Finally, and least understood, but perhaps most dangerous of all: New gender crimes and new forms of criminality, based on sexual relations, are rapidly debasing our understanding of justice and criminalizing our population. This has received almost no attention, but it is what returns us to the politics of the gulag and the laogai.Here is Stephen Baskerville’s speech in full:
Even as they perceive the unmistakable logic unfolding, the sexual revolution’s most severe critics still insist that [in the words of one] “the women’s movement has produced no gulags – not yet, anyway.” But the sexual revolution’s most severe critics are not well informed.
In a rare scholarly investigation, feminist Marie Gottschalk attributes exploding prison populations not to conservative law-and-order campaigns but to militant feminist agitation. “The women’s movement became a vanguard of conservative law-and-order politics,” she writes. “Women’s organisations played a central role in the consolidation of this conservative victims’ rights movement that emerged in the 1970s.” Though she labels it “conservative,” conservatives who insist on the necessity of mass incarceration do not understand what they are defending.
What Gottschalk has stumbled upon is our own homegrown version of Stalinism: the process by which triumphant radicals first challenge and then commandeer both traditional values and the instruments of state repression for their own purposes as they trade ideological purity for power.
Since the inception of their Revolution – and well beneath the media radar screen – militants have been creating a panoply of new crimes and expanded redefinitions of existing crimes – all involving sexual relations. While it is very likely that the sexual revolution has also increased incidents of real sex crimes, the new gender crimes are different: they exploit the fear of sex crimes, but they redefine these politically to include not simply acts but deviations from orthodox political doctrines. The reality of the witch hunts thus bears no necessary relation to what is suggested by the inflammatory language and jargon:
- sexual “harassment” that can mean anything from simple flirtation to unauthorized opinions about morality or politics;
- “child abuse” that is routine parental discipline, or homeschooling, or concocted altogether to win advantage in divorce court;
- “bullying” that involves criticism of the homosexual agenda or other differences of belief and opinion;
Though a student of politics, I believe some things that are not – and should never be – political. This College in fact represents several such institutions of critical importance: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, most importantly. The academy itself is another. By the nature of our mission and our constituency here at PHC, we also hold dear a third institution, which also should not be politicized: the family.
In all these cases, I think, we as a society do have a broad consensus (at least in principle, and often for diverse reasons) that these are not political matters and should not be politicized. And yet today all three are highly contentious politically …
Ironically, it is precisely the accusation against Christians who resist the politicization of all these institutions is that it is we who are politicizing them. And while some may indeed be guilty of this sin, other Christians seem so alarmed that they advocate withdrawal from civic life altogether. So I think it is worth confronting this question directly.
This paradox, I want to suggest, is in fact an optical illusion. It demonstrates the existing saturation of our culture with pervasive political ideology – ideology so subtle that it does indeed manifest itself in popular and civic culture among many people who are not conscious of acting out political motives at all.
… The most extreme manifestations of radical ideology so far were the totalitarian movements of the last century: Nazism and Communism. The sheer scale of the totalitarian horror places them almost beyond comparison. Communism alone has been held accountable for up to 100 million deaths by Stephane Courtois in The Black Book of Communism, with perhaps 25 million more deaths by the Nazis and other Fascists.
And yet incomprehensible as such numbers are, the horror on the human spirit itself may be even more unfathomable. With due allowance for technological advance, population growth, and even of course for human depravity, something happened in the twentieth century to allow the Devil free rein in the political cultures of previously civilized countries. And I am not sure we have really come up with a suitable explanation for why.
The post-war scholars often described these nightmares as political religions, with their own secularized soteriologies, ecclesiologies, and eschatologies. Leszek Kolakowski called it “the self-deification of mankind, to which Marxism gave philosophical expression.” One common feature was to treat the state as savior, and in practice they did invariably exalt the power of the state.
The level of death perpetrated by these political religions may become comprehensible by considering what drives them. Ideologies take many forms, many of which are mutually incompatible. But they all share certain features.
