Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Mea culpa

July 02nd, 2015 by The Junior Ganymede

The Junior Ganymede welcomes this guest post by Kent G. Budge.

My reaction to the SCOTUS decision on gay marriage has been decidedly mixed. By that I mean that I’ve experienced a broad range of emotions over it, none of them positive.

One emotion I haven’t experienced is surprise. We all knew this was coming, and those few of us who professed optimism that the Court might yet rule in favor of the states, or at least rule very narrowly against the states, struck me as whistling furiously in the dark.

However, one emotion I have found myself experiencing, which I did not expect, is remorse.

Let me share a parable of sorts. I have a junker car that I drive whenever it’s just me on the trip. It was a nice car when I got it, but it now has 150,000 miles on it, and it’s gotten beat up over the years. To tell the truth, I haven’t spent a lot to keep it in shape. When mice chewed up one of the sensor cables, I didn’t bother to have it fixed, and so my engine check light has been constantly lit for several years now. Recently the air bag failed, and I haven’t bothered fixing that, either, so now the engine check light has been joined by the air bag failure warning light. The two sun visors both came loose years ago, but I’ve only bothered to fix the one on the driver’s side. When another set of mice somehow got into the HVAC system and built a nest in the blower, I did fix that, because I need defrost in the winter for minimal driving safety; but I didn’t bother to track down how the mice got in and patch the opening. Recently the windshield went and got itself cracked, and I settled for an inept repair job at the local Greasy-Lube. The steering wheel has worn down to the bare metal in places; the upholstery is faded and worn; the carpet is filthy and I don’t vacuum it; and don’t even ask me about the finish.

In other words, I haven’t exactly put myself out to maintain the car.

I’m quite certain that there are youngsters somewhere in the world who would derive great pleasure from setting fire to my car. My question is: At what point does my failure to show my car some love give these hypothetical youngsters the right to set fire to it for their own amusement?

Why, never. There’s no such right.

Call this Budge’s First Junker Fallacy: If you don’t take proper care of your car, then I have the right to set fire to it.

Closely related is Budge’s Second Junker Fallacy: If I get great pleasure out of setting fire to your car, that demonstrates that getting you to your workplace and back isn’t its real function.

Perhaps that one could also be called Budge’s Teleological Junker Fallacy.

Until 1965, the legal understanding of marriage was that it was a social institution primarily directed towards establishing permanence and fidelity in those human relationships that had the theoretical potential to produce children. That is, marriage was a conjugal relationship whose foundation was the interests of children.

Last week, the process of changing the legal understanding of marriage into a social institution primarily directed towards adult gratification, begun in 1965, was fully consummated.

While my part in this was microscopic, I am nonetheless feeling a little bitter at myself for doing my part to allow this transmogrification to take place.

Why 1965? That was the year in which the Supreme Court, in Griswold v. Connecticut, ruled in effect that it is unconstitutional to prohibit the use of birth control. Within two years, the federal government would begin funding birth control for low-income couples under Johnson’s Great Society program.

Well, geez. What’s wrong with birth control? I mean, what’s inherently wrong? Sure, it’s been a boon to unmarried couples whose sexual relations violate the Law of Chastity. Sure, it’s been misused by married couples who have the ability to raise a child or two but choose to remain childless. But the youngsters were going to fornicate anyway, and it’s better if they aren’t confronted with the temptation to get an abortion rather than go through all the consequences of dealing with an unwanted child, right? No child should be born who isn’t wanted by his parents, right? And it’s none of my business if a couple decides to limit how many kids they have. I have some pretty good friends who have no children. Some couldn’t, but some others quite deliberately chose not to have children. And there are plenty of older couples in my ward who were long past childbearing age when they got married. One that I’ve home taught for years, and think the world of, just left for a mission.

Let’s take this apart a little at a time.

P.J. O’Rourke once dryly observed that accusing an economist of marginal thinking isn’t actually the insult it might be for any of the rest of us. The idea is that there is always a group of “undecideds” who can be tipped off the fence by some incentive, even an incentive that doesn’t seem very important to most of us. These “undecideds” are living at the margins. They are the target of most advertising and most propaganda.

