Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian

Picked this one up at the local library’s book sale, purely on the dark comedic appeal of the title and its subtitle: “How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised As Freedom.” I had no idea who David Kupelian was or what kind of following he might have. But always entertained by extreme points of view, I simply thought it would be a fun read. And I was not disappointed.

Kupelian comes out swinging. Here’s his opening paragraph.

As Americans, we’ve come to tolerate, embrace, and even champion many things that would have horrified our parents’ generation. Things like abortion-on-demand virtually up to the moment of birth, judges banning the Ten Commandments from public places, a national explosion of middle-school sex, the slow starvation of the disabled, thousands of homosexuals openly flouting the law and getting “married,” and online porn creating late-night sex addicts in millions of middle-class homes.

And why does Kupelian think these horrors have occurred? Let’s turn to the second paragraph.

At the same time, our courts have scrubbed America’s schoolrooms surgically clean of every vestige of the religion on which this nation was founded--Christianity.

I made notations on no fewer than 115 of the book’s 256 pages, but it literally never gets any more complicated than that. America has turned away from Christianity and now it’s going to hell. And why did America turn away? Check the title. Because it was sold a fake bill of goods by the “Marketers of Evil.”

Just who are these “Marketers of Evil?” That was one of the honest questions whose answer I tried to tease out of the text. I never did find a definitive answer, Kupelian swinging freely from one Christian conservative boogeyman to the next. But I did find something remarkable at the end of his chapter on the degrading effects of pop culture.

Today’s youth rebellion is not only against failing parents but against the entire adult society--against the children of the 1960s cultural revolution who grew up to become their parents. Unfortunately, many of us never shook off the transforming effects of that national trauma, which birthed the “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” youth counterculture, the leftist hate-America movement, the women’s liberation movement, and overriding all, of course, the sexual revolution.

So we grew up to elect one of our own--a traumatized, amoral baby boomer named Bill Clinton. If you don’t think Clinton’s escapades with Monica Lewinsky--covered by the media like the Super Bowl--had everything to do with the explosion of middle-school sexual adventures across America, then open your eyes. We, the parents of this generation, along with the degrading entertainment media, the biased news media, the lying politicians, the brainwashing government school system, and the rest of society’s once-great institutions whose degradation we have tolerated, are responsible.

No wonder our children are rebelling. And today’s insane Sodom-and-Gomorrah culture, which we have allowed and in many ways created, stands waiting in the wings to welcome then with open arms.

Yes, in true Christian fashion, the person responsible for all of this is you. You poor, miserable sinner.

In his ten chapters, Kupelian dissects nine evils confronting today’s America--gay rights, church-state separation, pop culture, multiculturalism, divorce, sexual liberation, public education, the media, and abortion. (He saves his tenth chapter for the prescription that will eradicate all of these horrors--a return to the right kind of Christianity.) I’m not going to dissect everything he says that’s wrong about all of these issues. Instead, let me try to tease out some common themes I found myself encountering again and again.

“They” Did “This” to “Us”

This is actually the thesis of the entire book, embodied in its very title. And in every chapter, this base narrative comes shining through. Here it rears its ugly head in the chapter about public education.

John Taylor Gatto, one of America’s most celebrated public school teachers (he was voted both New York City and New York State teacher of the year) describes what happened to America’s schools in the late nineteenth century. In The Underground History of American Education, Gatto tells how “progressive educational leaders” hijacked America’s school system and recreated it according to strange new philosophies--all with the apparent best of intentions, believing they were doing the great work of advancing civilization.

You’ll encounter accusations like this in every chapter; Kupelian calling out the very Marketers of Evil who have created all our problems, sometimes inadvertently but usually not, seducing right-thinking America into sin, despair and debauchery. They did this to us.

America Was Designed As A Christian Nation

This is probably the second most prevalent of Kupelian’s erroneous themes. References to this idea, and tortured conclusions based on it, are almost too numerous to count. Here’s a prime example, from the chapter on church-state separation.

In other words, faith was out as a basis for governing our lives or country. In light of this zeitgeist among America’s elite--and believe me, Supreme Court justices live among the elite--is it any wonder that genuine respect for a Constitution and Bill of Rights that were largely the result of a Christian world view would drastically diminish?