Though they claim to advance rights, or equality, or justice – values that in their place may be seductively legitimate – the real aim is power – or as currently phrased, “empowerment.” In comparison with this shared common goal, differences in content are secondary. This is why alliances of convenience are readily formed between seemingly incompatible agendas: Hitler and Stalin, or Islamists and feminists. “Power is the alpha and the omega of contemporary Communism,” wrote the communist dissident Milovan Djilas during the repression of the 1950s. “Ideas, philosophical principles, and moral considerations…– all can be changed and sacrificed. But not power.”
But what renders ideologies deadly is that the craving for power is rationalized by a very specific kind of hate: If Henry Adams can be believed when he described politics itself as “the systematic organization of hatreds,” it becomes easier to see why political religions develop theologies of death. For they always entail grievances, and they thrive on resentment – grievances that must be redressed by wielding government power and resentment that is open-ended and unquenchable.
At some point, it would be worth exploring the theology of resentment. One obvious reason why Christian faith is not an ideology is because of its unique and highly qualified relationship with the state; Christianity does not augment state power but limits it. Yet equally plausible is that Christianity is not an ideology because it has a unique theology of resentment. All true ideologies channel grievances into government power, with the ultimate aim of settling scores against politically defined criminals. Christianity alone offers a theology of forgiveness that neutralizes resentment and channels its sources into service for others and for God.
I am not convinced that we have learned enough from the twentieth century experience. We hope for “the end of ideology” and pledge our determination that it will happen “never again”. But like generals proverbially preparing fortifications against the threats posed by the previous war, we erect intellectual Maginot Lines against the ideologies of yesteryear. But eventually the new ideologues find out, not so much how to break through our defenses, as how to make an end run around them.
I am not alone in believing that we again face the threat of radical and even total ideologies, and that we are similarly unprepared. The excuse to evade it as an intangible decline of the culture is made plausible by the fact that today’s new fanaticisms are not as openly militaristic as those of the last century (an exception is Islamism). Yet their subtlety may render them, in the long run, potentially more destructive.
Radical movements have taken many forms. We have seen religious radicalism, radical republicanism, nationalism, and socialism. The totalitarian movements derived their resentments from national humiliation and inequalities of social class and economic status. But they have not exhausted the matter.
Each has shared traits with its predecessors, but each has also rebelled against its parent systems’ beliefs and taken on new ones that make it ever more intrusive, violent, and, as we saw before, total.
The grievances change and find new enemies on which to fixate. But the resentment remains, because resentment is simply the form of pride that is directed at those possessing power that we feel we deserve. The resentments are expressed not at individuals – who can be confronted personally or formally charged and tried for recognized crimes according to accepted rules of evidence – but against impersonal groups: the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, Jews, the Christian West, or Dead White Males. Membership in a politically designated category is the crime. And the accused are always guilty.
~~~Since the collapse of European Communism, two rivals have emerged for the claim of global ideological leadership. Both have roots in the socialist and fascist movements that preceded them.
The more obvious appears a throwback to the days of religious radicalism. This is “Islamism,” or Islam as a political ideology. In fact, it inherited elements of earlier Western nationalism and socialism, on whose grievances it continues to thrive.
Its less obvious rival has emerged in the Western democracies, where we see an assortment of “soft ideologies”: racial nationalism, multiculturalism, environmentalism – some of which raise legitimate concerns, but whose common denominator, again, is always deification of the state.
But far above the others in its grip over both culture and politics, is the one that has been, not the most, but the least subject to scrutiny by academic scholars (like us). Indeed, it is unchallengeable in academia and the media. With the discrediting of ideologies based on nationality and race, and on economic and social theories, the ideological mind has found new grievances.
~~~… Today’s most critical political battleground is the family, and of all the soft ideologies, the most elusive and dangerous is the one encompassing the matrix of issues involving the family, children, and sexuality.
