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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Posted on: Saturday, October 07, 2017
Vanco was the Ruth Institute's payment processor for donations from 2015 until August 31, 2017. We have recorded many of the news stories as well as our press releases in this space. We want to let our friends know that we received additional correspondence from them. We record it here in its entirety, without comment. You may draw your own conclusions.
On Tuesday, September 26, the CFO of Vanco called and left a message for the Ruth Institute. I returned her call. She informed me that they would be willing to reinstate us. I was polite, and asked her for the details of what she proposed. This is what she sent me, the following day:
Wednesday, September 27:
Jennifer, thank you for the conversation yesterday. As discussed on our call, Vanco has completed our re-underwriting process with our Banking partner
and secured the ability to reinstate The Ruth Institute as a client. If you would like to reinstate your account, please contact me at the email
Also, if desired, we can restart your recurring transactions.
Your previous pricing for our services was a historical pricing plan that provided the following rates:
Our current published rates may be more advantageous for you depending on your forecasted mix between card and ACH and number of transactions. We are willing to reinstate you at your historical rate or you may choose from our current published plans. I’m happy to discuss if you have any questions.
Further, since you will be reinstated as a new customer, we would like to offer you our current promotions that we are currently offering to new customers. They are as follows:
Jennifer Dorris, CPA
Chief Financial Officer
400 Northridge Road |Suite 1200
Atlanta, Georgia 30350
On Friday, September 29, I sent her the following
Dear Ms. Dorris,
I received your email of September 27, 2017, in response to our telephone call of the previous day. As you know, your company discontinued your service with us without notice on August 31, 2017. For us to consider returning to Vanco, we would require, at a minimum, the following:
Ms. Dorris, we have many small monthly donors. As you well know, these are the people who pay the fees Vanco collects. We don’t pay: our donors pay. These dear people who give us $10 or $25 per month were most upset with Vanco when we had to call them and tell them about this situation. They deserve an explanation and apology. Reinstating service with Vanco without both an explanation and apology from you would be breaking faith with our friends and supporters. We simply cannot do this.
I am sure you can understand that switching credit card processing is no small matter. We finally have our new systems up and running. All things considered, it would take an extraordinary effort on your part to get us back. Your correspondence thus far, does not rise to that level.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse,
Founder and President,
The Ruth InstituteOn Monday October 2, we received the following:
As discussed on the phone and via email, Vanco has secured the ability to reinstate The Ruth Institute as a client. Based on your feedback, we understand you are working with another payment processor. Please know that if for some reason that does not work out, we would welcome the opportunity to have you back as a client.
Best, Jennifer Dorris
These documents speak for themselves. I will say no more. Thank you for your support.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 12, 2017
By Brandon Showalter, CP Reporter
This article was first posted July 5, 2017, at Christian Post.
Younger Americans are less likely to cheat on their spouses than older Americans are, and although culture has become much more accepting of loose sexual norms, adultery is still viewed with disapproval, according to the social science data.
Writing on the blog of the Institute for Family Studies Wednesday, Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor of family and consumer sciences and sociology at the University of Utah, explained that a notable gap exists between those over 55 and under 55 regarding extramarital sex.
The "adultery taboo" has endured throughout human history, Wolfinger wrote. And the number of Americans who admit to having sex outside of marriage has remained steady over the years, hovering around 16 percent, giving the impression that Americans have basically concluded that extramarital sex is wrong.
Yet, some shocking changes have occurred since the year 2000, he noted: older Americans are cheating more and younger Americans are cheating less.
Wolfinger derived this assessment from the past three decades of data from the General Social Survey which tracks social attitudes about a variety of moral matters. Since 1991, GSS respondents have been asked: "Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?"
"Starting after 2004, Americans over 55 began reporting rates of extramarital sex that were about five or six percentage points higher than were being offered by younger adults. By 2016, 20% of older respondents indicated that their marriages were nominally adulterous, compared to 14% for people under 55," Wolfinger said.
While the majority of Americans are committed to monogamy, "the mounting age difference is noteworthy and statistically significant," he added.
Wolfinger further underscored the role of the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s as a driving factor in shaping the attitudes of people toward sex. For the generation who came of age during the sexual revolution — people who are now in their 50s and 60s — "it's understandable they are more likely to have sex with someone without their spouses," he said. These people are also more likely to have had more sexual partners in their lifetimes than their older or younger peers.
"They may have firsthand experience with 1970s-era experiments with non-monogamy. A few people born in the late 1950s may have had swingers for parents, leading offspring to question taboos surrounding infidelity."
After reaching a peak in 1990, sex among teenagers has fallen significantly, the data shows.
"Collectively, this sexual biography makes it understandable that products of the sexual revolution would be most predisposed to extramarital sex. If people just aged into outside love affairs, presumably as they grew bored of their marital beds, we could expect that the oldest GSS respondents would be the most likely to report extramarital sex," Wolfinger said.
But the data suggests that is not the case. The sexual revolution continues to produce fruit today in the generation who grew up in its wake, he observed.
Although the rate of divorce overall has dropped in the past few decades, "gray divorce," that is, divorce among the middle aged, has seen a surge.
