The Loss of Fatherhood and the Rise of the Nanny State

Is it possible that almost every disturbing trend in American society shares a common theme – one that is both obvious in its harm, and yet politically unspeakable? If so, then Mary Eberstadt has named it for us in this brilliant essay just published in First Things. The culprit: a veritable epidemic of fatherlessness.

A wave of violence gripped the United States over the past summer, causing over a billion dollars in property damage and claiming at least twenty-five lives. While it is easy to pin the blame for this “unrest” on the usual suspects – Donald Trump, the coronavirus pandemic, racism, political polarization, etc. — Eberstadt sees it as “but the latest eruption along a fault line running through our already unstable lives,” as “deprived of father, Father, and patria, a critical mass of humanity has become socially dysfunctional on a scale not seen before.”

The social science research could not be clearer: statistically, children do best when raised by married biological mothers and fathers. Eberstadt notes that “absent fathers predict higher rates of truancy, psychiatric problems, criminality, promiscuity, drug use, rape, domestic violence, and other less-than-optimal outcomes.” And yet today, almost one in four children in the U.S. grows up without a father in the home, a figure that includes 65 percent of African Americans.

Of course, such an environment is not possible for every child. Divorce and death have long separated parents from their children, and even a two-parent home does not guarantee a healthy family dynamic free from abuse and neglect. Demography is not destiny. Success stories abound of individuals who have overcome difficult childhoods to attain great success as adults: consider two-time president Barack Obama or Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, just to name a couple.

However, one could compare these success stories to people who have lost a limb: the fact that it is possible to live a happy, fulfilled life without an arm or a leg does not meant that having two arms and two legs is no more advantageous than being an amputee. People survive absent, abusive, and/or neglectful fathers, but the wound remains. And it hurts. And in their pain, many seek out dangerous father substitutes like gangs and extremist groups like Antifa.

While Eberstadt is Catholic, her argument also accords with the eastern wisdom of Confucianism. She makes frequent references to “filial piety,” the traditional Chinese virtue of respecting one’s parents and ancestors. Confucius taught that the father-son relationship was at the core of all other relationships, including that between ruler and subject. Moral duties and obligations flowed both ways, whether one was in the dominant or subordinate position. The virtue of empathy (shu) was meant to counterbalance the need for loyalty (zhong).

Eberstadt speculates that the decline of fatherhood has accelerated the decline of religion (loss of God the Father) and patriotism (love of the father-land and respect for the Founding Fathers), dubbing this the “threefold crisis of paternity.” Deborah Savage laments: “they have been left alone in a cosmos with nothing to guide them, not even a firm grasp of what constitutes their basic humanity, and no means of finding the way home.”

Fatherlessness results not only in aimlessness, but also anger and resentment. This is the rage fueling the destruction not only statues of Confederate fathers, “but of Founding Fathers and town fathers and city fathers and anything else that looks like a father, period.”

Police officers certainly fit this category as well, be they male or female, black or white. Since the death of George Floyd and even before, they have been subject to countless brutal attacks and assassinations. Recent demands that we deploy social workers to the scenes of conflicts instead of police may be tantamount to “keeping Dad out of it and letting Mom handle it.”

Almost all of our institutions have been feminized, from school to church to the workplace. While some of this has been for the better, in certain cases it has been for the worst.

In our schools, offending students are offered seemingly endless “second chances” by well-meaning teachers, counselors, and administrators. While zero-tolerance policies represent a likewise undesirable extreme, the lack of consequences is also destructive — to both the bullies and the collective, who must put up with their ongoing misbehavior.

Sometimes kids need a cookie and a hug and to be told everything will be okay. Other times they need to be challenged and disciplined and made to take responsibility. Usually (but not always) mom is the “good cop” to dad’s “bad cop.” In the memoir now movie Hillbilly Elegy, it was J.D. Vance’s grandma (“mamaw”) who stepped into the role of father.

Many people – but especially young men – are desperate for someone to demand more of them, not less; to insist that they clean their room, stand up straight with their shoulders back, and take some damned responsibility, bucko! How else can we explain the phenomenon of Jordan Peterson, best-selling author of Twelve Rules for Life? People don’t just want hugs and cookies, they want rules! And rules tend to come from Dad.

The sad truth is that even kids being raised in homes with their biological fathers are often missing out on just such “tough love” and guidance. It is within the maternal instinct to shelter one’s children from physical harm. Fathers understand somehow intuitively that children need to roughhouse and wrestle, even if it means getting hurt. But they are often overruled.

Considering the evidence presented in The Coddling of the American Mind, it would seem mothers are getting their way more of the time. Children are no longer allowed the same kind of free play and structured risk-taking enjoyed by previous generations. While this approach has resulted in fewer accidental deaths, it has also led to rising anxiety and diminishing self-reliance. Earlier generations of college students once protested for more free speech; now they demand trigger warnings and safe spaces.

Mary Eberstadt traces the decline of fatherhood and the family back to the launch of the birth control pill in the 1960’s, certainly a monumental development. But perhaps it is time for the feminist movement to consider how some of their tactics and messaging may have discouraged men from taking responsibility. When men constantly hear “women don’t need you; we can do everything just as good as men,” they will more often than not simply shrug their shoulders and fade into the background. Respect was historically the price men were paid for the immense responsibilities they shouldered on behalf of the family. Why assume this burden in the first place when the only rewards are insults and mockery?

