Category Archives: Marriage

True Love Revolution officially renamed The Harvard College Anscombe Society

True Love Revolution is officially renamed The Harvard College Anscombe Society. We have renamed ourselves after Elizabeth Anscombe, a Cambridge professor and celebrated British philosopher of the 20th century. In her work, Anscombe defended many principles shared by our organization, including chastity and the importance of marriage and the family. Inspired by her intellectually rigorous support for our group’s beliefs and by her witness to those values as a wife and mother, we have renamed our organization in her honor. Our mission remains unchanged, but we think that this new name will be very important in continuing to build our club and further its mission on campus.


“Then there is the True Love Revolution, a Harvard group formed in 2006 ‘to give students a moral and political option in issues relating to sex and marriage.’ Its members believe that liberationist attitudes toward sex, sexuality, and relationships damage students’ health and well-being.'”  -Professor Ruth Wisse

In “Welcome To Freshman Disorientation,” published in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse, discusses how “student opinion at elite schools has lately been growing more varied.” She presents the mission of  True Love Revolution and mentions groups at Harvard like Harvard Right to Life and the Harvard Republican Club, suggesting that “conservatives in particular have become more outspoken.”  To read the complete article, click here. 

True Love Revolution Recognized in Wall Street Journal

Investing in Future Relationships

For a while now, there has been a lot of discussion of what the actual benefits are for remaining abstinent. What is there to gain by waiting? According to a study by Dean Busby, a professor at the Brigham Young University School of Family Life, the decision to refrain from premarital sex can provide a boost to the chances of a good marriage.

In the recently published study, researchers at Brigham Young University took a look at some of the factors that affect the success of a relationship, particularly the effects of premarital sex on future marital satisfaction. The timing for introducing sex into the relationship seems to have a lasting impact on the outcome of the relationship, with the general trend being that couples who wait longer seem to have stronger relationships. The study used data collected in a survey to try to gain a quantitative assessment of people’s behaviors and if that relates to the strengths of their marriages.

Although there are numerous possible explanations for these results, it would seem that this study highlights the crucial role that communication and emotional and mental compatibility play in a relationship. Sexual compatibility is of significant value in a marriage, but is not of itself enough to sustain a marriage. A healthy, happy marriage needs to be grounded in communication and openness between spouses, and some researchers believe that by postponing sex couples are giving themselves the opportunity to develop their relationship in these other fields. This seems to pay off later on, when the relationship has to withstand the difficulties that people confront throughout life. By giving their marriage a solid emotional foundation, couples seem to be investing in both the physical, sexual part of their relationship and their overall future satisfaction.


Girgis/Anderson/George Respond to Yoshino Again

NYU Law Professor Kenji Yoshino has written at Slate a second critique of the George et al marriage article. And today on Public Discourse, Sherif Girgis, Robby George and Ryan Anderson offer a second reply to Yoshino. It’s worth the read, to say the least. Here’s some excerpts, though I suggest you do it justice and read it in its entirety.

“Our first reply challenged Yoshino to explain his own view of marriage, such that two men or two women could form what is truly a marital relationship. Yoshino: “I thought the answer would be intuitive: I want . . . marriage to widen to permit same-sex couples to enter it.” Translation: Yoshino wants marriage to be whatever it must be such that two men or two women could truly marry. But this is to dodge the crucial—and ultimately unavoidable—question: what is marriage? We had hoped Yoshino would offer what we had offered: a holistic defense of a view of marriage that accounts for marital norms that he wishes to retain, assuming that there are some (e.g., monogamy and sexual exclusivity).

But Yoshino sees his ad-hoc, results-oriented approach as a virtue of his view because, he says, proponents of “trans-historical . . . definitions of marriage have often been time’s fools.” Since “we do not stand at the end of history today,” Yoshino thinks that “only time will reveal” what the moral ideals of “liberty, equality, and justice” require of our marriage law.

We reject this idea of history as a quasi-divine judge. We doubt that Yoshino himself believes that each generation is necessarily more enlightened than the previous one. Such a belief would play into the conservative caricature of progressivism’s alleged faith in the inevitability of moral progress. In any event, it is demonstrably false. Nor can the passage of time as such reveal new principles of justice or equality. History tells us what has happened, not what should happen. Though it might help us predict a policy’s effects on certain human goods, it cannot give us principles for evaluating those effects, or for determining the structure of those goods. But what we sought from Yoshino was his view of the normative structure (the defining norms) of the human good of marriage. Finally, liberty, equality, and justice forbid imposing arbitrary norms. But the question of whether any norm (complementarity, permanence of commitment, monogamy) is essential to marriage and its public purposes, or irrelevant and therefore arbitrary, cannot be answered without a holistic view of the human good of marriage and the point of marriage policy. So to know what justice requires, Yoshino must first address the question that he resolutely refuses to answer, and to which no mere succession of historical events gives any hints: what is marriage?

