The Ruth Institute & the Sexuality Counterrevolution
Jennifer Roback Morse never gave much thought to the sexual revolution until she found herself unable to get pregnant in her thirties. Here she was, a tenured professor of economics at George Mason University, and her plan of having a child to coincide with summer break was not panning out. No one had ever told her that women who put off childbearing often find themselves in this heartrending situation.
Happily, her story didn't end there. After four years of infertility, she and her husband became parents to Nick, whom they adopted out of a Romanian orphanage as a toddler, and then to Anne, who was born to them six months later. It was a joyful new chapter of life for the Morse family, but it also launched a whole new learning experience for Dr. Morse the scholar. Their son had been profoundly neglected for two and a half years, and as a result was severely delayed developmentally. Parenting these two children, then, whose early years had been so vastly different, made for a closeup "controlled study" on the importance of a mommy and daddy in the life of a child.
Morse later left academia for the mommy track but never really ceased being a professor, and in 2008, she founded the Ruth Institute. Originally the goal was to help young people avoid the painful consequences of the sexual revolution by promoting lifelong marriage to college students and by fostering more broadly an intellectual and social climate favorable to marriage. But as it became clear that sexual revolutionaries could and would change the terms of any debate on the fly and were plowing on by any means necessary, the Ruth Institute shifted focus.
The full story of the harms of the sexual revolution had never been honestly and completely told, and its victims remained largely invisible and voiceless. The Ruth Institute would give them a voice—not only as a matter of compassion and justice for them personally, but also to create a new countercultural narrative. Or, to put it more accurately, to restore to its rightful place the narrative of marriage, family, and human sexuality that has been woven into reality from the beginning.
We've all been affected by the sexual revolution in one way or another, and the Ruth Institute's website, ruthinstitute.org, serves as an entry point to a place where we can share stories, understand the reasons behind our distress, and find strength in a community in common cause. Dr. Morse, known to friends as Dr. J., identifies twelve categories of sexual revolution survivors: children of divorce; children of unmarried parents; reluctantly divorced spouses; reluctantly single parents; donor-conceived people; pornography addicts and their families; post-abortive parents, both women and men; gay lifestyle refugees; hook-up refugees; regretful cohabiters; people with health problems due to any of the above; and finally, women with the condition that provoked a turning point in her own life: those who regret having invested their fertile years in other pursuits, whom she calls heartbroken career women.
Consistent with its survivor-oriented focus, then, the Ruth Institute hosted its first annual Summit for Survivors of the Sexual Revolution in 2019. It was historic, Dr. Morse said, because the false promises of the sexual revolution are unraveling all around us even as its supporters are doubling down on their disastrous policies. The Ruth Institute challenges the whole rotten ideology.
Heroes from the fray were recognized at a kickoff dinner on Friday evening, April 26. Moira Greyland, author of the autobiographical The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon, received the Public Witness of the Year Award. Greyland, whose mother molested her from age three and whose father was a serial homosexual child molester, remarkably survived complex PTSD symptoms and found strength in faith after becoming a Christian. The Scholarship Award was presented to Dr. Robert Gagnon, an uncompromising voice on biblical teachings regarding homosexuality, and the Activism Award went to Jeff Morgan for his work on divorce law reform in his home state of Texas.
Saturday's sessions were a blend of expert scholarship, panel discussions, and personal testimonies. Dr. Gagnon and Fr. Paul Sullins spoke on homosexuality, as did Laura Lowder, whose husband left her for the LGBT subculture, and Elizabeth Woning, who describes herself as "once-lesbian." The larger subject on Saturday, though, was divorce. Divorce has become so normalized, it might seem unproductive to devote much time to it, but the Saturday sessions gave reason to reflect soberly on what it has wrought and on what its ramifications might require of us now.
No-Fault Divorce: When Law Became Non-Law
First, what has been the effect of widespread divorce? Catholic blogger Leila Miller never thought of it as a long-term calamity until a forty-something friend mentioned her parents' divorce. Miller sensed a heaviness in her friend, and so she invited her readers to answer a few questions about their parents' divorce. To her surprise, she received "an avalanche of pain."
Some respondents spoke of utterly losing their identity. They expressed deep pain, loneliness, and feelings of insecurity. Some spoke of learning as children to compartmentalize their lives—wearing a smile and adjusting their behavior to keep the peace between parents and the various reconstituted families. These were adults, writing decades after their parents' divorce—they had learned to live as if life were "normal," yet the aftereffects had never really gone away and, in many cases, carried forward into their own marriages. Miller's survey findings, which she summarized in her book Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, were confirmed by personal testimonies from panelists who had been children of divorce.