For well over a century – and especially over the last four decades – an agenda of sexual radicalism has exercised a growing influence over the public life of the Western world. It now constitutes a major and multi-faceted crisis, whose dimensions we do not yet fully understand. Helen Alvare has coined the term “sexualityism,” for what she describes as “a commitment to uncommitted, unencumbered, [and] inconsequential sex.”
But today’s sexual ideology is much more than immorality, though it certainly begins with that, and many of the consequences are readily apparent. As a student of politics, my purpose is to focus on a less obvious danger that is at the heart of this College’s mission: the loss of liberty. By examining the politics we can see precisely how sexual license is rapidly destroying true freedom. Following its predecessors, the Sexual Revolution’s promise of a new age of freedom is already manifesting itself as a new form of tyranny.
This new ideology uses sexuality – and also its products, children – as instruments to acquire political power. Of course, sexuality has been a feature of politics since the days of Medea or Potiphar’s wife. But today we are seeing an old phenomenon in a new form. One scholar calls it the “ideology of the erotic.” It replaces the older demand for “social justice” with what is now being called “erotic justice.”
This ideology must be confronted in its entirety if we are to understand the enormity of what is taking place in our civilization. For it manifests itself differently in its confrontations with the different groups and institutions that have become the targets of its open-ended grievances: the unborn, the family, marriage, heterosexuals, religious believers, the military, and men. Few of these objects of resentment see their experiences as shared with others. But it does not require a religious conservative to sense that it is unhealthy for any society to have its civic life so dominated by sex as ours has now become. When sex becomes a society’s political currency, the public agenda comes to be controlled by those willing to use sexuality as a weapon to acquire power.
Again, this is not new. It was the argument of Plato – but much more profoundly of the Prophets such as Hosea – that sexual indulgence leads to the abuse of power and to tyranny. “Since sexual ‘liberation’ has social chaos as one of its inevitable sequelae,” writes E. Michael Jones, “sexual liberation begets…the need for social control.”
In many ways this is the logical conclusion of modern history. For as Jones observes, “Sexual revolution is, if not synonymous with revolution in the modern sense…then certainly it is contemporaneous.” Jones describes how sexualized radicalism emerged during the revolutions in France, Russia, and elsewhere. We know that the feminists had intimate associations with the Bolsheviks and before them with the Jacobins. And homosexual activists have played an integral role in the rise of Fascist politics, including Nazism.
In some ways, it is also the purest distillation of radical politics. As today’s militants clearly realize (and as does any teenager), sex is itself a powerful instrument of rebellion. Combining this with the lust for political power, this new ideology blends two human drives that are, each in its own way, ruthless and insatiable.
Both liberals and conservatives have perceived this as a crisis of culture and a manifestation of extreme individualism. Militants have garnered liberal support – and incurred conservative displeasure – by couching their demands in the language of individual rights. But both liberals and conservatives see only half the picture.
“Liberty,” as Burke observed, “when men act in bodies, is power.” More than the freedom of individuals, this is an assertion of power by organized groups. Its methods are strikingly similar to its predecessors’. The Hungarian Stalinist Matyas Rakosi coined the term “salami tactics” to describe how determined, disciplined, and organized activists can seize power by wheedling their way into key institutions, such as the police, justice system, penal apparatus, and military. The sexual agenda now pervades precisely these institutions throughout the West, as well as universities, schools, charities, foundations, medicine, corporations, churches, civil service bureaucracies, and international organizations – with very little challenge, all have become thoroughly saturated with what Newsweek calls the “politics of sex.”
Framing this as a decline of culture leaves us paralyzed and provides an excuse for pointless lamenting and bemoaning. It reduces us to precisely what Christians should never become: scolds. When the late distinguished political scientist James Q. Wilson confronted the family crisis, his response was to invoke “culture” and throw up his hands in despair: “If you believe, as I do, in the power of culture,” he wrote, “you will realize that there is very little one can do.”