"Part of that story seems to be a corresponding increase in midlife extramarital sex," he said.
Even as increased chatter about "open" marriages and other forms of consensual non-monogamy like polyandry have appeared on the scene, with the declines in extramarital sex observed for younger Americans, "barring any unforeseen developments, we should anticipate a future of more monogamous marriage," Wolfinger said.
Americans by and large "still disapprove of sex outside of wedlock, but we disapprove less strongly than we used to," the scholar noted, suggesting that society is witnessing a growing "sexual inequality."
GSS data also reveals that while some Americans have more sex out of wedlock, others have become even more disapproving.
"Indeed, perhaps some of this disapproval reflects the comparably high rates of extramarital sex 50-somethings and 60-somethings have been observing in their peers."
His analysis seems to comport with the findings in other related studies.
The Christian Post reported in August that contrary to conventional wisdom and a sex-saturated culture, young people are actually not having much sex.
In a study published last year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers Jean M. Twenge, Ryne A. Sherman, and Brooke E. Wells discovered that young people born in the 1990s were "significantly more likely to have no sexual partners" than Gen Xers. The only generation with a higher rate of sexual inactivity than today's 20- to 24-year-olds was the one born in the 1920s when controlled for time period and age.
"I think a lot of them are watching the adults around them and concluding that sex without limits is not making people happy. Parents with multiple marriages and divorces, etc.," said Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Roback Morse in a statement to CP, suggesting that younger generations were becoming wiser.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Our main objective with this survey was to see if our audience has a basic understanding of our mission. I'm pleased to see that, yes, you do! More
than 90% of you agree that the list of issues we tackle are indeed related.
The second question was like the first. We asked people to identify which of those issues seemed least compatible with the others. Almost 60% of the respondents indicated that the issues were equally compatible with one another.
For the third question, we asked participates which issue was most important to them. It's probably no surprise that abortion had the highest number of
responses. Third party reproduction/surrogacy had no responses.
This tells me that we should think carefully about how to logically link abortion to the other issues. My colleague Jennifer Johnson did this recently in an interview with Jim Graves at National Catholic Register. She drew an interesting parallel between abortion and no-fault divorce:
In both cases, the State sides with one person (the pregnant mother, the petitioner in a no-fault divorce action) to uphold or enforce the action that the person wants (the abortion, the no-fault divorce), while simultaneously providing no legal defense for the other person (the unborn child, the respondent in the divorce action). The individual who wants the action (of the abortion or to be divorced) must be “freed” from every restraint that he does not explicitly want.
The more we can do this, the more it will help people understand the destructive nature of the Sexual Revolution and how much power it has given the State.
For the fourth question, we asked people which issue they want to learn more about. The answers were more evenly distributed than any other answer in this
For the fifth question, we asked if the terms “sexual revolution” and “sexual liberation” were meaningful to people. The majority of respondents said yes to this question.
Finally, we allowed people to leave optional remarks about our mission. About 45% of the survey participants left remarks, and they were almost 100% positive. Here are just a few things people said about the mission of the Ruth Institute:
“I really appreciate your integrated approach to all of these issues…”
“You are awesome! Keep up your important mission and never give up. Your message needs to be heard...”
“… Everyone seems to have capitulated on no-fault divorce, and I'm really excited that your organization - any organization! - is even raising the issue that no-fault divorce is not just something we should accept blindly.”
“I was going to say no to the last question, but I realized that after my parents’ divorce back in the 1970s, I got to live out the full implications of this ‘revolt’ leading to bondage (not freedom) with all of the resultant pain & chaos in its wake.”
“I admire the work you do as a Catholic moral theologian.”
“You guys are amazing! I am 16 and I love reading your newsletters. You are so inspiring!”
There are many other like these. Thank you to everybody who participated!
Posted on: Tuesday, May 09, 2017
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted at Crisis Magazine on May 2, 2017.
“The Personal is Political” was a slogan engineered by Marxist feminists of the 1960s and 1970s. Few people realized at the time exactly what that slogan entailed. “The personal is political” should have telegraphed loud and clear that these women intended to politicize every aspect of our personal lives.
Many people dismissed extreme feminism as irrational and crazy and therefore unworthy of serious consideration. Others excused feminism because they had some worthy goals, such as outlawing the firing of women when they got married or pregnant. I know I swung back and forth between these responses. I reasoned that I was just trying to live my life.
What I didn’t realize was how much baggage I had acquired from feminism. This baggage made it difficult to “just live my life,” even though I was never more than a skeptical feminist.
I thought it was important to “assert myself,” to not be a doormat, to demand respect from my husband. I thought it was important to keep separate bank accounts and divide our expenses equally. I thought we should avoid gender stereotypical divisions of labor. Even if he was manifestly better at something, I should try to “do my share” of whatever mechanical project he might have in mind.
Most importantly, of course, he should do his share of household chores, even if a particular chore didn’t even register on his radar screen. He should do his half of everything I thought was important. And, he should do it to my satisfaction. In the interest of fairness and equality.
