NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview.
Stephen Baskerville teaches international politics and government at Patrick Henry College. But he’s also a respected scholar of sexuality and family issues.
EICHER: His latest book is titled The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power.
WORLD Editor-in-Chief Marvin Olasky recently talked to him about how sex became such a political issue.
Here’s an excerpt.
MARVIN OLASKY: When you try to look over the past few decades and tell the history of our changing attitudes as you do here, can you give us a synopsis of going back 35, 40 years, how things have changed and why they’ve changed?
STEPHEN BASKERVILLE: Over the last few decades, the explosion of sexuality, not only in our society, our culture, but in our politics as well. It’s had a huge impact on our public policy. We’ve been just succession of one controversy after another, not just same-sex marriage, transgenderism, and now more recently the allegations about sexual harassment and sexual assault and sexual this and sexual that. But we go back, decades before that, we had controversies in the Bush administration over the promotion of marriage and healthy marriages. In the Clinton administration, we talked about fatherlessness and the crisis of fatherless homes. And of course, you could go back to the 70s and the concerned one hand report and the explosion of single parent homes that resulted largely from out of wedlock births and from the divorce epidemic.
So this multifaceted sexual revolution has had a huge impact on our society, on our politics, and what’s striking to me is the way scholars, and journalists, and Christians, too, our clergy, have not dealt with this in a holistic way. They’ve dealt with selected aspect of it. Very few people have connected the dots or tried to show the interconnection with these things. Many issues Christians deal with, like the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism, and others non-Christians primarily deal with, like issues about campus rape and these campus allegations and Christians kind of stay away from those. And they often don’t talk to each other, these groups, they don’t see the bigger picture of what’s going on here.
So my aim in the book was to try and show the big picture here. There’s a pattern. The more I looked at these different phenomenon, these different aspects of the sexual revolution, the more I saw a pattern emerging in different areas, almost invariably a destructive pattern, too, and as you say, one where many people today didn’t know how to address them. The Harvey Weinstein thing, the whole thing about how do you deal with these sexual harassment allegations, Christians have largely been left out of the conversation, but so have others because it’s so hard to deal with this. Is there truth in it? Of course there’s truth in it. Is it overblown? Is it politically driven? Of course it’s politically driven. So it creates huge moral dilemmas and moral difficulties and how do you approach this problem, how do you make sense of it, and this is what my book tries to do.
OLASKY: So you’re saying that often Christians, in a sense, on the front lines, haven’t stepped back and seen the broader context.
BASKERVILLE: I would say there’s so much the churches and the Christian groups are often silent on, and this goes back decades, the churches, too. Divorce, there’s so little said about divorce, either as a personal issue or as a political issue, which it really is. It’s a matter of public policy. Cohabitation, which really exploded, which was also a public policy issue because it really proceeded from the welfare state. Cohabitation epidemic didn’t come out of nowhere. It didn’t come purely from the culture. It also came from things like public policy changes like the creation of the welfare state which gave very clear financial and other incentives to have children out of wedlock. So I guess I would like to see how we can fit this concentration because the concerns about transgenderism and same sex marriage are very important and I do address those in the book, but I’d like to see them taken as part of where can we fit them into the larger failings, going further back in time, too, the problems which have emerged really since the 70s or 60s since the Woodstock generation.
OLASKY: Let’s go back. No fault divorce, it’s almost the 50th anniversary now, first in California, actually a bill signed by Governor Ronald Reagan, at that time, establishing no-fault divorce and then that quickly swept across the country. How did that… did that lead to the changing ideas about homosexuality and so forth, and if so, how?
BASKERVILLE: Absolutely. It certainly did, in ways that are not easy to understand. But that, it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of no fault divorce. Maggie Gallagher called it the abolition of marriage because it really did. It abolished marriage as a legally enforceable contract. From then on, marriage had a moral power to it still but it was no longer legally enforceable in law. So basically, the state was saying we can dissolve your marriage over your objections without you having done anything wrong. It’s impossible to overestimate that. Just to give you an example, when the same sex marriage controversy was erupting a few years ago, I quote this several times in the book, activists in favor of same sex marriage say, “If you want to go back to the monogamous legally enforceable marriage of the 1950s, go ahead, and we’ll stay out of it, we the homosexuals, you can have it. Marriage is yours. It’s only because marriage was adulterated, so to speak, marriage was degenerated because of you, the heterosexuals. It’s only because you degraded marriage that we find it attractive.” It’s only when marriage became serial monogamy, only when marriage was that you could get out of it easily that it fit the, what for many self-identified homosexuals is their promiscuous lifestyle.