Christians Are Still Having Sex
Published on: December 11, 2011
show comments
  • rkka

    As income has concentrated with the top 0.1% since the 1970s, the Working Class was economically undermined, followed by the Middle Class in the late 2000s up to now. Their families are collapsing too. Fixing families will require bailing out families, not just banksters.

  • Anthony

    Excellent essay during Advent (expectant waiting and preparation) and gets to core of revitalization – yes, WRM “There is a lot of work to be done.”

  • WR

    “[B]ut neither do we endorse the position St. Paul raises rhetorically in Romans: since human sin brings forth new grace and forgiveness from God, let us sin all the more that grace may abound.”
    – That is not Paul’s position. Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)

    “But premarital sex is less of a sin against other people than it used to be.”
    – If something is a sin, it’s a sin. Consequences may change, the question of sin does not.

  • Chase Crucil

    An excellent and thought provoking essay Professor. Conservative Christians – and other strict adherents to other religions too – have a lot of valid criticisms of modern culture, and you have articulated many of them in this post. The problem is that whenever they want to talk about the family, the discussion shifts to what I regard as wacko rants against gays. Most people in my generation – born in the early 80s – accept gay people and do not regard gay marriage as threatening; this is true even of Republicans. If religious conservatives were to drop their fanatical obsession with gays – some of whom would actually love to raise in child – more people would be open to what they have to say.

  • “Islam, I note, at least demands that plural wives be treated equally. Is serial monogamy involving casting off the old wife like a dirty pair of socks really morally superior to egalitarian polygamy?”

    Are you really wanting a response? I’ll give you more than one, to stay in the spirit of the thing.

    On which planet, precisely, do “they” call casting off old wives “like a dirty pair of socks” into penury morally superior to anything?

    Does anyone really believe that societies that practice polygamy actually apply much energy to responding to claims that men are not distributing each woman’s allotment of her partial rights equally? That’s at least mathematically dubious.

    Contrast the cheering of racial equality throughout with this one-off minimizing the casting-off of women’s equal rights, complete with its own euphemism, “egalitarian polygamy.” That rolls off the tongue, but it’s still creepy.

    Are we positing an otherwise completely gender-egalitarian polygamous Islamic culture to answer the teaser? If so, why?

    And, how does the following statement square with the condemnation of others’ “moral panic”: “any separation of sexual conduct from marriage inevitably weakens the family.” Isn’t that precisely what the scare-quote evangelicals are arguing?

    Furthermore, if the subject ought to be “the ways our current social and economic order weakens and impoverishes family life,” then why all this dancing around with references to polygamy and comments about the middle-aged married woman abandoned, as if the world, and not just certain zip codes along the Connecticut coast, looks like Updike’s Couples? You’re avoiding the largest contributor to the decline of two-parent families, non-marriage parenting through reliance on the welfare state, and you’re also ignoring the research that shows that college-educated, professional couples who meet all the problematics posed here are actually least likely to divorce. The straw man has no clothes, having cast off even his dirty socks.

  • Splashman

    Mr. Mead, thank you! You raised a number of excellent points which I hadn’t previously considered.

  • InterestedReaderExceptOfReligiousEntries

    Religion poisons…everyone, or at least everyone’s reasoning concerning non-moral matters, but which some old book says is of the utmost moral importance.

    I am sorry, I don’t want to be rude, I follow your posts daily, and can learn so much everyday and improve my assessment of important societal, economical, historical matters, but it hurts to hear phrases like “God’s law” and every reasoning coming from it.
    Apart from some of the negative effects of extramarital sex “in the old days”, the atmosphere of coercion and thought control in these societies then (and today in Iran, Saudi Arabia…) made and is making more people suffer more severely than the effects of any unresponsible sexual behaviour in or outside marriage.

    “worrying about extramarital sex or, for that matter, gay marriage” – I hope it isn’t meant as it appears here? Does everything said about the sinfulness of extramarital sex apply to gay marriage as well, like undermining the family, or in the old days, causing harm to individuals and society? It’s just people living the way they want, with or without a family, or undermining one group’s view of it.