And later….

Yoshino imputes to us what he labels “the common procreation argument” about marriage, which he thinks cannot account for the validity or value of marriages that do not produce children. But we denied that actual procreation was necessary for marriage, and defended as philosophically sound the historic law of marriage that has long regarded infertility as no impediment to matrimony. For marriage is no mere means to procreation, but valuable in itself. That is perfectly consistent with holding, as we do, that the distinctive contours of marriage are what they are in significant part because it is the kind of union that would be naturally fulfilled by having and rearing children together.

After all, any serious account must explain how marriage differs from other types of community—and make sense of the evident fact that the idea of marriage would never have been conceived if human beings did not reproduce sexually. The view that we defend and that our legal tradition long enshrined does both: Marriage, valuable in itself, is the kind of commitment inherently oriented to the bearing and rearing of children; it is naturally fulfilled by procreation. This orientation is related to the fact that marriage is uniquely embodied in the kind of act that is fulfilled by procreation: coitus. By coitus alone, a man and woman can be related much as the organs of a single individual are related—as parts coordinating together toward a biological good of the whole. So marriage is consummated in an act that creates in this sense a bodily union—an extension of two people’s union of hearts and minds along their bodily dimension, thus making marriage a uniquely comprehensive interpersonal union. (By contrast, friendships in general are unions of hearts and minds alone, and so are characteristically embodied in conversations and joint pursuits.) Finally, in view of its comprehensiveness and its orientation to children’s needs, only marriage inherently requires of its would-be participants pledges of permanence, exclusivity, and monogamy. (By contrast, friendships do not require a promise of permanence and are often enhanced, not betrayed, by openness to new members.)

Every single sentence about marriage in the previous paragraph applies equally to any man and woman who have made and consummated their marital commitment, regardless of fertility. After all, each such sentence is just as true of a couple on their wedding night as it is after the birth of a third child. By contrast, not one of these same sentences applies to two men, two women, partnerships of three or more, or by-design temporary or open unions. If Yoshino thinks that we offer no “principled ground” for the distinctions we make, perhaps that is because his inapt label for our view (“common procreation”) has clipped and obscured it.

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The Weakness of a Word

While many Harvard students are willing to engage in intellectual conversations about the marriage issue, some Harvard students cop out of respectful dialogue by pulling the hate card on True Love Revolution, denouncing members as homophobic and hateful merely because they believe in conjugal marriage, where the public purpose is to attach each child to a father and mother. In the past month, email list debates about True Love Revolution were speckled with accusations of homophobia; though some other students defended the right of their peers to support traditional marriage (and in some cases, were subsequently insulted as well by their peers). As NYU legal philosopher Jeremy Waldron says, “many who are convinced by the gay rights position are upset” that many people “refuse to take the liberal position for granted.”

Traditional marriage supporters at Harvard are hardly alone. This week, the Washington Post published “In the gay marriage debate, stop playing the hate card,” by Matthew Franck, Director of the Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute. Franck begins the article by giving many examples of gay marriage supporters pulling the hate card on anyone who refuses to conform to their policy agenda, drawing on diverse examples like TV shows, faculty firings, Apple ridding itself of the Manhattan Declaration iTunes app, and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent publishing of “anti-gay hate groups”. Franck criticizes gay marriage supporters for refusing to even have a conversation, despite the fact that voters have repeatedly voted to protect the traditional definition of marriage. He wonders why gay marriage supporters are so quick to leap to accusations of hate, rather than engage in discussions about the massive policy suggestion that is clearly widely controversial. Franck goes on to ask,

What’s going on here? Clearly a determined effort is afoot, in cultural bastions controlled by the left, to anathematize traditional views of sexual morality, particularly opposition to same-sex marriage, as the expression of “hate” that cannot be tolerated in a decent civil society. The argument over same-sex marriage must be brought to an end, and the debate considered settled. Defenders of traditional marriage must be likened to racists, as purveyors of irrational fear and loathing. Opposition to same-sex marriage must be treated just like support for now long-gone anti-miscegenation laws.

