The Laws of Nature Apply to Tigers, Too

There has been an eerie silence — even amidst all the lurid details making their way through the Blogosphere — on the moral significance of Tiger Woods’s “transgressions.”  It has proven easier for those who want to discuss the issue instead to wonder how this event might affect his career, to track his approval ratings, and to speculate on whether he will lose untold millions in endorsement revenue, as sponsors are already pulling ads.  The Scarlet A, it appears, sits uncomfortably atop the Nike Swoosh.

Even among conservatives there seems to be a prevailing mum.  Quite likely pundits find it unnecessary to state the obvious: that the discipline Tiger Woods displays on the golf course has not transferred to his own personal life, that such a pattern of behavior in one of the most known figures in the world suggests a massive amount of hubris (or just arrogance), and that there are people — one being an epically lovely woman, the other two being children — whose lives have been wrecked far beyond any damage done to a black SUV.  

We must realize, however, that “the obvious” is not always entirely obvious to the least wise and most impressionable members of our society: particularly teenagers whose own passions partake of the Tigeresque unruliness, who are capable of exercising the sexual freedom we have given them, and who can hardly keep from following this event as it unfolds in all its unseemliness.    

By now most teenage males in America have seen the images of Mrs. Woods juxtaposed with the mistresses and weighed the case in their own minds.  We can surmise their responses.  More than half have determined, “Dude, they’re hot!  A man just can’t resist that.”  Most of the rest, more in touch with their moral and aesthetic senses, have, in looking at Mrs. Woods, marveled, “Dude, how can you cheat on that!”  The overwhelming minority have asked the question that would have been the norm in days gone by: “How can a man of honor do that to the mother of his children, and to his children?”  Young people, especially young men, do not pull ideas of the good and the beautiful out of thin air, nor off the Internet.  The vital question is how we adults direct young, unruly, and passionate people to the good, even at this moment and in this age.

The age of our nation’s founding had answers for young people.  The men who ran schools and colleges and churches, the women who reared up children at home, did not allow wayward youth to stew in their own juices.  When the young James Madison went to college in Princeton, he encountered a lecture like this:   

In marriage we ought to observe … there is something peculiarly distinguished, dignified, and solemn in marriage among men.  This distinction is necessary and founded in reason and nature…
     …[M]an is manifestly superior in dignity to the other animals, and it was intended that all his enjoyments, and even his indulgence of instinctive propensities [sex] should be of a more exalted and rational kind than theirs.  Therefore the propensity of the sexes to one another, is not only reined in by modesty, but is so ordered as to require that reason and friendship, and some of the noblest affections, should have place.  
     The particulars which reason and nature point out relating to the marriage contract are …
1.    That it be between one man and one woman…
2.    The fundamental and essential part of the contract is fidelity and chastity…
3.    The contract should be for life …
4.    If superiority and authority be given to the man, it should be used with so much gentleness and love as to make it a state of as great equality as possible…                             

 
There is infinitely more sense in this brief excerpt of a lecture given over two centuries ago than in all the claptrap that has been said in all the public schools and both public and private colleges about sex over the last fifty years.  What the lecturer (John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration), is trying to impart to young men in their late teens is the idea that human beings are not animals, that they must live by a higher law of thought and action, that they have both reason and noble affections that enable them to flourish in the world beyond their mere appetites, that they are capable of love.  

The lesson that we must draw from the Tiger affair is that just as kings (or presidents) cannot live above the laws of the land and the laws of nature, so neither can the richest and most gifted among us live above the moral laws of nature with impunity.  Further, an entire culture cannot afford to shrug off the moral restraints and rule of reason that constitute the only path to lasting happiness.  The Tiger affair has not taken place in a cultural vacuum.  While Woods authored his own acts, these acts have been written according to a prepared script of moral relativism and sex-as-the-highest pursuit.  

To the assault on the political constitution that began in the nineteen-thirties in this nation was added an assault in the nineteen-sixties on our  moral constitution.  Both constitutions are still under attack.  Both must be defended — with equal vigor.  We could begin reconstituting ourselves morally by giving our teenage boys — and girls — a proper lecture in sexual ethics.  

Terrence O. Moore, a former Marine and school principal, teaches history at Hillsdale College, including a course on manhood.


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