Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz believes America is in a moral crisis.
He said so during a Fourth of July speech that wound up grabbing headlines, an address that veered from standard patriotic talk into concern about the recent legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court and the number of unmarried women having children.
Lentz said the court’s ruling on same-sex marriage is “really just one event in a decadeslong adventure in a moral crisis that we’re in.” He then said the “out-of-wedlock birthrate is just crazy high” and cited rates for black, Hispanic and white mothers that were, respectively, 70 percent, 50 percent and more than 30 percent.
“Our nation is in a moral crisis,” Lentz said during a ceremony at the Fort Hill Heritage Museum, “and it’s something that needs to be talked about more.”
OK. Let’s talk about it.
I emailed Lentz and asked about the nonmarital birthrates: “How do you feel about addressing this problem — and as you cited with the statistics you used in your speech, it’s certainly a problem — by making birth control more accessible to teenagers and lower-income women?”
I cited a July 5 article in The New York Times about a state program in Colorado that offered teenagers and low-income women “free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years.”
The implication in the mayor’s speech — and the reason many found it offensive — is that same-sex marriage and unmarried women having children is a sign of moral erosion. He cited a long-out-of-print anthropological study from the 1930s that he said found cultures with “a strict code of marital monogamy, heterosexual marital monogamy” were the most successful.
What Lentz is describing as a moral crisis is really just a changing world. The fact that he’s not comfortable with those changes makes them a crisis to him, but not to the broad swath of people he was elected to represent.
Those who frame same-sex marriage as part of a moral crisis need to remember that they don’t have to get same-sex married. Their moral crisis is not everyone else’s moral crisis.
To the Mundelein mayor’s point on nonmarital birth rates — which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have actually declined by 14 percent since peaking in the late 2000s — it’s a nuanced subject that can’t be addressed by a woe-is-us mention of morality and the citation of an old study.
What Lentz and others who use the moral crisis trope are effectively saying is: “If everyone would just believe what I believe, then everything would be fine.”
That’s not going to happen. And even if it did, everything wouldn’t be fine. You can believe that gay people didn’t exist and teens didn’t get pregnant back in the good old days all you want, but that’s nonsense.
Were there lower rates of unmarried mothers? Yes, but women had less ability to make decisions for themselves and sexuality in general was unhealthily repressed.
Giving people easy access to contraception and sex education that goes well beyond teaching abstinence can help what Lentz describes as a crisis. And doing so, as with same-sex marriage, doesn’t mean people who morally oppose it have to take part.
– Rex Huppke, Chicago Tribune, July 8, 2015
I was disappointed to read that Mundelein’s mayor didn’t want to engage you regarding the substance of his speech and your question to him. Since I share his concern about America’s moral crisis, I thought I would publish an answer for you. You asked the mayor about addressing nonmarital birthrates by “making birth control more accessible to teenagers and lower-income women.” Here is the problem with birth control, especially for teenagers — it suggests that we as human beings are no better than the animals around us. We cannot (or will not) control our sexual appetites — we are creatures of lust that must give in to our desires at every turn and therefore the only solution to teenage sexual desire is to surrender to such desire and let teenage boys and girls have sex (encourage them to have sex?) To use a technical term from moral philosophy, this idea is nonsense! We are rational creatures that have intellects in addition to appetites — we are better than the animals around us. We can control our desire and lust and indeed, should control these powerful emotions to channel them where they belong — in the context of a marital bond where they can be used to produce the next generation of children. That is what our sexual powers were designed for.
This is all moral common sense — and this is why we also know homosexual desires are naturally disordered, as the Catholic Church likes to say. Again, morality 101 — something we can use our rational abilities to come to agreement on — not the individual opinions of the mayor or Rex Huppke. I suggest you try and start reading about the basics of the moral natural law. I good place to start is at Professor J. Budziszewski’s blog (and/or articles and books.) There you will learn that there is no such things as “same-sex marriage”, that our society can set up such a mirage only with profound and negative consequences for all of us, and that you have zero evidence that women were ever sexually “repressed.” Incidentally, I find it amusing that you think that those of us who believe there is a moral crisis in America are really saying: “If everyone would just believe what I believe, then everything would be fine.” Again, you have zero evidence this is true — maybe we just think life would be better than it is now. And furthermore, why couldn’t we turn around and say the same about you progressive reformers — don’t you think society is better for implementing so-called “same-sex marriage”?
The real question remains who is right — who has the better moral, philosophical, and practical arguments for why society should be ordered the way it is. Those of us who believe in so-called traditional morality suggest you look around at the consequences of the sexual revolution and we think our case is an easy one to make — the problem is that people don’t like to say no to their appetites!!!