Both cathedrals and social institutions take a long time to build and are not easily brought down. Like a building damaged from all sides, marriage has weakened dramatically from cultural blows in ways that few anticipated.

A vague memory of how to "do marriage" still survives. Couples speak wistfully of the enduring marriages of their grandparents, even if they do not know how to replicate them. Marriage has reached a stunning state of fragility.

A look at the significant factors that have contributed to the virtual collapse of marriage over the last 40 years gives perspective on how gay activists have maneuvered into position to launch a frontal assault on the very definition of marriage.

The Sexual Revolution. In the 1960s, two new sexual standards emerged. A moderately liberal approach urged that sexual intercourse should be confined to "loving relationships." A still more radical stance claimed that sex should be enjoyed whenever desired, as long as there was "mutual consent."

These two approaches still jostle for mainstream dominance today, with the sex-only-within-marriage crowd still present but quite marginal. The biblical view of sex is often considered an archaic medieval leftover.

The sexual revolution began to separate sex from marriage, so the movement's cutting edge now lies elsewhere. Advocates for full acceptance of homosexuality, whose voices began to sound in the 1970s, now occupy a place near the cultural mainstream. On the fringes, we find advocates for adult-child sex. And in the intervening years, pornography has grown into a $40 billion industry whose tentacles reach into most American homes via the Internet. Child pornography is its most appalling manifestation.

The Contraception and Abortion Revolutions. ...

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September 2004

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