Men, and especially fathers, should be respected and celebrated, alongside women and mothers. The unique needs of boys and men should be acknowledged in our schools, our churches, and our workplaces.

Of course, there is a limit to this course correction. Celebration of masculinity should never be used to denigrate femininity. Male or female, each of us contains both a masculine and a feminine nature, the exact balance of which may change over time. Recall the Chinese yin yang symbol. Yang represents the masculine, the orderly, and the known; while yin symbolizes the feminine, the chaotic, and the unknown. Though opposites, yin and yang are also complementary, relying on each other for their very existence.

I don’t want to live in a world where my sons are coddled, mocked, or ignored, but I also don’t want to live in a world plagued by sexism and male chauvinism. Masculinity itself is not “toxic,” but by repressing the healthy expression of masculinity, we force it into such unproductive channels as violence and machismo.

As a culture, we have grown to associate masculinity with the negative effects of its excess. However, femininity is not without its dangers; it can become “toxic” as well. Consider the storybook characters of Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. Sleeping Beauty’s parents sought to shield her from all danger, thus their refusal to invite the Evil Queen to her baptism. But Maleficent was not to be thwarted; her revenge was to cause the princess to fall into a deep sleep, just at the point when she should have been reaching maturity. Likewise, Rapunzel’s mother locked her away in a tower.

The rise of what we may accurately call the “nanny state” shows that government need not wear a masculine guise to become tyrannical. Likewise, the fact that Anthony Fauci and Gavin Newsom and Joe Biden happen to possess Y chromosomes has not kept them from embodying and encouraging the worst of the “feminine” vices – lethargy, neuroticism, and cowardice.

Here we now sit – asleep in our towers, walled off from others, admonished not to work or play or worship or gather. It’s okay, we are told; the government will take care of us.

And yet we all – men and women – desire something more, some greater purpose than mere survival to give our lives meaning. Only by returning to the traditionally masculine virtues of fortitude and perseverance and responsibility can we free ourselves from the grip of the nanny state.

Do Women Need Equal Treatment or Special Treatment?

Midway through the Vice Presidential debate, it was already obvious how the media was going to spin it. The narrative was predetermined: all Mike Pence had to do was challenge Kamala Harris (a guarantee considering the nature of the event, a debate), and they could accuse him of sexist bullying, or – to use a word that has no place in any self-respecting woman’s vocabulary – “mansplaining.” Harris was able to deploy her obviously rehearsed response to Pence’s comparable mild interruption: “I’m speaking.” She delivered this brave assertion of feminist self-confidence with the joyless snark of everyone’s least favorite substitute teacher, garnering instant praise and adulation.

Actor Mark Ruffalo obliged with one of the first narrative-supporting tweets:

So now a white man debating a woman “of color” is both misogynist and white supremacist. This despite the fact that Harris actually got the same amount of time as Pence by most accounts.

Other tweets, like this one from Brittany Johnstone focused on the evening’s racial dynamic:

White women in 2020 are like the kulaks of 1930 – just the right blend of “privileged” and “oppressed” to be an easy object of scorn. A similar sentiment was recently expressed in a viral article by Leigh Stein entitled “The End of the Girlboss Is Here.” The article tells the story of Sophia Amoruso, CEO of fashion site Nasty Gal, who released a memoir by that name. Amoruso did not seem to think that women needed special treatment, nor that it was necessarily remarkable to see them in positions of power. She asked, “Is 2014 a new era of feminism where we don’t have to talk about it? I don’t know, but I want to pretend that it is.”

Some might have praised Amoruso’s honesty and her refusal to see her success in a political light. But for Stein, the brief era of Girlboss couldn’t end quickly enough:

The white girlboss, and so many of them were white, sat at the unique intersection of oppression and privilege. She saw gender inequality everywhere she looked; this gave her something to wage war against. Racial inequality was never really on her radar. That was someone else’s problem to solve.

Welcome to intersectional feminism, where simply being a woman is no longer enough. In the woke moral universe, one’s moral standing is inversely correlated to one’s privilege, increasing only to the extent that one is percieved as victimized. Ironically, this system tends to hurt women, who seem to rank pretty low compared to other oppressed groups.

Almost any time there is a conflict between women and another group said to be oppressed – say, Muslims or trans people – the rights and safety of women are quickly disregarded. In the U.K., authorities ignored evidence of Pakistani rape gangs preying on lower-income white girls, all because the perpetrators were of Asian origin. To investigate accusations of rape against these men would have meant opening themselves up to accusations of racism and Islamophobia. And so, for years, they did nothing. At least fourteen hundred girls suffered for their cowardice.

The conflict between women’s rights and the trans agenda has recently come to light, best illustrated in the attempted cancellation of beloved author J.K. Rowling. I say the trans agenda and not trans individuals because most of the people raising a fuss over issues like letting trans women into women’s spaces are not trans themselves. Are biological women entitled to their own dressing rooms, prisons, and sports leagues? According to the woke, no. All it takes to be a woman is simply the feeling that one is a woman. For anyone to deny that trans women are women is to invite accusations of transphobia. All this from the party of science.

Even lesbians are not let off the hook; their refusal to consider trans women as potential romantic partners makes them transphobic in the eyes of some (“Some women have penises. If you won’t sleep with them you’re transphobic.”)

But let us put aside, for the moment, issues of race, trans/cis, and sexual orientation to return to the original question: do women need equal treatment or special treatment?