    Awaiting your next analysis using the laws of the Gods of Reason and Enlightenment, solely. Yours sincerely,

  • Kelly

    Unfortunate that in a thoughtful and important piece you regurgitate the feminist canard of replacement-wife divorces. It happens, but since women initiate 70% of divorces these are at most 15% of cases – and probably much fewer.
    Which is the greater threat to marriage and the more unspeakable moral evil: the newer-model wife, or unilaterally throwing a father out of his home and out of his family while keeping a firm grasp on his wallet through court-mandated child support payments (visitation always a separate issue)? I know which happens far more often.
    (Hope I don’t sound like as much of a monomaniacal crank as rkka, but this really isn’t tangential.)

  • John Burke

    The contrast to a farm-based society of 1885 isn’t as helpful as it might seem. Compare today’s American society to that of 1950 when the nation had become thoroughly industrialized and urbanized. Then, most young people had little chance for sex prior to marriage; divorce was still rare; out-of-wedlock births were far less common; and abortion was infrequent. Moral standards were by and large not much different from those of a century earlier.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @John Burke: but the process of decay was already under way.

  • John

    As an MD I can tell you that Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are not benign. Many, even if treated, leave behind serious complications. The viral STIs are not even able to be “cured” by current medical treatment. HPV can cause cervical cancer (in fact it is almost the exclusive cause of this disease). Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can frequently lead to infertility due to scarring of the fallopian tubes. These are just a few examples. Condoms and antibiotics have lead to a culture that believes all problems are solved by “science.” This problem will have to be solved by moral improvement.

  • Jim.


    That trend is based entirely in the globalization of the labor force, not on anything “the rich” are doing. As the standard of living of workers in the rest of the world rises towards the American standard, you’ll see the American slow, and then probably reverse. How low we get is probably based on how badly we screw up our economic system in the meantime, in an attempt to apply palliatives to symptoms that are either useless, or make the underlying problem worse.


    Hookup culture happened because the Baby Boomers decided to abdicate all their responsibilities to (and now, as) authority figures… yet another reason that generation will go down in history as a disaster.

    The Pill is not a solution. (Primarily, it encourages disease-spreading promiscuity.) The condom is not a solution. (If you’re thinking straight enough to remember a condom every time, frankly, you’re doin’ it wrong.)

    America would be greatly improved by re-introducing something like the Hayes Commission, colleges providing gender separation by dorm or even by campus (quality of education would probably increase, too, with students concentrating more on academics), if you have to have sex education you should include the element of judgement in it, and generally cleaning up the smut in our culture.

    Basically, we need to rearrange our laws so that if parents are trying to raise their children to be decent, our culture is not *fighting us every step of the way.* (By the way, if it’s a priority with people to burnish America’s standing in the rest of the world, it would be hard to imagine a more effective way of doing so than cleaning the smut out of the culture we’re imposing on the rest of the world.)

    This is not a “freedom” issue. Freedom is grand and noble; there is nothing grand an noble about smut. Smut does not exist because it is a bastion of freedom; it exists because, in the immortal words of Tom Lehrer, “Smut is *fun*”.

    Any generation that can look at the collapse of the family, the shattering of homes across America, and the European-style collapse of reproductive rates among certain demographics, and say “but *fun* is more important!” is a generation that has failed dismally. That sort of person frankly can’t be trusted with any kind of leadership, particularly in the dangerous and interesting times we’re heading for.

    As far as your thesis about “we concentrate on what’s most dangerous”, you poke a big gaping hole in it by admitting that we’re more permissive about far more dangerous drugs these days. How does that fit in with the “we’re picking our battles” conclusion?


    an interesting article to be sure.

    One point I would like to see explored a little further is the link between teen suicide and sex.

  • During the 1970s and 1980s, I grew up in a very conservative and CRC-dominated community. Behind this veneer of Christian morality was drinking, partying, and yes, sex. The number of teenage pregnancies was fairly large, though often hidden by shamed parents. But back then, it was expected for the male to ‘man up’ and actually marry the woman if she got pregnant.

    I’m sure that idea still persists to a certain degree, but I personally know many single-mothers who have live-in boyfriends, or even offspring across multiple mates. What this long-term impact will mean on the standard nuclear family, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

    It’s no so much a ‘hook-up’ culture that we are seeing, but an idea that long-term relationships are tenuous at best, so why commit?

  • KLH

    We’re Christians.
    We’re not dead.

  • Punditarian

    “Abercrombie & Fitch” is not a “formerly ethical company.” It’s an entirely different company altogether. The old, sportsman’s A&F went bust, and a new company bought the name. It’s a new company altogether doing business under the old name.