People like you and I would not choose to fornicate just because birth control removed some of the more obvious consequences of sexual activity. Clearly, there are others who will choose to fornicate even if its consequences are not easily avoidable. There is a margin, which I believe is rather wide in this case, who are affected by the availability of birth control. There is going to be more extramarital sex when there is easier birth control available. Since birth control is imperfect; since people at the margins tend to lack impulse control, which is inconsistent with pausing to slap on a condom in the midst of a passionate encounter; and since uncommitted sex has consequences apart from pregnancy, it is desirable to disincentivize the folks living in this particular margin. In fact, there is some sociological evidence that the illegitimacy rate actually increases with the availability of birth control, suggesting the mere availability of it changes behavior even when it is not actually used. (I acknowledge that this conclusion has been hotly contested.)

So, no, it may not be better to ensure unmarried persons have ready access to birth control.

It’s absolutely none of my business if the Jensens down the street have no children*. It is my concern, as a member of a society that makes a lot of its policy decisions collectively**, if there is a general tendency for couples to marry but have no issue. Demographics are destiny, particularly for a minority like the Latter-day Saints. And when a demographic has a lot of marriages and not a lot of children, there begins to be a troubling disconnect between the fundamental purpose of marriage and the actual purpose it’s being used for.

The observation that older infertile couples still get married, with our blessing, is regarded as a killer argument against the conjugal model of marriage by a lot of proponents of gay marriage. We forget how modern a phenomenon this is. Until the last century or so, women’s death rates were high during childbirth years, but a man who remarried in this age range wasn’t infertile, and likely neither was his new wife. After childbearing age, it was the men who were dying and leaving widows. The great majority of these widows never remarried. I think that’s why Christ had a few things to say about caring for widows and orphans.

My Catholic friends talk about such marriages as being legitimate because they have the form of a fertile marriage. There are theological subtleties to the Catholic view that I am not qualified to explicate, but I see a Mormon equivalent in the teachings of Joseph Smith regarding baptisms for the dead. When this doctrine was first revealed, we had men being baptized for female relatives and women being baptized for male relatives. Joseph Smith gave further instructions that men should be baptized for men and women for women, with an explanation that sounds an awful lot like the Catholic notion of form applied to the question of female ordination. The notion that form is crucial to the meaning of marriage seems sound to me. I find myself thinking of some experiments in artificial intelligence and image recognition, and their relation to Platonic ideals.

Yes, I am married, and my wife and I have used artificial birth control. We also have had three children. That’s not actually that many, except in the context of our our child-depleted society. My wife almost died trying to have a fourth child, and I believed it was my obligation to support her decision that we were done with pregnancies. We looked into adoption, and she believed it was her obligation to support my assessment that the cost of adopting a child grossly exceeded our means.***

So I am not an unqualified opponent of birth control. I do not accept the Catholic position that there must be at least a small possibility of conception for sexual relations to be legitimate. But, like the leaders of our own Church, I am concerned about the misuse and overuse of birth control.  And now I feel a bit of remorse that I have been, for lack of a better word, lightminded in my attitudes towards the use of artificial birth control within marriage, and thereby contributed my bit to detaching marriage from child rearing.

To be sure, I was three when Griswold was decided. Birth control is a reality I grew up with. Children viewed as an optional accessory package to marriage is a reality I grew up with. My generation of Latter-day Saints, and Christians generally, did not take this matter as seriously as they ought.

Remember Budge’s Junker Fallacies.

Then there’s divorce.

Divorce statistics have been misused to attack heterosexual marriage. The majority of heterosexual marriages, even today, are lifelong; statistics showing half of marriages ending in divorce give a skewed picture, since those who divorce once are at a heightened risk of divorcing again. Nevertheless, there are way too many divorces, and this has reflected badly on fidelity and permanence as necessary attributes of marriage for the benefit of children.

There’s no softening it: Christ condemned divorce.

Matthew 5:32: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

That’s an awfully long way from the current attitude. This is true even in the Church. When I was a youngster, divorce was rare; and when it happened, at least within the Church, the likelihood was very high that someone had committed adultery or engaged in gross physical abuse, which was reflected by one or both partners receiving Church discipline. Christ doesn’t mention gross physical abuse as grounds for divorce, but then he appears to have been talking to a group of men. It seems clear, particularly from recent clarifying talks in General Conference, that gross abuse equates to unfaithfulness as an acceptable reason for a Latter-day Saint to initiate a divorce.