It was all quite exhausting.
I did eventually learn that nagging my helpers for not doing things my way was a good way to lose my helpers. But notice: this is a purely pragmatic consideration. I still was not questioning the basic rightness of my overall approach. I thought I had a right to achieve my goals, and other people were there to help me achieve them.
Just to be sure I’m making myself clear here, let me repeat for emphasis: I had a right to achieve my goals, and other people were there to help me.
I was still operating within the Equality Paradigm, created by those whose stated objective was to politicize my personal life. Only after my reversion to Catholicism, did I realize that there was a “More Excellent Way,” as St. Paul would put it: The Way of Love (1 Cor. 12:31).
Instead of asking myself whether he did his fair share, I can ask myself: What does love require of me, in any given situation?
Let’s say I want the bed made in the morning. I don’t take it for granted that all my readers accept this as a lofty goal. So be it. I want the bed made each morning. Sometimes, my husband and I make it together.
The problem is: my idea of “making the bed” is not universally shared. I know this for a fact, since my husband’s idea of “making the bed” is not the same as mine. How smooth must the sheets and covers be? Do we have to pull the covers down evenly on each side of the mattress? The most frequent difference of opinion is over the correct location of the covers, in relation to the pillows: under or over the pillows?
My husband made the bed this morning.
I’ve got a few choices here. Correct him? Tell him he did it wrong? “Here is the correct way to do it.” I know from experience that, as a non-push-over himself, my husband doesn’t appreciate being treated like a child. (Imagine that.)
Or worse, I could scold him. “I’ve told you a million times how to do this. You are doing it wrong just to spite me. I have to do everything around here.”
Or I could ignore it until he leaves the house and remake the bed to my satisfaction. Sometimes, this is what I do. I like seeing the bed a certain way. So, I do it my own way, for my own reasons.
When I take this path, I strive to do it without judgment of him. I try to put these thoughts in my mind: “He does a lot for us. He can handle effortlessly things I can’t do, and would not even know where to begin.” In other words, I try to praise him, even when he is not around.
I can also install in my mind some course corrections on the significance of the chore itself. “It is just the bed. It is not that important in the grand scheme of things.” Best of all, “Never mind. With any luck, we are just going to mess it up again soon,” with a grin in my heart.
I notice that I still have to shut down some of those Way of Equality scripts running in my head. I feel quite certain I am not the only woman who thinks this way. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t female readers tut-tutting me at this very moment. “He is a grown man: he should know how to make his bed by now.” “He is counting on you to keep his home nice.” And so on.
But those scripts are not the Way of Love. Love means being grateful to and for one another, in all our differences, with all our quirks and insecurities. There are lots of possible Ways of Love in every situation. In all cases, the Way of Love teaches us to see the person as more important than the chore. In fact, the person is more important than pretty much anything else.
The feminists with their Way of Equality, gave us an unlimited supply of justifications for nagging our husbands, for feeling superior to our husbands, and for being just plain selfish. Do you suppose this is relevant to the high rates of family breakdown in our culture? Dismissing this topic as unworthy of thoughtful political commentary underestimates the gravity of what the sexual revolutionaries have been doing to us all this time. They have been driving wedges between men and women, husbands and wives, and even between mothers and babies.
While our brothers in the conservative movement were holding conferences on the American Founding, and symposia on free market economics, the sexual revolutionaries moved into our homes. Sexual revolutionary rhetoric is speaking to us from across our kitchen tables, from the back seat of our mini-vans, and from the other side of our beds. The revolutionaries have entered the minds of our family members, our spouses, children, and grandchildren.
All the while, powerful people have accumulated even more power over our personal lives, which have indeed become extensions of our political lives. Big Government expands to fill the voids created by family breakdown. Big Business makes money selling us stuff we wouldn’t need if we were content with our family lives. Big Media makes money keeping us overstimulated, while we scarcely know how to have face-to-face conversations. Perhaps this explains why feminists who support the Sexual Revolution get far more legal, financial, and media support than any other group of women who try to wear the feminist label.
So here we are in 2017, with record numbers of young people afraid to get married and millions of children born without both parents living with them. We Christians have a humane alternative sitting right under our noses: The Way of Love. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Fully, freely, faithfully, fruitfully, love one another to the end.
I mentioned that my husband made the bed. Did I mention that he did it without my prompting, asking or nagging? When I see the half-made bed (or the bed I consider “half-made”), I can say, “Thank you, honey, for making the bed. I smile when I see it. I appreciate you so much.” Almighty God put this man in the center of my life. No matter what is going on, I know God wants me to love my husband.
That is St. Paul’s “More Excellent Way.” The sexual revolutionaries have nothing that can compete with it. Let us say so, and live so, without apology.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from “Master Bedroom” painted by Andrew Wyeth in 1965.
Posted on: Tuesday, January 17, 2017
by Ben Johnson
This article was first published August 3, 2016, at LifeSiteNews.
Think Millennials are the most sexually active generation in history? Think again, say the authors of a new study released on Monday.