    But your point is well taken. We’ve gone from Duke Ellington to Fi’ty Cent, from Clark Gable to Charlie Sheen, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama . . .

  • dennymack

    It would be hard to sell a single sex college these days. Since sexual harassment has been redefined to include, well, anything, the workplace is no longer a place to meet mates. Who would give up the chance to meet a future Mr. or Mrs. of similar educational level? Knowing how much time our best and brightest spend at work, we might accidentally end the family lines of engineers and scientists.

    As for the drugs, I don’t think there really is much tolerance for coke, meth or heroin outside of showbiz. WRM just wrote that we “take more dangerous drugs” not that we condone them. And our anti-excess attitude towards alcohol, weak as it is, is of far greater impact.

  • Greg

    “But premarital sex is less of a sin against other people than it used to be.”

    Less of a sin? Hardly, for what is sin? By one famous construct, sin is the use of that which should be loved, and the love of that which should be used. So the sin of sex outside marriage is unaltered. However, the consequences, which is what the author then discusses, are changed.

  • Charming Billy


    “Evangelicals and other Christians who want to play a role in the revitalization and protection of the family need to get away from a “moral panic” agenda and begin to analyze the ways our current social and economic order weakens and impoverishes family life. Then comes the hard work of figuring out how to fix what has gone wrong. There is a lot of work to be done.”

    Sounds good, but the “New Economy” as the moral equivalent of the family farm runs into the old problem of how are you going to keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Paree. “A place where people spend money and enjoy leisure time” will always win out over a place to work your fingers to the bone if the choice between the two is voluntary. (I know. My father’s efforts to make us useful around the family farm he tried to keep going always ended unsatisfactorily. We prefered to get wage paying jobs washing dishes.)


    I think the question is about which divorces are worse for the whole family: Those initiated by the wife or those by the father. I suspect that the latter result in more disruption in the childrens’ lives. If this is the case, then we should regret that “cad” is no longer the shameful epithet it once was. It certainly continues to remain widely applicable.

    “America would be greatly improved by re-introducing something like the Hayes Commission, colleges providing gender separation by dorm or even by campus (quality of education would probably increase, too, with students concentrating more on academics)”

    This would also greatly improve the quality of sex on campus, which like dormitory cafeteria food is plentiful, but lacks the seasoning of danger and subterfuge.

    Stolen sweets are always sweeter,
    Stolen kisses much completer,
    Stolen looks are nice in chapels, etc.


    Why are the socks always the last to go?


    “Awaiting your next analysis using the laws of the Gods of Reason and Enlightenment, solely.”

    You might have to wait a long time. Our host obstinately, and correctly, refuses to analyze historical and social facts without reference to values. But values aren’t derived from “reason and enlightenment”, solely, or even mostly.

    You are just as guilty of seeing facts in light of your own values. For instance,

    “Apart from some of the negative effects of extramarital sex “in the old days”, the atmosphere of coercion and thought control in these societies then (and today in Iran, Saudi Arabia…) made and is making more people suffer more severely than the effects of any unresponsible sexual behaviour in or outside marriage.”

    This purely speculative. Since these societies admittedly did and do not exihibit irresponsible sexual behavior, you have no way of knowing what, or how severe, the consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior in these societies might be. For all you know, they might be much more harmful than the social coersion that keeps sexual behavior responsible. The argument that coersion, per se, is worse than irresponsiblity convinces you because of the values which you bring to the analysis, not because you have empirical grounding for your belief. Futhermore, as WRM points out, the empirical evidence points to the conclusion that the effects of irresponsible sexual behavior are on balance negative in the societies under discussion. The point is, there was almost nothing “”Apart from some of the negative effects of extramarital sex ‘in the old days'”.

  • Fred

    _Religion poisons…everyone, or at least everyone’s reasoning concerning non-moral matters, but which some old book says is of the utmost moral importance._

    Riiight. Tell that to Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, Newton, Coleridge, TS Eliot, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, John Polkinghorne, and Francis Collins just to name a few. People might take you a bit more seriously if you didn’t think in shallow cliches cribbed from Dawkins and Hitchens.

  • Charming Billy

    PS Kelly,

    When I was 8 my father left my mother and my 3 siblings for another and, surprise surprise, younger woman. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for him, my mother’s lawyer was Sarah Weddington, of Roe v. Wade fame. Still, it was very hard for a while. My mother had no degree and no job when my father left. 40 years later we still deal with the problems of being from a broken home. And to think he was on the vestry of the Episcopal Church .. natch.

