“I’m not saying this is an absolute but in a way, if you’re not having kids – who gives a damn? Love who you want. Isn’t that what we say? Gay marriage – love who you want?” Cassavetes said. “If it’s your brother or sister it’s super weird, but if you look at it, you’re not hurting anybody, except every single person who freaks out because you’re in love with one another.”
Movie director Nick Cassavetes’ moral evaluation of incest
The moral collapse of any society is very rapid once grave moral relativism takes hold in its centers of cultural expression. There have been increasing numbers of novels and films over the last half century in the popular culture of western nations, especially in Britain and the United States, that contain incestuous relations as part of the story. But the writers in most if not all of these cases are not trying to justify anything as insidious as incest in human society. That’s why this very public comment by an American movie director – who just happens to be promoting his latest product which is evidently incest centered – has raised so many eyebrows and comments both supportive and condemnatory. The only thing positive that can be said about Cassavetes’ outrageous self-promotion and moral ignorance is that he has probably opened some eyes to the state of our culture in ways he did not intend.
When Cassavetes says this moral perversion is ok so long “you’re not having kids,” he largely reduces the issue of sexual morality to purely biological consequences, and he obviously reduces “love” to mutual sexual desire. His moral sense has nothing to do with rational principles of morality, things like the natural law and all that. His only moral principle is that incest is ok since incestuous partners are not hurting anyone, a principle discovered at the level of moral adolescence. However, he can’t avoid admitting that it would be super weird “If it’s your brother or sister,” and he is careful to clarify that he has no personal experience in this matter, which probably allows his first wife to breathe easier since they had two daughters.
Of course, even today few psychologists would say that no one gets hurt in these incestuous encounters. They often have to deal with the effects on the partners themselves. And then what does this moral acceptance of incest do to the trust and stability so essential to family life, and how vulnerable does this leave children to their own family’s possible exploitation? But then people like Cassavetes do not take moral questions to the level of the common good. Their moral consciousness simply does not reach that far.
In another sense, Cassavetes comments about this being justifiable so long as you are not having children, and his reference to gay marriage as a parallel case of “love who you want” really do point to the real source of the moral problem, even though that moral root is light years from his thinking.
Once love, that is, sexual love, became divorced from marriage and child bearing (“not having kids”)
perversions like homosexual relations, gay marriage and incestuous relations were going to be the logical fallout from this destruction of the natural purpose of marriage and married love. Once sex is no longer seen as inherently connected to procreative love within marriage, all these perversions are eventually going to be considered morally normal, and it’s just a matter of time to work out this moral logic.
What followed the great war in Germany was not simply an economic crisis and political crisis, but above all a moral crisis. The moral nihilism that was deep in the German psyche since Nietzsche was about to break forth into moral cesspools in the great cities and centers of German culture. As Michael Burleigh put it in his study, Sacred Causes,
“A sense of moral order was further outraged by the pockets of artistic nihilism and psedo-radicalism and sexual self-advertisement in the major cities… such moral relativism being a sure sign of cultural decadence…” (p. 17)
It was almost unthinkable back in the days of the introduction of the pill and the introduction of a contraceptive mentality in married life that in a short few decades we would see a push for morally and legally legitimizing homosexual acts and homosexual marriage. And who would have dreamt, except in nightmares, that men like Cassavetes would arise and defend the most wretched abuse of human sexuality short of bestiality and pedophilia?
Christians who believe in chastity, inside marriage and outside marriage, are called to be a sign of contradiction in our sick moral culture. Pope Paul VI spoke of this role of the Church in the world, especially in a world that he predicted would see a great “lowering of moral standards” (H.V. n. 17) as a result of its acceptance of contraception which divorces sex, marriage and procreation:
But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” (Lk. 2:34) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. (H.V. N. 18)
There we have our duty in the face of this moral degeneracy of the contemporary culture. We must proclaim “humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.” And we must do in season and out of season, both in word and deeds, but above all in deeds, the way we choose to live our lives as an example to those who are being terribly mislead into the destructive lifestyle of self-gratification and moral stupor.