Nowadays divorce in the Church, while still less common than in the population at large, is nonetheless no longer rare. As men and women become hardhearted in these latter days, there is more unfaithfulness and gross abuse. What disturbs me in a different way is the number of divorces that apparently involve no unfaithfulness or gross abuse. I acknowledge that I do not know all the circumstances. Nevertheless: How can there be such a thing as an amicable divorce for a Latter-day Saint? Let alone a “no-fault” divorce?  I am of course not speaking against behaving correctly towards an ex-spouse, particularly when children are involved.

I understand the argument that adults should be free to mutually decide to end a contract. I also understand that lawyers and judges got tired of the hijinks some couples went to to manufacture grounds for a divorce, and even more tired of couples lying through their teeth on the witness stand when they were having trouble manufacturing credible grounds. But marriage is no ordinary contract, particularly when children are involved, and the whole point of conjugal marriage is children. And there’s that margin thing. Some couples will put up with an incredible amount of unhappiness to honor their vows, regardless of the social and legal environment; I refuse to pity them and choose to admire their moral heroism instead. Other couples will find a way to split regardless of the details of customs or the law. But there is a significant margin who will try a little harder to stick it out if there is legal and societal stigma to divorce.

I have only married once, and we’re still married. But I will confess, without going into details, that there were times when we nearly gave up on the marriage. My reasons for wanting to quit seemed good then. In retrospect, they weren’t. They came nowhere close to meeting Christ’s standard. As with birth control, I had absorbed a certain lightmindedness about divorce, and thereby contributed my bit to weakening conjugal marriage.

Unfortunately, my children sensed that there was a point where divorce was not unthinkable for me, and even though I repented, the repentance may not stick in their minds as much as the previous lightmindedness. I feel more than a bit of remorse about that.

A few years ago, my stake president rose to the podium at the adult session of Stake Conference, looked out over us, took a deep breath, and declared, “Brothers and sisters, divorce is sin.” As he probably anticipated, the reaction was not good. I feel some bitterness at myself now that I murmured to a few of my friends that my stake president lacked tact. He was, in fact, Jacob in the temple.

Even with couples who have children and honor the permanence and fidelity of their marriage, there is lightmindedness about sexual intercourse. Yes, it is true that sex is a form of play between a married couple. It is equally true that we go to the Temple to watch a movie together.  These descriptions of these activities are not wrong, but they fail to capture their sacred character. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Tolkien has been quoted on the true nature of marriage before in this forum:

The romantic chivalric tradition takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man’s eye off women as they are, as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars.

This deserves serious attention if for no other reason that, superficially, Tolkien’s marriage appeared to be the type specimen of a romantic chivalric marriage.

Of course — I cannot repeat this enough — none of the failure by myself and by others of my generation to view marriage with sufficient seriousness as an institution primarily for providing permanence and fidelity to relationships that theoretically produce children, and only secondarily as an institution for increasing adult happiness, validates the position of proponents of gay marriage. Remember my two junker fallacies.

I feel remorse for not standing my watch as alertly as I should have. But I wasn’t the one who broke through and set the fire.

….

So what now?

It will be some time before we can restore marriage to its proper form in society at large. We will have to begin with restoring marriage to its proper form within the Church, and then within what “Patrick Henry” has called the meta-Church.

There will be active opposition. The great majority of those who have been lured into serving Satan’s purposes do not think they are destroying anything important. They’re just getting along. A small minority know that they are not actually interested in marriage so much as destroying our social structure, but they believe this is the best way to build a better world on the ashes. I believe that only a very few realize the point is sheer nihilism. “For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

In recognizing this, we need to recognize that, in the greater scheme of things, the overwhelming majority of those now opposing us will someday repent and be reclaimed by Christ to a kingdom of glory. We must never attack individuals, but only evil ideas and evil conduct. “Hate the sin but love the sinner” is a very worn cliché precisely because it is a pithy and simple expression of a bedrock truth.