Dr. Stephen Baskerville spoke on the effects of divorce from a broader social perspective. Yes, there is a high cost in pain and trauma to children, he agreed, and there is furthermore a wider social cost that we all pay. A professor of government at Patrick Henry College, Baskerville has studied divorce from a political perspective, and he says it is the principle engine driving the expansion of state machinery today.
The statistics on human pathologies connected to fatherless homes and the parallel growth in government are well known in socially conservative circles. What may not be as well known, except to those who have ended up on the perverse end of it, is how no-fault divorce has fundamentally altered the relationship between the state and law-abiding citizens. "Unilateral and involuntary divorce is the most radical legal innovation ever undertaken in the English-speaking democracies," Baskerville says, "[in that] it violates the ancient common law principle that a legally unimpeachable citizen has the right to be left in peace by the state." He then spelled out ways in which family courts have routinely violated most of the U.S. Bill of Rights and other principles encoded in U.S. law "as if the Constitution simply didn't exist."
Here's an illustration. Let's say Mary and Joe have been married seven years and have two small children. Mary has become disenchanted and wants out, but Joe wants to persevere for the benefit of the whole family. Before no-fault divorce, their legal situation would have been something akin to contract law. For Mary to unilaterally bail out would have been seen as a breach of contract. Sure, she could still abandon the marriage, but the law would have generally favored Joe's position if it came to court-rendered decisions about marital assets and the children.
No-fault divorce turned all of that on its head. With no-fault divorce, Mary has unhindered access to divorce on demand, very possibly on her own terms. The objective fact that she is breaking a contract she willingly entered into yesterday is swept aside. What matters is how she feels about it today. Her desire for dissolution is elevated to the force of law, and the family court becomes, not a place where matters of justice are adjudicated, as courts were intended to be, but an administrative agency carrying out her unilateral will.
Suddenly, law-abiding and maritally faithful Joe finds himself and his children vassals of state functionaries. He may be stripped of his parental rights, evicted from his home, and ordered to turn over assets to Mary on pain of punishment by the state. As the legal machinery grinds on, he may find himself subject to arrest and imprisonment for failing to conform his private life to whatever some judge has stipulated, effectively subjugating him to an individualized code of law applicable only to him.
These scenarios may sound extreme, but other speakers and panelists confirmed that these are very real threats to legally blameless spouses. "The divorce laws we have in America," said Morgan, "are for all intents and purposes the exact same thing that were imposed upon Russian society in Bolshevik Russia."
If that's not a troubling development, I don't know what is.
Resistance, Recovery & Reclamation
So, what can be done? While different people will take on different roles in turning back this war on reality, there are two things everyone can and should do. Every biting tentacle of the sexual revolution proceeds from the same defective root—the ripping of sex from its God-ordained context and purpose—and so we must first speak and live according to sexual virtue. This should be obvious, but it may not be so simple or easy. The entire sexual revolution runs on lies, such as "The children will be fine," "You were born gay," or "Moving in together is a good on-ramp to marriage." It takes intention and effort to resist going along, and it takes great acumen to navigate wisely a culture steeped in deception about such sensitive matters.
Second, we absolutely must help the wounded recover. Just as medics administer medical aid on a military battlefield, so we may need to render emotional, psychological, or spiritual aid to casualties of this revolution, as it is no less a war on human well-being. Ideas have consequences, and we must learn to draw the connections between the lies about sex and the maladies all around us. For many victims, no one has ever so much as identified the injustices perpetrated on them or acknowledged the very real pain inflicted. Justice requires that these things be done and that lies be met with truth—not so that anyone would wallow in victimhood, but so that we all may gain the right worldview context by which to process it all.
The latest fatuous rallying cry insists that "Love is love." But if what they're championing is really love, why are there so many victims strewn in its wake? Actual love feeds and furthers human flourishing, and the Ruth Institute is running circles around the "Love is love" herd in that department. They're doing that by turning victims into survivors, and survivors into activists for the benefit of all. That, friends, is what is called overcoming love.Terrell Clemmons
has a BS in Computer Science and worked in software development with IBM until she hopped off the career track to be a full-time mom. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she works as Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #50, Fall 2019 Copyright © 2022 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo50/family-justice-warriors