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Sexual Revolution: Symptom, Not Cause

An Evans-Manning Award to … Manning! Erin Manning is back with us after a holiday break, and responds on the Darby & Joan thread:

I’ve come to the point where I see the sexual revolution as a symptom of what’s really wrong with us, not the cause.

Most religious traditions have some kind of take on what Christ called the two great commandments: that we love God first and foremost and then love our neighbor as ourselves.

These commandments may sound simple, but if taken to their logical ends they involve a prescription against the radical autonomy and radical selfishness that make up the twin pillars of modern secular living. To give God what we owe Him is to acknowledge that we are not in control of our lives, that we have no say over how long we will live or how we will die or even how we will be remembered after we die; to love our neighbors as ourselves is to take on the startling view of our neighbor as another self, someone for whose happiness, comfort, security etc. we are as concerned about as we are concerned about those things for our own selves–and yet how many of us can truly say that we have even achieved that “beloved other” view of our spouses or children, let alone the people in the community beyond?

When we look at what is wrong with us today, I think it’s hard to argue that a worldview which sees radical autonomy and radical selfishness as the most basic and fundamental right of every person does not exist. On the sexual morality side we see this with rampant promiscuity and out-of-wedlock births and the cultural dysfunction those behaviors produce, but also within marriages as serial marriage and divorce, a view of marital sex that divorces the marriage act from even the possibility of procreation and sees this as a good thing, and an adoption of the notion that children are a drain and a burden and that one’s spouse is a source of constant conflict in a gender-based struggle for power and ascendency. On the economic side we see this attitude as the reduction of workers into “human resources,” the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots, unbridled capitalism with its promotion of a consumerist approach to life, and the subjugation and even destruction of the natural world in pursuit of the elusive goal of profits that will always rise regardless of how unsustainable such a goal is at it roots.

And all of those evils come from this philosophical view of man which says that humans are the complete masters of their own destiny, that all that is good or evil in their lives is the result of their own actions (e.g., their ability to capitalize on their economic and educational opportunities or their unaccountable failure to do the same), and that selfishness is not only not wrong, but is the best way to achieve that level of gratification and pleasure which is the definition of happiness in a secular age.

Thus the “baby-daddy” with a dozen kids from different women who is asked to take responsibility for them will have the same response as the greedy corporate officer whose expansion plan will harm the environment to the same sort of begging for responsible action: each will answer, “Why should I?” The old kinds of answers about it being the right thing to do will fall on deaf ears in an age when the only “right” thing to do is to protect one’s autonomy and selfishness at all costs.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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