Ross Douthat is fired up (for Mr. Douthat word count = emotional argument I think). I’m going to try an restate the core argument and then add a personal reflection.
Mr. Douthat’s core argument. Explicit rules on sex, marriage, family and the good life were erased in the sexual revolution. Anyone who had the cognitive ability and social capital or some mixture of those implicitly maintained the former explicit rules. They did this on the basis of what I’d call life scripts. As children were growing parents would limit exposure to failure and increase exposure to potential life paths and opportunities. The phrase helicopter parent is really just a reflection of successful parents attempting to pass along their secrets. The core gnostic secret to a materially successful and happy life is to marry well. The secret to marrying well is to treat sex not as casual and definitely not something you just do because of passing emotion. The culture, through the language of church law, used to pass this now secret knowledge on to everybody. (Don’t commit adultery. What does this mean? Luther’s answer. Marriage is one man and one woman for a multitude of purposes (companionship & support, mutual delight, procreation, passing along the faith) as per Cranmer’s marriage liturgy and the current LSB stealing of it.) The making of formerly explicit codes into implicit life scripts, public proclamation into secret knowledge, is a form of class warfare. Social liberals who have both brains and social capital are able to be somewhat libertine in their college years without ruining their lives. As long as those years don’t interfere with acquiring the right credentials, everything is forgiven. The rest of society gets Miley Cyrus, STDs, divorce, never married mothers, Honey Boo-Boo families and abortions.
There are religious enclaves (Mormons, Confessional churches) that continue to explicitly pass along and attempt to enforce the rules. Pre-sexual revolution the actual law did this as divorce was much tougher and abortion illegal. Did this fall on women hard? Yes, especially on those who couldn’t follow. The flip side is that many men became “good men” because the social laws taught them correctly. The first use of the law is the civil or curb, to protect sinful man from himself. I say enclaves, because to do this today requires a community that is stronger than the formal law. Mormon’s in Utah don’t need state law.
Upper West Side liberals and religious conservatives actually would agree at a material level on the good life. Religious conservatives actually have a language and program that worked for centuries. UWSL’s have a program that works for them, to hell with the rest, I’ve got mine. What language could be used that would extend that civil use of the law to shelter more people? How do you get UWSLs who despise the church to accept the core teaching? More later.