Clash in Cairo

News reports about the United Nations' conference on population are spiked with high drama as policy wonks clash with the Vatican and Islamic leaders. But the real clash is over things that are not being said. The U.N. draft document on population goes on at length about "gender equality," the "empowerment of women," and "reproductive rights." But as George Weigel points out in a Wall Street Journal article, in all this talk about gender and sexuality, there's one word conspicuously missing: the word marriage. That silence itself speaks volumes. It reveals the sexual philosophy that undergirds the entire U.N. conference: namely, that sexuality is not a bond designed to build the institutions of marriage and family but merely a matter of individuals exercising their "rights." That same philosophy informs all the sections of the U.N. document that have aroused opposition from the Vatican and Islamic leaders. For example, in the section on adolescent sexuality, the rights and responsibilities of parents to teach their own children about reproduction are brushed aside. Instead, the U.N. calls for government to remove all "social barriers" to children receiving "reproductive care" on their own, apart from their parents' knowledge or consent. The underlying philosophy at work here is what George Weigel calls "radical personal autonomy," which denies any moral or cultural link between sexuality and the institutions of marriage and family. Yet by adopting that philosophy, the U.N. ideologues have set themselves up against the entire scope of human history. As Alan Carlson of the Rockford Institute writes, the historical record "shows that the family is a natural, universal, and irreplaceable community, rooted in human nature." History confirms what the Bible itself teaches: that the family is a pattern ordained by God and written into natural law. Sexuality is meant to be a bond between husband and wife, a means of expressing and strengthening the institution of marriage, which in turn is the basis for the social order. So we ought to applaud religious leaders around the world who are calling attention to the red flags scattered throughout the U.N. document on population—particularly abortion. But this is not just a battle over abortion. The real war is being waged on a deeper level, on the level of world view. What we are witnessing in Cairo this week is a modern revolt against the whole weight of history and biblical teaching. The modern mind proclaims total freedom for the autonomous individual to redefine human nature—to disregard all that has gone before and follow the imperative of personal choice. Sexuality becomes simply one means for the autonomous individual to meet his personal needs. So when you and I hear phrases like "reproductive rights" and "gender equality," we need to learn to recognize them as code words for this radical philosophy. The real issue in Cairo is not population; it's nothing less than a clash between radical individualism and the age-old institution of the family.


Chuck Colson


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