When I play basketball with my kids, I go easy on them. With my oldest son, I can now play at about 80% and still have a good game. Why? Because my skills in this area are superior to his. Because I am an adult and he is a child. He will inevitably be stronger than me one day, and at this point I will no longer have to hold back. This will be a milestone moment, a sign of respect. Anyone who has ever been on a team so bad that the other side instituted something like a “five pass rule” before a shot knows that it doesn’t feel good. If you are a full-grown adult and we are competing in something, I do not want you to hold back. To do so would be insulting to my abilities and my intelligence.

When women compete with men – say, in the context of a debate – we should only ask to be judged by an equal (not a special) standard.

Now, it’s important to remember that not everything in life is a competition. Throughout our history, men and women have also had to cooperate. If anything, men compete more against other men for resources and status, while women compete against other women for superior mates. This pattern applies to many other species as well, as Matt Ridley describes in The Red Queen. Simply making this observation should not be taken as sexist, though it often is.

One problem in today’s society is that women have been trained to compete with men so much that we have forgotten how to cooperate. This dynamic is based on two fundamental truths: 1. Men and women are biologically and (to a smaller degree) psychologically different. 2. These differences are complementary, meaning society needs both. In the context of the family, children certainly do.

How remarkable – how beautiful – that the same sex differences that can cause so much conflict (see: every Jane Austen novel or Shakespearean play) also provide the key to our collective success when properly channeled. How sad that we can no longer appreciate it.

I would argue that if such a thing as “male privilege” exists, then so too does female privilege. Certain things are easier, and others harder, depending on your sex. For women, the biggest sex-imbalanced challenge is safety. Considering the fact that women have on average only half the lower body strength and thirty percent of the upper body strength of men (and that men commit the vast majority of all rapes) and it is clear that women will always need to take certain safety precautions. There are also certain stereotypes that women have to confront, which is only to say that they must take the time to prove them untrue, not that they are insurmountable.

But being a woman carries certain privileges as well. In certain situations, strangers are nicer to you. You are not immediately assessed as threatening. You can talk to someone of the opposite sex in a social setting and even make the first move without coming across as “creepy.” You can express a fuller range of emotion without having your sexuality or virtue called into question.

While men could theoretically set up a Handmaid’s Tale-style dystopia in which they controlled everything – they are, after all, physically stronger – they don’t usually do so, especially not here in the West. Instead we have classically liberal notions of equality along with the vestiges of chivalry, a code of ethics whereby men channel their superior physical strength and risk-taking nature towards the service of women and children.

I’ll never forget how a male colleague volunteered to give me his classroom when I was pregnant with my youngest son. He rolled his materials from class to class on a cart for an entire year for my sake, despite the fact that we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. I will always appreciate this act of sacrifice and generosity.

When I got a flat tire in the faculty parking lot, a male teacher helped me get my car to the autobody class where another male teacher enlisted his male students to replace it, free of charge. There are countless other stories like this… you get the idea. Men need women and women need men. This is not a bad thing, but rather a beautiful one.

In his book The Madness of Crowds, Douglas Murray points out that women have historically had one lopsided power over men: the ability to drive them crazy with desire. Women in general just aren’t as susceptible to male charms that we will risk life and limb to obtain their company. There’s a reason that turkey hunters call in male gobblers by pretending to be females in heat. There’s a reason males of many species devote precious bodily resources to seemingly pointless ornamentation (bright feathers, large antlers, etc.): they would rather die trying to attract a mate than fail to reproduce. Students of history can find ample evidence of powerful men taking crazy risks to obtain the female companion of their choice; just consider how Henry VIII broke his kingdom away from the Catholic Church, all so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

Perhaps Kamala Harris too exercised this power when she used her relationship with corrupt San Francisco mayor Willie Brown to jumpstart her political career. Either way, it makes no sense for her to cry sexism or racism now, when both aspects of her identity have been a boon to her career and not a hindrance to it, as I have previously argued.

To conclude, we cannot ignore sex differences between men and women, or how they have shaped our interactions over the thousands of years of our evolutionary history. In almost every culture prior to about a hundred years ago, men have been the ones in positions of political authority. Notable exceptions like Catherine the Great and Chinese empress Cixi only prove the rule by their relative rarity. Going back to the ancient Greeks and likely further, governance was considered part of the male domain. This is not to say that women did not have a role in political society: as the ones primarily raising and educating children, they had the important power to shape future citizens.

Starting around the eighteenth century, women began to demand full political participation and legal equality. The right of women to vote in this country was only gained in 1920, a mere century ago. Since then, women have made impressive inroads into almost all branches and levels of governance, the last remaining hurdle being the presidency.

If a woman and a man meet on the street, chivalry may compel him to hold the door open for her, and good for him if it does. But when a woman throws her hat into the political or corporate arena, she should expect nothing more and nothing less than equal treatment. She should be ready to advocate for herself if she does not get it. Presuming that women need special protection or advocacy against “mansplaining” is nothing short of condescending. Women like Kamala Harris who have built their careers by playing political hardball, only to suddenly cry “sexism” when they find themselves on the receiving end, are guilty of trying to have their cake and eat it too.

What’s Really at Stake in the Bathroom Wars

On February 22nd, the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, regardless of biological sex. North Carolina’s state legislature responded on March 23rd by passing a law requiring individuals to use the restroom corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate. Since then, our country has been engaged in a national debate over who should pee where. But the real debate is about much more than that, and the outcome matters more than one would think.

