December 21, 2014

December 20, 2010


Dr. Mohler:  Why Is Incest Wrong?

Another excellent post by Dr. Albert Mohler:

Though the story was ignored by much of the mainstream media, it quickly found its way into the cultural conversation. William Saletan of Slate.com, who remains one of today’s most relevant writers working on the issues of bioethics and human nature, jumped on the story with a very interesting essay that openly asked the question many others were more quietly asking: “If homosexuality is OK, why is incest wrong?”

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.”


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26 comments

The excerpt above leaves out Saletan’s conclusion which is the whole point of his article:

Incest spectacularly flunks this test. By definition, it occurs within an already existing family. So it offers no benefit in terms of family formation. On the contrary, it injects a notoriously incendiary dynamic—sexual tension—into the mix. Think of all the opposite-sex friendships you and your friends have cumulatively destroyed by “crossing the line.” Now imagine doing that to your family. That’s what incest does. Don’t take my word for it. Read The Kiss. Or the sad threads on pro-incest message boards. Or what Woody Allen’s son says about his dad: “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression. I cannot see him. I cannot have a relationship with my father …”

Homosexuality is an orientation. Incest isn’t. If the law bans gay sex, a lesbian can’t have a sex life. But if you’re hot for your sister, and the law says you can’t sleep with her, you have billions of other options. Get out of your house, for God’s sake. You’ll find somebody to love without incinerating your family. And don’t tell me you’re just adding a second kind of love to your relationship. That’s like adding a second kind of life to your body. When a second kind of life grows in your body, we call it cancer. That’s what incest is: cancer of the family.

[1] Posted by Jay H on 12-20-2010 at 10:43 AM · [top]

[1] Jay H

Homosexuality is an orientation. Incest isn’t. 

Desire is not inherently self-validating.  The fact that people want to behave in a certain way does not automatically establish that the should behave in a certain way.  The fact that Lesbians can’t have a sex life if homosexual behavior is restricted is neither here nor there.  The question that must be answered is this: “What justifies acting on lesbian desire beyond the desire of a lesbian to act in such a manner?”

That’s what incest is: cancer of the family.

That’s also what homosexuality is.  Every argument you advance against incest can be also be used against homosexuality for the defense of the nuclear family.  Homosexual behavior is inherently sterile and therefore removed from reproduction.  There is no reason for homosexuals to choose a monogamous relationship to establish clear paternity.  The homosexual has no need to take thought of children he will never conceive.  He can indulge his sexual desires simply to please himself.  Indeed very few male homosexuals choose monogamy.  ‘Monogamist’ is a pejorative term in the gay community.  Legitimizing homosexuality therefore legitimizes the divide between sexual conduct and familial relationship in a fundamental way.  And yet the law has already decided that the integrity of the family is not a valid basis to criminalize consensual sexual conduct.  That’s how the courts managed to declare that homosexuality is now a constitutionally-protected right when homosexuality was illegal in every state in the Union when the constitution was written.  Times have changed, doncha know.  You can’t very well impose structural barriers on consensual conduct once you have already thrown out structural barriers in the name of consent.

In the end, you have simply made an a priori judgment that ncest is immoral and should be restricted.  You are simply searching for a reason to exclude it from the overriding logic of consent.  You cannot consistently do so. 

carl

[2] Posted by carl on 12-20-2010 at 11:07 AM · [top]

ALL sexual sin, hetero, homo, poly, vicarious or incest, and ALL other kinds of sin are always harmful, cancerous, malignant, metastasizing.  There are exemptions, exclusions or evasions.  All sexual sin has negative spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and/or societal consequences.  There is no evidence that sexual sin or ‘freedom’ is good for society, families or individuals.  Scripture never affirms or approves homosex or sex outside of heterosexual marriage.  Honest science concurs with Scripture.  CDC statistics, clinical medicine and mental health, science research support Scripture’s recommendations for life and health. 

Repentance brings God’s mercy and restored communion with God and His family, but may not change or negate the effects of sin on us and those connected to us.  Look at King David’s children.  We may still get an STD or lung cancer or heart disease due to our previous actions.  Our addictions may have to be fought the hard way, through accountability and discipline.  Breast cancer, physical, emotional and relational problems are some of the real consequences of abortion.

[3] Posted by St. Nikao on 12-20-2010 at 11:17 AM · [top]

CORRECTION - There are NO exemptions, exclusions, only evasions.

[4] Posted by St. Nikao on 12-20-2010 at 11:23 AM · [top]

Jay H, on what basis would you object to brother/sister,sister/sister and brother/brother incest?  How about incest between more than two siblings: brother/brother/sister?  Why is homosexual sex between non-siblings ok and not between siblings?  In neither case can issue result.

