Our Moral Morass

Last week I was asked
how to advise a twelve-year-old girl who has been asked to babysit for neighbors. The problem was that the neighbors are a lesbian couple who have had a child by artificial insemination. The girl was uncertain what to do, and uncomfortable at the prospect.

The previous weekend, we were having dinner with a wonderful Catholic family out in the country, and the father said that down the road lives a homosexual couple that gives pool parties in the summer. When welcoming the family, another neighbor said, “You have to get to know Randy and Bob. Their pool parties are fantastic. They always have the greatest food!” Naturally, the Catholic father was reluctant to attend with his four sons and daughter.

The worst moral nightmare I have come across was an old college friend whose daughter came back from college with the news that she was a lesbian. The girl moved to New England with her partner so they could get “married,” and soon announced that the girlfriend was pregnant. The sperm donor was her 18-year-old brother.

In recent weeks we have also been subjected to the news reports of a “man” who is pregnant. This is no longer the stuff of wild San Francisco bath houses or obscene “gay pride” parades in Manhattan. We’re talking about cozy little “alternative families” in the suburbs. Not only is it in the suburbs, but it is in the suburban church: The Episcopalians have famously consecrated a bishop who left his wife and family for his boyfriend, and other mainstream Protestant churches are not far behind on the whole lesbian-gay-trans express train.

The monstrosity of weird and perverted sexuality is here, there, and everywhere. What is an ordinary Christian supposed to do?

What got me thinking about the moral morass of our modern society was the news last week about the police raid on the polygamous fundamentalist Mormon sect in Texas. The inconsistency and hypocrisy of the secular establishment is stunning. The response from the mainstream press to the “pregnant man” story was, “Shucks, what will they think of next!” There’s no hint that such an action is grotesque and repellent, much less that it is morally abhorrent and intrinsically abusive of the human person.

The secular reaction to the pregnant “man” is the same as their reaction to a whole range of moral issues — that is, there is no reaction. Whether it is underage sexual behavior in schools, increasingly bizarre homosexualism and sexual deviancy, freewheeling divorce and remarriage, abortion on demand, or totally unrestrained sexual activity, a studied neutrality is maintained. No one must be shocked. Nothing must be called immoral. There is to be no outrage. Bemused tolerance is the order of the day. No one is allowed to pass judgment. Objective detachment is the only permissible response.

Not so, however, if the problem is with a religious sect. Serial monogamy in Los Angeles is fine, but polygamy in Texas is a crime. Sexualizing young girls in the pornography and advertising industry is fine, but marrying young girls in a Texas commune is wrong. Pressuring women to wear immodest and sexually provocative clothing is “normal,” but pressuring women to wear modest clothes in a Texas commune is frightening and abhorrent. Date rape and unrestrained orgies on college campuses are all part of college life, but pressure for sexual activity among teen girls on a Texas ranch is horrific.

Please do not misunderstand me: I am not supporting the genuinely bizarre practices of a fundamentalist Mormon sect. I am not advocating their twisted ideas about marriage or the indulgence of their penchant for young girls. I am not advocating polygamy or rape or sexual abuse. I am simply pointing out the hypocrisy of our secular, hyper-sexual society.

The critic will respond, “Yes, but the goings-on in the Texas ranch are illegal.” This leads to the question, “Why is polygamy for a Mormon illegal, but serial monogamy for a Methodist legal?” In both instances the man has more than one wife; the only difference is the Mormon has them at the same time. Why is it legal for a woman to medically alter her appearance, legally become a man, marry another woman, and become pregnant by artificial insemination, but it is illegal for a Mormon man to marry a 15-year-old?
The examples could be multiplied. The point is that when society is in moral meltdown, the law becomes an ass. Given the legality of quick divorce and remarriage, homosexual marriage, grotesque reproductive technologies and transgendered identity change, why should those who favor polygamy and underage marriage not launch a campaign to legalize their proclivities?

The reason we are bogged down in a relativistic moral swamp is that our society has no agreed-upon moral compass. The secular relativist believes in a sexual free-for-all, but only for those he finds acceptable by some arbitrary standard of political correctness. For instance, it is okay for homosexuals to parade semi-nude in obscene protest on the steps of a cathedral, but it is not okay for Mormons to practice polygamy in private.

New Age gurus simply follow the moral code they share with the black arts (do what you will), while liberal Protestants attempt to baptize the politically correct code that espouses tolerance as the highest virtue. Because their morality is based on the underlying philosophy of nihilistic secular relativism, both are building on quicksand.

Meanwhile, conservative Protestants (and other sects and cults) try to stand against the tide of moral decay using only the Bible. While laudable, the problem with their position is that they cannot agree on the interpretation of the Bible. The Bible is simply too complex and cannot be used to extract convenient proof texts for effective moral principles in a modern, global world. When the Biblicist, for example, tries to prove that homosexuality is condemned by an Old Testament text, the homosexualist asks whether the Biblicist’s wife ever wears pants; whether he eats pork, shrimp, and oysters; and whether he shaves the corners of his head, for all these things are also prohibited by the Levitical law.

The conservative Christian’s core problem is more dangerously exposed when his own scholars and pastors start to use the Bible to justify moral positions like remarriage after divorce, the legitimacy of artificial contraception, reproductive technologies, abortion, and tolerance of homosexual unions. In the end, Biblicism proves to be just as much a shifting sand as secular relativism.

The Catholic Church is the only worldwide religious institution that even attempts a coherent, intelligent, and cohesive moral framework that applies to the whole of humanity. Pope John Paul II’s development of the Theology of the Body is a profound and far-reaching attempt to synthesize a proper philosophical understanding of the human person and sexual morality. It springs from natural law, the revealed wisdom of Sacred Scripture, and the Christian tradition, while integrating the proper insights of psychology, philosophy, and theology.

The result is a foundation on which to build. It is an authority; a rock in the midst of the shifting sands of our present moral morass. We do well to stop, look, and listen before it is too late.


Father Dwight Longenecker is the pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His upcoming book, Beheading Hydra: A Radical Plan for Christians in an Atheistic Age, will be published by Sophia Institute Press in the Spring. Read more at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

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