The number of young adults born in the 1990s who report they are not having sex is more than twice as high as it was for the Baby Boomer generation, a sign they have learned from the fallout of the sexual revolution, experts tell LifeSiteNews.
The study found that 15 percent of Millenials aged 20-24 said they had not had sex since age 18, more than those born in the late 1960s (six percent), 1970s (11 percent) or 1980s (12 percent). That is lower than their fellow Millennials born in the previous decade.
The definition of “sex” is left up to the respondent to define. However, the number of women who were sexually abstinent as young adults tripled since the 1960s, while the number of men doubled, according to the study, which appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
"I think a lot of them are watching the adults around them and concluding that sex without limits is not making people happy," particularly "parents with multiple marriages and divorces,” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute told LifeSiteNews.
The study concludes that “the new sexual revolution has apparently left behind a larger segment of the generation than first thought.”
"The idea that these kids are 'left behind' by the sexual revolution is quite strange, as if they've somehow been sealed in a bomb shelter and never knew it happened,” Rebecca Oas, Ph.D., the associate director of research for the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), told LifeSiteNews. “More likely, they've seen that experiment running its course and decided they'd rather learn from someone else's mistakes instead of their own.”
The finding dovetails with CDC figures that show a majority of teenagers are choosing not to have sex. Only 41 percent of high school students reported sexual activity, a 13-point drop since 1991. Millennials also have a lower average number of sexual partners (eight) than either Baby Boomers (11) and Generation X (10).
Valerie Huber, the president of Ascend, told LifeSiteNews that her group – formerly the National Abstinence Education Association - “commissioned the Barna Group to survey 18 and 19 year olds and found similar results. The majority did not like the idea of ‘hooking up,’ and most of those who were not sexually experienced were waiting for a committed relationship."
Some do not know what to make of the results. The Washington Post wrote, "Delaying sex is not necessarily bad, experts say."
Numerous studies show having sex at a younger-than-average age leads to negative results, while delaying sexual activity and reducing the number of partners has positive outcomes.
Dana Haynie of Ohio State University found that early sexual activity increased delinquency by 20 percent. Experts have warned that earlier sexual activity can increase anxiety and negative psychological reactions, such as feeling used, especially for girls. A study in Pediatrics last year concluded that troubled children were more likely to begin having sex earlier in life, reinforcing the vicious circle.
Those who had sex later than average had higher incomes, educational achievement, and satisfaction in marriage, according to a 2012 report from Dr. Paige Harden of the University of Texas.
A 2014 report found that having multiple sexual partners and cohabitation before marriage decreased marital happiness after couples eventually tied the knot.
“We know that early sexual behavior tends to set a pattern for later behavior. The fact that more and more emerging adults are avoiding sex suggests they recognize that casual sex can compromise their life goals,” Huber told LifeSiteNews.
One young person told The Washington Post that, having seen so much sex depicted in pornography, "there really isn't anything magical about it” anymore.
Those who attend religious services are more likely to be abstinent, as well. "There was a significant increase in sexual inactivity among those who attend religious services once a week or more compared with those who do not,” Oas noted.
Huber said the most common reasons young people reported to Ascend for delaying sex were personal values and a focus on attaining their goals. She encouraged schools to teach Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) education - as opposed to Sexual Risk Reducation (SRR) or Comprehensive Sex Education, which present teen sexual activity as more normative.
The study notes, “abstinence-only sex education and virginity pledges became more popular (and federally funded) after the 1980s, especially between 1996 and 2009, when abstinence-only programs received large amounts of federal and state funding.” Studies have found that abstinence-based education reduces the overall teen sex rate.
“This new research suggests that our students have caught a positive and healthy vision for their futures,” she said. “It also means that we must, as a society, be more intentional on reinforcing this same healthy behavior for young, single adults."
Posted on: Saturday, October 01, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published at The Blaze on September 29, 2016.
I got into the conservative movement as a 19-year-old economics undergraduate at Ohio State University.
My OSU professors were all recent graduates of the University of Chicago and were true believers in the free market. The theory was elegant, simple and humane. I was instinctively suspicious of anyone to the left of Milton Friedman. But recent developments have persuaded me to reconsider at least part of that elegant equation. Never in my wildest dreams, did I expect to feel as much resentment toward the wealth of certain people as I do today. Let me explain.
As a young free marketeer, I developed a sensibility that I should not automatically be suspicious of wealthy people, (even though I didn’t actually know any.) An honest person could do well in an economy like ours. “Do well by doing good.” Serve large numbers of consumers. Give the consumers what they want, at the lowest possible cost.
I developed unbridled contempt for people who used the coercive power of the State to enrich themselves. Bilking the taxpayer, bullying competitors through regulations, generating artificial demand for your product by government fiat: this kind of thing made me angry. It still does.
I couldn’t care less how a person spends his or her own money. Ostentatious conspicuous consumption. Keeping up with the Jones’. Their shallowness was their problem, not mine. As long as they came by their wealth honestly, I hold them no ill will. The gap between their income and mine, the gap between their income and the person who cleans their house: that still doesn’t much bother me. The wealthier person provides employment for others, without harming their dignity.