First, it’s not about stigmatizing transgender people, or making it easier for them to perform necessary biological functions throughout the course of their day. Yes, transgender people often struggle over the issue of which restroom to use, especially if they look like one sex but have the parts of another. But as many have noted, transgender people have been using the facility of their chosen gender for decades. It’s not like there’s a gender policeman stationed at each bathroom checking birth certificates.

Second, the debate is not primarily about sexual predators, though the safety and privacy of women and children is certainly at stake. Policies like the one recently announced by Target will make it easier for sexual predators to gain access to women and girls. Several men have already been caught trying to film women under the stall dividers. But bathrooms – both men’s and women’s – have always been places where predators could lurk, as they feature people at their most isolated and vulnerable. This is why girls pee in packs. This is why I don’t let my eight-year-old son use the men’s locker room without a male relative present.

The great bathroom debate, like the marriage debate, comes down to this – will our culture and our laws recognize the fundamental truth that men and women are different in important and immutable ways, and that this difference structures much of human society? Or will we abandon reason, tradition, and common sense in our attempt to deny the obvious and assert the opposite?

Claire Chretien recently made this argument in Lifesite News:

The battle over men accessing women’s bathrooms and vice versa has little do with bathrooms or even transgenderism, a well-known LGBT activist admitted last week.  It has everything to do with re-working society and getting rid of the “heterobinary structure” in which we live—eliminating distinctions between “male” and “female” altogether.

But these distinctions are not matters of opinion. People are born male or female. This is a scientific fact. Sex is binary. Men have XY chromosomes, male genitalia, and higher levels of testosterone. Women have XX chromosomes, female genitalia, and higher levels of estrogen.  There are very rare exceptions where an intersex person may not fit neatly into male or female categories, but these exceptions do not disprove the rule that sex is binary. Some people are born without arms, but this does not mean that arms are just an arbitrary thing that some people have and others don’t.

Your sex is assigned to you before birth, at the moment of conception. It cannot be changed. No amount of hormonal therapy or surgery can transform someone to the extent that they are indistinguishable from a person born as that sex. A man that seeks to become a woman will never bear a child. A woman that seeks to become a man will never impregnate anyone. The best that can be accomplished is a crude imitation, a farce.

During childhood, males and females must develop healthy gender identities as men and women. A biological male must figure out what it means to be a man, and a biological female must figure out what it means to be a woman. This is where “nurture” enters an equation that has previously been dominated by nature. Not all biological males like getting dirty, playing with trucks, or tackling other boys. But they must all accept their role as men so that they can become tomorrow’s fathers, uncles, and husbands. Not all biological females like playing with dolls, wearing dresses, or doing other “girly” things. But they must all accept their role as women so that they can become tomorrow’s mothers, aunts, and wives. Sexual difference is born out in numerous statistics, but where we mainly see it is in the disproportionate success of children raised by their biological mothers and fathers.

Long-term success and happiness can only be found in the truth, never in a lie. It may be initially liberating for a man to try out a new identity as a woman, or for a manly woman to quit trying to be feminine and just “be a man.” But statistics and personal testimonies show that transgender people are far more likely than just about any group to suffer from depression and to commit suicide. This heightened risk is not due to a lack of social acceptance. Even transgender people in liberal areas with tons of social support are more likely to take their own lives than a random “cis-gender” person.

Across numerous statistical measures, gender dysphoric disorder is more harmful to a person’s long-term health than alcoholism. What is the compassionate response to alcoholism? Obviously, it is not to accommodate the alcoholic by installing beer kegs in bathrooms and workplaces. A combination of counseling and support are required to help the alcoholic cease engaging in destructive behaviors and create a new identity as a non-alcoholic.

I have noticed an abundance of Facebook statuses seeming to extoll that person’s tolerance and compassion for transgender people by criticizing HB2 or voicing support for men being allowed in women’s restrooms. “I am happy to share a bathroom with a biological male who identifies as female,” many have suggested, “I would even hand her the toilet paper if she needed it.”

While the intentions of such posts may be noble, they do not consider the long-term consequences of promoting gender confusion. Many people today act like hurting someone’s feelings is the worst thing you can do to another person; thus all subjective beliefs must be validated by society as “real” lest some irreparable emotional damage occur. But what about the confusion this debate is causing children who are still in the delicate stage of developing a gender identity that fits their biological sex? What about the pain and frustration and regret that will be suffered by more boys who decide they are really girls, and more girls who decide they are really boys? As with so many other issues, we celebrate the short-term emotional satisfaction of supporting a certain policy with no regard to the long-term damage it will inevitably produce.

Gender is binary. Men and women are different. We complement each other in important ways. We are not just people, not just interchangeable individuals. We are men and women.

What happens to us when we deny this basic truth?

For starters, we forget what marriage is. We used to understand that marriage requires both sexes, a man and a woman. Sexual difference was essential to the definition of marriage. Now this understanding is gone. Marriage has been redefined as just another relationship, just two people who love each other and get sexual satisfaction from each other’s bodies (though not of the sort that creates and nourishes new life).