This strategy is the counsel of desperation. In 30 states, the people have protected traditional marriage by constitutional amendment: In no state where the question has been put directly to voters has same-sex marriage been adopted by democratic majorities. But the advocates of a revolution in the law of marriage see an opportunity in Perry v. Schwarzenegger , currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. In his district court ruling in the case in August, Judge Vaughn Walker held that California’s Proposition 8 enacted, “without reason, a private moral view” about the nature of marriage that cannot properly be embodied in public policy. Prop 8’s opponents are hoping for similar reasoning from the appeals court and, ultimately, from the Supreme Court.

The SPLC’s report on “hate groups” gives the game away. It notes that no group is listed merely for “viewing homosexuality as unbiblical.” But when describing standard expressions of Christian teaching, that we must love the sinner while hating the sin, the SPLC treats them as “kinder, gentler language” that only covers up unreasoning hatred for gay people. Christians are free to hold their “biblical” views, you see, but we know that opposition to gay marriage cannot have any basis in reason. Although protected by the Constitution, these religious views must be sequestered from the public square, where reason, as distinguished from faith, must prevail.

Marginalize, privatize, anathematize: These are the successive goals of gay-marriage advocates when it comes to their opponents.

First, ignore the arguments of traditional marriage’s defenders, that marriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that children will have mothers and fathers, and that same-sex marriage is not an expansion but a dismantling of the institution. Instead, assert that no rational arguments along these lines even exist and so no refutation is necessary, and insinuate that those who merely want to defend marriage are “anti-gay thugs” or “theocrats” or “Taliban,” as some critics have said.

Second, drive the wedge between faith and reason, chasing traditional religious arguments on marriage and morality underground, as private forms of irrationality.

Finally, decree the victory of the new public morality – here the judges have their role in the liberal strategy – and read the opponents of the new dispensation out of polite society, as the crazed bigots of our day.

American democracy doesn’t need civility enforcers, nor must it become a public square with signs reading “no labels allowed.” Robust debate is necessarily passionate debate, especially on a question like marriage. But the charge of “hate” is not a contribution to argument; it’s the recourse of people who would rather not have an argument at all.

That is no way to conduct public business on momentous questions in a free democracy. “Hate” cannot be permitted to be the conversation stopper in the same-sex marriage debate. The American people, a tolerant bunch who have acted to protect marriage in three-fifths of the states, just aren’t buying it. And they still won’t buy it even if the judges do.

The use of the word homophobic is gradually being drowned in numerous definitions, and while users of the word may sincerely believe what they deem homophobic is indeed homophobic, I think it may be more useful to constructive discussions about the nature of law and society to use terms that more adequately represent the specifics of a situation, rather than surrender to the proclivity to categorize all that we disagree with to a word with powerful discussion-halting connotations. If we strive to understand each other, rather than merely label, I think we will be much more respectful and constructive to the world that we live in and the issues that we face. When the word is used to mean so many different things, we lose our ability to control the outcome of our words, and I think that in many contexts, the word has been used to silence and also to stop considering a difficult topic. But the outcome of that use is quite different, because once people feel like they are being intimidated, they feel more impassioned. To me, when the word is used so freely, it justifies TLR’s existence, and the need to articulate and re-articulate the philosophy behind our beliefs.

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Why Marriage Doesn’t Fail

For those interested in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, “What is Marriage?”, by Princeton’s Robert P. George and Sherif Gergis, and University of Notre Dame’s Ryan Anderson, this post is for you. What I love about these three established and budding scholars is that they’re always up for a good intellectually honest debate, and they are ridiculously good at what they do.

Today, they responded to Kenji Yoshino of NYU Law School, a prominent and influential gay rights legal scholar, who criticized “What is Marriage” in an article published in Public Discourse.

The article cites eminent legal philosopher NYU Professor Jeremy Waldron, who wrote in a recent paper that it

“infuriat[es]” many of his fellow liberals that some intellectuals remain determined, in Waldron’s words, “to actually argue on matters that many secular liberals think should be beyond argument, matters that we think should be determined by shared sentiment or conviction.” In particular, Waldron laments, “many who are convinced by the gay rights position are upset” that others “refuse to take the liberal position for granted.”

Professor Yoshino is one such colleague. And George et al’s resounding critique of Yoshino’s argument reveals the truth of Waldron’s theory that proponents of gay marriage need to take the traditional position seriously instead of wasting time stigmatizing those with whom they disagree.

I encourage you to read “What is Marriage” over your winter break between the meals and the caroling. In the authors’ own words, it “offers a robust defense of the conjugal view of marriage as the union of husband and wife, and issues specific intellectual challenges to those who propose to redefine civil marriage to accommodate same-sex partnerships.”