This is also agenda that is moving today on a direct collision course with the Christian faith. Sexual liberationists – some with official, taxpayer-funded positions – openly describe religious beliefs and believers as the principal obstacles to their freedom and power.
~~~Some long-standing battlegrounds are familiar: abortion most obviously, and more recently same-sex marriage. But these are only the most salient manifestations. Almost every public debate today is somehow sexualized.
The new government healthcare is much less about medicine than about sexual freedom: not only abortion and contraception, but also enabling and proliferating single-motherhood. It has produced the remarkable innovation that, for the first time, Americans must make purchases and finance measures which violate their consciences as a cost of living in their own country.
Healthcare is not the only rationalization for curtailing freedom of religion. In the Western democracies, the most serious threats to religious freedom all come from demands for sexual liberation:
- preachers have been arrested for expressing views about sexual morality;
- town clerks have lost their positions for not officiating same-sex marriages;
- business owners have been put out of business for “discrimination” against cohabiting couples;
At this point of Stephen Baskerville's speech come the extracts at the top of this post concerning "New gender crimes and new forms of criminality". Then, on to:
- adoption agencies have been closed because they refuse to place children with same-sex couples;
- Christian firemen have been ordered to participate in sexually explicit political demonstrations, that mock their religion, and police to display symbols of sexual liberation in police stations;
This is not likely to be the end of the pressure. Military chaplains and other are deprived of their freedom of belief and expression.
- European Union directives would allow private citizens to be looted financially for expressing their moral convictions.
The military in general is another priority target of militants. Our willingness to sexualize and feminize, and indeed emasculate, the armed forces – an institution whose existential qualities can only be described as masculine – vividly illustrates how boundless is the determination to purge our civilization of what may be the central object of the radicals’ resentment: heterosexual masculinity.
The blending of sexual liberation with political ideology is starkly seen in open-ended sex “education” programs. Many observe this has now reached the point of exposing children to government-authorized pornography. Less readily appreciated is that this peculiar pedagogy combines instruction in sexual technique with indoctrination in the politics of “gender relations” and “sexual orientation”. The sexual awakening of children and adolescents is channelled, from the start, into political doctrines.
Disturbing as these developments are, they are only the most obvious. Equally serious manifestations are much less readily recognized, and generally ignored. Yet to address this effectively, we must confront the all the heads of the hydra.
The politicization of children and use of children as instruments and weapons for adults to acquire power – often in the name of “children’s rights” – is another consequence. The corollary is the suppression of parental rights. Homeschoolers are only the most obvious targets. The confiscation of children from their parents — legally innocent parents — by government officials is now out-of-control throughout the West, and the number of mechanisms by which it is effected is increasing.
Children are also used to rationalize an array of coercive policy innovations: from seat-belt laws to tobacco and gun lawsuits to welfare programs and international treaties. If one wishes to create an entrée for government to intrude into the private lives of adults, the way to neutralize opposition is to present it as being “for the children.”
This both facilitates, and is facilitated by, the separation of children from their parents, a process initiated by the system of unilateral and involuntary divorce, whereby one parent, usually the father, is summarily stripped of his authority and banished from the home. This may well be the most destructive work of sexual militants, yet it is also completely ignored. As Alex Harris shows in the George Wyeth Review, the most glaring anomaly in the “pro-family” platform is the failure to defend the family against the divorce regime. Albert Mohler has called this willing blindness “the scandal of the Evangelical conscience.” It is no accident that the only regimes ever to enact such measures were Jacobin France and Bolshevik Russia, followed by California.
Combined with the epidemics of cohabitation and unwed childbearing, this has produced tens of millions of fatherless children, who are now wreaking havoc with our social order. In a self-perpetuating spiral, this both rationalizes, and is exacerbated by, the bloated, open-ended welfare state (an institution created by socialist ideology but now rationalized and expanded by feminists).
This in turn has dramatically increased almost all social ills, above all criminality, substance abuse, and truancy – all more directly attributable to fatherless homes than any other factor, including poverty and race.