Now that marriage has been redefined, it is only a matter of time before it is legally destroyed. People in polygamous and incestuous relationships will demand that their love be recognized as marriage. Singles will defend their “rights” by demanding that all laws privileging people in relationships are discriminatory. People will soon tire of the endless controversies and debates that result when such a core truth is abandoned. Finally, both sides will embrace a “compromise” – get the state out of the marriage business altogether. Gone will be parental rights, gone will be the rights of children, and gone will be the legal recognition of the family unit, all in an attempt to be “tolerant” and “inclusive” of the small minority threatened by the traditional understanding of marriage.

The truth is, marriage has never been especially compatible with the homosexual lifestyle, especially for gay men, who have much higher rates of promiscuity than their heterosexual peers. Even “married” gay men are likely to have multiple sexual partners and agree to open relationships. Now that the male-female component of marriage is gone, the expectation of fidelity will not be far behind. Why should married straight men be expected to be faithful to their spouses when gay men are free to explore other options?

Numerous sources can be found from gay rights activists admitting that they seek to transform or just outright destroy marriage, not simply access it as they claimed. While the transgender movement claims it only wants to broaden the definition of what it means to be a man or a woman, the end game is to abolish these labels entirely. Chretien quotes Stella Morabito, an expert on cults and propaganda who writes for The Federalist:

“What we are really talking about is the abolition of sex. And it is sex that the trans project is serving to abolish legally, under the guise of something called ‘the gender binary.’  Its endgame is a society in which everyone is legally de-sexed.  No longer legally male or female.  And once you basically redefine humanity as sexless you end up with a de-humanized society in which there can be no legal ‘mother’ or ‘father’ or ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ or ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ without permission from the State.  Government documents are already erasing the terms.  In such a society, the most intimate human relationships take a hit. The family ends up abolished… A sexless society is ultimately a totalitarian society because it erases in law the most basic human relationships, particularly the mother-child bond.”

When most people support gay marriage or trans bathroom access, they don’t understand that they are really working toward the abolition of male and female identities; they just think they’re fighting for equal rights. But others know exactly where the train is headed. Just this morning, John Sutter published an opinion piece for CNN calling for a “restroom revolution.” He starts by highlighting the plight of James Sheffield, a transgender man, who looks far too manly to be allowed in a ladies restroom without causing alarm. Sutter writes:

But you know what else is absurd? The idea that Sheffield — or anyone else — should have to choose a male or female restroom at all. And, beyond that, that any of us would feel entitled to decide someone else’s gender for them — and, consequently, where they can and can’t pee.

This isn’t a binary gender world. People don’t fit neatly into the “M” and “F” boxes. It’s time our public restrooms reflected that. The fairest way to do so is to desegregate restrooms by sex, and that means eliminating the men’s and women’s rooms in favor of “all gender” restrooms.

According to Sutter, “the only justification” of refusing to let a biological female in a men’s restroom “is bigotry and ignorance.” Forget reason or common sense; gendered bathrooms are now “absurd.” Sutter notes that several buildings have already removed gender identification from restrooms. The restroom revolution is already underway; we just haven’t noticed it yet.

While the worst may be yet to come, there is hope for those who would like to see a return to reason in our culture. Writing in 1938, the great Catholic historian Hillaire Belloc noted the anti-rational nature of what he labeled the “Modern Attack” on the Faith:

Being Atheist, it is characteristic of the advancing wave that it repudiates the human reason. Such an attitude would seem again to be a contradiction in terms; for if you deny the value of human reason, if you say that we cannot through our reason arrive at any truth, then not even the affirmation so made can be true. Nothing can be true, and nothing is worth saying. But that great Modern Attack (which is more than a heresy) is indifferent to self-contradiction. It merely affirms. It advances like an animal, counting on strength alone.

The contemporary reader will find this description all too familiar. Recall PayPal’s hasty decision to pull out of the entire state of North Carolina over HB2. The message is clear: get in line– or else. After all, when one attempts to deny objective truth, one must get everyone else onboard. If the emperor is truly to parade around in no clothes, even the voice of a child may expose the whole charade. However, Belloc offers this glimmer of hope:

Indeed, it may be remarked in passing that this may well be the cause of its final defeat; for hitherto reason has always overcome its opponents; and man is the master of the beast through reason.

In the bathroom wars as in the marriage wars, our culture may yet return to its senses, triggering a change in our laws. Even better, the triumph of reason may yet inspire a return to the Faith, allowing our society to recover its moral center.

9 Logical Extensions of SCOTUS Ruling

On the one hand, I understand the joy and excitement many are feeling in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges. In the streets and on the Internet, people are rejoicing on behalf of themselves and their dear friends. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, spoil anyone’s celebration, or worst of all give the false impression that I don’t value all human lives equally. I agree with the words of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” But the fact that all people are created equal does not mean that all relationships are created equal, at least not in the sense of being the same. There exist real differences between the brother-sister relationship, the father-son relationship, the friend-friend relationship, and the husband-wife relationship. Only one type of relationship can logically create new human life, thus continuing the culture and the species. All societies until very recently have understood this biological fact and have recognized marriage as a special relationship that could only exist between a man and a woman. Truly we stand upon the threshold of a brave new world, one whose consequences and ultimate destination can only be guessed.

But even in the midst of our elation or despair, it is crucial to note that opposition to the redefinition of marriage is not based on faith alone, but reason as well. Yes, the Bible instructs a man to leave his mother and father and cling to his wife, as the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Yes, the Bible admonishes homosexuality as a sin (as well as divorce, adultery, fornication, and even lust, leaving an extremely small minority of the human race guiltless in this area). Yes, most of the people concerned over the SCOTUS ruling are practicing, orthodox Christians. However, it is possible to oppose the redefinition of marriage on purely logical grounds, as I will try to demonstrate in this post.

