Wednesday, December 15, 2010

From Morality to Law: The Question and Challenge of Incest in a Post-Sodom Culture

Just when you thought our culture couldn't sink deeper into the moral and sexual cesspool it already is in comes the twin stories of incest in the news. The first regards an Ivy League professor, David Epstein, who has been arrested for having a three-year consensual, incestuous relationship with his 24 year old daughter.  The Daily Mail reports:

Epstein, who specialises in American politics and voting rights, is said to have also exchanged twisted text messages with the girl during the consensual relationship.

University spokesman Robert Hornsby said that Epstein 'is now on administrative leave and will not be teaching students'.

While this case is pending, Switzerland has began to reconsider the illegality of incest in their country.  In other words, the Swiss are considering legalizing consensual incest among adults on the grounds that they are "obsolete."  The Telegraph reports:

The upper house of the Swiss parliament has drafted a law decriminalising sex between consenting family members which must now be considered by the government. 
There have been only three cases of incest since 1984. 
Switzerland, which recently held a referendum passing a draconian law that will boot out foreigners convicted of committing the smallest of crimes, insists that children within families will continue to be protected by laws governing abuse and paedophilia.

Daniel Vischer, a Green party MP, said he saw nothing wrong with two consenting adults having sex, even if they were related.
"Incest is a difficult moral question, but not one that is answered by penal law," he said.

For the most part, these issues are being debated in terms of legal standing and law.  Can the state regulate sexual activity among consensual adults regardless of their relation?  What is interesting about all of this is how recent debates over the past several decades has led us to this point.  In previous generations, such sexual acts were primarily of moral concern, not just legal, but in a homosexually driven age, sexuality is a matter of courts and law, not morality and ethics.  Both situations are matters of law without any real concern for the morality of the act of having sexual relations with one's relative.
This is best surveyed by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in response to the professor's case.  Mohler interacts with an article written by Slate Magazine's Willian Saletan entitled Incest is Cancer — The David Epstein Case: If Homosexuality is OK, Why is Incest Wrong?  Mohler writes:

After reviewing the various legal arguments used to justify criminalizing incest, Saletan comes to the conclusion that genetics cannot be the fundamental basis, since incestuous sex could be non-reproductive. Similarly, the basic issue cannot be consent, since no one is arguing in this case that the sex was non-consensual.

He gets the liberal response just about right: “At this point, liberals tend to throw up their hands. If both parties are consenting adults and the genetic rationale is bogus, why should the law get involved? Incest may seem icky, but that’s what people said about homosexuality, too. It’s all private conduct.”

Saletan comes to the conclusion that the basic reason for the wrongfulness of incest is damage to the family unit. As an Ohio court ruled, “A sexual relationship between a parent and child or a stepparent and stepchild is especially destructive to the family unit.”

Now, remember that Saletan raised the morality of incest as related to the question of homosexuality. He argues that the family-damage argument against incest does not apply to homosexuality. In his words. “When a young man falls in love with another man, no family is destroyed.”

Saletan’s argument is easy to follow, and if you accept his fundamental premise, it can even make sense. But his fundamental premise assumes that there is no damage to a particular family unit if a homosexual relationship exists. That argument can be made only by ignoring the impact upon a family of origin. Beyond this, it limits the family-damage argument to an individual family, when the argument must be more broadly applied to the family as an institution.

The liberal argument mentioned in this brief survey is telling.  From what we have learned from the debate over homosexuality, what happens in the privacy of one's bedroom, so long as it is consensual, is no business of the State.  The motivation behind this rhetoric was to normalize and legalize gay marriage and homosexuality in general, but what such advocates have failed to see is how this same argument is easily applied to other sexual lifestyles including incest.
Herein lies the problem with this debate already.  Thanks to decades of the homosexual debate being decided through judicial fiat, sexuality has become a legal issue and not a moral one and this is a debate that does not benefit the Christian.  Christians do not begin with the laws of man, but with the gospel of Christ.  Our priority and concern isn't legal codes, but God's holiness and man's repentance leading to life through the cross and resurrection.  In the progressive movement to legalize various forms of sexuality (namely homosexuality), the issue moves from repentance from one's sexual preference to an embracing of one's sexual preference and let anyone who differs be anathema.

Where this debate will end is hard to tell, but one must admit that those who continue to make the case for the slippery slope continue to be vindicated.  As has been argued here frequently, once Pandora's Box is opened, there is no end to the depravity that will follow.  Our morally confused culture has no answer to the now public cases of incest.  After all, if sex is a private matter, then can it ever be wrong?  Slate is right in pointing out that the ick factor, when it comes to sexuality, is only effective for so long.  Seeing two men hold hands or embrace each other use to make the average America sick, now however, such persons are our favorite sitcom characters on TV.  Incest will be no different especially when love is so ill-defined to mean virtually whatever the beholder thinks it means.

The future isn't looking any better and at this pace we will be handing to our children's generation a society more like Sodom than like the one our parents grew up in.  Let us not forget that depravity knows no limits and give the Devil an inch and he'll take a mile.  Then again, it doesn't take the Devil to continue to push the limits.  We're doing a good enough job at that ourselves.  Something tells me this issue won't be going away anytime soon.

The Daily Mail - Ivy League professor charged with incest after 'three-year sexual relationship with his daughter
Albert Mohler - So, Why is Incest Wrong?  
*  The above picture is a painting of the biblical story of Lot and his two daughters.  The story goes that after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (which Lot and his family escaped) his two daughters preceded to get him drunk and was impregnated by their father in an attempt to continue the family line.
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