But reject evil ideas and evil conduct we must. And we must not come to the struggle with unclean hands. Not only must we do away with our own lightmindedness towards marriage: We must be model citizens in every respect that does not touch directly on the narrow issues where our consciences require our dissent. We must strive to be a loyal opposition. We must bake the nicest possible birthday cakes for our gay customers, while politely refusing for conscience’s sake to bake wedding cakes for them.

So how do we maintain and enlarge the proper form of marriage in our own church? We need to be very clear on what our doctrine is. I trust the Brethren to give us our lead in this matter. We must voice our support, politely but clearly, for the Proclamation on the Family and the letter that will be read over our pulpits in the next two weeks. We must bear down in pure testimony. We must pray for that testimony if it is presently lacking.

I do not know how this fits with the Benedict options. I cannot see far enough into the future to know in exactly what way our society will crumble.

I do believe the next battle will be over our right to decline to endorse or support gay marriage. We must be prepared for fines and other penalties. We should be prepared to help pay each other’s fines. We should help take test cases to the courts, where we will either claim the right to dissent that Justice Kennedy promised us, or prove him a liar.

I think we’ll lose that one,**** but it’s not yet certain and we must try.

After that, it will be tax exemption for religious colleges, churches, and, most especially, our temples. I think we’ll lose that one, too, and we should be prepared to shoulder the added financial burden of paying the taxes needed to keep these open. We may be called on to provide physical protection for Church buildings and activities. I suggest that we should be enthusiastic in our support of Second Amendment rights, and probably also of “stand your ground” laws; these will help give legality to taking our turn guarding our buildings against vandalism.

We have some promises in scripture that we can draw on for comfort. There are, in particular, promises that Zion will be a refuge when all else dissolves into chaos. We must therefore build Zion. God Himself will then provide us our Benedict option.

—————————————————————

*For the record: The scenario is purely hypothetical. Incredibly, there are presently no Jensens in my ward.

**Granted, after last week, it’s clear we’re no longer making a lot of our most important policy decisions collectively. Regardless.

***Given the shortage of children to adopt, and as a couple who already had three of our own, we were at the bottom of everyone’s priority list and were looking at an international adoption. It’s mind-boggling how expensive and intrusive those are.

****Drawing the logical conclusion about how I view Judge Kennedy’s veracity I leaved as an exercise for the student.

Comments (15)
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July 02nd, 2015 21:10:07
15 comments

MC
July 3, 2015

The most underappreciated aspect of divorce is how it not only ends marriages but weakens the ones it doesn’t end. There have been times where my wife and I have been angry with each other beyond all reason (as in any marriage), and literally the only thing that kept me from doing or saying something I regret is the thought, “You are going to be married to her FOREVER, so don’t do anything that permanently harms your relationship.” Then of course we come back to our senses, relieved that we held back. I would never be able to do that if I regarded divorce as a possibility.


MC
July 3, 2015

“Incredibly, there are presently no Jensens in my ward.”

I had a companion named Elder Larsen. I offhandedly mentioned to him once that “every ward has a Larsen family.”

“Really?” he said. “I’ve never been in a ward with any other Larsens.”

“You only need one, and you were it.”


Bruce Charlton
July 3, 2015

Superb and encouraging post.


G.
July 3, 2015

I don’t want to discourage future guest posters. They don’t always have to reach these heights of quality.

Brother Budge touches on issues that are hard to talk about. Personal issues. Hard to think about, even. But I am quite sure that he is right that he personally, the church collectively, and I personally have been too lightminded about birth control and divorce both. It was a shock to me a few years back when I realized that the Church used to forbid birth control and that it has never approved it, only directed that individual couples study the issue for themselves and seek divine direction. That hasn’t happened at all. Instead, we treat it as unproblematic, even kind of mandatory. Most LDS wards would tolerate a couple not using birth control, but would not embrace their choice. They would probably hear comments from time to time about it. It would be like being a Mormon vegan. And that doesn’t even touch on the physical and emotional risks of using hormonal birth controls, which are significant and apparently quite well known, but which no doctor, secular authority, religious authority, or parental authority ever told me and my wife about. We had to discover it for ourselves. To be honest, I still resent this. Telling young people about well-known risks of important decisions is what authorities are for. And as for divorce, lightmindedness is exactly the right word. I am not divorced, absit omen, but I have been guilty, people I know have been guilty, and people I know and love have been deeply damaged by it. Much of the deep-seated anger I have against our elites stems from divorces This culture hurts people in their inmost lives. And yet I’ve been contaminated by the attitudes too.