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Harvard Marriages – Finding Love & Commitment Early

Jane Seo of The Harvard Crimson published a beautiful piece this week on the marriages of three undergraduates.

All three couples are religious (Jewish, Mormon, Protestant) and their profiles shed light on a life few fellow undergrads can imagine. In fact, according to the 2004 census, only  7 percent of American college students are married. At Harvard, only 27 undergrads are married, as the Registrar reports to Seo. Despite their decision to opt-out of the main stream, the students all have very beautiful things to say about their decision to marry young. Loren McGinnis ’11, one of the featured students, says that he and his wife “believe that…marriage is an eternal commitment.”

McGinnis also goes on to contextualize his marriage, adding that Mormons are more likely to marry young, hypothesizing that the “early marriage age could be attributed to the high value that Mormons place on family and marriage.” The article goes on to say,

“I can go to Harvard and get as many prefixes as I want,” McGinnis says, “but the most important title I’d have in my life is fatherhood.”

McGinnis also says that marriage is a practical response to Mormonism’s rules against premarital sex—the result is that Mormons tend to have a shorter “courtship process,” he says.

Nadler, an Orthodox Jew, says that some who share his religious beliefs also tend to marry young. According to the US Census Bureau, the median age of a first marriage in the United States was 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women in 2010. Nadler says that based on his experience, he thinks many Orthodox Jews marry earlier in their 20s.

Many of Nadler’s friends were already married when he married, Nadler says. As a result, Nadler, who hopes to attend law school or graduate school in philosophy, says he was “very familiar and comfortable with having this traditional responsibility.”

While all three have learned how to navigate married undergraduate life, Harvard certainly doesn’t make things easy, as Harvard’s housing policy forces married students to live off-campus. The university does not offer married student housing, unlike many other schools.

Seo concludes her well-written piece with asking the students about the social challenges of marriage in college:

They also says people at Harvard have welcomed their decision to marry young. Although some people were surprised, Nadler says, “most of our friends were accepting and excited for us.”

“At Harvard, people find it cool that I’m married,” Westphal says. “But in high school some people were judgmental.” But he would respond, “It’s my life, it’s none of your business.”

The primary challenge McGinnis says he has faced while married has been the stress associated with raising a child. This month, McGinnis’ daughter will turn 2. In raising her, McGinnis says he and his wife sacrificed friendships and countless nights of sleep.

But both parents agreed that having a daughter changed their lives for the better.

“Just watching her run around brings joy to my heart,” McGinnis says.

Associate Prof Mark Regnerus at University of Texas-Austin would commend the three undergrads for figuring out young marriage. In his widely read 2009 article in the Washington Post, “Say Yes. What Are You Waiting For?”, Regnerus speaks to many of the themes that define the Harvard dating scene,

In my research on young adults’ romantic relationships, many women report feeling peer pressure to avoid giving serious thought to marriage until they’re at least in their late 20s. If you’re seeking a mate in college, you’re considered a pariah, someone after her “MRS degree.” Actively considering marriage when you’re 20 or 21 seems so sappy, so unsexy, so anachronistic. Those who do fear to admit it — it’s that scandalous.

How did we get here? The fault lies less with indecisive young people than it does with us, their parents. Our own ideas about marriage changed as we climbed toward career success. Many of us got our MBAs, JDs, MDs and PhDs. Now we advise our children to complete their education before even contemplating marriage, to launch their careers and become financially independent. We caution that depending on another person is weak and fragile. We don’t want them to rush into a relationship. We won’t help you with college tuition anymore, we threaten. Don’t repeat our mistakes, we warn.

Sara, a 19-year-old college student from Dallas, equated thinking about marrying her boyfriend with staging a rebellion. Her parents “want my full attention on grades and school because they want me to get a good job,” she told me. Understandable. But our children now sense that marrying young may be not simply foolish but also wrong and socially harmful. And yet today, as ever, marriage wisely entered into remains good for the economy and the community, good for one’s personal well-being, good for wealth creation and, yes, good for the environment, too. We are sending mixed messages.

