06/26/2005: Ben Shapiro is indeed a bright young star for GenY conservative thought. Armed with the no-nonsense style of Dr. Laura, the wisdom of Cal Thomas, and the hard-charging style of Pat Buchanan, he has written two books. The first–Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth–was an expose of academic decadence from a student’s perspective. His latest book–Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting our Culture–is a testament to the decline of moral values in America.
The sad part is, one need not be a hard-core “fundamentalist” to appreciate the banality that Shapiro highlights.
Twenty years ago today–when I was two months away from beginning college–pornography was primarily restricted to pornographic magazines and “adult videos”. To get it, you had to consciously choose it, and you knew EXACTLY what you were getting into.
Religious conservatives–in particular the Moral Majority and the American Federation for Decency (now the American Family Association)–crusaded heavily against pornography. The Supreme Court–with the “community standard” doctrine–allowed localities to pass their own sets of laws restricting porn. Some did, with minimal levels of success.
Fast-forward twenty years.
As conservative as I am on social issues, Shapiro has left a very bleak picture of America. Here is why.
(1) Even if you pass an all-inclusive anti-porn law that can pass Constitutional muster (and you can’t)…
(2) Even if you–as a parent–install a blocking software that shields your family from e-porn (and no such filter is perfect)…
(3) Even if you can get the international community to crack down on e-porn (and that will happen when hell gets hit with a hail storm)…
…you will not even scratch the surface of the effects of pornography.
Today, it is EVERYWHERE!!! It is in teen magazines. (Shapiro documents this very well.) It is in the music to which kids, teens, and adults commonly listen. It is standard chic in television commercials. It’s all over the sit-coms. Explicit details are even part of political vernacular, thanks to former President Clinton. (Shapiro even shows how the number of teens engaging in that version of Presidential conduct has escalated since 1998. Coincidence, my (derriere)!)
As for the “community standard” doctrine for porn regulation? Forget it. The Internet made that a moot point. Even if you pass the best law possible, how the (gehenna) are you going to enforce it against a web site in Mongolia?
Make no mistake, American culture is now in the gutter. The problem is how do you deal with it?
Toward that end, Shapiro provides some answers, most of which–thankfully–are not matters of legislation.
(1) Parents taking the initiative to teach traditional morality to their kids. This is more than simply telling your kids what is right and what is wrong. You have to live it out. Men: how are you going to teach your sons abstinence when you are hiding porno-mags in your bedroom? Women: how are you going to teach your daughters sexual restraint when you dress like sluts and have no problem with your daughters dressing as such? Fathers: the way you treat your wife is going to be the best teaching took your kids will see. Ditto for you moms with respect to your husbands.
(2) Abstinence-only sex education. Lefties will scream that “kids will do it anyway.” Not true. Some will; however, as Shapiro points out, many will choose abstinence where they otherwise would not have, and–among those who do not choose abstinence–they will become sexually active later. STD rates are lower when abstinence-only education is used.
(3) School vouchers. I agree; if enough parents take the vouchers and jump ship into private schools, public schools will be more likely to get with the program, as they will actually have to compete with private schools for the market.
(4) Dress codes. Great idea. One need not be a prude to understand that encouraging boys and girls to dress without showing every portion of their anatomy is a good thing.
(5) Single-sex dorms for college students. Not a bad idea, and–along those lines–men should not be permitted in women’s dorms (and vice versa). It won’t stop all sexual activity, but this would be a reasonable boundary. If I were a college or university administrator, I would count this as due diligence, as I am trying to look out for the welfare of the students.
(6) Monitoring alumni funding for universities. This is a great idea. Conservatives should hit universities where it really hurts: the pocketbook.
(7) Using the FCC. As a libertarian, I have mixed feelings here. I tend to support a more market-based solution to the filth on TV. Christians and other conservatives should band together and start their own television networks. That could include 24-hour news, QUALITY family-friendly programming, news commentary shows featuring top conservative academics. On the other hand, better enforcement of FCC standards is in order. At some point, explicit details are not appropriate for public media. (The key word here is public. People tend to forget that the airwaves are public airwaves.)
(8) Governmental censorship. I’m not sure I agree here. I will support the rights of porn-peddlers to produce their crap, because that same right allows Christians and Orthodox Jews the same access to the ideological free market. However, I would agree that there is a strong case for reasonable restrictions on what gets allowed on public media. Also, the marketing of child porn to adults –which, as Shapiro points out, is now VERY commonplace in mainstream porn–should absolutely be banned.
On the other hand, even with these suggestions, I have very bad news: they will not solve the problem. You see, it’s not just about a hypersexed generation; it’s the brand of thinking that helps spread the porn culture. Shapiro understands this, and points to nihilism, hedonism, and narcissism as the underlying cultural frameworks. He’s right on.
Combating those elements is not about passing laws or starting new government programs or even getting agencies in line. If it were that easy, the Right would have won that battle. Remember, as the porn culture has advanced, the GOP has lived in the White House for 17 of the last 25 years. The eight years of Clinton didn’t help–and Shapiro points this out quite effectively–but the GOP has not exactly been a beacon of light here either. Bottom line: a political solution is not even close to a complete answer.
That being said, Christians have a charge as large as the Great Commission, because that’s exactly what this is all about. This isn’t about having picket demonstrations against porn. Nor is this about calling your Congressman or Senator. (And there is nothing inherently wrong with either of those.)
However, the underlying issues–nihilism, narcissism, and hedonism–have a positive Biblical answer. Shapiro–who is Jewish–provides an Orthodox Jewish answer: the Law. (This is his reason for remaining a virgin. I hope he sticks to that commitment.)
As a Christian, I don’t see the Law as the answer. (The Law and the Prophets–what we Christians call the Old Testament–show us how deeply fallen we are, and show us the need for a Messiah. They are a testament to human failure, as even the best people in the Bible–Abraham, David, Solomon, Moses–are sin-riddled and, absent the grace of God, as deserving of hell as Ahab and Jezebel.)
While I respect Shapiro’s religious heritage–it is where I get mine–we’ll have to differ on that matter.
For the Christian, we are faced with a daunting challenge. The Great Commission was not just for the Early Church, nor is it merely for missionaries who go to other countries (such as California). This is about being able to provide an explicable witness. This is about living it so others can see the truth in comparison to the lies.
Jesus–the Truth–provided the blueprint, set the example, and even provided the ultimate Atonement for sin. That light is the howling reproach to narcissism, hedonism, and nihilism.
Shapiro’s book is outstanding, and all parents–Christian and non–should read it.