Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and the executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. Paul Kengor is the author of God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life (2004), The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2007), The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan's Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007) and The Communist - Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor (Threshold Editions / Mercury Ink 2012).
Wolfboy and Princess Cupcake: The Complementarity of the Sexes
Ecumenism at its best was recently demonstrated at the Vatican, where dozens of faith leaders worldwide assembled to remind us of the essential complementarity of men and women in life, marriage, and parenthood. It was enough to prompt a high-five between Pope Francis and evangelical pastor James Robison.
Of course, do we really need reminding that male and female are different? Absolutely, especially with the advent of same-sex marriage, which is prompting assertions that it "doesn't matter" whether two men or two women parent a household.
Ask any parent if males and females are different. My wife and I have eight children under our roof, and the boy-girl differences are dramatic.
Here's a typical Saturday morning exchange at our house: "Daddy!" my 7-year-old son yells, running toward me in camouflage hunting clothes. "I had a dream last night that I stabbed Bigfoot nine times with a spear!" Not missing a beat, his 3-year-old sister prances and dances toward me in a flowered pink dress: "Daddy, I had a dream about a ladybug!"
The 3-year-old goes by "Princess Cupcake." She's of the age where she dresses up and displays herself in front of me waiting for me to gush, "Wow, you look like a princess!" She beams. Her older sisters did the same thing. The first time I said that to her oldest sister, she calmly glowed to her mom, "He said I look like a princess."
Needless to say, the boys have never done that - not once in 20,000-plus days of combined lives.
My wife and I have nothing to do with these differences, other than providing the chromosomes.
My 7-year-old boy, long before fancying himself a Bigfoot slayer, declared himself "Wolfboy." My wife and I certainly didn't come up with that one. She will tell you that she did not give birth to a wolf boy. No, it was he alone who transmogrified himself into this half-beast, half-boy.
Wolfboy sauntered around the house creeping, preying. We attempted to keep these wild manifestations at, shall we say, bay - a more restrained Wolfboy. One day at the home of friends, he politely asked my wife if he could go outside to "howl," to the giggles of my friend's teenage girl.
Fortunately, the Wolfboy thing eventually cooled. One afternoon he grabbed two chopsticks for fangs, shoving them into his throat. Wolfboy had to be taken to the hospital. We've since had several full moons with no reappearances.
That brings me back to the differences in the sexes. These traits follow us into adulthood, marriage, and parenting. There are things my wife does that I just can't. She happily jumps up in the middle of the night at the slightest cry. I lay there groaning. On the flip side, she has no yearning to take the teenage boys hunting in 20-degree weather with rifles and crossbows to shoot and gut and hang and skin and butcher a deer. My boys crave that, and they're utterly mystified at their sisters' insatiable interest in the Duggar family's weddings.
In short, all of this is obvious, observable. Really, to deny it is to be warped by ideology, culture, politics, or some agenda.
That brings me back to the ecumenical gathering at the Vatican, where these gender differences in married and family life were acknowledged and celebrated.
"The biggest threat to marriage is that people have forgotten its purpose," said Pastor Rick Warren, the 28th speaker at the conference:
Children who grow up with the presence of a mother and father are more successful in life, are healthier, are stronger, are less likely to be involved in crime, are less likely to go to prison, are less likely to be involved in drug abuse, are less likely to live in poverty. If you really want to support children, we need to support two-parent families, a husband and a wife, a mom and a dad.
The Bishop of Rome didn't disagree with the Saddleback Church pastor.
"Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother," said Pope Francis. Such households are best "capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity."
Of course, not all children get that ideal, but it's an ideal our culture should strive for rather than against. We were made male and female, and from birth to death and childhood to parenthood, those differences have a distinct and complementary purpose.
Takedown of Family and Marriage - Vision and Values' Questions and Answers with Paul Kengor
Editor's note: The following is part one of a series of Q&As with Professor Paul Kengor about his new book, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage.
V&V: Dr. Kengor, you're an established bestselling author who has written over a dozen books on the Cold War, Communism, socialism, conservatism, progressivism, as well as biographies of figures as diverse as Ronald Reagan and Hillary Clinton, Why this topic in this book? Why wade into this Culture War issue?