But now, I have come to see that some rich people are doing something I really do resent. They are using their wealth to manipulate the political system. They are trying to change the rules for everyone to remake the world in their own image.
I first noticed it in my area of social conservatism. I saw people like Paul Singer passing out money to get “marriage equality” enacted in New York State. People like George Soros form organizations to manipulate public opinion and lobby the government. (See the Tax Form 990 for the Open Society Institute for 2014, Part XV, Line 3, here.) Rob Reiner and his Hollywood friends formed an organization to overturn Proposition 8, which had been duly elected by the largest grass roots campaign in history.
Warren Buffett has spent over a billion dollars promoting abortion, “comprehensive sexual education,” and “peer counseling,” (read: propaganda) for promoting the early sexualization of children. This same handful of rich people financed the research that overturned the Texas abortion clinic regulations, which were duly enacted by the duly elected representatives of the people.
This weekend I went with my husband to the Gun Rights Policy Conference, sponsored by the Second Amendment Foundation. Guess what I learned? They are dealing with the same problem. In their case, Michael Bloomberg is the Sugar Daddy of the campaign to disarm law-abiding citizens. I heard speaker after speaker describing “astro-turf” (that is, fake grass roots) organizations lobbying the legislature.
Different issue, same problem. Rich people figure they are entitled to throw their money around to enact the laws that will bring their fantasy ideology into being. They spend their money to promote massive publicity campaigns to manipulate public opinion, so people will go along with it, and maybe even come to believe it.
The fantasy ideology of gun control is: “If we only had enough new gun laws, criminals would all obey those laws and firearm violence would disappear.”
This fantasy requires a lot of propaganda. “If we never run a news story in which an armed and trained citizen interrupts a crime, no one will ever notice that a good guy with a gun actually can stop a bad guy with a gun. We will make a “documentary” that we edit to make supporters of citizen self-defense appear foolish. Those dopes in fly-over country will never notice.”
The fantasy ideology in my line of work is: “Kids don’t really need their own parents.” This fantasy also needs a lot of propaganda. “If we just “educate” everyone early enough and often enough, kids won’t miss their missing parents. We can change the story line slightly to accommodate the fact that some kids lost contact with their parents through divorce, single parenthood, or third party reproduction. But it is the same story: kids don’t really need their own parents. If we never mention in a news story the connection between fatherless boys and violence, or fatherless girls and early sexual activity, or mothers’ boyfriends and child abuse, maybe no one will ever notice.”
What does this have to do with the free market, and my personal regrets? When my friends and I were promoting the free market, we were thinking of small businesses, minding their own businesses. We were thinking of Dave Ramsey-style, living within your means, ordinary folk taking personal responsibility for themselves and those around them. We thought that by speaking out against crony capitalism, we had done our duty. We were not taking seriously the ways that highly concentrated wealth could be used to manipulate the whole political system.
Perhaps some of you agree with “marriage equality.” Maybe you agree with abortion on demand and sexually explicit sex education in the schools. Maybe you agree with highly regulated guns and highly unregulated abortion clinics. But do you really want to be manipulated by a handful of unelected, unaccountable wealthy people? I sure don’t.
I am now wondering whether some of the people I considered Leftist adopted those beliefs because they were worried about these very things. I still can’t’ imagine myself going full bore down the left-side of the spectrum. But still, maybe some of these people have more to say than I gave them credit for. If you are suspicious of the rich, or of the free market, for these reasons, allow me to apologize. I should have listened sooner. I still don’t know what to do about it.
But, maybe we should talk.
Posted on: Friday, August 05, 2016
by Ryan C. MacPherson, a Ruth Circle of Experts member
Book Review: On the Meaning of Sex, J. Budziszewski
ISI Books, 2011; 145 pages, $27.95
Reprinted with permission from the author from The Family in America.
Noah Webster was no intellectual slouch. Proficient in the languages of the ancient Near East as well as of modern Europe, he painstakingly compiled the etymology, orthography, and signification of 70,000 words for the great American Dictionary of the English Language published in 1828. A product of his times, but also a product of one of the best intellectual traditions humanity has mustered in all of time, Webster did not hesitate to follow the guidance of natural law when defining terms that refer to humanity in its personal, social, and political manifestations. Webster defined sex as “the distinction between male and female,” male as “pertaining to the sex that procreates young,” and female as “noting the sex which produces young.” And marriage? “The act of uniting a man and a woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and a woman for life . . . for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.”
Two centuries removed from Webster, many people now reject his definitions as being too morally restrictive, too narrowly traditional, too out of step with the hodgepodge of Facebook status updates, YouTube videos, and MP3 downloads that shape personal identities today. Indeed, for college students such as “Harris,” the question no longer is whether Webster got the definition of “sex” right, but whether “sex” has any meaning at all.
Harris is certain that sex is meaningless. And yet, Harris is just as certain that the factories for human reproduction depicted in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are appalling. In the opinion of Harris’s philosophy professor, J. Budziszewski, Harris must be confused. How can the student say that sex has no meaning and nevertheless find it appalling that procreation has been separated from sexual intimacy and performed by a factory in the absence of parents? With this puzzle Budziszewski begins a book of philosophical inquiry, entitled On the Meaning of Sex.