These social pathologies in turn rationalize almost all domestic public spending, which is now bankrupting the Western democracies. Virtually the entire domestic budget of every government from Italy to Missouri is justified by problems proceeding from single-parent homes and connected forms of family dissolution. This is why the Wall Street Journal and others have attributed the financial crisis entirely to the welfare state. Yet it is seldom appreciated that the costs are not simply welfare expenditures themselves, but far more, the destructive and self-destructive behavior among the young that necessitates most domestic spending. By spending money to turn children into criminals, addicts, drop-outs, and single mothers, welfare is government’s self-expanding engine to generate problems for itself to solve. History’s most affluent societies are voluntarily bankrupting themselves, financially as well as morally, by underwriting sexual decadence.
Sexualisation is also rapidly transforming our armed forces into a gargantuan welfare state whose generous benefits, intended for real families, act as a magnet for single mothers and, now perhaps, homosexuals with sexually transmitted diseases.
Abroad too, programs marked as assistance for economic development have become a system of global welfare, wreaking the same devastation on families as in the Western democracies, proliferating single-parent homes, perpetuating the problems they claim to be solving, and turning entire populations into dependents on Western aid officials. With Marxist-Leninist ideology now discredited in the global South, aid programs are designed and administered according to feminist doctrine, and increasingly they are also used as leverage by wealthy countries to pressure traditional societies to compromise their religious principles by accepting the homosexual agenda.
Also in the global South, the AIDS epidemic has been politicized and exacerbated by sexual ideologues, who sabotage effective, proven campaigns for abstinence and fidelity in favor of ideologically inspired but useless condom distributions, resulting in further spread of the disease and millions of needless deaths. Edward Green of Harvard University calls it “the greatest avoidable epidemic in history.”
These new gender crimes have been created not despite the new sexual freedom but as the inseparable corollary to it. The new crimes operate in concert with the new freedoms and smoothly combine expanded sexual license with diminished civic freedom, and indeed, state repression. This is why Jones can write that “Sexual revolution is a form of political control.”See also An Open Letter to Patrick Henry College for David R. Usher's reply to criticisms of Stephen Baskerville's speech…
And here we can see – writ large in the workings of today’s public policy – precisely the dynamic highlighted by Jones, by Dr Veith, by the Puritans, by the Prophets and others in the Bible itself: that sin enslaves and license destroys freedom. And yet as always, the tyranny is now being permitted to triumph almost unopposed because it does not come in precisely the form we expected. Indeed, the tyranny is sometimes advanced by the very prophets who warn against it.
The crime usually begins as some new sexual freedom demanded in strident terms as necessary to liberate women from some form of “oppression” – though crucially, the new freedom is also enticing to men, especially young men with strong libidos and few responsibilities. This then degenerates into a corollary criminal accusation against (usually) the man who takes the bait by indulging in the newly permitted pleasure:
- Recreational sex in the evening turns into accusations of “rape” in the morning, even when it was entirely consensual. (This is especially rampant on college campuses.)
- Demands for access to workplaces, universities, the military, and other previously male venues (accompanied with equally strident demands to engage there in female-only activities, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding) invite accusations of sexual “harassment” against the men when relations inevitably develop (and often turn sour), regardless of who initiates them.
- Cohabitation and “no-fault” divorce are demanded to liberate women from “patriarchal” marriage but quickly generate accusations of male abandonment (even when the woman ends the marriage), as well as domestic “violence” and “child abuse,” in order to procure custody of children and the financial awards they bring.
- The proclaimed right to raise children outside wedlock and without fathers to protect and discipline them soon turns into demands to prosecute adolescents and even children for “bullying” one another and eventually for more serious matters (such as real crime).
- Defiant declarations that women do not need men for financial support quickly give way to demands to arrest and incarcerate without trial men who do not provide women with adequate income in the form of alimony or child support.
