FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Sexual Revolution and the death of love
The attack by homosexual activists and their supporters on the ability of religious people (primarily Christian because they are afraid members of some other religions might blow them up if pressed) to practice their faith as anything but a cultural artifact on Sundays and a few holidays has reached full-throated roar over laws passed in Indiana and Arkansas.
Tim Carney made this observation in the Washington Examiner:
Amidst this culture-war dynamic, the Hobby Lobby decision and Indiana’s RFRA don’t represent any slide down a slope towards religiosity or individual liberty. Instead, our culture is speeding down the icy Left slope of the cultural mountain, and a few conservatives are now dragging their hands on the ice to slow the acceleration — and the Left is crying that this will send us catapulting back uphill.
Religious liberty is the terms of surrender the Right is requesting in the culture war. It is conservative America saying to the cultural and political elites, you have your gay marriage, your no-fault divorce, your obscene music and television, your indoctrinating public schools and your abortion-on-demand. May we please be allowed to not participate in these?
But no. Tolerance isn’t the goal. Religious conservatives must atone for their heretical views with acts of contrition: Bake me a cake, photograph my wedding, pay for my abortion and my contraception.
Carney is right as far as he goes. In reality, the current mess we find ourselves in is rooted firmly in the Sexual Revolution. The primary social accomplishments of the sexual revolution has been to transform sex, formerly inextricably associated with a holy sacrament, to a spectator sport, to reduce the status of women from a person to a set of appendages, and to make mockery of chastity and continence. Rickard Newman, writing at Crisis Magazine, comes closer. He says the Indiana dispute is the culminating accomplishment of the Sexual Revolution:
But what if I also told you that this law has nothing to do with gay people, or that the words “gay,” “lesbian” and “sexual orientation” in fact don’t appear in this law or any of the other Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. And what if I told you that no RFRA has ever been used successfully to defend anti-gay discrimination in 20 years.
I wouldn’t blame you for being confused. So what is going on here? This outrage must be understood in the context of the Sexual Revolution. A revolution is defined as a “forcible overthrow of a social order in favor of a new system” and destroying religious liberty is a necessary step for a revolution that favors adult sexual desires above all.
Since the middle of the twentieth century almost everything marriage once brought together has been split apart to accommodate for these sexual desires, the ultimate goal for Sexual Revolutionaries…
he goes on to enumerate these accomplishments:
1. Sex has been divorced from children.
The invention and proliferation of the contraceptive pill in the 1950s and 1960s made it possible to spread the lie that sex could be conducted for pleasure alone, without any unwanted consequences—like babies. As described by Saint John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, the danger with contraception is how it puts personal fulfillment at the center of life’s meaning and fosters a self-centered concept of freedom, a freedom divorced from truth.
Freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want to do, but to do what one oughtto do. This is the difference between a freedom that will make you a slave under your sins or a freedom that will set you free through discipline and self-mastery. When pretending that sex is sterile we are no longer living according to the truth of the human person, and that puts us on a path to self-destruction. The fact that about 60 million children have been aborted since 1973 should be evidence enough.
2. Sex has been divorced from love.
In his book Three to Get Married, Fulton Sheen makes the following distinction: “In sex the male adores the female. In love the man and woman together adore God. Sex seeks the part; love the totality.” In the hook-up-culture, ubiquitous on college campuses today, sex is seen as just another recreational activity with no deeper meaning. It essentially favors male sexual desires while leaving females feeling disconnected and jaded. This has led to more STDs and unintended pregnancies, increased sexual violence as well as introduced a range of emotional and psychological problems that become barriers to authentic love.
3. Love has been divorced from commitment.
Love is not seen as an action, a promise and commitment anchored and sustained in the will. It’s rather based on a hedonistic mindset that sees love as an emotion, an intangible sentiment constructed in the mind and backed up by some butterflies in the stomach and physical attraction. With the introduction of “no-fault” divorce in the late 1970s and early 1980s, couples could split up for any reason, like “falling out of love,” or no reason at all. This legislative policy is erroneously based on the idea that marriage is primarily about adult romance.