Although Budziszewski does not turn to Webster’s Dictionary (he does not even cite it once), the conclusions he draws align with such wisdom from the past. Making such conclusions palatable to a postmodern audience is, however, a formidable challenge. Professor Budziszewski might be one of the last people on earth crazy enough to attempt just that—and with a fair amount of success.
For starters, the account of Harris demonstrates that “sex means something to us even if we don’t admit to ourselves that it does.” From this modest foundation—to which even the Harrises of the world find themselves assenting, however reluctantly—the good professor proceeds to build a case for three other claims: meaning is not arbitrary, human nature is not an oppressive construct but the “deep structure of what we really are,” and “human will isn’t something separate from human nature.” The course is thereby charted to discover what human nature is, to discern how human nature relates to the meaning of sex, and to conclude how the human will ought rationally to approach the topic of sex.
Of course, an author must first ask whether anyone else cares—for whom would it be worth writing on such topics? Budziszweski has three audiences in mind. He writes first for his own generation, the sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s, with the hope that “perhaps we can do better with our children’s children than most of us did with our own.” He also writes for the current generation coming into power, which has begun to recognize, for example, that divorce and cohabitation put children at risk, whereas lifelong marital fidelity provides children with the best upbringing as gauged by a variety of statistical measures. Finally, Budziszewski hopes to alleviate the burdens that his own generation has placed upon today’s young people. His philosophical style, however, makes the book accessible especially to broadly read individuals who have a grasp of the liberal arts, sufficient at least to appreciate his allusions to Aristotle, Dante, and Freud. Readers who shy away from such erudition will at least appreciate some cameo appearances by Katharine Hepburn, Mother Teresa, and Naomi Wolf—a diverse crowd to be sure.
In two simple sentences, Budziszewski conveys his straightforward thesis: “we aren’t designed for hooking up. Our hearts and bodies are designed to work together.” Or, more positively stated: only in celibate singleness and faithful marriage do the heart and body truly maintain integrity. Budziszewski defends his appeal to the natural design of human sexuality with an analogy from medicine:
Consider the young glue-sniffer again. How should we advise him? Is the purpose of his lungs irrelevant? Should we say to him, “Sniff all you want, because an is does not imply an ought”? Of course not; we should advise him to kick the habit. We ought to respect the is of our design. Nothing in us should be put into action in a way that flouts its inbuilt meanings and purposes.
What, then, are the inbuilt meanings and purposes of sexual union? The Harrises of this world, once they come around to admitting that sex has meaning after all, generally settle upon pleasure. Budziszewski disagrees. “Sex is pleasurable,” he acknowledges, “but there is nothing distinctive about that.” What, then, distinguishes sexual intercourse from other pleasurable experiences? Objectively, sexual intercourse unites two persons as one and has the potential to generate a third person, their child. Therefore, the inbuilt meanings and purposes of sexual intercourse are unity and procreation. And if this is the case, then traditional sexual mores serve as rational, and preservative, commentaries on human nature: “Honor your parents. Care for your children. Save sex for marriage. Make marriage fruitful. Be faithful to your spouse.”
Budziszewski goes a step further. Not only does he find a rational basis for the traditional values of chastity and fidelity that maintain a tight connection between marriage, sex, and childbearing, but he also claims a natural rationality for the distinctions between men and women that were taken for granted in times past but now are everywhere denied. Summarizing physiological research conducted over the past few decades, he concludes that men and women differ in far more than just their genitals. “Our brains are even more different than the rest of our bodies,” accounting for cognitive and emotional distinctions that enable an individual man and an individual woman to form a complementary pair. As for the old nature-nurture debate, Budziszewski sides strongly with nature, while acknowledging that each culture adds nuances to how men and women live out their gender differences.
Regrettably, Budziszewski says next to nothing about homosexuality, potentially rendering his argument out-of-date amid the rapid accommodation to same-sex “marriage” that several state legislatures and public officials have made during the two years since On the Meaning of Sex was published. On the other hand, what the book does discuss has relevance to the controversy over the public status of same-sex relations. For example, a chapter on love articulates the connections among objective meaning, human nature, and human will rehearsed earlier by noting that “although we are more than bodies, we are never less than bodies [and] . . . the distinctive thing about sexual love is that it desires the joining of polar, corresponding bodies.” Only one man and one woman can truly unite as one flesh, and only such a union has the potential for procreation. The unitive and procreative dimensions of sexual love thus have a specifically heterosexual orientation.
Recognizing that love may (and often does) involve strong feelings, Budziszewski finds a particular exercise of the will even more intrinsic to love, namely, “Marriage rests on a . . . radical assumption: that promises can be kept.” Marital love is “a permanent commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” That commitment manifests itself in the bodily union of a man and woman as one flesh and in their mutual fidelity, which protects not only each other as spouses but also the children whom they thereby might conceive. Indeed, the commitments of individuals to remain celibate while single and of married couples to remain faithful to each other protect the entire society from a host of emotional and immunological traumas while also providing the best possible foundation for the maturation of children.
