Moral Degeneracy and National Survival

“Democracy May Have Had Its Day” was the headline article on the Wall Street Journal “Opinion” page for April 27-28.  The half-page article reported that 80-year-old Professor Donald Kagan will give his farewell lecture at Yale, Thursday, May 2.  The expectation is that he will be throwing his final darts from that podium at modern education that he thinks is failing to educate students in history, philosophy and the grounding of Western civilization.  When he views the threats coming from Asia and Iran and sees no leadership willing to be serious in addressing them, he says, “When you allow yourself to think of it, you don’t know whether you are going to laugh or cry.”  I would suggest that the sexual immorality that is just taken for granted at Yale might be an even greater threat to the survival of the Western civilization that this classics scholar seeks to defend.

The top story on CBS news Monday evening, April 29, was that an NBA veteran has come out as openly gay.  In his article posted Monday at the Sports Illustrated website, Jason Collins wrote: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center.  I’m black.  And I’m gay.”  Not surprisingly, he drew support from President Obama, former President Clinton, the NBA, and other athletes such as Billie Jean King who was outed in the 1980s.

Is the United States of America in decline?  Many think so.  Is it probable that if things continue the way they have been going for the last 100 years, the social and political landscape of this country will be catastrophically different?  And if so, what will happen to our great-grandchildren and their successors?  Most of us have been told that the Roman Empire that controlled the then-known world decayed from within and was thus destroyed, but few of us have read Roman authors about the extent of the moral decay.

Anne Barbeau Gardiner, writing in the April issue of the New Oxford Review, offers some insights on ancient Rome.  The poet Juvenal, writing at the start of the second century A.D., inveighs against the moral corruption of his day and “exposed the rampant lust of Roman women and showed that this vice was undermining the native culture and aborting a large part of the next generation of Romans.”  Ms. Gardiner continues: “He starts off (in Satire VI) by saying that, long ago, when human beings lived in caves, there was ‘that thing called chastity on earth.’  The world was fresh and young and women, ‘rough as their savage lords who ranged the wood,’ nursed their robust children at their breasts.”  Even recently, Roman women were “poor and therefore chaste.”  But then they became wealthy, and lust became the new normal.

Ms. Gardiner summarizes her review:  “In sum, ‘Satire VI’ shows that where lust is widespread, especially among women, it leads to cultural insanity, the loss of future generations, and the end of a civilization…[The pagan Juvenal’s] satire plainly reveals the vices that were already causing Rome’s decline at the start of the second century.  Does it offer a lesson for us in the here and now?”  My thanks to Ms. Gardiner and the staff at New Oxford Review.  This is not the sort of thing you will read in the daily papers, even those with national readerships.

When Jesus was questioned about divorce and remarriage, He replied that from the beginning “God made them male and female…”  (Mark 10:6)  What appears at first to be simply an obvious statement is actually more profound than I had ever realized, for it responds also to the most basic question about same-sex relationships.  In God’s plan, man and woman are called to marry each other, have children, and stay married until death separates them.  The simple and yet profound reply to those who approve of sodomy in itself and also sodomy under the label of marriage is that God has a plan for love, marriage and sexuality, and same-sex practices contradict that plan and are therefore wrong.  We don’t need reams of sociological data to prove the evil effects of the social acceptance of sodomy although that will be forthcoming in the future.  It is enough to know that Jesus has already provided the answer.

I feel sorry for those with same-sex attractions and I admire those who also remain chaste despite loneliness.  According to those who work with these folks, their loneliness is worse than that of heterosexuals because it’s not something they can talk about with just anybody.  Sympathy, however, does not mean saying that sodomy is now okay.  What it does mean is that these people need Christian help.  The “Courage” movement started by Fr. John Harvey in New York some years ago is precisely what’s needed—a chastity-supporting environment in which men with same-sex attractions can talk about their problems in a non-threatening and spiritually supporting environment.  May the Courage movement continue to grow and help these men.

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