Let’s skip over the Constitution for a second--a document about as secular as they come, laying out not much more than the forms and functions of the federal government. Let’s, for the sake of this example, look instead as the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It’s often said that they guarantee a number of freedoms to the American people by restricting the actions of the government in several key areas. If you’ll forgive a bit of oversimplification, reading through them, one could draw up the following list:

1. Freedom to practice religion, to speak freely, of the press, to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances.
2. Freedom to keep and bear arms.
3. Freedom from having soldiers quartered in your home.
4. Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
5. Freedom from indictment by anything but a Grand Jury, from being tried twice for the same crime, from being forced to serve as a witness against oneself, and from losing life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
6. Right to a speedy trial, to face one’s accusers, and to assistance of counsel in one’s defense.
7. Right to a jury trial.
8. Freedom from excessive bail and from cruel or unusual punishments.
9. Clarity that the rights expressed in the Constitution and its amendments are not the only ones retained by the people.
10. Clarity that rights or powers not given to the federal government in the Constitution and its amendments are retained by the States or by the people.

These are “largely the result of a Christian world view”? Exactly how? Because Kupelian says so? I’d argue that even the one (and mind you, there is only one) that mentions any kind of religion actually expresses a singularly un-Christian sentiment, since it entertains the heretical idea that there are other religions that people have the right to practice. But, from an even wider historical perspective, the rights and freedoms described in the Bill of Rights are almost entirely counters to the excesses and abuses American colonists experienced under the tyranny of the British king--a man and a form of government, remember, that used the divine right of kings to justify its actions and oppressions. King George, in other words, was a Christian leader, not just a political one, and the rights and freedoms expressed in the Bill of Rights are, by definition, un-Christian, perhaps even anti-Christian, as a result.

Us Real Americans

Isn’t it about time we face the painful truth--that we Americans have had our Constitution, and therefore the very reins of power, stolen from us while we were busy going to work, raising our kids, paying the bills, and watching Jeopardy?

This sentiment is also expressed so many times in Kupelian’s text we might as well call it his leitmotif. In his mind, Kupelian clearly believes his point of view represents the sacred truth of America, and that his audience comprises that vanishing and beleaguered species, the Real American.

In the passage above, Kupelian is bemoaning the Supreme Court’s “wall of separation” interpretation of the First Amendment, believing and angry that it has resulted in significant reductions of public expressions of Christian faith. It’s okay for him to be angry about that. To be fair, I think some of the points he makes in that chapter about the original intent of the Founding Fathers in this area are not entirely wrong (although some are real whoppers). What bothers me is the way that he demonizes the people on the other side of his argument, who, if truth must be told, actually won this argument decades ago and keep on winning it every time it finds its way into a courthouse. Are they not Americans, too? Do they not also represent American views and principles?

What we’re witnessing is the official, ever-so-gradual squeezing out of everything that’s really precious to America. It’s as though we’re throwing away something so valuable that it goes almost beyond the ability of words to convey it. We’re taking the finest life has to offer, like the most precious memories of our children, of their birth, of their accomplishments--and we’re taking the sacrifices of our soldiers, of our patriots, our nation’s martyrs--and we’re junking them.

Think of the Puritans who braved the two-month sea voyage to an unknown land and lost one-half of their number during that first, brutal winter. And the loyal patriot soldiers with George Washington at Valley Forge, shivering shoeless and miserable in the snow. Think of the deaths and suffering of the millions of Americans lost or maimed in war during the last two centuries. Ponder as well the tremendous sacrifices of their families. Now think of the sustaining role God, faith, prayer, and the Bible had in the lives of all of these people.

No, evidently they don’t. In Kupelian’s America, there are no atheists, dissenters or conscientious objectors. The only inheritors of the sacred flame of freedom are the God-fearing descendants of those forever enshrined in our national myths.

Evil Is As Evil Does

People working towards evil goals are obviously evil themselves. That’s another of the book’s apparent axioms. Of course, if Kupelian is wrong about the goal in question, if the goal his depicted “demons” are working towards is, in fact, not evil, then their evil plots to destroy America are actually nothing of the kind. There are, in essence, political advocacy for a cause.

