Souls on the Line

That Anguish We Sense is the Fallout of Sexual Anarchy

We blame others. But it’s our own fault. It’s all our fault.

Complaints about “identity politics,” “structural racism,” or “cancel culture” begin with us, says Mary Eberstadt in “Men Are at War with God.” Eberstadt’s research into the storied wreckage of human lives drills down to the breakdown in families. She reports:

As I researched their stories and read their own words in interviews, something stunning emerged. Every individual on the list shared two common harms: divorced or absent parents, and violent childhood or adolescent abuse, in almost all ­cases sexual.

Youth are trying to fill a void, based on their “sense that the world into which they were born is somehow inhuman.” The result stands to reason: if something is missing, it must be replaced. “Family” is now whatever satisfies the need for identity or ideology.

I have had decades of experience with young people broken by familial and sexual destruction. Students at the public university will remain after class to talk with me. They are seeking to fill the abyss of meaning, purpose, and reason – for anything.

The one circled word in my print copy of Eberstadt’s speech exactly depicts the reason in their search for reason. The word is “anguish.” Eberstadt writes:

There is a common denominator beneath the bizarre rituals occurring on campuses and elsewhere, beneath an increasingly punitive social media, beneath the performative rage of BLM—indeed, beneath cancel culture itself. It is anguish.

“Anguish” is no trite word. “Anguish” is the deep yaw of “The Scream” so well depicted in the 1893 Edvard Munch portrait. Anguish is more than anxiety. Anguish is the cry of the tortured soul, a pain so deep, so primal, that the only recourse is the scream. Yes, Mothers in Massachusetts scream. And “Science Says Screaming is Good for You.” But Eberstadt speaks about an emptiness that has yet to be satisfied.

Emblematic of the problem of anguish is “the steep rise in psychiatric distress among American teenagers and young adults.” A counselor friend tells me that his calendar is full; people are waiting months out. Calls about mental health are put on a waiting list, days that must seem innumerable. “Loneliness studies abound, spotlighting the isolation of the elderly in every Western nation.”

I talk with my mom on the phone once a week. She tells me how friends in her age group have been abandoned. Contact with their children is spotty at best, non-existent at worst. If Harry Chapin was right when he sang, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” the situation is nothing new

Eberstadt’s solution? The “rollback [of] abortion [and] divorce” should be the highest “social justice priorities of our time.” She gives an ultimatum,

In the end, the choice before people of faith is simple. We either believe that there are souls on the line, or we don’t—including the souls of those who hate what we stand for, or what they think we stand for. We either believe that they, like us, are created in the image of God and for a purpose, or we subject ourselves and all who come after us to perpetual self-invention and its miseries. So let us witness as best we can to the truth that humanity’s problem today is not with creation. It’s rather with interference in that creation by an ongoing revolutionary experiment—one that sweat and prayer and grace may yet turn around.

We bear responsibility for the problem and the solution.

If you are in this kind of anguish, you will not find relief in sociological responses. You are looking to fill the hole in your soul. That can only be filled by God.


has taught junior high school through PhD students over four decades, in both Christian and public education contexts. He has a Master of Theology in Old Testament, PhD in Social Science research, and just finished another Master’s in English. He is a book review editor for Christian Education Journal. Mark has written or contributed to nine curricula and books. He has also authored scores of peer-reviewed journal articles and encyclopedia essays, and maintains online writings at

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