- Assertions that women do not need men for protection soon produce hysterical outcries for intrusive police powers, innovative punishments, and expanded penal institutions to punish ever-proliferating and loosely-defined forms of “violence against women,” even when no physical contact or threat of it is involved. (Homosexuals are now mimicking this strategy.)
- The demanded right to engage in homosexual acts and public sexual displays translates almost automatically into the power to arrest or otherwise stop the mouths of preachers, “bullies,” and anyone else who objects or ridicules or offends the “feelings” or “pride” of homosexuals.
- Demands to legalize prostitution feed hysteria to find and prosecute unnamed “sex traffickers.”
- (My favorite, given our setting in higher education:) Demands for unisex bathing facilities in university residences lead to… – well, any young man lacking the intelligence to detect the trap awaiting him there may not belong in a university in the first place.
Radical ideology has thus transformed our government into a matriarchal leviathan that operates like a massive, bureaucratic version of…Potiphar’s wife. Our progressive doctrines have not eliminated a “gender stereotype,” as we were promised; they have merely politicized it – in this case that of the temptress, the seductress who lures men into a “honeytrap” by offers of pleasure before springing a trap that today can mean decades in prison.
Here too, we also see the familiar pattern of radical ideologies creating the very evils they then re-package as grievances, and which then serve to rationalize further “empowerment”. (Djilas pointed this out of Communism.) “Utopians are actually multiplying the social problems they claim to be solving,” notes Bryce Christensen. “Gender-neutering utopians adroitly turn the social problems they cause into a justification for seizing yet more power.”
This is the dialectical logic and sleight-of-hand that transformed the French Revolution from proclaiming the Rights of Man to instigating the Reign of Terror. The fanatical Antoine de St. Just could have been speaking for the Sexual rather than the French Revolution when he proclaimed, “No freedom for the enemies of freedom!”
~~~These loosely-defined crimes are debasing our understanding of justice and our justice system itself. They politicize criminal procedure, render the law vague and subjective, erode due process protections, and incarcerate vast numbers of men and some women who have no inkling that they are committing a crime. Until recently, no one had ever heard of most of these crimes and even now no one really understands what they mean because no definition exists.
Seldom are these quasi-crimes adjudicated by trials or juries in standard courts. Instead guilt (but seldom innocence) is summarily pronounced by specialized or pseudo-judges: “judges surrogate,” lawyers, social workers, school administrators, campus tribunals, welfare officials, and other petty functionaries with a vested interest in accumulating offenders to administer. Accusers are identified as “victims” in official documents, and the accused are publicly labeled as “perpetrators,” “abusers,” or other terms that presume guilt – even before they are tried (if they are tried). The distinction between crime and ordinary conflict is blurred or eliminated, with clear acts of criminal violence (for which existing criminal law has always provided) jumbled together with open-ended terms like “abuse” and “exploitation” to suggest that anything that might fall under these vague but opprobrious terms is also a crime demanding that someone be arrested. The crime is often defined subjectively, with guilt determined not by the objective act of the accused but by the “feelings” of the accuser. Guilt can be defined by the accuser feeling “offended,” making the accused guilty by definition.
Convictions and high conviction rates are presented as goals to be pursued for their own sake, regardless of the evidence in particular cases. Proceedings are rigged with paid “victim-advocates”: professional witnesses (usually feminists) hired to testify against defendants they do not know and about whose alleged guilt they have no first-hand knowledge in order to secure conviction and maximum punishment. Yet the accused are given no equivalent advocate-witnesses to testify for them and often no opportunity even to speak on their own behalf. Throughout, the presumption of innocence has been replaced with a presumption of guilt, and knowingly false accusations are unpunished and even encouraged.