The best example is probably the chapter on “selling gay rights to America,” which Kupelian blames primarily on two activists names Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen.

Kirk and Madsen were not the kind of drooling activists that would burst into churches and throw condoms into the air. They were smart guys--very smart. Kirk, a Harvard-educated researcher in neuropsychiatry, worked with the Johns Hopkins Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth and designed aptitude tests for adults with 200+ IQs. Madsen, with a doctorate in politics from Harvard, was an expert on public persuasion tactics and social marketing. Together they wrote After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ‘90s.

“As cynical as it may seem,” they explained at the outset, “AIDS gives us a chance, however brief, to establish ourselves as a victimized minority legitimately deserving of America’s special protection and care. At the same time,” they warned, “it generates mass hysteria of precisely the sort that has brought about public stonings and leper colonies since the Dark Ages and before. … How can we maximize the sympathy and minimize the fear? How, given the horrid hand that AIDS has dealt us, can we best play it?”

And that’s all Kupelian needs to hear. It’s a plot. They are not political activists trying to bring about social change. They are the Marketers of Evil, in this case, trying to sell gay rights (a term Kupelian can’t seem to write without putting it in quotes or italicizing it) to straight America. The larger point, of course, is that the plot is only evil if the cause is evil. The same tactics, for example, employed to sell “Christian sacraments” (turnabout is fair play) to secular America, would unlikely seem evil to Kupelian.


As aggravating as those first four themes could be, this next one actually made my brain hurt.

One of the first times I remember feeling the foundations of America tremble was in 1964 during my ninth-grade civics class. A girl--I don’t remember her name, but I think she was from Tennessee, and she had a very thick southern accent--answered a question from the teacher by mentioning something about God.

“How do you know there is a God?” the teacher shot back.

It was like an earth tremor--just a faint quiver really, a precursor to the tidal waves to come a few years later--a smiling, casual, offhanded swipe at the world as we knew it.

How did the little southern girl know there was a God? Clearly taken aback, she answered the teacher earnestly, incredulously, her voice breaking: “Because...there is!” She had, quite naturally, offered up the best answer anyone could possibly give.

Wait a minute. That’s the “best answer anyone could possibly give”? Did I miss something? From where I sit, that’s about the worst answer anyone could possibly give, forming an argument somewhere in the neighborhood of a playground taunt. I know you are, but what am I?

But here’s the key paragraph.

The teacher had questioned the unquestionable, injecting doubt into a room of impressionable young boys and girls. It was one of those moments you remember forty years later because it created a spark, a momentary contact with another dimension--that alien dimension of cynicism and disbelief.

This is fundamental to understanding Kupelian’s view on things, and in explaining why it is so difficult to win arguments against people of similar perspectives. They have “unquestionables”, things that can’t be challenged. They believe them; no matter what. And it makes them uncomfortable to encounter someone whose logic isn’t so constrained, brushing up another dimension all right, the one of free inquiry.

Here’s a pristine example of how having an unquestionable--in this case, the “unquestionable” belief that same-sex marriage is wrong--can tie someone in so many knots that they don’t know which end is up.

Imagine you’re participating in a televised one-on-one debate. You’re defending traditional marriage. Facing off against you is a lesbian. But not just any lesbian. An attractive, young, eloquent, educated, sensitive, well-dressed lesbian--and to all appearances a fine human being.

Love the implication there. To all appearances. We all know that a lesbian couldn’t possibly be a fine human being.

She looks you in the eye and says, in a disarmingly mainstream and reasonable tone: “I love my country, I obey its laws and I pay my taxes. I’m an American, and have all the same rights you do. In fact, I’ve served my country in the military and have put my life on the line. I’ve lived monogamously with my partner for eighteen years. We truly love each other and want nothing more than to be married and to live out our lives in peace and happiness--just like you. What’s the matter with that? Why shouldn’t we be allowed to be married? How does it hurt you?”

You have thirty seconds to respond before the commercial break.

How can you neutralize the powerful, positive emotions your opponent has skillfully evoked? Will you offer up a statement about the dangers of altering the traditional definition of marriage? Will you point out that children do better with both a mother and father? Will you say the Bible clearly condemns homosexual acts?