If you believe that marriage should or even can exist between two people of the same sex, then briefly consider whether you also support these nine propositions (one for each unelected, unaccountable member of the Supreme Court) that logically flow from it:

  1. There are no meaningful differences between men and women. The Bible states that God created man and woman. However, the differences between the sexes are also supported by science and common sense. It is a scientific fact that men and women are different. This doesn’t make them unequal; rather, they are complementary. Consider the ovaries and the testes. Without each other, they are useless. The reproductive system is the only system in the human body that can only fulfill its function with a member of the opposite sex. We don’t need another human being to breathe or digest, but reproduction has always required an opposite-sex partner. But assuming there are no differences between men and women, then there can be no meaningful differences between mothers and fathers, meaning…
  2. Children do not have the right to their biological mother and a father. Countless studies have shown that children do best when raised by their biological mother and father. Of course, there are situations like death and abandonment in which this is not possible. In these cases, adoption offers a compassionate and loving alternative. However, the loss of either one of a child’s biological parents creates a profound void which leads to great pain and suffering. Several adults raised by gay parents have bravely come forward to attest to this pain. Despite their love for the ones who raised them, their pain and loss are no less real.
  3. Parents do not have the right to their children. Since the relationship between parents and children is no longer acknowledged as natural but rather arbitrary and incidental, there is no reason the state should not make decisions on the child’s behalf, even over the objections of the parents. This already happens in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been the law of the land since 2005, and it is currently happening in California where children must now be vaccinated even over the medical and religious objections of their parents.
  4. Our identities are defined by our desires. To recognize a special class of persons designated by their sexual orientation is to define identity not by biology or nature but by desire and inclination. But what if I was born with the desire or inclination to burn things down? Should arsonists be designated as a minority group with special protections? The law would traditionally say that it is not how we feel but rather what we do with these feelings that counts, assuming a level of human rationality that makes it possible to hold people accountable for their actions. But if people are simply born with a set of morally-equal desires, how can we hold anyone accountable for any behavior?
  5. Our rights are defined by our desires. In truth, our rights come from God. This is stated in the Declaration of Independence and this is the only reason my right to speech is different than my “right” to eat ice cream for breakfast. But if someone’s emotional longing for something is now enough to make it a right, then there is no difference between a right and a desire. In which case, I have the right to anything and everything that I want. Unleash the moral anarchy now.
  6. Truth is defined by emotional satisfaction. The old motto of the Sexual Revolution is “if it feels good, do it.” But the new saying of the 21st century should be, “if it feels good, it must be right.” Photos of gleeful couples, a White House illuminated in a rainbow of colors, and a pink and red equal sign are enough to elicit warm and fuzzy feelings in a lot of people’s hearts. But when we start to rely on the subjective feelings of the majority versus the objective and unchanging reality of nature, we are headed for trouble indeed.
  7. Incestuous and polygamous relationships also have the “right” to be considered marriages. Why shouldn’t a brother and a sister be allowed to marry if they love each other? Aren’t they entitled to the same right to intimacy invented (I mean, discovered) by Justice Kennedy? Why shouldn’t three men who love each other, or three women, or two women and a man, or two men and a woman be able to get married if they love each other? Once the role of reproduction is removed (it remains an embarrassing fact that all people are created by the DNA of two parents: one mother and one father), isn’t the number two an arbitrary limitation? After all, love is love. #equality.
  8. Marriage of any kind is discriminatory against single people. We have heard a lot lately about the benefits marriage supposedly confers upon straight couples. But what about cohabiting couples who refuse to take the plunge? What about a grandmother and grandchild living together, or an uncle and a nephew? Regardless of same-sex/opposite-sex, if marriage is no longer fundamentally connected to procreation, why should the state confer certain privileges to couples who have made a legal, long-term (but with divorce, easily reversible) decision? If love is love, why bother with a legal designation in the first place?
  9. People who support the traditional definition of marriage should keep their views to themselves. In other words, they should stay in the closet. Many people see the Gay Rights movement as an extension of the Civil Rights movement. But while differences in race are truly skin deep, differences in sex are biologically far more significant. The Civil Rights movement was grounded in the truth that men and women are equal, regardless of skin pigmentation. The Gay Rights movement is (to a large extent) grounded in the falsehood that men and women are the same, and thus same-sex sexual relationships are the same as opposite-sex ones.

I would like to conclude once again with the disclaimer that I whole-heartedly believe in the equality of all people. If you are someone who experiences homosexual attraction, consider me the last person to condemn you. As a fellow sinner, I will cast no stones. But the definition of marriage is not contingent upon a particular religious belief. All the great religions of our world—from Hinduism to Islam to Buddhism to Confucianism to Christianity—have recognized marriage as the relationship between a man and a woman. Even cultures notoriously permissive of homosexuality, like ancient Greece and Rome, never sought to equate a homosexual relationship between two men with a monogamous and committed heterosexual relationship (i.e. marriage).