Government advertising campaigns claim to “raise awareness” of undefined new crimes allegedly committed by unnamed nonviolent malefactors, and vilify groups en masse by reducing individuals to categories – “abusers,” “rapists,” “batterers,” “harassers,” “deadbeats,” “bullies,” “stalkers,” “pedophiles,” “traffickers” (all reminiscent of Communist campaigns against “counter-revolutionaries” and “anti-social elements”). Government statistics purporting to quantify these crimes are based not on verifiable convictions but on “reports” that are “confirmed” not by any judicial proceeding but by civil servants. Statistics and reports are based on definitions so vague that it is not clear what if anything is being reported. Accusers are officially “certified” as victims by civil servants, such as welfare agencies, with no judicial proceeding, implicitly entitling the officially certified victims to have their alleged victimizers punished. For many incarcerations, government statistics and documentation, which in the United States and other free societies are required by law, are not published and do not exist. (In other words, secret incarcerations.) Accusers can profit financially by their accusations, by looting the accused, even without supplying any proof of a crime, as can third parties such as lawyers and pressure groups.
The government propaganda campaigns intimidate anyone who dares challenge the party line and make fair trials impossible for those actually accused of belonging to these categories. Accusations quickly become available as weapons to be used in personal and political vendettas. Patently false accusations are processed because they rationalize budgets of feminized and sexualized law-enforcement agencies by turning law-abiding citizens into safe, nonviolent criminals for female and homosexual policepersons to arrest.
The innocent are easily railroaded into prison because the radicals’ accusations encounter no opposition, even from conservatives. Few, radical or conservative, are willing to place themselves in a position of appearing to defend “sex crimes” or “sex offenders.”
The result is mob justice and a spiral of silence by journalists, scholars, and other presumed watchdogs. The accused are quickly abandoned by friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and pastors.
And sadly, it must be said that, when it comes to claims of sexually based crimes, Christians are among the most squeamish and ready to look the other way.
Far from questioning the accusations, conservatives credulously hasten to add their voices to the radicals in condemning “crimes” of which they have little understanding. One need only observe the zeal with which conservative political operatives abandon traditional stigmas against quaint, old-fashioned concepts like adultery or fornication and adopt agitprop jargon, whose full implications they cannot possibly understand, when they opportunistically accuse President Bill Clinton of “sexual harassment” or Muslims of “homophobia.”
In short, driven by pressure from sexual revolutionaries, the deified government – having banished the traditional Christian definition of sin – is creating its own political redefinition of sin as crime, and punishing it with prison. Perhaps even more serious, by failing to question the new official government-approved definition of sin, we can all of us – through linguistic sleights-of-hand so subtle we hardly notice – find that our traditional Christian morality is being syncretized and displaced (even in our own minds) by radical ideology.
~~~It is in this context that current attacks on marriage and the family must be seen. Past redefinitions of marriage effected by unilateral and involuntary divorce laws have already resulted in the most repressive government machinery ever created in the United States. In the name of divorce, legally unimpeachable citizens are now summarily evicted from their homes, forcible separated from their children, expropriated of all they possess, and incarcerated without trial – while the world mouths excuses and averts its eyes. The divorce apparat is the government’s purpose-built mechanism for dismembering families and criminalizing the embodiments of the hated “patriarchy”: fathers.
The continuing redefinition of marriage now being proposed by homosexuals is another new freedom that can end nowhere but in prison and in death. We see this in the growing confrontation between sexual militants and the Christian faith. “The question Western Christians face now is whether or not they are going to lose Christianity altogether,” writes Rod Dreher, referring to same-sex marriage. “It…remains to be seen whether we can keep Christianity without accepting Christian chastity.”
But the question may be answered less by theologians than by gendarmes. The militants are well aware that the Christian faith is the most formidable obstacle to both unlimited sexual freedom and the political power it is being used to acquire.
Compared to the measures against others, those used against Christians so far are mild. But the penal machinery erected to criminalize some can easily be marshalled against others. It is only by the grace of God and the vigilance of some here on this campus that homeschoolers remain free. The same methods put in place by feminists to criminalize fathers and men are already being proposed by homosexual militants to curtail the freedom of Christians. Reminiscent of Pastor Martin Niemoeller’s famous lines about the dangers of remaining silent as others are led away in handcuffs, Christians who held their tongues when these measures were used against men by feminists now find similar measures being used against them by both feminists and homosexual militants.
