PROGRESSIVE politicians are pushing for changes they think will make society more fair for people they consider marginalized.
California is proposing a new ethnic studies curriculum in public schools that invents new words, including “Hxrstory” to avoid the patriarchal implications of “history.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently rebranded “felons” as “justice-involved persons” in an attempt to avoid stigmatizing lawbreakers. Seventeen states now allow transgendered individuals to complete in girls sports, and drag queens have transitioned from bars to libraries.
These progressive notions upend a lot of traditional thinking, but are they truly beneficial for human flourishing? Do they move us toward a more just and loving society? Should we all climb aboard the progressive train?
I don’t think so. It seems to me that train is going backwards.
I remember my generation scoffing at Judeo-Christian morality back in the late ’60s. We watched movies (“Same Time Next Year” starring Alan Alda, “Ryan’s Daughter,” and “Interlude”) that glorified adultery. Armed with the Pill, young couples in my generation began “shacking up.” For the occasional surprise pregnancy, abortion became an option. It was all so modern. You might call it “progressive.”
In truth, the new morality is anything but. In fact, it’s regressive.
I ran across something interesting recently while preparing for a class I teach. My research started with a comment on a podcast and ended in a scholarly journal published by Oxford University.
The Greco–Roman world of 2,000 years ago had a serious shortage of women. Scholars estimate there were around 140 males to 100 females in that culture.
Many women died in childbirth, others in botched abortions. Female infants were devalued and routinely killed by being left exposed outside for wild animals or the elements to destroy. Detailed inscriptions documenting 600 families in Delphi show that only six chose to raise more than one daughter.
In a letter to his wife, a Roman father wrote, “If you are delivered of a child before I come, if it is a boy, keep it, if a girl, discard it.”
The denigration of women showed up in many other ways. Roman women were married off young—some before puberty—to men chosen for them. Wives were expected to be faithful, but husbands had the freedom to follow their lusts. Slaves had no expectation at all of deciding when (and if) to have sex—they were subject to the whims of those more powerful. And poor people often had to sell their daughters into prostitution to make ends meet.
Around 40 A.D., a subculture began emerging which shocked the Roman world. The Christian church taught that people were bearers of the image of God, and that cohabitation, abortion, infanticide, polygamy, incest, divorce, and infidelity violated God’s law. Instead, husbands were to love their wives, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
That kind of sacrificial love for a woman—and respect for life—was unheard of.
Drawn by these teachings, nearly two-thirds of early church members were female. For once, they were valued. For once, they found marital security. For once, they were not forced to kill their second, third, or fourth daughters. For once, Jew and Greek, slave and free stood on level ground.
And the church exploded from a few thousand members in 40 A.D. to between 5 million and 7 million by 300 A.D.
From the beginning, those Judeo-Christian moral standards were ignored by some who claimed to be Christians, just as they are today. But they gained traction with enough people to stabilize families and communities. The result was Western Civilization and ultimately, our republic, which was founded on “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”
Imperfect, for sure, but we live in the nation most conducive to human flourishing that the world has ever seen.
Christianity taught people to “love one another,” that lusts could be controlled, and that the moral law was based not on current cultural ideas, but on the character of God. To be sure, all Christians (myself included) fall short, but to the extent that moral law was followed, humans did well. And when the culture failed to follow it (as with slavery), humans suffered.
Jeffrey Epstein rationalized his horrific abuses, reportedly saying that “criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable.”
He actually understated it. Throughout most of human history, sex with teenage girls (or boys) or even children has been accepted. Men could do what they wanted with whomever they wanted. It was Judeo-Christian morality that changed that.
So San Francisco may call felons “justice-involved persons” in an attempt to soften reality, but it’ll still have the highest property crime rate in the nation and homeless people camping—and defecating—in the streets.
California may teach school kids to hate the “cisheteropatriarchy” of Western Civilization, but the streets of L.A. will still be full of tent cities and rats carrying typhus.
People like Jeffrey Epstein and his friends may enjoy free-spirited lives full of sex and glamour, but they will still leave a trail of human suffering in their wake.
G.K. Chesterton said, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” The misguided progressive effort to tear down the moral underpinnings of Western Civilization is just as foolish.