To all my readers, gay and straight, let me repeat: God loves you. Your dignity and worth as a person are not dependent upon your sexual orientation. However, your inalienable rights to life and liberty do not entitle you to your own reality. There is but one sort of relationship capable of creating, sustaining, and nurturing human life; that relationship has historically and across cultures been recognized as marriage. To redefine this institution is tantamount to its dissolution, a reckless act which carries a host of consequences that will ultimately prove detrimental to all people, gay and straight. The joy of victory, and the thrill of altering the course of history in the name of equality, will be as short-lived as the fervor of the early years of the French Revolution. Many conservative Christians are despairing, because we know the Reign of Terror awaits. Some of us will be marched to the guillotine and sacrificed at the great altar of Human Sexual Liberation, while others may be mercifully spared. But at the end of the day, whether we accept it or not, the truth remains.

Your Contraception Is Your Responsibility

Women can buy houses on their own. They can purchase cars without help from their bosses. Women can grocery shop, book vacations, save for retirement, and in general run their family’s finances—as most do—without assistance from their employers.

But they can’t purchase birth control on their own.

At least, this is the message of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dissenting opinion, following Hobby Lobby’s recent victory in the Supreme Court.

She writes: “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.”

But since when does not paying for something mean denying access to it? By this logic, my employer has been denying me access to gym memberships, home security systems, and food, all of which can be viewed as more essential to good health than birth control.

Or are women just uniquely helpless in this, the most personal aspect of their lives? They can’t have it unless someone else pays for it?

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Whose responsibility is it to pay for a woman’s birth control: her own, her employer’s, or the government’s? If reproduction and contraception are individual rights, as liberals claim, then they are also individual responsibilities.

Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other. When I was a child, my parents could prevent me from having certain things simply by refusing to pay for them. Now that I am responsible enough to make my own money, I have the right to use it as I please, even on things my parents might not support.

When you make government or your employer the “parent” by demanding they pay for something you could get yourself, you are also making yourself a child, beholden to their better judgment. “You can’t tell me what to do with my body!” liberals cry. “But you have to pay for it!”

Demanding something as a right while denying it as a responsibility is the essence of adolescent petulance.

The Hobby Lobby ruling has set off a heated debate that appears to pit women’s rights against religious rights, but this narrative overlooks the responsibility side of the equation. Women did not lose any rights as a result of the decision. Congress should never have passed a law (Obamacare) making employers 100% responsible for their employee’s birth control choices, including methods that can be seen as ending a human life after it has already been created. Whether one views certain forms of birth control as moral or immoral, contraception itself remains the responsibility of the individual.

Liberals have been quoting Ginsburg’s blistering dissent, but her arguments miss this basic point. She writes: “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults…

As the woman’s autonomous choice, it is also her autonomous responsibility. It is extremely unlikely that Hobby Lobby’s female employees will be forced to bear unwanted children as a result of this decision. Their policies still cover sixteen forms of contraception, just not the ones with the potential to prevent an already-formed embryo from implanting in the uterine wall. And if they want any of the remaining four, they can pay for them. Hobby Lobby is not trying to stop them.

She continues: Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community…”

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The Catholic Church was already granted an exemption as part of the law. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that you do not forfeit your freedom of conscience when you form a business.

There is a reason the First Amendment protects freedom of religion together with freedom of speech. Our Founding Fathers understood that one’s freedom of religion is not confined to worship alone, but extends to other areas of life as well. Hobby Lobby is not taking any action to prevent employees from using birth control. They simply don’t want to be compelled to pay for (and by extension participate in) an act they find morally questionable.

This is their right. Once I turned twenty-one, my parents could no longer stop me from consuming alcohol. But I didn’t demand they supply me with weekly stockpiles of liquor.

Ginsburg continues: “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

Many life-saving surgeries are also equivalent to (or greater than) a month’s full-time pay, but Obamacare does not require these to be covered at no additional cost. Claiming contraception as an essential preventative service requires us to understand pregnancy as a life-threatening condition. This may be the case for some women, who still have many options under this ruling, but certainly not the majority. If pregnancy were an illness to be prevented at any cost, like colon cancer, people would not spend tens of thousands of dollars intending it as a result.

In the meantime, insurance companies have raised co-pays on essential prescription drugs needed to keep people alive in order to cover the costs of providing “free” birth control. Nothing is ever truly “free.” Someone always pays. In the case of contraception, it should be the one using it.

Perhaps Ginsberg’s strongest argument is that people do not have an unlimited right to religion. She writes: “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…

Fortunately, no one is claiming religion as an unlimited right to refuse to comply with the law. In fact, this was specifically stated in the majority opinion. In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no compelling government interest in forcing Hobby Lobby to provide four particular types of contraception that can act as abortifacents. It did not grant employers an unlimited mandate to impose their religious views on employees.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” Ginsberg worries. A liberal friend of mine concurred, taking to Facebook to express his concern over the “slippery slope” that might allow employers and organizations to pick and choose which services are covered and which are not. They would have the power to become “judge and jury” over the individual’s every health problem. He listed Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes as conditions employers could claim were the result of individual choices, and thus not subject to coverage.

I was amazed at how well this argument summarized the case against government-run healthcare, which remains the real “slippery slope.” If society has to foot the bill for your healthcare costs, they will naturally demand increasing control over your healthcare decisions. When you give government the responsibility to pay for what happens to your body, you also surrender the right to control it.

More than Just Mammals

“You and me baby ain’t nothin but mammals/ so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” So go the lyrics of the popular Bloodhound Gang song “The Bad Touch.”