[5] Posted by Br. Michael on 12-20-2010 at 11:35 AM · [top]

Carl:
1.  Those were Saletan’s arguments not mine.  I thought it facile to leave out the answer to the poster’s question “Why is incest wrong”  and only leave the red meat of “icky” but private conduct.  He gave a cogent powerful answer.

2.  Saletan writes for Slate, you may not be his intended audience.  He scolds liberals for thinking private/consensual sex between adults should be off limits and beyond judgment.

[6] Posted by Jay H on 12-20-2010 at 11:40 AM · [top]

First the boundaries are blurred then atypical test cases are advanced then social acceptance is courted via manipulative surveys, then boundaries are changed. Then it becomes a human rights issue and is legalized. Then those who disapprove are stigmatized. Then it becomes a TV series.

[7] Posted by Fr. Dale on 12-20-2010 at 01:30 PM · [top]

I watched an recent episode of Law & Order SVU where they tied themselves in knots trying to prove that the pedophile rights claims are completely different from homosexual rights even though pedophiles are now using the EXACT same arguments that homosexuals have used so successfully. They went through some quite unsatifiying contortions to condemn the one group for having the audacity to use that same strategy and completely left open any question of blame for gay activists for using the strategy in the first place and so opening the door for those behind them.

So yeah why not incest then? And polygamy? Gay activists just do not want to admit that they don’t have a leg to stand on for their claims that their movement poses no danger of even worse taboos becoming legal. Its bull and their victories are just the first steps in the complete breakdown of any meaningful sense of sexual morality.

[8] Posted by StayinAnglican on 12-20-2010 at 04:29 PM · [top]

Fr Dale,

Or as in the case of Sister Wives, the TV series comes first, the gradual acceptance of polygamy comes after and at apace.

Just idly wondering how many people are even now thinking “Why those polygamous relationships arent so bad…”

[9] Posted by StayinAnglican on 12-20-2010 at 04:33 PM · [top]

[6] Jay H

Those were Saletan’s arguments not mine.

I didn’t see any quote marks in the post.  It seemed to me you fully endorsed his arguments.  It still does.

He gave a cogent powerful answer.

He gave an inconsistent answer that depends upon special pleading.

He scolds liberals for thinking private/consensual sex between adults should be off limits and beyond judgment. 

Actually he is trying to rescue the liberal position from its own consistency.  He thinks consensual incest is immoral, and he wants his position to exclude it.  Unfortunately, he has just justified homosexual behavior on the grounds of the primacy of consent over against the structural boundaries that defend the integrity of the nuclear family.  He seeks some means to overturn the primacy of consent for acts he thinks are morally evil even though adults readily consent to performing them.  So he employs exactly the same kind of structural arguments I employ against the legitimization of homosexuality.  All he is really saying is “My structural boundaries are good, but yours are bad.”  It doesn’t wash.  It is measured against the same yardstick.  “Who are you to tell me what to do?”  That is why incest laws are slowly but surely being overturned in all the “enlightened” countries of Europe.

carl

[10] Posted by carl on 12-20-2010 at 05:16 PM · [top]

#10, I must confess I was confused by Jay H’s response to your response to his initial post, since he seemed to take issue with your post without addressing anything you said.
As always carl, thank you for your clarity, honesty and thoroughness.

[11] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 12-20-2010 at 05:28 PM · [top]

[11] SpongJohn SquarePantheist

thank you for your clarity, honesty and thoroughness.

Well, it only stands to reason.  After all ... I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. wink

carl
who appreciates the kind words

[12] Posted by carl on 12-20-2010 at 06:17 PM · [top]

This all reminds me of the arguments I used to have many years ago while a student at Berkeley with other students who would insist that smoking tobacco was bad and should be made illegal, but smoking marijuana was perfectly fine and should be made legal.

[13] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 12-20-2010 at 07:35 PM · [top]

I often disagree with Slate’s viewpoints, but I enjoy reading it.  Saletan is one of the writers on that site who does a good job and takes interesting positions.

carl, 10, wrote:  “Unfortunately, he has just justified homosexual behavior on the grounds of the primacy of consent over against the structural boundaries that defend the integrity of the nuclear family.”

I haven’t gone back to re-read the article lately, but when I read it the first time, that’s not how I understood it at all.  I think he’s saying that the essential difference is that incest necessarily destroys an existing family, while homosexuals who are true to their homosexuality wouldn’t be in a family to begin with.  Or, they would be creating new family units, not destroying old ones.  (Of course, that does assume that homosexual family units are equal.)

carl, 10, also wrote:  “He seeks some means to overturn the primacy of consent for acts he thinks are morally evil even though adults readily consent to performing them.”