  • Tex Taylor

    It isn’t a matter of questioning have we morally progressed as a people. I say with a great deal of certainty, we’ve done just the opposite, as we regress back to a more primitive tribal state while we pat ourselves on the back for new found tolerance.

    Want proof? How about our public schools? Or the black family? What’s the rate of children without resident father? Three out of four? One out of six now on food stamps? A debt we can’t pay? And to be fair and not just make example of one race – all are following suit of deviancy dumbed downward.

    Are we really less racist? If you’re white or Asian, walk through the streets of a ghetto or attend a large gathering of blacks in a park setting during a holiday, and come back tell me how welcome you felt – if you’re physically capable. Racism has just shifted from the right foot to the left. Hyphenated Americans, multiculturalism, banners of “diversity”, egregious charges by President’s pastors conducting black liberal theology of ‘God Damn America’ replete of charges of the white devils instilling disease in the ‘hood. Less racism? Maybe it is just masked under title of Affirmative Action? No, not less racism. Just more tacit or politically acceptable if you happen to be a member of the right tribe.

    Like John the MD above, when one in two adults will have contracted some form of sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25, some curable and some not, then our sexual awakening is not trivial but a pandemic tragedy.

    Perhaps one day we find these upticks in child autism and asthma are not do due to better diagnosis, vaccination overload, low birth weight and poor nutrition, etc… but something more insidious? Like mother carrying an unknown STD during pregnancy?

    The consequences of the sin have not changed. They have become more palatable under the guise of tolerance. And we will rue the day that we were so tolerant. The results are already in – just the admission awaits.

  • ” in my youth divorced people could not remarry in an Episcopal church. It is hard to think of anything you can’t do in an Episcopal church these days”

    There is one thing you can’t do there: preach what Romans 1 says about sexual immorality.

  • Edj

    I think you’re right that the TV has weakened the family, but the dispersive effect of personal computers, smart phones, and iPads may turn out to be even more harmful.

    But we can’t be content to blame forces outside of ourselves. We parents have to look to our own distractions and our own sins first–our unwillingness to engage with God and with our families in ways that make us uncomfortable or that take away from our own selfish use of our time.

    God forgive us and God help us.

  • myth buster

    @Kelly: They are equally heinous, and Jesus unquestionably condemned the act of divorcing your legitimate spouse and marrying another as adultery.

  • David Davenport

    The vice of smoking was once tolerated; among adults there is much less toleration for drunkenness (especially in business and professional settings) than there used to be.

    Dr. Mead agrees that smoking marijuana is also an intolerable vice?

  • Deoxy

    Any generation that can look at the collapse of the family, the shattering of homes across America, and the European-style collapse of reproductive rates among certain demographics, and say “but *fun* is more important!” is a generation that has failed dismally.

    Don’t worry – such failure is taken care of by itself, in time (note particularly “collapse of reproductive rates” above).

    I have to say that Kelly makes a great point, and one that you don’t even vaguely touch on this this otherwise fairly good post.

  • Eddie Kovacs

    In many ways, as I see it, Christianity is a victim of its own success, or at least of its economics’ success. America prospered from the Puritan work ethic, invented great new labor-saving devices, and then began to sink into corruption as idle hands found employment in Satan’s workshop. Sexuality and economics work together a lot more than people realize, and the current state of our nation reflects this.

    In many ways, marriage’s delay, the isolation of the workplace from the home, and the reorientation of the home toward leisure instead of labor all correlate with very good things: increased prosperity, freedom from hunger and poverty, and higher living standards for all. Correlation, however, is not causation. Delay in marriage and the separation of work from the home are not the cause of our civilization’s gains, but rather the result.

    In fact, these results may now be chipping away at our prosperity and living standards, as well as the ethics that made them all possible in the first place. Delay of marriage has put our adolescents in the awful position of having to restrain themselves most at a time when their natural mating instincts are at their height. Combined with the evils of public schools (the anti-Christians’ taxpayer-funded brainwashing centers) and advertising and entertainment awash in all manner of sexuality, this natural instinct cries out for release while leaving them no ethical channel for it.

