R.R. Reno is editor of First Things.

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Sex on Campus

From First Thoughts

haven’t followed the details of the UVA sex scandal. Unless one is an administrator with responsibilities for such things, keeping one’s distance from the facts is probably best for one’s moral health. Indeed, we didn’t need this particular news story to know that there’s a problem. We’ve embarked on a de-regulation of sexual relations. In the official ideology of our time, our bodies are machines available to provide us with pleasure. The same holds for the bodies of others, limited only by consent. Today, at places like UVa this is the unquestioned and unquestionable orthodoxy. Continue Reading »

Government Marriage

From the December 2014 Print Edition

A constitutional right for men to marry men and women to marry women is a done deal. That’s how I read the ­Supreme Court’s decision not to hear cases in which lower courts ruled that marriage laws in various states that recognize unions only of a man and a woman are unconstitutional. Lower courts will continue to draw this conclusion. If portions of the country resist, the Supreme Court will very likely intervene and find a right to same-sex marriage amid the penumbras and emanations of due process or equal protection. We are thus fast approaching a fundamental distinction between government marriage and church marriage. ­Government marriage is . . . well, it’s hard to tell. The courts have studiously ignored traditional arguments about the meaning of marriage. That’s not surprising, because all thick descriptions of marriage end up focusing on the male–female difference, which isn’t very useful if your goal as a judge is to find a constitutional right of same-sex marriage. Given this new legal reality, what are we to think and do? First, we need to recognize how miserably we have failed. We sought to convince our fellow citizens of some simple truths. That marriage is a universal institution found in all cultures. That it properly organizes, regulates, and sanctifies the sexual union of male and female. That to say otherwise is unprecedented, strange, and unwise as a social policy. We tried to speak these truths in many different ways but without success. Continue Reading »

While We’re At It

From the December 2014 Print Edition

  •  The German Ethics Council has recommended the decriminalization of incest between a brother and sister. The recommendation came after German and E.U. courts rejected various lawsuits from a Leipzig couple claiming that anti-incest laws criminalizing their relationship violate their human rights. The Ethics Council opined that the legal code is neither “well adapted to protecting taboos” nor suited to the task of “imposing moral standards or barriers.” Instead, the law should only protect “individuals” and “the social order” against grave threats. Neither is at stake in adult ­incest, the council reasoned, and therefore laws criminalizing sexual relations between an adult brother and sister violate the more fundamental right to “sexual self-determination.”

  • Well, there you go. Those ever-logical Germans have completed the syllogism. Major premise: We have a right to sexual self-determination limited only by the consent of our partners. Minor premise: Inces­tuous desires, like nearly all sexual desires, can be satisfied by consensual sex. Conclusion: Incest must be ­permitted.
  • Continue Reading »

    Marriage Pledge is Not an Imperative of Conscience

    From First Thoughts

    Last week, I wrote in favor of the Marriage Pledge and suggested that signing a government-provided document designating Spouse A and Spouse B is contrary to conscience. Ed Peters has rightly criticized me. There is nothing intrinsically evil about politically correct euphemisms in government documents, including ones pertaining to marriage. And thus there’s no complicity with evil when a pastor, priest, or laymen sign such documents.  Continue Reading »

    To Rend Is Not to Retreat

    From Web Exclusives

    Does the call for Christians to separate matrimony from government marriage mean we’re retreating from the public square? Damon Linker thinks so: “First Things, the intellectually formidable monthly magazine that played a decisively important role in formulating the interdenominational and interreligious ideology that once galvanized the religious right, has decided to pick up its marbles and go home.” He calls it an “unprecedented retreat of theologically conservative churches from engagement in American public life.” Continue Reading »

    The Role of Government Marriage?

    From First Thoughts

    Ryan Anderson and others (including Doug Wilson) wonder how I can support the Marriage Pledge. It asks pastors and priests to refrain from signing government provided marriage certificates, but allows and even encourages the newly wed couple to march down to the courthouse to get the government contract. Continue Reading »

    A Time to Rend

    From Web Exclusives

    It’s time to make a clear distinction between the government-enforced legal regime of marriage and the biblical covenant of marriage. In the past, the state recognized marriage, giving it legal forms to reinforce its historic norms. Now the courts have redefined rather than recognized marriage, making it an institution entirely under the state’s control. That’s why it’s now time to stop speaking of civil marriage and instead talk about government marriage—calling it what it is. Continue Reading »