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FIRST-PERSON: A glimpse of the future from a ghost of the past

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–When Charles Dickens introduces the character Ebenezer Scrooge in his classic tale “A Christmas Carol,” he is a pathetic figure. Self-absorbed and miserly, he has only one interest — money. However, once Scrooge is forced to take inventory of his life he transforms. When Ebenezer realizes that his life is headed for a dismal and lonely end, he chooses to change.

America desperately needs to experience a Scrooge-like inventory in order to understand the destructive path it is on. While it took three apparitions to jar Ebenezer’s thinking about life, we in the United States need only to encounter one “ghost” from the past to realize we are on a path of self-destruction.

British anthropologist J.D. Unwin died in 1936. But he speaks from the grave through research he conducted that was published in 1940 under the title “Hopousia: The Sexual and Economic Foundations of a New Society.”

Unwin, who was likely influenced by Sigmund Freud to some degree, scrutinized the sexual behaviors of 86 cultures through 5,000 years of history. His observations were — and are — sobering.

Freud maintained that sexual repression was the root cause of a society’s ills. Unwin found the opposite to be true. His findings showed cultures that observed a strict sexual ethic — especially valuing pre-nuptial chastity and post-nuptial monogamy — thrived and flourished. However, those societies that rejected sexual restraint withered and died.

“Expansive energy” was the term Unwin used to describe a culture that was growing and healthy. Concerning this reality he observed, “Expansive energy has never been displayed by a society that inherited a modified monogamy or a form of polygamy….” What Unwin discovered is that once a society ceased to value marriage and sexual restraint, it began to decline.

“In human records,” Unwin wrote, “there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence.” In other words, once a generation abandons a sexual ethic that values sexual restraint and monogamy the following generation begins to wane culturally. It is then only a matter of time before the society shrivels and dies.

Concerning his study, Unwin made a chilling observation. He wrote, “The evidence is that in the past a class has risen to a position of political dominance because of its great energy and that at the period of its rising, its sexual regulations have always been strict. It has retained its energy and dominated the society so long as its sexual regulations have demanded both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence… I know of no exceptions to these rules.”

“No exceptions to these rules.” Once a society utterly rejects a sexual ethic that values restraint and monogamy, its days are numbered.

America is in the midst of casting off all sexual restraint. Sexual license is celebrated daily in the popular media. While marriage is still practiced, no one can say that it is approached as seriously, en masse, as it once was or as it should be. With the introduction of same-sex matrimony the deconstruction of marriage will be complete. And, while not yet widely accepted, some “elite” academicians are introducing ideas that pedophilia and bestiality are healthy pursuits.

Will this be the generation that throws off all sexual restraint? Will the next inherit a sexual ethic of ambiguity? How long can America last if she rejects a moral compass that points toward sexual purity before and after marriage? Not long, according to Unwin.

Scrooge saw what his future would be if he continued to pursue his self-absorbed, miserly ways. As a result, he embraced change. Like Ebenezer, America has been given a glimpse into its future by a “ghost” from the past.

The message from J.D. Unwin’s research is clear: Make sexual purity and marital commitment top priorities or steady decline and slow death are unavoidable. Scrooge saw his future and trembled. For the sake of future generations, may America do likewise.
Kelly Boggs writes this column weekly for Baptist Press. He is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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