    As little as half a century ago, people could and did get married in their teens without raising any eyebrows. While marriage at 15 would only have been considered acceptable in certain American backwaters that most of the rest of the country thought of as less civilized, the urban and suburban teens weren’t called upon to wait much longer. Marriage at 18 might inspire a few wisecracks from the wagging tongues of friends and associates wondering when the baby was due, but if there was no noticeable swelling in the bride’s midsection for a few months, they’d shut up soon enough. (That’s what happened with my parents, by the way, who got married in college when they were 20 and 21.)

    In some ways, as I say, the delay in marriage represents progress. In places where there is no such delay and people are still getting married around 15 or earlier, there are often no words in the local language for “Grandma” and “Grandpa” because nobody’s living very long. Though these tribal teenagers still have the same natural urges as their more civilized counterparts, their youthful marriages are as much a matter of practicality as desire; by the time these youngsters turn 20, Mommy and Daddy probably aren’t going to be there for them anymore.

    However, we should not copy our culture’s mistake of confusing a sign of progress a cause of it. Our ever-increasing delay of marriage is killing our culture, not advancing it. As with Sodom and Gomorrah, the sexual perversions of our citizens, terrible as they are to behold, are mere symptoms of a much deeper problem.

    The delay in marriage is rooted in our economic as well as sexual profligacy. Though the connection between money and marriage seems to get very little notice nowadays, marriage still remains a rational as well as emotional partnership; the bills still have to be paid. However, the same cabal of corruption that tells our children they don’t need to wait until marriage to have sex is telling them they don’t need to wait until they have money to start spending it.

    “Picking our battles” and pretending something is “less evil” due to the seemingly lessened consequences of it will not solve our problem. What we need is a two-pronged solution: teach our children to delay gratification, but also cut the amount of time they need to delay. Teenagers need to have careers lined up for them soon after they graduate high school if not sooner, and the higher education bubble needs to be burst; colleges that allow people to delay getting a life for many more years while filling their heads with lust and envy and sloth through perversion and grievance studies need to be de-funded and destroyed. Meanwhile, we should be encouraging teens to get married soon after they get productive to be reproductive as well, so to speak. Financial and sexual responsibility are inseparable and as such ought not to be taught separately either.

    God is not mocked: if we don’t take the initiative to shut down our heathen government’s brainwashing centers disguised as educational institutions, the rotten economy we’ve received as wages for our profligacy shall ultimately force our hands and they’ll be destroyed anyway–along with our culture and its prosperity and leisure. Then, like those tribal teens, the survivors of our collapse will be back to getting married very young (mostly common-law married) while scraping for a living as our standard of living and life expectancy plummets.

  • @ Charming Billy: I don’t know. It can’t be cold feet.

    I don’t mean to protest too much here. I found much thoughtful, as I always do.

  • kent schmidt

    Regarding Gay marriage there are several questions asked, but never answered. If the state has an interest in marriage what is it if not procreation and the raising of children. Since like sexual partners cannot procreate they “rent” a womb or surrogate father via a sperm bank thus isn’t the logical conclusion, in one case or the other, that mothers or fathers aren’t necessary? What history do we have to dispute that the two parent traditional family isn’t the ideal? Shouldn’t an out of wedlock birthrate exceeding 75% and one third of males involved in the criminal justice system for African Americans give pause to the notion that fathers aren’t important? And, finally, if same sex marriage is accepted what union isn’t and by what logic?

  • “The core truth is that premarital sex is less evil today than it used to be.”

    No is is still just a evil. People have become more willing to except what is evil as good and good as evil. Exactly what was foretold about the last days.

    Many will consider that religious zealotry, but the truth is the truth.

  • Randy

    A few millenia ago, someone noted the correlation between multiple sex partners and STD’s. The causation of the STD’s was said to be God’s punishment, as things like germs, bacteria and viruses were unknown at the time. Thus virginity became prized as holy and clean and marriage and fidelity were prized as God seemed to favor (no STD’s incurred) this arrangement. And since anything that could harm you was considered evil back in those days, the faithful began preaching against lust, fornication, prostitution etc. because acting on those led to more sex which led to a greater chance of catching an STD.

    IOW, it was fear of disease that drove the morality of the ancient Hebrews and others. If STD’s had never existed, it seems likely the Hebrew’s would have never developed the mores they practiced and would have been fine with sexual mores that were more indiscriminate. Those ancient mores developed all those centuries ago are still reflected in the mores of the modern Christian, among others.

