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Open and shut

When media 'balance' doesn't allow for the view that adultery is wrong

Issue: "Tour d'America road rage," Feb. 11, 2012

What Bill Clinton did for teenagers by describing a particular type of sex as non-sex, Newt Gingrich and The New York Times may be doing for a particular type of adultery.

A Jan. 20 Times feature (nytimes.com/roomfordebate) put the issue of "open marriage" before readers, with columns from eight authors or pairs of authors. The Times introduced the debate by asking: Was Gingrich, if he indeed demanded such an arrangement, "onto something? If more people considered such openness an option, would marriage become a stronger institution-less susceptible to cheating and divorce, and more attractive than unmarried cohabitation?"

Seven of the eight columns supported "open marriage," with various caveats. Headlines included "Multiple Partners, But One at a Time," or "No One Approach Is Ideal," or "The Perils and Promise of Openness." One column, "Voters Accept Adultery, But Not Honesty," suggested that "open marriage" was OK as long as couples did not talk about it.

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Other columns, such as "Vows to Live By" and "The Right Way to Try Openness," suggested individualized marriage pre-nups specifying degrees of openness-as if people in the throes of romance know what they'll want several years later. Another column suggested that couples "might find their mutual commitment strengthened if they let off some steam." (Note the presupposition embedded in the metaphor: Humans are a type of machine.)

Only one column, "High Risk to Women and Children," reviewed sociological data showing that "open marriage" is "unfair to women [and] also likely to be a terrible idea for children." Even that column, though, did not use words such as wrong, let alone sin. Nor did any of the columns note the beauty of biblical marriage, with deepening commitment and love over the decades.

The eight columns reveal much about both American expert opinion and The New York Times. Now that most leading journalists don't believe that "objective truth" exists, the media doctrine of "objectivity" has become a balancing of subjectivities: Balance out quotes from person A and person B, and voila: objectivity, or at least fairness.

I've challenged that doctrine by suggesting that if person A is a liberal materialist and person B a conservative materialist, readers will be left without a biblical perspective. And here, despite presenting A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, the Times still does not allow in the biblical faith that God created the institution of marriage to be gloriously between one man and one woman, with adultery always wrong.

Why are so many Americans hostile to the "elite media"? Compare the "balance" of the Times to the University of Chicago's 2008 General Social Survey: In it 81 percent of Americans responded that it is "always wrong" for a married person to have sex with someone other than his or her spouse.

"Always wrong"? For the Times, that's an outmoded biblical perspective.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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