Mary Eberstadt of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution wrote a very insightful essay for the April 2, 2012 issue of National Review entitled Sexual Counterrevolution, which I highly recommend. In it she contends that it is not unthinkable that the range of conflicts now raging over the social issues, in which the conflict over who will decide the final legacy of the now half century of sexual revolution, will in the end result in a counterrevolution. If she is at least partly correct, it goes without saying that this will have momentous implications for our politics, the economy, and the entire public and private sphere, and she believes that the intellectual struggle over all these imponderables has only just begun, for after all and needless to say, there are those who think this revolution has been a benign force in the world and those who think otherwise.
As Eberstadt emphasizes, nothing arouses distaste in reasonable people, those she calls the “voices of reason coalition”, quite as efficiently as the “social issues”, of the advocates on all sides of which the voices of reason ask, “can’t they just go away?” and “why are we talking about this stuff when the economy is in the tank?” Well, they won’t go away, they shouldn’t go away, and Eberstadt makes it very clear why this is so. First of all, the revolution isn’t over by a long shot and its premises are not settled doctrine; second, and more important, with the passage of time, it has become increasing clear that the sexual revolution has imposed significant costs on individuals and society that no one predicted when it was started.
And please understand that this is not a theology matter, but one of secular social science. The bottom line here, from a purely secular perspective, is that the fruit of the sexual revolution, which since its inception has been a corollary of the question of what is human nature, is the destruction of the basic foundation of society, the family. In fact, we know that the best predictor of youth problems is no longer poverty, but family structure. And, as Charles Murray notes in his recent work on the subject, “I know of no other set of important findings that are as broadly accepted by social scientists who follow the technical literature, liberal as well as conservative, and yet are so ignored by network news programs, editorial writers, and politicians of both major parties”.
The most frustrating part of this phenomenon, as Eberstadt notes, is that the bane of the “voices of reason coalition”–the rampantly expanding welfare state–is a direct consequence of the family crisis engulfing the entire Western world, but they don’t want to talk about it. In fact, statism and family breakdown feed off and nurture each other. Just think of all the infrastructure that has been put in place to replace the broken family. This is the ugly truth. Yet when Pope Benedict spoke on the sanctity of the family based on the marriage of one man and one woman before over a million people during Mass at the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan, there was not a word from the mainstream media. Imagine the media response to a rally of one million for same sex marriage!
Ten years ago, I asked readers of the Pilgrim to focus on the major themes that would dominate the 21st century and to send me their thoughts on them. I received some interesting responses and then formulated my own thoughts, which basically proceed as follows: As important as the daunting geopolitical issues are, there is an issue that will trump even those of worldwide war and peace, the transformation of the Middle East, the configuration of the American role in the world, the rise of China and India, and the reformation of radical Islam. It is the looming cultural, philosophical, and religious conflict on the question of the meaning of human nature, or what it means to be human. And this of course is largely centered on the issue of human sexuality, which is the primary focus of Eberstadt’s essay.
And yet the issue is even much broader. The advances in the biosciences and neurosciences have for the first time provided man with the capability to transform his very nature. As a result, we will be forced to return to the questions of who we are and why are we here in a way that has been too long absent from public discourse. If this be a counterrevolution as Eberstadt suggests, it can’t come soon enough. There will be political decisions on these issues of enormous impact and complexity under deliberation over the next several decades. To hope that these decisions can be made in a morally neutral vacuum without being judgmental is a delusion, and to delegate these decisions to the scientists and professional bioethicists (or worse, the judiciary) would be a dereliction of duty in a democratic republic.