This is not just an economic problem. It’s also a biological and emotional one. I realize that it’s not cool to say that, but my job is to map trends, not to affirm them. Marriage will be there for men when they’re ready. And most do get there. Eventually. But according to social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs, women’s “market value” declines steadily as they age, while men’s tends to rise in step with their growing resources (that is, money and maturation). Countless studies — and endless anecdotes — reinforce their conclusion. Meanwhile, women’s fertility is more or less fixed, yet they largely suppress it during their 20s — their most fertile years — only to have to beg, pray, borrow and pay to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s. Although male fertility lives on, it doesn’t hold out forever, either: Studies emerging from Europe and Australia note that a couple’s chances of conceiving fall off notably when men pass the age of 40, and that several developmental disorders are slightly more common in children of older fathers.

We can’t continue to view marriage as a transition of loss. While an undergraduate marriage isn’t for everyone, these three students illustrate that marriage, in the long run, is a transition of gain. Ultimately, there will never be a moment in our lives when marriage fits perfectly; marriage can’t fit to us, we must fit to marriage.

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Back to the Drawing Board on the Marriage Debate

Over at the magazine The American Conservative, college professor Stephen Baskerville argues that defenders of traditional marriage need to rethink the arguments they have been offering up to this point in the debate.

The weakest argument for the traditional cause, Professor Baskerville claims, consists of the “vague assertions that homosexual marriage weakens true marriage in some way—which in itself, actually, it does not.”

Baskerville argues that it is not the homosexual lobby that has brought about the decline of traditional marriage – rather, its heterosexual should-have-been supporters bear the blame. While Robert P. George et al.’s new article (on the nature of marriage and the state of the gay vs. traditional marriage debate, as referenced on a separate post) would disagree with some of his theories, Baskerville claims,

The demand for same-sex marriage is a symptom, not a cause, of the deterioration of marriage. By far the most direct threat to the family is heterosexual divorce. “Commentators miss the point when they oppose homosexual marriage on the grounds that it would undermine traditional understandings of marriage,” writes family scholar Bryce Christensen. “It is only because traditional understandings of marriage have already been severely undermined that homosexuals are now laying claim to it.”

Though gay activists cite their desire to marry as evidence that their lifestyle is not inherently promiscuous, they readily admit that marriage is no longer the barrier against promiscuity that it once was. If the standards of marriage have already been lowered, they ask, why shouldn’t homosexuals be admitted to the institution?

“The world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50% divorce rates preceded gay marriage,” Andrew Sullivan points out. “All homosexuals are saying C9 is that, under the current definition, there’s no reason to exclude us. If you want to return straight marriage to the 1950s, go ahead. But until you do, the exclusion of gays is simply an anomaly—and a denial of basic civil equality.”

Not only do the current, massively-lowered standards surrounding traditional straight marriage make it difficult its supporters to exclude gays. Baskerville thinks that arguments typically offered in defense of traditional marriage are just as weak:

The notion that marriage exists for love or “to express and safeguard an emotional union of adults,” as one proponent puts it, is cant. Many loving and emotional human relationships do not involve marriage.

What is the proposed solution? What can supporters point to as a feature of traditional, straight marriage that elevates its meaning?

Marriage exists primarily to cement the father to the family. This fact is politically incorrect but undeniable. The breakdown of marriage produces widespread fatherlessness, not motherlessness. As Margaret Mead pointed out long ago—yes, leftist Margaret Mead was correct about this—motherhood is a biological certainty whereas fatherhood is socially constructed. The father is the weakest link in the family bond, and without the institution of marriage he is easily discarded […]

[…]Even the conservative argument that marriage exists to rear children is too imprecise: marriage creates fatherhood. No marriage, no fathers.

Once this principle is recognized, same-sex marriage makes no sense. Judge Walker’s [the federal judge who overturned California’s Proposition 8, which restored a traditional definition to marriage within the state]  “finding of fact” that “gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage” is rendered preposterous. Marriage between two men or two women simply mocks the purpose of the institution. Homosexual parenting only further distances biological fathers (and some mothers too) from their children, since at least some homosexual parents must acquire their children from someone else—usually through heterosexual divorce. [comment added]

Treading this new road, Baskerville concludes, will not be easy:

This is not a small undertaking. It would mean confronting the radical sexual establishment in its entirety—not only homosexuals but their allies among feminists, bar associations, psychotherapists, social workers, and pubic schools. It would raise the stakes significantly—or rather it would highlight how high the stakes already are. It would also focus public attention on the interconnectedness of these threats to the family and freedom. It would foster a coalition of parents with a vested personal interest in marriage and parental rights.

The alternative is to continue mouthing platitudes, in which case we will be dismissed as a chorus of scolds and moralizers—and yes, bigots. And we will lose.

There is also an extensive discussion concerning the importance of marriage as a political institution, as well as positive steps policy makers can take make this newly-tweaked approach to marriage a reality. The entire article is well worth the read.