Kengor: The answer is precisely because of my background in those areas. I know from decades of research, study, writing, and lecturing that the political left - first with Communists, socialist utopians, and then on to secular "progressives" - have sought to reshape, redefine, and effectively take down natural-traditional-biblical family and marriage for two centuries. They've long looked to alter the so-called "nuclear family," which they saw as an outright menace. I know that ideological past. I know how it fits into the present. Most people don't, including those today who are willing to redefine the historic Western/Judeo-Christian conception of male-female marriage. The vast majority of those who are willing to do that have no idea of the deeper, darker ideological-historical forces long at work in this wider movement. They are signing on to something that, whether they know it or not - most do not - have important links to much older and more sinister attempts by the far left to redefine family and marriage.
V&V: Could you expand upon your point on the lack of understanding by the "vast majority" advocating same-sex marriage today?
Kengor: Yes. The typical American who supports same-sex marriage has friendly motives, looking to extend what the current culture deems a new "right" or new "freedom" to a new group. I get that. I don't agree, but I understand. Unfortunately, these Americans don't realize that, for the far left, gay marriage is a vehicle, a kind of Trojan horse, to achieve what the earliest radicals on the far left, and specifically Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, called the "abolition of the family." Marx and Engels noted then, way back in 1848, that the abolition of the family - this bold ambition to redesign the original Designer's conception of marriage - was already "an infamous proposal of the Communists." To many Americans, gay marriage is about "marriage equality," but to the far left, it's about the final takedown of the family that it has long desired.
By the way, I must underscore up front that gay people are absolutely correct in noting that heterosexuals - Christians included - have done an excellent job themselves in hurting marriage, which, for Christians, is supposed to be sacred. Through divorce, infidelity, abortion, men and women have pounded marriage and family mercilessly. But even with these self-inflicted wounds, which are recent on the historical-social radar, marriage as an institution survived and was never redefined. Same-sex "marriage" will forever redefine marriage's once-established boundaries. It's the breach that changes everything. That's the difference.
V&V: You state clearly and repeatedly at the start of your book that you're not alleging that today's gay-marriage advocates are part of a grand Communist conspiracy. Why are you so sensitive about making that clear?
Kengor: Because I know how easily these things get caricatured by opponents. Yes, I very carefully state that this isn't a conspiracy. I want to be clear on this. I implore people not to caricature me and this important reality that needs to be understood. We do a disservice to the truth when we boil down complex things to simple caricature.
However, just as we can easily overstate things, we can also easily understate them, and to do the latter likewise would be a mistake here.
What the left has steadfastly said and written and done to marriage and the family over the last two centuries cannot be ignored. Those actions have been undeniable contributing factors - along with many other factors - that in part help explain where we are today.
Same-sex marriage is not a Marxist plot. It is, however, a crucial blow to marriage - the only blow that will enable a formal, legal redefinition that will open the floodgates to all sorts of new configurations beyond our multi-millennia Western standard based on natural law and the laws of God. It has distinct origins traceable in part to the far left's initial thrusts at this once unassailable monogamous, faithful male-female institution.
V&V: At the opening of the book, you further caution: "I am not laying the entirety of the culture's collapse at the feet of Communists. I am not asserting that Marxists have given us gay marriage."
Kengor: That's correct. And yet, as I note after that quotation, what the left has steadfastly done to marriage and the family over the last two centuries - from Marx and Engels and early utopian socialists like Robert Owen and Charles Fourier to modern cultural Marxists and secular progressives - cannot be ignored. The current rapid redefinition of the male-female marital and parental bond that has undergirded civilization for multiple millennia is the end-road of a steady evolution that should not be viewed entirely separate from some very successful attacks by the radical left. The journey had many prior destinations. A people do not just one morning wake up and ditch the sacred and natural character of the male-female marital union that served their parents, grandparents, and great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents. Ground had been plowed to ready this soil.
V&V: And it was the far left that helped ready the soil?
Kengor: Absolutely. No question.
V&V: As you note, however, the likes of Marx and Engels and the many socialist utopians that you detail were not advocating homosexuality or certainly gay marriage.
Kengor: Of course, not. Sure, some of them, especially the cultural Marxists, were pushing sexual intercourse within the same gender, but anyone advocating something as culturally unthinkable as male-male or female-female "marriage," in any time other than ours, would have been hauled off by authorities as dangerous public menaces. Marx and Engels were under surveillance by the governments in their countries simply for arguing for non-monogamous marriage. Even gay people weren't thinking they'd soon live in a culture where not only was the mainstream population supportive of gay marriage but where liberals - in the name of "tolerance" and "diversity" - would be suing, picketing, boycotting, demonizing, and dehumanizing a Baptist grandma who begs them not to force her to make a cake for a gay wedding. Marx and Engels and even wild cultural Marxists like Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich - who broke down sexual barriers in areas like homosexuality and bisexuality - would be rolling over in their graves. Nonetheless, they would be thrilled to see that everyday (non-Communist) Americans have finally found a vehicle to assist the long-time Communist dream of "the abolition of the family."
