PERSPECTIVE: Read professor’s response to C&C article ‘Generational views on same-sex marriage differ’

Ben Mitchell

Ben MitchellBy C. Ben Mitchell

Jacob  Moore’s article in the March 20, 2014, edition of the Cardinal & Cream on Millennial support for same-sex marriage is not good news, but that may not be obvious at first.

Generational views on same-sex marriage differ because a revolution—not an evolution—has taken place.

Only 60 years ago the understanding of the role of sex, marriage and procreation followed these general contours:

  • One should refrain from sexual activity until marriage (i.e., the wedding night).
  • An essential and normal (though not the only) purpose of marriage is to produce children.
  • One should refrain from sexual activity with anyone but one’s spouse.
  • One should choose a spouse from the opposite sex.
  • The marital estate is intended to be a permanent love relationship.

Today, Millennials are reaping the whirlwind from the wind sown in the 1960s:

  • Courtship is dying
  • Cohabitation is growing
  • Marriage as an institution is disintegrating
  • Pornography is pandemic
  • Sexual abuse by both Catholic and Protestant clergy is daily news
  • The “adult toys” industry is mainstream
  • So-called “mommy porn” is now acceptable
  • Out-of-wedlock births are no longer shocking
  • Childlessness and abortion are producing negative population growth
  • No-fault divorce is rampant
  • Children are suffering
  • Polyamory is becoming increasingly acceptable

What happened in such a short span of time?

How could it possibly be the case that in only a few decades we’ve gone from the traditional view of sex, marriage and procreation to the sexual anarchy we have now?

The brief answer is that an entire generation embraced the lie that they could be their own gods without suffering from the promiscuity of their own desires.

And, as usual, historical amnesia complicates matters because most Millennials can’t imagine things being other than as they are.

In his extraordinary history of the 1960s, The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed American, Roger Kimball maintains that “The Age of Aquarius did not end when the last electric guitar was unplugged at Woodstock. It lives on in our values and habits, in our tastes, pleasures, and aspirations. It lives on especially in our educational and cultural institutions, and in the degraded pop culture that permeates our lives like a corrosive fog.”

“The real victory of the ‘youth culture’ of the Sixties,” Kimball says, “lay not in the fact that its demands were met but in the fact that its values and attitudes were adopted by the culture at large … The idealization of youth has resulted not only in the spread of adolescent values and passions: it has also led to the eclipse of adult virtues like circumspection, responsibility and restraint.”

In short, the coup d’etat of the 1960s exalted the autonomous self and its idiosyncratic desires, especially sexual desire, over every other life value. If Jane wants sex, Jane should have sex and she should have it as often as she wants it. If Bill wants sex with more than one partner, Bill should have sex with multiple partners as often as he wants it.

In the perfect storm of the 1960s, the contraceptive pill promised to erase the consequences of bad choices.

And where the pill was ineffective, abortion on demand would solve the problem of unwanted pregnancy.

Sex without consequences, what could be better?

But sex without consequences hasn’t really made us any happier, so we need more variety.

As the pseudonymous cultural analyst, Theodore Dalrymple, has put it, “Having been issued the false prospectus of happiness through unlimited sex, modern man concludes, when he is not happy with his life that his sex has not been unlimited enough.”

At the same time, cohabitation became fashionable, since marriage brought with it too many restraints. After all, if one got married, one would be expected to marry a person of the opposite sex, and remain monogamous, whether or not one’s appetites changed over time.

Where no-fault divorce wasn’t liberating enough, cohabitation came to the rescue.

By 2014, the revolution has been nearly complete.

Today, the very suggestion that one’s sexual desires should be disciplined by a morality or values beyond one’s personal wishes seems quaint at best, fascist at worst.

Marriage, that most foundational of all human covenantal relationships, and that relationship most protective of our progeny, is now a political pawn of personal desires.

It’s not enough for the soldiers of the sexual revolution to wave the banner of polysexuality, “LGBQTI,” they must now plunder the natural and theological goods of marriage for their own devices.

But neither personal desire nor public opinion make desires and their attendant behavior right or good; there is a higher standard for the right and the good.

Despite revisionists like Max Kuecker and Matthew Vines of The Reformation Project, the biblical teaching on the sanctity of sex, marriage and procreation is clear and univocal.

After all, it was Jesus himself who, when asked about the sanctity of marriage, said to the Pharisees: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Male and female—a man (singular) and his wife (singular)—that is the biblical pattern for marriage.

The revolution may have changed the sexual mores of generations, but the revolution has not changed the truth.

The apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus that “sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3 ESV).

In light of this injunction, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers should repent for their part in fomenting, aiding and abetting the sexual revolution.

Millennials, in this case, should resist their generational elders and return to the purity of love worthy of the name.

Rightly ordered, the love between a man and a woman within the sanctity of the marital union is a holy and mysterious blessing.

Dr. C. Ben Mitchell is Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy. 
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