Or will you admit that you might be wrong? Oops. Can’t do that.

The debate will be won by whoever conjures up the strongest emotions of sympathy in the audience.

Therefore, unless you’re an extraordinarily gifted and charismatic debater--you lose.

Because evidently you have to be an extraordinarily gifted and charismatic debater to win even when unquestionable truth is on your side.

And when you lose, millions of people out in TV land are pulled a few inches further away from commonsense values and a few inches closer to embracing, or at least resigning themselves to accepting, same-sex marriage.

The lesbian debater appeals to Americans’ basic traits of tolerance, inclusiveness, fair-mindedness, and honor toward veterans. Every statement she makes tends to create in the viewer positive feelings, not toward same-sex marriage per se, but toward her. Yet it’s the viewers’ attitudes toward same-sex marriage that will change.

Each hidden persuasion is like money accruing in the emotional bank account of the listener--and when there are enough funds (strong feelings of sympathy) in the listener’s account, he or she has been “persuaded” of the justness of these two women being married. Or if not persuaded, at least neutralized in terms of offering any effective opposition to same-sex marriage.

You see. It’s a trick! She’s manipulating us. She’s a “Marketer of Evil!”

Watch how the feelings accumulate in the listener’s bank account until they reach critical mass: “I love my country” (patriotism--cha-ching). “I obey its laws and I pay my taxes” (responsible citizen--cha-ching). I’m an American, and have all the same rights you do” (appeal to fairness--cha-ching). “I’ve served my country in the military and have put my life on the line” (she’s a veteran!--double cha-ching). “I’ve lived monogamously with my partner for eighteen years” (loyalty--cha-ching). “We truly love each other and want nothing more than to be married and to live out our lives in peace and happiness--just like you” (true love--cha-ching). “Why shouldn’t we be allowed to be married? How does it hurt you?” (personal intimidation--cha-ching).

Am I the only one who finds that last cha-ching about personal intimidation to be out of place? I thought the evil lesbian was manipulating my positive feelings about tolerance and fairness?

Now imagine how the television viewers are reacting to this debate.

Many in the audience find our feelings have been stirred by the lesbian’s touching appeal.

Right. Until she started intimidating us?

We like her. We want her to be happy. Our positive feelings toward her start to subtly eat away at our long-held conviction that same-sex marriage is wrong.

At our unquestionable.

Those warm emotions give rise to a stream of thought whispers that orbit our minds at light-speed: Maybe I’ve judged these people too harshly just because they’re different. ...Maybe they could make each other happy if they were married. ...After all, heterosexual married couples have lots of problems, and half of them get divorced--so what difference does it really make?

That’s it. Now you’re brushing up against that alien dimension of free inquiry. Keep going.

We start to doubt our prior beliefs, wondering if they’re as hallowed as we’ve thought, or rather just some antiquated religious notions about sex and sin that don’t really apply in today’s world. Then the thought occurs to us, as though from divine revelation: Don’t we all long to love and be loved? ...Maybe that is the ultimate truth. ...She’s right, it doesn’t hurt anyone else for her to be married to her partner. ...It’s mean-spirited to deny other human beings their happiness. ...I like her. ...I want her to be happy.

There you go. It’s an bonafide epiphany! Maybe love is the ultimate truth. Doesn’t it even say that somewhere in the Bible?

Besides, I don’t want anyone to call me a bigot.

Seduction complete.

And there, like a door slamming, Kupelian takes us irrevocably back to his interpretation of the evil seducer, trying to woo us away from our unquestionable truth.

If we were anchored in the Judeo-Christian moral standards that are responsible for the singular success of the Western world, all this emotional persuasion would be for naught. We’d easily discern the truth of the debate and just be amused at the feeble attempts at manipulating our feelings. But after several decades of public education that reflects not the values of the nation’s founders but those of ‘60s radicals and reformers, millions of Americans are just plain confused.

Or maybe they’ve just changed their minds, persuaded by their own logic and free inquiry that this particular unquestionable truth is hogwash. As frightening as it must be for Kupelian to contemplate the evil conspiracy of his own creation, how much more frightening must it be for him to entertain the idea that one of his unquestionables isn’t any such thing?