V&V: But you do emphasize one important source of clear commonality, from the early 19th to early 21st centuries that unites these old left-wing extremists with modern liberals in their general willingness to redefine marriage and family. What is it?
Kengor: Yes, it is this: As modern liberalism/progressivism and the Democratic Party have become increasingly secular, often anti-religious, or certainly dismissive of traditional notions of morality, this striking willingness of individuals to redefine marriage has become possible. For Communists, two centuries ago and still today, that requisite anti-religious secularism has been there all along. That disregard if not outright rejection of Christian ethics has brought all of these forces full circle in a joint willingness to permanently alter the historic Western/Christian understanding of male-female matrimony.
They share the fatal conceit first expressed in the Garden of Eden: Ye shall be as gods.
V&V: What do you mean by that?
Kengor: They are their own determinants of truth, of morality, of what is right and wrong. They render unto themselves the right to determine everything from what is marriage to what is life. These things used to be the province of nature and nature's God. Now, each and every individual renders that right unto himself or herself. And when someone disagrees with them, they are often attacked with fire and brimstone.
V&V: Clearly, you're coming at this from a religious perspective.
Kengor: My position is 100 percent consistent with my faith. But I come at this issue not only spiritually but with numerous other influences that have shaped society's position on marriage and family for, oh, several thousand years. It has long been common sense and experience that the best thing for a society and for children is a home with a mother and father. Pope Francis says that every child has a "right" to a mother and father. To be sure, not all children will get that. But when they don't, it hasn't been because the culture and state are creating a new form of "marriage" that is motherless or fatherless. A fatherless or motherless home has never been what society has strived for as a matter of deliberate policy. That is now changing with this fanatical, no-second-thoughts push for gay marriage.
V&V: We're going to pick up this conversation in our second interview, but tell readers what you describe as the "ultimate kicker" in this rapid willingness to redefine what you call "the laws of nature and nature's God," because it really sums up what you've said here today.
Kengor: It's really a rather stunning development: The radical left could never have achieved this ultimate takedown of marriage without the larger American public's increasingly broad acceptance of gay marriage. The public has been the indispensable handmaiden to the radical left's ability to at long last redefine marriage and the family. That is a realization that ought to give the public pause.
V&V: One additional stunning development, a crucial point we'll pick up in the next interview. You note that today's Communist movement is "gung ho" for gay marriage.
Kengor: That's correct. People's World, the flagship publication of Communist Party USA (CPUSA), is constantly pushing gay marriage. As I write, it has posts celebrating "LGBT" Pride Month. You can see this at the CPUSA website, in speeches of CPUSA leaders, and even in places like the once militantly anti-gay Cuba. This is a big deal. CPUSA once expelled gays like Harry Hay. Not anymore. Why such a shift? A major reason is that Communists are anti-tradition, anti-God, anti-family, anti-marriage, and all about fundamentally transforming society. They see same-sex marriage as a major opportunity.
V&V: What do you say to those who dispute your thesis?
Kengor: Well, I hope this doesn't sound arrogant, but it's not something that is disputable. Look, the facts are very simple: for some two centuries, extremist elements, from radical socialist utopians to Communists to secular progressives, have sought to redefine and reshape and fundamentally transform the natural, traditional, Biblical, nuclear family. In gay marriage, they finally have a vehicle with mainstream public support to enable that redefinition, that reshaping, that fundamental transformation. There's no disputing that. People may not like to hear it. I don't like it either. But it's not a matter of dispute.
V&V: So, which side are the bad actors, or the ones acting in bad faith?
Kengor: Again, it isn't usually gay Americans or the typical millennial stumping for gay marriage; they're motivated by what they believe are beneficent and entirely unsinister forces: their notions of love, freedom, tolerance, "equality." I get that. I do not agree with their applications, but I fully understand that (for most of them) their intentions are not malicious. They do not see themselves as working on the same page as Communists or whatever other type of left-wing radicals. And indeed, this isn't a willful conspiracy. Nonetheless, the far left could care less how the rest of the culture gets there, with whatever slogans or well-intended notions, so long as it gets there.
V&V: You mention in Takedown having received an important email about a year ago from someone responding to an article you did on gay marriage. He was once part of the "gay left." Tell us what he said and how it motivated you.