    The Bible says something about seeking the truth and it will set you free. The truth is that ancient man’s justified fears of indiscriminate sex was based on his fears of disease, which he attributed to heavenly action. As it turns out, it wasn’t God’s judgement that caused STD’s, but rather STD’s are actually caused by germs, bacteria and viruses; things that have plagued humans forever.

    We now know the truth. Because we know the truth, we should re-evaluate any moral proclamations made about a behavior when we were ignorant of the true causes. So those things that were deemed evil in order to save people from catching a disease need to be reassessed. Promiscuity, prostitution, porn, etc. can’t be deemed at as evil anymore, as they were only deemed evil because ancients thought “social” diseases were direct acts of God. They were wrong, so the moral approbation directed towards those things are wrong.

    Ask yourself this question: What would our mores be if STD’s never existed? Church would look a lot different today, I’d wager. Perhaps modern believers are starting to figure this out.


  • Randy

    By creating a culture were people aren’t marrying until their twentys, we’ve set up a situation where pre-marital sexual activity is inevitable. Hormones are hard to deny.

    The ancient Hebrews took care of this by marrying their children young. Abraham and Sarah are prime examples of this. No, they weren’t both over 100 years old when Isaac was conceived. More likely they were both around 10-11 years old. Scholars are fairly certain that the ancient Hebrews used a lunar calendar and not good old Sol. If that is the case, then Abraham and Sarah were 10-11 years old when Isaac was born, and Methuselah lived to be about 75, both using a solar calendar.

  • RedWell

    1) I’d be curious to see if young believers get married in relatively higher numbers and at younger ages. My anecdotal experiences suggests this is the case.

    2) While casual promiscuity may be eroding certain pillars of western society, I’d wager that we still have a (silent) core of stable households raising functional children who, as stabilizers have ever done, will go on to serve society in various capacities. These people do and will help mitigate some of the self-destructive behavior of the foolish and self-serving.

  • Jeff W.

    WRM: “The fewer moral demands a church places on its members, the fewer people bother to come.”

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

    It is by battling sin and repeatedly losing, not by surrendering to sin, that Christians become humble. That opens the way to the Kingdom of God.

    When churches give up the battle against sin, people become self-satisfied and complacent, like those referred to in Matt. 13:15: “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.”

  • craig

    Randy says:
    “Promiscuity, prostitution, porn, etc. can’t be deemed at as evil anymore, as they were only deemed evil because ancients thought “social” diseases were direct acts of God.”

    Divine law and natural law, even though they overlap, are two different things. Your belief that the ancients had to imagine a Divine sanction for sexual morality, instead of figuring out the natural law on their own, is itself an imagined belief. Ancient man was not any more idiotic than contemporary man.

    Natural law has a way of reasserting itself in the face of human attempts to rationalize it away — The Gods of the Copybook Headings, and all that. The culture of Western elitist modernism is busy committing suicide, to be replaced by more vigorous non-PC and/or non-Western cultures.

    “The ancient Hebrews took care of this by marrying their children young. Abraham and Sarah are prime examples of this. No, they weren’t both over 100 years old when Isaac was conceived. More likely they were both around 10-11 years old.”

    The story specifically describes Sarah’s incredulity at her being able to conceive due to her being old.

  • It’s not just that technology and abortion make premarital sex less risky.

    There are actual laws that forbid businesses and neighborhoods from following morally conservative customs. An unmarried high school teacher cannot be fired if she becomes pregnant out of wedlock, for instance.

    A hotelier or landlord might be sued in many states for marital status discrimination if he refuses to rent a room to an unmarried couple.

    Like racial segregation, there’s no official legal structure to create moral segregation between disreputable and respectable parts of town.

    Modern First Amendment jurisprudence also tends to prevent communities from outlawing lewd businesses or regulating entertainments based on obscenity.

    Our morals are still very strict, but the objects of opprobrium have changed.

    Class segregation and social atomism might also be a cause for our laxity. There’s a much weaker sense among the well-off that they must set an example of chastity and self-control for people from disadvantaged backgrounds or who are tempted to sins of the flesh.

    There is a certain type of man who complains loudly about the poor fate of children born out of wedlock, but then turns around and lectures people on the need to avoid sexual repression.