Black and White

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, there is no in-between in Kupelian’s worldview. Things are either good or evil. There is no middle ground, no nuance. And this view colors his comments on so many of the issues he tries to tackle throughout the book.

In today’s polarized climate, however, it seems most of us either condemn homosexuals as evil corrupters of society or we fawn over them as noble victims and cultural heroes.

Sentences like these really jumped off the page at me because they are so patently untrue. No, most of us do not either condemn homosexuals or fawn over them. Most straight people, in fact, don’t really think much about homosexuals at all. Sentences like these set-up a series of false dichotomies throughout Kupelian’s work. Dichotomies that are easily pierced, but which are absolutely essential to his overall argument.

Just Plain Wrong

Then there are the sentences that reveal just how little Kupelian actually understands about the basic elements of the world we all live in. Elements like...

Human rights. Describing their battle from the get-go as one over “rights” implies homosexuals are being denied the basic freedoms of citizenship that others enjoy. Aren’t they?

The First Amendment. Madison explains that “he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.” Like having the Ten Commandments inscribed on the walls of the Supreme Court?

Divorce and...government power? For an out-of-control, ever-expanding government such as America’s, divorce represents a hard-to-resist growth opportunity. “Once the father is eliminated,” [author and professor of political science Stephen] Baskerville explained, “the state functionally replaces him as protector and provider. By removing the father, the state also creates a host of problems for itself to solve: child poverty, child abuse, juvenile crime, and other problems associated with single-parent homes. In this way, the divorce machinery is self-perpetuating and self-expanding. Involuntary divorce is a marvelous tool that allows for infinite expansion of government power.” What the hell is he talking about?

Women. At the extreme edges of dysfunctionality, women can become so angry at the men who have failed them--whether fathers, husbands, boyfriends, or strangers--that they look to other women for companionship and love. Hence the major increase in lesbianism today, which is the not-too-well-hidden secret side of radical feminism. Yes. Men really suck. I think I’ll try sleeping with women.

Public education. You’d never guess it from the way today’s government learning centers have been surgically scrubbed clean of any vestige of Christian influence, but America’s earliest schools were originally established to ensure biblical literacy. The Puritan founders of New England saw their settlement as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create a biblically based society free of the corrupting influences of the Old World. Sorry. The Puritan founders of New England did not create America in the 1630s, so whatever they did, they were not “America’s earliest schools.”

Human relationships. If there is no awareness of God, truth becomes relative, socialism becomes attractive, immorality becomes acceptable, and philosophies become bizarre. Human relationships are no longer based on mutual honor for another child of God, but rather on exploitation and domination, either obvious or subtle. You try to string that many non-sequiturs together into two seemingly coherent sentences. I’ll bet you can’t.

And, believe it or not, Christianity.

No matter what kind of person you are, a form of Christianity has evolved just for you. There’s a politically liberal Christianity and a politically conservative Christianity. There’s an acutely activist Christianity and an utterly apolitical Christianity, a Christianity that holds up a high standard of ethical behavior and service, and a Christianity for which both personal ethics and good works are irrelevant. There’s a raucous, intensely emotional Christianity drenched in high-voltage music, and there’s a quiet, contemplative Christianity. There’s a loving Christianity and a hateful, racist Christianity, a Christianity that honors Jews as God’s chosen people and a Christianity that maligns Jews as Satan’s children.

Kupelian will go on to argue that there is only true form of Christianity and it is, of course, the one that he personally subscribes to. The problem is that every one of the other “false” Christianities can and do create a legitimate claim to being the true Christianity by cherry picking verses out of the Bible. One example should suffice, albeit it is the one that has historically created an awful lot of divergent doctrines and Christianities.

For by grace are ye saved through faith…not of works. —Ephesians 2:8,9

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. —James 2:24

Which is it, Kupelian? Or perhaps I should ask Martin Luther? Are we saved by faith alone, or by faith combined with works?

Famous Smart People Believed in God

This is one of the most juvenile of Kupelian’s major themes. Whenever he wants to appeal to non-believers or Christians of a more secular stripe, he trots out quotes by famous smart people to try and prove the point at hand. Here he employs the trick in arguing for creation over evolution.