So far, Noah Webster would have agreed. Why, then, does Budziszewski seem to be among such a minority today? (By his own admission, he could lose his university job for teaching in the classroom what he has published in this book.) The final chapter suggests that as a culture becomes farther removed from Christian theology, it loses its understanding of human nature and the meaning of sex. “Human love,” concludes Budziszewski, “makes sense only in light of divine love.” The imperfections of human sexual love suggest a more perfect model toward which we fumbling mortals strive. More particularly, the existence of love itself testifies something of God’s nature: if God’s love is eternal, and love is relational among persons, then God must eternally exist as a plurality of Persons, namely, the Holy Trinity confessed by Christians.
Budziszewski’s final claim in favor of Trinitarian Christianity risks alienating other partners in the broad Judeo-Christian and natural law traditions. But self-alienation, argues Budziszewski, is precisely what the Harrises of this world already have, for they lack a genuine knowledge of their own nature as sexual beings. If the unitive and procreative nature of human sexuality points not only to marriage but also to God, then let it be so, says Professor Budziszewski.
Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D., is author of Rediscovering the American Republic (2 vols.) and Senior Editor of The Family in America. He serves as chair of the History Department at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. This article is republished with permission from The Family in America, the Journal of the Howard Centre for Family, Religion & Society.
Posted on: Wednesday, August 03, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first published July 23, 2016, at The Blaze.
Earlier this week, the Ruth Institute sent a letter of commendation and 24 white roses to Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Our letter thanked him for “his clear teaching on marriage, family and human sexuality in the Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”
With all the excitement of the political conventions, why would we spend our time sending flowers to an archbishop? We want to shine the spotlight on the positive things people are doing to build up society.
The archbishop’s guidelines restate the Ancient Teachings of Christianity regarding marriage, family and human sexuality. These teachings are obscured today. No less a theological heavy weight than the mayor of Philadelphia castigated the archbishop, saying the Guidelines were un-Christian!
To be fair to Mayor Jim Kenny, we have to admit that the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, has caused worldwide confusion over Catholic teaching on marriage. Yelling at the pope has become a new cottage industry among tradition-minded Catholic writers. Pulling his words into a sexually indulgent direction has become a cottage industry among progressives of all faiths. And trying to parse out what he really meant has been a full employment guarantee for everyone.
Rather than getting involved in all that, we want to call attention to people who are implementing the unbroken teaching of the Church in a vibrant manner. Focus on what we know to be true and good. Archbishop Chaput’s Guidelines provide a clear and practical statement of ancient Catholic teaching, in the spirit of genuine mercy, incorporating language from Amoris Laetitia.
I believe that these teachings are correct, good and humane. I founded the Ruth Institute for the purpose of promoting those teachings to the widest audience possible. I don’t believe these things because I am a Catholic. On the contrary. It is precisely because I came to believe in these teachings that I returned to the practice of the Catholic faith after a 12-year lapse.
Let me discuss just one issue that has caused a lot of hand-wringing in the past 2 years. Jesus told us very clearly that remarriage after divorce is not possible. If attempted, it amounts to adultery. Why? According to Jesus, Moses only permitted a man to issue a bill of divorce because of “the hardness of your hearts.” (This is the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, in case you were wondering.)
At that point, he could have said, “So, I’m going to eliminate this appalling male privilege and allow women to divorce their husbands, exactly like Moses allowed men to divorce their wives.” However, he did no such thing. He didn’t extend the male privilege. He eliminated it entirely. “From the beginning it was not so,” referring back to God’s original plan for creation. “I tell you, anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” One of the “hard sayings” of Jesus, no doubt. But pretty darn clear.
(And please: don’t trouble me with that so-called loophole, ok? The real innovation in modern no-fault divorce law is that it allows an adulterer to get a divorce against the wishes of the innocent party. No sane person can argue that Jesus provided that “loophole” to allow the guilty party to validly remarry.)
The Church teaches that civilly divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive communion because she is trying to implement this teaching of Jesus. A civilly divorced and remarried person is living with, and presumably having sex with someone, while still validly married to someone else. If the first marriage is still valid, the second attempted marriage is not valid, and is in fact, adulterous. What is so hard to understand about that?
You know who really understands this concept, who intuitively “gets it?” Children of divorce. Kids look into their parents’ bedroom and see someone who doesn’t belong there. “Who is this guy in bed with my mom: my dad is supposed to be there.” Or, “who is this woman in bed with my dad? My mom is supposed to be there.”
At the Ruth Institute, we know there are situations in which married couples must separate for the safety of the family. But we also know that those cases are by far not the majority of cases. No-fault divorce says a person can get divorced for any reason or no reason, and the government will take sides with the party who wants the marriage the least. The government will permit that person to remarry, against the wishes of their spouse and children.
This is an obvious injustice that no one in our society will talk about. The children of divorce are socially invisible. In fact, I bet some of them felt like crying when they read my paragraph above quoting with approval, what might have gone through their little minds. Many of them have never heard an adult affirm their feelings that something dreadfully wrong and unjust took place in their families.