As a fun little game, just imagine any film or literary romance. Romeo and Juliet. Gone With the Wind. Jane Eyre. The Notebook. Titanic. Downton Abbey. Twilight. Now substitute these lyrics into the dialogue of either the male or female protagonist moments before they experience each other for the first time.

Jack stares into Rose’s eyes and, instead of pouring out his heart, observes that her powerful sex pheromones have triggered a surge in his testosterone and dopamine levels, so they may as well do it.

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Suddenly the stories that have captured our imaginations and awakened our souls to the possibility of beauty become vulgar and, even worse, boring. This is the result when attraction and love between man and woman are reduced to mere animal biology.

Yet this is exactly the view Megan Laslocky presents in a recent CNN piece provocatively entitled “Face It: Monogamy is Unnatural.” Laslocky derides monogamy as a “lofty but perhaps fundamentally doomed aspiration.” It is time, she argues, “for our culture to wake up and smell the sex pheromones.” What our society really needs is not a reawakening of the monogamy ideal or a renewed commitment to marriage, but rather “a greater tolerance toward the human impulse to experience sexual variety.”

Instead of putting that poison to his lips, Romeo should have asked Juliet if she had a sister.

The argument Laslocky makes and the evidence she attempts to muster in its defense is so obviously faulty that it is hard to even know where to begin. But it is important to demonstrate the shaky science and dubious morality of her thesis lest society continue to embrace this dangerous world view.

“Biologically, we humans are animals,” she begins. “So it makes sense to look to the animal kingdom for clues as to what we are built for.”

Whoa. Hold it right there. Are we really to believe that the only thing separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our above average intelligence? Put aside for a moment the biblical teaching that we are made in God’s image and given dominion over animals. Common sense is enough to show that humans are fundamentally different. G.K. Chesteron makes this case in The Everlasting Man:

“The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one.

He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. His mind has the same doubtful liberties and the same wild limitations. Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter; as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. Alone among the animals he feels the need of averting his thought from the root realities of his own bodily being; of hiding them as in the presence of some higher possibility which creates the mystery of shame.”

We are the only species that is truly self-aware. We are the only species to significantly alter our environments and create tools to adapt to new ones. We are the only species to create art. We are the only species to worship a higher being.

Yet Laslocky smugly references the mating habits of penguins and prairie voles as evidence that humans should just give up on this whole monogamy thing. Apparently, only 3 to 5% of mammals are monogamous. But what percent of mammals urinate and defecate indoors? What percent of mammals wear clothes, paint landscapes, or build furniture? I can only assume Laslocky is not inclined to meander about the streets of New York in the nude, relieving herself in full view of the public. Yet if we are to employ her logic, this behavior would be more “natural” than having one mate.

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Even if humans were just highly intelligent mammals, would it really make sense to let birds and prairie voles serve as our moral guides? Should we tolerate rape because male bears don’t wait for the consent of female bears? Homicide because black widows kill their men after mating?

What makes us human isn’t that we lack the same chemicals and receptors of the animal world. It’s that we try to control and temper these urges, using our reason and God-given free will. It’s not that choosing to do right is easy. It’s that we have a choice to begin with. Laslocky’s error falls into the broader categories of materialism and determinism that have wrought such havoc upon the world over the last few centuries. We humans are not just the sum of our biological parts. We are not just bodies. We have a spiritual nature; we have souls. For all our love of animals, it is still an insult to call a person one.

Like so many others before her, Laslocky succeeds brilliantly in demonstrating that we humans are fallen beings. We generally fail to live up to our ideals. She draws attention to the likes of Kristen Steward, Jude Law, and Bill Clinton as evidence. Monogamy has always been hard for most people, she claims, male and female. In recent years, it has been made that much harder by our longer life spans and decision to marry for love rather than security. So since fidelity is so hard, let’s just abandon the pretense altogether. At least that way we could dispense with all the hypocrisy.

Again, the logic is so bad, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Imagine a defendant sitting on the witness stand. He admits to raping a woman or killing an enemy over an insult, but pleads to the judge that it is just so hard not to do these things. Just look at the animal world where chickens peck each other to death. Look at the history of humanity and all the murders that have taken place from Abel to Julius Caesar to Abraham Lincoln. He can’t really be expected to control his actions when testosterone is such a powerful hormone.

Are we really ready to accept this defense? Or is it reasonable for society to expect individuals to exercise self-control and restraint?

The fact that we fail to live up to our ideals is not cause to abandon them altogether. The world is bad enough with most people attempting to limit their biological inclinations to acting only on those that conform to the moral restrictions of their society. How much worse would things be if those restrictions were abandoned and people were encouraged to just do whatever felt right at the time?

Unfortunately, we don’t have to do much imagining. That world is already upon us, as the federal government sees fit to use an “educational” website to instruct girls aged 10 to 16 on birth control, gay sex, and “mutual masterbation.” After all, teenagers have hormones, and we can’t expect them to use reason and morality to control their bodies. Best to just hand out free condoms and hope for the best. The result of this relativist and materialist thinking are the premature loss of childhood innocence, emotional damage and heartbreak, STDs, and unintended pregnancies. In the adult world, adultery leaves behind broken families and a less productive and moral society in its wake.

Laslocky claims to be monogamous herself, but bases her more “tolerant” views on a “healthy respect for science.” What they reflect is a lack of respect for history, traditional morality, and common sense.