Looking in every direction, we humans beheld not only fantastic complexity, diversity and order, but also the supreme intelligence behind creation, as brashly evident and unavoidable as the noonday sun. This ubiquitous natural wonderland caused man to acknowledge and honor the Creator of creation, as Nicolaus Copernicus did when he wrote, “[The world] has been built for us by the Best and Most Orderly Workman of all.” Or as Galileo wrote, “God is Nature in His works and by doctrine in His revealed word.” Or as Louis Pasteur confessed, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.” Or Isaac Newton: “When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light. This did not happen by chance.”

So, by association, Kupelian is trying to convince us that when all these famous smart people said these things, they were all obviously talking about the Christian god. Except they weren’t. By and large, in the quotes most often chosen by the Kupelians of the world, the famous smart people in question are talking about nature’s god, a theological metaphor for the orderly clockwork our human perspective sees in the universe. And Copernicus, I know, wasn’t even talking about that. Remember that he famously wrote “Mathematics are for mathematicians” in the foreword to his book describing his heliocentric conception of the solar system. It was a work he was afraid to publish for much of his life, fearful of what the Catholic Church would do to him for these blasphemous ideas. When finally convinced to publish, he was careful to explain that just because the math worked better when you put the sun at the center of the solar system, that didn’t automatically mean that’s where the sun actually was. Scientists should only use his formula, in other words, to more accurately describe God’s fine-tuned universe, not, he repeats not, to overturn Catholic dogma. After all, we all know that the world “has been built by the Best and Most Orderly Workman of all.” Right?

It’s Odd and Revealing What Tweaks Kupelian Out

This one might be gratuitous, but reading some sentences, I couldn’t help but at times wonder how far that stick had been shoved up Kupelian’s ass.

Cohabitation. When our kids are exposed to the same influences, without much supervision, and are generally not guided to interpret their circumstances and opportunities in light of biblical principles, it’s no wonder that they grow up to be just as involved in gambling, adultery, divorce, cohabitation, excessive drinking and other unbiblical behaviors as everyone else.

Earrings. But what happens when the youth leader’s strategy of going tie-less turns into his dressing like a rap singer, talking jive, and wearing earrings?

Body piercings. It has progressed from traditional earrings for females, to earrings for males (eager to display their “feminine side” with the ‘60s “cultural revolution” sold them), to multiple piercings for both males and females in literally every part of the body--the tongue, nose, eyebrow, lip, cheek, navel, breasts, genitals--again, things you don’t really want to know.

No, come on, Kupelian. Tell us.

But why stop with conventional piercing and tattooing? Ritual scarification and 3D-art implants are big. So are genital beading, stretching and cutting, transdermal implants, scrotal implants, tooth art, and facial sculpture.

These things are “big”? Scrotal implants are “big”? I Googled it (can’t wait to see what those cookies do for the online ads I see) and found mostly medical sites talking about it as a reconstructive effort after cancer or other surgeries. I’m assuming those aren’t the implants that tweak Kupelian out.

Rock and roll. Then there was the rock music invasion from England. What started with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other groups immediately exerted a powerful hold on America’s youth and soon introduced and sugarcoated the psychedelic drug subculture--”Turn on, tune in, drop out”--which was, in turn, energized and unified by opposition to the Vietnam War.

Just plain old sex. Sex has always been a war zone. Sexual purity--living within certain behavioral confines deemed wholesome and moral, even if it means denying or delaying gratification of one’s own powerful drives--has always been a major dividing line between those attempting to obey God’s laws and those rebelling against them (or denying they exist).

This hang-up around sex, I think, is the most revealing one of all, as it seems to form a principle underlying so many of Kupelian’s opinions. It has three basic premises: (1) There is only one moral way to engage in sexual activity; (2) That way was ordained by the Christian god; and (3) It is responsible for the success of Western society.

Think I’m kidding?

This chasm between Judeo-Christian sexual morality and, basically, the rest of the world becomes stunningly clear in Dennis Prager’s award-winning essay, “Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization”:

“When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world.

