The Republican party has been dominated of late by a discussion of the sexual trifecta of gay marriage, abortion, and contraception. But are these the only values that matter?
America lives with the profound contradiction of a nation that is at once incredibly religious but increasingly decadent. In the United States 92% of Americans believe in G-d. But given the deep spiritual orientation of the American people, how are we to understand the even deeper materialistic impulses that had us spending $52.4 billion on Black Friday weekend shopping alone? And given the American people's strong disposition to family, what could account for the inability of approximately one in two couples to stay married?
Every four years the presidential election cycle lends a glimpse as to the answer, and we saw it the past few weeks especially. It lies with the American religious obsession with gay marriage and abortion to the exclusion of all other values. Yes, America is a religious nation but it is one whose religious convictions have been hijacked by sexual morality issues that have dominated the political landscape for decades.
While approximately seven percent of the American population is gay, more than fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. And this was happening years before gays came out in significant number, let alone demanded the right to marry. In fact, gays seem to be the only men in America who are still passionate about marriage. While 74% of heterosexual couples choose to live together before marriage and a Pew Research poll recently found that the average age for an American straight man to marry has climbed to 30 from 23 in the 1950's, homosexual men are marching in the streets and petitioning the United States Supreme Court for the right to tie the knot.
Straight people don't need help from gays to destroy the institution of marriage, having a done a mighty fine job of it ourselves, thank you very much. And rather than pastors pushing real policies that might stem the tide of divorce -- like making marital counseling tax-deductible so that couples can afford the help they need --
we have instead chosen a repeated distraction.
In 1999 I published Kosher Sex which, although it became a best-seller, was instantly pilloried by Jewish and Christian clerics for the explicit erotic advice offered as to how to make the marital bedroom passionate again. Yet the number one cause of divorce in America is erotic disinterest and sexual boredom, with the Washington Post reporting that one out of three American couples is entirely platonic. Were pastors more willing to teach, say, the Song of Solomon, with its deep erotic secrets, rather than obsessing over gay marriage, millions of American children might not end up as yo-yos shuffling between parents' homes on weekends.
In 2008 the American economy nearly collapsed due to avaricious bankers and insatiable consumers whose homes were never big enough and cars never new enough. If ever there was a time where American religious and political leaders could engage in a national conversation about materialism, gluttony, and greed, it was then. But my Evangelical brothers responded not with a conversation about filling one's inner void with spiritual purpose but with Proposition 8, a national campaign to overturn gay marriage in California.
Abortion has also become a major distraction ignoring the values that underlie it. Ninety-nine percent of all abortions are single women who have been impregnated by men in an out-of-wedlock relationships. Yet where is the national conversation on the part of pastors about a culture that degrades woman and portrays them as the libidinous man's plaything, which is responsible for the high rate of abortion in the first place?
Tim Tebow is pilloried for the unseemly act of prayer in the secular cathedral of the stadium. But women jumping up and down in lycra to the accompaniment of pompoms and cleavage creates no offense. From the 4.2 million porn websites in the United States, to the female recording industry becoming soft porn itself, to wafer-thin models on magazine covers indirectly affecting 7 percent of all American girls with eating disorders, the dream of women being appreciated as much for the their brains as for their bust is being strongly undermined. Yet we see no push to mandate school uniforms that would inculcate the value of modesty and respect for the body among teenagers at America's public schools. In the African-American community nearly seventy percent of all marriages are out-of-wedlock births resulting in single mothers raising children on their own. But aside from Bill Cosby's courageous speeches on the subject, pastors largely ignore men's obligations to their children in favor of the Supreme Court's obligation to the unborn.
Then there is our growing narcissism. While two percent of the American population protect our freedom in the military, the remainder do scant public service. In a recent survey, when asked what they wished to do when they grew up seventy-eight percent of high school students responded, "Be famous." Yet even as our self-centeredness grows, pastors have yet to advocate a year of national service, prior to college, the discussion of life-at-conception all but muting any discussion about life-with-purpose.
Shmuley Boteach, 'America's Rabbi,' was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium and received the American Jewish Press Association's Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. The international best-selling author of 27 books and award-winning TV host, he has just published "Kosher Jesus." Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley. His website is www.shmuley.com.