With the West massively committed to redefining sex, marriage and the family, it might be fruitful to see if any of these innovations have already been tried and what has been history’s verdict regarding them.
Brian Fitzpatrick suggests that the most “definitive work on the rise and fall of civilizations, was published in 1934 by Oxford anthropologist J.D. Unwin.” In Sex and Culture, Unwin studied 86 human civilizations ranging from tiny South Sea island principalities to mighty Rome. He found that a society’s destiny is linked inseparably to the limits it imposes on sexual expression and that those sexual constraints correlate directly to its theological sophistication and religious commitment.
Unwin noted that the most primitive societies had only rudimentary spiritual beliefs and virtually no restrictions on sexual expression, whereas societies with more sophisticated theologies placed greater restrictions on sexual expression and achieved greater social development.
In particular, cultures that adopt what Unwin dubbed “absolute monogamy” proved to be the most vigorous, economically productive, artistically creative, scientifically innovative, and geographically expansive societies on earth. Absolute monogamy is a very strict moral code. Under absolute monogamy, sex can occur only within one-man/ one-woman marriage. Premarital and extramarital sex are not tolerated and divorce is prohibited.
Why should sexual prohibitions cause social flourishing? Perhaps for the same reason that tobacco prohibitions might cause health to flourish! There are things that are pleasurable for a season, whose final bill might prove unaffordable.
There are other things or institutions that tend to tame the beast within. For one thing, there is nothing comparable to a committed and trusting relationship. Only within such an institution can a couple make the necessary sacrifices for the sake of family well-being.
I had worked for the New York City Department of Probation for 15 years. Countless times, I’ve had probationers tell me, “Mr. Mann, I have a wife and child now. I really need to settle down and find a job!”
They were committed to taming the beast within with a commitment to something more glorious. However, society is now telling these probationers that “Families” can take many different forms, and no one can say that one is better than another.
Perhaps he doesn’t need that job after all.
However, In This Present Age, sociologist Robert Nisbet writes:
What sociologists are prone to call social disintegration is really nothing more than the spectacle of a rising number of individuals playing fast and loose with other individuals in relationships of trust and responsibility.
Without trust, commitment cannot survive, and without commitment, we are left with nothing more than social disintegration and children who believe that life is just about taking care of #1!
Our behaviors can undermine our families and the future welfare of our children, and our ideas and beliefs will undermine our behaviors. If sexual freedom is pushed as a virtue or as a “human right,” it will become increasingly difficult to resist those momentary, powerful urges. And when our sexual conduct undermines the stability of our families, it also undermines society.
Fitzpatrick refers to the work of Harvard historian Carle Zimmerman, who concludes that the creative periods in civilization have been based upon” the strongest form of family, which he terms the “domestic” type:
The domestic family affords a comparatively stable social structure and yet frees the individual sufficiently from family influence to perform the creative work necessary for a great civilization. (Family and Civilization)
In other words, in an amoral, hedonistic society, you can’t trust the people you need to trust, not even your spouse. Moreover, if people can make and break relationships at will, with no legal repercussions or social stigma, they are much more likely to abandon their marriages—at their children’s expense—when the going gets tough. Husbands with roving eyes are much more likely to trade in their wives for new models. (Whistleblower, Nov. 2010, pp. 38f)
It is no surprise, therefore, that social commentator, Michael Novak, concludes that one unforgettable law has been learned through all the disasters and injustices of the last thousand years: If things go well with the family, life is worth living; when the family falters, life falls apart.
The new family configurations are not only a violation of traditional values; they are also a violation of our own nature. We are not made for sexual gluttony. While we can choose to live gluttonously, there is another part of our nature – a deeper core – that rebels against it.
Much of Israel had been settled by radical socialistic communities – kibbutzim. The ideal shared by many of these communities was to have everything in common. This included their clothing, sexual partners, and even their children. Anything else constituted ownership – a dirty word in their thinking.
However, over the years, they succumbed to the pull of their deepest human desires/needs. Consequently, each gravitated to a single mate, forming committed monogamous unions. Even though, in many instances, the children are still raised communally, they return to their own parents in the evenings, thereby proclaiming afresh that there is no place like home, and home is with one’s own committed parents.