4. Marriage has been divorced from children.
Almost half of all “first babies” in the U.S. are now being born to unwed mothers. For Millennials, out-of-wedlock childbirth is the norm. With more cohabitation comes less family stability, which in turn creates more single parents. Single parent families are more prone to poverty and children who grow up without their fathers are much more likely to use drugs, commit crimes, become teen parents and spend time in jail. With the introduction of same-sex “marriage” the idea of marriage as a union with unique and distinct procreative features is effectively being abolished.
5. Children have been divorced from sex.
The inverse of contraception and abortion is children as entitlements. With reproductive technologies and practices such as egg and sperm donation, IVF and surrogacy, it is no longer sex that makes babies but doctors and fertility agencies. Parenthood today is becoming a commercial enterprise, not determined by the biological union that created the child, but rather legally assigned according to adult intentions and desires.
To me, both Carney and Newman lay out compelling cases for the symptoms of the demise of religion in our post-Christian nation, but the underlying cause is much more subtle. Here I’ll refer to the Protestant theologian, Dr. Carl Trueman, writing, oddly enough, on the very Catholic Saint Thomas Aquinas.
For example, I noted in passing last week how the collapse of the distinction between love as passion and love as virtue has proved so confusing and catastrophic not simply in society at large but also in the Church. That is a point worth expanding. In the Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae, Thomas treats love as both a passion and a virtue. Love as passion is neither good nor evil because it originates in the appetites, not the reason. We might say love as passion is really love as a feeling. Love as virtue, however, refers to a principle of action rooted in the reason, connects to a wider understanding of human teleology, and thus is intrinsically moral.
We can clarify this distinction between these two aspects by looking at how the word love is used in everyday parlance. I fell in love with my wife because there was something about her which attracted me. Such attraction involved physical sensations. When calling her on the telephone to confirm our first date, I felt a mixture of excitement and desire. The sound of her voice set my heart beating a little faster. There was, and still is, a thrill to being in love with her which involves an attraction that has a physical aspect to it. This is love as a passion.
But love is also a virtue. For I am to love my wife not simply when I find her attractive but even when I do not find her to be so. In fact, perhaps it is especially when I do not find her to be attractive that my love as virtue is to be most clearly demonstrated. Thus, the woman caring for her beloved husband who is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease or cancer may not feel much positive passion towards him but her actions exhibit love of a depth rarely seen elsewhere. Her behavior is rooted in love as a principle of action. That is what love as virtue means. Indeed, this is surely at the heart of Paul’s understanding of marriage when he comments that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the Church. After all, Christ gave himself for her in self-sacrifice when she was far from attractive. It was not passion which drove Christ’s passion, but virtue.
Turning now to the modern world, we can see that the concept of love which is extolled as a virtue is in reality almost exclusively that of love as passion. Every time soap operas and sitcoms present love as constituted by physical sex (do they ever do anything else?), love as virtue is reduced to love as passion. Every time daytime talk show hosts make some declaration about morality based upon what they feel in their heart, then passion, not virtue, becomes the criterion of what is good and true. And every time an academic denies that there is an objective telosto human nature, passion masquerades as virtue and ethics is turned into aesthetics.
What we have done is, as Dr. Trueman says, effectively removed all virtuous love and replaced it with personal aggrandizement, or selfishness. Euthanasia and abortion are nothing more than the absence of love as a virtue, when we care for someone because of obligation to Christian self-sacrifice. If your spouse is no longer attractive, divorce them and seek self fulfillment. Spouse not exciting enough? Try porn or Ashley Madison. Want that perfect child? Go to a sperm bank and select the donor. Like blue eyes? We can make that happen. Change your mind… no problem, abortion is legal up to 34 weeks in Colorado. A homosexual couple can live together in flawless love (virtue) but that isn’t sufficient. Not only must the legal right exist to the accompanying gymnastics and swapping of bodily fluid but the purposeless coupling has to be legally recognized and everyone has to honor it by baking cakes or sending flowers or whatever.
We have effectively succeeded in killing love and replacing it with a lethal brew of selfishness and animal-like rutting. Small wonder we are in the mess we are in.