  • Bruce

    Excellent article, but two small things.
    I haven’t noticed it being easy for a guy to leave his wife/girlfriend with children and impoverished. Just the opposite, a girlfriend is accused of deliberately impregnating herself on what was left in a condom and will be suing for child support, and will probably win…
    Also, in accordance with your theme, while smoking cigarettes is seen as incredibly harmful, the big push is on for pot legalization. Possibly by the exact same parents…

  • chemman

    “Randy says:
    December 12, 2011 at 2:51 pm”

    Interesting rationalization but it is an epic fail. There is plenty in the Old Testament to indicate the Hebrews understood contagious diseases even though they couldn’t identify them as Protists, Fungi, Bacteria or Viruses.

  • Fred

    These single ‘Christians’ that are having premarital sex, aren’t Christians. They are in fact breaking the 7th commandment, in doing so willfully, against Christs direct teachings.

    Please don’t classify actions of single ‘Christians’ with unbelieving single Pagans when in fact these ‘Christians’ hearts have no desire to please God, and they please only themselves, and in so doing, are storing up for themselves, the wrath of God, in the day of wrath, just as the unbelievers do.

    God is not mocked.

  • Fred

    Interesting perspective on history and theology you have there Randy. Did you make all that bilge up yourself or did you get it from some Dennet fan club website?

  • ZZMike

    We tried the other approach, but as a result there are no more Essenes left.

  • Toni

    rkka: Before globalization, the working and middle classes were affected by the (very welcome) fall of barriers in the workplace. Millions of women and minorities competing for higher-paying jobs diluted overall incomes.

  • They feel that premarital sex is wrong, but somehow there they are at the hook up bar, or in the dorm room of a friend, staying over with their date — or just trolling the web for porn.

    This comes almost immediately after an acknowledgement that “sexually active” covers a lot a ground and may mean different things in context? Historically, in pilgrim days there was more pre-marital sex than one might think, but there were also a lot of marriages driven by circumstance as well. I have no doubt many Christian youths are doing the deed, but I also suspect a greater percentage of them are doing so in a traditional committed relationship than their secular peers and are far more ready to accept responsibility and enter into marriage should their “fun” attain a more permanent presence.

  • There is no such thing as gay “marriage,” and it has nothing to do with morality. The reason this is important is that the re-define marriage movement seeks to do that by demonizing those who hold traditional, especially Christian, views of sexual morality. That’s why they throw around the words bigot and hate so freely, or the term “marriage equality.” See, you want to make us unequal you bigots!

    There is no neutrality with regard to re-defining marriage, because it cannot be re-defined without causing one view of sexual morality to be defined deviant and off limits.

    Most Christians could care less what consenting adults do in private. And most Christians have no interest in demonizing homosexuals or treating them with any less dignity than they would treat other people made in God’s image. But saying that re-defining marriage isn’t important completely misses the forest for the trees, whatever its effects on the family.

  • Dick Pickett

    “Professor Pakaluk builds on theme of societal interest in the moral framework of the family structure and why it matters to a healthy society. He gives three areas of concern that said healthy society should be involved:
    1.the state has an interest in promoting the family because the family is the only reliable source of good citizens—of men and women with civic virtues, goodwill towards others, peaceable habits of association, and virtues of thrift and hard work. It therefore has an interest in discouraging sexual activity that is harmful to family life.2.the state needs to insure that the rights of all of its citizens are protected,especially those of children, but children have a right to be raised within an intact family(or, strictly speaking, being deprived of an intact family without grave reason). It follows that the state has an interest in regulating sexual activity so that children are conceived and raised within stable families.
    the state has an interest in encouraging its citizens to master their sexual desires. This is an obvious and important point, but strangely it is frequently overlooked today.Inordinate sexual desire is clearly as capable of dominating and enslaving people as are greed, power, alcohol, and drugs. Desire not infrequently drives people to neglect their responsibilities, to use power illicitly, to abuse the rights of others, to betray others, to lie, even to commit murder. Disordered sexual desire is often directly linked to depression, listlessness, and rage. Clearly, a tranquil civic order can be established only among citizens who have achieved a good degree of sexual self-control, and the state clearly has an interest in promoting this.