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The Superstitution of Divorce

Though scholar/author/journalist G.K. Chesterton wrote “The Superstition of Divorce” in 1918 as a series of articles, his words are still relevant today (it’s true!). Being Americans, we are privy to the audio version of his articles, available on this site.

His articles focus on the social/historic/practical purposes of marriage and ultimately propose that “The obvious effect of frivolous divorce will be frivolous marriage. If people can be separated for no reason they will feel it all the easier to be united for no reason.” For those interested in studying divorce, these podcasts are a great way to procrastinate. Or – it’s a stretch – good bed time stories.

As Dale Ahlquist of the Chesterton Society puts it,

Divorce, by any account, is a failure. But the modern world has begun to portray divorce as a freedom. This comes as no surprise to Chesterton. The modern world, he says, specializes in two forms of freedom: suicide and divorce. “In a dreary time we listen to two counsels of despair: the freedom from life and the freedom from love.” In our society, he says, where every real freedom has been curtailed, the two doors of death and divorce stand open. But just as we should not accept a system that drives men to drown and shoot themselves, we should not accept a system that produces so many divorces. He insists that we admit that divorce is a failure and that it would be much better for us to find the cause and cure rather than allow divorce to complete its destructive effect.

But freedom means the freedom to make a vow, not break a vow. A vow, says Chesterton, “is a tryst with oneself.” Divorce, he argues, is a superstition. In fact, it is more of a superstition than sacramental marriage itself. The advocates of divorce believe that a vow can be undone by a mere ceremony, disposed of by a mysterious and magical rite. The superstition also applies to the idea of re-marriage, that the mere ceremony will undo a vow so that the vow can be made vow again. Chesterton says they want to have their wedding cake and eat it, too. And we have now created a system where this is possible. We now reward a man for deserting his wife by letting him have another wife. We never encourage him to go back to the woman he first chose from all the women in the world.

But besides the horrible problem of disloyalty, there are other enemies, both philosophical and practical, attacking marriage and the family. This revolt against the family is utterly unnatural, a revolt against nature itself and the natural attraction between father and mother. This natural attraction, says Chesterton, is called a child. It is a simple truth that the modern world insists on ignoring.

A family is of course the best way to create, to protect and to raise children. Besides this obvious truth, Chesterton also argues that the family must be kept intact because the home is the greatest refuge of freedom in the world.

Divorce is not an act of freedom. On the contrary, it is an act of slavery. A society where vows can be easily broken is not a free society. A free society cannot function without volunteers keeping their commitments to each other. When the most basic unit of society, the family, breaks apart, some other institution will try to replace it and restore order, and will then become more important than the family.

Sometimes divorce is the only answer, but a 50 percent divorce rate is hardly a function of chance, as evidenced by the new State of Our Unions report.

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The Social Costs of Pornography

Do you know about the Witherspoon Institute’s The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations?

It might not be the most spirited of holiday presents, but we’d encourage you to check out the project’s site. The project began with a conference at Princeton hosted in 2008 by the Witherspoon Institute that sought to gather leading experts in several fields, including economics, psychology, sociology, and law, to present a rigorously argued overview of pornography in today’s society.

The debate regarding porn use is one that has massive consequences for the mental, emotional, and physical health of families and individuals. As Jean Bethke Elshtain (Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago, and Thomas and Dorothy Leavy Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom, Georgetown University) puts it,

I used to be much more of a “live and let live” person on this issue, years ago, in part because some of those who pushed for the censorship of pornography were so authoritarian. But the new technology has sent me in another direction…. I hope the analyses, the data, the arguments, and the images that flow forth from the pages of The Social Costs of Pornography will assist the reader in the future to avoid the pitfalls of unrestrained libertarianism, on the one hand, and unrestrained, top-down censoriousness, on the other. The “moral” need not be the cramped and cribbed “moralistic.” The point to be considered is: What sort of community is this? Is it reasonably decent and kind? Is it a fit place for human habitation, especially for the young? What happens to the most vulnerable among us? How do we ill-dignify the human body, and how do we forestall such affronts? These questions are not easy, but this learned volume helps push the debate forward in discerning ways.

These questions – “What sort of community is this? Is it reasonably decent and kind? Is it a fit place for human habitation, especially for the young? What happens to the most vulnerable among us? How do we ill-dignify the human body, and how do we forestall such affronts?” – are largely the topic of Harvard’s anti-porn week in February.

If you’d like to help organize anti-porn week in February, contact us at

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