Kengor: He noted that most gay people, who are either not especially political or certainly nowhere near the extreme left, have no idea how their gay-marriage advocacy fits and fuels the far left's anti-family agenda, and specifically its longtime takedown strategy aimed at the nuclear family. He is exactly right, and inspired me to begin collecting the material that became this book. Most of the gay people I have known are Republicans, not leftists. Generally, I have always had no problem dialoguing with them, though it is now getting more difficult, as liberals are doing their best to convince gays that I, as a conservative, hate them. It's an uncharitable smear, based on great crudeness and ignorance, which utterly misunderstands conservatism.
That kind of nasty intolerance by liberals is terribly divisive, destroying real dialogue and civil debate.
But as for gay people, even when they're socially liberal - and, even then, mainly on matters like gay rights - the gay people I've met have been economic conservatives, not to mention pro-life on abortion, which I always especially appreciated. But in signing on the dotted line for gay marriage, they have, whether they realize it or not (again, most do not), enlisted in the radical left's unyielding centuries-old attempt to redefine the family.
V&V: So, you believe that unlike the older leftist extremists who sought to deliberately undermine the traditional family, the vast majority of today's proponents of same-sex marriage have friendly motives?
Kengor: Yes, I think that's largely true for the typical supporter of same-sex marriage - though there are, admittedly, some supporters who candidly admit that they're looking to take down marriage. They're very open about it. I quote them in the book.
V&V: You write that you, as a Christian, have no right to redefine marriage.
Kengor: I believe that marriage is not ours to redefine. Christians like myself believe that creating our own definition of marriage would blaspheme God, who "created them male and female." "What God joined together man cannot tear asunder." That's in Genesis (Old Testament) and Matthew (Jesus himself speaking in the New Testament). And beyond that, words have meanings. A cat is a cat, a dog is a dog, a tree is a tree, and marriage is marriage. If gay-marriage advocates would like, they can call their new spousal arrangements something else, but I personally and religiously cannot concede to join them in designing new configurations of "marriage." To me and billions before me, marriage is a male-female creation determined by nature and nature's God.
V&V: In fact, in the previous interview, you said that those eager to redefine marriage were acting as their own gods, with their own definitions of morality, of right and wrong, of marriage.
Kengor: Correct. In my faith tradition, marriage was instituted as a male-female bond by Christ and is literally sacramental. It would be downright heretical to arrogate unto myself the extraordinary ability to define what is marriage. Liberals can happily take up that task to themselves, but I will not. I already have enough to answer to God for. It's funny, liberals accuse same-sex marriage opponents of arrogance. That's hardly the case. We have humbled ourselves to an absolute Creator's position that we believe we have no right to change.
V&V: Let's get back to your historical treatment. Give us the three main points that you want people to take away from Takedown.
Kengor: First, people need to understand that, for two centuries, the far left - from Communists to socialists to various self-styled "progressives" - have sought to reorder the natural-traditional-Biblical understanding of family and marriage. From the likes of Marx and Engels to Herbert Marcuse, Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, the Bolsheviks, the Frankfurt School of cultural Marxists, to a host of 1960s radicals and many others still, they created their own definitions of marriage, family, parenting, education, sexuality, even gender. They spoke openly and candidly of what some called "abolition of the family." In fact, those are the exact words of Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. Marx once wrote to Engels, "Blessed is he who has no family."
Second, for the first time ever, the far left has finally found a vehicle to enable this long-sought takedown of family and marriage: gay marriage. This 21st century novelty is utterly without precedent in the ancient sweep of Western/Judeo-Christian history. Though Communists, socialists, and even early progressives could have never conceived of the idea of same-sex marriage, they are now firmly on board for this fundamental transformation of marriage and family.
And third, the American mainstream and even the gay community itself have no idea that their support of same-sex marriage actually enables the far left to achieve this takedown. Most chillingly, their support of gay marriage also allows the far left to successfully attack religion - its long-reviled foe - in a way it never thought possible with such wide public acceptance.
V&V: That part is indeed chilling, and a major part of your book. You give numerous examples of how the far left has used these ideas on remolding family and marriage as a tool to hammer religion.
Black Pastors Protest Margaret Sanger at the Smithsonian
Margaret Sanger is a saint in the feminist church. She is a charter member of the Progressive Hall of Fame. Liberals revere this woman who preached "race improvement" and denounced what she called "human weeds," "morons," "idiots," "imbeciles," and the "dead weight of human waste."
