Hiding the Downside of Moral Decline

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Barton Swaim picks out something important in his Wall Street Journal review of a book titled Moral Combat by R. Marie Griffith:

Ms. Griffith, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, writes with cold objectivity about her material, but the subject of sexual morality does not lend itself to cold objectivity. She has written a detailed history of the breakdown of American society’s broad Christian consensus on sexual behavior but says little about the consequences of this breakdown. There is nothing here about, for instance, the effects on children of single-parent upbringings, nothing about the dramatic dissolution of marriage among African-Americans, and almost nothing about the objectification of women in omnipresent pornography. The overall effect strikes this admittedly conservative reviewer as incomplete or skewed, like a book on the changing technology of warfare that never mentions death tolls or actual wars.

The narrative is all about what we’re told, and if people are only told about an evolution toward unchallenged liberty and the decline of moral institutions, but not about the trade-offs, our sense of ourselves and our history is terribly skewed.  One can see how the impression develops that our ancestors were just unenlightened, superstitious simpletons.  After all, by the progressive mainstream narrative, they allowed their freedoms to be restricted for no reason at all.

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One can also see how younger generations, having been fed this narrative their whole lives, think it mere bigotry to worry about the deleterious effects of every innovation that cultural radicals force before us for approval.  Their story of history is of humanity’s perpetually being afraid to take evolutionary steps and perpetually finding that our concerns were unfounded.  At some point, having felt one’s way around in the dark and found no walls, the temptation is to increase our pace.  As Swaim notes, however, we’re ignoring sounds and signals that we might be approaching not a wall, but a cliff.

It is as if we’re watching a series of movies in which one character encourages the other to push away his inhibitions, but the movies never let the story follow up with the pair to display any consequences.  The circumstances are changed, and the hardships in every movie are just vaguely alleged to have been created by lingering inhibitions.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    While I do not doubt that pornography has had much to do with things (35% of viewers are female). I am just old enough to recall the legalization of abortion. Some ten years earlier was the “Pill”. Women believed these had “set them free”. Prior to this, fear of pregnancy had as much to do with behavior as “morals”. Or maybe, fear of pregnancy created the “morals”.

    I am not sure how this correlates with fatherless children. That is quite definitely a decline. The way government funds these must have some effect. I think this whenever I see women with 3-4 kids, all of different colors (obviously different fathers). This represents a “living” to them. A few years ago, I had three guys doing some roofing for me. Discussion of “baby mommas” was rampant, I believe I counted 16 children among them. Considering “birth control”, why all of the children? I guess it beats working.

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