Report into Lib Dems is a wider indictment of permissive society?


The report by the chief executive of Newton Investment Management, Helena Morrissey, into the inadequacy of the Liberal Democrats' response to allegations of sexual harrassment unintentionally issues an indictment beyond its brief, for political parties inevitably reflect the wider moral culture. Regrettably ours, since the advent of the permissive society in the 1960s, has been marked by a diminution of sexual restraint.

Mrs Morrissey's report focuses on the lack of formal processes for dealing with allegations of unwanted sexual advances by men in senior positions on junior female staff and in one instance on a young man. Such behaviour is always unacceptable. But a junior staff member consenting to engage in extramarital sex with his or her boss can and does cause problems in work places particularly if a promotion ensues or if a marriage vow is violated.

The Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg carefully highlighted the fact that the failures identified in Mrs Morrissey's report predated his leadership. 'Stretching over a 20-year period a series of mistakes were made which left a number of women feeling seriously let down and for that there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever,' he said. But one wonders how many people within his party and others have achieved advancement through sexual liaisons with their superiors. It is of course impossible to calculate how many careers have been advanced by such means. But that particular form of patronage thrives in a permissive society.

Christian moral teaching that the expression of sexual love is to be reserved exclusively for the God-created institution of heterosexual marriage is rooted in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. 'From the beginning of the creation,' he taught quoting from the Old Testament book of Genesis, 'God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder' (Mark 10v6-9 - King James Version).

The word translated 'cleave' there is very important. It speaks of an exclusive commitment between one man and one woman in which sexual love is the most emotionally and physically intimate expression. In Christian moral teaching, this God-created union is so exclusive that not only does it forbid extramarital sex but also sex by either party before they marry. Such teaching is reflected in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer which clearly states that marriage was ordained by God to be 'a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body'.

Though this was the sexual ethic embraced by most British people before the 1960s - for a combination of moral, social and practical reasons - now it is almost completely rejected across society. It is unfashionable and almost taboo to argue for its renewed social acceptance. One can almost hear the sneers of the metropolitan elite for even suggesting it. In certain employment contexts, the consequences for a person articulating his or her belief that sex is only for heterosexual marriage could be a lot worse than a supercilious sneer.

But the question remains unaswered in post-Christian Britain not just for political parties and work places but also for the many communities in our country blighted by fatherlessness: how else can the sexual chaos in our country be cured except by a spiritual and moral recommitment to the way of Christ?

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