Jesus knew. Jesus was trying to keep us from hurting ourselves and each other. And the Catholic Church has been trying to implement Jesus’ teaching. You may say the Church has been imperfect in her attempts and I won’t argue with you. But I will say that no one else is even seriously trying.
Political campaigns come and go. Political parties come and go. In fact, nations themselves come and go. But the teachings of Jesus are forever. What we do about marriage and children and love reveals what and whom we truly love.
That is why we congratulate Archbishop Charles Chaput for his guidelines. We wish the Archdiocese all the very best. Make Marriage Great Again.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 21, 2016
by Jennifer Roback Morse
This article was first posted at The Blaze on June 1, 2016.
The image from the Huffington Post staff meeting created an immediate backlash for editor Liz Heron’s rhetorical question: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?”
Unlike many of the internet commentators, I am not interested in the ethnic diversity or ideological hypocrisy of the Huffington Post. All these editors appear to be twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings at most, with the possible exception of Heron herself. To me, this photo illustrates the most poignant sociological fact of our time: Delayed child-bearing is the price of entry into the professional classes.
Look at these eager young faces. These young ladies have high hopes for their lives.
An editors’ meeting at Huffington Post. Editor Liz Heron tweeted: “Notice anything about this Huffington Post editors’ meeting?” (Twitter)
They believe that by landing this great job, they are set. Once they are established in their careers, then and only then, can they think seriously about marriage and motherhood. They do not realize that they are giving themselves over to careers during their peak fertility years, with the expectation that somehow, someday, they can “have it all.”
They are being sold a cynical lie.
Here is the bargain we professional women have been making: “We want to participate in higher education and the professions. As the price of doing so, we agree to chemically neuter ourselves during our peak child-bearing years with various types of birth control. Then, when we are finally financially and socially ready for motherhood, we agree to subject ourselves to invasive, degrading and possibly dangerous fertility treatments.”
I am no longer willing to accept this bargain. These arrangements are not pro-woman. They are simply anti-fertility. Any woman who wants to be a mother, including giving birth to her own children, taking care of her own children, and loving their father, needs a better way. Until now, we have been adapting our bodies to the university and the market. I say, we should respect our bodies enough to demand that the university and the market adapt to us and our bodies.
We cannot expect much help from establishment publications like Huff Po, establishment institutions like the Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools, and certainly not from the government.
Huffington Post is a consistent cheerleader for the sexual revolution. They have a whole page devoted to divorce. They have a regular Friday feature called “Blended Family Friday,” in which “we spotlight a stepfamily to learn how they’ve worked to bring their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life!” And they are enlisting twenty-somethings to sell their propaganda.
I wonder how many of the young ladies seated at that Huff Po editors meeting have ever heard of abortion regret or considered the topic worthy of their attention? I wonder how many of them believe that hooking up is harmless, as long as you use a condom. I wonder how many of them have ever heard that hormonal contraception – especially implants and vaginal rings – increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
I wonder if any of them wish for a guy who would dote on them, and act like he really truly cares. I wonder if they have ever chided themselves for being too clingy when a relationship ended, without realizing that bonding to your sex partner is perfectly normal.
I wonder how many of them realize how unlikely childbirth after 40 really is? A recent study of IVF in Australia looked at the chance of a live birth for initiated cycles. Don’t look at the bogus “pregnancy rate:” IVF pregnancies are 4-5 times more likely to end in stillbirth. And don’t be taken in by the “pregnancy per embryo transfer.” Plenty of women initiate cycles but do not successfully make it to the embryo transfer stage.
The average Australian woman aged 41-42 years old had a 5.8 percent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle. And women over 45 have a 1.1 per cent chance of having a live birth per initiated cycle — which is almost a 99 percent chance of failure every time.
Yes, Huffington Post is an opinion-making and opinion-leading organization. And yes, it is not right for a bunch of white, privileged childless
twenty-something women to be having such an outsized influence on public opinion. But for now, let’s give a thought to these young ladies themselves.
They are being sold a bill of goods. It is up to us, as adults, to warn them.
Posted on: Monday, June 20, 2016
For those who may not remember, Gomer Pyle, USMC was a sitcom featuring Jim Nabors as a dumb but loveable Marine private. One of his most famous lines was "Suuprize, Suuprize, Suuprize." He would utter these words when he was about to do something to irritate the Sargent or say something obvious.
I've decided to use this phrase when I encounter a study that tells us something obvious that we should have known all along.
Today's edition comes from my friend Valerie Huber of the Ascend organization, which among other things, "represents and equips the Sexual Risk Avoidance field."
She put together a press release showing that the Obama Administration's favorite Sex Ed program is not working:
No Suuprizes here!
Sex ed is government-funded propaganda for the Sexual Revolution. Get the kids hooked on sex before they are old enough to have mature judgment. Convince them that self-command is impossible, and possibly unhealthy. The kids become participants in and supporters of the Sexual Revolution.
Parents of school-aged kids: get them out of sex-ed programs. Grandparents, get yourselves organized to get these programs out of the schools in your community.