~~~Christianity itself is also being weakened from within by these pressures on a global scale. “Most of the reasons” for differences between the Christianity of the affluent West and the impoverished South “involve disputes over gender and sexuality,” observes historian Philip Jenkins. “These have proved the defining issues that separate progressives and conservatives, ecclesiastical left and right.”
They are also increasingly the issues that separate Christians from other faiths, and this dilution of Christian morality also weakens us in relation to our rivals.
“Religion is central to sexual regulation in almost all societies,” writes homosexualist scholar Dennis Altman. “Indeed, it may well be that the primary social function of religion is to control sexuality.” This is highly simplistic, but it does demonstrate one concrete reason why the decline of faith in the West leads directly not only to the erosion of both social order and civic freedom, but also to the growth of rival, often “political” religions.
Our liberal illusion that we can simply ignore sex and leave it unregulated is foolish and leaves us vulnerable not only to social chaos, but also to those who will step in and regulate it for their own purposes, imposing criminal penalties and rationalizing their repression with various politicized theologies. “Ironically,” Altman observes, “those countries which rejected religion in the name of Communism tended to adopt their own version of sexual puritanism, which often matched those of the religions they assailed.” Today’s sexual revolutionaries are simply refining what the Bolsheviks’ began.
But of course not all “religion” is the same. Political pseudo-religions are far less effective for this purpose than real ones, however flawed. This may explain why Leninist-Maoist ideologies, that once dominated movements of “national liberation” in the global South, have given way to Islamism.
Radical Islamism is not usually seen as a sexual ideology, and its theoretical incompatibility with the others is obvious. Yet it too bases its claim to political power on control over the terms of sexuality. “The centrality of gender relations in the political ideology of Islam” [in the words of one writer] is widely acknowledged by scholars, whatever difficulty they may have making sense of it. “The issue of women is not marginal,” write Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit; “it lies at the heart of Islamic [radicalism].” The relationship between sexual discipline and strong family life, on the one hand, and political freedom – so clearly demonstrated by the Puritans – is now largely forgotten in the West. But Islamists understand it keenly. They are using their own simplified version of sexual purity to build a radical and highly repressive alternative to the Western freedom that is the legacy of the Puritans.
Whereas the last century saw an often collusive ideological polarity between the “right” of fascism and the “left” of communism, with liberalism squeezed in the middle, our century has become dominated by a polarity of Islamism versus feminist-homosexualism, each seeking political hegemony by regulating the terms of sexuality and the family. What is squeezed out today – and it is no accident that it is the foremost target of both sexual and Islamist militants – is the Christian alternative, whose uniquely successful approach to family life and sexual morality has been rewarded with the most stable, free, and prosperous societies in human history.
~~~It is understandable, but also perhaps ironic, that these trends engender such despair among Christians. For properly understood, they offer vivid validations of important truths of the Christian Gospel. Christian morality – for which Christians have been ridiculed mercilessly in recent decades – now stands starkly vindicated before the world as the protector of health, stability, prosperity, and freedom. Seldom have we enjoyed such moral authority to confront the mistakes of public policy and offer, as the remedy, the truths of the Gospel. And yet we seem resigned to defeat.
Yes, we do “preach” in the vulgar sense of that word: We nag and bemoan and wag our fingers at others – for their divorces or their homosexuality or their pornography. But the real opportunity now is to move outside our “comfort zone” and bring the unique insights and authority that God has revealed to us on family matters to bear on today’s public policy crises.
It is especially incumbent upon Christian intellectuals to make these issues the highest priority of scholarly inquiry. There could hardly be a field of investigation more appropriate or more glaringly demanding the attention of Christian scholars than one that validates vital truths of the Gospel for our public life. And yet Christian scholars hardly seem interested. Indeed, we seem timid if not terrified to apply the tools of learning and scholarship to this challenge.