Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. On today's BreakPoint, you'll learn why we can't let that happen with marriage.
So often we hear that allowing two men or two women to marry will not hurt anyone, and certainly not “straight” people. Well, the truth is, we already know what happens when a society promotes sexual license and devalues marriage. We just have to look at history.
Way back before anyone was talking about so-called “gay marriage,” radio talk show host and Jewish theologian Dennis Prager wrote a fascinating article called — get ready for this — “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality.”
Before the Jews were placed in the Ancient Near East, the pagan world was already a sexual free-for-all that debased women, boys, and religion itself in the service of male lust. Every aspect of life was sexualized. The pagan gods engaged in no-holds-barred sex, and so did the people. Homosexuality had almost unquestioned acceptance in the ancient world.
But the key issue wasn’t gender, it was power. Prager quotes Brown University philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who wrote, “The central distinction in [ancient] sexual morality was … between active and passive roles.” Because boys and women were on the receiving end of sexual activity, they were “very often treated interchangeably as [simple] objects of [male] desire.”
Not surprisingly, then, women were relegated to the sidelines, important for giving birth and running the home, but not important as real and equal partners to men, who had other sexual options — with boys and other men.
That’s why Judaism’s claim that God created sex only for a man and a woman in marriage was so revolutionary — and despised by pagans ancient and modern pagans I might add as well. As Genesis said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
Prager writes, “This revolution forced the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.” No wonder, Prager notes, that the “improvement of the condition of women has only occurred in Western civilization,” which historically has been the “least tolerant of homosexuality.”
Of course, I should note, that it was the Apostle Paul who further carried this Jewish sexual revolution throughout the ancient world. As Sarah Ruden wrote about in her recent book Paul Among the Peoples, predatory homosexuality was common in Rome and Greece; women and children were just property.
Through Paul, however, Christianity ensured that Western Civilization promoted sex within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman, and placed off limits the sexual abuse of boys and slaves.
The point is simply this: God instituted marriage for the good of man (restraining and channeling his sexuality), for the protection and dignity of woman, and the flourishing of human society.
Western civilization, the greatest ever, took this to heart, but forgets it now at its own peril.
Judaism's Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality
Dennis Prager | Catholic Education Resource Center | 1993
Paul Among the People
Sarah Ruden | Pantheon books | 2010
Find out ways in which you can defend the institution of marriage. Register to attend the Wilberforce Weekend 2012 Break the Spiral of Silence conference, March 30 - April 1.