What you say about personal lightmindedness is quite right. It is of a piece of your reminder that we may need to be willing to pay more for our temples, pay more to help our Mormon and Christian and Taoist brothers and sisters with fines and being fired because of Twitter mobs, pay out time standing guard on our churches. It is all of a piece. We need to be more serious men, more formidable men, like men at war.


bookslinger
July 3, 2015

This is similar to a mea-culpa post I have had in mind. About 30 years ago we allowed progressives to take over academia, K through university level. That pretty much ensured that succeeding generations would be programmed as leftists.

Dr. Charlton puts most of the blame for the progression of leftism on the media. The locus (is that the right word?) may indeed be more centered in media than in academia. But in my opinion, the media couldn’t have done it alone.

Leftists didn’t defeat conservatism directly, they just hijacked the rising generations, via academia, and let conservatives die off. In my view, academia _made_ them leftists, and the media _kept_ them that way. And of course, by means of various immigration laws and policies, the left has imported millions of left-wing voters.

BTW, the JrG has its own copy of the popular Jane Galt piece on creeping margins.


Vader
July 3, 2015

Books, I look forward to your post, which I think will have much insight and truth in it.

I’ll pick nits, though. I’m not sure if it was Thomas Sowell or Robert Bork who first called it to my attention — perhaps it was Russell Kirk? – but academia was already primed to be taken over by the end of the 50s. I think you can trace the roots clear back to the turn of the century, when American colleges ceased to be appendages to theological seminaries and began to follow the Bismarckian German model. This is why there was once a line in a certain ceremony about being trained for the ministry; since removed, since it no longer makes much sense to initiates any more.

Also, I have come around to the view that the immigrants rarely come here as left wing, but are rapidly made so by the Left. Rather than put all our capital into keeping them out, I would put some capital into making them right wing. I am almost to the point where I see more hope for our culture in Latin American immigrants than in the native born.


Bookslinger
July 3, 2015

I’ll grant that the squishiness had entered academia before 1965, because the university administrations let the 60’s radicals get away with so much ___ (trespass and vandalism) on campus. Plus, there had to be sufficient closeted leftists in place in order to give the 60’s radicals their teaching positions and professorships in the 70’s, and their tenure in the 80’s.

I’m saying that it became entrenched and open, and possibly irreversible in the 80’s. They did a long slow march through aademia (I think I read that phrase somewhere) not a coup (single blow).


Free-range Oyster
July 3, 2015

I usually just lurk here, but I wanted to say thank you for this. I’ve been chastened and encouraged and given wholesome food for thought. Thank you, Kent. I needed all of that.


Vader
July 3, 2015

“We need to be more serious men, more formidable men, like men at war.”

Amen.


Bruce Charlton
July 5, 2015

@KGB – The matter of contraception that you raise is very interesting, because it *can* be argued that devout Mormons have proved over the past half-century that contraception *is* compatible with above-replacement fertility – this is the argument stated by Rodney Stark in The Rise of Mormonism and it was repeated by me when reporting my surveys of British Mormon fertility –

http://www.mormonfertility.blogspot.co.uk/

However, if we regard active Mormons as an elite-within-an-elite (because, due to its demands, Mormonism is a – self-selected – elite religion), and when taking the bigger picture, as you do here, then the low-but-still-above-replacement average fertility of Mormonism can be seen as equivalent to the lower teen pregnancy rates, or lower divorce rates among the secular elites.

In other words, an elite group with high motivation and self-control can ‘manage’ the hazards of ‘liberation’ much better than the mass of the population, and may avoid the worst ill effects.

This line of thinking leads to the conclusion that standard social practices must be orientated towards the mass of people – and that the elites must sacrifice some freedoms to this end.

So that, a general policy of no-contraception is probably the price that must be paid to avoid the multiple socially-deleterious effects – even though there is a substantial minority of people who could use contraception without those deleterious effects.

