism is Gloria Steinem, the founder of Ms. Magazine, said back in those heady revolutionary days of the 60s and 70s, that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

Evidently, she got over that at some point, but the ideology of feminism is still to destroy the family as an inherently conservative and hierarchical organization that tends to, now get this, have a conformist impact and influence on the lives of children. In any event, Gloria Steinem did eventually get married, demonstrating I guess that that fish did need a bicycle.

Part IV

Research Confirms that the Devotion of Conservative Christian Fathers Leads to More Happiness in Marriage and Parenting

But next we turn to some very important recent research as reported by W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll and Laurie DeRose. One of the interesting dimensions of this is that the analysis was published in summary in the New York Times. The headline’s interesting, “Religious men can be devoted dads, too.” The subhead, “Faith, like feminism, sets high expectations for husbands.”

Now, the first thing we’d have to ask is why in the world the headline would be, religious men can be devoted dads, too, as in, also! Why would it have to be explained that religious men can be devoted dads. And when the too comes along, to whom are religious dads being added?

Well, as it turns out, what this team of researchers is pointing to is the fact that a good deal of sociological research, and we need to understand that is often based in ideological presuppositions that become very apparent, you have the claim that feminism has produced an egalitarian marriage that has produced greater happiness, and a greater devotion to children on the part of dads.

The bottom line is, much of the argument is, that in an egalitarian marriage, according to the standards of modern feminism, men turn out to be more devoted to children because they enter the marriage expecting to have an equal responsibility for the children. Thus, a great deal of this research says, it is basically feminist women in feminist marriage who are more satisfied with the fact that their husbands, the fathers of their children, are more devoted.

But this team of researchers points to a couple, Anna and Greg. They were a couple that Wilcox had recently interviewed for a book on marriage. “When Anna started having children, she had no wish to work full time outside the home. Anna is not alone in this regard,” we are told, and by the way, it’s really important that this appeared in the New York Times in the print edition on Sunday.

The authors write, “The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that about two-thirds of married mothers would prefer not to work full time; a fact they say that is often overlooked in our public conversation about work and family, which is heavily influenced by progressive assumptions.” This woman said that she was grateful that her husband works hard at his small business, and thus she is able to be at home with her children.

Here’s the crucial turn in the story, “But more than Greg’s bread-winning, what makes Anna truly happy with her husband is that he is fully engaged on the home front. Not only does he diligently help with the kids’ nightly homework, he is also a fun father; flooding the backyard with water in the winter so the kids can ice skate, taking them on trail hikes in Shenandoah National Park in the summer. He also takes an active role in the family’s religious life: Every night, Greg prays with the children before bedtime.”

Anna said, “I feel so blessed to have Greg as a husband. His involvement as a father and leadership in the family only adds to my level of happiness.” Then the researchers write, “As research has shown, Anna’s marriage is illustrative of the experience of many women married to men from evangelical Protestant, Latter-day Saint, traditional Catholic or Orthodox Jewish communities.”

They then write in conclusion, “It turns out that feminism and faith both have high expectations of husbands and fathers, if for very different ideological reasons, and that both result in higher-quality marriages for women.” This, they write, is a key conclusion of their new report entitled, “The Ties that Bind: Is Faith a Global Force for Good or Ill in the Family?” And thus they conclude that when you are looking at the religious spectrum, it turns out that the most dissatisfied marriages are from the religious middle.

Professor Wilcox of the University of Virginia and his associates have been looking very clearly and researching very specifically about the fact that when you have husbands and wives, thus becoming parents, in conservative Christian families, you have a set of values that works out towards happiness both for children and for the husband and the wife.

One of the most essential insights from this study is that conservative theological convictions will lead men to take a stronger leadership role in the family and that in these marriages, this does not subtract from, but rather adds to the happiness and satisfaction of his wife.

If nothing else, Wilcox and his associates have made very clear, inserting this into public debate that conservative women have the right to define happiness in their own terms; and the watching sociological world, the academic world, even the policy world, should take full account of the fact that they have every right to determine happiness and satisfaction in their own terms, and that world should also reflect the fact that in conservative Christian families.

And you’ll notice there’s conservative theology that is reflected here in every illustration they gave, even outside Christianity; looking at Latter-day Saints and Orthodox Jewish communities, even though these researchers do not make a theological point, I will. And that is the fact that in every one of these belief systems, there is a right and a wrong, an authoritative morality.

There are duties that are associated with being a man or a woman and with entering into marriage and with becoming parents. And furthermore, there is an ought that is inherent in the very structure of the universe, even in a revealed morality that is binding and has an influence upon men as well as upon women.

And that brings us back full circle again to that point made by sociologist Pitirim Sorokin at Harvard University at mid-century, you can’t have civilization without having a moral structure that regulates the sexual behavior of men and requires men to take responsibility for their children.

We are now far enough along in the sexual revolution and it’s resulting chaos to understand that we are a society by that standard, and by reality coming apart at the scenes. Where it’s not coming apart, there must be some explanation, and of course Christians turning to the Bible have that explanation in full.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. I’ll meet you again on Tuesday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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