Within the Christian fellowship, the Good Book says, members should “not speak evil against one another” (James 4:11). A societal maxim tells us verbal caution is especially required in one instance: “Do not speak ill of the dead.”
Though journalists have a duty to “speak evil” if it’s both true and newsworthy, obituaries sometimes obey Johnny Mercer’s sermonic song lyric: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive.” Just before the defenestration of Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein over his sexploits, the death of publisher Hugh Hefner -- a personification of the media maxim that "sex sells, inspired bland, fond farewells, even on “conservative” Fox News.
Or, given recent events at the New York City headquarters of that news operation, is that especially on Fox News?
Not so the truly conservative and ever-fascinating New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, an outspoken Catholic, whose sendoff was an invective classic. His Hef was the “grinning pimp of the sexual revolution,” the “father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis,” a “flesh procurement” agent for celebrities, and “lecherous, low-brow Peter Pan” whose career concluded in “sleazy decrepitude.”
In Hefner’s wake it was perhaps inevitable, given the amalgamated contempt for both evangelical Protestants and President Donald Trump across sectors of U.S. high culture, that some journalists would brand believers as hypocrites, e.g. Brandon Ambrosino, a onetime Liberty University student who came out as gay, writing in Religion News Service.
Ambrosino noted that a Facebook post generated dozens of comments “to defend Trump’s sexual history while excoriating Hefner for his.” After rehearsing the president’s moral career in order to castigate preachers who vouched for his character, he concluded: “These evangelicals have lost any moral high ground from which to lecture culture about sexual morality.”
Interesting. So The Religion Guy scanned 95 posted comments about this column.
Disappointingly, most were predictable "amens" that veered into the gay issue without adding any wisdom on Ambrosino’s point -- an example of why The Religion Guy rarely spends much time looking at online comments.
Now in Hefner’s wake comes this shocker (and potential news hook): What if social science shows the sexual revolution is a dud in terms of sex? What if women’s liberation turns out to be burdensome for women? Such are the controversial contentions of University of Texas (Austin) sociologist Mark Regnerus in “Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy,” brand new from Oxford University Press. Click here for a First Things piece that hits some of the highlights.
Fellow sociologist Linda Waite at the University of Chicago says Regnerus tells a “fascinating and engaging story,” while University of Virginia specialist Bradford Wilcox deems this an “important” work.
Regnerus reports that current research analyzed by his team shows couples have increasing trouble forming “long-term, well-defined relationships” where -- contra media portrayals -- most sex actually occurs. The “mating market no longer leads to marriage” amid the “cheap sex” facilitated by the reigning “free love” ideology, the pill, pornography and social media.
This is “a bad bargain for women, leaving them (and, in turn, men) lonelier and less connected.” For the typical U.S. woman, “the route to the altar is becoming littered with failed relationships and wasted years.”
Then matters get even more dicey. Regnerus claims that “the results are in. Equality between the sexes is leading to the demise of sex” because “we cannot have both eros and strict equality between the sexes. Saving one requires sacrificing the other.”
Regnerus is the University of North Carolina Ph.D. whose team’s preliminary findings on negative outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples (.pdf here) sent colleagues into orbit back in 2012. Notably, he joined a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court's most contentious religion case this term, filing on behalf of Masterpiece Cakeshop's conscience claim (.pdf here) to avoid baking a cake for a same-sex wedding. Fortunately, the professor in question has tenure.
Such a bold contrarian seems the perfect subject for a personality feature. The Guy, for one, would like to know about Regnerus’ religious background and foreground, and hear from his critics. And did we mention that sex sells?