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Friday, October 11


Readers may be interested to know that posted on the website of the Institute on Religion and Democracy is a statement by Alan Wisdom, "Discernment Needed: What Mainstream Christians Know and Don't Know about Possible War with Iraq." I won't state my own position on this important matter, at least not until I read and consider more carefully the IRD claims about what we know and what we don't know. The IRD is worth paying attention to, often bringing important facts to light on controversial topics. They also have tirelessly worked to draw attention to the suffering of the Sudanese people under the current Islamic regime. The IRD's Mark Tooley, by the way, regularly writes for Touchstone.

12:47 PM

Thursday, October 10


The officials of the Miss America pageant do not want the current Miss America to advocate Chastity, according to an article, Pageant permits promotion of chastity, in The Washington Times, but they have given in, now that their requirement has become public. (My thanks to Amy Wellborn's website for the lead.)

That the people who run the Miss American pageant don't like chastity is a scandal, though not a surprise (remember the swimsuit competition), but it's the not the thing I wanted to talk about. The article also included one of those stories that still make you gasp:

Miss Harold said she was subjected to "pervasive racial and sexual harassment" by other students in high school because of her black and American Indian ancestry and her refusal to succumb to sexual advances.

Students threatened to kill her, and the principal told her, "If you'd only be more submissive like the other girls, this wouldn't happen to you," she said.

One has the sinking feeling that the principal is still employed. You would think someone bright enough to be the principal of a high school - I know, 15 watt bulbs may be bright enough for public schools - would know that you do not tell a modern young woman to submit herself to the sexual advances of males. That is wrong. I and whoever now runs NOW would agree. This is thing in the story that makes you gasp.

But thinking further, I don't think we should be surprised that a high school principal would give such instruction, grossly sexist as it is. He (or, alas, possibly she) was only expressing the tactical result of the contemporary view of sex as a merely recreational activity appropriate for almost all ages. If having sex is no big deal, then it is something one might trade for peace.

It is no more intrinsically to be protected than one's choice of table in the school cafeteria. If sex is just a recreational activity, you can just as easily tell a girl to sleep with the harassing boys as tell her not to sit at the table some gang has picked for its own. In both cases, you (if you are as foolish as this principal seems to have been) believe that a girl may trade for safety something of no real importance to herself, even though you also think that the boys or the gang ought not to be so demanding. But they are, and that's life. It's the sort of compromise you make to get through life.

I am afraid I have known people who thought of sex this way, and of course the writers for magazines like Cosmopolitan and even the newsmagazines obviously think this way. I can easily see them giving someone else such advice, because sexual intimacy means nothing to them. It comes with all sorts of practical problems, like avoiding pregnancy and diseases and commitment, but it doesn't mean anything in itself.

Such advice is the end to which sexual liberationism seems to lead in practice, whatever limits to liberation sexual liberals offer. They want considerations of "love" and "commitment" and abstractions like that to tell you how far to go. Most don't want real promiscuity, or at least they say they don't. They want sex to be "special" and have tried to maintain some idea of sex as "special" while rejecting all the traditional moral limits that made it special in practice.

Think of the average PG-13 movie, in which promiscuous people suddenly find their life partner to whom (the audience is supposed to think) they will be faithful forever, though they had been unfaithful to dozens or hundreds of others before this. Despite their previous experience, their going to bed together, usually on very short acquaintance, is presented as if it were the wedding night of virgins.

In practice, however, it is very hard to make something "special" when you have rejected practical moral limits and replaced them with abstractions like "love" and "commitment." Too many people will simply have as many loving and committed relations as they can manage, till "special" means only "special to me at this time." From this many people will begin to believe that sex is not special at all, or no more special than dinner at a mid-priced restaurant or any other pleasure requiring some effort and sacrifice but not much.

The sexual liberals tore down the walls of the garden and are still trying to pretend the garden is as beautiful as it was, despite all the weeds that blew in when the wall went down and have now pretty much taken over. They would rather insist that the weeds are beautiful than rebuild the wall, and have to admit that many walls cannot be rebuilt. The principal is only a man who wants a young woman to tear down the wall to her garden because he cannot tell roses from crabgrass, and thinks her life would be easier without the garden wall getting in the way.

11:37 AM

Wednesday, October 9


Recommended in the Acton Institute's News and Commentary e-mail, and now by me: J. Budziszewski's The Revenge of Conscience, first published in First Things. He begins by asking why things seem to get so bad so fast, and says the usual explanations - that "that conscience is weakened by neglect" and "We don't clearly know what is right and wrong, and when our teachers change the lessons, our consciences change their contents" - just can't

account for the sheer dynamism of wickedness-for the fact that we aren't gently wafted into the abyss but violently propel ourselves into it. Nor, as I will show, can either one account for the peculiar quality of our present moral confusion.

He proposes a different answer:

Conscience is not a passive barrier but an active force; though it can hold us back, it can also drive us on. Moreover, conscience comes not from without but from within: though culture can trim the fringes, the core cannot be changed. The reason things get worse so fast must somehow lie not in the weakness of conscience but in its strength, not in its shapelessness but in its shape.

He develops this idea in a provocative and very helpful article, which I commend to your attention and study. I also commend his "Ask Theophilus" and "Office Hours" columns on the Boundless webzine, produced by Focus on the Family.

10:43 AM

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