by Michael Wagner *
Fire plays an important role in people’s lives, both for good and ill. It helps to heat homes in the winter, but if things go wrong it can also burn those homes down. In its proper place it fills an essential function, but out of place it becomes destructive and even deadly. The usefulness or dangerousness of fire depends on whether or not it is under control.
Similarly, sexuality can be very beneficial and creative, or on the other hand rather destructive. It’s socially beneficial to the degree it’s used according to the rules stipulated by God in His Word. Within marriage sex leads to the existence of a godly seed and the strengthening of the bond between the husband and wife. A new generation of children emerges supported by the adults who care for them and each other. This is the pattern of family life that leads to human flourishing and wellbeing.
Sex must be constrained
Outside of marriage sex remains powerful, but not socially beneficial. Instead, it leads to problems both for the individuals involved as well as the society in which they live. As Barry Maley puts it in Family & Marriage in Australia (Centre for Independent Studies, 2001), “The strength of the sex drive is such that without forms of sociocultural channeling and constraint it can rapidly become socially disruptive and sometimes threatening to other individuals.” The proper constraints (namely the Seventh Commandment) channel sexual behavior so that it’s healthy, constructive and creative.
However, the Western countries are currently in the grip of an entirely different idea, one that views those constraints as oppression. The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s was the turning point, where large numbers of people began to abandon traditional morality. It became intellectually fashionable to view traditional morality as hampering proper mental health. In order for people to be truly happy and well-integrated, it was necessary to liberate them from the sexual constraints of the past. “The cry against repression in favor of sexual liberation has, in the name of freedom of expression, trumped all attempts at restraint and modesty and effected a transformation in values and sexual mores.”
Currently the cutting edge of the continuing sexual revolution is the homosexual rights movement, a political movement defined exclusively by deviant sexual practices. In Canada its success has recently led to the legalization of same-sex marriage. During the controversy over same-sex marriage some Canadian media outlets pointed to the efforts of a couple of American-based Christian organizations, such as Focus on the Family, as if such activity amounted to conservative American influence in otherwise liberally-oriented Canada. The implication was that American involvement was questionable if not illegitimate.
But what those media outlets didn’t mention was the significant American influence in promoting the sexual revolution in Canada that had gone on for many years, primarily through the entertainment media, but also through other channels such as academia. Maley makes this point with regard to Australia, but the same would be true for Canada: “As America became the cultural leader of the English-speaking world, the intellectual content and practice of the sexual and cultural revolution in Australia were almost wholly derived from American models or from European originals filtered through the United States.” If the media wants to highlight the influence of American Christian organizations in Canada’s cultural struggles, it should also highlight the powerful socially left-wing influence emanating from the USA as well.
Freeing women from motherhood
In the fight for liberation from traditional morality, the sexual revolutionaries received cooperation from the feminists. The most extreme feminists, who Maley calls “gender feminists,” see marriage as an institution designed by men to force women to serve them. In this view, marriage and motherhood have been used to subjugate women, and prevent them from participating in the most important affairs of life. “So, on the assumption that women share with men the same strong urge for power and control, but have been denied the opportunities to express that urge by imprisonment in child-rearing and home production, the first and crucial step is relief for mothers from children and home in order to play a more active role in the outside world.”
That is, women need to be liberated from marriage and from motherhood in order to live meaningful lives. Hence feminism’s strong support for raising children in daycare centers. “The core proposition of gender feminism is that the emancipation of women is incompatible with motherhood, understood as caring for children. By extension, a traditional family life is inherently oppressive to women.” Thus feminism (or at least the more extreme elements of feminism) works together with the cultural agents of the sexual revolution to break down traditional conceptions of marriage, the family, and sex.
One major component of the gender feminist view is the denial of biological factors on human behavior. They say the frequent differences in the roles of men and women are culturally constructed and don’t reflect natural inclinations. In other words, it’s the social environment that accounts for the different roles of men and women in society. Thus in this view, it is possible for women to become “equal” to men by changing the social environment.
As Maley points out, this line of thinking inevitably leads in a totalitarian direction. “Complete preoccupation with engineering the social environment thus becomes the objective, since it is the supreme causative agent of behavioral and social differences. In this are the seeds of a monstrous tyranny, since the preferred agent of change, the only institution with the coercive power to reach to the heart of civil society in a program of manipulation and social engineering, is the state. Logically, therefore, it is the state which must take over the entire care and education of children lest, according to gender feminism, the inherently corrupt, ‘patriarchal’ family continues to do what it has always done – instruct its children and reproduce a culture which is destined to oppress and subjugate women.”
The price children pay
Aside from this threat of social engineering, however, the sexual revolution and feminism have already wreaked considerable havoc on the traditional family. Certain trends throughout the developed English-speaking countries make this clear. In the last thirty to forty years there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of divorce; more marriages are breaking up. An increasing number of couples are “cohabiting” rather than getting married. An ever larger percentage of children are being raised in single parent families, and so on.
A large amount of social science research has been conducted on these trends, and in every instance the evidence clearly demonstrates that each of the trends is harmful for children. For example, studies have shown that children whose parents divorce are more susceptible to psychiatric illnesses, as well as certain physical ailments. “Reduced educational performance by children of divorced and sole parents is one of the most consistent findings of a large body of research.”
The research findings for children of single parent families is equally clear, and demonstrates that such arrangements are not as good for children as the traditional family. Indeed, even child abuse is notably more common in the “non-traditional” family forms. Maley summarizes this point by saying that “there is confirmation from studies in Australia and other English-speaking countries of the significantly greater risks of child abuse as children, through divorce, separation and ex-nuptial parenting, move away from original two-parent families and into step/blended and sole parent families.”
When people ignore God’s program for human wellbeing (summarized in the Ten Commandments), their lives – and the lives of those they influence – will deteriorate, not improve. In throwing off the constraints of traditional (Biblical) morality, the lives of many people have suffered, especially children. Contrary to the claims of the sexual revolutionaries, sexual liberation makes life worse not better. And contrary to the claims of feminists who want children to be placed in daycares, “The simple unavoidable fact is that in normal circumstances a child’s own parents are its best carers and anything else is second best.” That’s what the evidence demonstrates.
Children have been the biggest losers from the sexual revolution, even when the mass murder of unborn children is left out of the picture. The legalization of abortion was itself, of course, a result of the sexual revolution. But even the lives of the children that are allowed to live have deteriorated in many instances. Abandoning traditional sexual morality and the traditional family hurts children because it often leads to situations where they are not raised by their mother and father, together. When examining research on this issue, “One crucial fact stands out. For the overwhelming majority of children their flourishing is very strongly associated with their parents staying together in a stable marriage while they are being raised.” Since the sexual revolution has successfully opposed this form of family structure, it’s the children who have borne the greatest cost.
First published in Reformed Perspective, Feb 2006.