Which both makes him a thoughtful person and puts him far ahead of the usual liberal, who isn’t willing to acknowledge morals at all.

[14] Posted by DavidH on 12-20-2010 at 09:54 PM · [top]

#14. David H.,

I think he’s saying that the essential difference is that incest necessarily destroys an existing family, while homosexuals who are true to their homosexuality wouldn’t be in a family to begin with.  Or, they would be creating new family units, not destroying old ones.

How would you explain V.Gene Robinson and folks like him then? Isn’t this the destruction of an existing family? What about the folks who “discover” they are gay who already have a wife and children? This is adultery just for starters.

[15] Posted by Fr. Dale on 12-20-2010 at 10:56 PM · [top]

Fr. Dale, 15, I’m attempting to correct carl’s take on Saletan’s article.  (FWIW, Mohler appears to describe Saletan’s article in similar terms to how I am.)  As I said, there are assumptions built into Saletan’s view—one is the equality of the homosexual family unit, another (that you point out) is that some homosexuality does directly damage an existing family, and others are mentioned in Mohler’s article.  But the point was that I don’t think it’s accurate to reduce Saletan merely to a “consent is king” type argument, which carl appears to do.

[16] Posted by DavidH on 12-20-2010 at 11:12 PM · [top]

Should have said:  ... one is the equality of the homosexual family unit, another (that you point out) overlooks that some homosexuality does directly damage an existing family, and others are mentioned in Mohler’s article. ...

[17] Posted by DavidH on 12-20-2010 at 11:20 PM · [top]

I think Carl is correct.  When you boil all the liberal arguments down to their essence, Consent Is King!

[18] Posted by Br. Michael on 12-21-2010 at 06:10 AM · [top]

It’s interesting that we’re no longer talking about a husband and wife, young and perfetly healthy, rejecting the possibility of having children.  The subject has actually inverted to discussing combinations of two people who either cannot or must not have children, living as “spouses.” 

So on the one hand, a man and a woman would start their journey as man and wife, and consequently live with the possibility of having children from their union. 

And on the other, one human being and another human being start their journey with the eldritch impossibility of every having children, and then enter into a “union.” 

Not quite the same thing.

[19] Posted by J Eppinga on 12-21-2010 at 07:25 AM · [top]

[14] DavidH

I think he’s saying that the essential difference is that incest necessarily destroys an existing family, while homosexuals who are true to their homosexuality wouldn’t be in a family to begin with.

He is attempting to distinguish between the practice within a family and the nature of a family.  He suggests that incest is immoral because it impacts the relationships that exist with a family.  He ignores the idea that altering the nature of family also impacts the relationships that exist within a family.  Remember that the purpose of traditional sexual morality is to defend the sexual monopoly of the nuclear family.  It is intended to form sexual intercourse, marriage and children in one unity.  This model imposes constraints and obligations on the conscience of the individual regarding permanent commitments to both mate and children.  The war on traditional sexual morality is intended to overthrow those constraints and obligations.  Specifically, it is intended to remove the connections between sex and children, sex and marriage.  When such connections are removed, the primary purpose of sex becomes the personal gratification one receives from it.  Everything else becomes optional, and the primacy of consent is established.  Man does not have to enter a committed relationship to have sex.  Man does not have to assume the obligation of children.  He can simply service his own desires with whomever might give consent.

The legitimization of homosexuality attacks all three parts of nuclear family.  Homosexuality is sterile.  Because it is sterile, it has no intrinsic need for either permanence or monogamy.  In the absence of permanence and monogamy, sex becomes self-focused and serves only to gratify the desires of the self.  By its very nature, homosexuality carves sex off from marriage and children.  To establish it in law is to establish the purpose of sex separate from marriage and children.  It is to overthrow the sexual monopoly of the nuclear family.  What replaces this monopoly is the model of consent.  That is what the courts have already established.  In so doing the law has fundamentally altered the form and therefore the purpose of marriage.  It no longer includes the purpose of forming a haven for raising children.  It becomes simply a mutual-aid contract between two parties that might or might not include children.  Altering the form of marriage changes how it operates.  And that has impacts - most especially on those children who are born into such an arrangement.

carl

[20] Posted by carl on 12-21-2010 at 12:26 PM · [top]

Carl:

You say
“When such connections are removed, the primary purpose of sex becomes the personal gratification one receives from it.  Everything else becomes optional, and the primacy of consent is established.”
Saletan’s writings explicitly denounce your position.  Yesterday writing about DADT http://www.slate.com/id/2278578/ he stated that “you have to go beyond privacy and consent. You have to draw moral distinctions.”  The context was that lines have to be drawn and that in the military gay and straight should still be held to the rule of military conduct, “A gay person can be just as faithful and monogamous as a straight person. And military rules of sexual propriety can apply just the same.”
  On abortion he is doing influential writing that acknowledges the moral failings of the pro-choicers, for example: “Just because judgment and stigma have been crudely applied in the past doesn’t make them obsolete. They’re essential methods of transmitting culture. We judge people and their conduct all the time. Why should sex be exempt? Rape is bad. Infidelity is bad. And, yes, having sex without contraception when you know you can’t handle a pregnancy is bad. That goes for both partners.”  There is a lot to chew on in this article: http://www.slate.com/id/2275256/.
  I get you don’t agree with his views on homosexuality.  But I agree with DavidH that this is the sort of writer who should be embraced, precisely because he is not advocating laissez-faire libertinism.

[21] Posted by Jay H on 12-21-2010 at 01:18 PM · [top]

[21] Jay H

you have to go beyond privacy and consent. You have to draw moral distinctions.

Sure.  Unfortunately, the whole of liberal sexual morality has become consent.  A man can’t assert moral distinctions that supersede consent without assuming a prior moral standard that binds the conscience of man against his will.  And what is that prior moral standard that supersedes consent?  Take the example you just gave:

A gay person can be just as faithful and monogamous as a straight person.

Who determined that ‘faithful and monogamous’ relationships are morally ideal?  What authority binds a man to give assent to such a statement?  Certainly that is not a generally-accepted opinion in the male homosexual community.  Evading the constraint of monogamy is one of the big attractions of the gay lifestyle. 

The establishment of consent as the liberal moral standard proceeds from the collapse of liberal confidence in any other standard.  Yet here is the writer preaching about ‘moral distinctions’ that can find no proper foundation in a liberal world view.  He can bleat all day long about moral distinctions.  What he cannot do is answer the question of authority.  He has no answer to the question “Who are you to tell me what to do?”  That’s why his exhortations will fall on deaf ears.  That’s why the Laws against incest of crumbling.  At the center of the liberal universe is sovereign man.  He is his own god discerning his own truth, and doing what seems right in his own eyes.  Who is there to contradict him?

carl

[22] Posted by carl on 12-21-2010 at 02:08 PM · [top]

Sigh.  As VGR says, “...just more letters of the alphabet to explore”.

[23] Posted by B. Hunter on 12-21-2010 at 04:53 PM · [top]

Imagine, if you will, being a 1st year teacher in a small town. In your 8th grade class are a number of red-headed children who all look eerily alike and sure enough, they are siblings. Now imagine one of the girls coming to you after school, practically giddy with excitement, to tell you she’s pregnant. She wants you to guess who the father is. Being the still naive, innocent city girl you are, you say you have no idea. The girl says “my daddy!! isn’t it wonderful?”. I remember saying something like “oh”, then she left. I asked another teacher if this could possibly be true and she said yes, that all of this father’s children currently in the school system at the time were products of incest and the whole town knew. Periodically the father would be locked up, but always got out. However, as time and number of children increased, their mental capacity declined until the youngest were not even educable. I could not wait for that school year to end and I could high-tail it back to the city and find another teaching position where there might be a little bit of sanity. Good grief, even dog breeders know you must infuse new blood in the line or end up with unhealthy pups. That was 25 years ago and I will never forget it.

[24] Posted by lizzier on 12-21-2010 at 06:23 PM · [top]

Right on cue.  I could not have ordered a better illustration of my argument.  This blog article is even in response to Saletan.

The moral principle at stake in the debate on later abortions, the one that genuinely matters, has been ignored completely in the recent discussions. This is the principle of moral autonomy in respect of reproductive decisions.

carl

[25] Posted by carl on 12-21-2010 at 09:03 PM · [top]

Carl:
Touche. This quote from her is repugnant: “And we must live with that: tolerance is the price we pay for our freedom of conscience in a world where women can exercise their human capacity through their moral expression. We either support women’s moral agency or we do not. Part of our valuing of fetal life is the value of what it means to be the humans they have the potential to become. Moral agency is part of that humanity.”

and moral autonomy is nothing more than nihilism.  These are the people serious thinkers must combat. 

thanks for the exchange

[26] Posted by Jay H on 12-22-2010 at 09:32 AM · [top]

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