Hillary Clinton glows that she is "in awe of" Sanger. She said so in 2009 upon receiving Planned Parenthood's "highest honor" that year: its coveted Margaret Sanger Award. Likewise, effusive was Nancy Pelosi when she proudly accepted the award in 2014.
Speaking to Planned Parenthood a year earlier, Barack Obama, America's first African-American president, hailed the organization founded by this racial eugenicist committed to creating a "race of thoroughbreds" and purging America's "race of degenerates." "Thank you, Planned Parenthood," and "God bless you," said Obama to a giddy crowd of ecstatic pro-choice women. The president commended Planned Parenthood's "extraordinary" and "remarkable work."
The love by liberals for Planned Parenthood and its founder knows no bounds. A professor blogging at The New York Times argues for placing Margaret's mug on the $20 bill.
And alas, no less than the Smithsonian, America's museum, boasts a handsome bust of Sanger in its stately National Portrait Gallery. Margaret is there enshrined in the Smithsonian's vaunted "Struggle for Justice" exhibit.
This brings me to my reason for writing here today: a group of African-American pastors are demanding the removal of Sanger's bust from the Smithsonian.
Perhaps the Gallery is unaware that Ms. Sanger supported black eugenics, a racist attitude toward black and other minority babies, an elitist attitude toward those she regarded as "the feeble minded"; speaking at a rally of Ku Klux Klan women; and communications with Hitler sympathizers . . .
states the letter from Ministers Taking a Stand. "Also the notorious 'Negro Project,' which sought to limit, if not eliminate black births, was her brainchild." The pastors quote an infamous December 1939 letter from Sanger to Dr. Clarence Gamble of the Eugenics Society where, in the context of discussing the Negro Project, Sanger wrote:
We do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out the idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
The succinct, powerful statement from the pastors adds: "Despite these well-documented facts of history, her bust sits proudly in your gallery as a hero of justice. The obvious incongruity is staggering!"
Amen to that.
Liberals must be baffled by this. This isn't the esteemed Planned Parenthood founder they learned to admire in their college classrooms. Margaret Sanger, a racist? Huh? They never heard that in American History 101. Where could these crazy charges possibly come from?
The answer is a myriad of authoritative sources. For starters, one might consult Sanger's own words. On pages 366-367 of her 1938 autobiography, published by W.W. Norton, one of the leading New York publishing houses, she spoke warmly of her May 1926 speech to the women's chapter of the KKK in Silverlake, New Jersey. Sanger seemed eager to speak to the group. After getting off the train, she was escorted by car along winding roads to a barn hidden in the country. There, the undeterred Planned Parenthood matron waited patiently for nearly three hours while her white-hooded sisters engaged in their incendiary routine. She observed "figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses. I waited another twenty minutes. It was warmer and I did not mind so much." "Eventually," recorded Sanger of the toasty atmosphere, "the lights were switched on, the audience seated itself, and I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak."
Sanger was tight-lipped regarding what she shared with the Klanswomen at their rally, though apparently she was extremely successful and satisfied with herself:
I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York. . . . It was nearly one before I reached Trenton, and I spent the night in a hotel.
The Planned Parenthood founder's KKK talk was a smash hit. Not only did it go very late, after a long wait, but it earned Sanger a dozen new invitations from the Klan sisters. The KKK was quite excited about the work of Planned Parenthood's founder.
Thus, it hardly comes out of nowhere when a group of African-American pastors today asks the Smithsonian:
How can a person like Sanger, who found common cause with the racial agenda of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), be ranked among true champions of "justice?"
Precisely. Such words pierce the liberal heart like a dagger. As many conservatives have experienced, when you point out to liberals that Planned Parenthood aborts (by far) a disproportionate number of unborn African-American babies, they go wild with rage and name-calling. You're apt to be reflexively called every name in the liberal playbook for raising this one. As we watch weekly the ghastly Planned Parenthood video expose released by the Center for Medical Progress, in which Sanger's organization's "medical personnel" nonchalantly discuss dissecting baby parts while sipping Chianti and nibbling Caesar salad, bear in mind that most of these babies are African-American. Which among them might have been another Rosa Parks, Ben Carson, Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Ashe, or even Barack Obama?
These African-American pastors know that. Indeed, they show (with a map included) that 70 percent of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are located in minority neighborhoods. Thus, they're undertaking their own expos. Their letter, they say, will be but one "in a series of actions we will be taking to expose the evil of honoring Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood."
Again, amen to that.
If liberals genuinely care about justice, they should join these African-American pastors in seeking the removal of Margaret Sanger's bust from the "Struggle for Justice" exhibit at America's preeminent museum. *