“It is not overstated to say that the Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex made the creation of Western civilization possible. Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution by Judaism, and later carried forward by Christianity.

“The revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.”

Okay. I seriously can’t go any farther than that. If Kupelian is going to argue that the sexual morality of the Bible elevates the status of women, there’s no point in even engaging in a dialogue with him.

Well, maybe just one more paragraph from Kupelian’s quoted essay.

“Human sexuality, especially male sexuality, is utterly wild. Men have had sex with women and with men; with little girls and young boys; with a single partner and in large groups; with total strangers and immediate family members; and with a variety of domesticated animals. There is little, animate or inanimate, that has not excited some men sexually.”

Yes. I’d probably dispute the use of the words “utterly wild,” but yes, some men have been sexually excited by these things. But the colossal point that Kupelian misses is that, contrary to his unquestionable belief, Judeo-Christian marriage has done absolutely nothing to contain or curtail these activities. Not in his beloved 1950s.

Divorce was rare, abortion and homosexuality were “in the closet” and out of view of polite society.

Where they evidently belong. Not absent. Just out of sight. And not even among men who have entered into the holy sacrament of Christian marriage.

Specifically, [sex researcher Alfred] Kinsey claimed [in 1948] that 85 percent of males had intercourse prior to marriage, nearly 70 percent had sex with prostitutes, and 30-45 percent of husbands had extramarital affairs. Moreover, from 10 to 37 percent of men had engaged in homosexual acts...

So, what is this talk about “sexual purity” really about? Because it certainly isn’t about actual practice. If anything, the sexual repression demanded by some religions results in more, not less, “aberrant” sexual activity. Talking about sexual purity is really just another sexual fetish, not wholly dissimilar from the “abominations” described in Kupelian’s text. Yes, some men indeed do get off thinking about sex with women, with men, with children, with groups, with total strangers, with family members, or with animals. But let’s not forget that other men get off thinking about sexual purity.

And, wonderfully, the chapter in which Kupelian unintentionally shares this sexual identity of his, is titled, no kidding, “Obsessed with Sex.” I guess today’s sermon was taken from the Book of Irony.

The Prescription

I’ve got to end this somewhere, so let me try to do that here.

What we need is that missing ingredient--the spirit of humility and honesty that invites self-understanding and repentance, which will faithfully guide our true understanding of the Scriptures. Ask yourself, Is stealing wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong, or does the Bible say stealing is wrong because it is wrong? Which came first? What about murder? Was murder wrong before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments? When Cain slew Abel, there was no Bible and no Ten Commandments. Yet God held Cain accountable and set a curse upon him. But why should Cain have known killing his brother was wrong if there was no law?

Kupelian’s solution to the evils he documents is, of course, Christianity. But not just any Christianity. A kind of fuzzy, extra-biblical Christianity that I’m not sure even Kupelian fully understands. Does he understand that when he says that things are wrong, not because the Bible says they are wrong, but because they contain some higher, intrinsic sense of wrongness, he is effectively telling people not to read the Bible, but to listen to their hearts?

The truth, of course, as the Bible makes clear in Romans 1, is that God’s living law, the inborn ability to discern right from wrong, was written in Cain’s heart, as it is in every human being who has ever lived. The word conscience literally means “with knowing.” We all know. We all know, deep down, right from wrong. We’re self-contained truth machines if only we’d pay attention. It’s only our pride, our willfulness to have our own way, to be the god of our own lives, to rationalize our compulsions and sins--and the inevitable denial of truth that follows--that disconnects us from it.

Yes, evidently he does. But isn’t that where his argument starts to fall apart? Different people’s hearts tell them different things about what is right and what is wrong--not only when terms like “right” and “wrong” are mapped onto silly things like body piercings and rock music, but also around more significant issues like homosexuality and abortion. Their hearts tell them different things. They disagree. And it isn’t because some of them have remained faithful to the revealed truth written by God in their hearts and others are prideful, or want their own way, or want to be the god of their own lives, or are rationalizing their compulsions and sins, or have been duped by the Marketers of Evil. They disagree because right and wrong aren’t always black and white--as any casual perusal through the Bible will easily show you.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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