This is analogous to the situation with alcohol in some countries and ethnic groups – a pro-alcohol and cheap/easily available alcohol culture wreaks havoc (to put it mildly) among teh lower classes and vulnerable individuals (including especially genetically-vulnerable individuals – such as many ‘native’ or aboriginal populations populations).

By contrast, alcoholism is seldom much of a problem among the elites, and among those of particular ethnic groups that seem to have evolved a resistance to alcoholism through multi-generational exposure to the substance.

(The difference in genetic susceptibility is seen mainly in the social practice of binge-drinking; drinking to the points of intoxication. Societies that practice binge -drinking – such as Scotland and Ireland, or with far greater severity Australian Aborigines and Eskimos, are those without much historic exposure to alcohol and little evolved resistance to its addictive qualities).

If the elites of these nations were serious about reducing the problem of alcohol, they would need to forgo their own pleasure in fine wines, whiskey, beers etc, sophisticated social drinking; and prevent advertising, censor positive depictions of alcohol use in the mass media (no more comedy drunk scenes!) – together with taxing alcohol heavily, and controlling the number of outlets.

(Such measures are likely to be more effective overall than an attempt at complete prohibition.)

Analogously, contraception may be something which is not necessarily bad in itself, and even when the outcome is bad overall there may be a substantial minority who avoid the bad consequences – nonetheless, it would not be surprising if – after a few generations – only those large-groups with an effective anti-contraception ethos were still surviving and thriving.

Politics is simple and crude – and effective policies leave little room for nuance.

In practice the choice is probably between a culture of pro-contraception (and all that entails, including its good outcomes) or a culture of anti-contraception (and all that entails, including its bad outcomes) – and it may turn out that this is a simple choice between self-destruction or something viable.

So the correct choice is clear; although it is a ‘tough’ choice, because there are well-known, ineradicable and real problems with an anti-contraception culture.

Nonetheless, when considering society overall and in the long term, an anti-contraception ethos seems to be the correct answer.


Vader
July 5, 2015

Brigham Young said something similar about polygamy. The elite (selected Church leaders) within the elite (the Church) were just able to make it work; the rest of the elite struggled with it, and it was totally unworkable as a general principle for society. I regret I do not have the reference immediately available.

For my part, I am grateful I am not called to practice polygamy. (And, it might as well be said, grateful to have never been married to a woman called to practice polyandry.)

On the matter of birth control, the chief positive I see is that married couples can maintain permanence and fidelity better with an ongoing sexual relationship, and birth control allows such a relationship when reasons of health, age, or limited resources might otherwise required abstinence. The potential for abuse is nevertheless enormous, and lightmindedness is precisely the word for the most common error of Latter-day Saints in their attitudes towards it.


seriouslypleasedropit
July 6, 2015

“We need to be more serious men, more formidable men, like men at war.”

On this: I am convinced that true formidability, once attained, is somewhat effortless. I know the times tables formidably; that is, all sophistry in the world could not convince me against them. Me against the world! And yet I would win.

How hard was it for the Conquistadors to conquer the Aztecs? The British to win at the Falklands?

True formidability requires investment, and maintenance. But these are things one can do while making a joke. Be of good cheer.


Vader
July 7, 2015

“True formidability requires investment, and maintenance. But these are things one can do while making a joke. Be of good cheer.”

Were it not so, this blog would be a mass of contradictions.

His Majesty: “This blog is a mass of contradictions anyway.”


G.
July 7, 2015

With regular application of Slimm-O, the proven specific for weight reduction, only two shillings a bottle, the mass of the contradictions could become much more svelte.


Wesley Dean
July 8, 2015

In regards to understanding the new and everlasting covenant of marriage better, may I commend this book to all of you? http://thegoateskids.blogspot.com/2009/10/power-and-covenants-men-women-and.html
Here’s a bit from chapter sixteen:
“It is important to understand that those who enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage are not covenanting to keep the commandments in general. They have already made those covenants in the waters of baptism. When entering the order of marriage, the bride’s and groom’s promises are much more specific; they promise to keep laws, rites and ordinances that pertain to marriage, the patriarchal order of the priesthood.”
I think the crowd around these parts will find a lot to chew on and ponder in this book.

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