    This interest for a healthy society was born out of how pagan societies
    crumbled under the weight of licentiousness and the view of women as second-class citizen’s.Harold Berman makes this point when he writes that,
    In pagan cultures in which polygamy, arranged marriages, and oppression of women predominated, the church promoted the idea of
    monogamous marriage by free consent of both spouses. In the West this idea had to do battle with deeply rooted tribal, village, and feudal customs. By the tenth century ecclesiastical synods were promulgating
    decrees concerning the matrimonial bond, adultery, legitimacy of children, and related matters; nevertheless, children continued to be married in the cradle and family relations continued to be dominated by
    the traditional folkways and mores of the Germanic, Celtic, and other peoples of western Europe. In the folk law of the European peoples, as in the classical Roman law, marriage between persons of different classes (for example, free and slave, citizens and foreigners) was prohibited.Also divorce was at the will of either spouse—which usually meant, in practice, at the will of the husband. There were not even any
    formal requirements for divorce.Paternal consent was required for a marriage to be valid. Few obligations between the spouses were conceived in legal terms.”

  • To Understand Liberal Issues Like Gay Marriage Correctly,
    It is Vital to Get the Basic Premises Right

    It is also necessary to read Stephen Baskerville’s
    “Taken Into Custody” (The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family)”

    But back to my post about gay marriage:
    Is there

    … a good reason to prevent gays from marrying? Well, the problem is — and I think that, upon thought, many a gay person would not disagree with me here (…) — not that gays WANT to get married, but what had to happen for them to want to get married in the FIRST place…

    Tell me if I’m wrong (…), but throughout the centuries, throughout the millennia, there have been no calls, and no examples of longing (or very very few) for marriage between two men or between two women — nor indeed were there (m)any calls to “commit to a life partner” in the first decades of the gay rights movement.

    For lifelong love, yes, and for tenderness and sweet nothings, yes, for lust for lean or muscular bodies, certainly, but for the desire of nuptials and a life spent together as “husband” and “wife” in a single bourgeois-type home, not really (or they are few and far between or with a touch of a smirk attached).

    These calls came about ONLY after — and ONLY because of — the decline of traditional marriage (agreed, between straight people) along with the advent of open marriages and no-fault divorce. In other words, the desire of gays, male or female, for the “benefits” of matrimony only came about after, and only came about because, feminists and leftists dumbed those “benefits” down by making it OK to divorce on a whim and by making it alright to commit (what is now considered passé to be called) adultery. (…)

  • Chris


    You write a great blog, and I read it every afternoon. Religion much affects geopolitics, and to that extent I appreciate your commentary on the matter.

    But using theistic moral tenets to justify arguments make you seem ignorant, and makes your educated readers pay you less heed. While it is important to understand the role of socially imagined figures like Santa Claus, God, or the tooth fairy, it seems rather loony to use their imagined opinions in any sort of thesis.

    Chris Davis

  • Stefan Stackhouse

    The other, unnoticed headline is that 20% of young unmarried Christians are NOT sexually active. What about them? They are trying hard to do the right thing, to faithfully follow their Lord and honoring Him in their sexuality. It is a narrow and difficult path on which they are being led and which they are trying to negotiate. Obviously, the broader culture (the one on the broad way that leads to destruction, no doubt) is of no help whatsoever. I wonder how many older Christians realize just how much social ridicule and peer pressure that these young people must put up with on a daily basis.

    They need help, encouragement, approval and support. Most of all, perhaps, they need affirmation. They need to hear that they ARE on the right path and ARE doing the right thing. They need to hear that it is worth waiting for.

    The trouble with being so nice and accepting of pre-marital sex is that it totally and utterly undercuts those few who really are struggling and trying hard to buck the trend and wait. Every day, they hear from their peers “it’s OK, everybody’s doing it.” When they hear from the adults – adults they would like to look up to – pretty much the same thing, then it really takes almost superhuman willpower to not give in.

    We do not need to be nasty or mean about this, nor should we be unforgiving toward those who have fallen short. We all fall short in one way or another. However, this does not preclude simply affirming and encouraging those few who are trying to hold to a higher standard.

  • Daniel Drazenovich

    This article is complete nonsense.You are saying the sin of fornication is relative.Have you heard of “intrinsic evil”. Look it up.
    Another suggestion is to read a few papal encyclicals on the subject. Also read John Paul II “Theology of the body” Then lets chat.

  • Timothy P. Ngwana

    Very interesting topic. I have studied and written about this topic in my book titled (Unveiling mysteries in Sexual intercourse) You can get it in and many other book seller

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.